Friday, November 27, 2015

No Longer Slaves to Fear

In my office hangs a extremely cool relic of the 1980s – a commemorative poster from the 1985 supergroup USA for Africa’s hit “We Are The World.” It became the fastest-selling American pop single in history and raised $3 million for relief in Africa and the US. More than that, it was an anthem of the times – a song that everyone rallied around to show awareness and solidarity of a global family.

Fast forward 30 years, and one could hardly deny that we sit in a world in need of an anthem for our times. Today’s anthem isn’t one that just requires bridging oceans and national borders, but it requires bridging of theological boundaries and solidifying one family of God.

“No Longer Slaves” by Bethel Music is without a doubt one of the most anthemic Christian rock songs ever written. Simple and powerful, its message of hope, triumph, and trust reach out to the ends of a planet that is shaken every day by news of destruction, hopelessness, greed, apathy, and fear.

You unravel me, with a melody…

Today’s market bombards us with products that make us feel like we’re in control. You can have your side of the bed as firm as you like it, you can watch your favorite TV shows whenever you want to watch them; in fact our entire society is becoming based around this “I push a button and what I want happens” concept. This works great for entertainment, but horrible for our relationships with God. One terrible thing that happens is that we start to feel like we are the architects of God’s plan for us. But Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own…I seek to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30)

This falsity that I’m the sole executor of “the plan” has an evil twin that God’s blessings are earned by following some rigid script (the “If I do this then God will give me that” mentality). Both stand in direct contrast to God’s unmeasurable love and plan for my life. One thing that has helped me counter both notions is a constant reminder that there is nothing I can do that will “impress” God. This song reminds me that the best way to come to God in moments of fear and doubt is by “unraveling” any notions that He is not the author of my life, and leaving my soul open to hearing His will and reminder of His covenant.

You split the sea so I could walk right through it…

Whether you are a fan of the original 1956 “The Ten Commandments” or preferred the 2014 “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, the depiction of the Israelites’ escape from the pursuing Egyptian army as told in chapter 14 of Exodus was extraordinary cinematic depiction of God’s amazing power to uphold the covenant with His people. One of the most difficult things about reading the Old Testament is that it can seem like God is constantly intervening in miraculous ways to save His chosen people. We wonder, “If He can part seas, why won’t God just (fill in the blank) for me today?” I know that every day God is making all things work together for my good. Romans 8:31 – “If God is for us, who is against us?” and certainly Psalm 46:10 – “Be still, and know that I am God!” are great places to seek reassurance when I start to lose patience and faith. He’s going to nudge you down the road you need to be on. He’s going to bring people into your life that you need. He’s going to take those moments that were filled with pain and show you how they were the best thing that could have happened to you. None of these things involve literal parting of seas or manna from heaven, but “No Longer Slaves” serves as a great reminder that we’ve already received something better than an epic miracle to witness God’s immense love for us. He sent Jesus as the ultimate and perfect sacrifice so we could live with Him forever.

I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.

As Christians, we can’t help but struggle with biblical reference to slaves. I was reminded in church this week that slavery (especially in the New Testament) is best taken as a metaphor. Proof of this could be the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Jesus compares God’s judgement onto those of us who can’t forgive as how the forgiving king’s servant treated his slaves. More directly, the audience of Jesus’s days understood that all slaves have a master. This is best reflected in Luke 16:13 – “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.” Of course in Luke the reference is to wealth, but I think as Christians today we need to seriously consider our enslavement to fear as an obstacle to loving God. I learned early on as a member of TraffickStop at BUMC that the undeniable tool used to entrap victims of human trafficking is FEAR. When someone uses fear to manipulate your emotions and to control your actions and behavior, you are enslaved, period!

I want to distinguish the difference between fear and risk. Risk takes into consideration the possible consequences of an unwanted event, but also the likelihood (or lack thereof) of it actually happening. Evaluating risk (and more critically mitigating it) is crucial in my industry to weigh the costs of engaging in beneficial behavior. Fear only looks at what could happen (whether likely or not) and stymies us in a “worst case scenario” mentality. It tells us that nothing is worth doing because of what could go wrong. Good luck finding something in the New Testament to the extent of Jesus saying, “Following me is risk free” or “Yes you could be persecuted for following me, so it’s best you just stay home and lock your doors.” Instead it’s repeated over and over that your faith comes with great risk, but also great reward.

