Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Confession, Communion, and Contemplation

Isn't confession, followed by Holy Communion, a wonderful thing? That was our experience tonight at our weekly communion service. I shared with our larger group the experiences that we have in our very small Tuesday night Lectio Divina contemplative prayer meetings. To my surprise, most at the communion service asked if we could incorporate the Lectio Divina prayers into the weekly communion service. We're going to try that next week.

I don't know how anyone else experiences Holy Communion, but for me, Jesus is right there amongst us. He either reveals something more of His nature that we didn't know, or He listens more intently to our supplications. Either way (or whatever other way) it is a sacred time. And for our weekly communion group to want to get in on the Lectio Divina prayer is a step in the right direction.

God reveals Himself to us continuously. If we fail to listen when He speaks...perhaps we need to shut up and be quiet. If we think that He fails to hear us when we ask of Him, we need to lose our insecurities. It's with a confidence, and a sense of comfort, that we should seek His revelation in our lives.

I think we all may benefit to extend our quiet time with Our Lord. Something may come of it that is from right field. Something may come of it that endorses us. Regardless of what anybody else may think, something will come of it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Being Quiet When Called to Be So

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7 NIV: There is a time for everything...a time to be silent and a time to speak.

Whether ministering or engaging in conversation within a prayer meeting, there is a time for everything. Think about it...a time for everything, as if there were some primary architect of everything, engineering time for every event that takes place therein. God is our architect, and He has provided appropriate times for everything.

When do we yeild to the master plan? When do we yield to the architect? When do we yield to the needs of others when our own needs are so very real? When the Holy Spirit guides our interactions...we yield when called to yield.

My prayer is that I know when to yield. And I pray that all followers of Jesus Christ know when to yield, and when to put the needs of others before our own and put the plans of the Great Architect above all. Do we seek to know where we fit in the plans?

While these may seem to be ramblings, they are ramblings especially meaningful to me today. Today I reflected upon the verses cited at the head of this post. I pray to know when to speak...and more importantly, when to be silent. May the work of the Great Architect, Our Lord, guide and direct me to speak up when necessary, but more importantly, to be quiet and listen, when the situation requires.
All praise and honor to The Great Architect!

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Healing Ministry Gets a Bad Rap - Justifiably So!

I've set my Google Alerts to inform me whenever someone, somewhere, posts something relating to the healing ministry. My goodness, most is BUNK! So much comes from the Word of Faith movement (sub-ministries of TBN, Benny Hinn and that ilk). I get 5 to 10 daily accounts of miraculous healings, only to find that the vast majority are the result of skilled mass hypnotists capitalizing upon the very human need for divine intervention into their situations.

This balogna is so very far off target! In the REAL healing ministries, very unpretentious people supplicate to God for intervention. And in many cases, God comes through in a manner that is obvious to those involved, but not front page news. I cannot, and will not, dismiss the work of the Holy Spirit in the healings I've witnessed. But, PALEEZE, these profiteers need to get out of the headlines and leave the work of God to be an intimate, personal matter.

I'm on a soapbox, of sorts, dissing those proponents of Word of Faith movements as heretics. OK, off the soapbox.

If someone recieves a genuine healing, from God Almighty, even if given in a W-F service, I'll accept that. But I pray that the individual finds some other congregation/denomination to worship in. After all, their healing is of God Almighty. And from that, may they find a place to worship without the hype associated with W-F ministries. May they find a genuine relationship with Our Lord, rather than some false, ego-maniacal, capitalistic ministry.

Open hearts, Open doors, Open minds. It is an invitation to many. It applies to people escaping the W-F movements. You're welcome here. At least that's my way of thinking.

The Internet is our parish.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Circuit Riders - er - Make That Circuit Drivers

In our rural district there are lay speakers who drive 40 to 60 miles each Sunday to deliver the message. As one could well imagine, the churches they travel to are typically small in number, very small. Last summer when gas prices were through the roof, we had a real challenge with some of the speakers not being able to afford to make the trips. One was considering quitting the ministry in light of it costing about $20 to make the round trip to minister to a congregation that had only 6 people attending regular worship. We talked about it, prayed about it, and concluded that if only one person was in that out of the way church, it would still be worth it.

Next week I get to go to one of those small churches. It'll be the second time I've gone to this particular church. Something I've discovered about preaching to small congregations is that it's more personal and conversational. They talk back! There seems to be a stronger presence of the Holy Spirit when 2 or more - but less than 30 - are gathered in His name. That's been my experience. No need for a PA system, no choir, and most times, no standing behind a pulpit.

At first it was awkward ministering to such small congregations. Of late, it's more like visiting friends and sharing God's word in an interactive, personal way. I kinda like that!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Say No!

Do you ever ask yourself, "why me"? Things like getting asked to speak on behalf of a cause when others involved are such better speakers; write an article about something you participated in, when others write ever so eloquently; head up a new ministry; take on a new challenge; even running an errand...don't you ever ask, "why me"?

