Monday Morning Musings for 05.16.16

  1. I always love celebrating Pentecost Sunday as the church remembers that miraculous day in which the New Testament Church was born. The Spirit was poured out on God's people in a fresh and new way, an outpouring that we need again as the sound of God's voice grows more muffled in the ears of our culture. When we lose that basic belief in God - a belief in His nature as our Creator, the One who determines our identities and lays out for us the path of life - then we lose even the most basic moral foundations on which our culture was established - things like decency, mutual respect and the inherent dignity of all people. When you lose those things, then public discourse becomes a shouting match and human lives are valued only for their utility. We value one another only insofar as we are useful to each other. Any call for decency and respect is lost for lack of any answer to the question: why? Why should I treat another with respect? I am my own authority and what I want and what I believe is all that matters. We've can't hear God's voice as it has been drowned out by our own. We need Pentecost yet again. We need the Spirit to break through the cultural noise and call us back to the one true God. ‪#‎freshfire‬
  2. Along that same line, I was walking my dog on my day off last week and we passed a local elementary school during recess. First, second and third graders were running all about playing a variety of games. Suddenly, I hear two girls yelling at each other - girls no more than ten years old. One is shouting, "I know he said it!", while the other yells "well you're a liar!" The first girl shouts back, "No, you're a liar!" Clearly, they had been watching the presidential election debates. ‪#‎wonderwheretheylearnedthat‬?
  3. Leigh and I had the privilege of taking part in TV45's first "Pastor's Marriage Game Show" last week. We taped it for broadcast on July 19. We took part with Deborah and Allen Wiggins of The Hope Church and Marvin and Deborah Jackson of River of Life Christian Center. I will not tell you the results, but the running joke was this: as I sat between my friends, both African-American couples, Bishop Wiggins quipped that we "looked like a double-stuffed oreo." I laughed, but then...wait, what? Double-stuffed? Not single? ‪#‎payback‬ ‪#‎timeforaworkout‬
  4. In the cultural discussion on abortion, I have been puzzled that both sides are not able to agree on one particular issue, especially in the current cultural environment in which we are keen on keeping others out of physical pain. Studies show that a child at 20 weeks can feel pain. Others argue that said studies are "not definitive", but even so, when it comes to pain, wouldn't we agree we should always err on the side of being sure? Even if there is a chance, why would abortion providers fight offering the necessary pain meds? ‪#‎confusedagain‬
  5. This week, I concluded my second men's discipleship group. I take a group of men in their 20's and 30's for two years, usually between 15 and 20 men, and my goal is to teach them how to study Scripture and apply it so they can then go lead other men. This pattern was the result of my sabbatical in the summer of '12 when I realized I needed to do more in discipling young men. The conclusion was bittersweet. It was so encouraging to hear how each had grown over two years, but also sad to think our regular time together had ended. I can't believe how quickly two years passes. 
  6. I was visiting people in the hospital this week and was reminded again of why I do that: it is often in my visits with those who are suffering that I understand more clearly what I need to preach. If I am not with the people I have been called to serve, how would I know that? There is a tendency to think, in a large church, that the senior pastor "only visits the people he deems important" or the "people who give a lot of money." Perhaps that is the case for some, but I visit hospitals on a regular rotation with the other pastors, and I visit whoever happens to be in the hospital on those days. And those are often the days that I feel I have done the most meaningful work. 
  7. The church has truly become a global church, one that creates more issues today because of how the gospel is interpreted on different continents. The most recent example is the United Methodist Church. They will gather in Portland next week for their quadrennial General Conference and remain the largest of the seven mainline American denominations. Oddly, they have not conformed to cultural pressures to change their views on any number of current social issues. Why? 40% of their membership is from Africa and those Methodists observe a decidedly different viewpoint. Those same Africans will soon be a majority of worldwide Methodism. Thus, in Portland, liberal Americans will protest and clash with conservative Africans for the soul of a worldwide denomination. ‪#‎theChurchismorethanjustAmerica‬ ‪#‎tasteofthefuture‬
  8. The WSJ reported this week the rippling effect of America's declining birthrate. The rate is now 1.86 per woman compared with 2.12 only 10 years ago. This has a tremendous effect on everything from children's hospitals to toy stores to single-family homes. ‪#‎familymatters‬
  9. Pray for me this week as I take my annual study leave for reading, prayer, and reflection on the future of our church and what God would have me preach in the coming year. I go to a quiet place for five days and submerge myself, which for this extrovert is not always the easiest thing to do.