It’s tough to be Content

Thoughts from my sermonizing this week!

I’m preaching from Philippians 4:10-20, specifically 4:13 which says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” In the verses immediately prior, Paul talks about being content  in wealth or poverty, in hunger or in being full. His contentment does not come from the situations around him,but rather comes from a source that has nothing to do with circumstances – God in Christ Jesus.(oh, by the way, Paul was probably in prison when he was writing these words!)

One commentator I looked at today, made the following point. This passage does not mean that we can do ALL things with the strength of Christ, but rather we can ENDURE all things through the strength of Christ.

This is one of the many scriptures that I classify as “Easier said than done!”  To learn how to be content at all times and in all situations can be incredibly difficult. To be content in Christ means to put God first and then our striving, not the other way around (which is our typical human response)

One remark that popped in to my head while reading this passage – “I would love to try being content while wealthy”  Please Lord, let me try being well off and prove to you how content I can be. While we might say this jokingly, a lot of times, there is more than a little truth in the statement. Paul recognizes the temptation that lies with wealth and strives to place his trust in something that will not rust and thieves will not steal.

On the other side of the coin, poverty has it’s own issues which can take our focus away from God.

To be truly content in God and His will for our lives is to put our faith and trust in God in ALL situations (good and bad) and know that God will take care of you. For me, the tough part is fighting my human tendency to do it myself.  Oh Lord, help me to truly believe and live out “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”

Have a blessed day.

 

Standing on Holy Ground

I had an interesting encounter today. As I was leaving the church for lunch, a car drove up. The three ladies in the car were the nieces of one of our former pastors (40+ years ago or so) They wanted to see the sanctuary, because they remember when the parsonage was next door to the sanctuary and how when they were children, they would visit their uncle. We had a brief but pleasant visit.

This encounter got me to thinking about the significance the sanctuary has in peoples lives.

Another story that relates to this thought: In a previous church, our church office hosted a teenage girl (through a local non-profit) as an intern for a couple of weeks. This young girl walked into the sanctuary with my secretary one day and was asked to help change the clothes on the pulpit and communion table.  Her response, “Oh no, only the pastor can go up there. I can’t go up there”

What does it mean to stand on holy ground? to be in a place where God chooses to meet his children. Have we gotten so used to it, that we have allowed the awe and power of almighty God to fade away? Or have we gotten so busy with new thoughts, ideas and lives that we have forgotten how many times God has touched our lives?

To enter into this house week after week, to see how and when the Holy Spirit will move is an awesome thing. Some times we are privileged to see the Holy Spirit at work. Sometimes we realize that we are standing on holy ground. But sometimes, God works in the background. Sometimes God works on the hearts of His people, silently and in the depths of their lives. Sometimes we are standing on Holy Ground and we don’t even know it.

May we be ready each and every time we enter the Lord’s sanctuary, because we never know when it will become Holy Ground!

In response to these thoughts I want to  invite you to share moments when you discovered you were standing on holy ground.

Reflections on faith in adversity

While doing some research on my sermon for this Sunday (June 26th) based upon James 5:13-18, I came across the following quote in the NIV application commentary on James.  Take a moment to read over this. A couple of lines really stood out to me.

This is from a young lady Hannah More (1745-1833) from England who ended up working with John Newton on the campaign to end the slave trade.

“Affliction is the school in which great virtues are acquired and in which great characters are formed. It is like a spiritual gymnasium in which the disciples of Christ are trained in robust exercise, hardy exertion and severe conflict.

            We do not hear of military heroes in peacetime, nor of the most distinguished saints in the quiet and unmolested periods of church history. The courage in the warrior and the devotion of the saint continue to survive, ready to be brought into action when perils best the country or trials assail the Church, but it must be admitted that in long periods of inaction both are susceptible to decay.”

A couple of thoughts/questions for us to consider:

1) Have you ever looked at the adversity you are facing as a spiritual gymnasium for the development of your Christian character?  Usually, when I am facing adversity, the thought that my Christian character is being developed is the farthest thing from my mind. I am constantly awestruck at how God will use in and all circumstances in my life to teach and grow me as His child.  Do you have a story that you would like to share on how God grew you in adversity?

