Read the Bible With Me in 2017

Can I suggest a New Year’s resolution for you?  Make the commitment to read through the Bible with me in 2017.  At Munger, 2017 is our Year of the Bible, and we’re launching something called The Bible Project.  Here are 3 reasons why I hope you’ll join me in reading through the Bible in 2017.

 

The Bible is Difficult to Read Alone

Lots of folks struggle to understand the Bible, which shouldn’t be surprising: the Bible is a collection of ancient documents, written by strange people in strange languages–of course it’s difficult to read and understand all by yourself.  Through the Bible Project (we’ve taken the name from some folks in Portland with whom we’re partnering), however, we’ll be updating our blog every day with explanatory notes, videos, charts, etc.  To give you an example of the kind of resources available, check out this great intro video to the Book of Genesis:

The Bible is difficult to read alone–so don’t.  Read along with me.

The Last Time You Tried It, You Quit in February

Many of you have probably tried to read through the Bible in a year, only to abandon your resolution in February when you got to Leviticus (if you made it that far).  You’re much more likely to complete marathon training in a group, and in the same way you’re much more likely to read through the Bible along with other people.  I’m preaching through the Bible in 2017, we’ll have a weekly Bible study, a daily blog, podcasts, etc.  All these resources are to help you persevere.  Good things come to those who persevere.

Nothing Has More Potential to Change Your Life

I guarantee you that 2017 holds unexpected challenges for you.  How will you prepare?  There is nothing you can do that will have greater potential to change your life and prepare you for the future than the daily discipline of spending time in silence and scripture.

So, Here’s What to Do

If you are a Mungarian, pick up one of the free One Year Bibles we’re handing out at church; if you don’t live in Dallas, get one of these from Amazon.  (We’re using the ESV translation, but they are currently out of print.)  You could also use the Bible app on your smart phone and pick the One Year Bible reading plan, but I recommend using the hard copy.

Follow along with our blog: bibleproject.mungerplace.org.

Watch my sermons: http://www.mungerplace.org/sermon-library/.

Start on Sunday morning.

Of all the New Year’s resolutions you could make, reading through the Bible is the most important.

So, are you in?

 

The fox knows many things;
The hedgehog knows one big thing.
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I Cried When I Saw This Happen

I saw this happen this past Sunday morning as we celebrated our 6th birthday as a congregation at Munger Place Church.  I know these people; I know their stories; they are my friends.  As I watched them share their cardboard testimonies, I couldn’t help it: tears ran down my face.  (And I’m not a crier.)

2016 Munger Cardboard Testimonies [VIDEO]

As I watched these people share their stories, I kept thinking, “I am so grateful, God, that I get to be a part of this.”

2016 Munger Cardboard Testimonies from HPUMC on Vimeo.

 

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I’m Hiring – Come Work With Me!

Want to work with me?  I’m hiring an executive assistant.  See details below.

Job Description

I’m looking for an executive assistant who will protect my time and give me the space to do the work that God created me to do.

Location:  Munger Place Church, Dallas, TX

Essential duties include the following, plus other duties as required or assigned:

  1. Calendar Management (pastor and church): Maintain pastor’s and church calendar, responding to all meeting requests, gathering relevant background materials.  Confirm all appointments.
  2. Email/Voicemail Management (pastor and main church account): Open and screen incoming e-mail and listen to voicemail, respond on pastor’s behalf when possible, and forward to others when appropriate.
  3. Errands: Run errands in own vehicle as needed/requested. This will include routinely picking up mail and copies from Highland Park UMC multiple times weekly.
  4. Pastoral Office Management:  Provide administrative services such as preparing correspondence and reports for pastor, processing bills for payment, receiving and directing visitors, and procuring supplies for office.
  5. Organization:  Organize, maintain and revamp as necessary church filing systems; maintain both hard and soft copies of marriage, baptism and other important records.
  6. Meetings: Assist pastor in preparing for meetings and events by providing agendas, support and background information.  Attend designated meetings (with or in place of pastor), taking notes and minutes of relevant discussions, and as appropriate, interacting in ways that solve and prevent problems.  Keep track of next actions as agreed in meetings, and follow up with others to ensure these items are accomplished.
  7. Church Activities:  Assist as needed in church activities.
  8. Other:
    • Assist building services in keeping the church buildings uncluttered, organized, neat and orderly, bringing problems to attention of building technician.
    • Be proactive within prescribed limits in foreseeing and resolving problems, as well as conducting business in ways that avoid issues.

