Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Discipleship and citizenship

Dear friends in Christ,

Yesterday, I was invited to join a conversation about discipleship on a regular series called Pew & Beyond. It’s run by Neil Mancor and Lisa Vaughn, friends who work on congregational vitality in the Anglican Church of Canada. We had a good time talking, and there were lively comments from the viewers. If you have an hour to watch Neil, Lisa, and I talk amongst ourselves and interact with viewers, I commend the video to you.

During the conversation, we talked about lots of things, most especially spiritual growth. How do we move from being spiritual couch potatoes to being spiritually healthy? We also talked about a new offering from Forward Movement, Revive for Lent. Check it out if you’re looking for a way to engage spiritual growth using a video-based series this Lent.

Someone asked about the relationship between discipleship and citizenship. Given recent events, in which violence was perpetrated by people claiming to be Christians, I thought it was a timely topic. It wouldn’t be hard to write a book on this topic, but in today’s email, I just want to share a few quick thoughts.

Discipleship is about the journey of individuals in following Jesus, but it can only be done in community. In other words, for a disciple there is always personal accountability and accountability to a wider community. So too it is with citizenship. There is work I must do as a citizen, but I must also attend to the well-being of my community.

It strikes me that this balance of individual and community is something that we often get wrong with disastrous results. In the church, if we fail to teach personal ownership of our spiritual journey, we end up with churches full of people who do not have a prayer life or an immersion in the scriptures. Conversely, if we fail to emphasize community, we end up with a selfish focus on personal spiritual achievement, which is quite the opposite of the sacrificial love that Jesus taught and lived.

So too it is with citizenship. If we fail to emphasize personal accountability, we effectively abrogate our leadership to any number of people who would hijack a nation for their own personal interests. And if we fail to emphasize community, we see a selfish view of citizenship that does not care for those at the margins.

In the coming weeks, I hope we can all reflect on our work as disciples of Jesus and as citizens of whatever nation we inhabit. We have many blessings to enjoy, but we also have much work to do.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

Spiritual Truth in an Age of Fake News | ChurchNext

Use REVIVELENT discount to purchase Revive and supplemental Lent material for $50 | Revive

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Join us on January 13th, 7pm est for RenewalWorks: Connect, featuring guest presenter: Dr. Lisa Kimball from Virginia Theological Seminary

Forward Today: Proclaim the Gospel of the boundless riches of Christ

Dear friends in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. The familiar story is told in the Gospel of Matthew, a story of Christ’s presence being made known to the whole world. On this feast day, the assigned epistle reading is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians.

St. Paul writes about the grace he has been given by God and about the mission he shares with the whole church.

Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

On this feast of the Epiphany, we do well to remember not only God’s grace revealed in Jesus Christ, but our mission to proclaim the love, wisdom, mercy, justice, and grace of God to the whole world.

The magi left behind their familiar world because they saw a sign. After a great and dangerous journey, they adored Jesus when they saw him. Are we willing to look for signs and respond to God’s call? Are we ready to adore Jesus Christ when we see him? Are we ready to make God’s grace known to the whole world?

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

New release: With Gladness | Forward movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Join us on January 13th, 7pm est for RenewalWorks: Connect, featuring guest presenter: Dr. Lisa Kimball from Virginia Theological Seminary

Forward Today: Our hopes and fears are met in Jesus

Dear friends in Christ,

I love several lines in Phillips Brooks’ beloved Christmas carol, “O little town of Bethlehem.” The last phrase in the first verse is especially poignant to me this year, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Our God came to dwell among us, and in so doing, our hopes and fears met their redeemer. Ancient people had hopes and fears, and Jesus knew them. Today, we too have hopes and fears, and Jesus knows us and our hearts.

The year that is past certainly brought out many fears. If you’re like me, you are looking ahead in hope right about now. Of course, it’s never that easy. Hope and fear often come together.

 

At Forward Movement, it’s been a challenging year. We have tried valiantly to offer signs and words of hope. We created new materials to support Christians finding their way at home. We continued to send tens of thousands of copies of Forward Day by Day to people in prison, to nursing homes, to hospitals, and to military bases. We completely shifted how we work so that our ministry could carry on and we could be there when you call or write for help or to place an order.

I haven’t been afraid for Forward Movement’s long-term survival. We will be here for you and the church for decades to come. I’m sure of that. My fears have been simpler: are we really shifting in the best way possible? Are we providing what people need? Can we continue to innovate and create free podcasts and websites during a time of reduced income?