Some very wise counsel once given to me was to learn to say no sometimes. Indeed, if we dilute our activities to such a degree that we lack sufficient resources to do any of them well, it may just be time to say no. It may just be time to back away, do some soul searching, and get back on track with doing the things we can manage and do well.

Exodus 18: 17 addresses this problem as Moses is given counsel by his father-in-law, Jethro. He tells Moses to stop killing himself by being the sole judge over even the most miniscule matters. The end result is that Moses frees up his time to be all he can be for God.

People sometimes mistake heeding their calling with doing everything under the sun that even remotely relates to that call. As a lay speaker, I speak for Our Lord. Joining Toastmasters isn't part of my calling. In my attempts to whittle away the things that don't relate to speaking for Our Lord, I'm making some progress. But, I'm still stuck being the auctioneer at my wife's Quest Club annual summer party. (Maybe she'll read my blog and gimme a break!)

Friday, January 26, 2007

BroGreg's Thought of the Day

I love the passage from Isaiah 50:4 which was lifted up at BroGreg's Blog today. I've molded a sermon from this passage, as well as lifted it up for contemplative prayer.

What I find special about this passage is that it preceeds the prophetic words of Isaiah prior to one of the servant songs in that book. There are deep, meaningful words in this passage. Having a learned ear to hear, and a taught tongue to proclaim, very good, and very applicable, and very deep indeed.

I urge anybody who is seeking something to preach about to go to Isaiah 50:4, and glean inspiration.

What a wonderful OT passage that applies today, to this very world in which we minister and pray for guidance.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Upper Room Devotional Connection

On Wednesday my wife read the daily devotional from The Upper Room. To my suprise, when she read the name of the author of the daily contribution I exclaimed: "I know her!" Well, actually, I didn't know her but I had visited her blog and she mine. We exchanged emails about this and I'm looking forward to meeting her face-to-face someday.

Twice while reading the devotional, my wife exclaimed that she couldn't understand how anybody could leave a daughter in such a situation. Upon the realization that I knew of this person's background, we went to her website and my wife came to understand how this sort of situation could occur.

I mention this because it is an awesome God we serve. And when there is a situation that brings people to a connection in His name, it is a wonderful event. The author is, as am I, in the healing ministry. Who'd have thunk, that from the middle of nowhere, I could connect with someone whose words are being read by millions for inspiration. I'll share this from her email, that is: She is touched and humbled by the opportunity to share her story with the larger Body of Christ.

I'm personally moved by the daily inspiration derived from the Upper Room devotionals. I encourage anyone who doesn't encourage people to subscribe and read, to lift up the devotional whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. If your church doesn't offer the Upper Room to every person who attends on Sunday, it should. Additionally, we should order extra copies and give them away because nobody knows the impact it has.

My niece lives 800 miles away. Yet, whenever we get together, we discuss what was in the Upper Room that very day. If you visit the Methoblog, the daily inspiration is at the top navigation bar. Click it, and share it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

What Really Happens In a Healing Service

Still recovering from the Benny Hinn clone mentioned in the last post, I feel compelled to relate what really happens in a true healing service (for those who've never been involved in one). First and foremost, the sacrament of Holy Communion is a prerequisite to inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit. Once sins are confessed and Christ has shared His meal with all present, that is when calling upon the Holy Spirit is best done.

It is with authority that the one with the gift of healing calls upon The Lord to intervene in the life of the afflicted. An anointing with oil takes place (I tend to reserve this for an elder to do) followed by specific prayer for the afflicted. The prayer said is as follows:

"Our Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave authority to His disciples to lay hands upon the afflicted that they may recover...have mercy on you. Give you strength of mind, spirit, soul and body, but most of all, give you faith in His power to heal. By His authority commended unto me, I lay my hands upon you in the name of Jesus Christ, our lord and savior...amen."

I cannot tell all the healings that have taken place in these services, primarily, because I don't know. I've shared some here on this blog...but not all. Perhaps, 10% of the healings are in these pages. God is so very great, so very merciful, so very generous with His grace.'

If someone, anyone, who professes to have this gift ever asks for a donation, I would consider the gift not to be genuine. It's a sign of a charlatan. Frankly, I try to avoid doing the services because people tend to focus on the one with the gift, rather than the giver of the gift. A gift is just that...not asked for and usually unexpected. But failing to acknowledge that it has been given is an insult to the giver.

My prayer is that if someone needs the intervention of our most holy Father, and they seek me for the intervention, I pray that I'm pure enough for our Almighty Father to work through me. If you think that is easy...try it sometime.

Most in the healing ministry are literally dumbfounded by why it is they are called. I fit in that camp. Fit very, very well.

