Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do our attitudes and actions cause religious disharmony?

Jail time for religious disharmony?

A news story a few months ago reported that Malaysian authorities were investigating two Muslims who sparked complaints after they pretended to be Christians and took communion at a church service. They said they were researching a magazine article.

A churchgoer filed a police complaint after reading an article in a Malay-language magazine written by a contributor who described how he attended a Roman Catholic Mass with his friend and hid his Muslim identity. The writer said they were trying to confirm rumors that Muslim teenagers were being converted to Christianity in churches every Sunday.

Police federal crime investigations chief Mohamad Bakri Zinin said officials were probing whether the men had caused religious disharmony – a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Rev. Terry Jones and Rev. Wayne Sapp should be grateful they don’t live in Malaysia.

Last September Rev. Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Florida, stirred up quite a fuss when he called for people around the world to set fire to copies of the Koran. He designated September 11, 2010 as Burn A Koran Day and he hoped to set ablaze thousands of copies of the Muslim holy book on that day. After much controversy and international protest, he said he had made his point and did not carry out his plan.

However two weeks ago, on March 20, during a Dove World Outreach Center's Sunday service without any publicity and under the supervision of Jones, Pastor Wayne Sapp soaked a Quran in kerosene for an hour, held an event he said was a "trial" for the Muslim holy book. After the book was found “guilty”, Sapp set the Quran on fire using a barbecue lighter.

I wonder what Rev. Jones and Rev. Sapp would have done if someone had set fire to the Bible, the holy book that Christians believe in?

Anger over the burning of the Muslim holy book has erupted into deadly violence for the past several days in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting cars and shops ablaze in riots that have left at least five civilians dead, officials said. In Florida, Rev. Sapp called the events "tragic," but said he did not regret the actions of his church. If he had it o do over again, he said he would.

"I in no way feel like our church is responsible for what happened," Sapp said in a telephone interview last Friday.

I don’t have to believe exactly what anyone else believes but one of the great blessings of this country is that I don’t have to. My right to believe and the rights of others to do the same is protected. Thank God! I can continue to practice my faith and share my beliefs with others. And I will.

But before we begin to feel self-righteous, let us examine ourselves. Do our attitudes and actions sometimes cause “religious disharmony?” Maybe the results are not violence and death but perhaps confusion and hard feelings that hinder the work of the Church and the advancement of God’s plans for us.

I certainly don’t condone the actions of Revs. Jones and Sapp or the violent protests in Afghanistan. That would be easy to do, but I am reminded that before I try to remove the speck from another person’s eye I need to remove the log from my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

--by Jamie Jenkins, North GA Ann Conf

God Is Still In Control

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giving is an expression of love and gratitude

“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul…there was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold…and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 NRSV)

When my son was a toddler, he had a favorite song about all the pockets on his overalls. Whenever he lost something, we always checked all five pockets on his bib overalls and, eventually, we’d find the missing treasure!

If the Sunday offerings in your church aren’t quite enough to meet the ministry challenge Christ has given you, don’t give up! Keep looking! Have you checked all the potential pockets of income? Our annual income is one “pocket.” It may be that up-front pocket that’s most visible. But, what about the other “pockets” we might check? Have you ever considered checking the “pockets” that hold your non-cash assets when considering gifts to the church?

Did you know you can make gifts of appreciated stock to your church? By processing gifts of stock through your church you can avoid paying any commission or selling fees, allowing you to make a larger gift to the church! You also avoid paying any capital gains taxes when you use stock to make a gift.

Have you considered donating “obsolete” life insurance policies that might have been purchased long ago for a reason that no longer exists? What a wonderful hidden treasure!

Would you consider giving the cash saved in a Certificate of Deposit to establish a Charitable Gift Annuity? By making a gift with a CD, you can receive a guaranteed annuity payment each year for the rest of your life.

Another “pocket” often overlooked is real estate. You can turn assets of property or stock into a Charitable Remainder Unitrust. The trust will pay you 5-8% of the market value of the fund each year for the rest of your life. And, the church and any other qualified non-profit charities you designate will receive a significant gift at the time of your death.