My hopes are much larger than my fears. I hope for a vibrant future for the church, and in some ways this challenging time is pushing all of us in ways we needed to be pushed. I hope the pandemic helps us be more aware of our interconnectedness. I hope when this strange time ends, we live in gratitude for things we might have taken for granted. Of course, I hope suffering is minimal and healing for people and nations comes quickly.

This time of year, you’ll be hearing from a lot of organizations asking for your financial support. At Forward Movement, we always hope you support your local church first and foremost. I also know you might not be in a position to make a financial gift now, and if that’s the case, I’ll ask for your prayers.

If you are able to make a gift to support the ministry of Forward Movement in sharing the love of Jesus Christ who knows all our hopes and fears, I would be most grateful. Your online gift will help us continue to offer what the church needs, even when those needs require us to make something free of charge. Your gift will help us stay strong now, so that we emerge from this pandemic time in good health.

If you have hopes or fears that Forward Movement can address, please let me know. Meanwhile, I wish you every blessing in the year to come.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Good Book Club: Epiphany 2021 begins January 1st

Available in print and as an eBook: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Submit a prayer | Christian Prayers from around the World

Forward Today: Christmas can’t be canceled

Dear friends in Christ,

This Christmas will be like no other in recent memory. There will be no packed churches, no Christmas carols belted out with brass and choirs, no acres of poinsettias in the chancel, and not even any large family gatherings.

It would be understandable if we focused on our losses this year. Our losses are considerable, both in the thousands and thousands of people who have died in the pandemic and in the loss of familiar habits and rituals.

For Christians there is always Good News, even amidst our struggles and suffering. We know that evil is defeated on the cross, and we know that death is vanquished in the empty tomb. And then there is Christmas.

Some 2,000 years ago, the world suffered mightily under the yoke of oppressors. God’s people yearned for deliverance, ached for a word of hope. That hope came into the world in Bethlehem, an insignificant town in the middle of nowhere, at least according to the powers-that-be. God’s deliverance was born into our world in a birth that was precisely as beautiful and messy as any other.

Of course, not everything was normal about this birth. Sure, it was a human mother giving birth to a human son. But we know it was Mary the God-bearer bringing Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, into the world.

An angel proclaimed glad tidings. The host of heaven praised God. Shepherds hastened to meet their savior.

Nothing can change that story, for that story has changed the world. We would do well to be like those shepherds. Let us hasten to welcome Jesus into our world and into our very lives. And then let us glorify and praise God, for our world yearns for deliverance and aches in hope.

Perhaps with all the habits and rituals pared away, we can find the heart of the Gospel message of Christmas. God never abandons us and always finds us in our struggles. God-among-us is still very much our savior.

May we all, like Mary, treasure the Good News. And may we, like the shepherds, hasten to meet Jesus and proclaim his love to the world. I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

The Good Book Club: Epiphany 2021 begins January 1st

Available in print and as an eBook: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Looking ahead to Lent? Here are some ideas. | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Oh, it’s time for the O Antiphons

Dear friends in Christ,

One of my favorite liturgical customs comes along every year just before Christmas. In the last days of Advent, there are special prayers to be said during evening prayer starting December 17. They are called the Great O Antiphons, because each of these prayers begins with O. You can find the prayers in the Wikipedia article for the O Antiphons.

You probably know these antiphons without knowing it. The hymn “O come, O come Emmanuel” is a paraphrase of these ancient prayers. If you open The Hymnal 1982 and turn to hymn 56, you’ll see this beloved hymn. At the start of each verse, there’s a date telling you on which day of Advent this verse is appropriately sung.

If you’re like me, this a chaotic time of year. There are tasks to be finished by Christmas, there are tasks to be finished by the end of the calendar year, and there is the overall misery of this lousy year. For all those reasons, I’m especially looking forward to adding a ray of hope and light to my evening prayers over the next few days.

I’ll probably just say the prayers at the end of evening prayer where additional prayers may be added. But it would also be appropriate to sing a verse of “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

Whatever you do, I encourage you to stick with Advent to the end. Our hearts and our lives need the full measure of this season to prepare ourselves to adore God-among-us.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Let us all pray for prudence. Advent blessings to one and all.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Wikipedia


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: Looking toward Christmas

Dear friends in Christ,

I hope you’ll forgive this intrusion into Advent, but we need to talk about Christmas for a minute. It’s coming. Part of our hope-filled Advent is attending to the logistics of Christmas celebration, and we want to be ready to do whatever we can to receive again the gift of God-with-us.

Not long ago, I read a wonderful blog post about Christmas, churches, and the pandemic.