2) The courage in the warrior and the devotion of the saint continue to survive, ready to be brought into action when perils best the country or trials assail the Church, but it must be admitted that in long periods of inaction both are susceptible to decay. – While it may be true that some things, once learned, you never forget – it is also true that their are things that if unused for long periods of time do decay. I had never really thought about attributes like courage or devotion being subject to decay, but I can see where extended inaction or even non-substantial action can blunt the edge of these gifts given to us by God. While God doesn’t dull our courage or devotion, our own lack of use or mis-use can dull their effectiveness.

If you have been given the gift of courage or devotion (or any other God given talent) how do you keep it fine-tuned  and ready to use. If your faith is comfortable and your life is uneventful, what do you do?  Is there a way that we can keep these gifts from succumbing to decay?

A Big ol’ family reunion

That’s really what it is.  Although to use theological language, we call it the “connection” in United Methodist circles. Annual conference – the one week a year when pastors and laity come together from across North Georgia to “do the business” of the church. It is important to talk about the budget, to elect the delegates, to hear the reports, but I think it is also very important simply to be together. Like I said before, it’s a “Big ol’ family reunion”

Brothers and sisters in Christ gathering together, sharing stories, catching up on old times, laughing, crying, praying, eating and singing (we are United Methodists, after all) and worshipping. Family reunions are a wonderful time way of reminding us that relationships need nourishing to grow. When we sit down and pull out the pictures and share the stories of life over the past year, I constantly hear people say – we need to do this more often.

There is something powerful when God’s people gather together, work together, pray together, worship together, eat together. It makes you think that perhaps God created us for relationship???!!!

Wherever you are right now, I want to invite you to take some time this week to nourish a relationship.

Me, I’m getting ready to go to a week long family reunion and I’m going to love every minute of it.

We Worship to Rejoice

Hope. Joy. Grace. Mercy. Rejoice. Words that we hear often in church and realities that we need in the world.

We don’t need encouragement to talk about the difficulties, troubles, problems, etc in our life. Complaining seems to come naturally as a part of the human condition. Since we are all sinners, fallen, broken, imperfect – we must learn to come to grips with our brokenness. For many people, the answer to that quandary is moan, whine, complain with anyone who will listen. For many others, the weight of our imperfection wears us down so that when we do come to worship, we are tired, worried, frazzled, depressed.

When we gather for Worship, when we come together in His name, the reality of God is brought to bear on our brokenness. Sometimes we enter worship longing for the touch of God. Sometimes when we come to worship it is the last place we want to be. However we come, God is ready to interact with His children. And this happens in ways too numerous to mention. God will reach out to us in a song, prayer, a friend, a word, a touch or in the very act of worship. It is then, when we are touched by God, that we encounter true joy, hope, peace and grace. When God is with us “Immanuel” we rejoice! The world is still there. We will leave this place, this hour and return to the “real” world, but God’s presence will remain. His touch on our hearts and lives will change us. When we willingly come unto Him, God rejoices!

Leonard Sweet once said “Two things distinguished early Christianity from it’s pagan surroundings. Both of these two things are related:  hope and joy”  I want to invite you to come and rejoice this weekend and see what God will do!

Come to Chatsworth 1st United Methodist Church this Sunday at 9am or 10:55am to hear more about how “We worship to Rejoice”

We Worship to Remember – additional thoughts

I really enjoyed yesterday’s message “We Worship to Remember” ( you can download an audio version of any message HERE) the pictures that were sent about Holy Moments were very special and helped all of us remember our own Holy Moments. Worship is a powerful reminder of who God is and who we are.

I found the following blog post by John Piper called “The Ministry of Reminding – Myself” which continues the discussion of how we need to be reminded of God’s grace and presence in our lives among other things.

I invite you to stop a moment and think about the importance of worship in your Christian walk.

Next week’s message (Sunday, June 12th) is titled “We Worship to Rejoice”    Any thoughts or comments.

The 3rd message in the series (Sunday, June 19th) is titled “We Worship to Receive”  What do you receive when you worship?

I’ve decided to add a 4th message to the series (Sunday, June 26th)  “We Worship to Respond”

 

Have a truly blessed day.