But you know, when called for whatever our part may be in the Body of Christ, if we don't heed that call, it is not good. I ask, what does one do when the call doesn't fit neatly into one's plans, goals, and objectives. I yield. Sometimes, ever so reluctantly, I yield. Do we all yield as we're prompted to do. In all sincerity, I hope so.

I'm ever-so-grateful for the teacher in our Sunday school class, one who is called to teach. I'm ever-so-humbled by our pastor who is called to minister, and does it so very well. And, finally, I'm ever-so-humbled by the Holy Spirit, who chooses who it is to do whatever It desires, in the interest of making the body complete. Praise God!

Charlatans Make Healing Look Bad

A friend recently got all abuzz about the church his wife finally got him to start going to. He tells me how amazing this pastor is, how he heals people right there during the service. This, naturally, got ME intrigued. He gave account after account of the healings that take place every week. So, he told me the name of the church and I Googled it. Long story short...he's a Benny Hinn clone. In fact, when I googled his name, turns out that he was an integral part of Benny Hinn crusuades - part of the team!

The website had previous services available for streaming video so I queued it up on another PC and let it run. The last half hour was one looong praise song that had the "audience" mesmerized. Then came the healing. The preacher said that God told him when he walked into the service that he would bring divine healing to a man who is balding and wears glasses. One in the 3rd row from the back (ok...maybe it was the 4th row...) and the camera zoomed in on the guy. The preacher commences to announce that God will heal him. He told the man that he was in need of a healing...isn't that so? Here I am, watching this guy get a confused look and shake his head "no". But does that stop the preacher. No way. He commences to tell him that God is healing him right then and there. Then he goes on to praise God for His wonderful healing mercy.

THE GUY INDICATED NOTHING WAS NEEDING HEALED! Yet, this charismatic preacher didn't skip a beat. The sad thing is that it was probably only the camera that caught it, because everyone joined right in with praising God.

Don't you just want to tell people to wake up and smell the coffee?

I'll get over this...eventually.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Cross versus Crucifix

This is a crucifix.

This is a cross.

What image is more relevant to you?

I see the suffering Christ as more meaningful to me, yet this less bloody, cross, is more inviting. It is a symbol of hope and despair...yet lacking the true meaning of the ultimate sacrifice of Our Lord.
Cross or crucifix...what does it speak to you?

Pastors: Preachers or Ministers or What?

People are people, with strengths and weaknesses. I've met many a great preacher but meek minister. Likewise, I've met many a great minister but ho-hum preacher. I tend to feel pastored best by the ones who have balance. That is, the one's who are "people people" who have some of that real world experience that makes you feel that they can relate to your lot in life when ministering to you, yet have a perspective from the pulpit that makes ya wanna say "Hmmm".

I tend to be uncomfortable with the minister side of the issue. I'd rather preach. But I wish I had more of those ministerial qualities. I'm curious as to how pastors feel they fall into the two camps. And what they may be doing to achieve a balance. Or, is a balance even necessary?

Monday, January 22, 2007

He Rejected Healing Prayer

My wonderful GoogleAlerts brought me to a blog of a missionary in Africa this morning. I was intrigued to read of his attempted healing prayer:

"...we passed this gentleman who was walking with a cane and an obvious limp. I approached him and asked if I could ask him a question. He was reluctant, but agreed. I said that I noticed his leg was not well and proceeded to ask if he would let me pray for God's healing power to take care of his leg. Before I could get the 'God's power' deal out of my mouth, he denied me the opportunity. He walked away saying that he "had nothing against God" but obviously didn't want anything to do with my prayers."

He goes on to reflect upon how people are sufficiently unwilling to get uncomfortable in our churches that the power of the Holy Spirit's gifts are denied entry. Man, ain't that the truth!

In all too many cases, the Great Comforter has no opportunity to provide comfort when we're unwilling to get "uncomfortable" in our worship.
Lord, I pray that we get uncomfortable, for I seek your comfort. Amen.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lifting Up Lay Speakers

I fill a role as custer coordinator for our lay speaking ministries in our district. In the past few weeks I've had the priviledge of conducting the requisite annual interviews with the lay speakers for whom I'm responsible. I come away from this task with a sense of awe.

These wonderful people are the ones who are the unsung heroes, doing visitation to nursing homes, prisons, assisted living centers, working as chaplains for hospice and more. Many hold down full time jobs but still find the time to be every bit as much a minister as our salaried pastors. God bless these wonderful members of The Body.

In the past few months I've recieved phone calls as late as 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday asking for a speaker to come to a church where their pastor was sick. Someone always answers the call. Plus, a number of the lay speakers volunteer to give messages at some of the multi-point charges where the pastor can only preach every other week. It keeps them feeling like they're still "going to church" by virtue of a speaker coming and preaching the word to them.

I'm so uplifted by these selfless people in their walk. Of 25 interviewed this past week, 4 said they would be willing to pastor a church if called upon to do so. Of course, one must realize, there is no paycheck given, no benefits, no parsonage...just filling the role of a pastor when and where the need presents itself.

