In One Generation a Church and Denomination Can Lose Its Way

UMC Split

All who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. – 2 Timothy 1:15

Turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that is no good news at all. Does your church stand with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, or with men and women who have turned away from the sure foundation of the good news of Jesus?

Imagine opening a letter from the Apostle Paul and finding that you have been identified as one who turned away from Paul, away from Christ, away from God. This is the rebuke Paul gives to Phygelus and Hermogenes. Though we know almost nothing about these men or their differences with Paul, we have some insight into the outcome of their desertion.

Paul’s second letter is believed by many to be his last known writings, and one of Paul’s key points to Timothy was be not ashamed.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Do not be ashamed of me, our Lord’s prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

“I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” (2 Timothy 1:16)

Peter also calls us to stand firm in the gospel.

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Christ calls us to be ashamed for turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that removes the need for a savior. When sin is no longer sin, why would we repent and be saved?

“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

There is no shame in standing with Christ, the Father, and those who wrote through the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. Though we may face ridicule, persecution, slander, and be falsely accused, we have no need to be ashamed.

So what became of Phygelus and Hermogenes and all in Asia who turned away from the gospel. Though they are not mentioned by name we know the influence they had. Some thirty years after Paul warned Timothy to stand with him and his teaching, Jesus himself wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, and the news was not good.

“I know of your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

The church Paul founded and Timothy pastored worked hard. Its members endured. Perhaps they soon planned to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. They refused to tolerate the wicked. Apparently their leadership team held to strick hiring practices. They endured a measure of persecution for holding to the name of Christ. And yet Christ was prepared to shut the doors and sell off the property because they had ceased to love him.

“I tell you, whoever has been forgiven little loves little. Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.” (Luke 7:47)

Paul, a man who knew God’s word from beginning to end, never got over the fact that Jesus forgave him.
Paul, a man who counted himself among the most righteous, never counted God’s mercy as trivial.
Paul, a man who thought he did not need a savior, never stopped loving his Lord and Savior.

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how much more do we?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, should we not also affirm God’s words, will, and call to repent?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how dare we turn away, turn aside, and turn to a strange gospel that denies our need to be saved from sin?

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church of Pergamum became The Church of Balaam with a new religion, new rituals, and new ways of worship.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Thyatira tolerated a prostitute and false prophetess who, claiming to hear the Holy Spirit, taught secret doctrines.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Sardis was dead.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the rich, self-sufficient Church in Laodicea tolerated such shameful behavior that Christ threatened to vomit them out of his mouth.

In one generation a church and denomination can lose its way.

Be not ashamed of God.
Be not ashamed of Christ.
Be not ashamed of the inspired writers and writings preserved for our salvation.

For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season (Session) And Out

UMC Split

For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season And Out

“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2:1

Before the divorce comes the separation.

Before the separation comes the cold shoulders.

Before the cold shoulders comes the harsh words.

Too many of us reading UMC news stories and adding our comments are comfortably planted in the “harsh words” phase. Perhaps we have not realized divorce is inevitable. Maybe we retain hope that we will not separate. Could be we continue to rub shoulders with fellow members and hope, even pray, the marriage can be saved. Peter guides us on how we should address all brothers and sisters and those who are not our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Rid yourself of all malice.
Rid yourself of all deceit.
Rid yourself of all conceit.
Rid yourself of all hypocrisy.
Rid yourself of all envy.
Rid yourself of all slander.
Rid yourself of all boasting.
Rid yourself of all lying.
Rid yourself of all falsehood.
Rid yourself of all mocking.
Rid her self of all scoffing.

When making our points let us not spear others. God is watching. The press is watching. The lost are watching. For the sake of the children, let us reflect the character of Jesus both in season (session) and out.

Slavery and Methodism Today

Slavery and Methodism Today

An excerpt from “Slavery and the founders of Methodism

In 1774, John Wesley published his “Thoughts Upon Slavery.” The founder of the Methodist movement insisted that the concept of enslaving other people was based on “false foundations.” He described the horrific evils of the slave trade. He denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner. For Wesley, merely tolerating the existence of a system of enslavement was an accommodation with evil.

In 1780, the American Methodists required preachers to deliver sermons against the evils of slavery. Church leaders declared that the enslavement of other persons is “contrary to the laws of God.”

In 1785, the first Book of Discipline published by the Methodists included a piece of church legislation that any church member who buys or sells slaves is “immediately to be expelled” from membership, “unless they buy them on purpose to free them.”

