Day 35: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgMatthew 1:23
Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will call him, Emmanuel.

Emmanuel—“God with us.” Neither God with me, nor God with you, rather “God with us” together. Pastoral excellence and church vitality grow out of this holy plurality. As surely as God is triune, so does God work in spirited relationships. God with me or you alone grows too easily into a God who looks and acts too much like our own pet emphases and projects.

“God with us” requires much checking-in with God and with each other. “God with us” understands that deepest renewal arises out of deepest relationships, and that God’s full image can only be borne relationally.

“God with us” insists that what we do together, while more difficult, remains most lasting and substantial. “God with us” invites us to explore the relationships that God places along our journey, especially welcoming the strangers as friends whom God gives us to serve. “God with us” refuses a lone ranger model and resists every temptation to clutch too tightly the many gifts God provides.

“God with us” depends on a trusted conference conferring what John Wesley pointed out as a means of grace and on which he built the practical disciplines of Methodism. As we approach this Annual Conference, may we anticipate it as amazing treasure—a three-day gathering with trusted Methodist neighbors in order to listen to God as we worship, commune, study the scripture, pray, fast/feast, and puzzle over vexing issues of faithfulness, confident that God promises to show up with truth that sets us free!

Prayer Focus: Pray for the communion of saints, living and dead, on whom you count for wisdom, courage, clarity, and correction. Pray for that cluster of people out of which your life of faith arises and flourishes. Pray for the gathering of saints which constitutes the Annual Conference towards which we now point.

The Rev. Gregory Waldrop
Co-Chairperson, Order of Elders-Memphis Conference
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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 27: Congregational excellence

27.jpgMark 12: 30-31
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

A little boy said to his Sunday school teacher, “The pastor said our congregation is healthy. When did we go to the doctor?” In other words, the little boy was asking who is qualified to check us out and make this pronouncement.

What makes us a healthy, vital congregation?

God gave the ultimate sacrifice, his only son Jesus, to atone for the sins of the world. A congregation that understands the magnitude of this sacrifice and the depth of God’s love is also a congregation that embraces God’s Kingdom and loves all creation.

A healthy congregation expresses their love of God in all they do. They love the world unconditionally as God loves us.

A healthy and vital congregation is passionate, joyful, and always ready to serve.

We are healthy because we have embraced the lifestyle of the Great Physician.

Prayer: Oh God, help us to love one another as you have loved us. Teach us to live in solidarity with all creation as we yearn to make disciples for Jesus Christ. AMEN.

The Rev. Roger Hopson
Executive Assistant to the Bishop

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 19: Congregational excellence

1.jpgColossians 3:16
The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We are given the assurance that, “where two or three are gathered” (Matt. 18:20), in the name of Jesus Christ, the Spirit of the Lord is there. One of the ways we can feel that most deeply is singing together.

Being a “Minister of Worship and Music,” I am, obviously, biased when it comes to the presence and prominence of music in the church. However, what you may not know is why I feel so strongly about it.

It is oftentimes difficult to explain the movement of the Holy Spirit to a non-believer, but it is easier to grasp this experience when in the presence of a singing community. Put simply, singing kindles the flames of the Spirit.

Music has the ability to speak to people in ways much deeper than mere words, and it helps us connect with the church through all ages—the past, present, and future. Singing old and new songs is more than a way of giving identity to our own generations; it unifies us with the Body of Christ in all ages and times.

What are you doing in your churches to encourage healthy congregational singing?

It may surprise you, but one of the most important things I have learned in this endeavor is to build and nurture trusting relationships. Within your churches, I would encourage you to ask, “How is it with your soul?”

But I would also add, “How is it with your song?”

Prayer: God, help me to “tune my heart to sing your grace,” and make me ever attentive to the needs of your people to proclaim their faith through singing. AMEN.

