Monday, February 26, 2018

Show Your Love to Thy Neighbor

Post by: Elliott Holm

I haven’t written a blog entry for a while now, and a lot has changed! Kyla and I became parents to our beautiful daughter, Ella, and she has brought so much to our lives. We absolutely adore being with her, holding her, watching her smile, and never missing a moment

Through all the excitements of parenting and life, though, it’s very easy to forget to also be there for the people you love. I was reminded of this when I returned to work, and began teaching my students. We are knee-deep right now in a two year-long unit on how to be successful and productive adults, so the students will hopefully be equipped for many more things that will come their way.

It was during this week, I started a new chapter with my “Adulting” group, called Friends and Neighbors, with the hopes that it will teach the kids how to make healthy friends when they’re adults, as well as how to be there for their neighbors. I taught them about so many things I was so excited to talk about; deciding what size of friend group was right for their personalities, choosing healthy places to find new friends, being nice to new people who just started working with you, and much more. I truly felt that we were having some great conversations, and the students were very engaged; I had them right where I wanted them!

That’s when I got this sign that this lesson needed to be a little bit more. It happened to be on Valentine’s Day, and I teach each chapter in numbered “Tips.” I got to my final Tip for the day, which was Tip number 14, on February 14th. This tip was: “Tell the people you love why you love them.” I hadn’t realized when I made this presentation, that I stopped here, at this tip, on Valentine’s Day, and it happened to be about love. But there was this quote I found from an author I frequently use in these lessons to end the lesson with: “I try, once a year, to write a letter to each of my closest friends and let them know why they mean so much to me, and why I am so lucky to have them in my life. Everyone wants to be acknowledged and everyone wants to feel loved. There is no reason to withhold this, especially from people who are worthy of it.” I stopped in my tracks for that day’s lesson. I knew this had to be bigger than me just telling students this author’s quote. I told the students we had 20 minutes left in class, let’s do this exact thing the author does and write to someone we love. The students were a bit hesitant at first, but quickly thought of someone who was important to their lives, and began scrawling handwritten notes on torn-out lined paper as quickly as they could. Some of them even wrote 3 or 4 letters. I was in a whirlwind of kids asking if they could run to another class to give it to a friend, or a teacher, or if I could mail it for them, to someone important (Which I did, I promise!).

But I always tell my students I’ve got to “put my money where my mouth is” and be willing to do any of the tasks I assign to them. I reached out to a friend I actually talk to very regularly, and let him know these things, how great of a friend he is, and how lucky I am to have him. He took a while to reply, but eventually told me he had a very difficult day at work, and Valentine’s Day usually reminds him of loneliness. He told me how much that simple message, that took me about 30 seconds to write, meant to him, and how it completely turned his day around and turned it into something special. Now, I’m not trying to make a case for Valentine’s Day; I’m well aware that many people are averse to it, I mean, I do teach High School, after all! What I do want to make a case for, though, is exactly what the author states. If you love someone in your life, or even just appreciate them, because they bring something special, let them know. Even if it seems trivial, or you think they won’t care, or even if they react like they don’t, they really do care. Your gestures to reach out to someone could mean the world to them, can give them the strength to carry on, and can put the biggest smile on their face. Whatever it is you choose to do, or who you choose to be there for, just always try to put aside all the busy-ness of life, and remind the people you care for why they’re important, and be the light in their world, even if just for a day.

Elliott has been attending BUMC since 2012 with his wife, Kyla. Since attending, he has worked with technology for services, as well as camera work on Easter and Christmas, while Kyla sings. He is a high school Gifted and Talented teacher at Wheat Ridge High School, and is in his 6th year of teaching. He lives in Arvada with his wife, new baby daughter and two dogs.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Judgment: An Act of Love or Condemnation?

Post by: Reid Lester

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day, I’ve been spending the week thinking about both how we love each other and how we repent from our sins. These two important days have always made me feel very different emotions. Love and bliss are the focus of Valentine’s Day, while repentance and sacrifice are the focus of Ash Wednesday. It made me wonder, is there is an intersection between love and repentance?

