<![CDATA[MikeVoigts.com - From My Mind to Yours]]>Wed, 21 Jun 2017 20:49:58 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[In Memoriam...]]>Thu, 22 Jun 2017 03:09:40 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/in-memoriamPicturePhoto courtesy of Lois Homrighausen Frazier (Who didn't know I lifted it from her Facebook page)

These thoughts aren't written well and I almost didn't post them. Attempting to summarize the impact of a giant on one's life in 650 words is a laughable endeavor. However, to take the words of a great man out of context, "Here I stand, I can do no other."

When I was 8, I saw him as an immoveable rock; a super hero in whom I could trust - even though physically he didn’t look like one due to his polio-stricken legs.

When I was 10, he was a prophet who spoke on behalf of God about my future, telling me during a Saturday catechism class not to make any career plans because God had already chosen me to be a pastor one day.

By the time I was 12, he had already been my first seminary professor for two years, offering advice and wise tips about how pastors should deal with opinionated people and difficult situations. Even though I didn’t think I had any gifts or graces to be a pastor, if Pastor Ed said I could do it, I trusted him.

When my immediate family was falling apart, he became a source of stability and strength, allowing me to stay with his family (and my friend James, his youngest son) for a couple of weeks at a time. Actually, the entire family accepted me and allowed me to be part of their madcap life.

This week, Pastor Edgar Homrighausen rested from his many years of fruitful labors and entered eternity with God. I’m thankful his 90+ year-old body is no longer laboring, but I’m finding it difficult to process his death. My lifelong mentor and pastor is now gone in the same week I begin life not as a parish pastor but as a seminary professor (I’m trying not to read too much into that).

There’s no way I can recall the many times his wisdom came back to my memory when I’ve faced pastoral issues throughout the years. Three years ago, for example, our church helped someone who had a mental illness. We welcomed her, I baptized her, we supported her financially, and then one day she showed up to my church office in a maniacal state. As I received her curses and threats, I remembered a conversation from long ago.

“See that woman in that pew back there?” Pastor Ed asked me when I was about 11, “She’s crazy. She was yelling and screaming at me earlier. She said she’s going to kill me.”

“Are you scared?” I asked.

“Nah! She won’t touch me. Remember that people always lash out at the ones they love the most.”

I told the screaming woman in my church office that if she couldn’t calm down, I wasn’t going to listen to her. “I’m not going to pay attention to you while you’re acting like that. Come back tomorrow if you want to.” To my surprise, she turned around and left the building. Thanks, Pastor Ed.

From dealing with disruptive people, to preaching with uncompromising boldness, to standing for what is right even if the denominational leaders didn’t like it, to dozens of other life and ministry lessons, I’m just realizing that Pastor Ed’s ministry has served as a model for my own ministry vocation. I pray I've been able to have a tenth of the impact on other people that he had. Then again, there will never be another Pastor Ed Homrighausen.

This is a bold statement, but I cannot imagine where my life would have ended up had Pastor Ed not been in it when I was a child. I am merely one of hundreds of people he mentored throughout the years. And although I haven't seen him in a decade, knowing that he’s not breathing the same air that I am anymore makes me feel just a little bit alone. However, what warms my heart is that after being a faithful servant of God,  Pastor Ed has entered a place he's preached and taught about for at least 75 years, and his frail body has now been made whole.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Now get out of that wheelchair… and run.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts

<![CDATA[The Quest for a Consistent Heart]]>Tue, 04 Apr 2017 18:29:28 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/the-quest-for-a-consistent-heartHow different is "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" from "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!" How different is "The King of Israel!" from "We have no King but Caesar!" How unlike one another are green branches and the cross, flowers and thorns! See how the one before home the garments of others were spread is stripped of his own, and lots are cast for them. How bitter to you are our sins [O Lord], which need such bitterness to wash them away!
                                                    — Bernard of Clairvaux, “Palm Sunday: Sermon Two”

It's amazing to think how the same crowds who praised Jesus on Sunday could be shouting for his death on Friday. Were the people so fickle and simple of mind that they could be swayed from praising Jesus to cursing him in just a matter of days? History hasn’t been kind to these Jerusalem crowds. Some have claimed they only cheered for winners, and when Jesus was arrested, they didn’t want to be linked with a loser and face the wrath of the religious leaders themselves. Others contend that the core of the mob’s change of heart was in their misunderstanding of Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God.

