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God’s Provision

May 30, 2018
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We needed to build a small retaining wall along one side of our church. We had the resources to buy the landscape blocks, but how fun is it for God to write a different script?

My wife and I were on an evening walk when we went by a neighbor’s house with a sign that said, “Free Landscape Blocks.” So I pulled out my phone and called the number. As I stood in the street, the generous donor peered at me through his living room window. I already liked him, because of the price he was asking for the blocks, and I liked him even more when he told me his name was Phil!

I told him of our project and need and he was happy to have me haul them away (okay, they weren’t really free). 154 blocks. An interesting number, but the agreement was that I would take them all.

The last picture shows that we have one block on the fourth row. That’s right, we needed 153 blocks for the project. The 154th block is totally unnecessary, except, it serves as a reminder. We had a need. God made a provision, not just for enough, but even a little extra.

What stories do you have of ways great or small that God provided what you needed when you needed it?

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Tips for Fasting

February 6, 2018
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Clarify the purpose of your fast. As you think about fasting, ask God to show you what you might address in your fasting time. Are you seeking an answer to a prayer? Are you listening to God for spiritual growth?

Design a plan for some exercise of disengagement. Think about what your fast will be. If it is food, will it be a meal or a day? If it is technology, will it be for a time each day or for specific days?

Design a plan for some exercise of engagement. With the time or money you don’t spend while you are fasting, what could you do? Think about how you can spend time with people or help others? Does this free up space in your life to spend time with God?

It is always a good idea to keep a journal handy. Don’t view it slavishly needing to enter something every day or having a minimum number of words. Use it creatively – draw or do creative writing. Make notes about what you sense God is doing. Review it throughout the month to see if any theme is recurring.

Implement your plan. One of the best things you can do is form a partnership with at least one other person with whom you can share your exercise. This is for encouragement not credit! Share what you plan to do and when. Share your experience throughout the month. Pray for each other.

Begin with prayer. Even as you prepare your plan for fasting, ask God to guide your thoughts. For each time you engage your fasting exercise, pray and ask God to use this time for you to experience growth in your spirit.

Think about if you need to let anyone else know your plans. For instance, if someone is preparing food for you and you suddenly announce you are not going to eat the meal, it poses an awkward moment and may take the edge off the benefit you were hoping for. If you are not going to use your phone between 8 PM and 8 AM, let those who regularly contact you in that time know so they don’t worry about what is going on. Fasting is to make us more mindful of God and others. One of the ways we can get it right is to share with those who will be impacted by our plans.

Final note: You do not have to share anything with anyone about your experience if you choose. This can be a very intimate time for you to connect with God. If you make it private, ask God to let you know if there is some aspect that might be shared later.

 

 

 

An Open Ear

January 31, 2018
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Eugene Peterson shares this thought with us from Psalm 40. It ties in nicely with our theme of Listening to the Word.

Doing something for you, bringing something to you— that’s not what you’re after. Being religious, acting pious— that’s not what you’re asking for. You’ve opened my ears so I can listen. Psalm 40:6 The Message

The person of faith is not a robot, computer-programmed to go through religious motions. He is characterized as having an ‘open ear’ – as a sensitive creature who listens and responds to the word of God.

Prayer: Lord, I want to learn to read your Scriptures in a personal way, so that they are words written not about others but to me, and the results is not information crammed into my head, but behavior animated by faith. AMEN.

Taken from A Year with the Psalms: 365 Meditations and Prayers, by Eugene Peterson.

Engaging the Word

January 3, 2018
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Photo by CBCS @morguefile.com

This year, we are inviting friends of Faith Community Church to embark on a spiritual growth adventure. Each month we will chose one spiritual exercise that will help followers of Jesus to better understand what it means to live the life He has called us to live. Our first exercise is to read the Bible.

Many Christians believe the Bible is the most important book in their life. However, survey after survey is telling us that few people engage the Bible in any personal way. Most listen to Bible based sermons, but even those rarely mold people’s hearts or change their lives. The Bible is on the perimeter of most Christians lives, not at the center.

What leads to this? Time demands – when can we fit it in? Challenging literature – I’ve tried reading the Bible and I don’t understand it? Ease of life – Few of us are living in circumstances where knowing God more intimately and personally seems imperative. God and consequently, the Bible, are viewed as optional. Reading the Bible is viewed as an elective class for the spiritual zealots.

God’s design is for every believer, young or old, new or mature, to be personally engaged with the Word. Sometimes we substitute a dreary rote discipline for the dynamic engagement God intends. Chris Webb writes in his book, The Fire of the Word, “We read the Bible to be kissed by Christ.”

My hope for this year on this blog is that we share our practices and experiences in a way that encourages each other. This month, you can post ways you have found meaningful for you to read the Bible. You can post insights you gain as you read the Bible.

Here is where I would encourage you to start. Pray and ask God to use this exercise to help you to fall more in love with Him. Choose a verse, a passage, or a book that you want to focus on this month. Try to pick a goal that is more than what you are doing right now, but don’t worry about being a Bible scholar in 30 days. Some of you may be led to read the whole Bible this month. But, if you are like me, choosing a meaningful verse or short series of verses is a better goal to start. Or maybe you have a parable or story from the gospels that you would like to listen to more intensely.

I’m going to post ideas throughout the month to encourage you. If you would like some ideas right away, read the article about spiritual exercises in our January newsletter at https://www.faithedmonds.org.

