October 28, 2019
In the late 80’s, the televangelist world was rocked by several high profile scandals on the part of two very prominent television preachers. One such scandal was focused around the PTL (short for Praise the Lord) Club Television Ministry and the Heritage USA Christian theme park. In 1989, Jim Bakker was indicted, convicted, and imprisoned on numerous counts of fraud and conspiracy, resulting in the dissolution of The PTL Club and the subsequent closure of Heritage USA. As land and assets were being sold off in an effort to pay restitution for embezzlement and satisfy creditors, various auctions took place. At one auction, office furniture was being sold off and a middle aged couple showed up determined to buy a specific table from one of the facilities former “counseling center.”
The couple met privately with the auctioneer and offered to pay a substantial price for this particular table. The auctioneer cautioned them saying that was way more than the table would bring at auction and they could buy it much cheaper bidding on it there. No… they insisted that they didn’t want to take the chance and wrote out a significant check for this seemingly small and plain conference table. The auctioneer was curious and asked why they treasured it so much. “You do know,” he said, “that some pretty bad things happened with finances here?” “Yes, we know,” they responded, “but we also know that our marriage was saved with the help of a licensed Christian counselor at that table.”
Powerful things can happen at table together. Even when the world around us seems to be losing its collective mind, there is power at the table. This Sunday, we will begin a new teaching series for the month of November entitled From Tablet to Table. More and more we have become a people devoid of community and meaningful fellowship. Most of our time is being spent on devices, phones, and tablets living, connecting and communicating in cyberspace. Our most frequent form of conversation is being held on social media and is more like posting billboards than having any form of meaningful discussion. University researchers in Australia have even discovered that this is even having physiological consequences.
“New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls — bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion. The cause, they hypothesize, is prolonged use of smartphones and other handheld devices, which require users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.” (Washington Post, 6-25-2019).
If an iPhone or tablet has the ability to distort us out of our natural shape, the table can be the vessel to restore us. “Bring back the table!” shouts Christian theologian and teacher, Leonard Sweet, “If we were to make the table the most sacred object of furniture in every home, in every church, in every community, our faith would quickly regain its power, and our world would quickly become a better place.”
This Sunday we will gather at the Lord’s Table as we do the first Sunday of every month. This Sunday is also known as All Saints Day in the church calendar. We always light a candle and remember those from our congregation who are now seated at the Lord’s heavenly banquet table. Come let us break bread together and share the cup… and bring back the table!
October 21, 2019
Years ago, Jerry Maguire, starring Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Regina King became an iconic movie for my generation. The plot about a successful sports agent suddenly looking for the meaning of life, was really about a search for love. The characters played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Regina King had the perfect relationship full of love, fun, chaos and loyalty. Cruise’s character had none of it and honestly had no idea what it would even look like. When he finally finds it in the most unlikely place of his employee played by Zellweger and her indelible son, he is clumsy with it and does everything he can to lose it. At the film’s resolution when Cruise finally finds everything he has been looking for in his marriage to Zellweger he utters the unforgettable phrase, “You complete me.”
That phrase was romanticized, used in cheesy fashion and mocked by late night comics for the next 10 years! My mom used to tell me that a cliché does not become a cliché unless there is some serious truth in it. Maybe we all teared up in the theaters when we heard that phrase and then taunted and dismissed it through satire afterward because it just hit too close to home. We all long for someone or something to complete us.
I have been extremely humbled by our teaching this fall, “I Said This, You Heard That.” After intensively learning my “Strengths” through Ministry by Strengths these past nine years, and now growing to know my temperaments through this discipleship training, I am gaining more self-awareness than ever before. The past two weeks lessons have been the most difficult, “The Words Your Temperament Needs” and “When Your Needs Aren’t Filled.” I tend to get frustrated with overly “needy people” and I certainly never want to be counted in that number. These lessons screamed at me, “Liar, liar, pants on fire! “…we are all in that number somewhere along the line, as we all have temperament needs.
At first I tried to do with my “temperament needs” what we did with the line from the movie… make fun of them, taunt them and basically dismiss them. But I got alone with them last week and had a moment of confession and repentance with the Holy Spirit’s help and admitted that they were true. I did some tough work of doing the exercises in the book of gauging when those needs were being filled and when I sensed they were not, and how I act out in response. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun (and for YELLOW’s everything has to be fun!), but it was deeply important.
