Spiritual Weed Control – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceSpiritual Weed Control – Introduction

It’s the time of year when new growth is emerging – plants are growing and flowers are blooming. And, unfortunately, along with the new growth of trees, plants, and flowers comes a new growth of weeds. In order for our plants and flowers to thrive we exercise weed control. Like our gardens, our minds are fertile grounds – sprouting, nurturing, and growing our thoughts. And, like our gardens, in order for our thoughts to thrive and bear good fruit, we must exercise Spiritual Weed Control.

Spiritual Quote

“A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.

~Mahatma Gandhi”

Planned Scripture

  • Proverbs 4:23
  • Proverbs 23:7
  • Mark 4:7
  • Matthew 13:24-30
  • Psalm 139:23
  • Proverbs 15:3
  • Hebrews 4:13
  • Psalm 119:15-16
  • Romans 8:6
  • 2 Corinthians 10:5
  • Philippians 4:8
  • Matthew 12:34-35
  • Colossians 3:1

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Join us each Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Unite For Peace – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceUnite For Peace – Introduction

For thousands of years families, communities, and nations have been torn apart by differences of belief. These same conflicts exist today – Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, and on and on. The time has come for us to put aside our differences and Unite for Peace.

Spiritual Quote

“Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.”
~James Russell Lowell

Thoughts

As I was preparing for today’s message, I came across a sermon by Mark Braverman. Mr. Braverman is a Jewish scholar who had been invited to give the sermon at the First Presbyterian Church of St. Anselmo on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in 2010. I enjoyed his message very much, particularly the way he draws out the spiritual meaning behind the Scriptures from a Jewish perspective.

In his sermon, he recaps his thoughts on the messages of weeks 1 and 2 of Lent. I was amazed at how, though delivered four years ago, the messages tied extremely well to our own discussions over the previous two weeks, also weeks 1 and 2 of Lent.

Lent – Week 1 Recap

Their week 1 included a reading from Deuteronomy discussing making an offering in the temple of the First Fruits of the harvest. Here, the land and all it yields are symbols of the covenant between God and His people. The offering is an act of devotion, of thanksgiving, for all that God has provided. After making the offering, Deuteronomy 26:3 tells us the people were to say, “I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us.”

Tying to our messages over the last two weeks, the people were thankful for the blessings they had received, and were acting as Faithful Stewards – responsibly tending to the land and the crops, and making the physical offering commanded of them at the time. This was how the ancient Jews kept themselves separate, demonstrated their faith, and identified as God’s chosen.

To illustrate the impact of Jesus’ teaching and ministry we can turn to Paul. In Romans 10:10, Paul tells us, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.””

Just as conflict exists today, at the time of Paul’s writing there was a lot of conflict, based largely on belief; conflict between Jews and Jewish Christians, Jews and Gentiles, Jews and Romans, etc., etc. Paul shows how Jesus’ teaching changed the belief from a separate, inheritance and possession, offering-based belief to a belief based on faith, confession, and inclusiveness. In the midst of conflict, Paul was trying to bring about unity.

Lent – Week 2 Recap

Week 2 of their Lenten season went on to further explore conflict and unity. In Mr. Braverman’s words:

“…we are again in the Pentateuch, in Genesis, chapter 15, God’s promise to Abram.  First, God promises progeny – count the stars, he says to Abram!  And then: “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Genesis 15:18)

And alongside this, we have this account in Luke, chapter13.  Jesus is on his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem: Some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. (Luke 13:31-32)

Again, there is this tension:  The Genesis reading is about promise: I give you this land, this legacy of prosperity, security, and place — a place to build families, communities, a society based on my code of justice, compassion, and fairness.  God comes to man and says:  I am he, this is my name, and this is what we will create together.

When we arrive in Luke, we have fast forwarded to first century Judea, and we have what has happened in history:  Occupation.  Oppression. The project of empire to destroy family, community,  and compassion for our fellow human beings. And we have a prophet – in Christian belief, God’s gift of his only son — again, God coming to man, indeed in the form of man, and he is involved in history, sending a message to the temporal ruler, Rome’s client king:

“tell that fox that I have work to do.  Casting out demons is metaphor for confronting the ills that had afflicted the people of Judea. I am casting out the evil of empire, I am healing the sicknesses brought by poverty and oppression. I am repairing what has been damaged.”