I'm humbled to be associated with such fine servants.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Where Are The Real Healers - With Real Gifts?

After scouring the web for accounts of real people who have the spiritual gifts of healing and miracles, I'll attempt to profile them as I have the opportunity. You'll never see a profile of the "Benny Hinn" types, as you can turn on the TV or Google them whenever you wish. Profiled here will be the ones who seem to truly demonstrate possession of the genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit, without the "flash".

"During McDonough’s recent stay at Massachusetts General Hospital, nurses had to keep away those seeking healing so the priest could rest."

I found genuine intrigue reading this article from The Boston Globe about a Father McDonough who has been in the healing ministry for decades. While some would categorize many of the healing accounts as anecdotal, many other healings are hard for even the skeptics to dispute.

If you know of someone who appears to genuinely have the gifts of healing and miracles, please share.

There are real people - mostly very low profile - whose touch and prayer... heals.

Friday, January 19, 2007

It's Like "High Math"

A friend of mine once said that the more you learn about math, the more you realize what you don't know. Or, as the lyrics in the Don Henley song relate: "The more I know the less I understand". This is how I've grown to see my walk with Christ. The more I comprehend about His nature, the more I realize how incomprehensible it is.

This observation provides the inspiration to keep learning more and knowing less. It's the thrill of the quest that leads to new discoveries relating to what scripture teaches us. The thrill of the quest that leads to a fresh perspective on what we think we already know. It's the thrill of the quest that expresses itself in a desire to know God more and more.

Rather than an intellectual persuit, as in high math, it's a spiritual persuit when it comes to the nature of The Almighty. I love knowing that the more I know, the less I understand.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Today's Obligatory Post

A member of our church died today...and I have nothing fresh to offer to the discussion of Methodism.
I'm just mourning the loss of someone who was in the process of becoming my friend. We got to first base...then it was rained out.
I only wish I had more time to grow to know her. But I'm happy with what I have of her memory. She told me only two weeks ago that I - never mind - it's not about me...goodbye friend to be.
I'll miss you, as will the many who have more reason to be left empty than I.
It's always sad to lose a member of a congregation...but even more difficult for those who can claim a personal, long-lasting relationship with the recently departed.
I pray for them. I pray for those who knew, intimately, what I only had a glimpse of.
Goodbye, dear Sister, and may God richly bless your eternal soul.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Communion Reflections

If every experience of recieving the sacrament of holy communion is the same every time, then it can lead to becoming routine and meaningless. How terrible that would be if we only saw Jesus the same way, all the time. Don't get me wrong, as I know that he is a constant. But if we fail to see His constant revelation in our lives, then we miss the opportunity to get the most of every time we dine/commune with Him. He is forever God made man, but we should always be seeking to know Him better, and learn more from Him every time we are invited to His table.

The key word is: Invited. When a host invites us to a banquet, do we rehash the same old stuff? Do we tell the same stories we've told time and again? If we want to be invited back, we don't. If we want our company to be as compelling as the invitation suggests, then we should feel honored to bring something new, something fresh to the banquet. So it is with holy communion. We're not the same as we were the last time we were invited. Nor, has our host revealed everything that can ever be known about Him.

A good host is engaging. A good guest is engaging. Do we interact in a fresh manner with the very presence of God, in Jesus Christ, every time we come to His banquet? If we want it to be a dinner that we'll be talking about the next day...we should.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

We Done "Plunged into Contemplative Worship"

Tonight was the first night of our new contemplative worship prayer meeting. We practiced the Lectio Divina prayer method and it had its awkward, uncomfortable moments. That's a good thing!

We had only 5 to attend (but with three telephoned regrets and expressed desires to come next week). There was some baggage carried into the prayer; one had had her feelings hurt and didn't think she would be able to get anything out of it. Another just got through chewing out someone for letting kids run rampant through the sanctuary, messing things up, throwing offering envelopes everywhere and throwing the pew pencils all over the place. One brought an attitude of work-overload, one completely ready to see what it was all about...and one who didn't seem to have a care in the world.

At the end, all anger was gone, all hurt feelings were gone, anxieties about work demands, gone. It was wonderful to see the evolution in attitudes as we meditated upon the following verse:

1 Corinthians: 14, 1
"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy"

As the facilitator, I was first to share what the scripture revealed to me. Following, each managed to find something different in that scripture that spoke to them, and shared. It was amazing how 5 people could find 5 totally different messages in a 15 word verse.

I'll volunteer what God spoke to me through that verse.