--excerpt from the Wisconsin UM Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications

Check out this other methodist website: MethoBlog

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Giving means thinking positively.

“Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” (Ephesians 5:16 The Message)

Tornados in the Midwest, tsunamis and earthquakes around the world, spring floods on the East Coast and along the Mississippi River, state and national budget controversies, rising gas prices … the past few months definitely feel like desperate times.

The apostle Paul writes, “Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times.” How will we as United Methodists make the most of every chance we get during these desperate times? For one thing, we’ve just come through another tax season. I’m always amazed that no matter what kind of a year we’ve had – good or bad – we always find a way to pay our taxes.

If you examine your tax return and you wish you had given Jesus a bit more so that you could give Uncle Sam a bit less, we invite you to consider starting now for next year. “Resurrect your finances” during this time. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make the first check you write each pay period, or the first automatic withdrawal you make, be a “thank you” gift to God.

  • Instead of buying your children or grandchildren candy and trinkets or graduation, consider a gift in their honor to help victims of a natural disaster through UMCOR or to your church’s portion of our shared mission (apportionments).

  • Give at least 50% of the total you might spend on a vacation or special events during the summer to the ministry of Christ.

  • Try tithing; i.e., giving 10% of your income to the church for 3 months during the summer or fall.

  • See how quickly you can get out of debt under various repayment scenarios by going to http://www.moneypurposejoy.com/, click on “resources,” “calculators,” and “accelerated debt payoff calculator.

--Wisconson Ann Conf Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer
United Methodist Communications

Monday, May 9, 2011

"This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls." -- Jeremiah 6:16

As a young man, I have frequently wished I were alive during the Civil Rights Era, so I would have had the chance to be a part of that blessed movement. But The Parchman Hour has taught me there is no such thing as the Civil Rights Era. Every era should be the Civil Rights Era.

If The Parchman Hour taught me anything, it is how ridiculous it was that I felt I had missed out on the Civil Rights struggle. There had been a Freedom Ride in 1947, and other forms of resistance to segregation had been occurring since segregation started, but the Freedom Riders knew there was still work to be done.

I hope that The Parchman Hour helps people realize that the past has been someone's present; that all of the things they read about really happened. That all of the historical heroes and villains they have or haven't heard of were real people; that "The Civil Rights Movement" was just people making sacrifices for what they thought was right. That there is still work to be done; that "The Civil Rights Era" was then, is now, and will be the future until everyone is truly equal.

-- Alex Karsten is a member of the cast and crew of The Parchman Hour, by Mike Wiley. This reflection comes after the March 2011 tour of the play in Mississippi..

Prayer: Almighty God, fill us with the strength of your presence that we too might stand in your spirit and truth fighting for justice in the world around us. Do not let us grow weary, but lift us up with strength that we might give glory to your name through our lives.

God Is Still In Control!!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer

United Methodist Communications

Monday, May 2, 2011

Faith-filled Ways to say “Thank You” to God this summer:

As you plant flowers in your garden, say thank you to God for their gift of color. Give at least as much back to God as you spend on flowers this year.

Use your time and talents to raise money for outreach. Do you have a garden? Do you have more zucchini than you can eat? What about tomatoes, beans, or sweet corn? Maybe you have some friends and neighbors who would gladly give a gift toward a mission of your church in exchange for some of your vegetables – fresh, frozen, or canned.

Put a container in the middle of the kitchen table and invite family members to make a special offering – perhaps even $1/day to say thank you for a joy each day.

If your grocery bill tends to rise during the summer because more people are home and you have more visitors, try planning your menus around what’s on sale each week. Then with the money you save, you can make an extra gift to the mission and ministry of the church.

Remember, God doesn’t take vacations from us! If you’re heading out on a special vacation – enjoy! Give thanks for the memories you’ll make by signing up for online bill pay through your bank. Then your offerings will be sent to the church automatically whether you’re on vacation or in your regular pew each week.

Honor those you love with a special gift to the overall mission and ministry of the church through our apportionments. “A-portion-ment for others” can be a wonderful way to remember loved ones as a part of their gift for birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones.

--from the WI AC Foundation

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey

Web Content Producer