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This all happened on Friday, the day of preparation, the day before the Sabbath. As evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was an honored member of the high council, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come.) Pilate couldn’t believe that Jesus was already dead, so he called for the Roman officer and asked if he had died yet. The officer confirmed that Jesus was dead, so Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where Jesus’ body was laid.
— Mark 15:42-47 NLT

When I read this passage I think about the courage it must have taken for Joseph of Arimathea to be part of this story of Jesus’ death on a cross and journey to Easter morning.

Joseph of Arimathea, who Mark described as an honored member of the high council,  had to have a tremendous amount of courage when he went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. Matthew calls him “a rich man from Arimathea who became a follower of Jesus.” (Matt. 27:57)  Luke says he was a good and righteous man and John claims he was a “secret disciple” of Jesus. He surely feared that people would know he was a follower if he went to the cross, climbed a ladder, and removed the lifeless body of the crucified King of the Jews. People might even hurl insults  at him or even try to harm him for being so compassionate toward Jesus. It was dangerous to do this because it publicly declared that he cared about Jesus but he was willing to take the risk.

Joseph of Arimathea had the courage to associate himself with the one who claimed to be the Son of God. He didn’t care about the crowd or the other religious leaders. He took a stand for Jesus, the one God sent to save the world and usher in the Kingdom of God.

It takes faith and trust to have the courage to step up and take action- its not easy. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24 and I suspect Joseph may have heard these words,“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow me.” Matt. 16:24

Like Joseph, we are called to take a stand for Jesus. We are called to take some risks and some actions that might require courage.

In the movie “We Brought a Zoo” the Dad who is played by Matt Damon- has a conversation with his teenage son who is struggling with some challenges in his teenage life and he tells him this:

“Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage- literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery - and I promise something great will come of it.”

What if those were not words from a movie- what if they were words from our Lord?

Sometimes all we need is 20 seconds of insane courage and something great could happen for the Kingdom of God.

What if we were courageous enough to invite someone to church or to offer to pray with someone who was ill?

What if we were courageous enough to strike up a faith-filled conversation with someone who doesn’t fit the category of “just like us”?

What if we were courageous enough to step -up and give to someone in need, unconditionally, or step-out of our comfort zone and lead a Bible Study or teach a class?

What other crazy risky things might God be calling us to do?

If we could be embarrassingly brave and courageous,  if we could trust God enough, I am certain something great will come of it!

Easter is coming.

The Songs We Sing

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"


My husband has a wonderful coping technique for dealing with the stress of busy airports. When he deplanes, he puts in his earphones and listens to Mercy Me songs. He does this to remind himself that everyone he encounters in the airport, whether  on his way to the next connection or baggage claim, is a child of God. While I find his deliberate approach to eliminating the frustration of dealing with crowds funny, it seems to work really well.

These next few weeks will be filled with traffic jams, long check out lines, frustrated customers and employees, tired children, and even more exhausted parents. I wonder if we could take the songs we love to sing at Christmas and let them resonate in our ears as we encounter the stress of this busy time of year? If we truly want to focus on the “reason for the season,” wouldn’t it be awesome to hear- “Hark the harold angels sing, glory to the new born King. Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinner reconciled.” 

What a comfort there is in knowing that peace and mercy were wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a manger. What calm there is in hearing that you and I are reconciled to the One who is love and calls us to love those all around us. 

Be encouraged this week by the wonderful words in the songs we sing and hear! May they be words that eliminate the frustrations and bring you peace.

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Pre-Existing Condition

As the country currently debates the Affordable Care Act and its possible replacement, the American Health Care Act, a major point of contention centers around what to do for people with preexisting health conditions. Should they be covered? Should they not be covered? Should they be covered but charged a higher premium? These questions are being debated and discussed, but Congress can’t seem to find any consensus regarding their answers.

