Wednesday, January 28, 2009

All Things

This morning during my devotional time I was reading the end of the 9th chapter of 1 Corinthians. I was struck by Paul talking about becoming all things to all people. To reach a Jewish person he would speak like a Jew. To reach a Greek person he would speak like the Greek. He would find whatever connection he could in order to spread the gospel message.
I think if this idea is taken too far it can be more harmful than helpful. I thought back to a recent conversation with one of the members of my congregation. This person had discussed with some others why I no longer wore my clerical robe while leading services on Sunday mornings. (I was very pleased this person would bring the concern straight to me instead of just complaining about it.)
As I talked with this person I shared how I wore my robe every Sunday at first because I thought it gave me some authority in the eyes of the congregation. I also thought a 26 year-old could use some help at looking "pastoral." However, I have never felt I was a robe-wearing pastor. A robe, to me, is too formal. I am more relaxed. So I felt the robe was not who I was and I wanted to be genuine with the people of the congregation. I did learn that day the importance of wearing my robe for those who appreciate it on communion Sundays, which I will be more mindful to do in the future.
However, I do not want to appear like all things to all people in the sense that I put on a false exterior to try to get on the inside with someone. I know I must be genuine and sincere when I try to connect with people, so I look for other connections. I often use my fondness of sports to connect with people where I can often talk about any one's favorite team and what is happening with their team. I also use locations to connect with people and share stories of when I have been to places they connect with or at least my knowledge of that location.
Most of all, I think I try to relate to people that I make mistakes just like they do. Although I am a pastor I am in no way perfect or the judge of their imperfection. I am who God made me to be and the more I can connect with that reality the more God will use me in all things. He will do the same with you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is God up to?

Helen and I began our spiritual renewal leave with a conference event in Shueyville where the United Methodist Church there was teaching some pastors what they have done in ministry and how God has led them in ministry. It was there we received the blessing of knowing in April our congregation will be the teaching church to share what God has done in Williamsburg.
Then we got the surprise that my step-mom was sick, so going to Kansas City as planned on Friday afternoon was not going to work. She did not want to gives us an illness to battle while on spiritual renewal time. So, instead of our plans to spend the first four days of our time in Kansas City, we moved that to the back end of our trip. We then began to drive to Tennessee. We were not sure how far we would go because instead of a 5 hour drive we had a 12 hour drive and left Williamsburg around noon. We thought we might get a hotel somewhere, but in the end we drove all the way to Crossville arriving at 12:30 am.
God has already changed our well thought out plans, so I am wondering what he is up to? Then I began my personal reading today with a classic "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This man's life is just amazing as he lived in Nazi Germany and decided instead of running away from the evils in his home country, he would stand for God's truth. This led to his death in a concentration camp where he was executed. As I was reading about our need for personal time of meditation he gave a specific word to pastors. He said when pastors have their quiet time they should not be thinking about how to communicate God's Word to others or how they will teach or preach the text. He said pastors should be asking what the passage they are focused on has to speak to them.
Now I knew some of my spiritual renewal time would be for me, but mostly I was planning to be preparing how I can teach or preach better. Now I hope to really see what God wants me to learn so that I may grow closer to him and rely more on his Holy Spirit. I do pray that as God teaches me I can pass on that learning as well, but only as an added bonus of God's work.
So in my time away as God teaches me, my prayer will also be that everyone back in Williamsburg will be learning their personal lessons from God as well and we will have much to share with each other when we are back together.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Renew Your Covenant

As we finish this focus on relationships I invite you to renew the covenant you have made with your spouse through marriage, but also the covenant you have with your family. Many people view their relationships as a contract and not a covenant, but these two relational agreements are different.
A contract is usually a written agreement based on distrust. It is written to make sure the other person fulfills their conditions and the consequences if broken. It comes with limited liability and establishes a time frame for certain requirements to be met and accomplished. A contract can be broken with mutual consent.
However, a covenant is a verbal commitment based on trust, assuring someone that your promise is unconditional and good for life. It is spoken before God out of love for another. It is for the benefit of others and comes with unlimited responsibility and has no expiration date. It is intended to be unbreakable.
With a contract we can find reasons and excuses to break the contract, but a covenant is a commitment to continue on no matter what. We can renew our covenant relationships with those we love and recommit ourselves to loving others with the unconditional love of God. Our families and relationships will only be fireproof as long as we are striving for God's love to live in us. So let's not settle for what we have, but strive forward in God's love.

SIDE NOTE: As I begin my spiritual renewal time Thursday I will be away for four weeks, but I hope to blog twice a week if I have the Internet available, but I am not sure I will always have Internet. (Although Al Gore, "inventor of the Internet", is from Tennessee, they are still not fully into the 21st Century in all places.) I just want to have a place to share whatever God is teaching me in my renewal time. I will be praying for you, so I hope you will pray for me as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Love and Marriage

Who knew marriage would be hard work? (Probably everyone who has been married) Before becoming married there seemed to be this ideal, prefect little picture of marriage in my mind. I thought if you had love, you had enough and everything would be fine. I am not totally sure where that picture came from since my parents were divorced, and I have no memories of them together as a couple. Yet, that picture was there.
Six and a half years later, I know marriage does not just happen. It is not all fun and games. But I also know I am blessed to be in love with and loved by a wonderful woman. One of the things that I continue to see in Helen is her huge heart. As she works with children I can see her love and care for each child. When she is working with youth or adults I can see her passion for them to know and understand God's love. I do tease her often because she cries a lot at movies, TV shows, and even music when it speaks to her. The tears come when she is reminded of someone's hurt and pain. She wishes everyone could be protected by God's love from all harm and it hurts her when others are in pain.
The Love Dare reminds us on Day 34 that "Love Celebrates Godliness." We need to celebrate the godliness we see in other people and especially in our spouses. We will celebrate and cheer for success at work or at play, but we need to put so much more energy into celebrating those we love who draw near to God and represent God to others. So celebrate other's growth in Christian character. Celebrate their persevering in faith, their seeking purity, and their growing in giving and service. Encourage them as God continues to bring out his best in them.
When we put in some hard work in the right areas God will bless our marriages and relationships, so that they may become fireproof.