A bi-monthly e-letter by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
By Bishop Gary Mueller
The year 2020 has been such a train wreck that it was probably difficult for you to be really thankful at Thanksgiving.
That’s why it is a perfect time to make a post-Thanksgiving pivot that changes the basis of your thanks based on how things are going to joyfully giving thanks because it grows out of your relationship with God.
Your relationship with God means you absolutely can count on God’s grace, God’s passionate love, God’s healing, and God’s second chances.
God has the ability to change hearts, and God’s gift of Jesus means nothing that happens in life or in death will ever separate you from God’s love.
Of course, struggles, grief, heartache, tragedies, injustice and pain will continue to take a devastating toll even after you have made a post-Thanksgiving pivot. There’s just no getting away from this fact of life. But something will also fundamentally change.
Life’s most horrible junk will no longer have the final word. In fact, according to the Apostle Paul, it won’t even have a prayer.
Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.
––2 Corinthians 7 The Message
If you had a difficult time giving thanks at Thanksgiving––if you let struggles, grief, heartache, tragedies, injustice and pain have the final word. It’s not too late for you to embrace the fact that God’s love always has the final word.
Go ahead, make the post-Thanksgiving pivot.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
Thankful to be thankful––certain to celebrate
By Gil Hanke
We are between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
In spite of the joy that generally accompanies these events, we still have concerns.
As I write this, my wife and I are uncertain about our plans for Christmas. We don’t know where we will be going or who will be coming. All that will be sorted out in time. It may be a Christmas for us where no one can travel for any number of reasons, but that will not mute our celebrations.
Even with all that continues to cause concern, I have much for which I am thankful. Even with an uncertain future, the celebration of Christ’s birth will be filled with hope, positive memories, and joy-filled worship and music.
God is bigger than COVID-19. God is bigger than the challenge of travel, brighter than the stars, warmer than the fire in the fireplace. This current mess will pass, and we will adjust to new experiences. There may be loss, even grief, but God will hold us and those we cherish in God’s arms.
On Christmas Eve, I will sing Silent Night, and on Christmas Day I will call or Zoom the family and recall sweet memories of those who are seeing the Christmas star from their side of heaven.
My prayer for each of you this season is that you take steps for self-care:
- Make phone or video calls to friends and family––not just on Christmas Day––but several times during this season of celebration.
- Safely participate in your local church worship services and activities.
- Feast on great music and healthy food.
- When weather permits, spend time outside. Take walks several days a week.
- Don’t take un-necessary risks but be intentional about reaching out and staying safely engaged with others.
- Do at least one thing you really enjoy every day and look forward tomorrow.
May God continue to bless you during this wonder-filled season.
Gil Hanke, chief executive officer
General Commission on UM Men
By Dr. Rick Vance
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem… When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. ”
––Matthew 2:1, 10-12
At this time of year people begin to reflect on the year past and look forward to the possibilities of the year to come. This is particularly true in a year filled with pain and confusion.
While many Christmas sermons primarily focus on the gifts the Wise Men brought, I suggest we focus on the givers; they can provide insights into what our ministry should look like.
The wise men were men who:
- Learned about the prophecy of God as found in Scripture and were willing to do whatever it took to respond.
- Understood the importance of Jesus, sought him, and were willing to be humble and worship him.
- Offered Jesus the best of what they had and were willing to be obedient to God’s word rather than follow a person simply because he held a high political position.
I believe that God is calling UM Men to intentionally coach men to thrive through Christ, so, I ask you:
- How is your discipleship as a follower of Christ?
- Are you continually striving to grow in your discipleship through prayer, accountability, worship, and study?
- Do you have a plan to coach men to thrive through Christ?
- Are you willing to listen to God even if being called to go in a different direction than you want to?
In short, are you willing to live our vision; “To coach men to THRIVE through Christ?”
I pray that as you continue your Advent journey to Christmas, you will be filled with joy and excitement as you worship Christ. May you have a very merry Christmas and a blessed healthy New Year.
Your brother on the journey
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
Abuse harms the whole person
By Steven Scheid
Speaking from faith: abuse harms the ability to connect with God, the church, and others.
Children experience the pain of the abuse their entire lives. Even if the body shows no signs, the body memory is there. It remains in scents, touches, places, and feelings that take years to process. Trusted people become un-trustable. The vast majority of abused knew and trusted their abuser. It makes the challenge of trust as difficult as the first step over the edge of the cliff when repelling. Future relationships, including spiritual relationships, are damaged before they begin. Scars from abuse are inflexible and sensitive. This is true for scars on the spirit. The harm from abuse can find its way into almost all aspects of life.
Children who experience one adverse event are more likely to experience additional abuse. They go from looking like a possible victim to being one. Predators can sense this. They have a profile they seek. They then share the information. Some predators not only share ideas and methods but names of organizations and victims.
