40 Day Walk With God — May 16, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 26–

Revelation 21:5
Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.

In my eleventh year serving as pastor of a semi-rural UM church, things were going very well. The congregation was growing. The people loved and supported their pastor.

HIV/AIDS was very much on peoples’ minds at that time. There were many fears and much false information. In the midst of that, God called my wife and me to make a very personal response to that crisis—we were to become foster parents for HIV positive infants. We received a ten-month old Hispanic boy that year, and an African-American newborn baby girl the next spring. This began a time of transformation in our own lives and in the life of our church. I learned that transformation sometimes happens only after a time of disruption and discomfort.

Some in the church, who were gripped with fear, suggested that my wife keep these children up at the parsonage, and not bring them to the church. Some said they could no longer visit in our home, or allow their kids to play with our kids. The head of the PPR committee suggested that I had made a decision that could destroy everything I had worked for at the church. Many of our closest friendships were called into question.

In the midst of a “pity party” that I held for myself alone in my bedroom one day, Jesus came and spoke to me. He said, “On the cross all my friends left me, too. Who do you want more—your friends or me?” That was transforming for me. My relationship with Jesus was renewed!

Over time, the church was transformed. Others in the church became foster parents to children with special needs, and some adopted children from other countries. What had been a totally white, rural congregation was transformed into a multi-ethnic congregation. One person, who was very concerned at the beginning, came to us later and said, “These children have really been a gift to this congregation!” God had made all things new.

After the mother of the little boy we were keeping died of AIDS, we adopted him, so our family was made new again!

Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace that stretches us out of our comfort zones, sometimes allowing disruptions and discomfort, as you transform our lives and make us new so that we can offer Jesus to a hurting world. It is in Jesus’ precious name that we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Frank H Billman
Aldersgate Renewal Ministries Director of Church Relations
Dean of the Methodist School for Supernatural Ministry
Adjunct Professor, DMin program at United Theological Seminary

40 Day Walk With God — May 15, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 25–

Philippians 2:5-7 (5-11)
Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.

When we speak about aspiring to pastoral excellence, it can feel a bit “faddish.” Across my years of ministry, the “in” thing becomes central to our “church speak,” even when we’re not sure what we mean when we say it. We speak to things like fruitfulness and effectiveness and willingness to adapt how we do our work in an ever-changing world as benchmarks for realizing excellence in our ministries. Each certainly has merit.

But the “what” of pastoral excellence, however important it is, pales in comparison to the “why.” And we really can’t do the “what” with integrity until the “why” is named. In the scripture passage above, we find our “why.” In seeking to adopt the mind of Christ as our own, we walk away from all contrivances and aspirations for notice and favor by emptying ourselves to become the least, if need be. Why? Because that’s precisely what Jesus did. And why? Because that’s precisely who God is. God’s nature is revealed through the life of Jesus.

Back in the late 80’s, during my 3rd year at Vanderbilt Divinity School, I was mentored and befriended by Harmon. His passion for the imprisoned and his call for restorative justice rang true to the Gospel as I understood it. I remember asking him what prompted him to invest his life in this work. He spoke of growing up in Memphis, of being in the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968, to hear Dr. King deliver what would be his last message, and of living in a household where hospitality and unconditional love were practiced because that’s who Jesus was—that’s what Jesus did.

Many years later, when I was appointed to serve in midtown Memphis, I was honored to pastor Harmon’s mother, Celeste. Even in her mid-80’s she could be found every Wednesday afternoon on the corner of McClean and Union sitting in a lawn chair and holding a sign calling for the end of the death penalty. One afternoon I saw her and stopped by to tell her hello. As I stood beside her she said, “Signs are in the trunk. If you’re going to visit, you’ve got to hold a sign.”

As I remember Harmon and Celeste, I came to know the “why” of their ministries. We live into the mind of Christ standing with and for the ones nobody will.

Pastoral excellence is found in the very life of Jesus. It’s a life made sacred, not merely because of whom he is, but because of what he did…and what He continues to do in and through any who are so bold as to follow.

