Revival Starts With Me

Shiloh-UMC-logo-final-webFor a good while now, I have been trying to discern what God’s vision is for Shiloh. I have several things that have entered my mind, several possibilities, lots of ways we can serve Powell County and even how we might improve our building and grounds. I feel like God has a great mission and vision for Shiloh and wants to use us to show the love of Christ to many people. But how?

Figuring that out begins with me on my knees.

Lent is coming up and my Lenten prayer focus (really starting now) will be on Shiloh’s mission and how God wants to use us. Whether you’re part of Shiloh or not… Will you join me?

“Starts With Me” by Tim Timmons has been on my mind as I have been pondering how I can prayer for my congregation. Any sort of revival begins with me. It begins with all of us. Read the lyrics, or listen to the song, and remember that God uses us to do his work and that any sort of discernment in his mission begins with us in prayer.

What can I do to leave a legacy?
How can I speak with authority
When I can’t see You, I can’t see You
How can I know the dreams You have for me?
How do I believe beyond what I have seen?
When I can’t hear You, I can’t feel You now
Oh no, no, no

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Oh, it starts with me

Why do I try to work outside of You?
Knocking down doors I shouldn’t be going through
Well, I’m so tired, I’m so tired
You take my burdens off of my shoulders
You break the lies that hold me back
So I’m not sure enough
Oh, oh, oh, oh

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Yeah, it starts with me

I really wanna change the world
I really wanna sing Your song
But I know revival’s got to start with me
I really wanna change the world
I really wanna sing Your song
But I know revival’s got to start with me

[Chorus:]
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak you’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
It starts with me

Prayerful Hope for President Trump

prayer-blocksI have to be very honest: I have had a lot of mixed feelings about the outcome of the last presidential election. Today I had many of those same mixed feelings as I witnessed the inauguration of (now) President Trump. While I did not vote for Mr. Trump (who I voted for is irrelevant and it’s likely not who you think), I do have to acknowledge that he is the President of the United States and should be given the opportunity to govern and to finish establishing his cabinet. As such, my hope is that his term in office is one of peace, grace, mercy, and that the hope that many Americans have of a better life will come to fruition. I hope you will join me in sincerely praying for President Trump as he seeks to lead this nation.

Today as I was pondering all of the events of the last few months, I thought of three passages of God’s Word that I would like for President Trump to keep in mind as he shapes his policies and chooses his advisers, department heads, secretaries, and others who will fill crucial positions within the government.

The first is Matthew 25:34-40 (NLT):

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

If the United States is to continue claiming to be a Christian nation, one of the things we must do is show mercy and generosity to those who are in need of it. I’ll give you a hint as to who that is: You and me. All of us. It matters not what we look like, where we come from, or even what deity we place our faith in (if any). Christians are called to show mercy and to provide for the needs of all people, all of our neighbors (that would be everyone), and people who are even from outside of our borders. God’s kingdom is much bigger than the United States. The reality is, we are not special in God’s eyes because all people are chosen by God and are worthy to be at His table.

All of this to say: We are called be generous in caring for the needs of all people, especially the poor. Let us not forget later on in Matthew 25 God judges the ones who fail to care for the “least of these.” My hope is that while Mr. Trump makes decisions that will especially impact the poor, he keep in mind that caring for them is part of the calling of all Christians.

Next is Micah 6:8 (NLT):

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

To really understand what the meaning of this verse is, we need to look at whats going on the larger context. Through the prophet Micah, God is chastising the people of Israel because they have forgotten who they are and whose they are. They have forgotten that God was the one who brought them through the wilderness and made a way to freedom for them. It was not a king or even Moses, it was all God. They have been deep in the mire of sin and what God is telling them is that trying to buy His forgiveness with offerings and then returning to their selfish ways is not going to cut it. Instead, God – more than anything else – simply wants them to live in a way that reflects the life of those who claim to love Him. Jesus summed this up when told us (more or less) to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

My hope for President Trump is that he remembers that we are called not only to be generous but to be just and to ensure that we truly have “liberty and justice for all.” That is not just the closing words of the Pledge of Allegiance but it’s a biblical mandate. All people for whom he now assumes care for are entitled to justice and he should do all within his power to ensure that justice is truly available to all people.

Finally, Proverbs 15:22 (NLT):

Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
many advisers bring success.