The Rev. Jackson Henry
Chairperson, Order of Deacons-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 18: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgLuke 24:36 
While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

I was tired, worn out, and stressed to the max! I was mostly annoyed at the inconvenience when I first got the call from my doctor to tell me that I had cancer. In my war-wearied state of total burn-out, I remember thinking that it might be nice if I actually had cancer, then maybe I could get away for a while.

My melt-down came when I was informed that surgery could not be scheduled for several weeks. I wanted the cancer out of my body immediately! I broke down into uncontrollable tears. I remember sitting at my computer, desperately trying to e-mail my Spiritual Director for prayer. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see through the tears. My whole body was racked with sobs. I could barely catch my breath.

At one point, as I wiped the tears away, I saw my dog, Gus, sitting on the floor beside me. He was looking up at me with the most compassionate eyes I had ever seen. Around my feet lay all of his favorite toys. I had been oblivious to his efforts to cheer me as he had fetched all of his toys from around the house. Gus was dangerously possessive of his toys. No one was ever allowed to touch any of his toys. If he caught you picking up one of his toys, he would pounce on you, growling his warnings to back off. In his concern for me, though, Gus was now sacrificially extending his love in the only way that he knew how. Some people may think this is a bit of a stretch, but I saw the eyes of Jesus reflected in Gus’ big, brown eyes as he looked up at me in that moment of sacrificial love.

When we extend sacrificial love to those in pain; when we are willing to give all that we have to help another bear their burdens; when we lay down our lives for others, it is then that we see the transformational power of God’s love at work. I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally whole today because of the sacrificial love extended to me through the many friends and family that became Jesus for me when I was broken and weary.

Prayer: Lord, help us to bring the authority of your love to our families, our churches, and to the world around us. As you call us to greater levels of excellence in ministry, may we learn to love well.

The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 17: God’s transforming presence – Offering Christ to a hurting world

1.jpgLuke 13: 10-13
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you are set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.

“God’s will, done His way, and in His timing” is a powerful prayer for individuals and for the church. However, when Jesus healed the crippled woman on the Sabbath He offended the synagogue rulers. Jesus called them hypocrites because they showed less compassion for this woman of sacred worth than animals in their care.

Jesus’ simple prayer, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment,” was filled with the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The spirit that had been crippling her for eighteen years left her. She stood up straight and began praising God.

Healing of body, soul, and spirit causes us to praise the Lord who is the true source of all healing.

Since God’s healing, transforming power so dramatically changed this individual, can we also believe that the Lord will transform families, congregations, districts, and annual conferences? Our theme from John 14:12 certainly encourages us to pray for even greater things than these.

“God’s will, done His way.” Those are challenging words. God’s way is always better than any program, plan, or agenda that we could contrive.

Together let’s consciously submit our will to God and pray that we’ll be led by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we believe your transforming power and presence can change individuals and our churches and our annual conferences. Place your hand on our lives, set us free from any infirmity, and allow us to praise You wholeheartedly. AMEN

Margie Burger
Director of Prayer Ministries, Aldersgate Renewal Ministries

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 16: Missional excellence

1.jpgActs 2:42-47
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that we are called to do what the early church did. They fellowshipped and were obedient to the apostles’ teaching and participated in communion and prayer. Then, greater things began to happen.

The community began to notice the signs and wonders performed by the apostles. The new believers were generous in selling and sharing their possessions with glad and sincere hearts. They were living transformed lives and it was contagious.

We’ve heard a lot of questions about becoming vital congregations and about being disciples of Jesus Christ. But a better question to ask might be, “When did we stop being disciples and vital congregations?” As I reflected, Jesus softened my heart and encouraged me to return to the ways of the early church.

Over the years I have been able to identify others as missionaries (like school teachers) or evangelists (those that share Jesus). But I had been making excuses – that Jesus had called and gifted others, not me. Then, Jesus taught me that I am called and empowered to offer Him to others. Now I am intentional about not only meeting physical needs, but also sharing the Good News of Jesus through His transforming love.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for calling us to follow You. Empower us to share You with everyone we meet. Yes, Lord, GREATER THINGS are still to be done! In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

Today may we look for the opportunities where God is already at work — and join Him!

