Monday, October 27, 2008

From Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Churches (USA)

I came across this letter on Bruce Reyes-Chow's web site. Bruce is the moderator for the Presbyterian Churches (USA). It is a letter to the leadership in Iraq, urging them to continue their efforts in stopping terrorist attacks, especially on Christian believers in Iraq. I thought it well written, and touches on things I think we are all concerned with. I wanted to share that with you today. Perhaps it will help guide your prayers in this area...

from Linda, Gradye and Bruce

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki:

We write to you today out of a grave sense of concern for the Christian community of Mosul. As any other minority in Iraq, they should be defended against the recent terrorist acts, which seem intended to eliminate the Christian presence in the region.

News reports, and the personal accounts of members of the Iraqi Presbyterian church, have drawn particular attention to the escalating violence against Christians in that region, as over two dozen Christians have been killed (others have been wounded), and more than 1,000 Christian families have fled the city.

We are grateful for your intervention which sent additional police to Mosul, ordered an investigation into the attacks on Christians, and pledged to take all steps to protect the Christians of that area. Early reports indicate that your steps have diminished the violence.

The Christian community in Mosul is one of the oldest in the world. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of engagement with Iraqi Christians, dating back to the early 1800’s, with a special emphasis on education, health care, and social service to all Iraqis as well as on church development. But both before and since our connections with our sisters and brothers there, Christians have been an integral part of the history and culture of your country.

Our church’s General Assembly, this past June, adopted a call of concern for all the people of Iraq, urging our members to:

“Pray for, call for, and work for a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq which includes the establishing of a just, stable, and democratic government and the timely departure of U.S. military forces and their contractors as soon as it is possible to leave the nation in an appropriately stable, just, and self-sustaining form."

We are grateful for your efforts to establish a just and peaceful future for the nation and people of Iraq. As you continue these efforts, we ask that you ensure the security of Christians within your nation. The situation in Mosul is very desperate. Along with the rest of the world we are watching and praying that you will move to restore order.

Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly
Linda Valentine, Executive Director, General Assembly Council
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Office of the General Assembly

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reading the present time...

Jesus also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, 'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"
Luke 12:54-59

As I came across this reading this morning, I stopped to pause about our present time. We struggle with issues with morality and values - there seems to be such a wide span of acceptable morals, our values seem to differ greatly.

The war in Iraq continues, a financial crisis looms greater with the passing of time. Deficits in government spending are the norm, and government debt is out of sight.

How do we read the present time? If we think that a stimulus package and a tax cut will make everything all right, I fear we aren't doing very well at reading the present time...

I know several people who read the present time as the precursor for the end time. They believe that the events of the present time are setting the stage for the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I agree. I know that Jesus said He would come again, and I know that He keeps His promises. He always has for me. And if He is coming again, and He hasn't yet, then we are closer now then we've ever been - no matter when it happens!

As the Body of Christ, let's help prepare His way. Let's help people prepare for His second coming. Let's share our faith, let's live our faith, let's let our faith be the first thing people see when see us. So that Christ himself might be the first thing they see when they see us!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A couple of thoughts on the financil crisis

I sometimes do a devotion on line, called Sacred Space. It's an online prayer that guides in a quite time of reflection.

Last week, there was an intro page that had some thoughts on the current financial crisis that I would like to share. I also have one of my own that I will tack on at the end...

Sometimes I feel moral indignation at the greed of the fat cats whose desire for ever-greater profits has exploited the weak. I hope that they may move from blindness to a sense of the real world of people, and realize the futility of their greed that wants more and more money. "What does it profit to gain the whole world and suffer the loss of your soul?" (Mark 8:36) But I know that such indignation is not always from the good spirit; it may be mixed with Schadenfreude in which there is little charity. I need to watch it.

At other times I feel fear and insecurity for myself and my loved ones. This pushes me to look at myself. Does insecurity make me more self-seeking and less caring about the needs of others, lessening my humanity, clouding my sense that people matter more than money? Or does this worldwide turmoil strengthen my compassion? Poverty is not good in itself, but where it leads to a deeper dependence on God and coexists with generosity it can be a rare grace - remember Jesus marveling at the widow's mite (Mark 12:41-43).

My own thought as I was reflecting on this involved the many people who live so far beyond their means and use credit to prolong the inevitable. A financial crisis involving credit will really hurt those who heavily rely on credit. Our prayers should be with them, but also, we need to stop living so far beyond our means.

