Showing posts with label recommended readings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recommended readings. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Siblings



Sermon based on Genesis 37:1-4, 18-38, showing us the dysfunctional, grudge poisoned, hateful relationship between Joseph and his brothers. We explore how to equip ourselves against dysfunction and hate in our own day and age, like the hate so prominently on display at the race riot and terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 11-12, 2017. Being so equipped, we must work all our lives against letting hatred consume us.

If you doubt your small efforts or talents can be any use in fighting against human hatred, intolerance, racism, etc., take a look at the following sermon and rethink: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/08/against-all-expectations.html

For specific reactions from our denomination to the race riot and terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, which I heartily agree with and endorse, see the following posts: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/08/american-baptist-home-mission-societies.html and https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/08/abcusa-general-secretary-speaks-to.html

American Baptist Home Mission Societies Speaks Out Against Racism and Violence

Following the awful demonstration of hate and terrorist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017, the American Baptist Home Mission Society released the following statement that we here at Lansdowne Baptist Church fully support and endorse. American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse denominations in the United States and that diversity is our strength! ~Reverend Jeffrey B. Snyder


American Baptist Home Mission Societies denounces and condemns—in the strongest manner possible—the violent and deadly demonstration led by a host of white supremacist organizations and individuals in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.
The human toll of three lives lost senselessly and more than two dozen individuals injured stains our American stature on the world stage. The racial and religious hatred expressed by the Neo-Nazi, Alt-Right, Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations in opposition to the city’s decision to remove a monument memorializing the American Civil War’s Confederacy and its standard bearers is an affront to democracy and our social order.
We join with people of goodwill across our country who seek to make America’s public squares, government grounds and city streets safe for all citizens.
Furthermore, we commend and pray for all the valiant clergy, students, justice workers and others who gathered in Charlottesville to say “no” to violence, threats and intimidation from the white supremacist demonstrators.
In the wake of yet another terrifying episode of violence in America’s public square, we pray for the families and loved ones of Heather Heyer, whose life was tragically taken during the vehicular assault on dozens of peace workers. We pray, too, for the families and loved ones of Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates—the Virginia state police troopers who died in a helicopter crash related to the situation in Charlottesville—along with those who were victims of assaults and trauma, both physical and emotional, resulting from the violence.
“We call upon people of faith and goodwill to continue to pray and work on behalf of freedom, justice and peace in the United States of America and throughout the world,” says Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, ABHMS executive director. “Never were these prayers and this work needed more.”

For more, see: https://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2017/08/abcusa-general-secretary-speaks-to.html

Sunday, August 13, 2017

ABCUSA General Secretary Speaks to Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12-13, 2017

Our denomination takes a dim view of racist violence and white supremacist terror. The General Secretary reminds us all of our denominational stance. In part, he states:

Second, the white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia (see, for example, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/12/us/charlottesville-white-nationalists-rally/index.html), cannot be ignored. Let us encourage our pastors to remind our membership that ABCUSA stands for the full equality of all Americans and rejects every version of racial prejudice and specifically, the contemporary ugly resurgence of so-called “white nationalism.” I especially appreciated IM missionary Daniel Buttry’s Facebook reposting of an American Baptist Resolution which is still valid today:

To see the entire letter, see: http://www.abc-usa.org/2017/08/13/general-secretarys-update-august-12-13-2017/

This includes the American Baptist Resolution on the Resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. The end of the resolution includes the following instructions to leaders:

We call upon the agencies and the leadership of the regional and national units of American Baptist Churches in the USA to:
1. Provide informational materials and other forms of support to individuals and to congregations engaged in efforts to educate their members about the nature of the Klan and about racial justice;
2. Represent American Baptist Churches in ecumenical efforts to combat the Klan;
3. Encourage public media to use their resources to promote racial justice;
4. Commend those media which have carried out investigative reporting about the Klan and its activities; and
5. Express our repugnance for the philosophy and activities of the Klan through appropriate governmental and legal channels.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pastoral Letter from ABC USA's General Secretary Following the Recent Violence

Please take the time to follow the link and read this important message from Rev. Dr. Lee Spitzer addressing the tumultuous week just past. Here you will find carefully delineated the stance of American Baptist Churches USA concerning individual liberty and equality.

