Wednesday, August 22, 2012

United Kingdom Wesleyans Love Haiti"

by Wesleyan Information Network | Aug. 22, 2012 |

After a devastating earthquake rocked Haiti in January 2010, God laid a short-term mission trip to the country on the hearts of Wesleyans from the United Kingdom.In April 2011, Cassius and Vanessa Francis, leaders in The Wesleyan Church of the British Isles, visited Haiti for a few days to meet with Global Partners’ Caribe Atlantic Area Director Dan and Joy Irvine and National Superintendent Rev. Doucet Desronvil. The leaders felt United Kingdom Wesleyans could be more effective than simply sending money and provisions from afar. Instead, they advised the Francises to assemble a team to return and work on a mission. As a result, the Love Haiti project was birthed.

Eleven people traveled to Haiti in August 2012 to serve in various capacities. The partnership of churches working together has been crucial to the success of the mission and broadened the ministry and learning opportunities for the entire team.
The team planned to work at with teenagers at two camps located at a new church plant in Li la Vois with Pastor Edna Joseph (Li la Vois is where people resettled after the earthquake) and in Source Matelas with Pastor Jean Claude Guerrier. However, news of the camps soon spread far and wide in both areas, and the camps were extended to include preteens. The team led corporate devotion and worship times, facilitated sports, music, and technology activities, and workshops. The United Kingdom visitors also made presentations at both churches in their Sunday morning services.
Those who traveled to Haiti have been challenged and inspired by the locals and received a warm welcome when they arrived.
“We believe the people have recognized the heart of what we were trying to achieve and why we were there,” says Cassius. “It took us a year to fundraise for the mission through various sponsored events, including a fashion show, music concerts, an art auction, and even a birthday tea party. We give God thanks that we have accomplished what we set out to do.”
Volunteers are currently planning and fundraising for the next Love Haiti Mission, August 3-17, 2013. Team members request Wesleyans to pray for various needs in Haiti:
  • The youth leaders, in particular the leaders at Li la Vois and Source Matelas Wesleyan churches. They have a tremendous role in inspiring this and future generations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Dan and Joy Irvine, Rev. Doucet, and the church leaders in Haiti. They have achieved a tremendous amount, but they are well aware of the challenges and scale of the task ahead.
  • Further mission opportunities to inspire the British Isles District of The Wesleyan Church
For further information on Love Haiti Mission, please visit!/LveHaiti2012onMission
Cassius Francis is from The Wesleyan Church of the British Isles and is in church leadership at the Moseley Wesleyan Holiness Church in Birmingham, England.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Beams, Bigots, and the Beatitudes...My Thoughts

Keith Kiper
Media Pastor
Boonville Wesleyan Church
Re-posted from The Circuit Rider

It seems that everyone is "coming out of the closet" these days. This is even happening in the world of Gospel Music."Coming out"  the common phrase used today when someone who is a homosexual decides to let the world know about their sexual inclinations, usually someone from the Hollywood culture. Although usually not really a big surprise, many of us would rather not know. Yes, this is considered free speech and expression. Sadly the same tolerant standards don't seem to apply when the conservative Christian doesn't agree with the ungodly lifestyle of others and expresses their opinion. The Bible has a lot to say on this matter  also, we will get to that later.

We are told we should not judge others. Quotes will show up in blogs about the beam in our eye when we are focusing on the speck in our brothers eye. Some of the newer ones in response to"Love the sinner, hate the sin" tell us we should focus on hating our own sin. Of course, only the quotes of Jesus on judging others are given, none about helping our brother out of sin, or the authority of God's Word. And yes, there is some truth here as it sounds good at face value. Our preaching should point to Christ in a loving way, but sometimes we have to be specific, something lacking in many of today's sugar coated sermonettes.

Theologians have a term for focusing only on the words of red while ignoring the rest of the New Testament. They term this the Christological Fallicy. Romans Chapter one warns of the consequences of the ungodly lifestyle. The rest of Chapter One is  surprisingly up to date. No nation in history has survived for long after treading this path.

18 God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. 19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. 21 Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. 23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other.

The Bible does hold the Christian responsible for speaking the truth in love to others. As Christians and as Wesleyans we are obligated to do so. We have practiced civil disobedience in the past when man's law conflicted with God's law. We may have to do so again in this upside down world. I close with what James had to say about the matter. I love James' practical insights into Christian living.

" My brothers and sisters, if any of you wander from the truth and someone turns back the wanderer, recognize that whoever brings a sinner back from the wrong path will save them from death and will bring about the forgiveness of many sins." James 5:19,20 CEB

Keith Kiper is an ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church. He currently serves as media pastor at Boonville Wesleyan Church. He is married to Vicky. The Kiper's have  a grown daughter Kristen, a Maltipoo named Opie, and two cats. Keith manages several facebook pages, blogs, and websites.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Fundamentalist Blubockers?"