  • Prophecy is the gift of being able to share what God has revealed to you, and compelled you to share.
  • In order to share what God reveals one has to be able to hear the voice of God.
  • To hear the voice of God one has to listen for His voice.
  • To be able to listen for His voice one has to be able to recognize His voice. The sheep would only follow their shepherd, because they recognized his voice.
  • To recognize His voice one has to be able to discern it from all the other voices.
  • To be able to discern it, one has to know it when it is heard.
  • To be able to know it when it is heard is to have a familiarity with it.
  • To have a familiarity with God is to have something in common.
  • To have something in common is to follow the way of love, and in that following, be able to recognize pure love when it presents itself. But none of this is possible without submitting one's will to be showered in the undeserved grace and love of Our Lord.
  • God wants me to submit to Him in all that I do.

I took from the contemplation that I need to be submissive in all that I do for God to work moreso in me and through me. In a similar manner, each there found something in them that needed to be put right before the almighty. And when we left, each was carrying with them a new, fresh insight as to how scripture can work internally to constantly make us new creatures, revived members, of the Body of Christ.

This prayer meeting moved from an awkward uncomfortableness (with the prolonged minutes of silence) to a new level of comfort, in reflecting upon the word of God. We will all spend more time in quiet meditation, and contemplation, of what The Word can do to enhance and improve our walk.

It was good...very good. Praise God!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bishop Will Willimon's Weekly Message

Over the past year I've come to discover that there are many people in Methodism who try to keep up with Bishop Will Willimon. Being in the North Alabama Annual Conference, I look to our bishop's weekly messages for insight and inspiration. This week it's addressed to clergy. Here is a link to his message, for those who desire to know his current thoughts:

Frankly, I think he is right on! His message is meaningful beyond our conference.
Brother Marty

"Please Pray for Me"

What do you do when someone says "please pray for me"? Seriously...what do you do?
  • Do you write their name down on a piece of paper and add them to your church prayer list?
  • Do you make a mental note to remember them the next time you pray?
  • Do you say "I will" and forget the minute you leave their company?
  • Do you take them by the hand, then and there, at that very moment, in front of God and everybody, and pray for them?
  • Something else?
We're probably all guilty of saying we will, and we don't - at least at some point in our lives. Circumstances don't always make it possible to pray for someone as we intend to. It may be a parting request expressed as the one needing prayer hastily moves on. It may be because the request comes in the midst of a busy and hectic time. For whatever the reason, the request for prayer sometimes gets shuffled out of our conscience.

When someone asks you to pray for them, what do you do?

I reflect on this because Sunday we visited a sick relative in the hospital and asked if there was anything we could do for her. She said: "pray for me". We prayed, then and there. Later in the day I got to thinking about the people who've asked that I pray for them, and realized how many I've not - for whatever reason - prayed for.

When someone asks you to pray for them, what do you do?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Plunge into Contemplative Prayer

Today, there were three who came to say they would not be there at the next week's prayer meeting, as they were other-wise committed to things on Tuesday night. But of those who heard, and listened, there was a commitment to come. I look forward to sharing what comes of this event.
God Bless all followers of Jesus Christ!
And thank you for your prayers!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

We're Taking the Plunge into Contemplative Prayer

At our Wednesday night communion service I introduced the 11 people there to Lectio Divina prayer. Five shared their revelations from the scripture. There was a sparkle in their eyes as each related what that particular scripture passage meant to them. I consider that sufficient positive response to start a contemplative prayer service at our church.

Our pastor is enthusiastic about it and will give me some pulpit time in the morning to make the invitation. Mind you, we are an older congregation, but older doesn't always mean "stuck in our ways". I'm hopeful that some of our more senior, as well as those younger members, will join in.

If you read this...please pray for us, that we'll grow as a congregation to know the deeper revelation of Christ through this prayer service.

Thank you,
Brother Marty

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Methodist Pastor Who Heals

At our cluster charge conference for 2005 I met a pastor of a congregation in very rural Alabama. I was tipped off that he was into the healing ministry. His church has a healing service every third Thursday, and the community has grown to acknowledge it's presence. I engaged him in conversation and he was like a kid in a candy store, relating the following experience to me.

He had gone to visit one of the shut-in's in his congregation. When he knocked on the door, she opened the door and said, "You are sent here for me". He was somewhat bumfuzzled (who wouldn't be) and she said, you need to heal me. He invited her to come to the monthly healing service but she insisted that he put his hands upon her then and there. He told me that it was amazing! He said: "I don't know or think that this is proper...but if you insist....ok". He related that when he put his hand on her abdomen, he prayed, and he felt a heat, and was assured that she was recieving the healing mercies of the Holy Spirit. She broke down and cried, and said a word of thanks.

This pastor shared his astonishment that he'd never before felt heat in his hands but at that time, with that person, the work of the Holy Spirit was awesome. She was healed!

Is this "country bumpkin stuff" or is it real?

I believe.