The covenant is in conversation with history. For what is theology if not our attempt to understand our purpose in being here, and our very human effort to spell out what it is we must do in relationship with our fellow human beings and with the earth that has been given over to our stewardship? It is an effort that must be renewed in every generation, every historical period.  Such is the nature of repentance. In Genesis God comes to man, and thus begins the covenant. Be in covenant with me, God says to Abram, and I will give you progeny, sustenance, land.  In Genesis we have the vision, the metaphor for which is the good and broad land, a land which nurtures its people.  The fierce poetry of the Old Testament prophets tells the story of what happens when that vision meets history.  And in Luke we have the continuation of that tension between the vision and the reality: Kings. Client governments. The attempt to stamp out and silence resistance.

In this tension between Genesis and Luke, the space between the promise and the reality, the vision of wholeness and the work required to bring us closer to it — in this space is my personal journey.”

Again, we have a tie-back to our previous two weeks – remaining Faithful Stewards of all that we have been given. And, we have conflict. Most of all, we have Jesus’ teaching to bring about unity.

Lent – Week 3

So, now come to week 3 of Lent. To begin, we’ll go to Exodus 3:1-2: “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he  led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the Mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed.”

Once again, God has come to man – Moses; and Moses came to the mountain of God, Horeb, which is also known as Mt. Sinai. The land is, again, part of the central theme of the covenant between God and the people. In Exodus 3:12, God tells Moses, “…when you have brought the people out of Egypt you shall serve God on this mountain.”

The burning bush is, still today, a symbol to the Jews of survival and restoration, of God’s promise and His covenant with the people. It is a symbol of “something miraculous, unexpected, (and) new.”

Fast forward now to the time of Jesus. Conflict is alive and well. Luke 12:1-3 tells us, “There were present at that season some who told Him (Jesus) about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

So, what’s Jesus saying? in Mr. Braverman’s words:

“Here, Jesus is teaching that an essential, perhaps necessary component of repentance is simply this:  don’t think you’re special.  And surely, this story is about repentance, in a very important, profound way.  Because repentance is often mistaken for its pale, easy substitute – a guilt offering, for example, or a facile apology or empty resolution to do better next time or sin no more. But true repentance is about self-knowledge, intense self examination.  And – and here we truly are in the preparation and build-up for Easter — it’s about hope, and it is about finding a new thing, and about knowing where to find it.”

Jesus goes on to tell the parable about a fig tree. In Luke 13:6-9, He says, “…A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, “Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?” “But he answered and said to him, “Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.””

Tending the tree and the earth – being a faithful steward of what God has given, will eventually bear fruit – even if that means we have to change what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And, Jesus is teaching that to find the “new thing,” one must know where to look. We must examine if what we are doing, our work, is bearing fruit. If not, we must decide what we must leave behind so that we can move on to what is new and fruitful.

Returning again to Mr. Braverman’s words:

“These are prophetic times. As Walter Brueggemann tells us, the prophetic calls on us to acknowledge what has been broken, mourn for what has been lost, and yield ourselves up to the new thing that is being brought forth.

And that new thing is all humankind united in the fight for justice.  The image of the fig tree – the promise of the burning bush – is of that unexpected unity.  It is of a new thing shining forth, new growth growing out of what was barren.  Bear fruit worthy of repentance! Says John the Baptist in the account recorded in Matthew chapter 3 – do you presume you are special because you can claim lineage from Abraham? For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

This is the fruit we must nurture – LOVE.

This is the prophetic that must unite us — Christian, Jew or Muslim is not important. It’s whether you are for triumphalism or community, for exploiting the poor or freeing them from poverty, for despoiling the earth or honoring and preserving it.

The churches in the U.S. are poised to fulfill this historic calling, as it has done before in recent history.

