Lenten Lunch Worship

For the past several years, we have partnered with our cluster churches during the season of Lent for a lunch worship series.  We will do the same this year, as we gather at 12:00 noon each of the next 5 Wednesdays at Garden Memorial Presbyterian Church (2324 Sam Wilson Rd.).  Our worship services are 30 minutes in length, followed by a time of lunch and fellowship.  We keep our worship time brief so that folks can get back to work in an hour or so.  Though our worship isn’t long, we hope this time helps us grow in our commitment to keep a holy Lent.

This year’s Lenten Lunch Series theme is “Experiencing God Through Prayer.” Each of our times of worship will explore different methods of prayer; some of which are ancient, though may be new to us.  Here is a quick glimpse:
March 8 – Group Prayer
March 15 – Prayer through Music
March 22 – Testimonial Prayer
March 29 – Lectio Divina
April 5 – Walking the Prayer Labyrinth
I hope to see you the next 5 Wednesdays (beginning tomorrow).  God bless you!
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“Theology on Tap” – April 6

Our Theology on Tap group continues to have warm and enlightening discussions each month, and we’d love for you to join us.  Our next gathering will be Thursday, April 6th at 6:00 pm at Heirloom restaurant.  Our conversation in April will center around the new book entitled Why I Left, Why I Stayed, co-authored by Tony and Bart Campolo.  This book explores the relationship between a father (Tony, a well-known leader and speaker in the Christian community), and his son (Bart, who decided as an adult to leave the Christian faith). The book is a conversation between the two, modeling how people of differing perspectives can learn to love one another despite their opposing world views.  In our ever-growing divisive culture, we hope this honest book might help us bridge gaps and tear down walls between the ways we communicate with one another.  We hope you can join us on April 6th!  God bless you all.
Jim
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Spiritual Gifts: Faith & Knowledge

faithThe great Christian leader, theologian, and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) once wrote that the task of theology is best defined as “faith seeking understanding.” Anselm wrote: “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but believe that I might understand. For this too I believe since, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” Anselm possessed a brilliant intellect. But he felt strongly that his knowledge was incomplete, and even misguided, without a foundation in God. Were Anselm to have had access to a spiritual gifts assessment nearly 1000 years ago, I suspect he may have discovered that he possessed both the gifts of “knowledge” and “faith.”

Just as “science” and “religion” are often (and mistakenly) pitted against one another as enemies, unfortunately so too are knowledge and faith. But we can plainly see the absurdity of doing this, as both faith and knowledge are spiritual gifts from God. Those who possess the gift of knowledge have the wonderful ability to learn in a variety of ways, retaining what they learn, and understanding how their learning can be applied in meaningful and productive ways. When you are spiritually-gifted with knowledge, you have an insatiable desire to learn and grow in your understanding of issues most important to you.

The spiritual gift of faith is much more than simple belief in Jesus Christ. Those gifted with faith live in the confidence that, as Paul writes, “all things work together for good for those who love God,” and that nothing in the world – no matter how difficult or challenging – will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8). Whether or not we possess the spiritual gift of faith personally, it would behoove us all to surround ourselves with as many “faith-filled” people as we can. In good and tough times, it’s these folks we want to have close by.

Faith and knowledge work best in tandem: one without the other usually ends in disaster. Knowledge without faith ends in atheism, and the belief that human beings can find ultimate knowledge and meaning in life through our own intellectual pursuits. Faith without knowledge results in minds being closed to the possibilities of enlightenment and education surrounding us. This is why we hold on to the words of thoughtful and faithful Christians like Anselm, who remind us of the importance of both knowledge and faith. But, just as a tandem bicycle has one rider in front and another in back, so too does the life of a follower of Jesus. We lead with faith: “faith seeking understanding.”