The pandemic makes connecting with new people this Christmas more important than ever. But the pandemic also has given rise to new ways of being and doing church that present new opportunities for reaching people. Christmas 2020 calls us to meet new people in new ways. Don’t miss this moment.

This blog post, “Reaching New People this Christmas is More Important than Ever”, is worth reading carefully. There are some good ideas of how we can reach people with the Good News they need in the midst of a difficult time.

You may be too exhausted to do more than you’re doing now. And if that’s the case, take care of yourself and know that it’s more than enough.

If, however, you can muster the energy, you and your church can offer a tangible manifestation of Christ’s presence in the coming Christmas season. We can’t have our familiar, beloved Christmas services. Family gatherings must be scaled back. But still we can celebrate the Good News and the glory that the angels celebrated when Jesus was born. Christmas 2020 will be unlike any in recent memory, but it will still be Christmas.

I don’t know what your church should do, and I don’t know what you can do. But I do know that all around there are people yearning for a word of hope, mercy, and grace. This is our moment to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Pray for strength and courage to answer the call. Pray for our whole church—weary though we may be—to proclaim glad tidings of God’s great love for us.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo: Pixabay


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

Register for free live course, Introducing Mark | ChurchNext

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

Forward Today: It’s not too late for Advent!

Dear friends,

I’m here to say it’s not too late to enter into the fullness of Advent! Maybe because of the strange Thanksgiving holiday or just the general weirdness of this year, the start of our liturgical year snuck up on you.

As I wrote before, I’m especially grateful for Advent this year. In a year that has seemed chaotic and which has often not pushed me toward my better self, I look forward to this season devoted to repentance and preparation—getting my life and my heart ready to worship Jesus.

There are lots of ways to observe the season. Your church may have suggestions or resources or programs. If not, I have a few suggestions.

  • Get yourself four candles and make an Advent wreath. The candles don’t have to be any certain color, but many people like to get candles that match the vestment colors of the four Sundays (some combination of purpose, rose, and blue). Light your wreath in the evening, perhaps as you say grace and eat dinner.
  • Take on an extra prayer practice. You can pray evening prayer or compline or maybe just spend a few minutes each day telling God what’s on your heart.
  • Savor some silence! It’s a rarity in our culture. Take a few minutes each day. Turn off your electronics. Ignore the phone. Just listen. Listen for the still, small voice of God.
  • Read some scripture. You might want to read the daily lessons. Or ready a book of the Bible such as Isaiah or maybe one of the Gospels.
  • In the opposite of silence, fill your ears with Advent song! My friend Kristen Fout made a fantastic playlist of Advent hymns, and they’re not all organ and choir. Enjoy the variety of musical styles with traditional Advent texts from The Hymnal 1982. Her Advent list is on Spotify. Because I’m an Apple person, I recreated (with a few adjustments because of availability) her Advent list on Apple Music.
  • Take part in Advent Word. Each day of Advent, ponder the assigned word. Share a thought or an image on social media with hashtag #adventword.

 

So much of our world pulls us away from Jesus. I hope you’ll join me this Advent in letting the season pull us toward Jesus, who is our way, our truth, and our life.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo by Scott Gunn


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

An Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck | ChurchNext 

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

RenewalWorks: Connect featuring the Rev. Cannon Stephanie Spellers | December 2nd at 7pm EST

Forward Today: Thanks a million

Dear friends in Christ,

Thank you. In fact, thanks a million. I recently learned that in the last ten years, Forward Movement has given away 1,050,016 copies of Forward Day by Day. That’s more than a million dollars’ worth of free, inspirational material that we’ve sent to prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and military bases.

Most of our free materials are sent to prisons, and we get letters of gratitude from chaplains and incarcerated people all the time. Especially during the pandemic when visits are curtailed, words of hope matter more than ever.

Every one of those million free copies of Forward Day by Day was made possible by your gifts. We simply could not send this material out for free without donor support.

Thank you. And I am joined in my thanks by hundreds of thousands of people around the world who have been blessed with a message of compassion, hope, mercy, and grace. People are receiving reminders that Jesus loves them, and you made it happen.

The pandemic has brought plenty of challenges, but it has also brought us many blessings at Forward Movement. We know that many of you pray for us and our work regularly. We hear from you about how Christ’s love has been made real to you by Grow Christians, or Forward Day by Day, or courses, or videos, or books, or apps, or any of the other ways we reach people.

Today I have given our whole staff an extra day off to rest, to savor a nice, long Thanksgiving weekend. So you won’t find us answering the phone or processing orders today. You’ll find us all saying prayers of gratitude though, for our work, for donor support, for prayers, and for all the blessings of this life, even in tough times.