The words of Martin Luther King, writing from the Birmingham jail speak to us with an uncanny resonance today:

There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. The judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

As do the words of that Jewish teacher and prophet of long ago, entering a Jerusalem that bears an uncanny resemblance to the troubled city of today:

As Jesus was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!”  Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would shout out.” (Luke 19:37-40)

I find how Jesus expresses himself at that moment so powerful – whether praise or protest, you cannot suppress the cry of strong feeling.  And what was the praise about, after all?  It was the spontaneous response of an oppressed, occupied people – a cry of love, adoration, and sheer joy for the miracle of Jesus’ ministry – his power to heal, to inspire, to lead.  It’s a wonderful moment, and so captures Jesus in his idiom, his unstoppable response to the stifling, spirit-killing, life-denying voice of established authority.  “You can’t stop this!” he is saying.  “Nature itself, even these seeming inert stones, resonate with the joy and life force emanating from these people.”

It is time for us to do this shouting.  God loves this shouting.  This is the spirit that waters the tree of true repentance.  This is the life force, the patient, unstoppable spirit that strengthens our communities, our places of worship and our families, that nourishes our very souls.

Let us shout…Let us allow God’s Holy Spirit to so change us that, through Him, our own lives, our families, our places of worship, indeed, our communities are strengthened and united to His Glory.”

Closing Thoughts

There is no doubt that we live in a time of conflict. This is nothing new. As we have seen, conflict has been around since the dawn of man. And much of our conflict is rooted in differences in belief.

If we are to survive, and thrive, and live the lives that God intends – lives of Love and Peace – we must learn to put our differences aside. We must embrace Paul’s statement, “…there is no distinction between Jew and Greek…” People of all nations and of all faiths must Unite For Peace. As we who identify as Christians prepare to celebrate the cornerstone of our faith – Easter – we would do well to remember, embrace, and truly live the principles taught  us by He whose life, teaching, death, and resurrection we are celebrating – our Lord, Jesus Christ. May the Spirit of God give us the wisdom, patience, and courage necessary to Unite For Peace; in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture

  • Deuteronomy 26:3
  • Romans 10:11-13
  • Genesis 15:18
  • Luke 13:31-32
  • Exodus 3:1-2
  • Luke 13:1-3
  • Luke 13:6-8
  • Luke 19:37-40

Acknowledgements

Mark Braverman’s Blog

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Unite For Peace – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceUnite For Peace – Introduction

For thousands of years, families, communities, and nations have been torn apart by differences of belief. These same conflicts exist today – Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Christian, and on and on and on. The time has come for us to put aside our differences and Unite For Peace.

Spiritual Quote

Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.
~James Russell Lowell

Potential Scripture

  • Deuteronomy 26:3
  • Romans 10:11-13
  • Genesis 15:18
  • Luke 13:31-32
  • Exodus 3:1-2
  • Luke 13:1-3
  • Luke 13:6-8
  • Luke 19:37-40

Join Us

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Faithful Stewards 2 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFaithful Stewards – Introduction

Today we’re going to continue our discussion on being Faithful Stewards, even during trying times.

Spiritual Quote

“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
~St. Augustine of Hippo

Thoughts

Last week we explored Chapter 1 of The Book of Haggai. We spoke of Haggai’s statements about a big vision, making a fresh commitment, and a renewed generosity to a people burdened by financial worries. Haggai’s message was to go about life putting God first at all times, the importance of not making financial decisions from a place of fear, the dangers of greed, getting our priorities straight, and how, even in anxious times, we are assured that God is always with us. A large part of Haggai’s message was focusing less on what we have, or don’t have, and focusing more on how we use it. As we discuss Chapter 2, I’ll once again be incorporating information from Stewardship.org.uk.

Reading: Haggai 2:1-23

In this chapter, at the Feast of Tabernacles, those who remembered the first temple said, “It’s not like it use to be.” That sounds kind of familiar. Our little church here doesn’t look anything like the churches of old – no steeple, no narthex, no ‘main sanctuary,’ no pews, no stained glass windows. In Haggai’s time, the new temple wasn’t like the previous one. It didn’t have the glamor and ostentation of Solomon’s temple. Even so, Haggai’s message was that it didn’t matter. Just as it doesn’t matter for us, here, today. What matters is God, and keeping Him the central part of our worship. Haggai encourages the people with his prophecy of God shaking the nations.