Whenever I think about repentance, it makes me think about judgment. I’ve always been more comfortable than most with the idea of judgment. Perhaps it’s because my job outside of church is as a professional sports official. I get paid to make hundreds of judgments every night on both actions and intentions.

Where it gets difficult for me (and I think we need to be careful) is when we judge another person’s intentions. It has been famously said that we often judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. That being said, I believe it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to repent from our sins if we don’t know about our sin. I believe the Holy Spirit brings us conviction and helps us realize that we are sinning, but I also believe the Holy Spirit speaks through spiritual leaders and those we trust to point out the areas in which we are missing the mark.

This past week I read an interesting blog about judgment vs feeling welcomed. It started off saying,

“It was decided some decades ago that no one must ever feel uncomfortable, guilty, or, worst of all, judged. They especially must not feel this way at church. Church is a place where all must be welcomed, we’re told.”

The point of the blog is that we as Christians would rather feel comfortable as we continue down the destructive path of sin, than have someone point out our sin and make us feel uncomfortable, even though that revelation would give us a chance to correct our behavior and grow in our relationship with God.

Since a big part of my job is making sure everyone feels welcome at our church, I was intrigued, and I had to read the rest of the blog. I didn’t agree with everything in the article, but it did raise some interesting questions about how we in modern society feel about judgment.

I struggled a little with how we define judgment, the motivation behind judgment, and how that correlates to our relationship with other Christians. Judgment can be defined as “to distinguish or to decide.” “The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.” We all make hundreds of judgments every day. We make judgments about what we eat, how we spend our time, what we wear, and who we listen to.

So what is the motivation behind judgment? Does judgment equal condemnation, or are we able to separate the two? I believe equating judgment with condemnation is why people have a visceral reaction to judgment. After the Gospels, the majority of the New Testament is made up of spiritual leaders offering judgment and corrective feedback to followers of Christ and their churches. Can we as Christians get over our discomfort around judgment and be able to both offer and receive judgment understanding love is the motivation.

As parents, you have to lead your children in the understanding of what is right and wrong. You must judge their behavior and give corrective feedback. This is done to make them better people as they grow up.

The new language heard in churches across the nation on Sunday mornings goes something like this… “We just want to come along side you in your own personal journey. We don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” My personal belief is this language is unproductive and destructive. The blog went on to say,

“If I'm lost and moments away from walking over a cliff, I'd much prefer that you point me in the right direction than "accompany" me over the edge and "welcome" me to my demise and see that I am "included" at the morgue. That is all very polite, I guess, but your pleasant manners won't be much help to me when I'm a pancake. And what if I'm very lost? What if I'm distracted in my wandering, and obstinate, and arrogant, and unable to hear or unwilling to listen to your gentle reminders and subtle nudges? Well, then maybe you'll have to shout. Maybe you'll have to get in my face a little. Maybe, God forbid, you'll have to cast harsh judgments on my chosen path and make me feel bad and icky inside. If that's the only way to get my attention, I should be grateful that you took such a "harsh" and "judgmental" approach.”

I believe we as Christians need to be brave. I think of it a little like when I finally got up the courage to ask RuthAnn (now my wife) out on a date. I needed courage in the moment. There was a chance it could be awkward or that I might get rejected, but the possibility of building a relationship outweighed my fear. We need that same courage when we feel led to speak out.

In the Wednesday Word of the Day Pastor Ken talked about “wilderness.” Ken spoke about being brave and having the ability to speak out. He referenced BrenĂ© Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness. In the book BrenĂ© shares a quote from another author about how difficult it can be to step out in the wilderness.

“Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives. Human approval is one of the most treasured idols, and the offering we must lay at its hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation.”

We are willing to sacrifice truth to fit in. We give up the courage in our desire to be accepted. Can you think of a time when you knew someone was making a mistake, but you were too afraid to say something? We need to follow the example of Jesus in John Chapter 8. When talking with the woman at the well and being fully aware of her sin, Jesus says “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus speaks to her from a place of love, while still addressing the fact that she needs to stop her sinful behavior.

Your willingness to say something might be what keeps someone from experiencing pain or tragedy. We need to step out of our comfort zone, step into the wilderness, and be willing to offer judgment and corrective feedback to those we care about. We need to care more about each other and our eternal salvation than about the possibility of making someone uncomfortable.