O God, help us aspire to excellence in our lives and leadership in ministry by adopting the mind of Christ as our “why” for all we do. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Jonathan L. Jeffords
Chairperson Board of Ordained Ministry, Memphis Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 14, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 24–

1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.

What is the difference between “doing mission” and “being missional”?

“Doing mission” is something that we schedule on our calendar such as a mission trip. “Being missional” expects a deeper commitment. Don’t misunderstand the point here, doing mission is not a bad thing, but if we’re striving for “Missional Excellence,” we have to set the bar much higher.

This commitment pushes us from seeing mission as something we do, to mission becoming who we are. Being missional calls us to love others as Christ loves. It calls us to see our neighbors as ourselves. Being missional places us face-to-face with opportunities to bring Christ to a hurting world. Being missional opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to those in need. Being missional pushes us to seek a life in which no one is without the other. Being missional compels us to constantly ask the questions:

Who’s missing?
Who’s hurting?
Who does not know the extent of God’s love?

May we live in such a way that the love we’re receiving from Jesus Christ is poured out upon those we encounter each day. When we do this, we will experience Missional Excellence.

Lord, move us from looking for something “good” to do for your kingdom, to “being” someone who makes an eternal difference in the lives of others. Stretch us to seek out those dark and gloomy places in the world where we can bring the Light of Christ’s love. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

Brad Fiscus,
Director of Young People’s Ministry, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 13, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 23–

1 Corinthians 12:4-6
There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

One of my favorite times in ministry is when people discover the spiritual gift(s) God has given them. It is exciting to see someone light up with joy and be filled with eagerness. One particular spring, several youth and adults of our local church were studying the topic of spiritual gifts. Of special interest to me was one lady who had always served in administrative areas in the workplace and in the church. How surprised she was to discover with strong assurance that she possessed a gift in the area of hospitality. From that point on she became a force to be reckoned with when it came to fellowship meals and welcoming times at our church! Our Wednesday evening meal and group attendance more than doubled over the course of the following year!

During this time, a group of youth discovered their gifts in the area of compassion. A ministry to feed local students each weekend was birthed, beginning with meals for around thirty children. Now, a few years later, this ministry feeds over one hundred fifty children each weekend as the congregation and community have joined them!

The gifts of the woman and the youth differ, yet both have been able to feed others – physically and spiritually. We are reminded in the scripture above that there are different gifts, but the same Spirit; different ministries, but the same Lord; different activities, but it is the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

So it is in our congregations. We have different gifts, ministries, and activities yet we worship and serve the same Lord. How wonderful and how amazing! We are one body – the Body of Christ.

O Lord, how thankful we are that we are given a variety of gifts. May we continue to be one body sharing one Lord. Amen.

The Rev. Sammy G. Tillman, Jr.
Director of Young People, Memphis Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 12, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 22–

Micah 6:6-8
With what should I approach the LORD and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings, with year-old calves? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with many torrents of oil? Should I give my oldest child for my crime; the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit? He has told you, human one, what is good and what the LORD requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.

My friend, Renita, passed away a couple of years ago. She was an awesome clergywoman who died young, and yet left a legacy of love that has lifted her family, friends and colleagues to a higher and nobler place. She often spoke of “a de-cluttered life.”

Renita knew that too many people, lay and clergy, often hold on to worldly stuff that takes too much of our time and attention. Sometime we can’t see the Cross because of the mountains of stuff. She de-cluttered her life early on, choosing to invest in God’s people.

One day as we walked into a restaurant in Atlanta, she saw a young mother sitting on a bench with three small children. She went over and asked to hold the baby. Then, she invited them to have lunch with us. After the meal, I said to her, “That was a sweet thing you did.” She simply said,

“I just listened to God!”

Without a doubt, that is pastoral excellence! We are all called to follow Renita’s example, as we step out into a hurting world to bring wholeness, healing and hope.

Lord, help me to stop talking so much, and to take time to listen to you. Open my eyes to see tired mothers, hungry children, and those who need to be brought to your table. Help me to “de-clutter my life.” In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Roger A. Hopson
Clarksville District Superintendent, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 11, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 21–

ACTS 11:24
Barnabas responded in this way because he was a good man, whom the Holy Spirit had endowed with exceptional faith. A considerable number of people were added to the Lord.