Doing some work on this, I had two thoughts. My initial thought was, Wow did I ever marry the perfect person! She has such a powerful way of speaking to these deep needs I wasn’t even consciously aware that I had. More so, I’m afraid then I have been aware and attentive to intentionally meeting hers, and I am going to work on that. Secondly, I became keenly aware to the point of tears of how clearly God in Jesus Christ has spoken to and addressed all of my deepest needs. On pages 70 & 71 of the workbook, there is a list of scriptures in response to every temperament need and as our Native American brothers and sisters would say, it is “big medicine.” So with renewed faith, I was able to redeem that movie line from 1996 and say with full sincerity in that moment of devotion, “Jesus, you complete me.”
When the world, your spouse, your family, your church, those closest to you fail to meet all of your inner needs (and trust me, we all will), lean up on the gospel, listen to and read God’s words, and feel him meeting every one of them in the deepest of ways possible.
OK, end of heavy message, let’s have some fun this coming Sunday (see note above on YELLOW’s passion for fun). I will be closing out our teaching series “Jesus Said This, You Heard That: On Mountains & Mulberry Trees” and I want all of us to WEAR YOUR COLORS TO CHURCH! If you have not taken the assessment, click this link to a video in which I Said This, You Heard That author Kathleen Edelman talks about the 4 temperaments (she starts talking speciifcally at 7:58 minutes in) and take a guess at which one you are and jump in! Hey, people are dressing up this time of year for parties and trick or treat, let’s have a little fun this Sunday in church!
September 30, 2019
I don’t often do this, but I read an article this morning in the NY Times by a Christian scholar and writer whom I respect. Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City and author of various books on the Christian Faith (Prodigal God is my favorite). His piece this morning, “How Do Christians Fit Into the Two-Party System? They Don’t” is so timely. I felt it was a great read and offer it to you as today’s eNote.
“What should the role of Christians in politics be? More people than ever are asking that question. Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics and simply “preach the Gospel.” Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo. American churches in the early 19th century that did not speak out against slavery because that was what we would now call “getting political” were actually supporting slavery by doing so. To not be political is to be political.
The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not. To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation requires political engagement. Christians have done these things in the past and should continue to do so.
Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one. There are a number of reasons to insist on this. One is that it gives those considering the Christian faith the strong impression that to be converted, they need not only to believe in Jesus but also to become members of the (fill in the blank) Party. It confirms what many skeptics want to believe about religion — that it is merely one more voting bloc aiming for power.
Another reason not to align the Christian faith with one party is that most political positions are not matters of biblical command but of practical wisdom. This does not mean that the church can never speak on social, economic and political realities, because the Bible often does. Racism is a sin, violating the second of the two great commandments of Jesus, to “love your neighbor.” The biblical commands to lift up the poor and to defend the rights of the oppressed are moral imperatives for believers. For individual Christians to speak out against egregious violations of these moral requirements is not optional.
However, there are many possible ways to help the poor. Should we shrink government and let private capital markets allocate resources, or should we expand the government and give the state more of the power to redistribute wealth? Or is the right path one of the many possibilities in between? The Bible does not give exact answers to these questions for every time, place and culture. I know of a man from Mississippi who was a conservative Republican and a traditional Presbyterian. He visited the Scottish Highlands and found the churches there as strict and as orthodox as he had hoped. No one so much as turned on a television on a Sunday. Everyone memorized catechisms and Scripture. But one day he discovered that the Scottish Christian friends he admired were (in his view) socialists. Their understanding of government economic policy and the state’s responsibilities was by his lights very left-wing, yet also grounded in their Christian convictions. He returned to the United States not more politically liberal but, in his words, “humbled and chastened.” He realized that thoughtful Christians, all trying to obey God’s call, could reasonably appear at different places on the political spectrum, with loyalties to different political strategies.
Another reason Christians these days cannot allow the church to be fully identified with any particular party is the problem of what the British ethicist James Mumford calls “package-deal ethics.” Increasingly, political parties insist that you cannot work on one issue with them if you don’t embrace all of their approved positions.
This emphasis on package deals puts pressure on Christians in politics. For example, following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.
So Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table. Neither of these options is valid. In the Good Samaritan parable told in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus points us to a man risking his life to give material help to someone of a different race and religion. Jesus forbids us to withhold help from our neighbors, and this will inevitably require that we participate in political processes. If we experience exclusion and even persecution for doing so, we are assured that God is with us (Matthew 5:10-11) and that some will still see our “good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:11-12). If we are only offensive or only attractive to the world and not both, we can be sure we are failing to live as we ought.
The Gospel gives us the resources to love people who reject both our beliefs and us personally. Christians should think of how God rescued them. He did it not by taking power but by coming to earth, losing glory and power, serving and dying on a cross. How did Jesus save? Not with a sword but with nails in his hands.”
(Timothy Keller, founder of the Redeemer Presbyterian churches in New York City, is the author of “Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy,” from which this essay is adapted).
September 23, 2019
Our fall is off and running at GMUMC. After our amazing teaching series kicked off by Kathleen Edelman and her book, “I Said This, You Heard That,” sixteen new small groups have launched. Last night I received a text from our Sunday evening small group that had forty-two in attendance! I posted a picture of it on social media and I had a pastor comment that Barna would say that’s about the average size of a church. God is moving.
As part of this fall launch we began a worship series entitled, “Jesus Said This, You Heard That.” We are looking at some of the hard sayings of Christ during this series. Yesterday we looked at Luke 14:25-27 from the topic “How to Hate Your Parents” and this week we will be looking at Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount about adultery and exploring “Sex and Love and Lust.” This is not a series for the faint of heart.
In seminary, I read a book by New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce titled “Hard Sayings of Jesus.” It opened my eyes as to how many of Christ’s sayings were difficult and rarely preached on. Here is an excerpt from his introduction to that book:
“One of the reasons for the complaint that Jesus’ sayings were hard was that he made his hearers think. For some people thinking is a difficult and uncomfortable exercise, especially when it involves the critical reappraisal of firmly held prejudices and convictions, or the challenging of the current consensus of opinion… But in those who were not put off by him he created a passionate love and allegiance which death could not destroy. They knew that in him they had found the way of acceptance, peace of conscience, life that was life indeed” (F.F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus).
Join us in doing some real “thinking” during this series! There is still time to jump into a small group. These groups will meet for six weeks. Groups are every day of the week except Saturday. Check here right now to jump in https://garfieldchurch.org/i-said
We also have a group of young adults who have initiated a ministry at GMUMC called “Meet Up’s.” They shared in our Mosaic services at Pepper Pike yesterday that the goal is to provide a time of gathering for members and friends of GMUMC to simply gather and meet folks with no agenda except fellowship. In a large church, it’s easy to get lost and think I really don’t know anybody. Hopefully, these will provide a casual way to help with that. These will take place quarterly. The first Meet Up is on October 19th at 6:00 PM at the Cleveland Urban Winery 2180 Lee Rd. Cleveland Heights. Please register at https://garfieldchurch.org/meetups. There is a $5 charge and pizza is free! (Well, I guess that means pizza is $5 LOL). Meet Up’s are for adults 21 and older.
If you have not met our new Worship & Youth Pastor Team, Dre and Leah Bracey, you are really missing out! They hit the ground running in July and are lifting us regularly in worship as well as leading our youth (grades 6-12) at Kidz Club in South Euclid on Wednesdays and Youth Group at Pepper Pike on Sundays. Our youth group kick off in August saw fifty five youth show up! If you know or have a youth in grades 6-12 tell them to jump on board because this train is rolling. Yesterday, I had a Heritage family tell me “we just spent an evening with Dre and Leah.” That blessed my heart. Get to know this team.
If you are like me, sometimes you need a mid-week spiritual lift! Our House of Prayer meets Mondays at Pepper Pike at 7:00 PM and Thursdays at South Euclid at 6:30 PM. There are times when these are an oasis in the desert for me during the week. For several, this is their only and main worship service as well. This week, our Mosaic Worship Teams will be holding a night of worship on Wednesday, September 25th at Pepper Pike at 7:00 PM called Ascension. These are held quarterly primarily for those who serve on Sundays to enjoy a night of refreshment but also for the rest of us as well! No preaching, no agenda, just praise and worship. I hope you will join us on Wednesday!
Sounds like a lot going on at GMUMC? You bet! Jump in, the water’s just fine.
