Tool Time

You know there are some really cool tools out there that can fix a lot of stuff. Truth is that almost anything is easier to fix, assemble, or configure with the "right" tools.  I stand amazed at the craftsmanship that some people have, and they can attest that using the "right" tools for the job, makes the work a lot easier.

Think about this with me for a moment. What if you had the “right” tools to fix some of life’s problems? Think about relationship problems, or money problems, or emotional scars, disappointment, depression, or other life issues. What if it was like going to the doctor and getting the right prescription, or the "right" tool to fix the problem?

Jesus promises to love us and care for us like no one else can. Check out some of these scriptures and see if they aren’t the "right" tool or for you?

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Lori Ferguson serves as Children's Director at NUMC, and has been at the church since 2015. When she's not planning or teaching, she enjoys spending time with her grandkids. Read more about Lori here.

Being Thankful

Too many times we wake up in the morning sleeping as late as we can and try to do all the things we need to do and get to work on time.  Most mornings are a blur.  I had a friend who would sit down every morning at 5:00a and read, write, listen to the birds or take in the morning air.  That was his time to give thanks.  It prepared him for the day ahead.  To be honest, I wish I had that kind of discipline.  I do not, I do, however, turn off the radio and have a conversation with God on my way to work.  I am thankful for the day before me with all of the obstacles that come my way.  I always ask for God’s help. He is a God of details.

Steve Jobs the founder of Apple will be known for many inventions and many products we use daily.  And the wealth, which he accumulated, is beyond what we can ever imagine. However, he had these words to say in his last days...

In my lifetime, the wealth I have won, I cannot bring with me. What I can bring is only the memories precipitated by love. That’s the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on. Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well. Cherish others.

Why do we get so carried away and wrapped up in our lives that we miss the moments in our lives that could have counted if we just took the time?  Be thankful, greet each day as a gift and thank God for the day.  Keep Him close by all day, and He will guide you.

Many of you have been praying for my family with the illness of my mother.  We thank you for all the prayers.  This time in any family situation is always difficult, and many significant decisions need to be made.  I was at home with my family last week, and I went in the pantry, and these were the words taped up to the inside of the door. Lord if you bless me, I’ll thank you.  But if you don’t, I’ll be thankful for what I have.

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It should not be asking too much for us to slow down and just be thankful.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Be thankful and God Bless!
Mike

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Mike Conrad serves as our Worship Director. When he's not preparing for worship or playing an instrument, he enjoys spending time with his wife boating and fishing. Learn more about Mike here.

Equality of Women in the UMC

    One of the things to come out of Annual Conference this year was the “Resolution Concerning the Equality of Women”. You can find the full resolution HERE, but this is an excerpt of what it says,

“[We] affirm that both women and men are created in the image of God and are of equal worth, we affirm the ordination of women, we affirm open itinerancy, and affirm the equality and calling of women both in our own region and throughout the world.”

    This comes shortly after the Alabama West Florida Conference was one of the few conferences to vote no to Amendment I from the last General conference. (For the non-methodist people who stumble upon this blog, annual conference is a yearly gathering of local churches that is almost like state governments creating laws and bills and reporting. General Conference is the national scale, similar to the US senate.) 

While there is one sentence about the gender of God that likely inhibited the amendment from passing, both were about gender equality and affirming that women belong in ministry and are of equal value in the eye of God. 

    The fact that the AWF conference passed this resolution, as well as general conference proposing Amendment I, brings a whole bag of mixed emotions for me. I am thrilled that the resolution passed, I wish the amendment would have passed as well but I understand some of the reservations that people have expressed. But it saddens me that we even have to create these amendments and resolutions in the first place. 

    The United Methodist Church has ordained women for over half a century, which is more than some denominations but not as long as others. But if you ask some of our female pastors if they have ever felt like they have been discriminated against because of their gender I’d imagine every single one of them would say yes.  At my last church, our associate pastor wasn’t even allowed to speak from the pulpit at a community gathering because she was a girl. In college, the best student we had in the theology and ministry department was a girl from a baptist church who felt called by God but had no place to go in her own denomination because of her gender.  

    So much of this discrimination of women in ministry comes from three passages found in the New Testament. 


Titus 1:6 If anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.


1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 Women should learn quietly and submissively.
 I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.  For God made Adam first, and afterward he made Eve.  And it was not Adam who was deceived by Satan. The woman was deceived, and sin was the result. But women will be saved through childbearing, assuming they continue to live in faith, love, holiness, and modesty.

 

    It is easy to see why someone would point to these scriptures and come to the conclusion that women aren’t qualified to be pastors or to preach. However, the Bible has a whole lot more to say about women in churches than just these three verses. And even these three verses don’t necessarily mean what we see on the surface in the English language. 

    I should begin by saying that all three of these passages were written by Paul. He also wrote in Ephesians 4 that  “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service”. It is odd to me then to try to limit these “positions” to only men when Paul himself made mention of women in each of these positions. Junia was one of the apostles mentioned by Paul in Romans 16:7. Philip had four daughters who were prophets (Acts 21:9). Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3), Phoebe and Priscilla  (Romans 16:1-5), Nympha (Colossians 4:15), and Chloe (1 Corinthians 1:11) are all mentioned by Paul as well to be important leaders in churches. 