In his second Palm Sunday sermon, Bernard of Clairvaux offers that the differences between Sunday and Friday can be summed up in one word: sin. Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was actually a demonstration of the people's the need for his Jerusalem arrival. Their cheers turned to jeers because sin was competing with godliness for the rule of their hearts.

It’s easy to look back at these crowds and condemn them. Yet this inner heart battle is as alive in the world - the Church! - today as it was in first-century Jerusalem. How easy it is for us to worship God on Sunday morning and then mistreat our Sunday lunch server because she forgot to remove the onions from our burger. How easy it is for us to say we can't work with the children or youth at the church because we're too tired. The same battle that existed in the hearts of the Jerusalem crowds is a battle that lives inside many of us who claim Jesus as our Savior and Lord.

Perhaps we too misunderstand Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God. Our misconception may come not from an expectation that Jesus will overthrow an oppressive government. Instead, I wonder if North America’s misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God is that we expect it to offer convenience. In another sermon, Bernard stresses that Jesus didn’t suffer to relieve us of suffering. He suffered so we might share in his suffering. The Christian life isn’t about what we want, or deserve, or about what rights we have. It’s about forsaking our life so we might live completely for Jesus in authenticity and consistency.

The heart-battle is over and Jesus has won. This is the essence of holiness.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts

<![CDATA[The Voice (1992)]]>Fri, 10 Mar 2017 16:52:24 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/the-voice-1992after reading 1 John 1:1

The greatest voice I never heard
Is the voice I love the most.
For from this voice the mountains rose
We call this voice The Word.

How did He sound when teaching truth
Or when He was moved to cry?
Or when he scolded priestly ones
Or when He blessed the youth?

This greatest voice I never heard
Once cried out loud in pain.
Through sweat and blood and many tears,
My life with Him secured.

One day of joy He did reveal
To those who loved Him most.
He rose from death forevermore.
The voice they heard was real.

I know someday I will go home
To kneel and kiss his feet.
That greatest voice I never heard
Will speak to me.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts

<![CDATA[BecAuse Even a Video Beach can be Relaxing...]]>Sun, 19 Feb 2017 00:56:58 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/beacuse-even-a-video-beach-can-be-relaxing
<![CDATA[Stuck Here in Facebook Prison]]>Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:53:49 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/stuck-here-in-facebook-prisonPicture
It began innocently enough. Like millions of others, I discovered a new way to stay connected with friends and family who were separated by miles. They called it The Facebook, a new social media platform designed for 18+ year olds. Photos and later short videos allowed users to share their lives with the world, or at least their ‘friends.” Since then, it has grown to be one of the most popular social media platforms in the world for people of all ages, and a primary means of staying connected with people.

With all the angry, partisan bickering, targeted advertising, and tracking of user data, Facebook has become a nuisance to me. In my mind, however, I can’t leave. It’s as if I’m in Facebook prison. So many of my friends and family post to Facebook that if I don’t check in regularly, I feel like I’m missing out in their lives. Without even realizing it, many of us have made Facebook such a part of our lives that it’s becoming as essential to us as owning a cell phone.

Facebook has become a major source of clutter in my life. I have a difficult time sifting through what’s important and what’s the equivalent of junk mail. In some ways I feel trapped, but I must reluctantly give Facebook credit for their masterful process of sucking me in and slowing making them a necessary part of my life. Well done, you sneaky social media giant.

Several years ago, the movie The Truman Show depicted a man born on television and raised by actors in a fictional town. Even the sky, rain, and sunshine were manufactured. He never knew that his parents, siblings, and best friends were paid actors on the ultimate reality television show, and that millions of people watched his every move. He could have left at any time, but he was raised to believe that life outside of his town was a fearful place. He was in a virtual prison and he didn’t even know it.