Every generation wants to live a little better than the previous generation. And we have largely borrowed to do so. We need to give up this notion that success means having more than our parents had. Perhaps success is living a good life and being used by God to accomplish good in the lives of others.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

God Speaks Through our Brokenness...

This weeks message is about our brokenness. It doesn't matter what the cause of our brokenness is. It could be physical suffering, it could be fear, it could be mental anguish. All of these cause very real suffering, and the effect of that suffering is that we are a broken people.

How do carry on? How do we succeed? How do we follow God in the midst of our brokenness. That was the topic of this weeks sermon message. To read this message in it's entirety, click the name below...

Oct 19 - God Speaks Through our Brokenness

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thoughts on our economic concerns...

As the economy is very definitely facing difficulties, and even a near collapse on Wall Street, people are very concerned. That's pretty obvious. It's hard to escape Wall Street.

Twenty years ago or so, I used to think that only the rich had money invested. Today, many people have money invested in the stock markets. Whether a mutual fund or two, a couple of stocks handed down, extra money invested since the banks interest rates are so low. Most retirement funds or IRA's are now invested in stocks or mutual funds. So declines in the stock market affect most people.

Those that have money invested are very concerned in the recent volatility and decline of many of their investments. I found a quote from the blog of Bruce Reyes-Chow, the moderator for the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches USA. Here is a portion of that article:

As followers of Jesus Christ, let us join in a call to our own people and to our fearful nation to hear God's word that "perfect love casts out fear;" and let us look anew at our economic system-one which has been immensely productive in many respects, but which has tended to favor the strong and aggressive, often at great cost to the weak. Let us all repent of our own decisions, both personal and corporate, regarding our use of the earth's resources and of the financial resources of which we have been made stewards. And let us make clear to our legislators and to those whose are charged with the management of this nation's financial resources that any recovery of fiscal accountability must be accompanied with moral accountability for the unfortunate, so that the burdens and blessings of the future are fairly shared.

We are reminded in Scripture over and over again, "Tis better to trust in the Lord than to trust in man." That can be hard to remember when financial crises strikes, but it is so important to remember.

Our hope comes from the Lord...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The four P's of our testimony...

Yesterday, I mentioned going into Penn Yan for a Committee Meeting.

I often get something out of these meetings that I can bring home to our local congregation, and even share with you. This time was no different.

We talked about an easy way to put together a testimony of our faith, a personal faith story, by using four P's to guide us. The P's are People, Places, Period, and Passion. I don't know who came up with this, but it was shared to the group by Priscilla Andrews, serving as Lay Pastor at Christ the King Fellowship in Spencer.

The idea is to come up with your own personal faith story, a story about when you came to faith, or had a significant spiritual awakening or rebirth. Your story should include People (the people in your life at that time that led you spiritually through this time, Place (where it happened, what church, what organization, what ministry, whatever was significant about where it happened), Period (the period in your life - young adult, student, career person, retired), and Passion (what are you most passionate about now at this stage of your Spiritual Journey).

The church in Spencer used this to introduce people to their church. First, the leaders of the church, the Council or Elder board, prepared their faith stories to be shared with the congregation in newsletters. Now, as new people come to the church, they are encouraged to do the same, so people can get to know them quicker.

I loved the idea. Why not do your own faith story. Let's share them and get to know each other even better. You can leave a comment to this post with your story...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Flying Carraige...

Last week, I was in Penn Yan for a meeting of the Committee on Evangelism in our Presbytery.

An interesting thing happened on my way to the meeting. As I was coming down the hill into the village, I passed an Amish carriage also coming into town. I didn't think much of it at the time, as there are a lot of Amish in the area, and a carriage is not an uncommon thing in Penn Yan. Several of the stores even have special parking areas for the Amish carriages.

What got my attention was that well over a mile later, I was stopped at a stop light, and the carriage came up and passed me, making a right at the intersection I was stopped at.

What struck me in that is that the carriage really isn't a bad mode of transportation. He was moving right along. For getting into town, or getting around town, it worked quite well. As well as my car!

Change is all around us. It's inevitable. New things come and become common place, only to be replaced by something newer later. Often, these new things mean we can get more done, or at least do things considerably easier. Sometimes it just means we do things different.

The trick, perhaps, is learning what new things are really going to be better, and embrace them, while holding off on the new things that are just different.