There is a bigger issue here, though, that affects every single one of us. The truth is we all have a preexisting condition: Sin. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, all of humanity must deal with sin and death. As a part of our Articles of Religion, here’s what we as United Methodists believe about original sin:

We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.
— Article VII, “The Confession of Faith of the Evangelical United Brethren Church,” Par. 104, The Book of Discipline

In other words, although we are created by God in his image and loved by God, we all have, as Charles Wesley puts it in his powerful hymn, Love Divine, all Loves Excelling, a “Bent to sinning.” We all struggle with our human nature (see Galatians 5 for a good description of this struggle). We all need the grace of Jesus Christ in our lives, the salvation that removes the power and stranglehold that sin and death has over us. Once we turn our hearts over to God and invite Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives, we are set free to be the people God desires us to be and live the life that God desires us to live. It doesn’t mean we will never sin again, but it means sin’s power over us is gone as we repent, receive forgiveness, and are restored to discipleship.

As disciples of Christ who are called to be, “the extension and embodiment of Christ’s ministry here on earth” (Thomas Oden), it would serve us well to use the lens of the Gospels to explore the current healthcare debate and every other issue. It is certainly worth asking, “How did Jesus live his life and relate to those who needed care, those who were living lives of sin, those who were searching for more, those who were wealthy, those who were poor, etc.? How can I be an extension of and an embodiment of his ministry in my daily life?” As we come to know Jesus more intimately, we will be able to answer these questions more fully have a deeper impact in the world around us.

God offers universal coverage of the preexisting condition of sin through the person of Jesus Christ. There are well over 200 million Christians in the United States; think of all that could happen, all the ways God’s Kingdom could come here on earth as it is in heaven, if we could live like Jesus and love like Jesus. I can’t speak for the other 199,999,999, but today this one is going to give it a shot.


This past Sunday I preached on generosity as a part of our “The Road to Character” series. Each week we’re focusing on someone in Biblical history as well as someone in modern history with a particular virtue that moves us further down the road. For Generosity, we looked at Barnabus from the Book of Acts and Warrick Dunn, an ex-NLF player who has helped hundreds of single-parent families become first-time home owners (you can watch the sermon here if you missed it, along with the first sermon in the series on Faithfulness – scroll down to “Archived Services”).

Stephen King

Stephen King

In preparing for sermons, there is always stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor, material that is applicable but doesn’t make it into the sermon for one reason or another. For this particular sermon, a speech I found by author Stephen King fits that description. Although not a Christian, King identifies himself as someone who believes in God, and he has some strong words about why giving away resources is so important. Here’s part of what he had to say in a commencement speech at Vassar College in 2001:

A couple of years ago I found out what “You can’t take it with you” means. I found out while I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road, covered with mud and blood and with the tibia of my right leg poking out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you’re lying in a ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.

...We come in naked and broke. We may be dressed when we go out, but we’re just as broke. Warren Buffet? Going to go out broke. Bill Gates? Going out broke. Tom Hanks? Going out broke. Steve King? Broke. Not a crying dime. All the money you earn, all the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade—all of that is mostly smoke and mirrors. It’s still going to be a quarter-past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex....So I want you to consider making your life one long gift to others. And why not? All you have is on loan, anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on....

Imagine a nice little backyard, surrounded by a board fence. Dad—a pleasant fellow, a little plump—is tending the barbecue. Mom and the kids are setting the picnic table: fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad, a chocolate cake for dessert. And standing around the fence, looking in, are emaciated men and women, starving children. They are silent. They only watch. That family at the picnic is us; that backyard is America, and those hungry people on the other side of the fence, watching us sit down to eat, include far too much of the rest of the world: Asia and the subcontinent; countries in Central Europe, where people live on the edge from one harvest to the next; South America, where they’re burning down the rain forests; and most of all, Africa, where AIDS is pandemic and starvation is a fact of life.