Holly Neal
Lay Leader-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 15: Congregational excellence

1.jpgLuke 21: 1-3
Looking up, Jesus saw rich people throwing their gifts into the collection box for the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow throw in two small copper coins worth a penny. He said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than them all.

Some weeks back, the church I attend was damaged by either a tornado or, at least, severe straight-line winds. The fellowship hall had a tree fall on it causing damage to the walls, floors and both roofs, including the roof over the sanctuary. Trees littered the property and parking lot. Our brothers and sisters from UMCOR have been a constant presence giving whatever it takes to help others in need. They give not from their abundance, but they gave and continue giving all they can to God.

Amazingly, last year the church applied for a church extension grant to fix the leaking roof, fellowship hall and a few other items. Out of the chaos of the storm and disaster, God has blessed us with a new roof and repairs that we, otherwise, would not have been able to accomplish. Three days after the roof was completed, as it rained and rained, we all stood in the church thanking God for the sound of the awesome rain falling on that new roof.

So what is a healthy congregation? Could it be that a healthy congregation is one that not only withstands the storms of life, but one which thrives through the storms of life? A healthy congregation is one that is able to celebrate in the rain, when the safety net of God’s love and grace is firmly in place through surrendered servants who love the Lord with all their hearts, and who love their neighbors as themselves.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, giver of all good gifts, help us in this season of worry, doubt and mistrust to trust you as that faithful widow did so long ago. May we not only give out of our abundance, as so many of us often do, but to give our all to you as the widow who gave out of her poverty. Move us into your divine health. AMEN

Gerry Campbell
Lay Leader-Memphis Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Forum of Bishops meeting continues

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
| UMCom
Contact: Diane Degnan (email), 615.742.5406

SAN DIEGO, Calif.: The second day of the learning forum for bishops serving annual conferences around the world focused on the strengths of The United Methodist Church and how to leverage these attributes as the church moves into the future.

The day began with worship, prayer, and singing, “Lord you are able to make all things new . . .” Preaching on the text, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation,” (II Cor. 5:17) Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett, of the Birmingham (Ala.) area, invited the bishops to reflect on how they as individuals and as a community can grow as new creations in Christ.

“’All things new’ begins with you and me,” she affirmed. “We are becoming new . . . it sweeps across communities, organizations, churches, councils, even denominations.”

Following worship, Brian McLaren, noted author and leader of the emerging church movement, addressed the bishops and engaged in dialogue concerning promising signs in The United Methodist Church. In the spirit of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, he suggested the church is in a time of “letting go” and “letting come” what God wills. In many places, there are creative leaders emerging and prototypes developing that reflect new ways of being church.

“As pressures increase,” he noted, “so do creativity, courage, and determination.” In such a time, things can, in the words of author and educator, Parker Palmer, “break apart” or “break open.” McLaren believes this can be an opportunity for the church and its leadership to “break open” with new possibilities.

In the afternoon, bishops shared “best practices” in appointment making, accountability systems, and ministry with younger generations. Small accountability groups met to enable the bishops to work with one another in the light of their commitments in the Four Areas of Focus and the adaptive challenge of developing more vital congregations. The day ended with learning groups discussing how each bishop can best lead in the unique contexts of the particular annual conference(s) she or he is serving.

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United Methodist Bishops Begin First Forum Meeting

SAN DIEGO, Calif. // May 6, 2013: Active bishops of The United Methodist Church began the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops on May 5 in San Diego with inspiring worship led by Rev. Jorge Lockward, Director of Global Praise for the General Board of Global Ministries. The bishops and spouses spent time in prayer, singing, praying for one another, anointing each other, and remembering their baptisms.