For most of my life, my troubled father was not a Christian. This concerned my mother. She implored the deacons of her denomination to regularly visit my dad. They did.

Most of their conversations centered on Daddy’s need for God. At some point, they would always ask if he was ready to make a profession of faith so that his salvation could be assured. My father always refused.

The bishop appointed a new United Methodist minister to my home church. He was surprised to learn that my parents didn’t worship in the UMC. I told him that my father didn’t worship anywhere. This new pastor decided to visit my dad.

Afterwards, Daddy called me and asked, “What’s wrong with this new Methodist preacher?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, he came to see me and didn’t mention God the entire time.”

“What did he talk about?” I asked.

“Well, he talked about hunting and sports,” Daddy recalled.

“Oh,” I said, “so he talked about things that you like to talk about?”

“Yes, I guess he did.”

That UM pastor continued to faithfully visit my dad. At some point they must have talked about God because I received a phone call. It was the UM pastor asking me if I could be in my home church that Sunday. “Your dad wants to be baptized, and I’d like for you to do it.”

My dad became a faithful follower of Jesus Christ because an excellent pastor offered Christ to a hurting world.

Merciful Father, thank you that you desire that all come to know you as Lord. Teach us to love as Christ loved, in whose name we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Tommy Ward
Director of Office of Ministerial Concerns, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 10, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 20–

Matt. 25: 34-36 (31-46)
Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

As I sit down to write this, I am in the middle of working a disaster in Southern Illinois. An EF3 tornado ripped through this small rural farming community. As the faith-based teams came storming in, as we do so much of the time, I was asked,

“WHY do people who do not know us want to help us?”

The hearts of gratitude pour forth in awe and appreciation for what we bring. We often hear,

“You bring people, machinery, food, water, supplies, and HOPE.”

Christian action speaks loudly. As the teams come from the Baptist, United Methodist, Mennonites, and other Non – Denominational groups, we bring different things to the table. But we all have one thing in common. We bring the LOVE of Christ with us. Our goal is to restore the hopes and dreams of the people, and to restore a calm and peace in the madness of disaster.

So when someone is hurting, God commands us to step up and out of our comfort zones to be His hands, feet, voice, and touch for a hurting world! PLEASE look and see where you can step up your Christian action and involvement. Are we willing to “be” the LIGHT of CHRIST in the darkness of a hurting world with disasters, devastation, and despair all around us?

Pray, listen, pray some more, and then respond to God’s Call!

Father God, we thank you that in the midst of catastrophe and devastation, you are always there to comfort us, and to restore to us life and peace. Help us to be your hands, feet, voice, and touch for a hurting world. What a privilege to serve you by serving others. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

Bill Carr
Coordinator of Disaster Response and Relief, Memphis Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 9, 2014

Day 19–

John 15:16-18
You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.

As a child and youth I was given a strong foundation in the Methodist Church through Sunday School, worship, VBS. and MYF. As a young wife and mother, our new church invested in me as I taught youth Sunday School. Later we moved to a new town just as the church was completing their Family Life Center.

Because the church wanted to reach out to the children in the community they allowed me to share my vocation of teaching ballet, tap and tumbling. They also provided me a nurturing environment in which to fall in love with God’s Word. I took advantage of ministry opportunities by teaching youth Sunday School, and by participating on youth mission trips and with the United Methodist Women. A couple of years ago my husband and I served as (what we call) missionaries with a rural church. We learned from them the importance of family connections and their acceptance of all people.

In 2011, we changed churches. This church, although predominantly filled with retired people, is involved in so many ways in our community, our district, our Tennessee Conference, and the World. It fully supports me as the Tennessee Conference Lay Leader.

As I reflect on my life, many people and churches come to mind. These people are part of my own “Hall of Faith,” as in Hebrews, chapter eleven. Who is in your Hall of Faith? I encourage you to take time to give thanks to God, and make a call or send a card expressing your thankfulness for their influence in your life.