Reid Lester is the Director of Servant Ministries at Broomfield United Methodist Church. Reid’s job is to help people find ways to serve our Church and the community through our Church Ministries and our Community Partnerships. Reid and his wife RuthAnn have been attending BUMC for 2 years. When Reid isn’t at BUMC he serves as a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol. Reid also umpires Division 1 baseball for the NCAA.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Post by: Kyle Rasmussen 

Honestly, 2 weeks ago I had a completely different blog planned. I had an epic baseball-inspired reflection of faith that would have stoked discipleship (and spring fever) into all-out contagion.

God’s timing is perfect and mine is not, however. He comes along and demands a rewrite. Where I was stretching the ties of my faith to the love of baseball, He welded the core tenets of what it means to be a Christian to the events of the other week.

Most of you are probably well aware, January is Girl Scout cookie season. My daughter, Noellyn is a Brownie this year and going through her third season of cookie sales. She’s set lofty goals the past two years and even if she doesn’t meet them this year she’s blown last year’s impressive number out of the water already. When I’m walking the neighborhood with her, about 4 out of every 5 people who answer their door order cookies! Pretty sure you couldn’t sell free beer at that percentage here…

What’s mind-blowing to me is that about 80% of houses in the neighborhood also have some sort of “No Soliciting” sign on their front door. Honestly I always have this prepared speech in my head to potentially apologize to an irate home owner who challenges our literacy. I guess there’s a universal exception for Thin Mints within that mandate. Some people literally joked about their signs saying, “It should say ‘except for Girl Scouts selling cookies’ under there…”

But I wonder, behind our closed blinds and “No Soliciting” signs, how many of our neighbors are propelling themselves privately toward rock bottom? I heard an interview with journalist Sam Quinones this fall about his research into the opioid epidemic. He was amazed at how much of the root cause can be assigned to cultural issues within the US, not economic or political issues in the countries where most illegal drugs are manufactured. “We have destroyed community. We have exalted the private,” he says. We don’t even need shady drug dealers anymore, we’ve got doctors and pharmaceutical companies lining up to pass drugs legally into our hands to feed our addictions. And we drive in our $50,000 SUV to our million dollar suburban homes with perfectly manicured lawns to make it look to our neighbors like we’ve got the perfect life going; so whatever you’re selling, we’re not interested.

Jesus clearly had something to say about our neighbors and how we should think of them. Luke’s Gospel tells us that those who prefer to “cross to the other side of the road” and ignore our neighbors in need are disobeying God’s essential commandment. Jesus asks the lawyer, “Which of these three (the priest, Levite, or Samaritan), do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37 ESV)

So on a recent Monday evening, Noellyn walked up to a door a couple blocks from our house and rang the doorbell. She had already decided it was her last cookie sales pitch of the day as the sun was setting. An elderly woman (we’ll call her Mary) answered the door and was beyond delighted to have visitors. She claimed Noellyn and my wife, Jenn were the first walk-up visitors they’ve had in the 20 years they’ve lived in Centerville. Stop and let that wash over you for a minute: 20 years, no visitors at the door.

As Noellyn rolled her cookie pitch, Jenn could tell something wasn’t normal about this suburban house. Portable space heaters were being used in the living room. When Jenn asked about them, Mary disclosed that their furnace hadn’t been working for a couple weeks. Again, this is January, let that wash over you as well. They talked for the better part of 40 minutes (they were the first visitors in a long time after all) and then Jenn and Noellyn walked through the now dark evening back home.

I was working out of town and got a call from Jenn telling me about their encounter. We both pondered, “That’s really weird” but I could tell in Jenn’s voice this was moving her to action. Sure enough, the next day she called our pastor and told him about Mary. She asked if there were any programs he knew of that could help or if there was something we, as the church could do. Our church has an amazing and talented jack-of-all-trades handyman, Brian. He is usually less busy in the winter so an impromptu house call in January was no problem. Almost if scripted, Pastor Loren happened to be having lunch with Brian that day. Together, Jenn and Brian decided they would go to visit Mary in hopes that Brian could fix the furnace. Jenn perceived that Mary’s pride would try to keep them from helping, so they kept their visit unannounced.