Guest Sermon Series
Rev. Robert D. Shofner, Jr
St. John's UCC Boonville Indiana

            I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, which means I believe it is perfectly accurate in its present form.  Many of my colleagues, when they hear me say that, accuse me of being a fundamentalist.  I am not.  Fundamentalists believe that the Bible is to be taken literally at all times.  But that is another BluBlocker (remember those?).  The Bible is a divine library filled with history, law, poetry, songs, stories, letters, parables, drama, philosophy, sermons – and more.  We don’t want to take every word literally.
            The truth is, the fundamentalist who claims he or she does so is lying.  Just ask her if she takes Psalm 18:2 literally, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.”  Does he really think God is a “rock,” or does he think the word “rock” is metaphorical?  She will answer metaphorical, which proves she is not a true literalist. 
            Like all of us, fundamentalists make their decisions about what is literal and what is not based on their own biases.  Classic example: the Bible commands people to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16).  Simple enough, right?  Doesn’t seem to be metaphorical.  If fundamentalists take the Bible literally, why not just obey it?  Sure, it would seem weird at first, but eventually we would get used to men kissing other men, women kissing other women.  We could replace the handshake and hug with kissing after church!  Maybe that could be a witnessing tool!  “Oh yeah.  That St. John’s Church … they really believe the Bible.  It’s so cool!  They kiss each other all the time, praise the Lord!”  Hey, it’s God’s command from His inerrant Word, right?  But I can almost guarantee that many will argue that texts like these need to be filtered through the context of the culture in which they were written. 
            But wait a minute!  How can one justify ignoring the commands of certain texts, appealing to the cultural context, while demanding others be obeyed without using the same analysis?  BluBlockers. 
            This is a huge problem in our churches, both so-called conservative and liberal.  Too many on both sides of the aisle refuse to acknowledge that human pretensions, biases, cultures, and prejudices impact our ability to interpret and understand Scripture.  This is why one needs to humbly and suspiciously approach the Bible.  Readers must cultivate humility in their hearts and be suspicious of their own penchant to wear BluBlockers.  They need to acknowledge that a literal reading of the Bible can be a dangerous oversimplification.  The same is true with those who hold a purely metaphorical reading.  The true meaning of a biblical text is often more complicated to unearth. 
            Christ followers want to be more like a guy I once knew by the name of Jerry.  Jerry was color blind.  He told me that anytime he picked out his own clothes, people stared.  When he drove, he had to be extra careful because he couldn’t tell the difference between a red light and a green light, other than its position on the pole.  I was surprised to learn that.  When I remarked how well he concealed his challenge, he said, “That’s because I don’t trust myself.  If I did, you would have known it the day you met me – I would have been the one dressed like a clown.  But I learned early on that if I don’t ask for help, I’m in trouble.”
            More people in our churches should admit they need help when it comes to negotiating scripture.

            J.I. Packer writes: “[In] approach[ing] scripture with minds already formed by the mass of accepted opinions and viewpoints with which we have come into contact, in both the Church and the world . . . It is easy to be unaware that it has happened; it is hard even to begin to realize how profoundly tradition in this sense has molded us. . . . We may never assume the complete rightness of our own established ways of thought and practice and excuse ourselves the duty of testing and reforming them.” 
            Christians should be very suspicious of their understanding of the Scriptures.  This is especially true when reading prophetic segments.  For example, if you think God directed Bible prophecy toward Americans more than Libyans, Afghans, or Sudanese, the end-times verses will read differently to you.  But if you are a Christian from the Sudan (many of whom are currently having their property seized and their children taken from them), you may think the great tribulation is taking place now and that you have already met the armies of the antichrist.
            Among the most popular topics among evangelicals is the subject of the end-times or last days.  Talk about the return of Jesus Christ often gets people motivated to serve.  But that kind of motivation isn’t healthy when people get excited about the return of Christ based on current events that are interpreted inappropriately.
            In 1988 a booklet came out titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.  Tens of thousands of sincere believers bought that little book and made it central to their lives.  People I knew where passing the book out to relatives, friends, coworkers and neighbors.  They slapped bumper stickers on their cars reading: Warning: In case of Rapture, this car will be unoccupied.  The booklet created quite a stir.  I had been around the block quite a few times by 1988, so I wasn’t nearly as taken with the idea.  I remember telling those I pastored at the time, “Don’t get too excited.  Jesus said no one would know the exact time or hour of his return!  I hate to pop your end-times bubble, but I have some plans for 1989.”
            When Jesus didn’t come back, the author came out with another work with a title of 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1989.  It didn’t sell nearly as well.  People who got all jacked up from the first book were disappointed and embarrassed after Jesus didn’t return in 1988.  Some even slipped away from the Lord.  Why?  Talking about Jesus’ return the way Chicken Little talked about the falling sky always yields less-than-favorable results.
            Instead of forcing obscure texts onto modern news stories, wouldn’t it be better to spend energy trying to inspire people to long for Christ’s return?
            When we read the New Testament, we get the idea that the early church expected Jesus to return at any moment – and that was 2,000 years ago!  Why would those Christians talk about the return of Jesus in a way that suggested it could happen at any moment?  The answer may be found in Paul’s comment that God rewards those “who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).  God wants His children to think about, dream about, and long for the return of Jesus Christ.
            Honestly, until recently, I hardly ever did that.  There were too many things to get done … ministry, family, fun.  But as I’ve gotten older, and have learned many hard lessons, and have mourned with those who have mourned, and rejoiced with those who have rejoiced, and have read and studied scripture and many books … now I long for Christ’s return … because I want to see His face … I want to go home. 