Working Hours:  Usual hours will be Monday-Thursday 8:30-5, Friday 8:30-noon; however, these hours may be revised as needed when attendance is needed at church activities or events.

We Require a committed Christian who is comfortable working in a United Methodist Church environment, with the following qualifications:

  • At least 3 years of responsible office experience required
  • High school diploma required, college preferred
  • Must be a self-starter who is responsive and has a high level of initiative and follow-through, who can anticipate needs and efficiently get things done, as well as a desire for constant improvement in performance and efficiency.
  • Excellent oral and written communication and listening skills, as well as good spelling, grammar, punctuation abilities.
  • Highly organized and detail-oriented, capable of learning and using David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) system
  • Excellent interpersonal and relational skills, including the ability to deal cordially and efficiently with others without being pulled into any issues or complaints they present.
  • Professional attitude, appearance and demeanor, maintaining grace under pressure.
  • High degree of discretion with confidential information.
  • Excellent computer proficiency with MS Office Suite, email, and ability to learn and use Arena church database
  • Ability to juggle multiple tasks and shift priorities as necessary, while maintaining a positive, can-do spirit.
  • Capable of functioning both independently and as part of a team.
  • Good driving record, current driver’s license and own vehicle, for running errands
  • Physical abilities to see, hear, speak, sit, stand, walk, lift/carry up to 10 lbs., fine motor skills and ability to move about as necessary.

We provide competitive pay and full benefit package, generous holiday schedule, and a fun, supportive and collaborative work environment!

TO APPLY, please email the following to jobs@hpumc.org, specifying Exec.Asst. in subject line:

  • Resume & cover letter/email
  • Salary requirement
  • Your religious/church affiliation (HPUMC or Munger Place membership not required)

No calls, please.

This Is Why I Love My Job

On Sunday, I was reminded how grateful I am that I get to do what I do.  The congregation I serve in East Dallas celebrated our 5th birthday on Sunday, and I’ll be the first to tell you that the sermon wasn’t the best part of the service.  No, it was what happened afterwards that everyone is talking about.

Who Knew Cardboard Could Make You Cry?

We had asked some folks from our congregation to share their “cardboard testimonies” immediately following my sermon.  Nothing I could ever say could be as powerful as what those folks wrote on their cardboard signs:

I feel so grateful to get to be a part of a place like Munger and to see the saving power of God up close.

Amen.

 

 

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Happy Birthday Munger!

Five years! The congregation I serve in East Dallas celebrated our 5th anniversary today, and my friend Lin Thomas–a great Mungarian!–blessed us with a birthday poem.  Check out the 90 second video, below.

Lin’s Birthday Poem

Lin, who is blind, is a faithful and generous member of our congregation.  (You might remember that he shared a Thanksgiving prayer with us last November.)  This morning, this is what he had to say to a packed house of Mungarians:

We are so blessed.

 

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In Death’s Dark Valley

Our community was shocked last week when we heard the evil news that an 18 year-old young woman named Zoe Hastings was found murdered.  What do we do in the face of this kind of loss?  I don’t know the Hastings family personally and I don’t presume to have any idea of the hell through which they are walking.  But, I have been thinking about loss, and I humbly offer the following thoughts to anyone struggling with the question, “What do we do in the face of evil, death, and suffering?”

We Grieve

When we experience loss, we grieve.  It is appropriate and necessary to be filled with anger or dread or numbness.  It’s okay to scream and cry.  When someone you love is taken away, anything less than grief would be an obscenity.  And, because grief comes in all different forms and in different ways and at different times for different people, whatever you are feeling is fine.  Don’t analyze it.  Just grieve.

We Resist

When we experience evil and loss we want to scream out “Why?”  When evil comes upon us, it is always inexplicable, but for some reason we still feel the need to offer an explanation.  Don’t.  One of the wisest things I ever heard my father say: “Resist the urge the explain.”  We don’t know why Zoe Hastings was murdered.  No one knows.  “Why?” is a useless question, and do not attempt to offer an explanation or a platitude–however well intentioned–to someone grieving.  Resist the urge to explain: it won’t do any good.

We Hope

I may not have an answer to the “Why?” questions, but there is something else that I do have.   Please know that I mean no offense in sharing the following, as I am aware that not everyone reading this shares my faith.  But, as a Christian, in the face of evil, pain, and loss, I have hope.

