Friday, February 29, 2008

The need for humility...


He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
-Psalm 25:9

This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.
-Isaiah 66:2b

Therefore, whoever humbles themselves like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
-Matthew 18:4

Do you get the idea that God values our humility? In fact, humility is a key trait for any follower of Jesus. We are studying Proverbs in our Bible Study, and this last week’s lesson really struck this point home.

As I was reflecting on this after the lesson, it occurred to me that humility is a choice. We are really a very proud people, a self-centered people. It’s very hard for us to be a humble people, it seems to run against our nature.

We need to put others in that center spot, we need to step aside and let others in. We need to become other-centered people.

It will require a great deal of self-discipline, it isn’t natural, at least not consistent with how we think. But to be truly honored by God, we must humble ourselves.

Another thought on humility, I once heard it said that humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less…

Thursday, February 28, 2008

First Heal Thyself...

Be not angry that you cannot make
others as you want them to be,
since you cannot make yourself as you
wish to be.

-Thomas a Kempis

The Bible talks alot about making sure that we are right before the Lord, before trying to make others right. Passages like "first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Luke 6:42), and "if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, first go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23).

While there are passages that tell us to convict our neighbors of their sin, so they grow in their faith, it is very clear that we must make sure we are right before God first.
So before worrying about others, work on yourself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tithing time...


I couple of weeks ago, one of our Bible Study participants brought up the idea of applying the principle of tithing (10% to the church) to our time. He felt that our time should be subject to the tithe as well as our money.

I love the idea myself. As a Pastor, I have to admit I was getting pretty excited as I thought about it. What if people gave 10% of their time to the church? What would that look like?

The obvious is that we would always have enough volunteers to work our dinners and Angel Food Ministry distributions, our committees would always have plenty of people participating in the various things that the committees specialize in, and our volunteer church cleaning crews would have enough people to do the cleaning in no time at all.

But what else? I think these would be just the tip of the iceberg. I think that our Bible Studies and Christian Ed classes would be overflowing. But more than that, I think that there would be people here, at the church. Things would get done without a big program to do them. Needs of the church would be filled, without announcing them for weeks on end asking for volunteers. When people saw something that needed to be done, they would do it, because they were here anyway.

Most importantly, ministry would happen. As hard as it is to raise monetary resources in a small church, the hardest resource to come by is people. Can you think with me the ministry that could be done with enough people eagerly dedicated to working for the Lord?

Maybe I’m dreaming. Yet maybe that’s the vision Jesus had…

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday's Sermon - February 24

If you are interested in reading Sunday's Sermon - Spiritual Drink - here is a link...

Feb 24 - Spiritual Drink

Something a little different this week. The message is based on John 4, Jesus' conversation with the women at the well. We started with watching a Gatorade commercial...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

On School Prayer...


Yesterday afternoon I was at a Together in Ministry Group studying church transformation. Rev. Rich Rose, pastor at First Baptist Church in Ithaca, brought up an interesting comment.

He has heard people say that they long for those days when we still had prayer in school. But he reminds them that back in those days, things were not all that rosy. Segregation was still a major issue, there were little or no women’s rights, and little or no sense of social justice.

His comments make you think. What good does it do to force people to pray, if their heart isn’t convicted? People may have gone to church in much larger numbers than they do today, but was it out of duty to family, or love of God? If the heart isn’t convicted, the people aren’t changed, and the good works that flow out of our faith doesn’t flow.

Perhaps we are better in some respects today than we were then. While we are still battling in some areas, segregation is not nearly as blatant as it was, woman can vote and pursue the career of their choice. Discrimination in most areas is being corrected. Over all, we have come much closer to the equality of all people that the Bible speaks of.


I would still like the option to pray in school to be available. I certainly don't believe a student should be in trouble for bowing their head and offering a silent prayer in a country that values freedom of religion. However, mandating public prayer doesn't change people. Only a conviction of the heart can do that.

So perhaps it is better to not force our faith on others. Perhaps it’s more important to live our faith and let our religious convictions show in a way that all people benefit.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Seeing the Cross in the dark...


Here is something that I read in Paul Gibbs newsletter (Jesscott Music Ministries, http://www.jesscottmusic.com/). He saw it on the Ron Hutchcraft website (http://www.hutchcraft.com/). I hope you enjoy it! Ron wrote:


We had rented a cabin in the mountains, and we didn't want to leave it much. The view across the valley was like a majestic painting. It would change as the sun and the weather changed - all the kind of moods you have in the mountains. I had looked at the mountain across the valley from us many times, but finally I took a good look that direction at night. That's when I saw it - the cross. There was a lighted cross on top of the mountain, glowing in the night from a vantage point where it could be seen all around. Actually, that cross is there all the time but you don't really see it until it's dark.
Isn’t that the way it is? We are surrounded by the love of Christ all the time. Why is it we often don’t look for it until we are in some dark time in our lives…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why the tragedy of school shootings...