It’s not a pretty picture, but we have the power to help, the power to change. And why should we refuse? Because we’re going to take it with us? Please. Giving isn’t about the receiver or the gift but the giver. It’s for the giver. One doesn’t open one’s wallet to improve the world, although it’s nice when that happens; one does it to improve one’s self....A life of giving—not just money, but time and spirit—repays. It helps us remember that we may be going out broke, but right now we’re doing O.K. Right now we have the power to do great good for others and for ourselves. So I ask you to begin giving, and to continue as you begin. I think you’ll find in the end that you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you ever dreamed.

Wow. That reads like a sermon. All you have is on loan…We have the power to help…Giving isn’t about the receiver but the giver…You’ll find you got far more than you ever had. It’s interesting that this perspective comes from one who isn’t a follower of Jesus, doesn’t have Christ as Lord of his life, and yet understands well the value of giving and generosity. In fact, in some ways he is further along in his understanding than many Christians.

We have an additional reason to give – a Kingdom reason. Our giving allows us to place our trust not in our stuff but in our Savior, to let go and have faith that God will honor our obedience and our heart for others. When we give, we are revealing a God who gives, a God who cares, a God who loves. We have an opportunity to make a Kingdom difference and have an eternal impact on our world through our resources, all the while learning how to let go and lean on God. As Paul says...

You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure, for God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need…Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.
— 2 Corinthians 9

May we live this kind of life as we seek to love God’s people and make a difference in God’s world. See you on Sunday as we take another step on the Road to Character, the step of Integrity.

Staff Parish Relations Announcement

Dear Central Family,

One week ago it was announced that Carness will be moving at the end of June. He has been appointed by Bishop Gary Mueller to serve as the Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Little Rock. In the United Methodist Church, ordained elders work under an appointment system, serving one-year appointments; for the last nine years Carness had been re-appointed to Central. However, your SPR Committee knew that at some point this day would come, the day when the Annual Conference needed Carness’ gifts in another congregation.

Now that this time has come, we turn our thoughts to what the transition will look like here at Central. Carness’ last Sunday with us will be June 25th, and you will be hearing more in the coming weeks on how we will celebrate his ministry here. That means our new pastor will begin at Central in early July. Last night we heard the details about who that pastor will be.

We are so excited to announce that the Bishop is appointing Rev. Jim Lenderman to be our next Senior Pastor. Jim comes to us from Asbury United Methodist in Tulsa where he has been serving as the Senior Associate Pastor on their Executive Leadership Team. Asbury is the largest UM Church in Oklahoma, with almost 8,000 members and 2,600 in weekly worship attendance. Jim is a native of Arkansas, however, and a member of the Arkansas Annual Conference. He has served numerous appointments here, including most recently as the Senior Pastor of Grace United Methodist in Conway, Arkansas, a multi-staff church that was averaging over 500 in worship when he left. 

Jim has a passion for preaching and worship, teaching and discipleship, and generosity and stewardship. He is excited about walking with all of you on your journey of experiencing who God is in your lives and who you are in Jesus Christ. As he shared with our SPR Committee, he is passionate about “helping people actively engage with what God is doing around them by discovering what God is calling them to do and turning them loose to do it.”

Jim and his family are thrilled about coming to Central. His family includes his wife Beth, and their two sons Hayden (23) and Jordan (19). They all love Razorback sports, with all four having attended or currently attending the U of A. Hayden is an intern at the UA Wesley Foundation and actually led worship this past Sunday at our 9:00 service.  Jim and Beth have been personal friends of Carness and Ashley for almost 25 years, so we are excited that the transition will be a smooth one.

Please be in prayer for Carness and his family, for Jim and his family, for our staff, and for all the Central family during this time of transition. I would encourage you to reach out to Jim with a word of welcome to Central. His email address is, his facebook profile is and his twitter account is @jim_lenderman. 