In 1800, the General Conference issued a “Pastoral Letter on Slavery.” It said “the whole spirit of the New Testament militates in the strongest manner against the practice of slavery.”

That pastoral letter directed annual conferences to appeal to the legislatures in their respective states for the emancipation of slaves. And it called for “the universal extirpation of this crying sin.” So the documented history of Methodism makes clear that the founders of the church considered slavery to be “evil.”

Forty-four years after the General Conference enacted church laws to demand that Methodists free their slaves or leave the church and to insist that Methodists take public antislavery steps, the denomination decided to divide. Rather than require a slave-owning bishop to emancipate the people whom he considered his property, Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

This is the legacy of Methodism in the United States with regards to human slavery.

But what of slavery of a man or woman’s soul?

The irony of the pending UMC split is that a great many are focused on making atonement for the sin of slavery by others, while they themselves are promoting a form of slavery that leads to a never-ending darkness.

As the above article makes clear, John Wesley,”Denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner.” In our day, we might say, “Yes, she or he is a slave to sin, but what is that to me?” Worse, we call slavery, freedom.

If we do not believe sin leads to slavery and death, then we should love our neighbor as ourself and affirm our neighbor’s behavior.  Each of us must give an account to Christ for every word and act. The costs of our beliefs, whatever they may be, is great. 

Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

Methodists are on the verge of another split, this one along the boundaries of those who affirm the good and perfect law of our Lord (Psalm 19:7) and those who deny the liberating and transforming power of Christ.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)

Do we believe the perfect royal law of our Lord as found in Scripture (James 2:8) is of man or God? Slavery to sin and the author of Scripture marks the line of demarcation for the UMC split. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

If we do not believe sin is slavery then we deny Christ, for it is because of sin that he came and died.

The legacy of Methodism today will last, not merely for a few centuries, but eternity. May God have mercy on us if we fail to feed the sheep of Christ with the words of his–and our–Father.

Do Methodist Believe Everyone Is A Child of God?

UMC Split

Do Traditionalist Methodist Believe Everyone Is A Child of God?Question: Do Methodist believe everyone is a child of God?

Answer: Great question. According to United Methodist teaching, Methodist believe the Apostle Paul’s summary of the condition of mankind: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

But that does not mean that all UMC congregations teach this.

“No hopeful covenant for unity can change the fact that church law, for nearly 50 years, has categorically denied the first principle of unity, that “we are all children of God.” – Darryl W. Stephens
(It’s unclear to me from the covenant for unity if Mr. Stephens means all persons when he says “we are” or only United Methodist.)

“We believe that all people are children of God.” – Collister United Methodist Church.

“Everyone is a child of god,” Becky Hall, Executive Director of Christ United Methodist Church in Chattanooga and a delegate to the UMC Conference.

Seabold United Methodist Church believes that everyone is a child of God.” “We believe that everyone is a child of God.” Algoma Boulevard United Methodist Church.

What does Christ say?

“While everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” Matthew 13:25. And, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” Matthew 15: 13-14. “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the Kingdom; and the darnel weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” Matthew 25:31-46

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:47-14:12

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12.

“You are doing the works of your own father,” Christ said. But they protested, “We are not illegitimate children. The only Father we have is God himself.” Christ replied, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” John 8:44

“God predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Ephesians 1:5. Paul writing to the church in Ephesus.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Galatians 3:26. Paul writing to the communities in Galatia.

While it might sound pleasing to welcome everyone into a congregation and assure them they are God’s children, Christ says only those who profess faith in him are his brothers and sisters and God’s children. It’s a simple matter to be adopted.

If you wish to become a child of God believe that Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, walked as a man, kept the whole law without committing one sin, and died so YOU could be saved from the death that never ends.

Confess your sins, ask this Christ to become your savior, and believe he now is. Then become baptized with water as an outward sign that you are marked as a child of God and be baptized with the Spirit of Christ so you can be transformed into his image.

Can We Serve God and Caesar?

Can We Serve God and Caesar?

Can we serve God and Caesar? In many ways “our rights” go to the heart of the impending split within the United Methodist Church–and for that matter to the divisions within the Body of Christ.

We speak of surrendering to Christ. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23. When they hurled their insults at Christ, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, Christ entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. 1 Peter 2:24.

Though Christ was the Son of God–in fact God himself–he waved his rights in order to save us. We are called to do the same.

And we claim that we have, that we follow Jesus above all others.  Until we are offended. Until we are persecuted. Until we are threatened. Then we claim our God-given rights awarded to us in the Kingdom of Man.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day claimed loyalty to God. Then their position and power was threatened. Turning away from God, they claimed their rights under Caesar. With the force of Roman Law, they demanded the execution of Jesus.