God bless you all. http://www.abc-usa.org/2017/06/16/a-pastoral-letter-from-abcusa-general-secretary-rev-dr-lee-b-spitzer/ 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Problems of Perfectionism

During the 2016 ABC USA Minister's Conference, where we explored options for maintaining healthy, balanced lives in the face of our challenging callings, the keynote speaker Dr. Jennifer Davidson warned us not to fall into the trap of perfectionism. Her warning is applicable to all of us, not just ministers.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines perfectionism as follows:

1. a : the doctrine that the perfection of moral character constitutes a person's highest good; b : the theological doctrine that a state of freedom from sin is attainable on earth

2: a disposition to regard anything short of perfection as unacceptable (see: 
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perfectionism)

As Dr. Davidson stated, we need to stop placing heavy, unrealistic expectations on ourselves and instead of attempting to manage everything ourselves, turning control over to God instead. If we do not, we come to dislike ourselves when we don't meet those expectations. As a result, we will project that negative attitude upon others, making our dissatisfaction with our own imperfections about them rather than dealing with the issues honestly ourselves. 

Humility is the antidote to the myth of perfectionism that eats away at the heart of our spiritual lives, drowning that life in depression, sinking us into despair. If we feel we need to be perfect, we will certainly fail at the things we try, whether they be physical, intellectual, or spiritual matters. 

For me, the key observation was and remains "Perfectionism kills the ability to move forward. We won't try if we can't be perfect." That's what happens when we accept the corrosive myth of perfectionism. 

Author Joshua DuBois, referencing the parable of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7, remarks in The President's Devotional, "[Our God] is not a God who loves the righteous--because none are righteous, none. He's not a God who values those who have it all together, because who among us really does?" None of us manages to get through life without stumbling. None of us is perfect. 

Finally, author Kirk Byron Jones in his book, Rest in the Storm, warns that we cannot expect each other to be able to address (perfectly or otherwise) all of the problems we face in our sojourn through life. Jones quotes Dr. E.V. Hill's consideration of this matter. While this is a warning for pastors, once again it is good advice for everyone, "Now we need to be careful. Sometimes the expectation that we meet all these demands convinces us that we can. This can give us a messianic complex that is destructive to the preacher and the preacher's family. This messianic complex can work on us so that we can feel bad about not being able to solve all the problems that are brought to us. This is a horrible addiction. There is glamour and glee in thinking that you have the answer to many problems and feeling that others think so. It is very seductive, and we can become addicted to it. And it is subtle; we want to endear people to us, but this can lead to people expecting too much from us, and us expecting too much from ourselves." 

Let's all be humble. Let's all admit we are not perfect beings. Let's lower the expectations a bit, Let's get away from the idea that anything short of perfection is unacceptable. We'll all be healthier for that.

Wishing everyone peace ... and a healthy does of humility ... so we can all move forward together.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Disaster Aid: West Virginia, Indiana

Here is what American Baptist Home Mission Societies has done to aid West Virginia and Indiana following recent severe weather events: 

Severe storms in Indiana and West Virginia June 23-24 have caused significant damage in two American Baptist regions now in need of prayer and relief/recovery efforts.
In Indiana, the storm’s force destroyed buildings, disrupted utilities and closed roadways in and around Brookston, designated in a state of emergency. Federated Church of Brookston, an American Baptist congregation, is serving as a hub for relief activities, including American Red Cross efforts.
Heavy rain that crossed West Virginia particularly impacted the state’s central and southern regions. The number of American Baptist churches damaged by the flooding is still to be determined, but several have confirmed major damage.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) Disaster Relief office has released $10,000 in One Great Hour of Sharing funds to the West Virginia Baptist Convention and $2,500 to American Baptist Churches of Indiana/Kentucky for coordination of community recovery and rebuilding efforts.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Pastor Takes Over Lansdowne Baptist Church Facebook Page

Some of us at a recent fellowship event
It takes time to get different aspects of one's ministry all gathered up and running. I just stumbled across a Facebook page I'd established for myself back when I started and had pretty much abandoned when I found very few members were on FB. That appears to be slowly changing so I have gone back, dusted off my FB page, and in the process discovered that Lansdowne Baptist Church has a local page as well, which I will now try to bring up to speed as moderator.

