Friday, January 23, 2009

"God understands our thoughts long before they are clothed with words". 

Do I need to tell you who wrote that sentence originally? John Wesley, of course. 
However, I would like to move away from my obsession with John for a moment. Did I just hear a loud sigh of relief? Okay, maybe he has been at the center of my thoughts recently. Soon and very soon, Wesley will take a back seat to my Spring classes. For now, on to more important points and yes, I have one. 

The idea that God understands (not just "knows", but understands) my thoughts - that is assuring to me. It could be scary, but God loves me - so I don't feel judged. How many relationships do I have in my life where if that person knew all my thoughts it would be okay?
I think I can honestly say, a couple relationships where I do not feel judged or condemned for something stupid, petty, mean or dramatic entering my mind. 

Most people will never know the million thoughts that fly through my brain. However, if you know me, you know that about a 1/2 million things that fly through my brain do get "clothed with words". Yes, many will know about 1/2 of my thoughts if they are around me much. 

Yet, there are those that know my heart. Where I can just call and say, "I need to get this off my chest. I know you could think less of me as I tell you this thought, but I trust that you will hear me and still accept me". Those people that God has placed in my life to get a glimpse of how God desires to be in relationship with me. The judgement is absent, the acceptance is abundant, now we just need to find the realization. The realization that God loves me.

This "realization" made me also "realize" that one reason there can be fear in knowing God understands our thoughts before we put words to them is that we don't have that kind of understanding of God. 

We fear because we don't understand God's love. God's incredible, unmatchable, exceeds our imagination, passionate and unconditional love. 
"For God so loved the world..." read the book of John. (Do you expect me to do everything for you, come on...I got some more John Wesley to read).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Still in love

Yes, he is short in stature, but incredibly tall in ethics. He may even have a tendency towards being considered a mama's boy. However, Susanna only meant to guide her son and you really can't blame her for that. If he received even a small piece of the passion he has from his mom, then thank you Susy (can I call her that?)

My heart still skips a beat when I read his writings. "A heart deep-dyed with generous honesty" - how can you not smile? My admiration has grown to the point that his picture now rests on my desk. And yes, I know he has made some mistakes. However, his desire to grow and be transformed only makes my heart draw closer. Can you really knock someone from leaving Georgia quickly? If it wasn't for Paula Dean's restaurant, I would not have stayed long myself.

Relax, I only have a couple more weeks of being consumed with John Wesley. My summaries will be written, I will take the final and then have to move on to the Hebrew language. But for now, my love for John Wesley will continue. If nothing else, possibly my heart will be reminded it is "stamped with the image of Christ" (another beautiful Wesley phrase).

If you are looking to fall in love, move away from eHarmony and borrow my 16 volume set of John Wesley's Works instead. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Falling in love

I have found myself falling in love...
with John Wesley. I know, he died over 300 years ago and during his life had very little, if any success in relationships (there's something we have in common).
Yet, I find myself smiling as I read his words and my heart is filled with admiration (and the music swells and the camera pans out).
Over the last month I have been knee deep in the writings of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Now, ordinarily I would not find myself enjoying a night of reading John Wesley's 52 Standard Sermons a highlight. Yet, what an incredible writer. 

"But the fact we know; namely, that the Spirit of God does give a believer such a testimony of his adoption, that while it is present to the soul, he can no more doubt the reality of his sonship, than he can doubt of the shining of the sun, while he stands in the full blaze of his beams". Sermon X, Witness of the Spirit, Part 1.

Even more than a kindled love for his writings, I have been reminded of what this whole things is about. Why being a part of this particular denomination is actually something to also smile and have admiration about.

I will be the first to admit that there are times when I want to just hang my head as I read about the happenings taking place in United Methodist corners of the world, especially America. I have been a United Methodist almost my whole life. I have born in 1968, the same year this denomination became "united". However, as with every other mainline denomination and those not so mainline, the UM can get distracted (can't we all).

As we have become concerned about numbers, political correctness and actual, politics in general, we have forgotten our first love. Don't get me wrong. Yes, we should be concerned about numbers, political correctness, politics, especially in how it relates to social justice. We should always be concerned about how to serve our neighbors in all ways and forms (break out the cell phone and text your thoughts right now!). Within all this concern, what are we rallying people behind? What is the great cause for which we are worrying about numbers and political correctness?

"That I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God." Sermon XI and about a hundred other John Wesley sermons.

I believe in what the United Methodist Church is doing in the world today. I believe in what the United Methodist Church is doing on my corner. As a United Methodist pastor, I just don't want to lose track of what Wesley seem to have etched in his heart (after sorting and struggling through much). 

John made his share of mistakes. However, his assurance of the above fact was a driving force in a majority of his writings. 
May my own witness of the Spirit be the driving force behind what I do as a UM pastor and a part of humanity.