If you think about what’s been happening in our country, indeed throughout the world, over the last several years, from nations to corporate institutions, doesn’t ‘shaking’ describe exactly what we’ve been going through? Things are not the same as they used to be. When the banking industry collapsed, confidence within the banking industry collapsed with it. There is a greater amount of distrust of banks, ‘big business,’ insurance companies, even of our politicians and our government.

I don’t for a moment believe that God was simply floating around in the sky one day, bored, and decided to engineer or intervene to create a banking and economic crisis. History and events have shown that we humans are quite capable of doing that all by ourselves. Why? The answer is really pretty simple – greed. I do believe, however, that we reap what we sow. If we build an economy based on debt, and if wealth creation is driven by greed and profit to the exclusion of justice, social care, sharing, generosity, or any spiritual values, then we created trouble for ourselves. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. Credit card companies mail out billions of credit card offers, enticing people to buy what they can’t afford. Then, in their corporate greed, they not only charge exorbitant interest, they tack on as many fees as they possibly can. All in an effort to keep us in debt. In our own greed to have bigger, better, faster, newer, or simply ‘more,’ we fall for it – we take out the cards and we spend, spend, spend. We know the game the banks and credit card companies are playing, yet we play right along, and then we complain about how greedy and unfair they are when we can’t pay the bills.

But Haggai’s teaches us that God is in control, and He wants more for us. He is sovereign and He can, and wants, to do a new thing. And it starts with us. We must allow His Spirit to change our hearts and our desires. We can start by praying. We can pray that, out of this shaking comes a more gentle – a less aggressive, less profit-driven – form of capitalism. A capitalism that puts social justice and the welfare of people front and center. If we don’t pray for things to start to change at that level, we will experience the cycles of boom and bust for the rest of history.

We need to pray, not just for Christians, but for all of the bankers, economists, and politicians – that this ‘shaking’ of the nations will produce a more just world. We pray each week for our leaders. This shouldn’t be simply words that are recited at church each week. We should make this part of our prayers each day. And not just the political leaders, but the business and economic leaders as well. The poorest people on earth are silently paying the price of the collapse of the banking industry in the western world.

Cash-rich countries are buying up land and dispossessing people in some of the poorest countries of Africa and elsewhere to grow food to be exported out of Africa back to their own countries. This is happening while we, as a people, are so concerned – in Haggai’s words from last week – for our own financial houses.

The Silver And Gold Are Mine

This takes us to a final point from Haggai. This shaking, he says, will bring the wealth of nations to Jerusalem. When God firmly states, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine,” it’s a reminder that everything that we have, everything that is, was, or shall be, is His. He created it, He owns it, Christ is Lord over it, and we are the stewards of it. It might help to think of it this way…This is not my money, it’s money that has been entrusted to me; it’s not my house or car or boat, it’s a house, car, or boat that has been entrusted to me.” When we come to understand that, we experience a very liberating dependence on God. And, since we are stewards of all that has been entrusted to us, it makes sense that, to be Faithful Stewards, we use those gifts in a way that honors and glorifies God – regardless of whether we’re experiencing a time of plenty or a time of lack. Going back to last week’s message – it’s not what we have, it’s how we use it.

Woven throughout Haggai’s story is a golden thread of generosity. Building requires generosity of time, talents and, of course, treasure. Generosity has to be part-and-parcel of the way we think and act – as Faithful Stewards before God. Haggai speaks of how the “wealth of nations” will bless the temple in Jerusalem. This “wealth of nations” may sound a little strange to us, but when we go to work, or even receive benefits, the wealth of the nations is flowing through our hands. The challenge of Haggai is to let that generosity flow into the service of the Kingdom of God.

Recent research on American giving suggests that if American Protestant Christians were giving as they could and should be, their giving would release and extra $46 Billion to the service of the Kingdom of God. The research goes on to state that this is a conservative estimate – the true figure is probably closer to $85.5 Billion!

