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,
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,
Grow as you are led
Serve as you are able