Christian Perfection

For those of you that have been following along, I have been writing about God’s grace. As a lifelong United Methodist, I have been shaped by John Wesley’s (founder of Methodism) understanding of grace. This grace starts with Prevenient Grace (God always calling to us), Justification or Justifying Grace (where we acknowledge that Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection meant something for us personally), and Sanctification (the idea of working towards Christian perfection – the disco of grace!). So, if sanctification works towards perfection, then that last step is perfection. But that leaves us with a question. If no one is perfect, then how on Earth can we make it to Christian Perfection?

Well, let’s clear something up first. Wesley’s idea of Christian Perfection is NOT about being perfect. Ret. Bishop William H. Wiliomon reminds us that it’s more about being “mature” in our faith and how we follow Jesus Christ.[1]  Second, as I said before, we work toward perfection. Wesley believed that we could attain it in our lifetime. However, it works like this: I get it! I understand, Jesus! YAY!. .  and then I breathe, and the moment is over. But I don’t give up. I keep working towards it. Remember, it’s not a straight-up process to perfection. It’s an up-and-down disco of grace!

Amid all these marvelous theological meanderings, I pray that we don’t miss the forest for the trees. (Get It?!? Meandering through the forest and trees!!!!! I’ll show myself out.)  Even if none of this makes sense, I hope you understand one thing about God’s love and grace. It is for everyone. And everyone means everyone. This Sunday, as we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent, I pray that you find the hope and peace of Christ all around you.

I hope to see you on Sunday!

-rev. mik


[1] https://www.umc.org/en/content/what-did-john-wesley-mean-by-moving-on-to-perfection

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Charge Conference

Tonight (11/10)  is our local charge conference (church conference) at Chapman United Methodist Church. It’s the annual meeting of the church to vote on some basic things for the following year.

Here’s the official definition from UMC.org

“The charge conference is the basic governing body of each United Methodist local church and is composed of all members of the church council. All members of the charge conference must be members of the local church. The charge conference must meet at least once per year. The charge conference directs the work of the church and gives general oversight to the church council, reviews and evaluates the mission and ministry of the church, sets salaries for the pastor and staff, elects the members of the church council, and recommends candidates for ordained ministry.”

https://www.umc.org/en/content/glossary-charge-conference

Let’s break this down.

In a typical year, churches vote on the pastor’s compensation package, the nomination’s report (who will serve on committees), to continue to bless people as they continue along their ministry path (certified speaker, certified lay speaker, starting the deacon or elder track, report of retired clergy, etc.) and if people are being taken off the membership rolls. We also look at some goals for the upcoming year. Usually, there are snacks and fellowship too. (Hey, were are Good United Methodists, and this year we have pie!!!)  This year we stay pretty typical with the report on nominations, goals, and the pastor’s compensation.

A couple of people have asked why we do this. Excellent question! One reason is that this is our polity – how we run our churches. We have this yearly meeting where members can vote on things. Because once this is voted on, the committees are responsible for making decisions about the church. The trustees take care of the building and the resources of the church. The Staff Parish is the HR department and works closely with all staff. Additionally, the SPRC has a significant role in deciding if the pastor remains another year. You get the idea. Another reason is to learn some of what is happening at the church. Some conferences have a moment where a church leader talks about some of the positive things at the church.

But truly, the real reason to come is that this is a part of being a member or being involved in the church. The church, be it UMC or any other denomination, is made up of people – inspired and called by God, to be sure, but still made up of people. So we need each other to succeed, to keep each other accountable, to pool our gifts and resources, to get things done, and to rely on each other to fulfill our mission: make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.  

And, of course, pie. 😊

Grace and peace,

Rev. mik

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Sanctification (The Disco of Grace)

My past two blogs have talked about the Wesleyan understanding of grace. John Wesley is the founder of Methodism, so it makes sense that United Methodist Church would ascribe to the Wesleyan understanding of grace. And this understanding of grace is what resonates with me. The first two parts, Prevenient Grace (God always calling to us) and Justification (Christ means something for me, yes even me), are a bedrock to my understanding of God’s love. But this next part of grace is what really speaks to me. This part is part of what makes me fall in love with being UMC over and over again. This part of grace is called sanctification.

Sanctification

At some point (maybe while Simon Peter was questioning and denying Jesus), Christ’s followers figured out that, even though they loved Jesus, declared him as their Lord and Savior, and followed him the best they could, they still had moments where they were less than perfect. They were, in fact, still human and still made mistakes. So what did that mean for their salvation? Were they no longer saved? Did Jesus’s teachings just not take? Did Jesus no longer love them?