Dear Jesus, thank you for all the clergy and lay persons that loved me and invested themselves in my life. Encourage us to look for ways to love one another producing the fruit of the Spirit that lasts forever. In the powerful name of Jesus we pray. AMEN.

Holly Neal
Tennessee Conference Lay Leader

40 Day Walk With God — May 8, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 18–

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

For twelve years, I was blessed with the opportunity to be the Director of the United Methodist Studies program at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Trust me; it perhaps sounds more impressive than the reality. During that time, among other things, I taught Social Ethics to most of the UM students. This meant that we had to engage the troubling issues that currently divide us.

With my academic background, it was so easy to simply divide ourselves up according to how we reached our different conclusions. It was far too easy to settle for “us and them.” The students did this, and I must admit, so did I. But at the same time, there was another force at work. More than “two or three” Christians were gathering together and so, in spite of our arguments, Jesus insisted upon showing up! And, as we became aware of his presence, theological opponents became, once again, brothers and sisters in Christ.

In the end, saying “yes” to Jesus implies many things. Not least of these is this: with Jesus, everything and everyone looks different. The Apostle Paul probably best described it in the scripture above. Old things have, indeed, gone away, and new things have arrived!

Transformational excellence always begins with our own transformation. In that, we are granted a new vision, which is of course our Lord’s vision. The old things go away and the new things arrive, as we no longer see one another as “us and them,” but as the brothers and sisters that we are in Christ. Who are the people in your life that you need to see with new eyes…with Jesus’ eyes?

Lord of grace and glory, we thank you for the opportunity to see life through your eyes in which old things are no more, and the newness of life reshapes and remakes us through love into the Body of Christ for the world.
In Jesus’ name. AMEN

Dr. Philip D. Jamieson, President
United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences

40 Day Walk With God — May 7, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 17–

John 1:14 (1-14)
The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Incarnation…when it comes to pastoral excellence, there may be no more important word. One of the most powerful claims of John’s Gospel is that God’s life-giving Word has become tangible, palpable, embodied in Jesus Christ. It is more than a theological concept. It is the nitty-gritty of Christianity. God got down here with us!

My ten year old daughter likes to do her homework sitting on the floor. She is petite and agile; it is no problem for her to flop down and bounce right up. Occasionally, she asks Dad to help her with math. Now, I could demand that she bring the book to me, set it on the desk or carry it over to a table. But, she works best sitting on the floor.

I am not petite. Increasingly, I am not agile. But, I love her and want to offer her the help she needs in the way that will be most effective for her. So, I ease out of my chair, down onto the floor, eye-level with the fourth grader. I think of it as incarnational homework help. I get down there with her.

Christians are called to be pastoral. It’s part of the priesthood of all believers. If we follow the witness of the Gospel of John, the best way to share the saving news of God’s grace is to do what God did. We are called to get down where the good news is needed, in the way it is needed.

Share the gospel, share yourself, genuinely and indigenously. Congregations, ministers, Christians – all are called to be pastoral. Our pastoral presence will be excellent insofar as we submit to being incarnational vessels of Word of God.

Gracious God, you came to us as one of us to save us. Grant us the humility to follow your lead, to embody your love where it is needed, in the way it is needed, after the example of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Bryan Brooks
Chairperson Board of Ordained Ministry, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 6, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 16–

1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care—how can the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.

As Christians we believe Jesus loved us so much that he offered us the very thing we could not offer to ourselves, or to one another–eternal life with God. There may be times in our lives when we ask ourselves a “next-step” question to this belief: “Why would God do this?”

God’s heart was breaking!

There is enormous need in our world. Need that breaks our hearts; need that calls us to acknowledge or ignore what we have and others don’t; need that convicts us to lay down our life and existence to help provide for others. Making this scripture become reality depends on what you cling to, and what you let go.

Grief is a big part of my life as a pastor…we are always grieving something lost in life: a job, loved one, children growing into adults, parents getting older, disease, addiction, depression. What if Jesus was asking us to love, not by the value of money, but with the value of time, presence, prayers, conversation, training disciples, covenanting together, being in relationship with one another in the church so that the world, even through differences, would be transformed?

