Tag Archives: church

All Things New

weekly theme #5 All Things New*  

week containing the first Sunday after Christmas

Jesus changed everything, but through my eyes, some things look unchanged.  I still see the fruit of false beliefs.  I still see sin.  Looking to the future is the only place I see all things new, and I long for that time.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17 New International Version)  The old doesn’t always seem gone, and the new doesn’t always seem to have come.  This conflict between scripture and my life has troubled me for yours, but the New Living Translation helped me in just five words.  Instead of “…the new has come!” it says “…a new life has begun.”  The new me is in process; it is not completed.  I will not always make steady, straight-line progress, but I will progress.  My new life is well underway, and I can propel it by intentionally making small, righteous choices.

Many small choices make a life direction, and this new direction as an ambassador of Jesus is heading toward great honor and responsibility.  Too often, I forget my duty as an ambassador and start to operate as a rogue agent.  By my negligence, I deny my duty, allegiance, and even my King.  Despite my wanderings, the King, this perfect King, continues to mold me and trust me.  He lets me remain his ambassador.  How can I help but love him?

“And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!…It is finished!  I am the Alpha and the Omega – the Beginning and the End.”  (Revelations 21:5a & 6a)  It seems to me that humanity is not destined for continually generating new spiritual ideas but to come full circle and realize the end is actually the beginning.  We come up with a new buzzword or idea, but we soon replace it with another one.  (seeker-sensitive, emergent, missional, etc.)  All these words have sincere followers, and all of them carry elements of truth.  So it is easy for us, the Church, to allow our methods and terms to become distractions from our message, the Good News of Jesus the Christ.  I must guard myself from begin so zealous for an aspect of my faith that I forget that the end is also the beginning.  I’m going back to the Garden.  The Omega is the Alpha.

*A Guide To Prayer For Ministers And Other Servants by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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The Church For Others

weekly theme #37 *

week containing the Sunday between July 10-16

The Church is not an organization, building, or event.  The Church is people who are followers of Jesus.  Followers of Jesus are to give love, light, and life to all those around them, both those who are members of the Church and those who are not.  People who need the love of the Church may appear unlovely, so I respond to them as I see them – as pitiful, undeserving, or repulsive.  Perhaps all at the same time.  However, it’s possible for both my response and view to change, usually simultaneously if I want God to change me.  He will enable me to see past their condition to who they really are, the beloved of God.

I have a relationship with Jesus and sharing about it is a service to others.  It isn’t right for me to do the King’s service and not acknowledge him as my King.  The King intends for the Church to be instruments for establishing the Kingdom of God to earth.  Somehow, I must find common ground and yet be noticeably “different” among those not yet in the Church.  Likely, this process will take time, humility, faithfulness, and effort, and God’s Spirit is the only way those qualities can be seen in my life.  The Church is prompt others to give Jesus his rightful glory, and Jesus identified one of the ways.  He prayed, “…that [the Church] may be one, as we are – I in them and you in me, all perfected into one.  Then the world will know that you sent me…”  (John 17:22b-23a)  When I join the Church in unity, it is convincing proof to those not in the Church that Jesus is truly the Son of God.

The world is more interested in seeing sermons that hearing them, but it seems I am caught in a pursuit of Christian knowledge rather than Christian living.  How many sermons must I hear, books read, and Bible studies attend before I am ready to obey the Lord’s two greatest commands and live the Great Commission?  (Matthew 22:37-39, 28:18-20)  The Holy Spirit lives in me and is willing to empower me to live my faith in a way that proclaims and glorifies the LORD – if only I will listen and cooperate.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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Mercy, Justice, and Love

weekly theme #31*

week containing the Sunday between May 29 and June 4

I have experienced God’s mercy, justice, and love – they just don’t appear here on earth when, how, and for whom I think they should.  Maybe that’s the problem – my thinking.  I don’t have the mind of Christ.  Faith is also an issue. There is a difference between believing God can work miracles and believing he will.  There is a clear and powerful relationship between God’s intervention in this fallen world and my faith that he will do so.  Yet my faith does not force God to work, it invites him, and it is at his choosing when, how, and for whom he will work.  In that dark time of waiting for him to move, I can still enjoy his presence if I desire him more than I desire the miracle for which I pray.

Jesus often altered what he was doing to help an individual.  He stopped even if those around him urged him to continue with the planned agenda.  By focusing on the individual, he affirmed to the crowd, “I care for each of you.”  Those were the times of miracles.  Acts 9:32-43 describes two healings performed by Peter.  In both cases, word spread through the region and multitudes believed in the Lord – all because Peter turned his attention to individuals.  Sermons designed for everyone catch fewer ears than words spoken to a few in the crowd.  People listen to words of personal concern spoken to a few because the pain of the few resonates with the many.  The many desperately want to believe someone personally cares about them, too.  Looking out for the lost sheep reassures the ninety-nine who remain.

As I look around in the world, I see many things that encourage me.  I see God’s mercy, justice, and love, but they seem inconsistent, with some people being blessed while others seemingly are cursed.  Why doesn’t God do something?  That question has been on my mind this entire week.  Today I read Genesis 12:3b, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  God was talking to Abraham, but actually, he was speaking to all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring.  So, why doesn’t God do something?  He has!  He has instructed me to be his mercy, justice, and love to those in this time and place.  What would happen if all believers lived with that as their primary mission?  The answer is an answer to prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.