This morning in the news, I just read of the tragic shooting yesterday on the campus of Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois. As it stands now, the death toll is at seven, with at least fifteen others shot and injured.

On the radio this morning, the DJ’s were trying to make some sense of the shooting. They suggested that when we teach that we are evolved from monkeys, barely a step removed from the rest of the animal kingdom, that life looses a little of its value.

They suggested that the violence on TV desensitizes us to violence in our lives. We see people shot every evening, why is such a big deal. We learn at a very early age of the violence in our streets (whether it’s really there or not!). They had some other comments that were similar in nature, and they all make at least some sense, though all very general in nature.

If we think about it at all, we have to realize that it’s not just this morning’s event. We are hearing about these more and more. On college campuses, high school campuses, shopping malls. Wherever people gather, we might hear of this kind of horror. And we hear about it more and more. We are still safe, but not as safe as we were years ago.

I have a slightly different theory on the shootings. This week I am preaching on 1 Corinthians 13, what is often called the “Love Chapter.” This chapter talk about what real love is – and isn’t. And I am reminded of 1 John 4:16, which tells us “God is love.”

As we reflect on this, it’s fairly obvious that the opposite of love is hate. But as I go further, it occurs to me that they’re not just opposites. It occurs to me that the very absence of love is hate. And while over 90% of the population claim to believe in some kind of God, they apparently don’t know very much about that God, as fewer than 20% actually go to church. So more and more we are seeing an absence of God. And, if the Bible is true, if God is love, we would expect to see more and more an absence of love.

So in a world where love is increasing absent, we would expect to see more and more hate. And the results of this kind of hate are very widespread, but one of the symptoms may very well be what we saw yesterday on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Love Church - a poem

Several weeks ago, I did a blog on why we love church. It was on January 3rd, if you want to go to the archives and refresh your memory. I asked people to write and let me know why they love church, and I am doing a bulletin board with the responses.

Yesterday, a member of our church handed me a note on her way out, it was a poem, titled “I Love Church.”

I love church,
And why?
The why will have to wait
Because, as usual,
I am late.

Don’t want to wait without reply
any longer to this letter.
But shall try
another time
And do this better.

Thank you, Eldred. You are loved!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About ambition...

I came accross the following, but don't remember where... I hope you will enjoy it.

We were created to strive for progress and to pursue it with passion. It is God who designed us this way. He made us creative, and he makes us responsible. Somehow there are many of us who have missed this point. We have allowed human history to be shaped by those who are distant from God and hostile toward people.

Evil never looks for permission.

Tyrants never consider the appropriateness of their actions. One of the great tragedies of human history is that while those who are motivated by greed and power and violence have forged the future of their liking, to many of those who long for a better world have sat passively by, watching and watching the world could be different.

I think I understand, at least in part, why. Sometimes it has been indifference, but I think quite often it has been a misunderstanding about God. We think it’s God’s job to fix everything. Sincere people have deferred their responsibility while waiting on God to do something, but it has created a spirituality that lacks initiative and engagement. This goes against the nature of the human spirit, and it goes against the way God has created us. We might actually conclude God is apathetic and indifferent just because we are. God created us to engage, solve problems, meet needs, do something with our lives. He made us to get involved and expects us to act.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Experiencing Doubt


Do ever suffer from doubt? Do you ever struggle through your faith, wondering if it’s real? If the practice of your faith is worth it – if it’s even the truth?

I think it’s a natural occurrence. I think everyone has doubts from time to time. I have read from several of the Saints of the Catholic Church, Church fathers, and many writers considered to be the best theologians of their day. Almost without an exception, each one writes of difficult times and struggles in their faith.

Just a few months ago, news broke of a new writing found from Mother Theresa, where she wrote of some struggles in her faith. If a giant of the faith like Mother Theresa struggled with doubt, don’t be surprised when it happens to you.

