Encountering the Word

For the Christian, it is imperative that we spend time in the Bible.  Studying, meditating upon, discussing, memorizing upon the Word of God is vital and necessary to our growth as followers of Jesus.

One of the blessings of technology is that there are now multiple ways to experience the Word of God. In addition to the old standby – the leather bound copy of the Bible, you can now read it on your computer, your tablet, your smartphone, etc.  You can listen to through your ipod, mp3 player, cd player, pretty much anywhere.

How do you experience the Word of God? I would love to hear from you on the different ways and different means you experience the Word of God.  Leave a comment and let me know what you are doing.  As I discover resources I will do the same.

Meanwhile, to give you a peak at what some are doing to make God’s Word more visually appealing, take a look at this video from Asbury Seminary (only 53 seconds)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUNAPhb81hw

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A time to Wait

How many of you have ever said or ever heard it said “Don’t pray for patience, because God will surely give it to you!” In today’s instantaneous culture, the mere idea of waiting is offensive to many people. If we don’t get what we want RIGHT NOW, then we complain to the world about the wait. With today’s TV’s we don’t even have to wait through the commercials anymore.  We can get to we want faster and faster every day.

However, even before we talk about waiting in our faith, we can see many examples of the positives of waiting.  Nine months seems a wonderful time to wait for that child to come, after all there is a lot to prepare before that big day.  Some food (BBQ for example) doesn’t need to be hurried at all.  Slow cooking is the only proper way for some foods.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we need to understand how waiting plays a vital role in our faith and in faith in general. The idea that God has different timing than we do is hard to grasp for many people. 2 Peter 3:8-9 tells us that God is patient because he doesn’t want any of his children to perish.  Thank you Lord for waiting for me.

Another view of waiting can be found Here in this story I read on Preaching Today.  Powerful support for a theology of waiting.

The Epidemic of Loneliness at Christmas Time

I found this story on the Preaching Today website. 

A British medical doctor named Ishani Kar-Purkayastha shared a story about his interaction with Doris, an 82-year-old hospital patient. Two days before Christmas, Doris seemed healthy and ready for discharge. But for some reason she kept complaining about inexplicable health issues. Dr. Kar-Purkayastha wrote: “Yesterday it was her arm that was hurting, before that her hip. Truth is, Doris is an incredibly healthy 82-year-old, and we can’t find anything. I have no doubt that it will be the same today.”

When the X-rays came back normal, he told Doris that he would have to stick to the plan of sending her home. Doris looked down at the floor and quietly said, “I don’t want to go home …. It’s just that I’m all alone and there are so many hours in the day.” Then after a long pause, she sighed and asked, “Doctor, can you give me a cure for loneliness?”

Dr. Kar-Purkayastha reflected on this incident:

I wish I could say yes. I wish I could prescribe her some antidepressants and be satisfied that I had done my best, but the truth is she’s not clinically depressed. It’s just that she has been left behind by a world that no longer revolves around her, not even the littlest bit.

There are thousands like her, men and women … for whom time stands empty as they wait in homes full of silence …. They are no longer coveted by a society addicted to youth ….

[Doris] is alone, and it brings home the truth of this epidemic that we have on our hands—an epidemic of loneliness …. The most difficult part is that I don’t know how to solve this, although I wish I could. For now, I simply retract my diagnoses. Sheepishly, I insist that Doris spends her Christmas this year on the ward, and I can see her mood lift. But as I steel myself for the inevitable influx of unwanted grandparents whom I know will arrive, I cannot help but wonder how it is that things could have gone so badly wrong.

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Dr. Ishani Kar-Purkayastha, “An Epidemic of Loneliness,” The Lancelet (12-18-10)

Do you know anyone who is lonely this Christmas? Have you considered how you could brighten their day with a simple phone call, card or visit? As I write that last sentence I realize that I must ask this question of myself as well and that how I answer that question will either honor God or not.

I want to encourage you to choose today how you might address this epidemic this Christmas.  Who will you reach out to this month?

As we celebrate the gift of Jesus this season, may we be looking for ways to give the gift of presence to those who are lonely.

Reflections on Time

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” 2 Peter 3:8

1st Reflection

As I am preparing my message for this 2nd Sunday of Advent, this verse & a blog post I will share with you got me to thinking about the many ways we view Time and what that means for us from a faith view point. The context of this verse from 2 Peter is in the midst of an argument about the delay in Jesus coming back for his own.  Peter is responding to the idea that Jesus did not come back as He promised and therefore God does not keep his promises. This verse and the next few verses tell us that God views life and time from a different viewpoint than we do.

When we are young, it seems like time stretches out forever. As we get older, you hear more and more people talk about how quickly time flies and the months and years just seem to run by the older we get. Time hasn’t change at all, of course. The way we view it has. Perhaps, this gives us an idea into how God looks at time. God’s viewpont is so much broader, deeper and longer than our viewpoint that it makes sense that God’s view of time is different. Just like a summer lasting forever when you are young and a vacation ending much too soon when you are older, so God sees time through the lenses of His purposes. He does not want a single one of his children to perish and so Peter suggests that the reason that Jesus has not come back is that God is waiting so that all His children will have a chance to repent and come back home.