God Bless,

Mark Secker, Chair SPR 

Praying without Ceasing

The candles were lined up in perfect rows.  The red glow emanating from some of them meant that they had already received the name of someone who was now being prayed for.  A few of the glass votives contained candles that were burned completely out and needed to be replaced.

That's what happened when you lit a prayer candle in my childhood church. It burned until the candle burned completely out. If you wanted to have your prayers carried to heaven on a flame in a glass red votive, you lit a brand new candle and let it burn until it couldn't burn anymore. When I was a child it was considered a right of passage to be old enough to light a candle for yourself- there was, after all, a flaming stick involved. But the right to pray belonged to everyone- whether you were flame-worthy or not.

I have always loved to pray. From the time I was very little I would pray child prayers - the ones that start with Dear God and end with I love you. When I was a little older, I would write prayers for special events as if they were greeting cards tucked away to to be opened for a celebration. When I was older still, I would  spend my time talking to God as if he was in the room -but only when no one was around so I didn't appear crazy! I preferred, even relished in, this non-stop conversation model of prayer. As a teenager, time alone with God in prayer saved me.

As I have matured, my prayer life has matured too. Time in prayer is not simply about me and what I need from God. Its also about God and what he desires for and from me. In his book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller suggests that "prayer, in its fullest sense, is continuing a conversation that God has started through his word and his grace which eventually becomes a full encounter with him."

As I think back to why and how prayer has carried me throughout my life, I realize that Scripture was, and is, the way my prayers connect me to the Holy One.  In this praying relationship, the Word creates a deep knowledge and understanding of the One who listens, comforts, guides, and forgives. Scripture helps me know how to pray and what to expect from the one who answers those prayers. 

When I feel alone, praying reminds me I am not alone.  

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD yourGod goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  -Deuteronomy 31:6

When I am afraid, praying reminds me I can make it through.

“The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The LORD is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.”  -Psalm 118:6-7

When I am confused, outward conversations with God allows me to talk myself into some kind of ordered understanding.

“Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”  -Proverbs 2:9-11

When I am hurting, someone is close by who understands my pain and catches my tears.

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.”  -Job 36:15

When I am anxious, I have someone I can rely on to be my worry partner. (I know God isn't anxious for anything, but there is always reassurance in having someone with me on the worry train.)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 4:6-7

When things happened that made me wonder why- or how- the world could work in such a way- I am comforted by knowing that God had an answer even if I didn't.

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."  -Isaiah 55:8

There are many ways to pray, many kinds of prayers, and many postures of prayer, but knowing and trusting God and leaning into His grace and goodness is where I meet Him.  I pray without ceasing and encourage you to also.  In prayer, His light will shine with the unceasing glow of a burning votive candle into your heart, reassuring you that the darkness will not overcome it.

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

Congratulations on becoming the 45th President of the United States. Thank you for your willingness to take on the difficult job of leading our nation. On this historic day when you will take the oath of office and begin your presidency, I want you to know I am praying for you and your family. I do so because I am a Christian, and it is clear in Scripture that all Christians should pray for their leaders. The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, writes these words:

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Every American, whether they voted for you, for Hillary Clinton, or any other of the candidates, wants the best for our nation, and ultimately we are all in this together. As President Obama said just after the election, “We are now all rooting for Mr. Trump’s success in uniting and leading the country…We have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first, we're not Republicans first. We're Americans. We're patriots first. We all want what's best for this country…That's what the country needs: a sense of unity, a sense of inclusion, a respect for our institutions, a respect for our way of life, rule of law and a respect for each other." I will be praying for you, for Vice-President Pence, and for all our leaders in Congress as you all seek a way forward for this wonderful nation in which we live.

