Monday, August 30, 2010

facebook: Keep Me Logged In

I love the little box under the space you enter your email when logging into facebook. When you check that little box you no longer need to reenter your email and password every time you want to get into your facebook account. When you check that box your computer remembers your information and takes you right into your facebook page. That little box says, "Keep me logged in."
This reminded me of our need to keep logged into our faith. We need to remain connected to God always. We do feel disconnected from time to time. I am sure you have felt that before because I have. You feel God is not present or distant, but of course, God is always there. So, we need to find ways to remain logged in with God.
I think there are many ways to remain logged in and it will depend on your personal way of getting connected to God. Reading your Bible on a regular basis may be your way. If you read the Bible regularly and miss a day, you may notice the disconnect. Reading the Bible helps you to connect with God through His Word. The Scriptures should challenge you, convict you and encourage you. You may remain connected through small groups. Meeting with other Christians to share about your faith can help you be accountable and recognize God’s presence. You also may remain connected through worship, whether that is private worship or communal worship. You need to find your way of staying logged in to God's Spirit.
What has recently helped me stay logged in is a 7 word mantra I learned from Leonard Sweet. These seven words are the condensed version of Philippians 4:6-7. He says these 7 words throughout the day and I have found myself doing the same thing. They remind me of how God calls me to live in this world as Christ lives in me. Here they are...
As we remain logged into God we are to be anxious in nothing. Our life should not be overwhelmed by anxiety, worry or fear. This does not mean those feelings will disappear, but they should not rule our lives. Our worrying about tomorrow will not solve any problems. We need to work at remembering God will provide and God will care for us.
Next we need to be prayerful in everything. We need to take everything to God in prayer. Prayer is a uniquely human quality. No other living creature prays. And I believe all humans pray. Even those who don't believe in God have probably cried out "why?" when something bad has happened and I believe that is a prayer. We have a desire built into us to pray, and yet sometimes we forget. All things, big and small, are worthy to be brought before God in prayer. We need to take everything to God in prayer.
Finally, we are to be thankful in anything. No matter the situation we find ourselves in we need to be thankful and joyful. This does not mean we have to like it necessarily, but we have to be thankful. Paul wrote these verses while in prison. Tough times will come to all of us, but God wants us to look for what we can be thankful for. Our faith always delivers blessings in the midst of bad times. God takes even death and turns it to new life, so God can take any of our troubles and bring thanksgiving.
When we follow these 7 words from Philippians 4:6-7 we get logged into God's presence and God gives us peace. Peace that calms our fears. Peace that leads us to our knees in prayer. Peace that finds the joy in the midst of sorrow. Peace that reminds us that Jesus lives in us.
Use this mantra if you think it might help you know this peace. It has helped me in my busy times. I always want to be logged in to what God is doing and I hope you do too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

facebook: Status Update

On facebook you can share and connect with the people in your life by posting a status from time to time. Some people update their status regularly (some a little too much for me). Others are not as regular, like me. But as people update their status they are letting people know what is going on in their life.
As I thought about updating the status of our congregation I thought about all the change this congregation has seen just in the time facebook has been around. facebook went public in February of 2004. In 2004 our congregation averaged 112 in worship attendance. Today we average around 240. In 2004 we had around 200 people connected to our congregation including children. Today we have around 500. (Not to mention the selling of our old building, worshiping in a funeral home for 18 months, and then getting into our new church home.) What this change has done is transformed us from a pastoral size church to a program size church. So, our updated status says that we are going to be a great program church.
In a pastoral size church the pastor can be in the middle of it all. The pastor can know all of the people of the congregation. The pastor can provide the care needed by the congregation. Also, the pastor can be involved in most of the decisions made in the congregation. A good pastor can lead a pastoral size church.
In a program church the pastor moves into a different role. The pastor can no longer know everyone, care for everyone, or be involved in every decision. This is honestly a good thing because this means the ministry of the church needs to be done by the congregation. The pastor and staff now have the task of training and leading groups of people who will take on the role of being ministers. It will take more people from the congregation for the ministry to be effective.
One of the difficult parts of this status update is that the people of this congregation who have been here for more than 5 years have only known ministry as a pastoral size church. It is tough to make this change. Not only for the congregation, but for me as a pastor as well. I was trained in seminary to be a pastoral size church pastor. Now I am trying to be trained in leading a program size church.
This transition is so difficult for many churches that there are many books written about this transition. The books try to let you know why things are changing and what to expect. These books describe almost exactly what this congregation is going through. So it is good to know we are pretty normal. Also, it is good to know God will lead us through the transition into the church God wants us to be.
So we will continue to update our status as God works on us to be the Body of Christ in our community. God has a plan for this congregation and as we live that plan and follow Jesus, the updates to our status will show God at work.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