Jim

PS – Thanks to you all for being part of my Spiritual Gifts emails. This concludes the series. If you have yet to take part in the spiritual gifts assessment, it’s not too late. Just click here: Spiritual Gifts Assessment Test. After completing the test, please forward your results to gifts@xumc.org

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Spiritual Gifts: Evangelism

EvangelismThere are few words in Christianity that make us more uncomfortable than “evangelism.” For some, the word might conjure up images of hypocritical TV “evangelists” who have partaken in any number of illicit and immoral activities. Or when we hear “evangelism,” we may remember times when we were asked by church leaders to canvass neighborhoods, knocking on doors and inviting people to church. Or perhaps we think of the times when our own doorbell has been rung on early Saturday mornings by those trying to “evangelize” us into believing their own brand of religion. It’s without a doubt that “evangelism” can be something of a dirty word in many Christian circles. The thought of it makes many of us uncomfortable, so we simply choose to ignore it altogether.

But here’s what we know. Many people have the gift of evangelism given to them by God. And what we may often think of as “evangelism” probably isn’t at all what this spiritual gift is about. Those who possess the gift of evangelism have a unique ability to share their faith in Christ with others. Being a gifted “evangelist” does not necessarily mean that one must stand in front of large groups to preach the message of Christ. In fact, the most effective evangelism is most always achieved in one-on-one and small group relationships: and the key word there is “relationships.” Gifted evangelists never force their faith upon others, but focus upon building relationships with people in order to tell the story of Christ in their own lives; with the ultimate goal of leading their friends to make a decision for Christ themselves. In other words, an evangelist is really just a good friend; one who listens and cares about the well-being of others – but is also keenly aware of the opportunities to share their love of God.

It’s unfortunate that “evangelism” has a bad reputation among many Christians. Indeed, studies consistently show that Christians believe “evangelism” to be their least-prominent spiritual gift. However, other research also shows that the reason we feel this way is simply because we have talked ourselves into believing that we’re not good at it. This is what I believe: once we understand what “evangelism” truly is, we won’t be so afraid of it. Evangelism shouldn’t be understood simply as knocking on doors or asking strangers if they’re saved. Evangelism, rightly understood, is about building relationships with others (which often takes a long time), in order to bring Christ’s love to them. Do you have this spiritual gift?

Jim

To take a brief spiritual gifts survey, click here: Spiritual Gifts Assessment Test. After completing the test, please forward your results to gifts@xumc.org

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Spiritual Gifts: Compassion & Helping

iwo jimaToday is Veterans Day. Most of you reading this probably know someone who has served in the armed forces. And everyone reading this owes a debt of gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much that we may have our freedoms. As we pause today to remember, honor, and give thanks to our nation’s veterans, I am also grateful for the spiritual gifts that God poured upon them. I suppose many veterans would cite “love of country” as a primary reason for their entering the military; which, of course, is true. However, something predated and even overpowers their love of country: the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit.

I suspect that many of our veterans possess the gifts of “compassion” and/or “helping.” The spiritual gift of compassion moves people to action on behalf of those in need. When you have this gift, your care for others is radical, in that you will make real sacrifices for them. A spiritually-gifted compassionate individual doesn’t just care about others, they see the face of Jesus in the other; and spring into action to do whatever it takes to provide for their needs. Paul says that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12: 15) Compassionate people identify with this passage, as they instinctively take on the feelings of others. They are almost always the kindest and most sensitive folks you will meet.

Those with the spiritual gift of “helping” are often compassionate people themselves; but may exercise their gifts in different ways. “Helpers” tend to be individuals who are filled with humility and grace, content to work behind the scenes in supporting roles in order to make a larger group more cohesive and effective. Not all are spiritually-gifted to lead, but many more are gifted to play less glamorous (but absolutely essential) roles for the good of the body. These roles are so often filled by those with the spiritual gift of helping. And while the “compassionately-gifted” will often need to be built up and encouraged for the work they do, the “helper” is typically less interested in being recognized for his or her work. Their primary objective is to contribute valuable work that is helpful to the greater community.

When I look at the veterans I know, I see many compassionate helpers among them; and much more. We give thanks today for our veterans. And most especially, we give thanks to God for every good gift bestowed upon us.

Jim

To take a brief spiritual gifts survey, click here: Spiritual Gifts Assessment Test. After completing the test, please forward your results to gifts@xumc.org

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