 John Wesley’s answer to this was sanctification. Sanctification is the idea that God is still working in us through the Holy Spirit to help us grow in holiness continually. Not to be holier than others, but to work to be more like what God wants us to be a little bit more day by day, hour by hour, and moment by moment. So, yes, we are justified. No, that didn’t disappear because we needed to repent of a mistake we made after being justified. It’s just that we aren’t perfect. We are working towards Christian Perfection – we haven’t gotten there yet.

If you have ever seen me preach on sanctification, I usually illustrate with dance moves. First, I move my hand in a straight diagonal line upward from one side of my body to the other, saying sanctification is not a straight line to heaven and perfection. I then move my hand up and down like I’m John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and say that sanctification is a lot of up and downs. Think of this like the “disco of grace.”

For me, sanctification is truly a gift of unconditional love from God. How else could we better describe love than the idea that God is not done with us, that the Holy Spirit is still at work in us?

Don’t forget to check out our website for and Facebook for announcements and upcoming events. I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Door

Grace and Peace,

Rev. mik

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Justifying Grace

I will freely admit that I have been a member of a United Methodist Church my whole life. I was baptized in a United Methodist church when I was less than a month old. My first acting experience was as the baby Jesus in a live nativity when I was two months old at a United Methodist Church. I remember being very small and attending Woodlawn United Methodist Church in Derby, KS, with my parents. That is where I did my confirmation class (two years in “Search for Life). That is the church I came home to during Christmas break in college. When my son was baptized, it was in a United Methodist Church. And when I finally accepted my call to ministry, it was (as you might guess) to the United Methodist Church. So, yes, I am a lifelong United Methodist.

And I stay a United Methodist for many reasons. One of the reasons is the United Methodist understanding of God’s grace. In my last blog, I wrote about Prevenient Grace, or the idea that God’s grace is already (and always) calling us even before we are aware of God. Another part of God’s grace is called justifying grace.

Justifying Grace

Justifying grace is how we describe the idea of the time when we as individuals figured out that God’s love made manifest through Jesus Christ in his birth, life, death, and resurrection meant something for each of us on a personal level. John Wesley described that as “a strange warming of the heart.” Some people describe this as the moment we say to yes to God’s love and Jesus’s invitation to follow him. What does it mean to know that Jesus Christ meant something to us personally? What does it mean to that, “Yes, Jesus loves me, even me!” That’s the idea behind justifying grace – God’s perfect love, shown to us by Jesus Christ, means something to and for each of us. How wonderful, mystifying, and humbling is that?

Don’t forget to check out our website and Facebook for announcements and upcoming events. I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Door

Grace and Peace,

Rev. mik

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Prevenient Grace

There has been a lot of talk lately about why someone might be a member of a United Methodist Church. I have been fascinated by all the stories out there. If you haven’t had a chance to read some, I encourage you to go umc.org and check out the stories for #BEUMC. There are so many good reasons to be a part of a UMC community. I am going to highlight some of these in my upcoming blog posts.


Prevenient Grace
Prevenient Grace is the idea of God always calling us, saying, “Come this way, follow me.” This is God calling to us even before we have any idea that it is God calling to us and loving on us; that little nudge pulls you closer and closer to God even if you don’t even know there is God. It’s God loving us before we are ever aware of it. Think about that for a minute. God loves you even before you know that God is there. That’s how special and extraordinary you are.
Now, God may love you always. But we have the choice to say yes or no to love God back. That’s free will, and we will get into that in another blog. Today, I want us to focus on the fact that God does love us. God knows all of us and all about us, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And it doesn’t matter. God loves us. God loved all of us so much God that Jesus came to be with us. God and Jesus loved us so much that the Holy Spirit came to be with us. (This is the idea of the Trinity. Again, another blog post. 😊 )

Today, I hope you remember how much God loves you- just as you are.

Don’t forget to check out our website and Facebook for announcements and upcoming events. I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Door
Grace and Peace,
rev. mik

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Separate Ways

One of the things that almost every pastor I know must go through is personality-type quizzes. You know, the Myers-Briggs test, PCM Model, Disc Style, something that helps you learn how you communicate and how others around you communicate. It’s a bit like the 5 Love Languages and what love language you communicate in. The idea is if we all learn how we and others communicate, we can/will (in theory) communicate better with each other. For me, it has helped. I am more patient with others when I can better understand where they are coming from. Although I’m not always perfect, I still get frustrated. (Surprise!!) And, I’m more likely to stay in conversation with someone if I can see their point of view, even if I disagree with it.

Unfortunately, there are times when people can no longer work together. They try, and they try, but they are too different and are no longer healthy or productive in how they work. For my personality type, this breaks my heart. I want everyone to have fun and live their best life together. But that is not just how life works.