If you are grateful for Forward Movement’s ministry, I invite you to do two things. First, offer to God a word of thanksgiving. Second, if you are able to do so, consider making a financial gift to support our ongoing work. The work we are doing is needed now more than ever, and that means your gifts are critical at this moment. If you can’t make a financial gift, it’s OK. I know that people of all circumstances read Forward Today, and I am grateful for each and every one of you.

Let us know if we can do anything for you. And, above all, over this weekend, give thanks for whatever blessings you have received in this earthly life, filled as it is with delights and difficulties.

Blessings to you. And thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.

Photo by Courtney Hedger on Unsplash


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Order Now: A Journey with Mark | Forward Movement

An Introduction to Advent with Tim Schenck | ChurchNext 

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Check out our interactive Advent/Christmas Catalog | Forward Movement

RenewalWorks: Connect featuring the Rev. Cannon Stephanie Spellers | December 2nd at 7pm EST

Forward Today: What does it mean to say, “Jesus is Lord”?

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday we celebrate the kingship of Christ, as we always do on the Last Sunday after Pentecost. But what does that mean for us modern Christians?

To celebrate Jesus as our king and our Lord is to reject all others who might try to lay claim on us as our Lord. Many of the earliest Christians died for professing, “Jesus is Lord” rather than saying that Caesar was Lord. This is perhaps a poignant and necessary reminder for us coming in a time of intense political wrangling.

Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump has claim on us, ultimately. We belong to Jesus. We are not first Republicans or Democrats, but people who worship a savior who asks us to take up our cross and follow him, turning away from all others who might beckon us to follow.

And what kind of king is Jesus, anyway? The Gospel reading for this Sunday brings us the parable of the sheep and the goats. In the parable, the king tells us what is important and what matters in the end.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Jesus shows us the way. He is a king of compassion, mercy, grace, and sacrifice. His most kingly act is his free offering of himself for our salvation on the cross.

I don’t know about you, but after listening to blustery politicians, I need to listen to another voice proclaiming a message of mercy and grace. Coming up on a pre-Christmas season when consumer spending will run amok, I need to be reminded that sacrifice rather than possessions is where we find our meaning. When our allegiance is demanded by political parties, nations, and corporations, I need to be reminded that my first and most precious allegiance is to Jesus Christ.

May we all profess Jesus as Lord, and may our lives show forth what we profess with our lips.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Check out our interactive Advent eCatalog | Forward Movement

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Just Launched: Developing a Rule of Life with Hillary Raining | ChurchNext

Ten Ideas to See You Through the Holidays | ECF Vital Practices

Forward Today: Advent is almost here, just when we need it

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is coming up, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to it more than this year. This has been such a challenging year in many ways, and Advent brings just the blessing I need. I look forward to Advent’s invitation to repent and to focus on Jesus. And I look forward to some of my favorite hymns and scripture readings.

I hope you’ll find Advent as life-giving as I expect it will be for me. But this doesn’t just happen. We have to make time in a chaotic world for the peace and the reflection of Advent to work in us. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside some time each day. Perhaps you’ll pray the daily office (online or via our morning prayer or evening prayer podcasts).

Advent Word is a global movement, a way to pray through the season online and offline. Some suggestions for how to use #AdventWord are available on the Advent Word website. You’ll see the links to follow Advent Word on social media and to add your own voice to the conversation there. This year, we have a podcast. And Forward Movement has published a wonderful book of Advent meditations keyed to the words of #AdventWord. In case you still want a creative outlet, there are posters you can buy to color your way through the season. We have Advent Word posters and the ever-popular “Slow Down. Quiet. It’s Advent” calendar poster by Jay Sidebotham.

Over the years, Forward Movement has offered many different Advent reflections. You can peruse our books, pamphlets, online courses, and more using our interactive Advent/Christmas eCatalog. (Order by November 16 for standard shipping.)

Of course, you don’t need to spend a penny to savor the blessing of Advent. The scriptures are free. Advent Word is free. Quiet is free. And, more important, the grace of Jesus is free.

I do encourage you to make some space in your life for Advent. And let us welcome this blessing we so sorely need.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

Subscribe to receive Forward Today in your inbox.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!

 


In case you missed it…

Check out our interactive Advent eCatalog | Forward Movement

Gift idea: Give the gift of prayer with a Forward Day by Day subscription

Event: Join the conversation with Dean Kate Moorehead about her book, Angels of the Bible: Finding Grace, Beauty, and Meaning

Just Launched: Developing a Rule of Life with Hillary Raining | ChurchNext