Now, Christian hope is not wishful thinking.  It is not a vague sense that we should think positively or put a sunny gloss on our grief.  Wishful thinking has nothing to offer to those who grieve.

No, Christian hope is certainty.  Christian hope is based on the fact that Jesus is risen; Christian hope knows that the Resurrection proves that evil will not win and that everything sad will become untrue.  Christian hope is the certainty that God will ultimately right every wrong.

That is the hope I have.

So, in the face of evil, death and suffering, we grieve.  And we wait until the day when God will make everything new.

And we hope.

Lord, help our unbelief.

 

P.S.  One of My Favorite Bible Verses

Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

We’re Hiring a Youth Minister

Want to come work with me and my team at our great church? Know someone who does?  We are looking for a youth minister to lead our ministries to middle and high school students. Our church has been blessed with a lot of growth in the past year (our worship attendance is up 36%) and we’re reorganizing our staff, which means we have a great opportunity for the right person to lead our youth ministry. Is that you?  The job details are posted below.  (Please note that job applications do not come to me; in fact, I’m not involved in the hiring process until the final interviews.)

midvale school for the gifted

Director of Youth Ministry – Munger

Responsible for all aspects of Munger Place Church’s ministry to youth in grades 6-12, to help families raise their middle school and high school students to love and follow Jesus Christ.  This person will work within Munger Discipleship ministry and with a team of volunteers to plan, coordinate and execute the ministry.

Location:  HPUMC’s Munger Place Church in Old East Dallas

Responsibilities include the following, with additional duties as required or assigned:

  1. Pastoral:  Minister to youth and their families through Sunday school and other church programs, being present in their lives outside the church walls, available for common concerns and in crisis situations, and through pastoral care visits.
  2. Leadership:  Recruit, training and nurture Youth Ministry and Confirmation volunteer teams; lead adult volunteer leadership meetings, trainings and retreats; participate in the research, design, and implementation of a ministry to parents of youth.
  3. Administration:  Manage the planning process and coordinate all regular ministries to youth and their families, which includes youth Sunday mornings, Confirmation, special events, trips and retreats, parent meetings, etc.; update Munger Youth and Confirmation web pages.
  4. Stewardship:  Ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of youth programs/events and reacting accordingly; manage youth ministry budget; collaborate with Confirmation and youth ministries at HPUMC.

The Director of Youth Ministry – Munger is expected to maintain high Christian values and professional integrity in order to provide an example for the youth and families of our community.  This position will also encourage all youth and families of the community to strive for the same standards.

HPUMC/Munger Place is a high-performing, fun and supportive environment where your work is appreciated!  We provide competitive pay, full benefit package and generous holiday schedule.

WE REQUIRE a Christian (preferably United Methodist) committed to living a life that reflects the Gospel who is comfortable working in a United Methodist church and has the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree; seminary or other formal religious education a plus
  • At least 3 years experience in church ministry as staff or lay leader
  • Ability to build, lead and empower volunteer teams
  • Ability to implement a ministry vision
  • Familiarity with United Methodist doctrine required; must be comfortable teaching it and representing the church
  • Proficient computer skills using applications such as MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, database, email, Internet and social media
  • Supervisory experience preferred
  • Ability to evaluate and adapt curriculum preferred
  • Must have excellent organization, communication (verbal and written) and listening skills, with a high degree of initiative and accountability
  • Exceptional interpersonal and relational skills required, with sensitivity to church members and visitors
  • Understanding and enjoyment of youth and families and guiding their spiritual development
  • Familiarity and comfort with diverse socioeconomic populations
  • Good driving record; ability to drive church van with passengers
  • Physical demands include sitting, standing, walking, seeing, hearing, lifting approx. 10 lbs.

To Apply, please email all of the following to jobs@hpumc.org, specifying Munger Youth in subject line:

  1. Your resume and cover letter/email
  2. Your pay requirement
  3. Your religious/church affiliation & statement of faith
  4. Your philosophy of youth ministry

No calls, please.

– See more here.

Why Did God Permit the Charleston Murders?

We don’t know.  “We don’t know” is the honest answer to any question about why God permitted Dylan Roof to murder the Charleston Nine.  No one knows.  But though we will never have a definitive answer this side of the grave, a strange parable Jesus tells does offer an interesting perspective on the perennial “Why?” we ask whenever innocent people suffer.

Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Today’s Eat This Book Portion

The Eat This Book campaign at my church provides folks a scripture reading schedule to follow.  Right now, we are reading through the Gospel of Matthew (about a half chapter a day), and today’s reading comes from Matthew 13, one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Reading the strange parable of the wheat and the weeds this morning has got me thinking about last week’s murders in Charleston.

The Wheat and the Weeds

wheat-fields-nature-landscape-sunrise

Surrounded by a crowd by the shore of the Sea of Galilee one day, Jesus told the following parable:

 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn….” 

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!'”

(Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)

Parables are meant to unsettle, to make you think.  So go read this strange parable again, slowly.  (In other words, don’t scan the way you normally do on the Internet.)

Some Quick Observations

  • Jesus points out that evil and good are so tightly mixed together in this world that no man or woman can perfectly separate one from another.  I know this is true, because I know it is true in me.
  • Jesus reminds us that, though evil seems to be growing stronger, so is good.  This is an evil world, but evil is not stronger than good.
  • Jesus says that, this side of Judgement Day, it is impossible to root up all the evil in the world without also destroying the good.  For reasons only known to God, if there is to be good in the universe, there must also be the freedom for evil.
  • Jesus makes it very clear that evil, though it seems strong today, will one day be utterly destroyed by God.
Emmanuel AME Zion Church member Kevin Polite helps members into the church for the service on 6/21/15 [David Goldman/Getty Images].

Emmanuel AME Zion Church member Kevin Polite helps members into the church for the service on 6/21/15 [David Goldman/Getty Images].

Let Me Know What You Think

I find this parable strangely comforting.  What about you?  What do you think this parable is about, and how might it relate to the evil that was done in Charleston last week?

 

 

Exactly One Year Ago

Exactly one year ago the bishop put his hands on my head and said:

“David Andrew Forrest, take authority as an elder
to preach the Word of God,
to administer the Holy Sacraments,
and to order the life of the Church
in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I was ordained on June 2, 2014.  (I wrote about my ordination day here.) What follows are some quick thoughts on what’s changed in the past year.

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Me, my wife, and my folks, about to walk into my ordination service at First United Methodist Church, Richardson, TX (2 June 2014).

 

It’s Like Getting Married….

I’ve heard Hollywood couples say “We don’t need a piece of paper to prove our love for each other; we love each other now, even though we’re not legally ‘married.'”  At first, that statement makes sense–if you are already living together, sleeping together, and sharing finances, what difference would getting married make?

Anyone who has ever been married, however, can attest: something does change after you say “I Do.”  It’s hard to explain, but you are different when you walk out of that church than you were when you walked in.

It’s the same with ordination.  I was already serving as a pastor at Munger, but when I walked out of the service that humid June evening one year ago, I was different.  It’s hard to explain, but it’s true.

The One Thing I Never Question

I feel secure in my calling.  There are lots of things I question, but I never wonder if the Lord has called me to be a pastor: I know that I’m doing what I was created to do.

And One Thing I Was Wondering This Past Sunday

This past Sunday at my church was Confirmation Sunday, when our 6th graders step up and claim the Faith as their own.  It was my great privilege as their pastor to baptize and confirm 45 of them.  During my confirmation sermon at our 11 AM service, I gave an aside in which I spoke to the students and told them that if any one of them was feeling called by God to do what I do–be a pastor, i.e., a shepherd of people–that they should do it.  I mentioned what an absolute privilege it is to be with people cradle to grave, to share their greatest joys and sorrows, to preach the Word in season and out.

Confirmation Sunday at Munger Place Church (31 May 2015).  We closed our services with baptisms and confirmation out front.

Confirmation Sunday at Munger Place Church (31 May 2015). We closed our services with baptisms and confirmation out front.

Later on, it was time for me to go along the line of kneeling 6th graders and place my hands on them and say:

[Name], the Holy Spirit work within you, that being born through water and the Spirit you may be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”

As I moved down the line, the thought occurred to me that about 25 years ago (turns out it was 23 years ago–see below), a pastor put his hands on my head during my confirmation service at little Providence United Methodist Church in Dare, Virginia.  I remember my confirmation as being a powerful moment–a “red letter day“–in my life.

I knew this would come in handy one day.... (If you are curious, "David T. Forrest is my dad."

I knew this would come in handy one day…. (If you are curious, “David T. Forrest” is my dad.)

What if one of the 45 students that I confirmed on Sunday were to find himself or herself in my place a quarter century from now?  That would be too beautiful for words.

