Thursday, June 30, 2016

Raise Your Balloon

It makes me sad that the world is so pessimistic; especially in the US, especially in this polarizing political climate and especially in an election year. It seems like most people's response to just about anything is to become defensive and argumentative. I believe that most people are kind; life is the 21st century is about as good as it's ever been. 

I see the kindness in my children's eyes and the sound of their laughter fills my heart. I am not saying that everything is perfect in the world but I believe that we can make a difference and the world will continue to get better. Many people are appalled at positive thoughts like these. I once made a positive comment about life to a family member who snarkily replied, "Your balloon never lands, does it Steve?" 

Since I have found the church, my balloon doesn't land; not to say that I am always positive, or that I never have a negative thought or comment- that is far from the truth. My balloon doesn't land because God gives me fuel for its flame. That fuel is grace- that knowledge that God loves me and all those around me. That he died for our sins, that someday I will live forever in the kingdom of heaven and get to play cribbage with my grandpa again. Someday he will return to earth and wipe out evil and sin for eternity. So let the politicians and pundits have their moment in time to bash one another and try to make things seem worse than they are, you just let grace fuel your torch and raise your balloon.

Steve Laser has been a member of BUMC for more than five years. He serves on the finance committee, and has previously been involved in the First Friday Fellowship, Theology on Tap, and has served as an usher. He is a native to Broomfield, Colorado, and lives here now with his fabulous wife and two awesome children. He also makes a mean smoked brisket.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Seeking the Heart of the Problem

On Sunday, one of the worst mass shootings occurred in US history. As the news stories of the events that occurred in Orlando continue to stream in, so will the opinions of many as to why this occurred, why this keeps occurring and how we can prevent this from occurring again. Nothing would make me happier than for us to come together and figure out the solution to make this stop. My heart aches for every person who has lost someone to tragedy like this or has witnessed violence and has to live with the day to nightmare of having been a part of something so horrific.

As I think about what it means to live in a place where this kind of violence isn’t the norm, where we can live without the thought that’s not if but when, and where we have reinstilled hope in society and each other, I think we have to move away from immediately focusing on solutions. Yes, gun violence is an epidemic in this country- and many people believe the solution is tighter gun laws, and others believe that more people need to be armed. Mental health is most certainly an issue in this country- some believe that it is the government’s job to intervene while others believe the responsibility should fall on families to promote mental health. The norm of violence is an issue- some people believe that children need less exposure to violence and others believe that children need more opportunities to release aggression and energy. I know I am oversimplifying the issues and not everyone falls on one side or the other, however, the issues can be polarizing and divisive.

In work around innovation, the flip of solution-based thinking is often at the heart of the work- focusing on the root of the problem, not a solution. This helps in understanding that we often get stuck, or solve problems incorrectly, because we are so set on “our” solution being the cure that we fail to even listen or consider the true heart of the problem and multiple perspectives around the problem. When we focus on the heart of the problem, we seek to understand multiple perspectives on an issue, listen before we speak, and come to the table with an open heart, mind and a willingness to learn from one another.

Could we try to just give that grace to one another? Just to listen, hear how people are feeling marginalized, what impact violence has had on them. Just for a few days can we not post our solution on Facebook, and instead just pour love, support, open hearts, and ears into the community in Orlando?

The solution to violence in this country is going to be complex. It isn’t going to be solved with one neatly wrapped up idea that is enacted overnight. The solutions are going to be complicated, they must involve multiple players, and must be done in a way that brings us together instead of dividing us further.

Andrea is an Early Childhood Special Educator, as well as mom to Paxton, 7, and Wyatt, 3. She and her husband Steve, have been members of BUMC since 2009.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Holy Spirit and You

My first year in full-time ministry was 1987. I had just graduated from seminary and was appointed to be associate pastor at Lamar United Methodist Church. While I didn’t lack for book learning, I was woefully ignorant in the area of spiritual formation – understanding how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

Fortunately, God had a plan to help me learn and grow. There was one other associate pastor in town; her name was Arlis Thompson and she served at the Foursquare Church. (Her son is now active at BUMC.) She generously shared with me much of what she had learned about the work of the Holy Spirit. With the background and resources she provided, I began to understand how the Spirit had been at work in my own life since I received Christ into my life as a teenager. And I began to see how I could teach others about the Spirit’s work.

In May, Ken and I did a short sermon series on how God helps us through the Holy Spirit. Since then, people have approached me with a few questions, so I thought it might be helpful to suggest a few ways to think about the Spirit’s work. If you believe in Jesus as your Lord, the Holy Spirit is active in your life.

The Holy Spirit is the inner presence of God in our lives. The Divine Spirit dwells with God the Father and Christ the Son in the heavenly realms, but the Spirit also dwells with us. In this age, Jesus can’t be here with us in the flesh, but his Spirit lives within us. It is the Spirit who bears witness that we are children of God; it is the Spirit who abides with us so that God is always with us.

The Holy Spirit is also the sap of divine life within us that helps us become new people. We live in a culture in which we are measured by what we do, but God is far more interested in who we are. God desires us to grow in character and maturity, to become people who reflect the character and maturity of Christ. When Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, he is describing how the Spirit transforms us with new life. We become more and more like Christ, reflecting his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We cannot become like Christ unless his spiritual life is flowing through us. Each of us can produce a positive harvest of character traits because we are connected to the Living Christ.

