Sunday, May 29, 2011

Life of a Hero

I found a definition of a hero that says a hero is someone who has given his or her life for something bigger than oneself. On Memorial Day we do celebrate the many heroes who have served our country through our armed services. The men and women who have died in wars protecting our freedoms and rights are heroes we need to remember and honor.
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul reminds us of Jesus' call to remember the meaning of his death in communion. In communion we remember that Jesus lived a heroic life as well. He gave his body and blood for something bigger than himself. He gave his life for us, so that our sins could be forgiven.
Finally, I want us to remember that as Christians, we too are called to live the life of a hero. We are called to give our lives to something bigger than ourselves. Jesus has freed us from sin in order to have a relationship with God that allows us to live for something bigger. Living for ourselves is not what we are called to do, and yet too often that is how we live.
God wants us to allow Jesus to live in us and lead us to live for the bigger things in life. We had a couple of members this week head down to Kansas for a few days of helping a community recover from a tornado. That is giving your life for something bigger, that is living the life of a hero.
I hope you know what bigger thing you are living for, but if not just ask God to show you where to give your life. You could give your life to the poor. You could give your life to the elderly. You could give your life to the outcast. God's love and grace is so large that it may call us to many different things, but all will fall under building his kingdom.
Go and live the life of a hero, live for something bigger than yourself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Saying Thank You

In the passage from Luke 17:11-19 we hear the story of ten people healed by Jesus and only one of them returned to thank Jesus. I don't want to blame the other 9 too much because Jesus told them to go to the priests and that is what they were doing. Yet Jesus still had wanted more of them to come back and say thank you.
Saying thank you is a simple thing, but we often overlook it. I know I am guilty of not saying thank you. When I get presents from my family or even friends on my birthday I do not send thank you notes. I guess I think I deserve the presents because it is my birthday, and I will thank them by giving them a present on their birthday.
The first time Helen got presents from my family on her birthday she asked for their addresses. And I questioned why she need them. She said to send thank you notes. I told her that my family did not need or expect thank you's for their gifts, but she asked for the addresses and sent them anyway.
I also believe that God does not need or expect our thanks, but I know God loves it when we do give him thanks and praise. Normally we may only thank God one out of ten times, but we can grow and improve on that. We can all grow in watching for how God is blessing us and then say thank you.
Thank God in prayer. Say to him how much it means to you for God to be working in your life. Praise him and thank him for all the little and big ways God is working.
Also, thank God publicly. Tell other people how God has blessed you. This invites the other person to join in your thanks, but it also might encourage them to give thanks as well.
We can grow in saying thank you to others, but also to God. Thank you for reading.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What are you doing next?

Yesterday we congratulated our Class of 2011. We have seven graduating seniors this year in our congregation. We asked each of them to introduce themselves and share what their plans are for next year. All seven of our graduates are going on to college (4 of them to Iowa!).
This got me thinking about our faith journey. As we grow in faith there are times of graduation where we move on to the next phase of our faith. When I first was a Christian I was a follower. I was learning everything I could from other people and studying the Bible myself. Then I started working alongside the people I had been following. Eventually I took the lead, first with youth and later with adults. (I never have graduated from following because I am still a follower as I lead.) There were not too many parties or celebrations for my graduations, but nevertheless I can look back see those times of moving on to my next phase of faith.
So when is the last time you graduated? Have you taken the next step in your faith recently or has it been a while? Is it time for a graduation?
Sometimes we settle into our faith and stay where it is comfortable. This is okay for a time, but God calls us forward. We need to step up to the challenge before us. It can be difficult. It can be scary facing the unknown, but it is where God calls us.
So what are you doing next? Is it time to get into a small group? Is it time to lead a small group? Is it time to find a place to serve? Whatever your next phase of faith is, go knowing God goes with you.
Congratulations to the Class of 2011, both high school and college. God has great things planned for you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother - God

I was struck yesterday during our prayer time at our early service on Mother's Day. The prayer lifted up how we pray "Our Father," but also how like our mother God is. I even preached that God's heart is very much like the heart of a mother. The ideal mother loves her children unconditionally and this is part of who God is. Wesleyan's usually focus on God's love and grace. We believe those are the foundation of who God is. We might also say those are the foundation for the ideal mother as well.
I believe men and fathers also give love and grace, but that is often not thought of as their primary qualities. And what struck me yesterday after going on about how much like our mother God is, we then went into praying "Our Father."
It is interesting how we can get so stuck on words. For some changing the Lord's Prayer by saying, "Our Mother" would be blasphemy. I admit, even to me, it feels strange to do that, but I do not think God would be offended. Using father or mother to describe God only points to a part of who God is. God is indescribable and uncontainable in words and maybe we need to get used to being free to express how God has reached out to us.
The other piece of this is that our faith seems to more often connect with women. For some reason men often are hesitant to share about their faith and be open to what God is doing. I am still wrestling with why this is, although I think part of it is that men are generally less connected to mushy, loving God ideas that we often communicate as the church. Maybe we need to give some attention to God deserving our respect and his power. That may be more of what men are looking for.
Well, a couple of pretty early thoughts from me this morning. Let me know your thoughts. I still need dig a little deeper into these and pray through them little more. Let us pray, "Our Mother..."

Monday, May 2, 2011


Yesterday we confirmed 11 youth, with 3 more to come that were not able to be there. Confirmation is a confirming of baptism vows made by these 7th and 8th graders or made on their behalf by their parents. Most of this group had been baptized as babies, but several were baptized later by their choice. Before they were confirmed officially they were preparatory members of our church and now they are full members.
I shared yesterday about a lesson I hope they will never forget from all of the lessons they learned in confirmation. The one I pointed out was to never run with your eyes closed. One of the students after a "faith walk" activity where they were blindfolded, enjoyed it so much that he ran out of the woods with his eyes closed. He ran straight into a board and broke his nose.
There are also spiritual connections to running with your eyes closed. I think many people in the world are running with their spiritual eyes closed, which leads to brokenness. Many people run through life making poor decisions, hurting other people, and thinking there are no consequences. They are running blind to the truth of God. So we need to run with our eyes open and help others open their eyes to the true way to run through life by living God's love and grace.
Another important lesson I would want to share with these young people is to make great Christian friends. My favorite memories and the best times of my life have happened with my Christian friends. We had great fun together with late nights, deep discussions, and making a difference in the world. This does not mean not to have friends that are not Christians because non-Christians need God's love too, but we need good friends who will help us stay on the path of God.
Does anyone else have a word of advice or a lesson you have learned that might help these young people grow in their faith? If you want to comment I can pass it on to the group. What has been an important lesson you have learned and maybe you wish you had learned it earlier. So share your thoughts and also say a prayer for these newly confirmed students.