Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin are two gifted and successful football coaches. Both have led Super Bowl winning teams. Both are Christian men of high character with impeccable integrity. These men share a common philosophy that is often summed up in the motto, “No excuses. No explanations.”
The United Methodist Church and the Illinois Great Rivers Conference are trapped between two extreme songs. One is an old blues tune by Albert King, and one from the Broadway musical which was based upon the Harold Gray comic strip, Little Orphan Annie.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” -- Luke 9:23
The question was motivated by both concern and fear. She told me that she had been a Methodist all her life and had no desire to change denominations. I did my best to explain our current Methodist dilemma and to assure her that no one was going to force her out of her church and that at the current time, there was no reason for any United Methodist church to disaffiliate.
The greatest event in human history is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Adversity of every kind are all around us: isolation, detachment, suffering, anger, distress, mistrust, unrest, economic uncertainty, global crisis, racial tensions, division, emotional and physical trauma, devasting loss, and the reality of pain and death.
Good news seems to be in short supply!
We received the news from our follow up appointment at Mayo Clinic that neither of the initial surgeries were successful. The pressure in both eyes remains at unacceptable levels. My sight is continuing to decrease. I will be having eye surgery on July 28 for my left eye. The recovery time is 8-10 weeks. There will be an additional surgery on my right eye when the left eye has had an opportunity to recover.
Max came to church about once a quarter. Even that was too much for some of the more “dignified” church members.
I believe that God is asking the people called United Methodist if we are serious about following Jesus? God is challenging us to see a much bigger picture than our local church, our district, our Annual Conference, our Episcopal area, and our jurisdiction. God is trying to get us to see that the spiritual stakes are far too high and significant for us to put the emphasis on getting our individual preferences satisfied while the fields are full of folks that have never heard the “good news” of a Savior that loves them and died for their sins. I am convinced that the modern United Methodist church has settled for praying the “prayer of Jabez” while God has been trying to teach us the prayer of John Baptist, “He [Jesus] must increase and I must decrease.” The prayer of Jabez is a self-focused prayer.
There is a big difference between vision and sight. A recent trip to Mayo Clinic revealed that I am losing my battle with glaucoma. While I still have physical sight, it is rapidly deteriorating, and a more drastic medical approach is needed. I am not sure what the future will hold but I am sure that even blindness will not hamper my Kingdom vision. My personal medical challenges will not hinder the vision of the IGRC from moving forward. It will be necessary for me to take a brief ministry break to address my eyesight issues. I apologize for any disruption this may cause you or our Conference. I am working with the Conference leaders to determine our next steps. I do so with confidence that this Annual Conference can and will continue to move forward in achieving God’s vision for us. I will be requesting a brief Medical Leave to deal with my eyesight problems. This Medical Leave will become effective July 1, 2021. An interim Bishop will be assigned by the Council of Bishops. Please keep this interim Bishop and me in your prayers.
“There are no winners in the George Floyd murder case. We are all hurt and weakened by all forms of injustice and pain. While our court system has rendered its verdict the pain has simply spread in yet another direction. I continue to pray for my brothers and sisters in Minnesota and for unity across our nation and world."
Christian preachers and teachers have always been my heroes. Women and men, called of God and set apart by the church for the work of ministry.
My daughters call me “random.” I fought against that title for a long time, at least until my wife confirmed that they were correct. So, I am “random.”
At the heart of Christianity is the hope-filled promise that everyone can at any point have a “do-over.” As we close out the year 2020 and anticipate 2021, it is good to know that we do not have to carry everything forward. Each one of us, no matter how stressed, sick, soiled, stained, spotted, or sinful, can begin again.
Like you, I’m suffering with COVID-19 fatigue. I am so ready for this pandemic to be in the rearview mirror.
Dealing with racism is not easy and it takes a lot of energy and forethought that will often move us into uncomfortable places. It is crucial for Christians to create safe sanctuaries where we can have difficult conversations about racism and other topics that promote injustice. Where should we start and what is the expected outcome?