But the Holy Spirit empowers us for action, too. Each of us receives spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is an ability provided by the Holy Spirit so we can serve God in a special way. Spiritual gifts are above and beyond our natural talents or strengths; our gifts equip us to minister in unique ways. Our gifts also motivate us; we find fulfillment in using them. If you look at Romans 12, you will see a list of spiritual gifts that are often called “motivational gifts.” Very likely, you are enthusiastic about using at least one of these gifts in ministry. Discovering your gifts can help you find your sweet spot of service. What do you love to do for God?

God provides many other spiritual gifts, too: Speaking gifts, serving gifts, and signs and wonders. The New Testament lists at least 25 different gifts. If you want to learn how God has equipped you, I have two Spiritual Gifts Discovery Surveys you can take (a short survey and a long one). I believe you will enjoy learning more about your gifts – and putting them to use.

The beautiful thing about our spiritual gifts is that God intends us to use them together – in community – so his will can be done on the earth, as it is in heaven. As you know, our BUMC vision is to make community in the image of Jesus. Fortunately, we don’t have to produce community on our own; it is the Spirit who empowers us in this task. As we share our spiritual gifts in common goals, we experience God’s power, and we accomplish God’s will. If we tried to do all of this on our own, we would burn out in a blaze of glory. When we operate in God’s power, we burn with Christ’s love, and all the glory is his.

Thomas Cross is one of the pastors at BUMC, starting his seventh year here.  He loves to help people grow in Christ and start new small groups.  He says his passion is ‘to introduce people to the God I know through Jesus Christ, the God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’  He enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to movies, working out, collecting art, listening to jazz music, and watching the Broncos for fun.  And he has a blast meeting with the diverse small groups he facilitates! 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Faith in Eternity

Theresa and I lost a good friend this week. Dale Dunnewold was a student ministry volunteer at our church in Nashville, TN, where Theresa was the student pastor. He had two boys in the student ministry and was one of the most faithful fathers and volunteers I’ve ever known. He was also one of those great guys that everyone liked, looked up to, and saw Jesus in.
Mexico Mission Trip (early 2000s) Dale is 2nd from right, top row. Theresa is on the left in the second row. 

Sixteen months ago, Dale was at the doctor having some flu symptoms checked out and was soon facing a diagnosis of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He fought hard for over a year but a few days ago the disease finally took him from this earth.

Dale shared his journey through a series of journal entries on a Caring Bridge site. Through all of the highs and lows, hopes and setbacks, Dale’s faith in Christ and a God who is good and trustworthy remained front and center. He remained an encourager and teacher to me and others through his posts.

His last entry was on May 20 and I have read it many times since his passing. Here is an excerpt:

After 4 days in the hospital, it was nice to be home last night. I wish I could say that things are looking up. But I think Jesus is calling me to take His hand for our last journey. God has always related to us from a place of eternity. We are anchored in eternity. Throughout history He has given more and more revelation of that anchor we have in eternity. Even the Law was an eye-opener so that Israel could see that their anchor was more holy than they ever could realize on their own. The sanctuary was set up, where the Holy of Holies was separated by a huge, thick curtain, to remind Israel of eternity in their midst. When Jesus, eternity incarnate, came onto the scene, He brought peace from eternity. Once again a deeper revelation of the significance of eternity impacting a painful world. Then His death, burial, and resurrection threw everything into confusion. Whatever we thought we knew about eternity was challenged. Why didn't He fix this place? Why didn't He end all the evil and corruption? Why would He instead submit His life to it? Then to give us a closer glimpse of eternity, Jesus told the disciples to wait. Wait? On what? Wait on the Holy Spirit. He told them that it is better if He leaves. He would send the Comforter. One more huge revelation--Christ in you, the hope of glory. It went from having eternity in their midst to having eternity in their hearts. So now eternity shines through us!

With all these growing revelations, we still long to see that realm in which our anchor lies. We get closer and closer, but we can't make sense of what lies beyond that veil. How can eternity make sense of all the unending pain and grief? Somehow Jesus did something better, yet we can't understand it. It looks like I'm going to experience that next revelation soon. He's taking my hand and offering His eternal rest. With still so many unanswered questions, I do long to see that anchor with my own eyes. I trust that He has answers for all my questions, as I release my family to His care. (I think He's about to show me how little I've played in their security and how He has held them all along.)

As I read these words, I can’t help but think how it’s so easy for me to talk about faith, trust in Christ, eternity and my anchor while I’m relatively healthy and comfortable. But hearing Dale’s voice in these words, weak as it must have been, proclaiming the gospel story and such an assurance in what was ahead for him, I am broken and encouraged at the same time.

We won’t get to talk to our friend Dale on this side of eternity anymore. But he’s speaking to me here, telling me to have faith and know that eternity is in my heart through the Holy Spirit, and it shines through me.

Joe Mazza is the Director of Worship Arts at BUMC and leads worship at our 8:30, 9:45, and 5:05 worship services.