We see doubts of faith in Scripture, as well. I think of the Psalms, where David is almost arguing with God in some of the Psalms of Lament. But even more than David, I think of David’s son, Solomon, described in Scripture as the wisest man who ever lived. Here is a quote that I came across recently (I forgot now where I read it):

The word meaningless appears in the Bible thirty-eight times, thirty-five of these in the book of Ecclesiastes. “It’s a strange thing that the man the Hebrews knew as the wisest person who ever lived, is the one who struggled the most with doubt.”
Over and over again Solomon writes that everything is meaningless. But in the end, He found that all that we can do is to love God, and find our purpose through Him.

Solomon’s example is an example that will find true in our own lives. So many things can seem meaningless. It’s only through surrendering our lives to God that will bring meaning to our lives.

A link to Sunday's Sermon...

If any of you are interesting in reading Sunday's Sermon at Almond Union of Churches, here is a link...

2-10 The Core: Discipleship

This was the last in the series of Core Values.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Are you well "fed"?


I came across an article this morning that I found very interesting, and I think you might, too. It’s titled, “The Christian and Baby Food: A desire to be ‘fed spiritually’ may be killing us”, and it’s by Trevor Lee. It’s pretty long, so I’ll summarize it for you. There will be a link at the end if you want to read the entire article (which I strongly recommend).

Essentially, Lee points out a common misconception in our churches today, the belief that we must be fed in order to grow. I have heard many times of people leaving their church to find another because they weren’t “being fed.”

Two problems with this notion of having to be fed in order to grow were discussed:

1) It plays right into our desire to be consumers. Consumerism has entered the church. We want others to pour through Scriptures and report back to us, so we don’t have to do the work ourselves. All we have to do is show up and consume what we’re given. “In short, we want something entertaining to consume – sounds like the same thing we want at a movie theater.”

2) It’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus used parables and stories that were difficult to understand. He made people think and draw their own conclusions. Even His disciples didn’t always understand the parables, and had to ask Him privately what they meant on several occasions.

Lee also gives us some conclusions to get us back on track:

1) We should set together some time with other believers to study and discuss Scripture with one another. Lee says this time will help feed each other. To me, it realizes the truth of “iron sharpening iron” from Psalm 27:17.

2) As we live our life of faith, and we do the will of God, we will be fed directly by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

In short, the responsibility to grow in our Christian faith is all ours. We shouldn’t be relying on others to teach us everything, we should be willing to do the work. It seems to me, as we pray, and read Scripture, and spend time in our devotions each day, we will be responsible for our own “feeding.”

You can read the entire article here: The Christian and Baby Food

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Choices


I got to thinking this morning about the choices that we make. The Indeed devotion (Walk Through the Bible), discussed choices and got me to thinking...


I have long told people that they are right where they want to be in life. Most will disagree. But if you think about it, you are where you are because of the choices that you make. Some disagree with that statement also, saying that others have done things to them - that's why they are where they are. They are victims. That victim mentality is fairly prevelant in our society. But event then, I disagree. How you choose to respond to what they do has as much to do with the outcome as what they do to you. So still, our choices (how we will respond to others attempts to control us) are really the most important aspect.


Here's another thought about choices: Our choices are tests.


God gives us choices to test us - to see what is most important in our lives. Will we choose Him? Will we choose our own pleasures? Will we choose what is easiest? Will we choose what's most fun? Or will we stand firm and choose what is righteous.


If the first part is true, that the choices we make today mold us into who we become tomorrow, will the choices we make today mold us into the person God has called us to be?


God is watching every choice you make. And every choice will tell Him how committed you really are.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A prayer for you...

Yesterday, I received a card from Northeastern Seminary in Rochester (on the campus of Roberts Wesleyan College). I attended Northeastern, and they do occasionally send me cards to let me know they continue to pray for me and for my ministry.

This card contained a prayer, adapted from Richard Foster's book Prayers from the Heart. I want to share that prayer with you today:

Jesus, I desire to start this day with you.
And yet, my mind keeps flitting to so many things:
the projects I want to accomplish,
the people I want to talk to,
the people I wish I didn't have to talk to.

I offer you my fragmentation.
Help me to recognize which of all these things
are really invitations to:
find you in the midst of my day,
encourage someone you wish to touch,
thank you.

Out of my scatteredness bring focus-
focus on You.
Out of my storm bring peace - your peace
Help me be still long enough to know You
and to hear you today.

Amen.

Friday, February 1, 2008

In my devotional reading this morning, I came across a passage that deserves some time for reflection, so I want to share that passage with you this morning, so you may reflect on it also...
Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot deny himself.


From 2 Timothy 2:11-13. Food for thought...

Sermons from FBC: Clean Break: A look at relationships from Philemon

This week we it's part 2 of our two week series from the book of Philemon.  It's a short book, but Paul has some good stuff concerni...