So Wednesday they dropped in on Mary and found out that, in addition to no heat, their water had also been off for over a month. Mary’s husband had brought a plumber in to diagnose the problem, but he had left the water off and not returned. She was using any receptacle possible (bowls, empty detergent bottles) to catch the water from the still leaking pipe for use in cooking and cleaning. Let me just throw in the fact that the median household income in our city is over $82,000 and the median home value is north of $275,000. So why would anyone assume their neighbors would be living with no working heat or running water, right?

In no time, Brian had the thermostat and furnace switch fixed, and the furnace roared to life. A couple parts runs later, he had bypassed the surge tank (which was the cause of the leaks), getting the water running again. Again, I was still out of town, but knowing Brian I can only imagine that every time Mary thanked him he said, “Don’t thank me. I’m just being Jesus’s hands.” Brian invited Mary and her husband to church (offering a ride as well - Did I mention their car isn’t working right now too?)

Jenn called me later that afternoon and told me what had happened and started to fill in more details of Mary’s story. In self disclosure, I got pretty angry. Angry that in this Utah culture that espouses family, community, helping our neighbors, etc. was an elderly couple who were in dire straits lacking basic needs. “How stuck in self-righteousness do we need to be that either nobody took notice or nobody cared?” I thought to myself. “Are we so lost in our ‘doing’ that we forget what has been ‘done’ for us?”

Again, Jesus hits us head on in Matthew’s Gospel when it comes to what service looks like to our almighty King: “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25: 37-40 ESV) I fail miserably at this every day, though I’m continually trying to put my own needs on the shelf and look to others’ needs first. And I sincerely hope that someday in future (because I don’t think she gets it yet), Noellyn will realize that because she was selling cookies to pay for summer camp, she made sure an elderly couple got heat and running water back. Most importantly, she showed someone God’s love.

I think Jesus is telling us in Luke and Matthew, “Look, I know you don’t really like all your neighbors. I know you think you’re too busy and it looks like they’re probably fine. But I LOVE YOU, and I LOVE THEM, and I put YOU close to THEM to make sure they know ME.”

Kyle Rasmussen and his family currently live in Centerville, UT and attend The Bridge Community Church. He is a Quality Control Specialist with Holly Energy Partners in the greater Salt Lake City area.

Friday, February 2, 2018

What Do You Do To Grow Your Faith?

Post by: Vicki Cromarty

I am fortunate to be in a small group with some great ladies. We meet every Friday morning and study God’s Word and support and encourage each other. I’ve been with many of these ladies for several years – and I look forward to seeing all of these precious people each week. They motivate and inspire me to keep growing and to draw closer to the God who is always with us, helping and guiding us- if we just look for Him and pay attention!

We just finished a great study by Andy Stanley (a pastor in Atlanta) that is really sticking with me beyond our lessons. Each week had fairly simple concepts but brought new perspectives and thought provoking ideas about 5 things that God uses to GROW our faith. I’m still a work in progress on ALL of them, but imagine how different our outlook could be if we were absolutely confident that God is with us!

Andy begins the study by reminding us that the original break in humankind’s relationship with God happened because of a refusal to trust Him. God has been working with us on this trust issue ever since. His desire is to draw us into a relationship built around our absolute, perfect confidence in Him.

Finding that absolute perfect confidence is hard, but below are the 5 things that Andy’s church has noticed that God uses regularly to grow BIG faith, again, if we are paying attention! I’m using some of Andy’s words in the description of each of the 5 things below.

#1 Practical Teaching. Can you remember a time when for the first time you heard the Bible taught in a practical, life-impacting way? This usually begins us on a path of applying scripture to our everyday lives- families, finances, work, morality, ethics. Suddenly God comes alive and we begin to respond with action!

I remember very vividly when God came alive in new way for me. I had just started working at a church in FL, and we took a bunch of teens to a Christian music day at a Disney water park. There were Christian bands there sharing messages and their music. Geoff Moore and The Distance was a band back then (I’m dating myself here! J) and the message Geoff shared included teaching about God that hit me in a way that I’d never experienced before. I stood in that wave pool with tears running down my face and couldn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t feeling what I was. I’d like to say God took my knowledge of Him from my head to my heart that day, and a deeper relationship began. What was your moment when teaching really impacted your head and heart and moved you closer to God?