If you are curious and want to see what we're up to, feel free to check out: https://www.facebook.com/LansdowneBaptistChurch/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Monday, June 20, 2016

Powerful Statement from Our Denomination Following the Shootings in Orlando

American Baptist Churches USA is the most diverse denomination in the United States. Our churches have a great deal of autonomy, we are equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, and we have varying interpretations of particular passages that have been the focus of recent cultural and religious debated.

Yet, in the midst of turmoil, our leadership provided the following powerful message of love. Please follow this link and read: http://www.abc-usa.org/2016/06/17/abc-interim-general-secretary-addresses-orlando-shooting/

A few highlights:
We offer our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of the victims of the horrible tragedy in Orlando. We extend love to those of our family directly affected. We grieve with our American Baptist brothers and sisters who are part of the LGBTQ community. My message to them is, never mistake our debates and disagreements with the depth of our love for you as part of our family. To the rest of the ABC family my message is, even in the midst of profound disagreement, let us love as Christ loved. 
~Interim General Secretary Dr. Susan Gillies


Following Gillies remarks, Rev. Judy Fackenthal said, “As President of ABCUSA, I concur with Interim General Secretary Susan Gillies that any act of violence against any part of the human family is fully outside the vision of God’s gracious love for all people. While American Baptists may not agree on a wide variety of issues, we claim God’s love as a just and all-encompassing love. I pray for the people of Orlando, particularly the LGBTQ community as well as the Hispanic community that has been particularly affected by this horrific violence. May we work together to seek to end hate and the outcomes associated with it.”


“The events of last week hurt me deeply, as a Christian, Baptist and as a Puerto Rican,” said Dr. Josue D. Gómez-Menéndez, vice president of ABC. “At this time I would like to express my solidarity with all the people who are suffering from the effects of violence, misconceptions and separation. In the end what we discover in the depth of love is that we find our essence and human reality, our claim to the dignity of the human being and our real choice to reflect Jesus in every step.”

Friday, June 17, 2016

Two Powerful Statements From American Baptist Home Mission Societies After Orlando

The American Baptist Home Mission  Society describes itself as follows
As part of American Baptist Churches USA, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) answers God’s call to live out Christian faith through ministry that strengthens congregations and connects with communities beyond church walls—ministry that encourages and nurtures disciple-makers who shout the Good News of Jesus Christ and impact our world with God’s love.
In the wake of the terrible shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a previously safe haven for members of the LGBT community, ABHMS released the following: http://abhms.org/about-us/news/american-baptist-home-mission-societies-stands-lgbtq-community-wake-orlando-massacre/

Further, the ABHMS makes this statement about gun violence: http://abhms.org/about-us/news/abhms-urges-american-baptists-advocate-gun-violence-prevention/

Please read and prayerfully consider.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Inspiration for the Journey


Recently, there have been those to whom we bid a fond but reluctant farewell. In my readings, I discovered this passage by Kristine Malins found in the Medical Missionary Magazine. She sums the feelings we have brilliantly. 
Our is the pain of constantly pitching our tent and folding it up again, of befriending strangers and bidding them goodbye, of loving the world but never truly being satisfied with it, of pouring our heart and soul into a project others have begun and still others will finish. If we would not be torn in two by the tensions of this truth, we must learn to live provisionally--to measure the road well. We need to make the most of the occasions when we gather by the roadside to break bread together and compare directions. Joy must be discovered in the going as we never really arrive, not even in a lifetime.
Wishing you many happy occasions to gather along the roadside, break bread, and compare directions and much joy in the going. 