Like Truman, although we have the capacity to leave Facebook, many of us fear what life would be like if we left. Our profile posts, photos, comments, and “likes” allow the Facebook Masters to track our interests, travels, and opinions, and to know minute details about our lives. Yet, like Truman’s manufactured life, we keep living in a false understanding that Facebook is reality, when instead it has become a prison to many of us who understand ourselves through it’s false narrative.

I’ve locked myself into Facebook Prison, and I hold the key to freedom. However, if I freed myself I’d be out of the lives of all the other incarcerated souls, many of whom have no idea that they’re imprisoned, too.

Here's a solution: Maybe we should all connect on Twitter or Instagram.

And the cycle continues.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts

<![CDATA[Using a Societal Bad Word]]>Wed, 01 Feb 2017 18:47:37 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/using-a-societal-bad-wordPicture
It’s been unsettling to watch the news and peruse social media in recent weeks and months. Many people - including friends and acquaintances of mine - are angry, bitter, cynical, and spiteful. Some folks are upset because their candidate lost. Others are angry because their denomination is heading in a certain direction. Still other people are frustrated because the federal government isn’t addressing spiritual and/or Biblical issues.

I wonder if much of this negativity stems from the loss of a word that used to have significance in our culture. It’s a word that has fallen out of social fashion and has been deemed politically, socially, and spiritually incorrect. I’m referring to the word "boundaries".

A boundary is a dividing line. It’s a social, political, or spiritual demarcation that provides sometimes necessary space between people, nations, or beliefs. Boundaries distinguish variation or definition. Without them, we would have no order or differentiation.

When I’m at Gethsemani Abbey, I frequently see gates that read, “Monastic Area. Do not Enter.” I could have an attitude of “How dare they keep me out. I deserve to go in there.” It’s a boundary that, if I allowed it to, could invite cynicism and frustration to enter my heart. The signs are not for me, but for the monks. Their calling is to serve the world behind the walls. My calling is to serve the world outside the walls.

In the Old Testament, geographic boundaries were important, for they marked territory and national borderlines. In the New Testament, Jesus didn’t mark the Kingdom of God with a map, but with the heart: Citizens of His Kingdom should act and believe in ways that are contrary to those who are not citizens of the Kingdom of God. The Bible talks about distinctions between those who are holy and those who are not holy. If there are no differences between the beliefs and actions of God’s people and of those who are not God’s people, then what’s the point of living as children of God?

Many Christians in the United States are frustrated and downright angry at recent government policies they believe to be not consistent with Biblical teaching about welcoming strangers. Yet, according to the Bible, what is the role of the government? In Romans 13, Paul offers some insight as to one purpose of the government: It’s to keep peace and ensure the security of its citizens. We may be forgetting that a boundary exists between the role of the Church and the role of the government. History has shown that when this boundary is eroded, bad things happen - both politically and spiritually. Jesus acknowledged these differing roles, as well (e.g. Matthew 22:19-22). Christians should not expect the secular federal government to adhere to Christian ethical practices. Instead, we should live-out those ethics ourselves, serving as role-models in society (Colossians 3:17, 4:5-6).

As human beings, we need boundaries in our lives. We were created to understand distinctions between men and women, young and old, Christians and non-Christians, and even dog people and cat people. These distinctions bring identity and purpose to our lives. Any competent parent will attest to the truth that children need boundaries, as they instinctively long for accountability and rules. When young children do not have a set schedule, many times they will exhibit stress. Despite the demands of many adults for everything to be open and acceptable, our anthropological roots as human beings lead us to a longing for boundaries in ethics, morality, and belief. Without them, we - like children - can exhibit stress manifested as anger, bitterness, cynicism, and spite.

Healthy boundaries of all sorts are woven through the whole of Scripture because God created us to have them. As St. Augustine wrote in the early lines of The Confessions, “Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” Without healthy boundaries in our lives, our hearts are anxious.

