Feeding with 5,000 (pounds, that is)

Emergency food drive for Tri-Lakes Cares and victims of the Black Forest Fire

Food DriveWell, it’s already the Labor Day weekend. Hard to believe that summer has gone by so fast, even though we’ve had our challenges during this season with fires and floods. As we move toward autumn, we continue to remember those who have been affected by this summer’s disasters and pray for new hope as a new season unfolds. One of the ways we can continue to help is by keeping the food pantry shelves at Tri-Lakes Cares full. Right now, TLC has some extreme shortages on food staples, which is why this Sunday we’re beginning another emergency food drive for TLC during the month of September. I’d like to challenge Tri-Lakes UMC to donate 5,000 pounds of food–or to use a more biblically recognizable goal, we’ll call it “Feeding with 5,000” (pounds, that is). Download this pdf list of TLC Food Needs and take it with you when you go for groceries this week.

You can bring the items with you to Tri-Lakes UMC or drop them off at Tri-Lakes Cares, just use our church name (Tri-Lakes UMC) so that we can track how much we’re giving. You can also make a monetary donation by writing “TLC” in the memo line of your check and dropping it in the offering plate this week, or donate online here using the “Specially Designated” fund line and put “TLC” in the Comment section. I also invite my out of town readers to consider donating online so that you can participate in this important work.Let’s make this a great outpouring of love for our neighbors who continue to struggle after a great tragedy.

Living the Cliffhanger

The end of the Book of Acts is a cliffhanger, leaving us wondering, “What happens next?” 

Acts 28:16-31

Well school has started, and many of our kids are heading back to the classroom. I’ve been talking with some parents who have also just sent their first child off to college, something we’ll be doing next year. It’s an anxious and exciting time, hoping and praying that our kids make good choices and have a great experience full of learning and hope for the future.

At the same time, we know that college has a lot of temptations. Many of us have some memories of our college years that we regret (I can see some of you wincing right now). Well, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to confess to you one of my guilty pleasures during those years in the early 80s—a stigma that I have carried my whole adult life. Here it is: I watched soap operas every day.

GuidingLightThat’s right, every day at 3:00pm, I sat in the common room of the dorm or the living room of my apartment and watched “The Guiding Light.” I wasn’t alone, either, my roommates were there, too—all Army ROTC guys, often in uniform. I don’t know why we needed to know what was going on in fictional Springfield every day to the Spaulding and Bauer families and people named Reva and Coop and Harley Davidson Cooper. We all knew it was wrong and out of character for a bunch of tough, aspiring infantrymen, but we couldn’t help ourselves. We needed to know, every day, whose baby that was, who was going to come back from the dead, who was cheating on whom (see how I did that grammatically? At least we went to English class). It was addicting. We saw a young Kevin Bacon on that show, who would wind up being in every show, ever. We especially didn’t want to miss Fridays and Mondays, because every Friday ended in a cliffhanger—with screeching tires, or someone walking into a room with that shocked soap opera look on their faces, or the doctor saying, “I have the results of the paternity test…” You had to watch on Monday in order to see what happened. I’m ashamed to admit it, but it was riveting television (well, at least to a bunch of bored and dateless college guys!).

Continue reading →

The Blueprint for Discipleship at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church

Discipleship ProcessA lot of my clergy colleagues have been asking for an outline of the disciple-making process we are using at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church and I thought I’d pass along a description for those who are interested in seeing how it works. We’re seeing great success with this process as about 130 people from our congregation have gone through the process in the first year of its inception. With our average weekly attendance around 370, that represents more than a third of the congregation who have been through the first round of courses, including potential new members. We thought we’d reach that number in three years, so it’s clear that people are responding to an intentional process of making disciples that closely models our Wesleyan “operating system” (a phrase used by one of our lay members to describe how we do things around here).

The basic premise of the process is that disciples are not made by accident or osmosis. We want to build followers of Jesus Christ who love and serve God and neighbor ,who (to use Wesley’s terms) live out “holiness of heart and life,” and who “spread Scriptural holiness” across our neighborhoods.

Continue reading →

Testifying to Hope: Resurrection and the Defeat of Death

The “first importance” of Christian faith is hope in the resurrection of the dead.

Acts 23:1-11

1-Corinthians-15-3-webWe’ve been at this series in the Book of Acts for a whole summer now, and by now I hope you’ve begun to see some common threads about being the church. We’ve talked about the community of the church, sacraments, evangelism, stewardship, idolatry, and a host of other themes during our time together. But if you were to boil down the whole message of the book of Acts, what would it be? What would be the thesis statement of Luke’s great story of the early church?

Well, you could certainly argue that the work of the Holy Spirit is a major theme. The Spirit is present and at work throughout. One commentator even says that the book shouldn’t be called the Acts of the Apostles but rather the Acts of the Holy Spirit. That would be a solid thesis.

Maybe the thesis would be about missionary work, because that’s what’s happening throughout. Maybe it’s about church life. Those are good essential themes as well.

Continue reading →

Challenging Our Idols

Before you can hear the gospel, your idols need to be challenged.

Acts 19:23-41

Artemis of the Ephesians

Artemis of the Ephesians

One of the things you might notice as you read through the Book of Acts is that Paul, in his preaching, is always challenging the idols of a particular town or culture. In Acts 14, the people of Lystra think Paul and Barnabas are the human form of the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes because they healed a crippled man. In Acts 16, Paul confronts a slave girl with a evil spirit who practiced fortune-telling, a idolatrous pagan practice, and a lot of money for her owners. Paul and Barnabas get thrown in prison for challenging Roman practices of divination. In Acts 17, which Joe preached on last week, we see Paul in Athens confronting the idols of Greco-Roman gods that filled the city, pointing to the one idol of “an unknown god” and proclaiming that there was really only one God who does not live in temples made by human hands.

Then we have today’s text here in Acts 19, where Paul is in Ephesus—one of the major cities of the Roman world, and once again Paul confronts the worship of an idol—in this case the goddess Artemis and the business that surrounds her worship.

I had a chance to go to Ephesus in 2009, and of all the ancient sites I’ve visited I find it to be the most interesting and most representative of the world in which Paul preached.

Ephesus was a center of culture and commerce in Asia Minor, and the economy of the city was largely centered on the worship of Artemis, also known as Diana in the Greek pantheon.

The Greek version of Artemis portrayed her as a huntress, while the Romanized goddess was the patron goddess of fertility and money. Notice the contrast between the statues. The Roman version portrays Artemis with the fertility symbol of many breasts (or eggs, or fruits, depending on which interpreter you read). Worship of Artemis was designed to insure that the city would be prosperous.

Continue reading →