Letting fear dictate your opinions and actions means you are serving a master antithetical to our God. Being a child of God means that you are no longer a slave to your fears. Your master has sealed a covenant of love and grace upon you. I struggle with unfounded fears myself, but I am learning that there is strength in saying, “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.” I am thankful for this anthem He has given us to remind me when I am feeling weak or lost.

 
Kyle and his wife Jenn have been members of BUMC since 2006. He now works as a Quality Control Specialist with Holly Energy Partners, based out of Salt Lake City.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Gratitude

On Consecration Sunday, Pastor Ken talked to us about how God opened his eyes recently to one of the most powerful forces in the universe: gratitude. He said that “gratitude has this power to restore our lives like no other force – it helps us to demolish these strongholds of bitterness and contempt that sometimes we carry with us based on how certain circumstances have unfolded in our lives.”

I’ve always thought of myself mostly as a “glass half full” kind of person. I’ve been known as a bit of a rah-rah at times with my positive outlooks and definitely can annoy people with that. While I do admit that I try to be grateful in all circumstances, it is definitely something that I have to focus on and be intentional about or I can easily focus on and see the hard or the bad or the ugly or the unfairness in many of life’s circumstances.

Since Pastor Ken’s message a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been much more in tune with those around me as they show gratitude. When we pay attention and are aware of it, gratitude can be seen in story after story, situation after situation. For example:

I have a friend who was born as one of the “later in life” babies. Her parents were older than most of ours in our grade, and she has siblings that are old enough to be her parents. I have been friends with her since we were 3 years old. A few years ago her mom passed away, and her being the youngest, she ended up taking care of most of the details for her family. She helped clear out some of the overflowing stuff in the house, and made sure her elderly dad was going to be taken care of. As it ended up, her older sister (who again is old enough to be her mother) decided to move in with their dad and be his caregiver. She is retired and has grown kids, so it was a great season in life for her to do so. Just a few days ago, I was included on a group message on Facebook that was sent by my friend to several of our close friends and classmates. My friend told us that her sister had been admitted to the hospital with very serious heart issues. She wasn’t sure at all if her sister would live or die. She hopped a plane from Pennsylvania to Illinois, rented a car, and then traveled another 4 hours to our hometown to care for her older sister and now 90+ year old father, who needs almost around the clock type care. In the meantime, she heard from her niece (her ill sister’s daughter) that her niece’s son had been hit by a car that day while walking down the street!! Luckily he only suffered from a concussion, but it was pretty serious! Needless to say, my friend had so much that she was dealing with emotionally. It would not be unusual for her to be questioning these circumstances and having a “why me?” attitude.

But here are things that she has told me when I’ve talked with her on the phone for hours at a time these last few days. Her heart is full and her soul is fed by the deep friendships that she’s had since preschool from our hometown. She can’t thank everyone enough for reaching out and coming to her aid. She is so GRATEFUL for the support, love, prayers, and offers of help that were and continue to be extended to her from that group message. One friend still living in town helped her clean the house for 8 hours. Another friend offered to pick her niece up at the airport to save my friend the hour there and hour back. We both talked about how grateful we are that we have this amazing class of friends from our small little hometown that we know will always have our backs when we need them. And not only that, but we can pick up right where we left off without having to explain past history or family info, since we grew up with these people and they know us well. She was grateful for the women of the church that we both grew up in who were covering meals or any other needs that arose.

I love it that she talked mostly about her gratitude and that even though she was extremely overwhelmed, she wasn’t bitter. I thought back to Pastor Ken’s words as mentioned above – Gratitude helps us to demolish these strongholds of bitterness that can develop based on how certain circumstances unfold. My friend could be really angry that here she was again – dealing with the family situations – and it wasn’t that long ago that she lost her mom. She could be angry and bitter that the house that she had worked hard to get organized and functional after her mom died was again in the same shape. She could even be mad at her sister for not getting medical help sooner. Is she a little bit mad about all this? Of course. But that was not where she chose to land. She continues to thank our friends on the group message for all of the support. And while she is in the midst of the hard, she is so grateful for all of the good.