That's a pretty tall order, because I think that it's really beyond our abilities to discern that question. The best we can do is stay close to God, no matter what changes come our way, and to trust in Him to bring us to the change that is best for us. Which, I suppose, might be just what the Amish have done...

Another view of Frogs...

This last Sunday our message was somewhat related to a previous message.

A couple of weeks ago, we had a FROG Sunday, where we talked about several Bible Heroes who had learned to rely on God. Then we talked about a frog, and how the frog can be an acronym to help us remember to fully rely on God.

This week we looked at a different view of frogs. We looked at the plague of frogs that invaded Egypt. The lesson is that we can also look at frogs as a reminder of Pharoah's hardheartedness, and his sin, and perhaps our sin as well.

To read this message, or listen to the audio, click below:

October 15, 2008 Another View of Frogs

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God's mercy...

For He says to Moses,
I will have mercy on whom
I have mercy, and I will
Have compassion on whom I
Have compassion.
- Romans 9:15-16

This passage came up in my reading the other day, and really seemed to jump out at me.

Perhaps the reason why this seemed to strike a chord is that I have recognized my need for God’s compassion and mercy a lot lately. And I’ve prayed for it, and I haven’t always felt it received.

We all stand before an awesome and omnipotent creator. And none of us can stand on our own merits, but require His compassion and mercy. Sometimes that compassion and mercy will be evident, sometimes it won’t be.

In those times that it’s not evident, long for it, strive for it, work for it, and know that God will be faithful.

Monday, October 6, 2008

World Communion Sunday

Yesterday was World Communion Sunday. During the message, I looked at Mark’s passages on communion, specifically the passage where he takes the bread, passes it to his disciples, and says, “take it, this is my body.”

The body of Christ is represented in that bread. But the Body of Christ also is represented in the church, the body of believers, the people who follow Christ.

If you would like to read the message, click on the title below.

Oct 6 – This is My Body

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Union in communion...

A couple of weeks ago, we had a clergy group here that was discussing congregational transformation.

In the beginning fellowship time, George Norton, the moderator of this group, a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Montour Falls, and our area minister in our Baptist association, was sharing some thought he had while sharing communion with some of his family in New England.

He reflected on how, as we share communion, we are also uniting ourselves with others all over the world who are also taking communion at the same time. As we partake of the bread and cup, we are united with believers everywhere who also partake of the bread and the cup.

I’ve been reflecting on that idea. Sunday is World Communion Sunday, and it strikes me as a wonderful illustration of the unity of the church. We are all God’s people, and we share in this bread and this cup together with millions we have never met before, and may never meet this side of heaven.

Something to reflect on…

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sharpening others...

As iron sharpens iron,
So one man sharpens another.
- Proverbs 27:1

There is a tendency among people today to live our lives of faith privately, and to let others live their lives of faith privately.

To a point, that might be a good thing. Certainly, too much outside interference will drive others away, not bring them closer to a life of faith.

However, sometimes we come across a verse like this one. And we see that we do have a responsibility to help others grow in their faith. As much as we might like to shy away from that responsibility, it does seem to be there – it’s Biblical.

How are you doing at sharpening others? Do you bring out the best in other people? Do you help others see God’s work in their lives? Do you share God’s work in your life? What other ways can you think of to help sharpen others?

I would love to hear from you… Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on the Church...

When we think of the church, we usually think of the big white building across from the Sugar Creek, don't we?

Most of us know that it's something far bigger than that, but in our daily conversations with people, we usually just think of the building, or maybe the small group that meets in the building.

Church is much bigger than that. From the New Testament, we understand that the church is not a big building, or a small congregation, but a people. All people who trust our lives to Jesus Christ are the church. Our "membership" in the church doesn't come from adding our name to a roll, or affiliating with a small group that meets each Sunday. Our "membership" in the church comes from our relationship with Jesus.

We think way to small when we think of Almond Union of Churches as the church. We are a very small part of the church, at least those who have a genuine love for Jesus. We may be very active, but we remain a very small part of the church.

These thoughts come from a new book I'm reading called There's the Steeple... Here's the Church. It can be a little challenging for us to read, because it tends to challenge some of our ideas of what a church is and why it exists. But it's an easy read, and i encourage anyone who has an opportunity to read it to do so.

Perhaps we'll do a book study on it sometime at AUC. I'll let you know...

Faith First

  Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him...