Two weeks ago, 55 churches from the Great Plains Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church disaffiliated and are no longer UMC. (Please see the link below for more information.)  These churches have felt called by God to go in a different direction from the UMC. I do not know every reason why the churches left – not mine to judge. And, as a divorced person, I do understand that sometimes you must go in separate directions so that everyone can be healthy and do what they need to do. We see this in scripture where families, friends, and fellow ministers go their separate ways with blessings for each other. And it still breaks my heart.   

For those that are wondering if this church (Abilene First UMC) or any church must vote to stay or leave, the answer is no. No church HAS to vote on anything. Nothing has changed in the rules in our Book of Discipline, and no significant denominational vote on changing rules is scheduled until 2024, when we have General Conference. Abilene First UMC and the UMC is still committed to making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the World. Abilene First UMC is still committed to being a church where everyone is invited, welcomed, and wanted. We are a church of open hearts, open minds, and open doors.

If you have any questions about this or anything happening around the church, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to be in conversation with you!

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Door

Grace and Peace

rev.mik

https://www.greatplainsumc.org/newsdetail/special-session-approves-5-disaffiliations-increased-budget-for-23-17017369

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Anti-Triangulation or no blast or party line

Sometimes, I get to write about really fun stuff. If you have been around me, even for a short period, you might know I prefer that. Sometimes, I get to write about stuff that is not as fun but very necessary.  Sometimes, I find a way to combine the two.  This is one of those times. 😊 

How many of you remember the party line of yore? You know, when your telephone still hung on your wall, and you shared the telephone line with your neighbors?  Did you ever have to be careful about what you said because you never knew who might be listening? Instead of just telling your Aunt Mildred that you just didn’t like jello salad and please bring something else for dinner, you complained to your mom on the phone, and the neighbor on the party line heard it. Before you know it, dear Aunt Mildred has heard you don’t like HER jello salad. Strife has broken out in the family. Because you know that somebody LOVES Aunt Mildred’s jello salad.

For some of our younger generations, that might not make any sense. Try this example. You and your bestie have a misunderstanding, and instead of just sliding into your bestie’s dm’s to talk about it, you blast it that your friend was totally cringe.   (PS – that may not have made sense to some more established generations, but I’m trying to speak to all ages.  Your grace is greatly appreciated. 😊 )

All joking aside, we have been talking about “Faith Things” in church.  Last week we talked about how we should interact with each other with humility.  That might seem a bit ambiguous, so here is one idea on how to do that. If we have enough faith to know that there is enough of God’s love to go around, how should we interact with others? Jesus reminds us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (cf. Matthew 18:31) and to treat others as we would like to be treated (cf Luke 6:31).  One way to do that is to talk with people, not about people. In other words, if we have an issue with someone, we should go talk to the person about it.  This is sometimes called anti-triangulation.  (don’t bring a third party into a two-party discussion)

I believe that this skill has become more important in our world than ever before.  We live in a world that is very polarized and has little room for talking to each other. Instead of conversations, we have sound bites. Instead of asking questions, we hurl our opinions. Instead of listening, we are preparing our response. I know that I do this so many times throughout the day. And I don’t believe that this is what Jesus means when he says Love God and Love Others.  What would happen if we talked to each other? What would happen if we listened to each other? I would love to hear your thoughts on this! You can blast or slide into my dm’s. (Post on the discussion below or send me a message. 😊 )

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Don'[t forget to wear your Purple and White in honor of who won the Coin Toss! In reality, UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) won with $761.25 from the fundraiser!! Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

grace and peace,

rev. mik

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It’s about him! :)

I have, as they say, all the feels this week. My one and only child (Number 1) started college on Monday. This is one of the moments I have been longing for and dreading for the past 18 years. On Sunday, I drove down to El Dorado, KS, to meet him at his dorm at Butler County Community College. I was all set to carry boxes, move furniture, help him put on the stuff on the walls, and generally engage in the college move-in whirlwind. Or at least what I remember college move-in being for me and move-in day when I was an RA back in the day. I was ready to put on my “brave mom” face and reassure him that he would do well and that I was so proud of him.  

And . . . by the time I got there, he was already moved in. He let me know where to park. He met me at the door (complete with his lanyard already on) and let me in the door with his key card. His bed was made. His computer was out and ready. All he needed was my mom and me to take him to lunch. 😊 It was awesome! It was  . .  . sad. He didn’t need me. And this experience was not about me.

