Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easily Distracted

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller recently called Adoration: Hallowed Be Thy Name. It was about the primacy and importance of praise in prayer. If one does not adore God, and seek to hallow (or set aside as holy) the name of God, then all other functions of prayer and life will be distorted because they will be experienced from an improper vantage point. In other words, the person who adores God will pray rightly for their daily bread and other petitions. They will see forgiveness in the light of Christ, and so on...

Upon hearing the sermon I decided that I wanted more of this for myself. I wanted to become the type of person who adores God and hallows the name of God in word, deed, and life. And so I woke up keen on spending time simply praising God. It was fewer than 1 minute after beginning that my mind began wandering to other things. I couldn't even spend 1 minute of focused time adoring the creator of all things. I was easily distracted.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is so easily distracted. The world in which we live trains us to be this way. We are rarely ever invited or encouraged to be still, or just do one thing. Our schedules are such that as we are doing something we are also thinking of what's next. Thus we are never fully in the moment. We are as those who are always between doors, but never fully in one room.

There is a story in The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, where the children, who are on an Aslan endorsed mission, get easily put out of their way. They are journeying to find a missing prince, and their journey is tough, but manageable. They see the difficulties for what they are, and handle them as they come. Suddenly a queen comes up and tells them about a town with hot baths, beds, and great meals. Going there would've taken them off the path Aslan set them on, and they knew it. But the thought of all that comfort stayed with them, and distracted them.
After that talk with the Lady things got worse in two different ways. In the first place the country was much harder. The road led through endless, narrow valleys down which a cruel north wind was always blowing in their faces. There was nothing that could be used for firewood, and there were no nice little hollows to camp in, as there had been on the moor. And the ground was all stony, and made your feet sore by day and every bit of you sore by night.

In the second place, whatever the Lady had intended by telling them about Harfang, the actual effect on the children was a bad one. They could think about nothing but beds and baths and hot meals and how lovely it would be to get indoors. They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning. She said to herself, at first, that she was too tired, but she soon forgot all about it. And though you might have expected that the idea of having a good time at Harfang would have made them more cheerful, it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and snappy with each other and with Puddleglum. 
It's the same way with our lives and the distractions that come. The chief end of a person, as the reformed catechism says, is "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." This is what brings the greatest life, and this is what must constantly remain our focus. The things that arise peripherally only draw our attention away from that goal and, like the children in the story, ruin our perception of the life we currently have and the mission we have been given.   

This is why I am endeavoring to adore God more and more. Since I am so easily distracted I must persevere with grace until God is the most important thing to me naturally. So important that any other thing will pale in comparison. It is then, I believe, that I will experience the world as I am meant to, and I will see life and creation in all their beauty, because then I will see them through God.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Learning from Judas

"Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd" (Luke 22:3-6 ESV).

Which door did Satan use to enter Judas? The answer is the door of greed and coveteousness. As we see in other gospels Judas was always greedy for gain. You will recall that he once chided a woman for "wasting" expensive perfumes on Jesus. Then we read, "He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it" (John 12:6).

This routine "helping himself to what was put into it" created a doorway for the evil one to enter and do something that even Judas probably wouldn't have imagined himself doing. Many people believe that Judas was an evil spy the whole time he was with Jesus. But he was probably just like the others who marveled at his teachings, performed miracles in his name, and eagerly desired the kingdom to appear. But his strong desire for other things created pathways for Satan to enter into his life, and enter he did. 

Indeed, enter he always will. 

What Judas was doing when he stole from the bag was communicating "I don't trust God to supply my needs, therefore I will act to secure my own future by stealing." In other words, his faith in God didn't involve every area of his life. If it did he wouldn't have stolen, and he wouldn't have created a doorway for Satan. But since the opposite of faith is fear, and fear is the devils calling card, it was like throwing blood in a shark infested body of water. They will certainly seek out the source, and have their way with it. 

This is why it is crucial to view salvation (read discipleship) as something that involves our entire lives, and to view Jesus as one who is interested in each area of human life, from small to great. Because if we only see him as being concerned with the big pictures of our lives, we will inevitably leave small doorways for Satan to enter in. But if we see him as being capable of guiding us, even in the seemingly insignificant areas of our lives, then we will not only close the doorways that Satan might use, but we will open ourselves up to receive more and more grace to live a godly life. 

We do a disservice to ourselves when we make Judas into a demon on two legs. (Look at paintings of the 12 disciples, it is always easy to spot Judas. He is typically darkened, halo-less, with a look of connivance on his face.) In our attempts to make him inherently evil we remove the possibility of learning from him. But he provides a great lesson that needs to be shouted from the roof tops. Here it is: To follow Jesus means to present your entire life to him. It means to seek to live in each area of your life the way that he would if he were you. By doing so we "give no opportunity to the devil" (Eph. 4:27). And our lives begin to get wrapped up into, and take upon the likeness of, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Luke 19: Seeing Jesus on Palm Sunday

Luke 19 contains an account of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. There are several powerful lessons one can derive from this chapter; as I was reading this morning one problem and one solution stuck out to me the most.

The problem is being able to see Jesus. 

In the passage there are two occasions where people had difficulty seeing Jesus because of a "parade," if you will. The first involved a short man named Zacchaeus, and the second was the crowd on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. 

They cannot see Jesus and this, for discipleship to happen, is a must. For it is in seeing Jesus that we finally see truth. Truth about life, reality, and ourselves. Again, this is vital for everyone. 