She Hugged Me

At our weekly Kiwanis Club meeting, another group was meeting at the same place. There was one in the group for whom we'd held a healing service in the past and we hugged. I asked: How are you doing...and she said...Great!
She had suffered from a terrible arthritic malady that had her virtually bedridden at one point. She came for a healing and has been up and about ever since.
Coincidence...or God-incident? I don't know...but I know that I'm pleased to see her up and about.
Praise God!

Going Back to Our Roots

In the healing ministry, it is typically one-to-one or in small groups that healing prayer is ministered. As a result of these intimate shared experiences, a "small group" identity develops. In reflecting upon this small-group identity, I reacquainted myself with the beginnings of the Methodist movement, and found inspiration in the following work by David Hunsicker:


The dynamics of small group interaction is the wellspring from which true growth occurs. It is the collection of individuals who share intimately what Christ is doing in their lives that creates a "buzz" that attracts others who are seeking. They see a certain "something" happening in the lives of the small group members that evokes a curiosity and longing to know more.

Are we creating and cultivating small groups in our churches that attract seekers? If not, we should be.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It is My New Years Resolution to Blog Daily

With that said, I offer up my daily perspectives of a walk with Christ.

I'm a member of a weekly bible discussion group, that meets at 6am on Thursdays. Today, we didn't get to our study, as everyone had something personal to share. It was uplifting. We didn't focus on the lesson from "A Purpose Driven Life". As I shared an interview with Rick Warren, given by a relative who is a member of that church. It was wonderful to learn that he has given back his entire salary from day one, to the church he founded. I'm in a position of wonder for his purpose. I'm taken aback by my loathesome perspectives of his position on many things. I feel like I know him better.
Rick Warren is a man of God. We may hold him in contempt, but we fail to understand his walk with our Lord. We fail to see his humanity. I'm personally, moved.
In Christ I pray that some come to understand.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

What Does Holy Communion Mean to You?

I don't know what anyone else perceives during the communion experience. I don't know because rarely do we share. But I know what I experience. I did a little tally and I believe that in my life I've only experienced the sacrament of communion about 1000 times. There are those who've experienced daily communion and totally dwarf my experience. There are those who've only had it once a quarter and that adds up to a hundred or so times. Some even less…some much more. But I am curious as to what people experience at this most holy time of communion with Our Lord.

For me, my perspective is somewhat skewed. Being raised Roman Catholic; all those weekly communion services were bizarre by Methodist standards. I believed that I was actually eating the body of Christ…and becoming one with Him. The notion of actually eating Christ's body was at once strange…and at the same time, wonderfully comforting. I think only a Catholic would understand. But having grown to adopt a Methodist perspective, I see Christ as the host of a great dinner banquet, at which I'm a privileged guest. If I may, let me share.

Communion is, to me, Holy Communion. It is an opportunity to dine with Christ, at His behest, and be in His company. Upon receiving the elements, there is awe, an undeserved place of position, at the side of Christ. It's as if He says, "I invited you, so enjoy and be part of the conversation". But Jesus doesn't want a bunch of baggage brought to the table - NO - he wants joyful participation. That is my perspective of receiving the sacrament, one of joyful participation.

In our UMC liturgy for communion, we say a prayer of confession prior to receiving the elements. At the point of confession, that is where our sorrowful faces need to be. That is where our inadequacies need to be placed at the foot of the cross. At confession, that is where the sadness and personal shortcomings need to be put to rest. From that point on, it is a time of gratitude for being invited to dine with Our Lord. From that point on, there is an excitement about being a special guest. From that point on, we should be totally ready for a great experience, one that cannot be replicated anywhere under any means. Outside of communion, how often does God invite us to be one, with Him?

In our congregation, we refuse to have sad faces at the communion rail. Those are left at the point of confession. When we say the words on page 12 of the UMC Hymnal: "In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven", we accept it - we embrace it - we carry it through the remainder of the liturgy. And at that wonderful moment where the elements are administered, when we actually eat the bread/body, and drink the wine/blood, we are there…there with the disciples at Christ's table.

It is from this moment that extraordinary demonstrations of the love of God are experienced. Prayers are answered, healings are administered, and communion with the triune God is experienced.

If communion Sunday is just another Sunday…but one with that "going to the alter stuff" included…then it is shallow. If communion Sunday is a time of celebration, a time of humble gratitude, a time of empowerment through the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit…then that is what communion should be all about. At least to me.

What is a Methodist?

In the past week I had occasion to speak with a Roman Catholic regarding what a United Methodist is. In this same past week, I had occasion to speak with a Baptist about what a United Methodist is. Today I came to the conclusion someone once shared and I burst out laughing when I recalled it.

Don't know who said it, but thanks for putting it so well:

"A Methodist is too Catholic to be a Baptist, and too Baptist to be a Catholic"

That sums it up...yea...right!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Contemplative Worship

I was raised Roman Catholic and still loved many of the traditions and aspects of worship from the faith. One of my heroes was Thomas Merton, a contemplative monk. As a teen I was fascinated by how he (and contemplatives as a whole) were able to find a deeper relationship with God. But we're told today in many Christian arenas that such practices as breath prayers are non biblical and are actually new age mysticism..."of the devil"!