It is so cool to me to be able to see in action exactly what Ken was talking about just a couple weeks ago. My friend, coupled with Ken’s message, have definitely inspired me to try harder and to be more grateful, not only in the midst of the good, but even in the hardest of hard.

Who are the people in your life that are inspiring you to have gratitude in all circumstances? Join me in the goal to watch for it daily and make a goal to model that gratitude to others.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. -1 Thessalonians 5:18


Vicki Cromarty is the Family Ministry Director at BUMC.  She loves getting to know families and kids and having the privilege to learn with them about God’s amazing love. Vicki and her husband, Dave, have a beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 13-years-old.  Their family also includes Sadie, the Lhasa Apso. Vicki loves spending time with her family and friends, and enjoying all that beautiful Colorado has to offer! You can contact her at vicki.cromarty@broomfieldumc.org.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Be The Church

There seem to be lots of ways that we can understand what it means to be the church. Some friends of mine are part of house churches (small groups of Christians who meet in… you guessed it! Houses!). Other friends are part of Mega Churches with many thousands in weekly attendance. My dad is the pastor of a medium-sized rural church in Pennsylvania and most of his congregation are older adults. My cousin belongs to a church in Denver with mostly young adults. BUMC is a little different than all those examples. We are large, but perhaps not Mega. We have many age groups represented. We have a large multi-use facility that serves our community in countless ways.

Is that what it means to be the church? Is the physical layout and organizational structure the main thing?

A few weeks ago at Breakfast Club (our Sunday morning program for 6-12th graders) we asked ourselves some questions about how the Bible talks about the church. The scripture for the day was from 1 Peter 2, where the church is compared to living stones being built into a temple for God, with Jesus as the cornerstone. In this image, we are the stones. The church is us. The church is people. We don’t go to church; we are church.

Peter uses the image of living stones building a temple, Paul uses the image of many body parts forming one body, and elsewhere the church is compared to a bride, a flock of sheep, or even a vineyard. My favorite image though, the one that’s been most helpful for me in developing my thoughts on doing ministry, is family.

Over and over the New Testament speaks of us being adopted into a new family. The size of our gatherings, the amenities of our buildings, and the structure of our organization aren’t very important in this image. We can be God’s family in a house, or a converted warehouse, or a rural chapel, or in a building right across from the local High School. Denomination is irrelevant in this family. Age isn’t a factor. You can belong not matter what.

This image has helped me to understand all sorts of things about being the church. When I see church as family, I don’t have to feel pressure to “evangelize”, all I have to do is lovingly invite my neighbor to our family dinner (or brisket competition, as the case may be). When I see church as family, I can understand what’s going on when we have disagreements about what to do next, or have worries about the future; that’s normal in family! But we love each other all the same.

In August BUMC hosted four other youth groups, a total of 175 students and leaders, for an all-night event. Have you ever stayed up all night with dozens and dozens and dozens of middle school and high school students? Let’s just say it’s exciting. A few of our BUMC students were displeased with how our guests were treating our facility and running wild (don’t worry, nothing was broken). It’s natural to feel protective, and to feel a little invaded in a situation like that. I pulled these students aside and used this family image to talk about the church. “Have you ever had a big family dinner, and that crazy uncle or those bratty cousins mess things up and ignore all the house rules? That’s what we’ve got here. The whole family came over, and we just have to love them even though they don’t know the house rules.” That seemed to help. It can really help to see the church as a welcoming family instead of an exclusive club.

You are the church. You’ve been adopted into a new family. BUMC is a welcoming family. You know people who haven’t been adopted yet. They aren’t part of the family. There’s plenty of room at the table, and the food is beyond good. Who’s getting invited to dinner this week?






Mike is the Director of Student Ministries at BUMC. He’s done ministry with students in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, California, and now Colorado. Mike recently finished his MDiv degree at Fuller Theological Seminary, and his passion is to lead kids of all ages toward adoption into the family of God. If he’s not hanging out with Middle School or High School students, you’ll probably find him on a bicycle or on skis. He makes killer chocolate chip cookies. Reach him at mike.orr@broomfieldumc.org