God bless you all.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Argument for Positive Activity

Dr's Henry Cloud and John Townsend have some wonderful advice in their book Boundaries. Included is this material on attempting to accomplish things, even if we fail. It is well worth taking to heart when considering what new direction God might wish you to go and whether or not to make the effort.
Human beings are responders and initiators ... God will match our effort, but he will never do our work for us. ... He wants us to be assertive and active, seeking and knocking on the door of life. ... The sin God rebukes is not trying and failing, but failing to try. Trying, failing, and trying again is called learning. Failing to try will have no good result; evil will triumph.
God bless you in your efforts. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Lenten Devotions Available Online

The season of Lent is fast approaching once again. It all begins this year on February 18, Ash Wednesday. Lent is a season of self-examination, spiritual reflection, repentance, sacrifice, and focused prayer. Lent is a time to examine our hearts and lives, to acknowledge our sins, to look for the ways we are not choosing the gospel or welcoming those whom Jesus calls us to embrace. In the process, we turn away from the sins (all those behaviors, habits, etc. that draw us away from God's purposes) and self-centeredness and toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In this way, we prepare to meet Christ in his resurrected glory on Easter (April 5 this year). We pray for a change of heart toward greater love of God and neighbor, and all that accompanies that growing love.

To help us on our way, the Rev. Dr. Richard E. Rusbuldt has prepared a Lenten Devotions 2015 e-book with Scripture readings, reflections, and questions. These will help us on our journey of discovery and the deepening of our faith.

To obtain a free copy of this devotional guide for Lent, see: http://www.abcopad.com/Downloadable_Forms/2015_Lenten_Devotions_by_Dr_Richard_Rusbuldt_sm.pdf

Friday, November 21, 2014

Recommended Reading for Clarity


There is a lot of confusion out there today about Christianity and the Bible, where the Bible came from, how it is interpreted, what it has to say about specific topics, and more. Here are a few books that will provide some clarity for the truly curious.

For an introduction to the faith, try:

Nouwen, Henri J.M. Life of the Beloved. Spiritual Living in a Secular World. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992.

To come to grips with the powerful love of God for humanity, read:

Nouwen, Henri J.M. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

To approach the Bible with insight and clarity, the following are suggested:

Brash, Donald J. The Indispensable Guide to God's Word. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press, 2010.
Davis, Ellen F. & Richard B. Hays, eds. The Art of Reading Scripture. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003.

To better understand where the sixty-six book library of the Bible came from and what a great stretch of time is covered in those books, see:

Lightfoot, Neil R. How We Got the Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1963, 1988, 2003.

Tackling some of the most challenging passages from the apostle Paul is:

Brauch, Manfred T. Hard Sayings of Paul. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1989.

To understand the complex imagery used in the Bible, and to understand slavery in biblical terms, read:

Ryken, Leland, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: An Encyclopedic Exploration of the Images, Symbols, Motifs, Metaphors, Figures of Speech, and Literary Patterns of the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press USA, 1998.

To grapple with the relationship of slaves with Christianity in the Antebellum South, read;

Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978, 2004.

Please see the bibliographies of all of the above sources for additional reference material.

For the history of the American Baptist Churches USA denomination, including our fight against the vile historical institution of slavery in the U.S., read:

http://www.abc-usa.org/what_we_believe/our-history/

To understand how American Baptist Churches USA fights modern day human trafficking (slavery) today, read:

http://www.abc-usa.org/2013/12/12/abhms-endorses-iccrs-statement-against-human-trafficking/

Finally, if you wish to use study Bibles to dig deeper, see:

Coogan, Michael D., ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Since there are a number of sermons available on this site, if you would like some understanding on what is involved in creating a weekly sermon, read:

Allen, Ronald J. Patterns of Preaching: A Sermon Sampler. St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 1998.

and

Tizon, Al. Missional Preaching: Engage, Embrace, Transform. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson Press, 2012.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Let's Dialogue, Not Debate

We are living in a highly charged, vastly divided, increasingly angry society that appears to be bound and determined to debate ... everything! Sadly, such debate rarely gets us anywhere, except for further divided. Here are three readings that offer up a different solution, actually talking to each other and listening to what others have to say, respectfully. We recently used these to establish guidelines for civility in our Bag Lunch Bible Study class (to which you are invited) on Wednesdays, which is working beautifully if I do say so myself.