When I read these attacks on contemplative prayer, I look to the source. Typical opponents are people who have either found Christ after being new agers, or have converts from new age in leadership positions in their congregations. Seems they want to throw out the baby with the bath water!

Those speaking against the practice of breath prayers quote Matthew 6:7,8

"And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore, do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him".

I agree! If all a breath prayer is is repeating "vain repetitions" then there certainly is biblical grounds for not practicing it. Breath prayer, however, is NOT vain repetition, with many words, supplicating God to answer one's needs. It is seeking God's grace and mercy, through constant conversation.

The Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." is the classic breath prayer. But we can make our own breath prayer. From The Breath of Life by Ron Delbene, The Upper Room in 1992:

The breath prayer is a short prayer of praise and petition, only 6-8 syllables in length.

Here is a way to create your own personal breath prayer.

Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Remind yourself that God loves you that you are in God’s loving presence.

With your eyes closed, imagine that God is calling you by name. Hear God calling you by name and asking you, “(Your Name), what do you most want?”

Answer God with whatever comes directly from your heart. Your answer might be a single word, such as peace or love or forgiveness. Or it could be a phrase or brief sentence, such as “to feel forgiven,” or “I want to know your love.” Because your prayer is personal, it will naturally arise from your present concerns and conditions in your life.

Next, focus on your favorite name for God. How do you address God? It could be Jesus, God, Creator, Shepherd, Spirit, etc, whatever name feels most comfortable for you.

Combine your name for God, with your answer to the question of what you desire. For example:


Address God

Possible Prayer
Dear Jesus, let me know your peace.

Use this prayer many times throughout the day. Some suggestions: while waiting in line, when fear or anxiety strike, when sitting in traffic, when feeling stressed and overwhelmed, just before answering the phone at work, while washing dishes, during your workout, when leaving home in the morning, etc. The more you use it the more it becomes a part of you.

This is surely one technique. Of late, however, our morning Upper Room devotional provides the inspiration for my breath prayers. There we find a passage of scripture that has impacted someone's life in such a manner that it is deemed worthy of being shared with the entire faith. At the end of each devotional, a simple sentence or phrase reveals itself, worthy of day long contemplation.

How is breath prayer and contemplative worship applicable to a call to the healing ministry? Another time, another post.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

What Are Your Spiritual Gifts?

If you've never taken the Spiritual Gifts Assessment on the site, you may be interested in doing so. It doesn't take long and is designed to help identify the strength's (and weaknesses) that we individually bring to the Body of Christ.

It sure did help me to discover why I lack a flair for certain things LOL!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Do You Have Your "Beer Goggles" On?

Funny how when you're under the influence of something you see the world as others don't. The country song about the man having his "beer goggles" on makes a very profound theological statement, in a back-handed way. You see, he sees everything from the perspective of being under the influence. He thinks things are possible that others don't readily agree with. He thinks he can sing when he can't. He thinks he's on top of the world, when he isn't.

Mark 6:5 tells us that Jesus could do no miracles in his home town. Why is that? These people knew Jesus from when he was a child. They knew his family and knew more about him than any of the people Jesus would encounter in his ministry. You see, the Nazarenes didn't have their "beer goggles" on. They only saw Jesus the man. They didn't see Jesus-God.

In the healing ministry it is necessary to have our "Holy Spirit" goggles on. And when we're fully under the influence, we see things that other people don't. Things happen that otherwise wouldn't. We see miracles happen that others don't. That is, unless the others have their "Holy Spirit" goggles on as well.

Do you have your "Holy Spirit" goggles on? If not....let me tell you a story about when God came to earth...let me tell you about Jesus. You see, it started like this.......

A Simple Touch

How often do we stop and realize that a simple touch is all that's needed to lift someone's spirit? As I accompany my wife to the assisted living center where her mother is a resident, I make it my business to make physical contact with every resident there. It hadn't always been that way.

Over a year ago something happened that brought me to understand the difference between touching someone and not doing so. Prior to that day I merely walked in, tended to visiting with Maw, and nodded to someone if their eyes met mine. But that day was different. When we came into the center it was lunch time. Maw didn't look very enthusiastic about eating and so I tried to lift her spirits. I said: "Hey Maw, that stuff looks good enough to eat!" At that moment, the other 15 residents burst out in laughter. All eyes and ears were on me and my big mouth. Maw even brightened up and started to eat.

After lunch as I was walking towards the door I became overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt that convicted me of keeping the light of our lord to myself for the past year every time I went there. Guilt that convicted me of not brightening up someone elses day because I was too selfish to share a moment of my time with anyone other than family. That day, that moment, changed my life in a big way.

