From the Well - 8/22/2019

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Philippians 3:12-16 (NRSV)
12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

M. Scott Peck begins his book, The Road Less Traveled, with this statement: “Life is hard.” He then goes on to warn his readers that the sooner they surrender to this truth, the happier they will be in the long run. Pain and suffering, loss and grief, frustration and stress, are all simple facts of existence. We don’t turn to the scriptures to discover whether we will suffer. The question has already been answered. We know the answer. Instead, the question we need to be wrestling with is the question of purpose. If your life ended tomorrow, what was your purpose?

The church should be the place that helps you and others answer the question. The church (The Body of Christ) should be the place where you figure out what you need to let go of so you can be prepared for the future and for the end of life. Are you angry? Is there a grudge you continue to hold onto that is eating away at your life? Are you judgmental, insincere, stubborn and resistant to the changes that will help bring the gospel to a new generation? Are you hypocritical in the way you live? Is there a difference between who you are on Sunday morning and the rest of the week? Are there things that you need to change in your life so you can finish the race well?

Do you support others? Do you attempt to make a difference in your community and in the lives of others? Do you support your church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and ministry? What will friends and the preacher say about your life at the end? Will they have to pick and choose in speaking about the many contributions that you made or will they have to stretch the truth in order not to embarrass your family and guests?

In the midst of struggling with these questions, Paul urges us to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Life with all of its questions is not easy. We have to rely on Jesus as we run the race that lies before us. It means “straining forward to what lies ahead.” It means focusing on the right things every day. Think about it.

Matthew

8/15/2019 - From the Well

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Philippians 3:7-11 (NRSV)

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Most of us don’t mind driving over bridges. We know bridges are over-engineered for safety. Massive amounts of concrete and steel are used in their construction. There are guardrails, bumper-barricades, and reflective safety signs that keep us from driving off the bridge. When we drive on the bridges that cross the Yadkin River we never think about the effort that went into keeping us safe. We drive across at fifty to seventy miles an hour without really thinking about it.

But think about driving across one of those bridges without the guardrails or concrete barriers. Suddenly everything changes. We probably would slow our car down to a crawl (5-10 miles per hour) and try to stay as far away from the edge as possible. Something we never even think about when the barriers are in place. With no barriers and safety barricades in place, most of us would avoid crossing altogether.

We need guardrails and barriers. They help us navigate the dangers of life. These barriers and guardrails work best, though, when they are not noticed, celebrated, or even acknowledged.[1]

In the Philippian church, followers of Jesus were being told by some that they had to follow the law (become Jewish) before they could become Christian. There were laws, boundaries, and hoops to jump through. They needed to pass the test, endure the proper procedures, and obey the commandments before they could enjoy full membership in the Body of Christ.

Paul wrote to the Philippian church to warn them about worshipping the guardrails and safety guards rather than the bridge that was carrying them to safety. We all need boundaries-doctrines, rules, guidelines, and laws-to help us along the way. But as Leonard Sweet suggests “They are the guardrails of our faith, not the guardian of our faith. Their function is to keep us on the path of Truth, the Way, the Truth and the Life of Jesus. The Way, Truth, and Life is found in a relationship with Christ, not in brandishing propositions about Christ.”[2]

Paul’s point is that we cannot force people into a relationship with Christ. We cannot say that some are in and some are out because all the boxes have to be checked before admittance. The most important thing is the gentle guiding of people into a relationship, a relationship that allows a person to know Christ and to follow Christ in all aspects of life. Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Thanks to Leonard Sweet,

“The Bridge Over Every Troubled Waters,” based on Philippians 3:1-11 for this line of thought.

[2]Ibid.

From the Well - 8/8/2019

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Philippians 3:1-6 (MSG)
1 And that's about it, friends. Be glad in God! I don't mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don't mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry-so here goes. 2 Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they're interested in is appearances-knife-happy circumcisers, I call them. 3 The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ's praise as we do it. We couldn't carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it- 4 even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: 5 a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God's law; 6 a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God's law Book.

Harry Emerson Fosdick once said, "No life ever grows great until it is focused, dedicated and disciplined." Paul was a focused, dedicated and disciplined follower of Christ. He was also one who was keenly aware of his past and the transformation process that Christ had brought to his life. Paul was a leader because he recognized that everything he had gained was nothing compared to what Christ had done for him.