If properly used to serve God, and not human greed, Christian churches, like ours, use the money we receive to help others. Our little church, for example, helps to feed and clothe the needy, we help paralyzed veterans, and children with cancer.

It all comes down to this…are we putting God first? Are we using all of the gifts He has entrusted to us to His glory? Whether good times or bad, we can always give of our time and our talents. And, though the “10%” rule of giving is from the Old Testament, and the New Testament speaks more to giving as we are able, a minimum of 10% is a great starting point. Some can and will give more, some will give less. When force by circumstance into giving less, the trick is to gradually increase, as we are able, to that 10% level. If all people in all churches were to do the same, and giving was as generous as it could and should be, imagine what could be accomplished!

Closing Thoughts

Just as Haggai’s message last week, when we’re experiencing tough times we don’t have to ignore the difficulties, we don’t have to pretend that they are not real. Instead, we can look for the opportunities to minister to others, especially those who are struggling. For those of us who identify as Christians, tough times pose a couple of important questions:

  • What does it mean for us to be faithful as stewards in the context of those tough times?
  • What are the day-to-day implications for us in living generously as a hallmark of what it means to be faithful stewards before God?

In Chapter 2, Haggai reminds us that there always has been, and always will be, a “shaking of the nations” – cyclical economic ups and downs. And yet his prophecy, the Word of God, challenges us to not allow God to be pushed to the margins of our lives; and promises us His glory and His presence in return. We simply have to remember, in all things, to put God first. When we do, we will truly be Faithful Stewards of all that has been entrusted to us.

Scripture

Haggai 2:1-23

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Faithful Stewards 2 – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFaithful Stewards – Introduction

This week we’ll continue our discussion of being Faithful Stewards, even in trying times.

Spiritual Quote

“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.”
~St. Augustine of Hippo

Planned Scripture

Haggai 2:1-23

Join Us!

Join us every Sunday for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Faithful Stewards 1 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceFaithful Stewards – Introduction

Since everything that was, is, and will be is a creation of God, all we have is His. We are merely the stewards of what belongs to God. In difficult times, like those we’ve experienced over the last few years, how do we remain Faithful Stewards of all that God has given?

Spiritual Quote

“The world asks, “What does a man own?”
Christ asks, “How does he use it?”
~Andrew Murray

Thoughts

It’s no secret that our nation has faced challenging times over the last few years. And, it would seem that many of the challenges won’t be resolved for some time. But, this is nothing new. For millennia, societies have experienced the cycles of plenty and of lack. It’s fairly easy to be faithful stewards when times are going well. The challenge is remaining faithful stewards when things aren’t going so well – either for us or for others around us.

As with all things, Scripture provides us with an example and with direction. I found a wonderful sermon that is offered for use by others at Stewardship.org.uk. I’ll be splitting the sermon into two parts. In Part 1, today, we’ll explore Chapter 1 of The Book of Haggai – one of the smallest books of the Old Testament. In Part 2, next week, we’ll explore Chapter 2.

Haggai was a prophet in the time after the Hebrew captives had returned from Babylon. After being displaced, held captive, and their temple destroyed, the people, upon their return, were preoccupied with their own affairs and neglected the temple. Haggai’s concern for their misplaced priorities was the basis of his message to the people – regardless of circumstance, they must put God first.

Reading: Haggai 1:1-15

For many years, our country enjoyed incredible prosperity. There was a time, not so long ago, when unemployment was almost zero, everyone who wanted a job had a job, money was being invested, and we enjoyed a pretty decent standard of living. Then, boom…the bottom fell out. The stock market plummeted, the auto industry tanked, the banking industry was in crisis, and our nation faced a major economic downturn. Haggai, over 2000 years ago, spoke to an economically-vulnerable nation in recession. His message can still be applied to us today.

Haggai had the difficulty of being the preacher who talked about a big vision, a fresh commitment, and a new generosity to a people burdened by the worries of recession. But, however difficult it was for the preacher, it was ten times more difficult for the prophet to ask what it means to be faithful stewards ofr all God has given to us – our time and talents and treasure. We have the same difficulty today. What does it mean to be faithful stewards in a recession?