On the next visit, and each subsequent visit to this day, I greet everyone individually as I see them. And I make it a point to touch them, on their hand, shoulder, side of their face, whatever opportunity presents itself for each individual. And guess what. They smile, their eyes glisten, and they say "Thank You".

Since that day I've delivered many a morning devotion, afternoon sermon, and personal prayers for individual residents. I'm no longer that man who comes to see Maw. I'm the preacher man, the funny man, and the healing man.

I started this post to reflect upon how we can make a difference in the lives of others by a simple touch. But I just realized that it is the one doing the touching who's life is changed, changed by a simple touch.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Thank You for Your Testimony

As I read the testimonies of Susan and Doodlebugmom, I'm so wonderfully moved. Moved as a Christian connecting with fellow followers, but moreso, moved by the sharing of personal situations where God has worked, silently, behind the scenes, in the lives of so many people. Isn't God great?
I can, and will, share more of what God does in the healing ministy as I have personally witnessed, but for now, let His glory be uplifted by the testimonies shared here.
God Bless All Followers of Jesus Christ!
Brother Marty

Coincidence or God-incidents?

Reflecting upon the instances where someone has asked for healing prayer and healings have occurred, one tends to ask: "is this just a coincidence that they were healed?" By that I mean, would they have gotten better without having come for healing? After all, most of the time when someone has a need to improve their state of health they are simultaneously under the care of a physician or in some state of medical treatment. Thrown into the mix is an incident of healing prayer. Makes ya kinda say Hmmmmm.

As I've previously stated, I don't check back to see how well God has performed. I don't call or visit to see what changes have taken place. But let me share what happened in July of 2006 and the followup call I received 4 months later.

I was attending my newphew's funeral in Michigan and while at the funeral home one of my sisters asked me to pray over her daughter's knee. She had been suffering from a chronic kneecap detachment and had to use crutches throughout most of the previous school year. The management at the funeral home provided us with a quiet, secluded area for prayer. My sister, her daughter and I prayed for a healing - whatever healing God would provide, be it a healing of the attitude about the affliction; a healing of the ability to deal with the pain; a healing of the kneecap itself...whatever manner of healing God would provide would be gracefully accepted. We prayed that God would enter into the situation and we accepted that whatever His will was, we would be grateful for Him hearing our prayers. We had tears in our eyes and smiling faces as we prayed. God is so good!

While at work one day in mid November the phone rings. It was my sister (who NEVER calls me at work) bubbling over with enthusiasm. She told me that ever since we prayed over her daughter her knee kept getting better and better. Plus she said that her daughter joined the swim team at the beginning of the school year and is the fastest butterfly swimmer on the team. We both praised God together on the phone. I came home and discovered a voicemail message she had left prior to digging up my work number exclaiming how great God is and thanking me for praying with them.

Coincidence? God-incident? I say God-incident.

There tends to be a lot of anecdotal evidence of healings with very little WOW-factor involved. By that I mean, how often do you hear of concrete, scientifically studied healings taking place? In fact, when intercessory prayer has been clinically studied there seems to be no apparent difference in the recipient's condition versus those for whom no prayer was given. But in those studies it wasn't personal. By that I mean, the people being prayed for never met those offering the prayers. The scientific method would yield skewed results if there were personal interactions between those praying and the one's being prayed for. So, when someone tells of knowing that someone has received a healing through prayer, if you look for proof you may not find it. It could easily be dismissed as coincidence.

The fact is there are WOW-factor healings that take place. CNN, NBC, ABC or CBS just never seems to have a reporter there when it occurs. But when you talk to honest, God-loving people who relate their personal experiences regarding healings, and you look them in the eye as they relate, there's no denying what they believe.

Albert Einstien is quoted as saying that if you don't believe in miracles, you'll never see one. If you believe in miracles, you'll see them everywhere.

I believe.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

God Leads - We Follow

On New Years Day I walked into our local WalMart and was greeted by the "greeter". You know the employee of which I speak. This "greeter" is wrecked with pain and stays crouched over all the time. She looked at me as I walked in and smiled...then I butt in with "Hi! Happy New Year". Next I walked about 10 to 15 feet then just turned around and walked up to her and bent over and hugged her. I stood there afterwards just looking at her. She stood up straight and told me that she had a bad back. I told her that I felt rediculous parking in the handicapped parking place and walking in with a little limp. I said that I saw her and was overcome with guilt. I stood there next to her for about 30 seconds, quietly, looking at each other occasionally, then I walked away.

All I know is this: I went to WalMart to buy some stuff we needed. After walking in, "something" brought me back to the lady that was greeting everyone. I've never hugged the greeter at WalMart before...but on Monday, I did.

She stood up straight when talking to me, smiling as she spoke. It was awkward. Again, after about 30 seconds I walked away. If that act brought only a minute of relief, then I'm happy that God used me for that that time.

Miracles happen every day...if only we look for them.

Brother Marty