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Life Together

weekly theme #28*

week containing the seventh Sunday of Easter

God designed us to live in harmony.  I am to be in harmony with him, others, creation, and myself.  Becoming who God wants me to be is not an individual affair.  The fourth chapter of Ephesians has a lot to say about God’s gifts to the church, and verse thirteen says we become mature, full-grown, and measuring up to the full stature of Christ through using those gifts in unity for the good of the church.  I am both an individual and a member of the community, the Bride of Christ.  I need to embrace both and find comfort in both – even though there can be pain in both.

I picture Paul as a tough, perhaps gruff, young man.  His letters contain some fierce words and scathing rebukes, but I think he mellowed as he aged.  Not that he lost his passion or standards, but Paul’s spirit softened and his love flowed more easily and with more clarity.  The book of Philemon witnesses to that idea.  I hope I mellow as well, for the good of unity.

How well I love my Christian family members is a strong indication of how I love God.  Paul offers an example of how the Christian family should sacrifice for each other in the sixth chapter of first Corinthians.  He proposes that it is better to forgive another Christian who has wronged me than to make the “family disagreement” a matter of public record.  If a member of my Christian family wrongs me, I have the opportunity to respond like Jesus rather than like the world.  What do I value so much that would make me choose being unforgiving rather than being like Christ?

My ill-delivered zeal for unity among Jesus’ disciples has actually caused division.  The change I long for in the Body of Christ, from independence to inter-dependence, will not take place through words that condemn but words that compel.  Moreover, my actions must show unity and love.  No matter how mature I am in my Christian life, I can have confidence that my every attitude, act, and belief is less than perfect.  If I convince myself differently, it hinders further maturity and growth.  Rather than clutching to my imperfections, I need to cultivate the ability to change my mind, behavior, and attitude when it is clearly God’s will for me to do so.  (adapted from Liberation of Life by Harvey & Lois Seifert)

Paul said we need each other, but the breadth of his meaning is greater than I first thought.  Romans 12:5b says, “And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.”  I belong to other believers, and I need all of them.  No member of the body is optional; they are all mission critical.  I don’t just need the Rock-Star members; I need the humble, meek, quiet members, too.  In fact, God does not long for Rock-Star Christians to give a performance as much as he longs for his Bride to be ready for the wedding.

A thought about balance is a fitting close to this week’s long-winded piece.  In this unity, there is a place for solitude.  Without times of solitude with the Lord, unity can begin to feel clingy, overwhelming, and even parasitic.  I can know unity is always there even when I am not in the midst of it.  Solitude increases my love for unity.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

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A Political 23rd Psalm

After Dad’s death, I was looking through his belongings and found something that I’m sure Mom cut from the paper.  I could not find a date on the clipping, but the reverse side was advertising ground beef for 39 cents per pound.  Take a look.

Society is my shepherd; I shall not work.
It alloweth me to lie down on a feather bed.
It leadest me beside the still factories; it destroyeth my ambition.
It leadeth me in the paths of a goldbrick for politics sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of inflation and deficit spending,
I will fear no evil, for the welfare agencies are with me.
Their generosity and their staff, they comfort me.
They prepared the requisitions that filleth my table,
By mortgaging the earnings of my grand children.
My head is filled with mirth that my cup runneth over without effort;
Surely, the taxpayers shall care for me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of a parasite forever.

So it seems concern about government programs is an old issue.  But this “psalm” gives me concern.  I’m concerned that someone believed this sarcastic rewrite of the 23rd Psalm was the proper response to the poor.  In fact, to me, being “poor” means that I lack something, and we all lack something.  Usually people think being poor is lacking money or material goods, but I can also lack friendships, understanding, spirituality, listening skills, hope, self-esteem, humility, job skills, good health, and a hundred other things.  We are all poor, and we all need help.

I don’t see this song as helping anything.  It seems to judge rather than understand and redeem.  It seems to forget that we each can learn something from one another.  It seems to forget that each of us has some  kind of poverty, even if I deny it exists.  It ignores that I have little room to mock and degrade people who are poor in a different way than me.

I wager to say that most of us have some kind of poverty that seems to cling to us.  A kind of poverty that sucks the strength and hope from us.  We  try to fill that lack by hard work, wrong choices, determination, trying again, and failing again.  Getting out of poverty, all kinds of poverty, can be a struggle.  The struggle isn’t always just with ourselves, as this “psalm” implies.  The struggle may be with systems, lack of support, or no foothold to start the journey.   That’s where we all need to help.  Perhaps the worst kind of poverty is a lack of friendships.  My friendships have aided me in many a problem, and this aid started with my family.  Life can be  incredibly hard without a healthy, uplifting family.  Thankfully I only know that fact secondhand, many people know it up close and personal.

So the best thing I can do is to help those who are ready to help themselves and pray for those who aren’t.  If each one of us helped the other, I believe we would see less poverty of all kinds.  We would  have richer lives if for no other reason than that we would have each other.

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