August 2018 Streams of Thought
Recent events have affirmed God's call on us as individuals and a
congregation. The new Little Free Food Pantry and Library, involvement in a recent Emmaus Walk, and Ernie Traugh's well-received presentation on dealing with an active shooter situation are just a few of the ways God is working through and among us.
We've seen amazing answers to prayer in the lives of church members and their families and friends. We're here because of God's call.
Some historians say when John Wesley, Methodism's founder, began his ministry in 18th Century England, the country was ripe for a bloody revolution like France saw at the end of the same century. Whether Wesley sensed that or not I don't know; he simply answered God's call to preach the Gospel to a culture that was unraveling and highly troubled. It can be easy to get fixated on the current chaos and trouble and wonder what we can do.
But like anything we do in the name of Christ the ministries listed above plus countless other acts of Christian grace have an impact we may or may not see this side of heaven. People have recently left notes thanking us and praising God for our ministries, a reminder God is working within, among, and through us.
Will this translate into numerical growth? Hopefully, by God's grace. Will it translate into spiritual growth? Yes, by God's grace because what we do for the sake of Christ and God's glory means we're letting God work in and through us.
As His Holy Spirit inspires, leads, convicts, and nudges us into ministry we grow in grace, faith, and the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5). Just as God's Word does not "return to Him empty but accomplishes its purposes" (Isaiah 55:10-11) so everything we do in Christ's name is used by God to accomplish His purposes.
I think this is what St. Paul meant when he said to "work out our salvation" (Philippians 2:12-13) and live our faith by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Wesley urged Methodists to practice "social holiness," living our faith in a way that impacts peoples' lives for eternity with the ultimate goal being the
Church's primary mission: to "save souls." Not that Wesley believed any of us can ever save anyone; we can't; we can't even save ourselves. But through lives of faith we can point others to the One
who saves eternally, our Lord Jesus
Grace and Peach,
July 2018 Streams of Thought
Two great spiritual leaders of the 20th Century were Rev. Oswald Chambers and Rev. Billy Graham. Chambers was a Scottish pastor who served as a chaplain to British troops in World War I and died of appendicitis in 1917 at the age of 43. Graham was born the next year and was a world-famous evangelist who died just shy of his 100th birthday.
Most if not all, of us have heard of Billy Graham. Some might know Chambers through his classic devotional book My Utmost For His Highest. It's never been out of print and has been translated into 39 languages. Chambers wrote at least 30 books while Graham wrote about the same number.
Their influence during their lifetimes was powerful and it's easier to gauge Chambers' long-term influence due to his death being a centrury ago. Graham's posthumous legacy is just beginning and it would be interesting to see where it is in 100 years.
Much more could be said about the great Christian leaders, but there's a detail I think is significant. Graham lived over twice as long as Chambers. Yet it could be argued (in retrospect for Chambers and prospectively for Graham) their legacies are and will be great.
Other saints have influenced the Church longer than Chambers or Graham. St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Francis of Assisi are just a few whose influence has lasted for literally centuries.
The point is God's Holy Spirit takes our lives of faith, no matter their length, and uses them beyond the time we spend on earth. An important theme in the Old Testament is that of personal legacy; the "righteous", as the Biblical writers call them, have influence beyond their time on earth.
So what's the secret to a legacy of faith? It's simply this: faithfulness to God throug His Son Jesus Christ. We won't live our faith perfectly, but we can, by God's grace, live it faithfully. May God grant each of us a legacy of faith no matter how much time we're given on this earth.
Grace and Peace,
June 2018 Streams of Thought
Grace and peace,
May 2018 Streams of Thought
Our sermon series "Embrace the Grace" continues this month and I
hope it has been helpful to your faith. God's grace, as Ephesians 2:8-10 says, is pure GIFT, received freely through faith in Christ. God gives it so freely we easily take it for granted. Without grace we would not be able to respond to God, let alone sense Him calling us or trying to get our attention.
In his book What's So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey shares Ernest Hemingway's story about a Spanish father who longed to reconcile with his
estranged son. He put an ad in a local paper
that read: "PACO MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA AT NOON
TUESDAY ALL IS FORGIVEN PAPA." Arriving at the spot on the appointed day the father found nearly 800 young men named Paco seeking reconciliation and forgiveness from their fathers.
We're starved for grace--for total, unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness. Why? Because we live in a graceless world and often experience what Yancey calls "ungrace." Much of life is performance-based and we get caught on an endless treadmill of trying to hit the mark, live up to expectations, or meet standards.
The problem is when we don't we're often told, in so many words, that we've failed. And that's where it stops; no encouragement to try again or learn or know we're not alone, that it happens to everyone and it's ok.
We're so unfamiliar with grace we don't know any other way of responding or reacting. This dynamic often keeps us from embracing or showing grace. This is the "power of ungrace" (Yancey, p. 37). Breaking that power starts with "embracing grace."
Yancey explores Jesus' parable about workers who were paid for fieldwork. The ones who worked all day got the same wages as the ones who worked an hour or two. The ones who worked all day were incensed but the landowner basically said "I can pay whoever I want what I want and I chose to pay you all a day's wages."
Among other points Yancey makes is this one: if God operated out of fairness, mathematics, or merit alone we'd "all end up in hell." But God doesn't do that; instead "God dispenses gifts, not wages" (Yancey, p. 62). And the greatest of those gifts is His grace in Jesus Christ.
Living into God's grace can break the cycle of "ungrace" so prevalent in our world. As we continue to "embrace the grace" of God let it change and transform us so when people speak of us they recognize the grace we show in our daily lives.
Grace and Peace,
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able