            Before He left, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  I am going … to prepare a place for you. … I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1).  Listen.  This planet, in its fallen state, is not our home.  At best, it’s just a motel room.  Longing for the return of Jesus needs to be based on the truth that He has made a home for believers and is coming to get them – not based on some prophecy expert’s dubious revelation.  It is said of the saints of old, “they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16). 
Go ahead and peek through that set of BluBlockers!  Personally, I hope it’s an improved version of San Diego! 
Now, let’s talk about good BluBlockers.  Jesus wore several pairs.  And we’d have a much more positive impact on the world if we wore the same lenses Jesus did.  One of Jesus’ pair of BluBlockers saw the goodness of God everywhere.  When He looked at things like the sunshine or rain, He saw God’s goodness.  When speaking about God’s incautious goodness to humanity He said, “Your Father in heaven … causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). 
Another good pair of BluBlockers we should wear is knowing that God’s love is everywhere.  God is lovingly chasing us even when there is no good reason to do so.  When the Psalmist caught a glimpse of the love and favor God had for him, he cried, “This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in!”  (Psalm 139:17).  And neither can we.
God’s love may resemble the natural kindness and love that families and couples share; but it plunges far deeper, and it is way more unconditional and deathless.  This kind of love is so “out of the box” for human understanding that Paul prayed his friends would have the “power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is (Ephesians 3:18).  It takes “power to understand” God’s love and grace toward us; God has to help us see it.
I totally get how some think all this is too good to be true.  How can God be so reckless about giving to us when we are so good at being so bad?  But that is exactly what God is like.  We matter to Him, and there’s nothing we can do to alter that.  Now that’s a sweet pair of BluBlockers!
One of my favorite BluBlockers is knowing that God made each of us on purpose.  The Bible says that before time – in eternity – God imagined every individual.  This means He manipulated the odds through history to make sure we got here.  Scripture asserts that God started from the first humans and chose the “times set” for each of us to appear in history and the “exact places” where we would be born (Acts 17:26).  The psalmist declared, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).  To God, this isn’t a world of the “survival of the fittest” – it is a world for the predestined.  He picked us.  And He has a plan for us.  This means we were a forethought in God’s mind, we are not here by chance, and, in a very real way, we are a dream come true for God.  This also means that the other people in our world – whether they agree with us about God or not – are likewise here by design.

Scripture goes so far to say God managed our growth while we were in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13) – our physicality and unique blend of personality were created on purpose.  We were chosen to show up on this planet.  The Christian story claims you and I are not accidents; we are on-purpose beings that God placed in the world as unique characters in His unfolding story.  Walking through life looking out this pair of BluBlockers will change the tone of our lives and impact how we live and how we feel about ourselves … and others.
If we approached the world with these good BluBlockers on, not only would our own views be better, but those who encounter us would have a much clearer picture of who God really is.
To wrap this up …
I learned over 40 years of riding a motorcycle to drive suspiciously.  I watch the road.  I am suspicious that other drivers may run over me, so I drive defensively.  Likewise, when I read the Bible, I am suspicious that I have biases (some I’m not even aware of), so I try to be humble and watchful.
Christians need to challenge one another’s BluBlockers – to question things more; to use common sense; to point out how opinions predispose us to judgments and how prejudice, closed-mindedness, and bigotry invariably produce destructive BluBlockers.  I always go to DEFCON whenever I hear a friend say, “The Lord showed me that this verse means …” or, “It says in the Bible …” and then precedes to tell me something that doesn’t stand up against common sense or historical and informed interpretation of Scripture.  More often than not, it isn’t the Lord at all – it’s the person’s own destructive pair of “I have unique insights” BluBlockers.
History is full of examples of people using biblical texts to justify the denigration or persecution or disenfranchising of others – all while considering themselves to be true bearers of the uncompromised “Word of God.”  Watch out!  Always approach Scripture with the awareness that you are wearing BluBlockers.  If you do so, you will have a great shot at keeping out of the land of weirdness and finding the “endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures” (Romans 15:4) that bring us hope.

Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which reveals all truth.  We ask that You humble our hearts that we may admit to wearing our own pair of BluBlockers.  Enable our minds to clearly see.  Convict us of our sin whenever we fall into prejudices, arrogance, and demeaning behavior toward others.  Help us to live knowing and loving You, and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Let our light shine so as not to blind others, but to reveal Your glory to them.
And the people said, “Amen.”