Built On Faith

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 7:24-27.

How is it possible that in a couple of weeks Joshua will be ten months old? There were days when I thought he would never grow out of newborn diapers…and nowadays he will not stop growing!

It is good that he grows; Joshua is doing what he is supposed to do. Time is a gift, not an enemy.

Joshua’s new favorite pastime (new favorite pastime…is that a thing?) is “pulling up” – one step closer to cruising – and then to standing on his own – and then to walking! Joshua will pull up to stand on just about anything; unfortunately his choices of “pulling up” foundations are not always the sure-est, which leads to a quick departure back to the ground. Arriving back on the ground does not deter this kid. Though there may be a few tears, moments later he gets back up again.

As we mature in faith, the foundations of our faith shift, strengthen, and endure testing. Through times of trial and doubt we question our faith. Does what we believe hold? Does what we believe satisfy? Is what we believe well with our souls? Through times of health and hope our faith is confirmed, and as a result, we affirm our faith. We recognize it as our source of strength, our fount of wisdom, our well of comfort, and, perhaps most importantly, our legacy.

A signature teaching of my dear friend and fellow ministry mischief-maker, Rev. Melissa Cooper, is that faith is caught more than it is taught. Faith is caught as we live life with others – and as they live life with us – co-witnessing how we act and react to every day situations. When the going gets tough, how do we sustain? When we get knocked down, how and when do we get back up again? In our daily interactions, do we speak first of our joys or of our complaints? In our daily investments, do we think first of our neighbors or of ourselves? Each of these actions and decisions are actions and decisions guided and rooted in our faith. Therefore, it is vital that we have a sure foundation of faith so that as we pull ourselves up to the next opportunity or through the next trial, our foundation is sure – with Christ as our cornerstone and our friends in faith as encouragers at our sides.

Join us this Sunday at 11am as our Gravity Youth share with us about how they Built on Faith through their service with Metro Atlanta Project this summer. We will hear from each of the participants, view a slideshow of their experiences, and sing some of the music they sang in their nightly worship services. I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

Prayer: “He’s coming on the clouds; kings and kingdoms will bow down. And every chain will break, as broken hearts declare his praise. For who can stop the Lord Almighty? Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah. He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles. And every knee will bow before him. Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain. For the sins of the world, his blood breaks the chains. And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb. Every knew will bow before him.”* Amen.

* “The Lion and the Lamb,” Bethel Music, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

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Mountain Meditation: Sure Foundations

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 7:21-29.

This week I have the privilege of gathering with 30 pastors from around the Florida Annual Conference to participate in the third retreat for the 2016-2017 Generative Church Leadership Academy. This retreat – ironically? with greatest timeliness? both? – subjects seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

As Mordecai said to Esther, “For such a time as this…” (Es 4:14).

Recently I attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) meeting at Winter Springs High School with the one, the only, Ashley Lilly. The student offering the lesson that day posed the following questions to his classmates – “What does it mean to be a Christian” – and invited those present to respond. I was struck by how many of the responses were epistemically based – episteme meaning belief.

“Believe in God.” “Believe in the holy Bible.” “Trust in Jesus.” And more.

As Ashley and I left FCA that day I asked her what she thought about the responses, and immediately she replied, “Being a Christian is about the believing and the doing. It’s not just something you think or say. It’s something that you live.”

That response earned a fist bump…my heart was and is so warm.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ashley. When I think about our sure foundation, the bedrock of Christianity, it is believing and doing. It is faith and works. It is showing we are Christians by our love. It is seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

The Apostle James asked, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith” (Jas 2:14-18). This is the ongoing work of sanctification (right, Gravity Youth!). This is the ongoing work of being made holy in this life.

Many, if not all, of us in the Tuskawilla Faith Family will agree that recently this has been a very hard season for our church. We have experienced the deaths of very dear friends and loved ones, we have watched folks we love navigate broken health and relationships, we have experienced the ebb of transition across all our ministries. I believe there are two stances we can take on what we are in the midst of: (1) we can be angry (and trust me – I have had many angry days) or (2) we can take this opportunity to return to the firm foundation of our faith, to our bedrock, to seeing, knowing, and serving our neighbors.

I don’t know about you – but I would rather serve than seethe. So that is what I will do. And I hope you, Tuskawilla Family, will continue serving with me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate with my colleagues at GCLA this week. And I am hopeful for how what is learned will further equip our ministry and mission and TUMC.

Prayer: “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her lord; she is his new creation by water and the Word. From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride; with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed, yet saints their watch are keeping; their cry goes up, ‘How long?’ And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.”* Amen.

*”The Church’s One Foundation,” The United Methodist Hymnal 545.