    I know there are some scholars who say that we can’t prove that these women were actual pastors or THE leader of a church, and while being exegetically easy isn’t a guarantee that it’s correct, it’s easier to say that these women were indeed church leaders and that Paul meant something very different in the three verses above than how we read them in American English. We can even come up with very easy and sensible things that we think he meant in those verses. But for far too many women, especially outside of our denomination, they still have to fight just for a seat at the table. They have to not only preach as good as a man, but do so while making sure they look nice but not attractive (because it might be distracting to men if a good looking women is in front of them), they have to be friendly and personable but can’t show emotion because it will make them look weak, be firm and confident but not be a word I can’t say in a church blog. I could go on and on about how we judge women on a completely different scale than we do men, but I think you get the idea. 

    And it’s for all of these reasons and more that even though we’ve been under the impression that men and women have been treated equally we still felt the need to make an official statement about it. Because even though some of us feel like we are there, we haven’t arrived yet. We are far from being equal, and now our conference has made a resolution to protect the dignity of all people made in God’s image. But a resolution means nothing unless people actually follow what it says.

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Nathan Persell serves as our Youth Director. When he's not leading devotions and playing basketball with teenagers, he enjoys disc golf and bike riding. Learn more about Nathan here.

Basics: Part 1- God Loves Us

Let’s talk basics, the basics of Christianity. This is important to people in every stage of faith: for the non-believer to understand what following Jesus is all about; for the new believer so he may know what path to follow; and for the lifelong Christian, who no matter how advanced in faith, still needs reminding about the grace of Jesus.

The first basic is that GOD LOVES US. This seems simple enough, but we need to understand the magnitude of a statement like that. God—the Creator of the whole universe, the Lord over all creation, the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God who has power over everything—loves you. And not in any small way. He loves you immensely, intensely, and unconditionally. He loves everything about you since before He even created you, even before you knew Him (Romans 5:8). Everything God does toward you is always a loving act. Even when life is at its worst, God is still loving you. It’s in His nature.

God won’t give up on you. Not now, not ever. God’s love isn’t some delusion that you’re perfect, but rather that He loves you no matter what. (Hebrews 13:5) God cherishes every tiny act of truth, every tiny act of grace, every tiny act of justice, even in the darkest and most sinful souls.

God loves you!

The Bible says that God loves all of us. Yes, even you. The most famous verse of the Bible, John 3:16, says that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (NIV).

God so loved the world. That’s everybody. That’s you, that’s me, that’s your neighbor, that’s your spouse, that’s even the guy you can’t stand at work. God loves us all, each in our own special way. He loves every part of us. There’s nothing we can do to make God loves us less (Romans 8:39), and there’s nothing we can do to make God loves us more, for He loves us without condition and without any action on our part. He simply loves us.

And that’s the first basic of the Christian faith: God loves us!  God loves You!

Blessings,

Lori Ferguson

Co-Author: Daniel Ferguson

 

Einstein and Barth

    I’m currently reading “Astrophysics For People In A Hurry” because I’m a nerd and I’ve always been fascinated by physics. The chapter I read last night was about Einstein's biggest blunder, the cosmological constant, which it turns out actually is still useful, just not for the reasons Einstein thought when he developed it. This chapter has one seemingly small distinction woven through it, the difference between theoretical physics and experimental physics. Einstein did most of his greatest work inside his own head. At the time there were no machines or tests to prove that his theory of relativity was right or to prove if the universe was expanding, stable, or being forced together by gravity. 

    So what Einstein did was he imagined how the universe would react and respond within certain scenarios. This puts him in the theoretical camp. The other camp is experimental physics. This is where scientists actually try to set up experiments and see if theories are right. If they confirm the theory, they try to get repeatable results. If something comes out different than expected, they try to figure out why it’s different. Essentially, one says this is the way we think the world works, and the other says this is the way the world actually works. They aren’t competing groups, they all work for the same purpose, and they actually need each other. 

    If you take away all the science language, you get a concept that is everywhere in our world, especially in Christianity. There are those people who love to sit in a room and think about what the kingdom of God looks like and try to discover the true heart of God (i.e. the dessert fathers and monasticism).Then there are those who are actually neck deep in the kingdom and living out the Christian life. It would be a bit like comparing Karl Barth, who wrote mountains of pages in systematic theology, and Mother Theresa who lived the majority of her life living among lepers in Calcutta. 

    There is certainly a case for saying that as christians, we should spend our time doing both. We should spend time thinking about who God is and how his revelation through Jesus should change the world. We also need to spend time actually trying to live out those conclusions and actively love God and love others. My guess would be that the majority of us fall into one camp, or default mode, than the other. Perhaps we find it incredibly helpful to sit with a close group of friends and talk about the difference between transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and symbolism and how each view presents God in a different way that might send echos through the rest of your formed theology. Perhaps you find that idea awful and would rather just walk around and have people participate in communion in their homes and on the streets. Both are acceptable, yet without each other it would end up either just talking without any action or we give bread and juice to people with no meaning. 

    It’s this codependency that reminds me of the early church leaders Paul and James. Paul tends to talk about salvation in terms of your faith, or believing, while James said that faith without works is dead. They aren’t contradicting each other, they are merely broadening what it means to actually be a follower of Christ. We aren’t saved by our works, but if we truly believe than we will want to do something about it. So read through the book of Romans, then read the book of James, think about it, then go do something.