Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Being An Agent of God

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.
Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

I am reading the ninth chapter of John this week. This is the first story of Jesus in this chapter and it has so many issues that fill my mind. I will probably be spending a few days working through what God is speaking through this passage to me. 
The first question I must face is the issue of the source of blindness. In the ancient world, people believed that those who were born with a debilitating disease the parents or grandparents had sinned. The disciples knew Jesus would know what caused the man to be blind. Along with the primary question, the larger issue I have about this section is the response of Jesus.
Jesus proclaimed this person was born blind to be a demonstration of God's power. This idea is hard for me. The thought that God would make someone "less" just to be a part of the demonstration of Jesus' power. How can a loving God do this? How can a grace filled God do this? 
I realize focusing on the subject of why born is not central to my faith. It is not important to focus on while discovering the focus of God's desire to teach through Jesus. The central focus is the willingness of the person to be used for God's will. 
Are we able to be the instrument of God's grace? The blind man in this story was willing to be that instrument. He went to the pool to wash off the mud. He allowed Jesus to put the mud made of spit on his eyes. This is the focus for me in the response of the blind man. Not why he is blind, but what he is willing to do with the blindness when confronted by Jesus. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Discovering the realms of Witness Part 1

Refocusing a Congreation

Recently I was elected to the post of a new church. In the years that I have been serving congregations, Imust admit that all of the congregations were onese needing a refocus on the definitation of who there are today in the world. In ministry talk, this is church redevelopment. I have worked among these groups of faithful people wanting to help bring new directions and light to a path, but they did ot bring me to the congregation for this particular role, that is except when I was asked to be the Interim Pastor of a congregation. In this call, I have been specificly asked to accomplish redevlopment among the group. I am looking forward to the work we can accomplish in God's desire.

Instructions to the Disciples

In the book of Acts, Jesus instructs the remaining disciples to remain in Jerusalem till the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit would empower the disciples to be witnesses of the work of Jesus.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
As I have studied this passage over the years and studing Missional Theology, the realms that Jesus tells His disciples to witness towards is words for us to follow in our work. 

The End of a Matrix

In the time of Christendom (a period in history when the church was the primary authority in society), the church believed that the only focus of witnessing of Jesus' Gospel was to the ends of the earth. Most leaders in he church have come to the realization that the times have changed and the church is not central in society. In this change of times, the position of religion has changed. Most realize that many people have not heard the message of Jesus nor seen a a reliable witness. The focus of the church need ot be redirected towards the first of these focus, Jerusalem. 

The next post will look at what the rediscovery of Jerusalem means to the local congregation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Modern Affliction

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. [1]

Definition of Idolatry

These listed above are the first two commandments of the great Ten Commandments. They were listed out to give the people of Israel instructions on how to live their lives as the chosen people of God. Most followers of Christ recognize these commandments as a way to best be an example and follow the desires Jesus set before us in His life. We recognize that we are not to have any idols. Nothing should come before our worship of God that is not God. When we speak about idols, we think of images that are made to worship and hold our focus away from the God of the universe. Is this the limit of idolatry? Can things we construct for the purpose of worshiping God become an idol? 

Modern Examples

In the modern church we speak of items that we put before God. We talk about money becoming an idol for some people. We also speak about power and honor becoming and idol for others. There are people who worship looks above all else. WE even have television shows call idols (American Idol which has now ended). We idolize people above God. I must admit that ministers fall into the same trap. As a minster I must watch myself not idolizing another person’s ministry over the call God has given to me and my service. It is easy to see why God would make these the first two commandments. They are the easiest to fail. Can anything in the church become an idol? Yes! 

For many American churches, I speak mostly of the old mainline churches from my experience, the building and contents of the building can become a thing to worship above God. There are congregations who will risk everything to save a beloved pipe organ. The cost of the organ repairs may be more than the people can handle, but the congregation will do anything they can to save the instrument. The people are so connected to a building they will do anything to keep it. The roof may almost be falling in on them, but do not speak of selling the building. The cast of up keep and maintain is so high, the people are not doing any ministry outside the church because of the cost to maintain the building. The people put the building before God. They put the lives of the saints gone before them in faith before the call of God now.

 Buildings Idolized Long Ago

This is not a new experience. Jesus talked about the temple at His time in similar manner. Jesus told the people that the temple would be destroyed and in three days risen again. We know He was speaking about His body, but others saw this as blasphemy to destroy the temple. There are congregations in America who would speak the same if we destroyed the building. There have been news reports of church fires for multiple different reasons. The people from the church are hart broken and crushed. The faith seems destroyed because a building was destroyed. Our language about religious buildings does not help this at all. We call them God’s House. The buildings are called churches not a gathering place. We reinforce this at a young age to our children in how we tell them to treat the space. No running, be quite and dress in your best.

One of the greatest authors in the 20th century, J.I. Packer, details in an entire chapter the role of idolatry in the Christian life. He writes in his book Knowing God, images.
In its Christian application, this means that we are not to make use of visual or pictorial representations of the triune God, or of any person of the Trinity, for the purposes of Christian worship. The commandment thus deals not with the object of our worship, but with the manner of it, what it tells us is that statues and pictures of the One whom we worship are not to be used as an aid to worshiping him.” [2] 
What does this say about our obsession with our buildings?

The Future Hope

When congregations come to a realistic view that he place they gather is just a building and a tool for ministry, our congregation will become healthier. The church of Christ in America will be able to be the power house for God in the world. Till then, we are stuck at the bottom of the mountain like Arron with the Israelite. 
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” [3]

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 20:2–6). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
[2] Packer, J. I.. Knowing God (p. 48). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
[3] The New International Version. (2011). (Ex 32:1–4). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mission Trip Photos

We all hate the "slide show" when someone comes back from vacation. But, these are the photos I took while in the Dominican Republic. I must admit I am not the photo taker that others in the group. I left my phone in my pocket due to work and dirty hands. I figured this would be one of the best ways to share pictures I had with people who read this blog and my friends.

Us prior to leaving Carthage, MO

Truck decal for the Work and WItness

This is the first day of labor. You can still see the wet cement of what we accomplished.

The wood and metal attached to the wall is where we bent metal most of the morning

The metal we bent was put inside the bars to make cages to go in the concrete later.

More of First day work

recovery time on the first floor. This is where we ate all our meals.

Vacation Bible School from the back of a van

This is the inside of the church where we did Vacation Bible School the first week.

A strangers car abandoned on the sidewalk. We moved it by hand to this location.

Moving sand from the ground to the second story.

Games fro VBS, week two.

View from the construction area.

The children for snack and crafts at VBS

Basketball camp

These are the musicians where I preached

This is the location where I preached

We filled this sidewalk with dirt twice from the construction. It was cleaned the last day.

IT seems like we never left the Four States.

This is the construction we accomplished over the week.

Our Last Day. Spent some time on the beach.