I was reminded by the teacher and spiritual guide, Parker Palmer how Nelson Mandela took 30 years in prison to prepare himself for leadership rather than for despair.

"He went down, and he went in, and he dealt with the violence and terror, and he emerged a leader of amazing strength able to lead people toward "our complex and inexplicable caring for each other."[1]

How is Christ transforming your life? How is he helping you to go deep and deal with your shadow side? True leaders in the Body of Christ are those who have allowed Christ to bring change and transformation. Saint Francis spells out transformational leadership in his prayer:

Lord make me an instrument of thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.[2]

Think about it.

Matthew

[1]Parker Palmer, Leading from Within: Reflections on Spirituality and Leadership (Washington, DC: Potter's House Book Service), 7.

[2]Quoted in Uncommon Prayers, Ed. by Cecil Hunt (Greenwich, CT: Seabury Press, 1955), 107.


From the well - 8/1/2019

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Philippians 2:25-30 (MSG)
25 But for right now, I'm dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion in my work. You sent him to help me out; now I'm sending him to help you out. 26 He has been wanting in the worst way to get back with you. Especially since recovering from the illness you heard about, he's been wanting to get back and reassure you that he is just fine. 27 He nearly died, as you know, but God had mercy on him. And not only on him-he had mercy on me, too. His death would have been one huge grief piled on top of all the others. 28 So you can see why I'm so delighted to send him on to you. When you see him again, hale and hearty, how you'll rejoice and how relieved I'll be. 29 Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give. 30 Remember the ministry to me that you started but weren't able to complete? Well, in the process of finishing up that work, he put his life on the line and nearly died doing it.

Epaphroditus is only mentioned in this one passage from Philippians. He doesn’t get the notoriety of Barnabas, Timothy, or Titus but Epaphroditus was one of Paul’s helpers. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that those with the gift of helping are very comfortable in a supporting role. In fact, helpers seem to find spiritual nourishment and joy in the act of helping. Dr. Roland Bainton, who was for many years an eminent historian on the faculty of Yale University Divinity School, once paid tribute to his father, a small town preacher:

My father’s congregation never numbered more than 200. He was an inconspicuous minister. He early realized that he would never play a major role in the life the Church. Had he been invited to some renowned pulpit, he would not have accepted. Within the limitations of his particular gifts, he aimed nevertheless at excellence, reminding himself that “the wayside pool reflects the fleeting clouds as exactly as does the mighty ocean.[1]

It’s not the flamboyant that make the world go around. It’s those who work quietly and faithfully. Paul’s presence in Philippi may have been diminished if it had not been for Epaphroditus. As you think about your service in the Body of Christ consider this:

There isn’t much I can do, but I can share my bread with you, and sometimes a sorrow too-as on our way we go.

There isn’t much that I can do, but I can sit an hour with you, and I can share a joke with you, and sometimes share a verse, too-as on our way we go.

There isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my flowers with you, and I can share my books with you and sometimes share your burdens, too-as on our way we go.

There isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my songs with you, and I can share my mirth with you, and sometimes come and laugh with you-as on our way we go.

There isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my hopes with you, and I can share my fears with you, and sometimes shed some tears with you-as on our way we go.

There isn’t much that I can do, but I can share my friends with you, and I can share my life with you, and I can share my Lord with you and oftentimes a prayer or two-as on the way we go.[2]

Think about it.

Matthew

[1]In a sermon preached by Donald Shelby, January 21, 1990.

[2]Source Unknown.

From the Well - Welcome to our new Youth Director

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Amanda will join the CUMC family on August 12th as the Minister of Youth and their Families. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Religion from Campbell University in 2008 and a Master of Theological Studies from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 2010. She is joining us after serving as Youth Director at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church in Lexington. Amanda is also an Adjunct Christian Studies Instructor at Campbell University. Amanda has lived in Clemmons with her husband, Mark, for eight years and has two daughters, Claire who is 7, and Emerlyn who is 2. When not working or spending time with her family, you can find Amanda at the barn with their horse Luna or kayaking.