To guide me in my prayer life, I often turn to the writings of Rev. Peter Marshall. Rev. Marshall served as Chaplain of the U.S. Senate from 1947-1949, and his prayers have been a source of hope and inspiration to me for many years. On this day I am reminded of his “Prayer for America.” Here’s a portion of it: “Our Father, you did bless America. You have made her rich. Will you also make her good? Make us, the citizens of this land, want to do the right things. Make us long to have right attitudes. Make us willing to seek moral objectives together, that in united action this nation may be as resolute for righteousness and peace as she has been for war...Bless this land that we love so much, our Father, and help her to deposit her trust, not in armies and navies, in wealth and material resources, or in achievements of the human mind, but in that righteousness which alone exalts any nation, and by which alone peace can finally come to us.”

Mr. President, as you seek to lead us in “Making America Great Again,” I do hope you will consider what “great” looks like for our nation. As this prayer reminds us, we are great when we are good. We are great when we seek to serve instead of being served; we are great when we fight for justice instead of fighting for position; we are great when we work hard to love all and want the best for all instead of working hard for only some and leaving some behind; we are great when we look out for those who are the most vulnerable in our society instead of looking out only for those who can do something for us in return; we are great when we value life, every life at every stage, instead of choosing value based on race or nationality or ability or socioeconomic status.

As a Christian, I believe that this way of living is personified in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When thinking about “greatness,” Jesus has some instruction for all of us in Mark 9:33-37:

After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”

To be great in the eyes of Jesus is to be a servant. To be great is to welcome those and love those who have nothing to offer, have no power or influence, and who can give nothing in return. In my humble opinion, Mr. President, that is how we make America great, it’s how we make the world great, and it’s how God’s Kingdom will come here on earth as it is in heaven.

Thank you again for your willingness to serve our nation as its 45th President. May God lead you as you lead us.

Together on the Journey,


The Day After

(This is a little longer than usual, but please stay with me – I promise there’s a point!)

Cream or cookie? When you’re eating an Oreo, which part is your favorite? One of their commercials illustrates this dilemma perfectly:


This highlights, in an albeit hyperbolic way, how people can take one rule (like no talking in the library) and make it the most important thing, at the expense of all others. It’s a humorous look at the length we will sometimes go in following the rules.

Jesus understood this humor. He, in fact, used it himself in the Gospel of Matthew. As he is addressing the Pharisees, he tells them this:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
— Matthew 22:23-24

I have always appreciated Jesus’ sense of humor here. It’s more of an “Ooh” moment than a “Ha ha” moment, one of those comments that’s funny but hits a little too close to home. Jesus is pointing out to the Pharisees how misplaced their righteousness is. They are extremely concerned with following every letter of the law, part of which included tithing your crops (“One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.” Lev. 27:30). However, garden herbs such as mint, dill or cumin would not be grown in any real quantity; Biblical commentator William Barclay notes, “Only those who were superlatively meticulous would tithe the single plants of the kitchen garden.” And yet, this is what the Pharisees were focused on. Meanwhile, the important parts of the law, the major tenets such as justice, mercy, and faith, were getting neglected. This is where the humor comes in. Jesus compares what they are doing here to straining out a gnat but swallowing a camel. Both of these were unclean to eat in the eyes of the law, so Jesus is showing the absurdity of going to such great lengths to make sure a gnat doesn’t end up in your water but totally missing a camel floating around in there!

The election is finally over, and some of you are excited, some of you are disappointed, and some of you are just relieved that you don’t have to see another political commercial. On this “Day After,” my question for us is, “Now what? How are we going to make sure there are no camels floating in our water?” As Kingdom people called to make a Kingdom difference, how do we create an environment where the Kingdom of Heaven is ushered in? How do we make sure we’re not so focused on the little things that we fail to see the big things? The prophet Isaiah dealt with this in Chapter 58. Here’s what God says to the people of Israel:

My people Israel act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ I will tell you why! It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
— Isaiah 58

In other words, living out the Kingdom here on earth every day is far more important than fasting for fasting’s sake or tithing the very smallest of herbs. Those things tend to be our way of trying to get in God’s good book and win his favor. It’s simply checking the boxes and waiting on the blessing. “I’ve done all that you’ve required of me, God. Aren’t you impressed?”