It’s time for THE CHURCH to step-up and to lead the way forward. I know that the church has been more problematic than problem-solving, but I still believe that the Church of Jesus Christ can and should lead our nation and our world into a brighter future. The healing balm that is needed right now has always resided within the church’s capabilities. It’s time for the church to put on our work clothes and to get busy dismantling racism. Even as I write this, I am aware that the battle within the church will be harder than the battle outside of its sacred walls. As a black man serving in a majority-based denomination I’ve seen the underbelly of the church and have experienced institutional racism from within for over 40 years of ministry. God has not given up on the church and I believe and trust that God can and will turn things around and the church will be the instrument used to accomplish the world that we seek. It’s time to confess the sins of our past, repent, embrace reconciliation and begin to chart a new path for moving forward as sisters and brothers rooted in the sustaining love of Jesus Christ. I know that it sounds simple enough, but it is hard work.
It is the job of every Christian to serve as conduits of grace, mercy, and love so that the dark forces of our world might experience the liberating light of Jesus Christ. It is our job to help stamp out hatred in any form. Therefore, I encourage all United Methodist to pray for the families that are affected by this most recent tragedy, as well as those suffering a similar plight in recent months. I remind us all that it is our duty, as sisters and brothers, to stand-up, speak-out, and advocate for those that are hurting and marginalized, so that justice may become a reality.
I’m not talking about “crying” in a metaphorical manner, I’m talking about don’t care who sees it, gut-wrenching, getting-ugly, faced-streaked, nose-dripping, water flowing tears.
This tragic pandemic is an opportunity for the followers of Christ, around the globe, to unite and engage in spiritual warfare that will defeat and destroy the works of darkness. Each Christian, within their own unique context, will need to decide how God has called them to engage in this spiritual battle. Each Christian leader will need to listen for the Lord’s voice (and nudging) to decide how best to rally, equip and deploy the troops under their direction. We dare not sit silently and idly by wringing our hands and thinking that we are powerless against this pandemic. Jesus said about US, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15). NOW IS THE TIME to let your light shine for Jesus. People are searching for solutions and seeking answers to this pandemic. Believers are not powerless. We have been given weapons to assist in fighting against this evil. It is our job to stand up, stand out, and proclaim victory even before we see the end of the battle. Let us not shrink back or shy away because we don’t believe we can do anything. Remember the story of Jehoshaphat. This battle belongs to the Lord. I’ve read the back of the book and we win. Ultimate victory does not excuse us from engaging and utilizing the weapons God has provided for us to use in defeating this pandemic. Perhaps God has strategically placed us “for such a time as this!”
Fishing is easy, that’s why anybody can do it!
Fishing is not just another activity in the life of the church. It is one of the foundational purposes for which the church exists.
I was eight miles away from the marina, and I was taking on water fast. I was all alone, anchored down, and the boat was filling up with water. To make matters worse the closest shore was an alligator-infested, stump-filled swamp.
A few folks that are into apocalyptic bible study teach that the number five (5) is the Biblical number for grace. I’m not so sure, but for the purpose of this month’s article, I’ll agree.
Two seemingly unrelated questions, but are they? Both questions call for a decision and an alignment. Both questions are ripe with possibilities for acceptance and rejection, even if you favor neither team.
In celebration of our third anniversary, I pledge to give an additional $10 for every active pastor that sends in a personal contribution to OCOK, no matter the size, between Sept. 1 through Nov. 1. This has the potential of being a gift of more than $4,000! No matter what you think about the current state of our beloved denomination, we still have much work to do together as an Annual Conference. The five ministries that belong to the IGRC need our help, and I can think of no better way of demonstrating our unity in Jesus Christ, as an Annual Conference, than by pooling our resources to ensure a spiritual legacy that provides ongoing spiritual care for children and families.