The solution comes to us in two parts. First for individuals and then for the church. 

1: Individuals who desire to see Jesus, must place themselves in a situation that will allow them to see him best. As in this passage, solitude is typically the best place - Zacchaeus climbed up the tree, away from the crowd. 

The crowd often skews our vision of Jesus, so it is best to separate from them for a spell; perhaps to read through the gospels and pray, and allow a clearer picture of Jesus to flood your mind. But this is something you or I must do. It won't be done for us. 

2: The church (those people who are disciples of Jesus) is responsible for helping those who can't see Jesus get a better view by lifting him up, but this only happens through obedience to the word of Jesus. In the second passage his disciples were asked to go and do something unusual; namely, take a colt that didn't belong to them so Jesus could ride on it. The obedience in this act caused Jesus to be able to sit at an elevated position as he rode into town. Now all the Zacchaeus' of the world could see him clearer than before. 

There are several people desirous of an encounter with Jesus, but they cannot see him because of the crowd and their lack of intent, and sometimes because the church is not lifting him up, as she should. 

My prayer this Palm Sunday is that, individually and corporately, a desire to fix ones gaze upon Jesus would become an ultimate thing. And having done so, like Zacchaeus, we might experience salvation or help others do so through our obedience. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Incoming Transition Letter to Friendship UMC

To the people of Friendship United Methodist Church,

My name is Meshach Kanyion, and it is with great joy that I am writing this letter to introduce myself as your new senior pastor beginning June 28th. On Tuesday, April 24th, I had the honor of meeting with members of your Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) and District Superintendent, Brian Brown. I was excited about joining you before this meeting, but after hearing from each person on your SPRC there was a sense of confirmation that accompanied my joy. I believe there are great things in store for FUMC.

But let me first share a little about myself. I was born in Nigeria, but spent the majority of my early years living in places from Scotland to Tulsa, OK, with my missionary parents. Eventually we settled in North College Hill where I graduated from high school in 2001.

Right after high school I joined the United States Marine Corps reserves. While serving in the Marines I also attended and graduated from THE Ohio State University in 2007. This is  where I met my beautiful wife, Ashanti. As of this letter we have been married almost 8 years, and we have 5 children: Charlee (7), Sameera (5), Elias (3), Trinity & Gabriel (2). As I type this letter we are on a family vacation in North Myrtle Beach and Gabe is trying to eat sand and sea shells… Back to the letter.

Our journey has taken us to several churches where I have served in different roles. I started off as a youth pastor, and from there I've served as an Associate, Senior, and Executive pastor. I am currently in the midst of a two-year residency (you can ask your SPRC what this means) at Epiphany UMC in Loveland, OH.

This brief bio brings me to the present. I believe there is a grand opportunity for Friendship UMC to continue the mission you began as a congregation long ago. That mission, which is well stated in your mission statement, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. You have been faithful to this mission in different ways, and you’ve had great pastors encourage you to never become complacent, but to seek new ways to realize this vision. It is my hope that together we can discern the will of God, and follow Jesus Christ into the next season of fruitfulness at FUMC, as we bring the kingdom of heaven to bear upon Wyoming and other surrounding communities.

Until then I will be praying for you in this season of transition. I ask that you would pray for Pastor Stu and his new congregation at Miamisburg St. James, the people of Epiphany UMC, and all other churches and families experiencing the itinerant system this year. I’d also ask that you pray for my family and me whenever you can; even a short “God help them” will do. :-)

I look forward to meeting each and every one of you in person. If you happen to run into me at one of the upcoming district or conference events, please introduce yourself to me. 

Peace and Goodness,

Rev. Meshach Kanyion

Outgoing Transition Letter to Epiphany UMC

Dear Epiphany family,

In July 2013 my family and I came to Epiphany as a result of the West Ohio Conference Residency program. This program provides an opportunity for young pastors to learn how to lead a congregation by learning from an already thriving church. I had my eye on a few churches where I hoped to land and spend my time as a resident… But instead I got stuck with you, and you got stuck with me. ��

Thank God it happened that way! Just look at some of the opportunities I had during this residency:
  • Growth Is God’s Promise Capital Campaign
  • Participation on Building Committee 
  • Organizing summer worship at McCormick Elementary School 
  • Several Staff & Pastoral Transitions 
  • Temporary Opportunity to lead during the summer
  • Successful Wednesday Night Large Group Study (I’ll never forget those 10 weeks)
  • Church Leadership Team
  • Integration with different committees
  • New Executive pastor role
These and many other signatures of Epiphany will forever remain with me. Because of your hospitality, trust, and friendship (not to mention the love you've shown my family), I have received far more from this residency than I hoped. It is because of your faithfulness in ministry that Epiphany was selected to receive a resident pastor. And now, it is because of you that I am more prepared to serve God faithfully in another location.

That new location will be Friendship UMC located in Wyoming, Ohio, where I will serve as senior pastor beginning June 28, 2015. Their mission statement is: “To be disciples; to go and make disciples.” I am very excited to join them in this process, even as you continue the same process here in the Loveland/Milford area. 

My last day serving here at Epiphany will be June 14th, 2015. After that I will no longer serve you as pastor, but will continue as your brother in Christ. Until then let's continue together the mission that God has given us, so that those who we encounter, will be met with the love and spirit of Jesus Christ. 

Your grateful pastor and friend,

Rev. Meshach Kanyion