Religious and values-based organizations lend predators a false sense of goodness. This halo effect is profound. Who would not believe those engaged in with these commitments are good? They know the words, look the part, and seek to share time with us in meetings, activities, or worship. But when the truth is revealed, the damage stretches far beyond the victim or the immediate group. The damage scars the future.
I encourage the church to be more vigilant. Don’t settle. Count the cost of building the ministry. The cost must include the temporal and the eternal. Are we willing to sacrifice to protect the next generation? Someone invested in us and generations before. This is how the church was built. The risk was high then but worth doing it right. It is just as important today as ever before.
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministry
General Commission on UM Men
Honor a legacy
By Steve Nailor
When our church celebrated All Saints Sunday recently, I began to think about what a witness it can be to honor people who mentored, coached, and supported us as we grew in faith over the years.
Take a moment to think of the people who influenced you and who now live in their heavenly home. What did you learn from them? How did they inspire you to live your life? How does their legacy live in you today?
In Hebrews 12:1 we learn that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. That cloud can become the cornerstones for our own personal ministries and outreach going forward. It is now our turn to make a difference in the lives of others and set examples as members of God’s kingdom on earth.
The Society of John Wesley currently has 844 members. This week I spoke with a family who honored their father as one of first 220 members of the society. Each year this family preserves the memory of their father by faithfully giving to the UM Men Foundation. How beautiful it is that their father’s memory is continued through their annual gifts. Is there someone you would like to honor or remember by making a gift to the foundation to preserve their legacy?
I am grateful to those who shared their lives with me, and I am thankful they continue to show me the way to live my life today. What an honor it is to serve the Lord remembering those who paved the way. May God bless you as you continue your journey through the days ahead.
Steve Nailor, president
UM Men Foundation
Forgiveness . . .
By Herman Lightsey
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
To think like Jesus means to be willing to forgive the people who have hurt you.
Even on the cross, Jesus forgave. In Luke 23:34 he says of the people who tortured and hung him there, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (NIV).
Who has hurt you the most in life? Who are you holding a grudge against? What pain are you holding on to because you cannot forgive?
When you hold on to hurt, you are only hurting yourself. You need to forgive the person, not because they deserve it but because God has forgiven you, and He expects you to do the same for others. You forgive because you don’t want your pain to turn into bitterness and resentment. Being unforgiving is like drinking poison and hoping it hurts the other person.
Forgiveness is a personal act, that, if acted on by us, the world around us will change.
We live in a contentious world. Not to make you feel better––but we have been here before. We are at the point that we do not believe the very institutions we relied on to establish this country of opportunities and influence. The news media, the politicians, the church, and so on are no longer trusted. This is influencing everyone in this country––and to some extent, the world.
I was zooming with a group of men this week and one concern raised was a young boy who refused to stand and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. His reason was the feeling of discontent and unfairness being expressed in this country.
We have to turn this around.
God promised that if we humble ourselves as a nation and seek His face, He will hear us from heaven, forgive our sins and heal our land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
Men, God is knocking on our door and pleading with us to step up to be counted for Him. Forgiveness starts with us.
Bishop Holston says that we may be the only Jesus that those we encounter see. Not to put too much pressure on you . . .
Herman Lightsey, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
Launch––or fail to launch
By Mark Lubbock
“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. But Simon answered, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.”
Each generation faces its own “unprecedented times.”
A quick review of history will provide ample confirmation that all people journey thru unchartered waters. Terrifying world events, illnesses, accidents, personal trials, and unwarranted challenges characterize the lives of all humans.
While God allows these events to unfold, He is eager to lead us through the valley onto the mountain top. Those who turn from their own ways to His way relish the peak experience.
Then––life continues with more challenges.
However, with each new season and each new confrontation, there is an increased willingness to trust in Jesus, resulting in personal testimonies of victory.
A question to myself (and perhaps to you)) is simply this: Am I ready to launch in response to the invitation of Jesus?
Like Peter, I’ve had some unsuccessful fishing excursions, and I’m reluctant to repeat ineffective actions, but Jesus tells me to launch again.
Luke tells us that Peter obeyed, even when an entire night of frustration told him the action was doomed to fail. His obedience resulted in the largest catch in his life.
What is holding you and me back from launching or relaunching our ministries to men?
We are not limited to serving inside the walls of the church. We are called to serve where we are planted. God made us “on purpose––for a purpose.”
It is time to stand for Jesus within our families, our churches and our neighborhoods.
Don’t let this opportunity to launch a new chapter in your life pass you by. Yoke up with other like-minded men who put Jesus first and who have the courage to launch.
The commission can provide you with resources, train you, and guide you all the way.
Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men