“Debate is about humiliating your opponent. Dialogue is about inviting your friend into conversation. Jesus was a master dialogist. He didn’t use power to overcome; he used kindness to overwhelm. To dialogue successfully, listening trumps talk and reflection trumps reactivity.”

~ Jim Henderson

Jesus, the master dialogist, said, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”

~ John 14:12

“Never spend time arguing with a fool—because from a distance people can’t tell who’s who.”

~ Author Joshua DuBois’s Grandmother

All three make compelling points and offer up a more loving alternative to the modern trend. If we all gave it a try, who knows what might come of it???

Any Sunday you find yourself in or near Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, you have an open invitation to visit us. We'll be very glad to see you ... and to listen with great interest to what you have to say.

Resources
In case you are curious, these quotes came from the following sources: 
Jim & Casper Go to Church by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV).
The President's Devotional by Joshua DuBois.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Encouragement for Workers Everywhere

"Why We Work"

The same God who knit us together in our mother's womb, who formed our emotions and character and innate worth, who orchestrated our lives up until this point--that God placed us where we are today. In our jobs, in our families, in this place.* 

There are some moments when the light of that purpose burns clear and bright but others when we can barely discern it through the fog. Regardless, we must work "as working for the Lord." Serving a heavenly Christ, even through our earthly tasks. 

~Joshua DuBois

*While this is generally true, if you should find yourself in an evil place among those who would harm you, that is not God's doing. God is never the author of evil and you should strive for freedom from that harm.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Free Cookbook of Economical Meals for Limited Budgets

For 47 million plus American, food stamps are required to make ends meet. Our local food pantries work hard to try to meet the growing needs of increasingly hungry populations who are "food insecure." That means they do not get enough to eat on a daily basis. There is a free cookbook online available to help those on tight budgets eat better meals with healthier foods. This will help many to live better within tight means, which is never easy. This cookbook can be a real blessing to many. Who will you help today?

To obtain a free digital copy in 2017, see: https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf

This online address has changed since the original post.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prayer Requests for Peace in Gaza & the American Baptist Churches USA Position on Peace

Our denomination, American Baptist Churches USA, reports that Baptist Pastor Hanna Massad of Gaza is calling for prayers for peace from peoples around the world. This pastor states that the situation is worse now than at any time in the past. Many people in Gaza are running out of food and the pastor is trying to pull together relief efforts. Here are the prayer requests: 


1) Pray for the war to end! 
2) Pray for the family of Mrs Jalila Ayyad who has been killed. 
3) Pray for the family who have moved into my house in Gaza. 
4) Pray for the Churches who have opened their doors to Muslims in need of refuge. 
5) Pray for those who have been traumatized by the incessant bombing. 
6) Pray that Christians will be strong in faith and seen as beacons of hope and love. 
7) Pray for the organisation of the Food Relief Program with the Bible Society. 
8) Pray that, in the midst of war, the believers will know the peace that only Christ can bring.  

For the rest of Pastor Hanna Massad's message, please see: http://www.abc-usa.org/2014/07/29/prayer-requests-for-peace/

To explore the American Baptist Churches USA denominational position on peace, I recommend this document "American Baptist Policy Statement on Peace," first written in 1985 and last revised in 2007. It may be read in its entirety at: http://www.abc-usa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/peace.pdf  If your time is short, see pages 7 and 8 for a final summation. 

For more on American Baptist Churches USA, see the brief video in the following post: http://lansdownebaptistchurch.blogspot.com/2014/04/american-baptist-churches-usa-serving.html

Bible Verses to Live By

For Christians, the Bible is our foundation, the library of books through which God tells us of God's love for us. That love is best expressed through Jesus Christ. We learn about Jesus and what Jesus had to say about God, God's love for humanity, and God's plan for us all best through the books of the Bible. There are great truths to be found among the 66 books of both the Old and New Testament--for the careful reader. There are times in life when certain passages will speak to faithful readers as they never have before and will provide valuable guidance. 

Here are some verses you might find useful: 

Jesus tells us about those who are blessed by God's standards rather than our own: 


Matthew 5:1-12: When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Jesus also reminds us who we should love: 


Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Jesus states who we should forgive ... and why. Please note here that Jesus used humor to make points for his hearers ... something we worked hard to forget for hundreds of years and are now coming, fortunately, to rediscover and with hope lighten up a bit ourselves.: 

Matthew 7:1-5: Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye.
Jesus has some sage advice about great wealth: 


Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Jesus also has some very useful advice on worry ... which we all struggle to follow with varying degrees of success to be completely honest: 

Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today."
Here is a story of deep faith, in which a Centurion, a soldier of the occupying Roman army, meets Jesus and surprises him with his deep and abiding faith: 


Matthew 8:5-13: When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible distress.” And he said to him, “I will come and cure him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And the servant was healed in that hour.
Jesus tells us our greatest of all the commandments are based on love ... and in the parable of the Good Samaritan we learn that our neighbor can be anyone, even an enemy:  
Matthew 22:34-40: When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
And finally, for now, from the beautiful language of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, we are called to work for justice, that we may be the restorers of the streets where we live: 

Isaiah 58:6-12: Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in. 
All of these verses may be applied directly to life in the modern world. Working for justice, having strong faith, freedom from fear and judgment of others, freedom from greed, knowing who we should love, forgive, and accept forgiveness from, and knowing who is blessed by God's standards, all of these things are ours in these few verses. There is a lot more to be had in those 66 books of the Bible, a great deal of which will provide the reader with joy. 

God bless you as you adventure among the Scriptures.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

God Transforms Us in Surprising Ways

We come to our relationship with God, the Creator, Redeemer, and Spirit, with certain expectations. Often, God sees things differently. If we are willing to believe that God knows what is best for us and promises to remain with us and work for what is best in our lives always, and we go where God leads, amazing changes can happen in our lives. We may discover we become people quite different from what we expected when we started journeying with God. The famous twentieth century author C.S. Lewis put it well in his powerful book Mere Christianity when he wrote:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
Will you follow where God would lead you today? Will you place your faith in the one who loves you best and wants to transform you in ways you never expected? I hope you will. I invite you to give it a try. A lot of time, effort, sacrifice, and pain will come ... but, oh, the places you'll go, the things you'll do, and the joy you'll experience ... if you place your faith in God. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Coping with Anxiety through Faith

Life is tricky, unpredictable, full of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, surprises both positive and negative, and futures often uncertain at best. As a result, we all suffer from anxiety ... regularly. Even with the wonderful advice in Matthew 6:25-34 about not worrying because God is there with you always and cares for you, we are anxious, we are afraid, we worry. To define our terms: while fear is focused on a specific, identifiable danger, anxiety is unfocused, vague, and even lacking in any specific danger upon which to fix that anxious state. Both conditions can leave us feeling equally miserable. Normal anxiety revolves around the everyday uncertainties of life and can even spur us to grow in spiritual maturity. That form of anxiety can prod us forward, whether we like it or not. However, out of control anxiety leads to a level of anxiousness that is way out of proportion to the problem, is battled to be repressed, and leaves us feeling isolated and could cause us to employ inappropriate, flight, fight, or freeze defense mechanisms. In other words, anxiety unleashed will make us miserable.

Our faith in God helps us to face our anxieties, come to grips with them, and move through them. We turn to God for courage and strength. We remember that God promises to be with us always ... and God always keeps God's promises.God's love, grace, mercy, and presence are with us. From Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, we learn that God, like the father in the story, is looking for us to return to God's loving embrace when we make mistakes and get far off course. Take a look at Luke 15:11-32 and really take that parable to heart. See if that doesn't help reduce anxiety.

God also doesn't want us to go through our lives and our challenges alone. Seek out others who can help you when you are struggling with anxiety. Seek people of faith you can trust who can help you face your anxieties and who will remind you that you are not alone.

I also recommend that anxious readers turn to Brian D. McLaren's book Naked Spirituality and take a look at pages 115-117. There we find a valuable method for reframing our anxieties and renaming our needs.

God bless you and please know that you are not alone in your anxieties.

If you are anywhere near Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, and are seeking a caring community who can help you face those anxieties, please join us any Sunday. We are here to help.