#2 Providential Relationships. As you think about your life, has there been a particular person who helped spark your interest in God? Someone God used to help make your faith bigger and stronger? Someone who has pushed you to grow in your thinking about God?

My mom was always a role model for my faith journey as I was growing up (and still is). She has counted on God and trusted Him through the good times and bad, and always gives Him the glory. My relationship with my mom gave me a foundation on my journey of understanding God. Then in my younger adult years, I was blessed with a few amazing friends who loved God with all they had, and were more mature in their faith than me. They opened my eyes to how active God is and can be in my daily life. They helped me to begin to trust God and count on Him in ways I hadn’t before. Who are these people in your life? Or do you feel you have met them yet?

#3 Private Disciplines. The word “discipline” can bring about negative feelings – it’s all about something we’re supposed to do but don’t always want to do or have time to do. But when it’s a part of your lifestyle, what begins as a discipline can later become a pleasure. Discipline brings progress and eventually results in freedom. This is especially true of disciplines that stimulate your faith journey.

If I’m honest, this is a hard one for me. I start out of the gate with great disciplines but don’t go the long haul. I get distracted by life and fail to keep up- therefore needing to start all over again. I’ve realized a few things that work for me in this busy season of life. I listen to Christian radio and am blessed by the lyrics of the songs and the stories and short messages that they share. I get a devotion as well as some other Christian encouragement in my email inbox each day. And I’m a diehard for my small group that I mentioned. I’m there almost every single time we meet. I pray that one day I will be consistent in what a favorite pastor of mine calls “chair time”. Picking a place in your house – a comfortable chair – to go to each day for 15 minutes to be with God either in prayer or reading God’s word. That is my goal. Every day! What are some of your spiritual disciplines that you’ve had success with, or some of your goals for this area?

#4 Personal Ministry. Have you ever felt God tugging at you to do something that you don’t feel equipped or qualified to do? Then when you step out in faith, you began to see your gifts and passion in service for a greater good? God wants us to stretch our faith muscles and build our trust in Him.

Thinking about doing work for God is a pretty huge thing. Are any of us really equipped to do God’s work? Have you felt that tug but are too scared to walk toward it? If God is tugging on us to do a certain thing that can help others or make a difference, it is like He is saying to us “Just bring what you have”. A good friend told me long ago that “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” What a huge relief! That is kind of like getting permission to do something you aren’t that good at yet. Where are you feeling led to serve or be in ministry, but don‘t feel qualified?

#5 Pivotal Circumstances. It happens all the time: people go through the most difficult circumstances imaginable and come out on the other side with a rock-solid, unshakable faith. People describe their stories and say they wouldn’t wish their circumstances on anyone or wouldn’t choose to go through it again, but God did something in the middle of the circumstances that they don’t think he could have done any other way. James tells us that trials are for the purpose of testing our faith, and that testing produces perseverance (James 1:2-4).

This last concept is a tough one. My small group struggled a bit with this. All of us go through rough times at some point in our lives, some more than others. When we are walking through these trials, it can be hard to understand why a loving God would allow the hardship for us. Time and time again, however, people share stories of how God drew them closer or helped them grow through their hard time. I like to have faith that God will bring something good from the hard – but how do we justify that thought when a spouse or a child dies? Often we may not ever know where God brought good until we’re in heaven one day. But even if our hard story can help us empathize and relate with someone just freshly going through the same circumstances, God can help us be a blessing to that person. And that is the good. Can you see good that has come from the hard seasons of life you have endured? Do you believe God can use your trials for future good?

I encourage you to think about these 5 concepts and ask yourself the questions above. Ultimately, what can you do to grow your faith?? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 Please share in the comments below!

Vicki Cromarty is the Director of Family Ministries 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 of 19 years, have a beautiful daughter, Lauren, who is 15 years old. Their family also includes Sadie, the Lhasa Apso, and a fairly new family member, Baylee, a chocolate lab puppy! Vicki loves spending time with her family and friends, and enjoying all that beautiful Colorado has to offer! You can contact her