Monday, August 31, 2009

Church of Sandbaggers

The truth for this week is that we can survive the storms and setbacks of life. We survive them through our faith and through one another. The illustration I used was calling for sandbaggers in your life. There will be times each of us will need to call upon others to come and help us stand through the storms of life. As people in Iowa have been more willing to sandbag for one another after last years flood we need to be ready and willing to sandbag for each other when storms come in life.
One adjustment we are attempting to make in our congregation is for people of the church to remember they are sandbaggers for one another. In the past, when this congregation was smaller the pastor would be the sandbagger. It was the pastor who always showed up in the midst of the storm, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, now our congregation has 200 families connected to it and if the single pastor is supposed to show up for every storm then that pastor will not have much time for anything else besides sandbagging.
So we are trying to encourage each person in the congregation to be a sandbagger. Each of us are qualified and called to show up for others in the midst of the storms. The pastor can and will still be there, but so will several other members of the congregation. When we care for one another as a group the load is lighter and community is developed. So each person needs to remember they are a sandbagger for others in the church.
A second adjustment that is needed is to help the congregation understand that a visit from a member of the congregation is not a "second class" visit. A visit from the pastor is not the only visit that counts. Those visits from members of the church are visits from people who care and represent the church just as much, if not more than, the pastor.
If you have thoughts or suggestions on communicating these ideas please let me know.
In the end the important thing to remember is that each of us are called to be sandbaggers for one another. God invites us to show up for one another in the midst of the storms. God will use you to help others survive the storms of life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fat Boy

So yesterday I shared how I have gained weight and my wife teased me because she has been losing weight. She apologized for teasing me and I forgave her. The second truth for life is that saying "I am sorry" and "You are forgiven" are six important words to say.
Reading Ephesians 4:30-5:2 we are reminded to be imitators of God. We remember we can forgive one another because God in Christ forgave us first. I think most of us who are Christian can see the connection to imitating God when it comes to forgiveness.
However, I am challenged to look at God saying, "I am sorry." This means God made a mistake and did something wrong. For a holy and loving God to do that brings in some tension. I searched the Bible and the only time I found God being sorry is before the flood when God says he is sorry for making humans. Ouch.
And yet we can recognize God's regret that evil had become such a part of the lives of humans. I do not think it was so much that He had created us, but that our hearts turned towards sin more easily than turning towards God.
We too can imitate God by regretting the sin that dwells in this world. And we can do what we can to bring more joy and peace by using these six important words more often in our lives to renew our relationships with one another. This will please the Lord.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Golden Rule

The first truth we are looking at in this message series is the Golden Rule found in Matthew 7:12. I think the idea of doing for others what we would want them to do for us is well known. However, as Christians, you can combine that with 1 John 3:16 which says "We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us--and we ought to lay down our lives for one another." This sets the standard of how far we are to go in doing for others. We are to go as far as laying down our life for others.
I shared an idea like this at a wedding this weekend as I challenged a competitive couple to compete at loving each other. They were committing in their marriage to give their lives to each other, but what does that really look like? How do we live out the Golden Rule? I would love to hear any stories people might have about this, either as receiving a blessing or giving a blessing.

I was thinking back to when our family was coming back from Kansas City after visiting my dad. Just outside of Altoona about an hour from home we got a flat tire. Thankfully it was not too cold although it was winter. This young man pulled over right behind us and helped me change the tire. And when I say helped, he actually did most of the work. I then tried to bless him by offering some money, but he refused to take it. I still wish I could have forced him to take my gift, but he simply wanted to do for me what he would want others to do for him. He is still a blessing in my life.
What are your stories?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zion is...Alive

So far we have noticed that Zion is sacred space, it is for singing and it is for being instructed on how to live. Finally I want us to remember that Zion is alive. 1 Peter 4-12 reminds us that Zion is the people of God being built into a spiritual house. Zion is true Christian community.
What this means to me is that those of us who call ourselves Christian need to be sure we are living the life of true followers of Jesus. I am reading a book called "unchristian" by Kinnaman and Lyons. This book is from the Barna Research Group and shares a lot of information gathered from interviews with Christians and non-Christians. The view many non-Christians, especially younger non-Christians, have of Christians is not good. The most common descriptive words used for Christians are negative; judgmental, uncaring, anti-homosexual, only out for converts, and so on. These are not the same words used to describe Jesus, so we must have gone wrong somewhere.
My challenge to all of us to rethink how we are representing Jesus. If we are building Zion, then we need to do better at representing Jesus as a loving merciful savior. I think eventually I will do a message series on the issues raised in this book, but until then we can work at how to better communicate the message of Jesus to people who have turned away from Christians in the past. We will not be perfect in building Zion, but we can do better. Zion lives in us and we can show the world that Christian community is alive in our world.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zion is...for instruction

Micah describes Zion as a place where the law of God will come from (Micah 4:2). Zion can be a place to go for instructions on the path God has laid out for you and for me. God does want to give each of us a direction. He wants to show us the plan and purpose He has for our life. This will come as we draw near to God.

We can also find our direction as other people point us in the right direction as well. Two weeks ago at a summer camp with 350 students, Pastor Helen gave an invitation for any of those student who felt called to full time ministry to come forward. 27 students from 7th grade through college came forward and several pastors gave them a little encouragement to truly pursue that calling. Helen and I have been working on making more of an effort to encourage people to go into ministry positions.

God can use each of us to instruct others. If we are willing to listen to God's instructions He may also call us to point others in the right direction as well. I encourage you to join me in encouraging those you see in ministry and service. Thank them for the work they are doing. Also, look for those who may not be serving where they have gifts and encourage them to get in there and serve.