This should go without saying, that failure to seek wise counsel and to heed their advice is a recipe for disaster. Mr. Trump has been very outspoken on his views about… everything. He has made promises and certainly seems to be set in his ways. My hope is that he surrounds himself with many who are wise and can offer to him the advice he needs to truly consider all angles of an issue, the people his decisions will impact, and how not only our citizens but how the world will react. While I do agree that nations should be free to place their interests first, we must also be mindful that our actions as a nation do make waves all over the world. Not to mention that any decision he makes on issues such as healthcare will certainly impact us all in positive and negative ways. May Mr. Trump have enough people wise enough to help him keep the pulse on what the American people need and how to best meet those needs.

Bonus: 1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NLT):

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

I certainly hope that President Trump will pray for discernment, but this one is more for you and me. Regardless of how we feel about President Trump, Christians are called to pray for our leaders. Note that Paul did not differentiate between kings we agree with and kings with whom we do not. If we truly want to call ourselves a Christian nation, we must be people who pray for our leaders regardless of our political ideology. In keeping with what I said above about God choosing all people to come to His table, we must practice the same love no matter what. It is not only in our best interests to pray for our political leaders but it is also our duty. Let’s take it seriously.

Tired

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” Isaiah 40:39 (NIV).

prayerful crossOn Sunday morning, I will stand behind the pulpit at Shiloh United Methodist Church and preach a message of hope on this second Sunday of Advent. Before I do that, I will help the congregation sing some wonderful songs and further prepare each other for the birth of our Lord. Before I preach and after we share a warm welcome and music, I will share prayer concerns. I will, yet again, ask the saints of Shiloh to join me in praying in the aftermath of yet more mass violence and domestic terrorism.

I am not looking forward to having to do that yet again. Quite frankly, I’m tired of having to ask people to join me in prayer after yet more violence.

I’m tired of turning on the news and, almost daily, hearing of more violence against innocent people in the world. Not only here in the United States but all over the world there are incidents of mass violence where people who had absolutely nothing to do with whatever situation brought about the incident are losing their lives. Their loved ones – parents, children, spouses – are left behind to try and pick up the pieces.

I’m tired of thinking of what I would tell my daughter in order to try and explain why people do these evil things. I’m tired of seeing posts on social media from parents who are having the same struggles. No child should ever have to be told why a man went into a building and just started shooting people for no reason other than he was deranged, angry or under some other evil influence. Yet, when these things happen so often in the USA the kids have to be told something. If we don”t tell them, someone else will. That makes the job of a parent harder.

I’m tired of words being spoken and written, offering prayers for mercy, healing, for a miracle to happen which will stop these atrocities from happening. This is not me saying we shouldn’t pray and encourage others to pray – quite the opposite – but I also think that there comes a point where for many people such things are mere words. This is my opinion to take it for what it’s worth: I think God is tired of it too. Oh, I don’t doubt His ability to stop all the violence and someday He will with the return of Jesus. We read in scripture that on that day all things will be made new, every tear wiped away, ever bad thing made right. But in the meantime, God desires to use us in His work in the world. Unfortunately, we are not willing to participate. Instead we expect God to do it alone when using us is His desire.

“I shook my fist at Heaven, said, ‘God, why don’t You do something?’ He said, ‘I did, I created you’” – Lyric from “Do Something” by Matthew West.

I’m tired of angry rhetoric on social media and in the news media. People are quick to jump up and say “we should ban guns” while others say “don’t blame the gun, it was the shooter.” People present “facts” left and right about why they are right and everyone else is wrong and, therefore, a terrible person. Have we not learned by now that playing the blame game does absolutely nothing? Nothing changes when we play “keyboard cowboy” and spout off angry posts placing blame on an object or opinion. At the end of the day, none of that matters. The problem is evil. That’s what’s to blame.

But having said that…

I’m tired of nothing being done about it. As mentioned above, we like to offer words of prayer but can’t be bothered to act. We don’t hold our elected officials accountable for their inaction on this issue. I’m not proposing we ban guns or take guns from people. What I am saying is that something must be done. We must make the ability to purchase a gun more strenuous than merely providing a birthday and social security number for a very rudimentary background check. I believe we should do more to curb the illegal gun trade. Before you start trashing me and calling me names, you need to know that I say all of this as a gun owner and a proponent of the right to responsibly own and use firearms.

Will any of that stop all gun crimes? Of course not but it’s a step in the right direction. We can no longer justify sitting on our hands and allowing the gun lobby to use fear to stop us from enacting proactive change.

The bottom line is that I’m tired of the status quo. There comes a time when change is needed and this is it. We can no longer allow the United States to be a country where mass violence and domestic terrorism is considered “just another day.” Our mamas raised us better than that. It’s time to act like it.