Here’s the Deal: Whether it’s the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament or Jesus in the New Testament, the message for us is the same: We honor and please God as we love like he loves, as we actively pursue justice and righteousness, fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, show mercy and compassion to those in need, and shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of people’s lives so they might find salvation and healing. Today when we woke up, our nation had elected a new President, but Jesus remains our King, and he is still calling us to live as Kingdom people. For us to live like this, for us to usher in this Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven, it matters not who is in the White House, who has the majority in Congress, or who makes up the Supreme Court. All that matters is what we do as Jesus’ disciples. As Jesus is in the Upper Room near the end of his life, he gives one last directive:

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.”

Good enough for me, I think I’ll start there. How about you?

Give Freely

Famous racecar driver Mario Andretti once said, “If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough.” I’ve been thinking about this quote as Covenant Sunday approaches here at Central, specifically as it relates to making a financial pledge to the church. There have been times that I have been guilty of giving financially to the church only what is comfortable, what keeps me in control and doesn’t push me outside my comfort zone. It’s mostly due to fear and a lack of trust that God will provide. I tend to forget that I have never been able to out-give God; every time I have taken a step forward in my giving, he has honored that step of faith.

In Hebrews 11:1, we are reminded that, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” Tithing to God through the local church, or working toward a tithe, certainly takes faith. We may not initially see how God will provide, but we know that a faithful disciple is one who acknowledges that, as James tells us, “Every gift comes down from God above.” The Psalmist reminds us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” To be a follower of Jesus is to give one’s life for the Kingdom – to give time, talent, and treasure so that others will come to know the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Here at Central our budget includes opportunities for all of this to happen. As you give to our operating budget, your giving helps us Worship Fully, Grow Deeply, Give Freely, Share Passionately, and Love Unconditionally. You are having an impact both locally and globally in sharing the Gospel message, and you are taking a step forward in your faith by placing your trust in the God who provides.

On a national level, the average United Methodist gives just 2% of their income to the church. If that’s where you currently are, I realize that a tithe (10%) is too big of a step for most. But what about taking one small step toward a tithe and giving 3%? For a family making $100,000 that means going from giving $2,000 a year to the church to giving $3,000 a year to the church. For a family making $50,000 it means going from $1,000 to $1,500 a year. If you’re not currently giving anything, why not take an initial step of faith and start your journey of discipleship in 2017? If you were willing to give even $20 a week, that would be just over $1,000 over the course of the year!

I want to encourage you to consider coming alongside us on this journey. Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. You must each decide in your heart how much to give…God will generously provide all you need.” May you take a step of faith in your giving in 2017, even if it means you feel a little out of control!

Worship Fully

We are now less than a week from Election Day. This Sunday Nov. 6th I am encouraging everyone to wear purple to church as a symbol of our allegiance not to a political party or platform or candidate but to Christ our King. In the Bible, purple was associated with royalty; kings wore purple robes, as purple dye from mollusks was expensive to obtain and produce and thus reserved for only the highest of society. In John we read how after the Roman soldiers flogged Jesus they put a crown of thorns and a purple robe on him, mocking him as “King of the Jews.” And yet, they were actually more right than they ever realized. Jesus did come as King, but his Kingdom was not geographical but eternal; his Kingdom was not political but spiritual. Jesus came to rule over our hearts and lives, and his call on us is to know him as Savior and Lord.

If we belong to him, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven and ought to live as such. Paul says we are Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador is one who represents their homeland while living in another country. That’s who we are as Christians; we represent Christ while we are here on earth, and every moment of every day should be lived with him in mind. Every conversation, every decision, every action, may I say even every vote, happens through the lens of Christ and his call to love God and love neighbor. So whether you plan to vote red, blue, or whatever color is represented by third parties, may you do so with a purple mind and a Christ-centered heart.