Let's be clear: boundaries are not about isolationism or segregation. Rather, boundaries center on identity and purpose. The monks behind the monastic walls are not completely isolated from the world, for gates exist in those walls. Boundaries, like the monastic walls, are healthy for Christians to shield us from the temptations of the world around us. When we knock down those walls, we expose our holy hearts to that which is not holy.

Those in our secular culture have anger in their hearts because they haven’t yet encountered the risen Christ. When Christians exhibit the same frustration and anger, we’re modeling the behaviors of pre-Christian people and we're tearing down an important boundary. May we never forget that we’re God’s people who have experienced the peace and love of Jesus Christ by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Let's live as people of truth, but also of love.

Unless, however, we understand those distinctions as unnecessary boundaries between people.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts

<![CDATA[The Wilderness Times]]>Fri, 13 Jan 2017 19:23:31 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/the-wilderness-times(October 1992)

Worry not, my child.
The wilderness times are blessings.
Care not about your happiness.
Know in your soul that I am God.

For to know me is to love me.
To love me is to trust me.
To trust me is to walk through the wilderness times.
In them you will see my presence.
Peace of life comes only through fire.

The wilderness times are blessed times.
Rejoice for the trials of life.
Rejoice in them, my child.

(c) 2017 Michael C. Voigts]]>
<![CDATA["Great Expectations" for 2017]]>Sun, 01 Jan 2017 03:47:57 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/great-expectations-for-2017This isn't the most spiritual post I've made here and - for the record - my hope is definitely in God and not in the human race! However, this song encapsulates many of my hopes for 2017. This is a complex and beautifully-written piece by the supergroup TOTO from their 2015 project Toto XIV, one of their best albums since TOTO IV.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS · TOTO · STEVE LUKATHER/David Paich/Joseph Williams · STEVE LUKATHER/David Paich/Joseph Williams


℗ 2015 Frontiers Records
℗ FRONTIERS RECORDS  Licensed by Frontiers Records s.r.l
I have great expectations for you and me
And there's no obligations my love
We have sailed across the waters of a raging sea
And it's you that I'm thinking of

Hello to you good people everywhere
It's a new world children handle her with care
There's no end to the challenges we face
It's high tide on the shores we navigate

Please stand clear of the edge
So we won't hang by a thread

So raise your hand take a stand for each other
Lord let us share the water

I've got one million reasons for us to believe
There's nothing we can't change my friend
I've got great expectations for now and forever

There's no stopping the games you like to play
Am I the only one who doesn't think this is a game
Have you already heard
We live and die by our word

So raise your hand take a stand for each other
Lord let us share the water

I've got one million reasons for us to believe
There's nothing we can't change my friend
I've got great expectations for now and forever

I've got one million reasons for us to believe
There's nothing we can't change my friend
I've got great expectations for now and forever

<![CDATA[Bernard of Clairvaux on the Grace of Advent]]>Mon, 12 Dec 2016 18:13:20 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/bernard-of-clairvaux-on-the-grace-of-adventPicture
I still further desire to know why He came to us, and we didn't go to him.  The need was on our side, and it's not usual for the rich to go to the poor, even though they want to help them. It would have made more sense for us to go to him, but there were two obstacles in our way:  1) Our eyes were darkened while He dwelt in light inaccessible; and 2) We lay as paralytics on our beds so we couldn't raise ourselves to the Divine height. This is why our most gracious Savior and Healer of souls both descended to us from His lofty throne and dimmed His brilliance for our weak eyes. He clothed Himself with His most glorious and spotless body as like a shade around a lamp, thus clouding His splendor from us. This is that bright and shining cloud upon which the Lord was to descend upon Egypt, as the Prophet Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 19:1)
                                                  -- Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Lord's Advent, 1.8

<![CDATA["We Will Not Go Quietly into the Night!": Some Thoughts on the Wesleyan Covenant Association]]>Tue, 11 Oct 2016 18:10:04 GMThttp://mikevoigts.com/from-my-mind-to-yours/we-will-not-go-quietly-into-the-night-some-thoughts-on-the-wesleyan-covenant-associationPicture
It’s the greatest Presidential speech never given. In the film Independence Day, as the President of the United States stands on ruins of a nation after an alien attack, he speaks through a bullhorn to the ragamuffin pilots who would soon attack the evil spaceship. “We will not go quietly into the night. We will not vanish without a fight…” It’s a cheesy, goose bump cinematic moment.