“The emerging church is a movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Bishop Robert Hayes of the Oklahoma Episcopal Area, who preached at the first night’s event. Bishop Hayes encouraged colleagues to reconnect spiritually with one another and with the church and to expect great things from God. “Change begins with us. We have to learn to engage with each other and even to disagree without being disagreeable. We have to model how to put new wine in new wineskins.”

“The purpose of the forum is to learn how to become a learning community,” said Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and leader of the planning team.  The Forum of Residential Bishops is a continuing education platform for the global community of United Methodist bishops with residential responsibilities.

In the first learning session, several bishops shared thoughts about how to engage with their colleagues in order to lead the church in times of rapid change. In addition, the bishops began meeting together in small groups in order to commit themselves to an intensive exchange about how to lead toward more vitality in their areas. The meeting will continue through May 9.

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Day 14: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgExodus 16:4
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction.

Years ago I remember reading about a Methodist missionary recounting a visit from a student. He had been reading the Bible and said, “It writes here that when Jesus will come again, he will come with a shout. What will Jesus shout?” Reflecting on his walk with Christ on the mission field he replied, “Christ will shout ENOUGH! Enough poverty….enough suffering…enough hunger…enough hatred… enough death. Enough.”

That word “enough” is one we struggle with in our culture. Voices bombard us daily saying we don’t have enough. We must buy one more electronic gadget so life can be easier. We must acquire more money to be comfortable. We need more work on the house so it will compete in the market. We need one more car to make life fun. “Enough” gets stretched further and further from our reach. When is enough?

God tried to teach the Hebrews in the wilderness that “enough” was a matter of trust in God’s love, provision, and grace. The Biblical narrative is full of illustrations of good people not getting that lesson. We see it all the way down to Jesus as he stood before the multitude. He kept telling the disciples that a few loaves would be enough.

This is a lesson the church continues to struggle with. We are filled with fear of the future. We are afraid there will not be enough time, energy, money, resources or whatever to take care of the “have to’s,” much less risk caring for those outside our circle. But Jesus patiently keeps saying, “Enough.” Jesus keeps suggesting that we look at our “have to’s,” again. Do they reflect, “I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as myself?” Enough! That shout transforms us because it shatters fear and releases us in trust to live the life Jesus called “Abundant.”

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, in your power and in your love, release us for “enough.” AMEN.

The Rev. LeNoir Culbertson
Murfreesboro District Superintendent-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Bishop McAlilly announces pilgrimage to the Holy Land

HolyLand

Bishop Bill McAlilly announces pilgrimage to the Holy Land February 17-26, 2014

Jerusalem, the Holy City! Since the earliest days of Christianity, pilgrims have made their way to this place. In 2014, we will follow in the ancient and venerated footsteps of these faithful Christians.

As we travel together, we will worship and learn. We will visit sites where Jesus walked, where he taught and prayed. We will discover the images that he used to illustrate His parables. We will come closer to understanding Him as we gain understanding of world in which He conducted His ministry.

I hope many of you will accompany us on this spiritual pilgrimage. This will not be a commercial tour! This will be a true faith experience and I would consider it a privilege to have you with us.

Brochures, tour host information, and general information is available by contacting the following persons:

Project Coordinator for the Tennessee Conference: Randall and Brenda Ganues, rganues@gmail.com or 615.804.5345
Project Coordinator for the Memphis Conference: Philip and Vida McClure, vmcclure1227@att.net or 270.653.3352


Day 12: Missional excellence

1.jpgActs 2:42-45
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them.

In these verses we have the earliest recording of the practices of the Church in its beginnings. Whenever I hear folks lament over not singing the “old” hymns, or missing the “old” style of preaching and worship, I remind them of the events in Acts 2. Certainly, things evolve in time and context, but the bones of who we are as missioners and disciples still live in these words of scripture.