September 17, 2019
Yesterday we began a new journey at GMUMC. Kathleen Edelman - the author of “I Said This, You Heard That” - was our guest speaker / teacher all day. She led us through an introductory overview of the Temperaments. Her teaching is based out of Ephesians 4:29 – “ Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Learning how to communicate in love is a requirement of followers of Jesus Christ. It is an urgent need in our world right now and we want to model it for the world.
We learned on Sunday that there are four temperaments – Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. Those are ancient Greek words, so to make it more helpful, Kathleen has identified them with colors – Sanguine’s are YELLOW – Choleric’s are RED – Melancholic’s are BLUE and Phlegmatic’s are GREEN. Everyone has a primary temperament, even though some are more balanced in temperaments than others. (I have no balance, I’m YELLOW through and through!).
YELLOWS speak the Language of “People and Fun.”
REDS speak the Language of “Power and Control.”
BLUES speak the Language of “Order & Perfection.”
GREENS speak the language of “Calm and Harmony.”
Knowing and understanding the way some persons speak and how others may hear, helps us live out the command of Ephesians 4:29. Starting September 22nd, we will be offering six week small group trainings in this material. Hundreds of us are getting ready to know and grow as we travel through this material. We had 200 books on hand and we sold out while the line was still 20 deep! Books are $15 and you can receive them on the first day of your small group. Groups will be taking the 15-20 minute assessment together on the first meeting.
It is SO easy to sign up for a small group on our new church website at www.garfieldchurch.org and click on “I Said This, You Heard That Small Groups” or just go directly there by clicking here at https://garfieldchurch.org/i-said There are 15 group meeting options at various times and locations Sundays-Thursdays. Terri and I just signed up for ours today, we hope ALL of you will too!
september 9, 2019
On Sunday, we had a wonderful fall kick-off as we began our new fall Teaching Series, “I Said This, You Heard That.” We also celebrated another “kick-off” as many folks showed up in Browns gear (OK, a few showed up in Steelers gear) -- we threw footballs from the stage and had some fun. Hey, when we were celebrating, the Browns were still undefeated… by 4:00 PM, not so much.
This coming Sunday, September 15th you will NOT want to miss worship at either campus as Kathleen Edelman, the author of the book after which our series is titled, will be flying in from Atlanta to lead us in this important material (with the message being simulcast into our South Euclid Campus). Kathleen is a Christian Life Coach and expert in Communications and Temperaments. She will lead us on Sunday and then there will be opportunities to jump into six-week small groups using Kathleen’s I Said This, You Heard That (small groups will meet on various days & times - in homes, at our campuses, and online). You can purchase books on Sunday ($15) and sign up for a group!
This will be a great Sunday to invite friends, families, co-workers, couples, etc., especially those who may not normally attend church. This will not be a typical church service; it will be more live interview with teaching than preaching. Kathleen says that the focus of learning about our God-given temperaments is that it helps us love one another better and communicate with one another better. Can there be anything more important in our world right now than training that helps us love and communicate with others better, even those we disagree with?! Ministry By Strengths has been and still is one of our main On Ramps at GMUMC. Can you believe that close to 900 people have gone through this training in nine years? Ministry By Strengths has helped us get to know ourselves and others better, the Temperaments will be a perfect complement helping us to fulfill Jesus’ commands to Love God by Loving Others better!
If you cannot make it to worship in person this Sunday, be sure to join us online at 10:00 or 11:15 AM via our www.garfieldchurchonline.org or Facebook Live; or check out Kathleen’s teaching later in the day on our website under “Messages.” And do not miss this opportunity to invite, invite, invite. People who may not normally attend church will enjoy this teaching and may really want to jump into a small group!
Also, last week our Youth Group for students in grades 6-12 started back for their weekly gatherings on Sundays from 4:30-6:00 PM at our Pepper Pike campus. Their Kick-Off Pool Party and Cookout saw more than 50 youth show up. They were packed out last Sunday and have a new format of breaking out Junior and Senior High Youth. This ministry is being led by our new Worship and Youth Pastors Dre & Leah Bracey. Let your youth know to come dive in as this ministry is really taking off again this year!
I cannot wait to see you on Sunday and join you in this journey. I know I cannot be the only one who has said once twice or a thousand times, but, but, but “I Said This, You Heard That!” I’m excited to learn a lot through this teaching and in my small group… I hope you will too!