There are but two kingdoms: the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Man. If we truly are dead in Christ then we have no rights in the Kingdom of Man. We’re dead. If the cancel culture has proved anything it is that the dead have no rights. The dead cannot defend themselves, protect their reputation, or prevent the living from slandering them.

If we wish to test our pulse, to see if we are still living in the Kingdom of Man, read these verses and see if our blood boils.

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Jesus said, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” – Matthew 5:38-40

Jesus said, “If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”  Luke 6:34

Jesus said, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together.” Matthew 5:25

You must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Romans 13:1-2

Those living in the Kingdom of God have no rights in the Kingdom of Man other than the right to follow the example of Christ.  If in reading any of these verses you think, “Yes, but. . . ” then you are still living in the Kingdom of Man. There is no “but” in the Kingdom of God except, “But God. . . “

But God remembers the righteous.
But God has seen our hardships.
But God meant it for good.
But God has gives us peace on every side.
But God redeem us.
But God remains the strength of our hearts.
But God is compassionate and gracious.
But with God all things are possible.
But God gives us the free gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
But God raises us from to life.
But God show his love for us.
But God is rich in mercy.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.
But the word of God cannot be chained.

Any time we claim that the Bride of Christ must adapt to the Kingdom of Man in order to. . .  be relevant, grow, be more inclusive, be more loving, stand up for. . . , we are asking that we relocate from the Kingdom of God and move back into the Kingdom of Man.

The Bride of Christ will only be relevant when she is married to Christ. The Bride of Christ will only grow, welcome and love all when she is married to Christ. The Bride of Christ will only be worthy of Jesus when she waves all rights and submits fully to him.

God is Jesus. Jesus is God. This God-Jesus-Savior has asked for your hand in matrimony. Will you say yes?

Can Same-sex Marriage Be Consecrated by the Word of God and Prayer

UMC Split

Hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron, forbid people to marry. For everything God created is good. Nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 1 Timothy 4:3, 4-5

If nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, then can same-sex marriage be consecrated when bathed in the word of God and prayer?

If clergy–who are ordained, set apart, and elevated above laity, consider a couple to be united in holy communion–then on what grounds could a believer possibly object to the wedding of a same-sex couple?

Finally, is it hypocritical for heterosexual believers who live in ungodly ways to prevent same-sex couples from marrying?

With these few verses to Timothy, the Apostle Paul seems to suggest that those in the church of Ephesus needed to check their own spirit before preventing others from marrying. Do these verses support same-sex marriage? 

Worms fer thought. What says you, mate?

Have we stretched this passage ter far? Sailed over tha edge? Be fer ya keelhaul me, think on how some others might see this verse and ponder how ya might respond in kindness ter thar way of thinking things.

Hold Onto That Loving Feeling

Can the UMC Denomination Avoid Divorce?

Hold Onto That Loving Feeling

“I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” – the words of Jesus from Revelation 2:4-5

The church in Ephesus started out well enough, but over time it fell out of love. With whom or what, Jesus does not say, but we might suspect it is the Lord himself. Christ is, after all, the groom and his Church, the bride. Perhaps he sensed those in Ephesus had lost that loving feeling.

In chapter four of his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul writes: “Live a life worthy of the calling you received. 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 but one body and one Spirit. Speak the truth in love.

Paul went on to say: “So I tell you, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do. In the futility of their thinking they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity with a continual lust for more. Therefore, put off falsehood and speak truthfully, for we are all members of one body. Speak only what is helpful for building others up. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Be imitators of God and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.”

“Among you there must not even be a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity or greed. These are improper for God’s holy people. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”

Later Paul wrote these words to his spiritual son Timothy. “The goal of [my] command is love. Love comes from a pure heart. Love comes from a good conscience. Love comes from a sincere faith. We know the law is good if one uses it properly.” What Paul did not say, but which he may have hinted at with his command to love is this: “The law is good if one uses it properly in LOVE.”

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” 1 Timothy 15:15

Our calling is to proclaim the Gospel of God and the core of God’s good news is redemption. Christ saves us from sin, error, and evil. This is why he came and died.

Love first, love second, love last. Knowing about sin, reciting a list of sins, never saved anyone. Only the love of God as shown through the sacrifice of his Son saves.

Avoid sin, yes, but never avoid loving others. Be perfect as Christ is perfect and as much as it depends on you, live a life worthy of the calling you received.