If You Build It, He Will Come

The film “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner is about an Iowa farmer named Ray Kinsella. He was working out in his cornfield one day when he heard a voice from nowhere saying, “If you build it, he will come” – that’s it…the entire message…”If you build it, he will come.” Ray proceeds to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn. His neighbors thinks he’s crazy, his wife is worried, and he’s not so sure himself! But, he build it…and others are blessed. For the rest of the story…watch the movie.

“If you build it, he will come.” That’s pretty much the message of Haggai in 520 BC. Build and God will reveal His glory and His presence and heal the land. Haggai does not want a baseball field, but the temple in Jerusalem. For a nation rebuilding itself aft5er exile, and struggling with tough economic times, his message is as crazy as Ray Kinsella’s. How do we make sense of God’s call for us to be generous when belts are being tightened? How do we allow Jesus to be Lord of our money and possessions when we feel anxious and fearful about the future? What does it mean to be faithful stewards in a time of recession?

Let’s look at Haggai’s message and see what we can learn.

Now Is Not The Time

Haggai asks the people of Israel a question from God: “Is it really a time for you to be building your own houses when my house is in ruins? Is it really a time to be concentrating on your own concerns when our place of worship – the temple – is not as it should be?”

In Screwtape, CS Lewis’ senior devel trained his juniors to put the Crhistians off their stride, to make them ineffective. We can imagine him saying in Haggai’s day, “Don’t tell them the temple isn’t important because they won’t believe you. Don’t tell them that sacrifice and worship don’t matter because they won’t believe that either. Don’t tell them that the temple should not be rebuilt because they won’t believe you. Just tell them that there is no hurry. Tell them that now is not the right time.”

The problem with recession is that it creates a spirit of anxiety and fearfulness; a sense of holding back, even defensiveness. Projects get put on the back burner while church treasurers and pastors get anxious about income. Giving is withheld or reduced and talk of generosity seems foolish. Recession always carries the danger that we retreat into a privatized world. We focus on ourselves and we make decisions, especially financial ones, in a privatized way. We exclude even God from our decisions.

In his inaugural presidential address in 1933, in the midst of the great depression, President Roosevelt said that we have nothing to fear except fear itself. He knew that fear strips away joy in the present and any confidence in the future. It takes away vision and purpose. Instead of looking outwards and flourishing, we turn in on ourselves. It is as though, when we are under pressure, the fault lines appear in our lives. The question of American jobs for Americans, keeping jobs here in our country, outsourcing, etc. suggests that this is a national fear as well as an individual one.

President Roosevelt was right. We cannot let fear diminish our present and our future. We cannot let fear diminish our faith and confidence in a God who has promised to provide for us. Because that spirit of fear and anxiety can cripple a ministry, cripple our spiritual lives, and cripple generosity. Fear and anxiety can, without us really knowing or intending it, push the claims of God and the lordship of Jesus to the margins of our lives, while we get on with the business of coping and surviving.

We see this in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. “I know you to be a hard man,” says the lazy servant, so he buries his talents. He exercises no freedom, takes no risks, and honors no master. The point is that handling our money or responding to economic pressure from a standpoint of fear or defensiveness can come between us and God. It can also come between us and our community, as each of us looks just to his or her own needs.

This is particularly hard to hear when people’s lives have been shattered by the credit crunch. When we’re frightened of losing our jobs, when we are genuinely anxious about our families, when we can no longer meet debts which we thought were manageable, it’s hard to hear that we must not put generosity to the margins of our lives. But it is a question we must ask of ourselves.

One of the difficulties in a recession is that we begin to make decisions, not on the basis of what has happened, but in the fear of what might happen. If someone has lost their job, had their hours reduced, or if income has fallen because interest rates have fallen through the floor, there is no shame or embarrassment in reducing giving proportionately. But we should not reduce giving out of fearfulness of what might happen.