Jesus invites us to train our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the hurts in our communities and global space. God asks us to be present with the hurt; to acknowledge that it is yours and mine, and to stand with it in the presence of God asking….”God, what would you have me do?”

Life is messy, and I imagine the cross was too. Through the power of the Resurrection and Holy Spirit we are invited to love what is not comfortable or friendly. As Christians, it is our responsibility and privilege to stand in the mess with God’s people. It’s what we do, because we love and know the love of God.

Loving God, help us to be sensitive to the hurt and pain all around us, and give us the courage to step into the mess, as we offer the healing power of your transforming love. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Regina Proctor
Spiritual Formation Team, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 5, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 15–

Galatians 6:2 (2-5)
Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I remember just like it was yesterday. The worship design team had planned a particular worship experience around the central theme of recognizing the presence of God in our daily living. We all agreed that asking some of our congregants to share their ‘cardboard testimony’ with their faith family would be a great witness to recognizing God’s presence in their own daily lives. I talked with folks who were struggling through lost employment or losing a loved one, those who’d known nothing but a picture-perfect life and those who were facing the uncertainties of broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken spirits.

Two conversations in particular were powerful for me: one with a young man who has carried the life-long burden of developmental delays like they were featherweight and, the other, with a young woman facing the third recurrence of breast cancer, wondering again how to fight the disease physically and stay strong for her husband and young daughter, staying open to God’s presence. Both jumped at the chance to bear witness without really understanding how that it would happen.

The designated Sunday arrived and when “Amen” was spoken at the close of the sermon, some 30 brothers and sisters made their way from their pews and formed a line. As the song of reflection was played, one at a time each one took their place in the center of the platform, holding their cardboard, first “telling” of what his or her life without knowing the presence of Christ was like. Then, turning that cardboard over to reveal what living in and with the presence of Christ meant to them. The young man whose life was rife with struggle to be like others told us that before Christ he “felt very alone,” but in the presence of Christ he “has a forever friend.”

Then, that young wife/mother meekly took her place and displayed the front side of her cardboard testimony: “Scared to death.” As she turned her piece of cardboard over to reveal the impact of Christ’s presence in her life … well, we could see it on her face and in her body before we read the words. As sick as she was, her backbone straightened a bit and that broad, beautiful smile of hers illuminated the whole sanctuary. Her witness read, “touched the hem of his robe!”

Every witness borne in that experience was appreciated and received as a gift, but the testimony of these two in particular did something to the Body gathered that day. The details weren’t nearly so important as this one truth: in that moment of worship we were ONE body. The raw truth and courage of a few to share their Truth called us to a congregational excellence that made a difference in that expression of the Body of Christ as a unified body.

God of us all, unify us by the presence and power of your Spirit and give us courage to link hands and hearts in bearing witness to Love Himself – within and beyond the walls of our churches and lives. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Sandra Clay
Asbury District Superintendent, Memphis Annual Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 4, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 14–

Exodus 20:24
Make for me an altar…I will come to you and bless you in every place where I make sure my name is remembered.

He was frail and weak as he spoke to me from his hospital bed. He wanted to talk about his relationship with Christ, starting from the beginning. Mr. Lee came to the church where I was the pastor. Everyone knew he was a Christian; he lived a good, clean life and had a big heart for children, especially the ones who attended the school where he was principal.

On this day, as I sat by his bed, he wanted to explain how his Christian faith had evolved from a humble beginning as a young man kneeling in our small church. He recalled the spot at the altar where he had knelt years before and gave his heart to Christ. That spot, the third post from the left side, is where he experienced the transforming power of God’s grace. That particular place on the cushioned kneeling rail became a sacred space for him. Every time there was an important decision to be made, or some tragic event in his life, Mr. Lee could be found at that spot, seeking God’s presence again as he felt it at the first. Mr. Lee knew that there is power in going back to the places where he had met with God in special ways.

A few days after I had shared this sacred time with Mr. Lee, he died. At his funeral, I took a basket of flowers and placed it at that particular post on the kneeling rail. I wanted to honor Mr. Lee, but more importantly, I wanted to honor God who had given us all grace and redemption.

Often in my own life, I travel back to where I experienced the fullness of God’s presence which is a little church in Birmingham, Alabama, where I gave my heart to Christ. As I knelt at the altar, there was a spotlight in the ceiling that seemed to shine only on me. Its light covered me with the warmth of God’s forgiveness and grace. In times of confusion, doubt, trouble, or fear, I hurriedly go back to that place where I have never doubted that God’s Spirit infused with mine.

May each of us hold dear in our hearts and minds the places and times where we have personally met with God. If God seems far away from you, venture back to the last place where you knew God was present.

Most gracious and loving Father, thank you for meeting us in those sacred times and places of life when your transformational power is unmistakable. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Allen Black
Pastor Hermitage UMC, Tennessee Conference

40 Day Walk With God — May 3, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 13–

Luke 8:38-39
The man from whom the demons had gone begged to come along with Jesus as one of his disciples. Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell the story of what God has done for you.” So he went throughout the city proclaiming what Jesus had done for him.

I recently came across an alarming statement which read, “Statistics show that 92% of Christians have never shared anything about their relationship with Christ, with others they know.”

As Christians, each of us is called to be a storyteller of what God has done, and what God is currently doing in our life. Not only was that the only method early Christians had to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it was then, and remains today, the most powerful and effective form of first-person evangelism.

If we are to live into the Great Commission, we must learn to see where God has been at work in our past, learn to see where God is at work in our lives today, and be willing to share these, our most personal GodStories, with others who do not have a personal relationship with Christ.

Let us covenant that when God brings someone across our path who is afraid or in pain and needs to hear our first-person account of how God helped us through a similar struggle or event in our life, we will offer our personal GodStory as a gift from God to that person. If we are faithful in this, God will bless us and bless the person hearing our GodStory.

The Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “So continue encouraging each other and building each other up…”. What greater way can we encourage and build up each other, than through the sharing of our intimate GodStories about what God has done in our lives? When we are willing to share our GodStories, we help others overcome their fears, we strengthen their courage and offer them hope in Christ. We also create strong personal relationships because of our willingness to be vulnerable.

Gracious Lord, give me ears to hear your voice and eyes to see your handy-work in my life each day. Help me to be aware that the greatest spiritual gifts I may ever have to offer others are my stories about your work in my life. Give me the courage to be vulnerable with others. Give me the words that encourage, words that build up and speak life into others. Help me to answer your call on my life to be your GodStory teller.
In Jesus’ name and for His sake I pray. AMEN.

David R. Reed
Memphis Conference Lay Leader

40 Day Walk With God — May 2, 2014

40DayLogo_alt3Day 12–

2 Corinthians 8:1-5
Brothers and sisters, we want to let you know about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia. While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford, and they did it voluntarily. They urgently begged us for the privilege of sharing in this service for the saints. They even exceeded our expectations, because they gave themselves to the Lord first and to us, consistent with God’s will.

There were times when I was growing up that I would want something that our family could not afford, and I would throw myself a pity party! Without exception, when I was in the deep blues of my party, my mother would tell me to go do something for someone else. Or she would simply have me do something for someone.

It never failed, when I stopped focusing on what I could not have and put my attention on what I could do or give, my mood would shift and I would soon forget whatever it was I wanted.

We are living in a time of transition. Church leaders everywhere feel the pressure to adapt and change so that we may offer Christ to a hurting world. We realize that we can no longer sustain the models of ministry that pretty much all of us grew up with and our temptation is to throw a pity party, and to complain about what we cannot do.

I am convinced that if we can focus and engage in reaching out to others we will find new life and new purpose. Paul reports in 2 Corinthians 8 1-5 that the churches in Macedonia, even though they were desperately poor and in the midst of fierce troubles, found great happiness in serving others and there was an outpouring of pure and generous gifts.

Let us find ways to engage our neighborhood and the world, so that we may know the joy of being faithful and fruitful congregations.

Lord, may we focus outward to the needs of the world around us, taking our eyes off of ourselves, so that we might see where you are calling us to go forth to serve others. In Christ’s holy name we pray. AMEN.

The Rev. Tom Hazelwood
Director of Connectional Ministries, Memphis Conference