Regardless of the overall decision of the General Conference, I want us to be committed to reclaiming and retaining our Wesleyan DNA; one hand to God and one hand reaching out to the people that God loves. This journey can only be traversed as we commit and recommit ourselves to the task of being aligned with Christ. Each of us, must be attached to Jesus Christ with the yoke of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been given to empower, assist, and direct the affairs of the church. As we center on Jesus and remain yoked to him, the Holy Spirit will produce in us and through us Christ-likeness that will bless and benefit all.
The United Methodist Church, according to some, is a denomination with a clouded future. The recently concluded 2019 General Conference did very little to ease the tension and anxiety within our family. Folks on all sides of the theological spectrum are wondering what the future holds for the people called “United Methodist.” One thing is certain, we are clearly not united around issues of ministry as it relates to our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers.
Her smile was infectious, and her laugh was contagious. Everywhere she went there was an outbreak of joy, compassion, and concern that was openly shared with others. She was the “real deal” and she not only talked about her faith, she lived out her faith on a daily basis.
A majority of our 874 voting delegates have decided that Our Way Forward will begin with plans for a more conservative pathway. The decision, while clearly disappointing to many, reflects the global nature of our worldwide denomination.
GRACE. We talk about it, sing about it, teach about it, preach about it, but do we really put grace into action?
“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
Our Nation and our World faces another horrific act of hatred and violence. The recent tragic shooting that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh effects all of us. Our prayers and our hearts are extended to the Tree of Life family and to the Pittsburgh community. Our prayers are also shared with those brave first responders who willingly placed themselves inharm’s way in order to protect others. We pray for all facets of their continued healing.
I do not worry about the future of “the Church” even though I have concerns about our denominational direction and the way forward. I am not worried about “the Church” because I understand that the worldwide Church is under God’s authority and protection and will be preserved until the end of time.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6 NIV.
John Wesley is often quoted as saying, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
Camp was a blast!
Jesus prayed that past, present and future believers would experience unity (John 17). Our unity is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the recurring Pauline New Testament phrases is “In Christ.” Paul preaches and teaches about the varied blessings and benefits of being “in Christ.”
Bishop Frank J. Beard offers insight into the Council of Bishops' recommendation for the One Church Model.
I love The United Methodist Church and am convinced that this issue need not divide us. I am convinced that we can live together, like family, and still have differences in our approaches regarding issues of human sexuality. I remain committed to the preaching and teaching of the Good News of the Gospel. I remain convinced that everyone needs a personal relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ. I believe the United Methodist church is stronger and can accomplish more when we focus on those things that unite us; GRACE, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, FORGIVENESS, and our MISSION and MINISTRY to the World that God loves.
Prayer offered by Bishop Frank J. Beard at the Council of Bishops on May 3, 2018.
The Cubs winning the World Series. The Cardinals beating the Cubs. He / she says “yes”. All A’s on the report card. A special song playing. Da Bears (or your favorite team). Ice cream. Paying all the bills and having money left over. Getting a job. Retirement. Special occasions. A hole in one. Accomplishing a tough task or achieving a major goal. These and many more things are reasons to shout.
The wonderful affirmation of Easter is that Christ did what he predicted. He told his disciples that he would be condemned and killed, but that on the third day he would rise from the dead. The disciples either forgot or they simply did not believe. It is comforting to know that Christ keeps his promises whether we remember them or not.
Initial conversations on A Way Forward have been held in seven different locations across the IGRC. Nearly 800 people participated in these vital conversations. Each of these conversations was unique and valuable. The folks that participated expressed appreciation for providing a venue for them to come together with other sisters and brothers to have this family talk.
Rev. Billy Graham is one of the greatest evangelist the world has ever known. His commitment to Christ and his passion for reaching lost souls resulted in over 3.2 million people coming to faith in the Lord. During his ministry he preached to more than 4 billion people.