On Friday, October 7 in Chicago, there was nothing cheesy about the inaugural meeting of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). It was a day of praise and worship, rousing preaching, fellowship, and, like this fictional presidential speech, a declaration that United Methodists who uphold the doctrinal teachings of Church are not only standing firm, they’re going on offense. No longer will they be bullied by those who blatantly disregard the doctrines and discipline of The United Methodist Church. They love the UMC too much to allow that to happen. The event concluded with two bishops presiding over the Lord’s Supper. Following the event I had a few hours by myself to process the day. What follows are some of my scattered, unpolished thoughts.

First, I’m tired of being called an extremist because I uphold nearly 2000 years of church teaching and the doctrines and discipline of the UMC. By definition, an extremist is someone who exceeds the bounds of restraint by holding excessive opinions or views that are outside of the mainstream. The real extremists in the UMC are those who disregard the Church’s teachings and discipline, not the ones who uphold them. It doesn’t matter what label we use to call ourselves: Conservatives, evangelicals, moderates, or whatever. It’s time to stand unashamedly for Jesus Christ because of our love for Christ. Those who are attempting to hijack the UMC away from the truth of God through our historic Wesleyan heritage want to bring the moral fashion trends of the culture into the church. Scripture tells us the influence should go the other way. God is love, but God’s love is a holy love.

The presence of Central Conference representatives at the WCA event was a reminder of the sacrifices we must be ready to make for the cause of Christ. Even though they face occasional physical persecution in Africa, our United Methodist sisters and brothers courageously share the saving message of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is blessing them. In North America, evangelicals in the UMC have sometimes cowered when extremists call us names and we retreat to our church offices to hide. We must be ready to stand and then endure suffering, for if we take a stand, the suffering will surely come. However, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 1:29, we’ve been given the privilege of both trusting in Christ and suffering for him. It’s through suffering that we find joy.

Second, I left the event with the impression that by having 1) 1700+ clergy and laity in attendance from all corners of the Church; 2) an affirmation that the entire UMC in Africa stands with us; and 3) the presence of at least two bishops (and the names of Bishops who could not attend due to schedule conflicts), the WCA is making a statement to the Judicial Council and the forthcoming special commission that they are a large, organized, unified force in the UMC who cannot be ignored.

The event could have been a day of “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!” Conversely, it was a day of positive preaching, classic Wesleyan teaching, Christian love and fellowship, and a desire to see pre-Christian people around us transformed into the image of Christ. I don’t know what the future holds for the WCA or what the organizers do next. The hiring of staff with membership dollars signifies they’re here to stay (I did not join on Friday). Attendees at the event affirmed several statements of mission and purpose, but the organization’s primary purpose is still a mystery to me. However, I stand with them, for they are advancing nothing more than what is already in the Book of Discipline and historic Christian teaching.

For years, in talking with church members about events in the UMC, I’ve tried either to hide or to explain away the extreme actions by agencies and individuals in The UMC as not really affecting the work of the local church. However, the consecration of Karen Oliveto to the episcopacy was, in the words of WCA presenter Jeff Greenway, a “stake in the sand.” This blatant violation of the Book of Discipline has gone too far. It’s time to stand for the truth of the Gospel and our commitment to the doctrines and discipline of the UMC.

The WCA is a declaration that despite what extremists in the UMC might be trying to force upon us, like the citizens in Independence Day “We will not go quietly into the night.” We must never retreat, for as Paul wrote to Timothy, “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-5, NRSV).

May the love of God the Father be our guide, the salvific work of Jesus be our motivation, and the power of the Holy Spirit be our strength.

(c) 2016 Michael C. Voigts