So many times, I think we tend to make things we are a part of about ourselves. Yes, we are a part of it, and it’s not about us. For example, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story about going to a wedding and not taking the seat of honor without being invited so that we are not embarrassed (Luke 14:7-14). I keep thinking about how this is a good lesson to not make things about us that aren’t. What would happen if we let things be about what God wants them to be about, like loving our neighbor, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbling with God? How would that change the world and us?

For the record, I was so proud of Number 1. He had been preparing for this for so long and was so ready. And I wouldn’t have stolen that moment from him for anything! Plus, he did hug me like crazy when I had to leave and told me to text him when I got home that night so he would know I made it ok. I have no clue how things will go for the rest of the semester, the rest of the year, or even in the next 5 years. What I do know is that God has him, and this is not my story. It’s his story with God. I’m just blessed to be a part of it.

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Don’t forget to bring your coins for the Coin Toss for UMCOR Relief and to help decide if we are wearing blue and red, or purple on September 4th. (K-State fans are ahead of KU currently . . . still ) Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

grace and peace,

rev. mik

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Fill’er up

It has been a week! Well, it has been two weeks actually. Last week the community I serve celebrated its county fair. The Central Kansas Free Fair in Abilene, KS, is a blast! Yes, it was hot. It is August in Kansas. And I had an amazing time.  I hope that if you were around here, you got to enjoy it too!

Then, I was blessed to spend the first part of this week in Schuyler, Nebraska, at the St. Benedict Retreat Center for a pastoral spiritual retreat. Fair warning, I am not a fan of any retreats, conferences, or seminars. I’m just not. I went anyway.

Few places in this world give you peace simply because you drive onto the property, but St. Benedict’s is one.  I hadn’t realized how empty my spiritual tank was getting. It was almost like I had been trying not to fill it up like I had trying not to fill up my gas tank. Was I afraid that the cost was going to be too high? Was I just not paying attention to the warning light saying I was empty? Was I simply too busy with other stuff to take the time to fill up? Probably a bit of all three.  And when I pulled into St. Benedict’s, I felt like the refilling process had already begun.

Ironically, I had been praying for peace in my soul. I had been asking for time to just be where I didn’t feel like I had to be busy with the church or busy unpacking boxes. I had been searching for insight into God’s plan with my life and that God hadn’t forgotten me like a text that had been read and then lost in the other texts. But I wasn’t slowing down and taking the time to let God speak to me on these things. I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me. Quite frankly, I was asking God for answers and then letting my pride answer instead of God.  But God has a way of breaking in and breaking through. Let me know if that has ever happened to you. I would love to hear about it!

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Don’t forget to bring your coins for the Coin Toss for UMCOR Relief and to help decide if we are wearing blue and red, or purple on September 4th.  (K-State fans are ahead of KU currently . . . ) Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik

St. Benedict Retreat Center in Schuyler, NE.
Mik with a young Clydesdale house at the fair in Abilene, KS. 2022

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Sometimes, you have to just decide.

Hello All!

I have been so thankful for the cooler temperatures and the rain! I have needed the rain to help the grass in my yard.  My pets and I have appreciated the cooler weather outside. It has been a blessing! Well, it has been a blessing for me. Has it been for you too?

Blessings can be funny things for humans. Sometimes, when I am going through something that I see as a trial, it is actually a blessing in disguise.  Those really trip me up! I get annoyed that something is not going the way I planned it, but it turns out to be better than my plan.  Or perhaps, we find ourselves at a crossroads wondering which way to go and just hoping that we pick the “right” one for things to go “our way”. Again, so that we can have our idea of what a blessing should be.

As I have found myself at different crossroads over the years, I have begun to think that as long as I am being as faithful as I can be to God’s call on my life, that God’s blessings will come. They don’t always come in the way I expect or want, but they do come. Now, I’m not saying to go the opposite way of God is calling you and expect blessings (think Jonah and whale!).  My thought is this: if we are trying our best to be faithful and follow God, and we come to a fork in the road and both choices are in line with God’s call – it is possible for God to use either decision we make to help out the Kin-dom of God.  For example, perhaps God is calling you to go to college and both KU and KSU feel like good places to go (It’s possible!!! 😉) Perhaps which one you go to isn’t as important as the fact that you go to college. Perhaps God is calling you to be more involved in the church and it could be this ministry and or that ministry. Perhaps, it’s just a matter of choosing a ministry and then letting God bless it.  

I don’t pretend to have the answer you need on what your current crossroad is. I do promise to walk with you as you discern (that’s the big theological term for figuring out which way God wants you to go) your choice and then go and do it.

I hope to see you at worship on Sunday morning – either in person (8:15 and 10:30) or online and on the radio (10:30). Abilene First UMC – Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.

Grace and Peace,

rev. mik

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