Waiting takes on a whole different meaning when there is purpose behind it. Thank you Lord for waiting for me!

2nd Reflection

I was reading a blog by Steven Furtick this morning and was struck by what he said about the nature of time.

He reflects upon two lies that the devil tells that we need to deny.

a) When we are undergoing difficulties, troubles, trials, persecution, etc.  He will whisper to us “This will never end”

b) or when we are in a season of blessing and enjoying the Grace and love of God. The devil will whisper to us “This will never last”

but the truth of the matter is that troubles do end and God’s grace and favor do last. God’s presence and power are with us through the valley and He has promised that He will be faithful to complete every good work that He has begun in you.

When we in the midst of life, it is helpful to be reminded sometimes that God is Lord even of time and knowing that we will make it through the valleys of life gives us hope to carry on.  And to know that the blessings & nature of God will never change and will never end gives us joy to hold onto in the up and down of our lives.

 

I pray that you will take a few moments this Advent season to reflect upon these thoughts and how God’s view of time is a many fold blessing.   Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

 

Engaging the Community

Today’s post is brought to you by the following definition I read in the preview to a book I am reading “On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church” The definition of missional church was used by Reggie McNeal as he wrote an introduction to the book

The missional church engages the community with the intent of being a blessing. It looks for ways to connect with the world beyond the walls of church real estate and programming.

Three words stand out to me in this definition. Engages, Blessing and Connect.

Engages – Too often, the church does for the community or does to the community instead of engaging with the community. I know the church is not supposed to be “of the world” but too many times we are not “in the world” either. We tend to stay in our little corner of the community doing our own stuff.

Blessing – When the church does engage with the community, does the term blessing come to mind. Service YES, meeting needs YES, being a blessing ??? I guess the reason I wonder is that to me the term blessing carries connotations of not only physical or emotional gifts.  The word blessing is a “holy” word, a word used of God and by God. When we say we engage with the community with the intent of being a blessing, are we engaging with the community with God’s intent and purpose in mind?

Connect – Beyond the walls and beyond the programming – in other words, get to truly know our neighbors. Relate to them simply for the reason they are one of God’s children – whether they realize it or not. And then show them God through our love and kindness. “They will know we are Christians by our Love” How many times, do we plan events, programs, ministries with the goal of reaching “X” amount of people and when we don’t get to “X” we are disappointed.

Let me finish with a story: Over the past three days a youth group from a church in North Carolina, who have spent the week at Global Youth Ministries, has come down to our fellowship hall to lead Bible Club for the children of the community. I felt bad, because we had not advertized this Bible Club as heavily as we had before and it seemed that first afternoon there were more members of the youth group than kids at the Bible Club. However, over the past three days, they seemed to have had a good time. Today, their youth pastor told me this story. First of all, he said that his kids had fallen in love with the children this week and in fact one young man, who had just moved to America from Liberia 9 months ago (he only spoke broken English) came up to the youth pastor and said that his parents had given him $60 to spend on their trip but that he didn’t need anything, that these kids needed it more than he did. His youth pastor said that all of the kids starting digging in their wallets & Purses and started handing him money (One middle schooler came up and handed him a $20 while I was standing there)

Wow! I’ll leave you with a question?  Who received the blessing when this youth group engaged the community?

 

 

Ferguson, Dave (2011). On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Exponential Series) (Kindle Locations 127-128). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Where’s the Fruit?

I’ll be preaching this Sunday (July 17th) from Matthew 21:18-22,  known as the “cursing of the fig tree”

The only negative miracle in the New Testament, this act by Jesus seems out of character.  I know I get cranky when I get hungry, but this is Jesus. He is not supposed to curse a fig tree simply because it annoyed him.

As I studied this morning I came across some really good insights into this passage and will be sharing some of the questions, that came to mind about this story, this week.

Today, I want to focus on the context & the symbolism of this “curse”  This passage is shared with us immediately after Jesus cleansed the temple, so Jesus is likely thinking about that encounter. We also know that when Matthew uses the term for fruit here (17 times in the Gospel) he never means it literally. The word is always used ethically as in productivity – bearing fruit – doing something from your faith. So it looks like Jesus is using the fig tree as a symbol of the Temple/ the people of Israel.

The fig tree has the appearance of fruit, but does not bear any fruit at all. (hold onto this thought for a minute)

We also find several occasions in the Old Testament ( Micah 7:1, Hosea 9:16 & others) where the prophets reference the fig tree with the fruitlessness of Israel.

Jesus, it seems, is not annoyed at the fig tree at all, but rather he is angry at the People of Israel (like many of the OT prophets) for their lack of fruitfulness. They may play the part (rituals in the Temple, etc) but they are barren when it comes to the fruit of righteousness and justice that God desires.

God’s children (you and I are included in this) must produce that for which we were created -to carry out God’s will, which  means entering into a relationship with God and then demonstrating fruit from that relationship in our life.

So here are the questions:

1) What fruit are we supposed to bear as a result of our relationship with God?  (Hint: See Galatians 5:22)

2) If we compare the church to the People of Israel, how do you think the church is unfruitful?

3) Why do you think that Jesus is angry about the lack of fruitfulness?  And what does that anger mean for us today?

I would love to hear your answers and thoughts on these questions.

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.