I have been trying to combine a brief synopsis of my last trip to Romania and some other thoughts about what the future holds in ministry.
A little over four years ago I sat in one of our staff meetings and announced that we (Mustard Tree Ministries) had just purchased land to build a community center on for the Roma. Kind of crazy when I think about it. First-Centenary had not yet bought into supporting this wild idea. There I sat believing that one day this vision - with two pastors who had never even met - would one day come to pass.
Proverbs 16:1-3 is a passage of Scripture that I often spend a lot of time mulling over. Summary of the passage: We can make plans, but God lays out the directions. Commit your actions to God because He knows our hearts and the real motives behind what we do. This passage doesn’t give any real clear next steps in our journey. It just says, commit your journey to God and trust Him to guide you through, and really examine your heart and test if your motives are God- driven or me-driven.
So, here we are a little over four years later. God knew the people that would catch His vision and make it a reality for an often time forgotten people. I know we had a bunch of home gatherings while I was gone, and I know that there are folks that wonder what the future of this church, the United Methodist Church and even our own personal lives hold. I often ask God to show me a clear future for Mustard Tree Ministries and the visions I believe for it. But you know what God keeps doing to me? He keeps sending me back to Proverbs 16. Commit my actions to Him, be honest about the motives of my heart, and trust that He will make the vision become reality in His time, or… give me a new vision that really comes from Him. Thanks again for catching God’s vision for Romania.
– Geaux Tigers, Barry
Published on Thursday, February 27, 2020 @ 4:20 PM EDT
In one of John Wesley’s sermons on Works, he emphasizes accepting and demonstrating the love of God as being first and foremost in the lives of Christians. Clearly, God’s Word reminds us that our love for one another finds its origin within the love that God instills in each of us.
To Wesley, serving “Others” is the central point of reference for Christian behavior. Our “love of God” should be the motivating factor energizing us to respond to the needs of our neighbors, and Lent is a wonderful opportunity for renewing our commitment to do so. Part of the evidence of our faith as good stewards is demonstrated by genuine care that shines in the lives of those whose hearts are being eternally transformed by Christ. As we approach Ash Wednesday (February 26) and the 40 days of Lent, let’s ask God to continue to renew our lives as good stewards. May we become more generous in showing love and concern to those who are in need.
C – ompassionate
A – cts
R – eaching
E – veryone
As God’s faithful stewards, during LENT, may we be forever RENEWED in LOVE as we radiate new life in our Resurrected Lord!
Published on Thursday, February 20, 2020 @ 11:02 AM EDT
It breaks my pastor heart to see how divided we are in our world today. We gravitate to the things that separate us and focus on how we are different, often at the cost of meaningful relationships and potential connections. I wonder how many opportunities for sharing the transformational love of Christ we miss because of the divisive nature of our world?
Christina was reading Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers a few weeks ago and it proved to be a source of healthy discussion in our family about how we engage with those that we don’t know and the nature of our modern society built around areas of trust and distrust. Have you ever examined yourself for how you engage with those you don’t know or who are different than yourself?
It has been encouraging for Mark and me to see and hear the conversations at the various home gatherings over the last few weeks. First-Centenary is a congregation that has a storied history and is comprised of a variety of theological views. It is that diversity that allows us to be a voice and leader in the Chattanooga area. Breaking bread in different homes with different groups of congregation members has reminded me of the practice of Jesus to eat with strangers and enter into intentional relationship with those around him.
Our Clergy team continues to keep our congregation in our prayers as we move into a divisive election year and a tense time of denominational identity, it is my hope that we would seek out both intentional relationship within the Body of Christ and developing intentional relationship out in the community in order that all might come to know the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Will
Published on Friday, February 14, 2020 @ 2:23 PM EDT
For many of us, as we frame the Christian year, it is Christmas and Easter that are most significant. Although there are many other important days in the life of the church, now with Advent in the rear view mirror, it is Lent we are anticipating. Likewise, in the sweep of the Bible, for many Christians there are two big events. Especially for many of us who have lived much of life in the Bible belt, those two mega events are, one, sin and two, salvation...or the fall and redemption.
As critical as sin and salvation are to our life as followers of Christ, a two part perspective of the Bible is incomplete. Theologians far more knowledgeable than Clark, proclaim that the biblical narrative, from Genesis to Revelation, is best seen through four parts...creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
The creation account of Genesis 1 and 2 are so important because it answers the big questions of: who is God, who does He say I am, and why do I do what I do? Since we are not beamed up to heaven when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the restoration narrative provides light on our lifetime of work.
Think of the work you do after becoming a Christian. Do not think of work narrowly as what you do for financial compensation. Rather think of work as contribution, i.e. stay at home parent, family caregiver, student, retired, as well as being in the marketplace.
God at this very moment, right here in river city, wants to use your contribution to help renew this old planet earth.
Take time to pray about how your work, as contribution, is aligning with God’s great restoration initiative. Until Christ’s second coming, the biblical narrative tells us, in every season of our lives, our contribution through ‘work’, should be helping renew the kingdom of God, here on earth.
Published on Wednesday, February 5, 2020 @ 3:36 PM EDT
Many are continuing to pray for the future of the United Methodist Church and our First-Centenary family. Home Gatherings are scheduled and YOU ARE INVITED! You may contact Cindy Ruff, [email protected] to confirm your plans to attend one of these meetings.
In preparation for this time, you might want to consider this and other questions: “Since we believe that God loves all people, how do we as the Body of Christ share His unconditional love and intentionally develop relationships with our neighbors?” A great follow-up question is: “Who is our neighbor?”
The following excerpt from a prayer for Solidarity and Justice is provided on the United Methodist Church website, www.gcorr.org, by the General Commission on Religion and Race. There, you may read the entire prayer to go along with any personal concerns you may have.
“Let us seek world peace, social justice and environmental balance, which begins (sic) with our own breathing. We breathe in calmly and breathe out mindfully…We try to expand our understanding with love to help build a more nonviolent world. We vow to live simply and offer ourselves to the oppressed. By the grace of the compassionate ones and with the help of good friends may we be partners in lessening the suffering of the world so that it may be a proper habitat for all…to live in harmony during the next millennium.”
As we continue to pray for one another, let us especially pray for environmental healing and for places around the world.
Published on Friday, January 31, 2020 @ 9:04 AM EDT