The words of the old hymn that says, “Give me that old time religion,” set before us a challenge to look at our lives and our churches and to assess whether we can sing those words with sincerity. If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would be devoted to Bible study, prayer, worship, and fellowship within the Body of Christ.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would be in awe of the many miracles and signs of the “greater things” about which Jesus spoke.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, there would be no poverty, no brokenness, no loneliness, and no lack, for we would give out of our own resources to make certain that no one had needs that were unmet.

If, in fact, we truly embraced that “old time religion” of the apostles, we would “be” Jesus to our families, our communities, our churches, and the world around us.

Prayer: O Lord, help us in our devotional and disciplined lives that we might not ever forget the essentials, that we might not major in the minors, and that we might not just become disciples, but that we might make disciples, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.

The Rev. Sky Lowe-McCracken
Paducah District Superintendent-Memphis Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals

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umcom_logo_300
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
| UMCom
Contact: Diane Degnan (email), 615.742.5406

United Methodist Bishops work in partnership toward common goals

“Exploring leadership for an emerging church” will be the theme of the first meeting of the Forum of Residential Bishops, scheduled on May 5-9, 2013 in San Diego.

The purpose of the five-day meeting is to create a learning environment where the residential bishops will share best practices, experiments and innovations that are working/not working in order to learn from one another. Each day’s discussion and learning will  focus on a different theme, with addresses from selected keynote speakers.

“This will be an intensive time of learning, listening and renewing our commitment to our call,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops. “By removing ourselves for a few days from the day-to-day urgency of leading annual conferences, we have an opportunity to jointly gain a wider perspective of the church as a whole and to help one another as leaders from around the globe.”

The bishops have previously committed to hold each other accountable through a covenant to work side-by-side to lead the denomination forward despite existing challenges in order to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.

During the forum, the bishops will develop small accountability groups, and group members will follow up with each other afterwards related to their annual conference, jurisdictional and general leadership roles and responsibilities.

The bishops have identified some specific goals they are collectively working toward, which include:

  • Double the number of vital congregations in the U.S. by the end of 2017
  • Increase the number of vital congregations in the Central Conferences
  • Raise $75 million in the fight against malaria
  • Engage congregations in ministries to end poverty
  • Start 1,000 new congregations by then end of 2016
  • Enlist, support and mentor an additional 2,000 young candidates for ministry

On May 7, the Episcopal leaders will take a field trip to visit the U.S. – Mexico border.

The bishops will share information about their learning experiences through a series of daily updates which will be available on the Council’s website, and will conclude the meeting with a press conference (via web or phone — details to follow soon).

Last year, the Council of Bishops – which is comprised of both residential and retired bishops – decided to create a Forum of Residential Bishops for the purpose of building a learning community among peers. The meetings will be attended exclusively by active bishops; however, the forum will have no authority to make decisions or take actions on behalf of the Council. Such actions would be handled only when the full Council is assembled.

The full Council of Bishops has traditionally met twice a year, though they are not required to do so under church law. In order to make the forum meetings possible without creating  additional cost, the Council decided to meet only once a year. Their next meeting will be November 10-15, 2013 in Lake Junalaska, N.C.

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Day 10: Pastoral excellence

Luke 4:31-36 
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Jesus went down to the city of Capernaum in Galilee and taught the people each Sabbath. They were amazed by his teaching because he delivered his message with authority. A man in the synagogue had the spirit of an unclean demon. He screamed, “Hey! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the holy one from God.”

“Silence!” Jesus said, speaking harshly to the demon. “Come out of him!” The demon threw the man down before them, then came out of him without harming him. They were all shaken and said to each other, “What kind of word is this, that he can command unclean spirits with authority and power, and they leave?”

“They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority” (Luke 4:32). What did those gathered in the synagogue on that day hear, feel, or see that would spawn such a comment? Jesus’ authority was evidenced by the creative power he carried in his voice, his touch, and his actions. He had the power to make the deaf hear, the blind see, the captive to be set free. Jesus could “author” deep changes in a person, a group, or a world. That’s authority! On this day spoken of in Luke, chapter 4, Jesus loved a tormented man, and the result was that man gained a right mind. That’s power! That is authority of love!