May God make it so.

How My Friend Mike Found His Way Back

It’s sad but true: “pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  What C.S. Lewis meant by that phrase is that it’s often not until we are really hurting from self-inflicted wounds that we are ready to turn from running away from God to running to God, only to find that the God is there to welcome us home.  My friend Mike’s story of redemption and healing is one more example of this pattern.  And it’s a great story….

On Highland Park United Methodist’s website, Mike tells of his anguish after learning his marriage of 12 years was ending:

I was in the backyard with our three dogs (two of whom were about to move away) and I fell to my knees and starting howling like a wounded animal. Eventually, it resolved into something resembling words, ‘Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…'”

God put great people in his life at exactly the time Mike needed them, and one of them invited Mike to both our church and his men’s group.  I remember well the first interaction I had with Mike, which he describes here:

I made arrangements to meet with Josh [Mike’s friend and a member of my congregation] and he left me with one key takeaway: I should join him and Kimberly [Josh’s wife] at Munger Place Church that Sunday. I wasn’t particularly interested, but I was too weak to say no.

I walked into Munger, my first steps into a church for the better part of 20 years. I was pleased to find that the music was incredible. I was further pleased and surprised to find that Rev. Andrew Forrest’s sermon was both thoughtful and gracious towards those who weren’t all-in. I agreed to come back for a second week.

That second week, Rev. Forrest preached about a mishap in a river that led him to realize that swimming against the current is a fruitless and tiring exercise. It touched my heart and I felt better for the first time in a month. I wasn’t ready to believe, but I’d at least see where the current would take me.

I arranged to have breakfast with Rev. Forrest and nervously posited that I wanted to be a part of the community I saw growing at Munger. But, I wasn’t sure that I believed. Was there still room for me? (In retrospect, I can almost see Rev. Forrest reeling the fishing line as he welcomed me.)”

(What Mike calls “reeling the fishing line” was really just the grace of God hooking and bringing him in!)

God Really Does Want Good Things for Us

Neither Mike nor I believe in the so-called prosperity gospel, i.e., the idea that God just wants to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise.  After all, Christ was crucified, and sometimes the “prosperity” that God has in mind for us is cultivated in difficulty and suffering.

But, I also don’t believe that God wants us to suffer, and I definitely believe that God wants to bless us.  In Mike’s case the blessings that have resulted from him stumbling back to the Lord have been abundant:

Through my time in that group [a men’s group to which he was invited], continued immersion at Munger, a little C.S. Lewis, and a lot of Tim Keller, within a couple months, I returned to the fold. I believed as I never had before. I prayed a lot. I started doing all I could to make up for lost time, joining in a mission trip with 28:1 and making room for Jesus in every day. I’m not one to subscribe to the so-called ‘prosperity Gospel,’. But I found myself thriving in all areas of my life, including the launch of a successful new business venture that put me in a position to influence clients, employees and the public.

I felt His hand in my life in a way I’d never imagined.

You’ll remember there was a second name that God put in my head [after Mike’s cry of desperation in his backyard]. That was Crystal Decker, a woman I’d never met. Somehow through business connections she’d wound up a Facebook friend. I recalled she and her husband handling their social media-age divorce as well as I thought it could be done.

I met her and she quickly became my divorce coach, then a friend, then my best friend. She was a great advocate, but seemed pretty hard-boiled. So I was surprised when one Sunday she asked if she could go to Munger with me. She had avoided church for a long time too and thought Munger sounded like a place where ‘thinking people of faith could be in a community without being talked down to every week.’

Crystal and I married at Munger Place on October 5, 2013.”

I was honored to officiate at Mike and Crystals’ wedding.  You should read Mike’s entire (relatively brief) story here.  It’s a great story.

Please read the whole thing.

One Result of This: A One Day Conference on Faith in Business

Mike would be the first to tell you that he’s not perfect and doesn’t have all the answers.  But what he does have is faith in a God of grace and love and power, and Mike is doing the hard work of what it means to be an imperfect follower of Jesus.  As a follower of Jesus and a successful digital entrepreneur, Mike finds himself asking, “What does it look like to be faithful at work?”

As part of his attempt to answer that question, Mike and some other folks are putting on a conference called Faith in Business that we’re hosting at my church on Friday, May 1.  It’s only $15, and that includes lunch!  Mike Ullman, the longtime CEO of JC Penney, as well as other folks, will be there.

We’d love to have you.  More info here.