The Best Seat on the Plane

May 5, 2017
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Ticket 26CI got this boarding pass because I changed my flight. I had one of those occasions where I got to the airport in time to catch an earlier flight home. I can’t tell you how much I dislike paying to do this, but for $25, I’d be home at least two hours sooner. I bit the bullet and did it. The attendant asked if I would like a window or aisle. At 6’4”, the aisle is always preferable. 26C would be my seat on the plane, plus 26B was open.

I boarded the plane and took my seat. Shortly thereafter, another attendant was talking to the people in the row 27. A family with children wanted to sit together and they were looking for someone to move who had an open seat next to them. Neither passenger was moved by the family’s plight. When the attendant looked at me, I thought, “Why not?” The deal was that I would have to move to a middle seat, but they would treat me real nice.

Off to 8B (no, not even close to first class). As an expression of their gratitude, the airline would like to give me something – a $75 voucher on my next flight. I maneuvered into 8B and surveyed the space I would be in for the next three hours. When the attendant came back to confirm my email address, the pot got a little sweeter – they raised the value to a $100 voucher!

This incident may parallel the faith journey for some. How? We begin, reluctantly thinking we are giving up something of great value ($25). On the faith journey, it may be a habit, our time, relinquishing our will to the Father, Sunday morning football, or some other sacrifice. We take our seat, but we are thinking more of what we have lost than what we have to gain.

Then, through no act or effort of our own, we are rewarded. We thought that giving up our life was a loss, but we have found there is so much more that we have gained. Once we have tasted the goodness of grace, we are almost embarrassed to admit the reluctance of our commitment.

I’m not trying to suggest God will ‘pay’ us for any sacrifice. I’m simply saying that life with Him at any price is better than any other seat on the plane!

When God invites us to move, why not answer, “Yes?” The seat may not seem as comfortable, but it will always be more valuable.

Old and New

January 3, 2017
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One of the best ways to learn is by examining our experiences. One of the best ways to grow is to establish goals that we can pursue. Here is an invitation to combine these two into an exercise that can help you in your faith development journey.

calendarThis past Sunday, we took time to journal in church. People were invited to reflect on the year past and write observations. Then we took time to look into the upcoming year and anticipate where God might be leading us. We kept the ‘journals’ at church in individually sealed envelopes. We’ll return them next New Years.

Here is the list of thought starters we used. The idea is to read the list and pick two or three that most help you for each respective year. If you would like to think about what God is up to in your life, you might enjoy joining in the exercise. If you can think of other good prompts, I invite you to share them with us.

2016

  • Make a list of things you are thankful for in the past year.
  • How was God present to you last year? Helping or guiding you?
  • How would you evaluate the ‘speed of your life’ in the past year? Too slow, too fast, or just right? What can you say to God about this?
  • Is there a story in the Bible that reminds you of your past year?
  • What was the most meaningful thing you did in 2016? The most difficult? What might God be saying in these circumstances?

2017

  • Ask God to give you a word for the year ahead – one that will help you stay focused on him.
  • What goal might God have for you in the coming year?
  • What concern do you have that you want to entrust to God?
  • What is one thing you can do to create more margin in your life? How will you use that margin to pay closer attention to God?
  • Who will you be praying for in the year ahead?
  • Is there a story, character, or verse in the Bible that you are led to embrace for the year ahead?
  • What is something you are looking forward to in 2016? Share with God how you hope he will use this to shape your faith?
  • How would you like to grow spiritually in the year ahead? What can you do to encourage this growth?
  • Is there anything you believe God wants you to stop doing? What might God want you to pay special attention to preserving? What might God want you to start doing?
  • Who will walk with you for support and encourage you?

 

“I Like Tablets”

December 30, 2016
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Grandma Melissa is doing an amazing job of qualifying for Grandma of the Year. She is playful. She is available. She is present. She is thoughtful.

tablet-writingHere is one example of her careful planning. We were all going out to dinner. Grandma knew that dinner would go better with some entertainment for Anilu. On the way to the restaurant, grandma gave a little clue, “I have a tablet for you.” Anilu’s face lit up and she exclaimed, “I like tablets.” Once the order was placed, the tablet was requested. Suddenly, the atmosphere shifted. Grandma pulled out a brand new tablet full of drawing paper. Anilu looked as if she had no idea what it was. What she did know is that this is not the tablet she was expecting! Her idea of a tablet is an electronic device with games and videos. What is a child to do with paper and colored pencils???

tablet-computerSometimes the generation gap produces a communication gap! Other times it is a culture shift that produces the disconnect. For centuries, ‘Christian language’ was a shared vocabulary. You could use words like sin, salvation, sanctification, and redemption and people would engage in a friendly conversation. Christian language is no longer a shared commodity in our culture. Some have rejected it. Others have never heard or learned it.

That is not necessarily a problem, unless you think the words you are using make sense to someone who has no idea what you are talking about. Some of us learned ‘gospel presentations’ that tell people the story of Jesus. The problem is we are using words that either have a different meaning or no meaning for people we are talking to.

It is a new day. Tablet means different things to different people (imagine what Moses pictured when you mentioned a tablet). Jesus means different things to different people. Anilu likes tablets. People like Jesus. But if you want to have a conversation about either one, you need to make sure you are talking the same language.

I still think the tablet was worth a point for grandma of the year…

Added thoughts: Here is a link to a podcast with some helpful thoughts on connecting with people. If you are short on time, start at the 5:30 mark.

Renovare Podcast