Jesus’ love is a working love. It is powerful. It authors changes. I don’t have this kind of powerful love. I can, however, come under the authority of Jesus’ love for me and the world he created. I can be “refashioned” and “re-passioned” by Jesus love if I invite it to work on me instead of my working against it.

When I walk into a church that I am appointed to serve, there is not a chance of my love being of the ilk that creates changes of “Biblical proportions.” I don’t have that kind of “authority,” but I sure like to see Jesus’ authoritative love unleashed upon the people I serve and into the world that surrounds me. It is this powerful love that saved me, freed me, changed me and is re-creating me. All I can do is serve this Jesus who is so gracious as to have used His power on me…and then I can get to watch Jesus work!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, bring me under your authority. Mold me. Make me. Use me to your glory for the sake of this world you love….and are changing.

The Rev. Jay Archer
Cookeville District Superintendent-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


DAY 9: God’s transforming presence – offering Christ to a hurting world

1.jpgLuke 13:10-13
Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. A woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and couldn’t stand up straight. When he saw her, Jesus called her to him and said, “Woman, you are set free from your sickness.” He placed his hands on her and she straightened up at once and praised God.

As we reflect on the transforming presence of Jesus in our lives, what a remarkably sweet gift is the healing presence of Christ that is always with us! Jesus reminds us that many of us are bent over, weighed down, overwhelmed and burdened. Every now and then, we need someone to speak a word of encouragement and lay gentle hopeful hands on us in His name that we may be able to stand up straight and tall, liberated through faith.

What must it be like to not have to look down at the ground, but look up to the Lord because we have been set free?

What must it look like to no longer be looked upon as cursed, but blessed and highly favored because we have been healed in the place of worship and praise?

What would happen if all those who came to the House, the Temple, the Church where we gather each Sunday morning; and brought those who were bent over because they were nameless, faceless and voiceless; and they were able to leap and jump and praise God for deliverance?

What would healing look like in each congregation if we all came expecting Jesus to be present to do great things in us, with us and through us?

Prayer: Precious Jesus, hear us when we pray for healing that we might stand up, reach up, look up and hold out until our change comes! Your transforming presence gives hope that we are not forgotten, invisible, or helpless. Heal us of the things that cause us to stoop over and not look up to give thanks to you. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Davis
McKendree District Superintendent-Memphis Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 8: Missional excellence

1.jpgRomans 8.26-27
In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will.

One of Jesus’ disciples asked of him, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11.1). The Lord must always teach us to pray, “For we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8.26). Prayer is God’s gift that enables us to long for, seek, and call out to God. Through prayer we are able to answer that we are children of God, not slaves to fall back in fear. (Rom 8.14-15)

Without God helping us to pray, we are left in the world of our own making. But through prayer God teaches us to imagine, experience, and see possibilities beyond ourselves. Prayer is radical openness to God’s possibilities.

If we don’t pray with radical openness, we are limiting what God can accomplish in and through us, and we are limiting the reign of God’s grace and the fulfillment of the creation. Through radical openness in persistent prayer, we can begin to see God’s “greater things.”

Jesus embodied radical openness to God and thus the fullness of God’s mission to save the world. Prayer is the way we grow into Christ to see the missional and evangelistic possibilities before us.

If we allow God to cultivate the mind of Christ in us, then we are habitually in the mindset of mission with Christ.

We are habitually noticing God showing up in suffering, care, hope and transformation.

We are habitually seeing the neighbor as ourselves. And we are joining Christ in the work he is already doing among our neighbors and us.

Prayer: Lord, teach us and help us to pray so that we might not miss the opportunities to serve alongside you.

The Rev. John Collett
Nashville District Superintendent-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…

READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions