November 2018 Streams of Thought
It's hard to believe we're nearing the end of the year; Halloween is near, Thanksgiving is coming up and right around the corner is Christmas.
Some stores were clearing old Christmas inventory at 40% off back in AUGUST! We lament the commercialization and diluting of Christmas (and Thanksgiving) but find it hard to push back against this cultural flood tide.
Maybe the best way to do this is to simply observe these holidays as "Christianly" as possible. St. Francis of Assisi is often misquoted as saying, "Always preach the Gospel; when necessary use words." While no evidence exists he actually said or wrote those words, the sentiment is good.
The Gospel, or Good News of Jesus Christ, is often lived and spoken at the same time. In our quiet time with God, our seasonal or holiday reading, personal worship times, and other daily activities, we can focus on the Christ who blesses us with so many blessings and be thankful and celebrate His coming to earth to save us. There are many great books and internet blogs that do this at this time of year. I encourage you to use these resources and others to help focus anew on Christ during the seasons we are approaching.
My own personal study for this time will be on the faith and theology of various Christmas carols as well as some of the people in the Nativity narratives in the Gospels. I hope this focus will turn my attention away from some of the cringeworthy stuff we see around the holidays and help me see Christ and His birth in new ways.
From this I hope will flow a fresh desire to fulfill the purpose of the Church: to bear witness to the Christ who has come to save us.
Grace and Peace,
October 2018 Streams of Thought
Grace and peace,
September 2018 Streams of Thought
The Christian satire website The Babylon Bee (it's like The Onion but without the profanity and from a definite Christian viewpoint) ran an article about how people expect us to live our faith but get really upset when we actually do.
The basis of the Christian faith is that a self-revealing God created all we see, called Israel to be His people, came to us in a man named Jesus of Nazareth, died for us and rose again, and calls His people to lives of holiness in all areas of life. The majority of Christians through history have believed this.
How Christians might understand things like Jesus' Incarnation or the nature/work of the Holy Spirit's gifts may differ but the heart of the faith as defined in statements such as the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds remains the same. The Christian faith has a definite and consistent foundation (based on centuries of prayer, careful study, and thought).
Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias visited a university here in the U.S. and was shown a new building built by postmodern (all is relative, there's no Truth) standards. Columns hung halfway down from the ceiling and stairs ended against walls. The host proudly pointed out the postmodern design. Zacharias asked, "Did the architect do the same with the foundation?" The response was laughter with tones of "Well, of course not."
Zacharias wrote that this response underscored the absurd premises that no such thing as truth exists or that foundations (religious, scientific, etc.) don't matter. He pointed out that if the architect had been true to his postmodernism he would have tried to make the foundation postmodern as well.
But physics and engineering rules/boundaries simply don't allow that. The same is true for the Christian faith. What is commonly called Christian orthodoxy is not the stifling, unimaginative creature its critics imagine it to be. Rather, while maintaining boundaries on doctrinal content, it encourages a growing, nuanced, and deeper understanding of some pretty mind-blowing stuff (such as Jesus being fully God and fully human or that He was sinless [John 8:42-47; Hebrews 4:15]).
The Church is at its best when it lives out a faith of vibrant orthodoxy that stresses grace and holiness of heart and life. And when that happens, lives are changed for eternity.
Grace and Peace,
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,
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able