facebook: Choices of Security

facebook was created to help you share and connect with the people in your life. One of the concerns people have when being on-line is security. How secure is the information that I am putting out there? I want to share and connect with those in my life, but not share all this information with those not in my life. I was actually talking to someone last Sunday about that. This person’s sister, I think, had her identity stolen, so they were hesitant to put information onto internet places like facebook. It is a very real concern and something to check into.
facebook has at least two places to learn tips about being safe and secure on their website. They have a facebook Security Page and their Safety Center. You can find information there about security issues, but also what to do about on-line bullying or what to do when someone you don't know keeps trying to contact you.
On-line security issues are important. They keep your information safe and they help keep you safe. To stay safe we have to make choices about whether to use on-line places like facebook, but we also have to decide what information we put on-line and who we allow to see it.
In our Christian faith there are choices we have to make when it comes to who we associate with and who we are connected to as well. You could say these are security issues. There are choices you need to make about who you are connected to in your life. The people you connect to are people you will influence and they are people who will influence you.
Paul shares with us in 2 Corinthians 6:14 "not to be yoked to unbelievers." He is saying that we need to be wise in the people we connect with and the influence they will have on us. Being yoked to someone means you are connect to them, like two animals yoked together to plow a field or pull a cart.
Let me be clear, this does not say not to associate with unbelievers, but it says don't be so connected to an unbeliever that will influence the direction of your life. (I personally would say if you are not associated with any unbelievers, then you are living too safe.)
I know this can be a difficult lesson for us to learn. It is hard to be honest with ourselves that a friend that we are close to is someone that might lead us away from God's calling in our lives. We feel we are strong enough to stand against their influence when we may not be that strong in our faith. We also do not want to let go of them for fear of what might happen to them. It is a hard choice to make.
What I want to suggest is that if you have a person that is really close to you and they do not know Jesus, pray about what God wants you to do in that relationship. God may encourage you to take a break from that relationship to gain strength and understanding of your calling. Perhaps God will lead you to have a honest conversation with that person. Letting them know how much you care about them and how God has made a difference in your life and you want that for them as well. Spending time in prayer about that relationship can make a huge difference in both of your lives.
Just as on-line security issues are important, so are the choices you make when it comes to who you connect with in your life. Take seriously the choices of who you allow yourself to be yoked to. Be wise and honest about the relationships you have and pray God will be present in those relationships.

Monday, August 9, 2010

facebook: Forgot your password?

To get into your facebook account you will always need to remember your user name and password. Your user name is easy because it is your email account that you use to connect with facebook. Your password can be whatever you decide, which can make it more random. Thinking about keeping these straight made me realize that we live in a password crazy world and it can get confusing.
I probably could not list from memory all of the places I use a password. My debit card has a PIN number. My social security number is used as a password sometimes. Both my cell phone and home phone accounts have passwords when I call customer service. I have accounts with, Christian Book Distributors, E-bay, Pay Pal, and many other on-line places that require passwords. It can be tough to remember all of those passwords and the proper user name that goes with them.
I thank God that our Christian faith does not have any passwords. There are not secret words or phrases that are needed to experience the love and grace of God. (I do believe there is power in the name of Jesus, but I would not call it a password.)
But the idea of forgetting your password means that you belong on facebook and have an account, but you have forgotten what gets you to your account. This made me think about the passage of Scripture from Revelation 2:1-7. This passage is about a church that was doing good work, but they had forgotten their first love. They had been in love with God and that had led them to endure hardships and work for God's kingdom, but somewhere along the way they forgot. They kept doing what they were doing before, but they forgot the reason they were doing it. In that passage they are called to remember and come back to their first love.
So I want to remind us as Christians that we too need to remember our first love. We need to remember the first time God let us know His presence. Remember the first time you knew God loved you.
For me it was 18 years ago at a camp called Wesley Woods near Indianola, Iowa. As I think back to that time I remember the joy, peace, and passion that filled my life as I realized the God of the universe loved me. As imperfect as I am, God loves me. Remembering that renews my excitement for sharing God's love even today.
Remember the first time you felt God's love. Not to live in the past of the glory days, but to be renewed and to serve and love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength today for His glory. Don't ever forget that God loves you.
If anyone wants to share their first experience with God just comment on this blog. It might help others to remember.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

facebook: Friend Request

The way people connect on facebook is through friend requests. A friend request is a message sent to another person letting them know you want to connect with them through facebook. The other person then gets to decide if they want to confirm or ignore the friend request.
In John 15 Jesus speaks in a way similar to that of a friend request. In this chapter Jesus says that he calls us friends. He also says that we did not choose him, but he chose us. So you could say he sent the first friend request to us. Then it was up to us to confirm it or ignore it.
Once he have confirmed the friend request from Jesus he says we are to love each other. Loving other people can be a large calling and has many possible ways to be lived out. One way to live it out is to reach out in love and make friends.
We were created for community, and yet there are many lonely people in this world. There are people who have friends and yet they do not feel loved by them. There are also people who may say they have no friends. God calls us to love the lonely. One way to do that is to become their friends. Maybe that can happen through facebook or maybe it will happen face to face. The way you become a friend is not important, but the important thing is that you make friends.
Jesus says that we are his friends and his friends love people. So let's continue to love all people, but keep an eye open for the lonely. You could make a difference in their life simply by talking with them and getting to know them.