As we, today, navigate the recession, it’s important to remember what we have accomplished. This week we celebrate 2 years since we first opened our doors. We have given over $4,600.00 through our Community Give-back Program. We have provided food, shelter, clothing, and, most importantly, spriritual support to over 380 people in need.

So, our challenge here, now, is this: are we allowing fear, defensiveness, anxiety, or self-concern to push God to the edges of our lives? As individuals, as churches, or as a society?

The Challenge of Affluence

Haggai says, in verses 5 & 6, “Consider your ways. Look at what is happening to you. You plant much but you haven’t got a lot to show for it, you drink but you are never full, you eat but you are never quite satisfied, you put on your clothes but you are never quite warm and, that powerful picture, you’ve got money but you put it in bags that have holes.” This is a telling picture for an affluent society. We work harder, do longer hours, and have more than ever before – yet we are not satisfied. The “paneled houses” of which Haggai speaks would be a reference to the richly-polished wooden panels that often decorate the homes of the wealthy. Not everyone has them, but we would all like them! Haggai is challenging the people to consider their lifestyles, and the choices they make about their standard of living.

In school, we learned in math that you have to balance each side of an equation. There’s an old advertisement that told us to take the waiting out of wanting. But, if we change the waiting, we will also change the wanting.

We human beings have always been greedy and wanted more, but as we get more affluent, the opportunities for expressing that greed are greater than ever before. Haggai’s picture of bags with holes is a powerful image. In a recession, we probably begin to spend less – reigning in our use of credit, paying more attention to needs rather than wants, etc. But, the message of Haggai runs deeper. God does not want us to just patch up our bags and wait for things to get back to normal. Instead, we must find a new way of living as faithful stewards of all that God has given to us. Don’t patch the bags; get new bags! Rediscover what contentment means as individuals, as families, as churches and, hopefully, as a society. Rediscover gratitude; learn to receive with thanksgiving, and to appreciate all that we have. We need to break the power of a desire to have more and more, which can subtly influence the way we think and act.

The church does have something to say to a nation about a different way of living, about other values than wealth or profit or accumulating more. It is no accident that Haggai speaks to the secular leader Zerubbabel, and the religious leader Joshua, and to all the people. The challenge is to all of us.

Repair the Temple

In verse 7, Haggai says again, “Consider your ways” – this time, referring to what they should be doing. “If you build it, he will come,” Haggai says to them. “I want you to put God back at the center of your personal lives. I want you to put God back at the center of your church and national life. I don’t just want your minds and your hearts to be revolving around your survival and your comfort; I want you to find a place for God at the center of your personal life and at the center of your financial life and at the center of where your energy is absorbed.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t be concerned about the day-to-day business of living,” says Haggai. “It’s not that you shouldn’t be anxious if there is a worry that your job is on the line; it’s not that you shouldn’t be concerned if things are changing for you.” Haggai is not for one second saying that these things do not matter. It would be foolish and it would be hurtful to people who are really struggling if that is what the Scripture was saying; a kind of bland trust in God.

What Haggai is asking them to do is to keep these things in balance and make sure that they don’t push God to the margins of their faith and life. Faith is not a luxury that we enjoy in the good times; faith is about how we live when we are under pressure.

Sacred space – places where we worship – are important. But Haggai is not so much concerned about a building as about getting the community to re-focus on worship and trust in God. He wants them to put God back at the center of their economic life, at the center of their domestic life, at the center of their life as a nation. In Jesus’ words, “seek first the Kingdom of God,” (Matthew 6:33) and these other things will fall into place for you because your Heavenly Father knows what you need.

The challenge for us is this: Just as Haggai urged the people to take practical action and build – what action can we take around our personal finances and our household situation to put God back at the center. Do we pray about money? Do we share everything with our spouses or partners? Do we need to address debt, or make a budget? Do we need to start giving, or do we need to increase our giving because we are in a good place while some in the body are hurting? Don’t let money, don’t let survival, don’t let fear, and don’t let anxiety absorb from us everything that we have. Keep God at the center.

Glory and Presence

And, with the challenge comes a promise, which is twofold. The first promise is that the people will see the glory of the Lord. When Nehemiah built the walls of Jerusalem, bigger and stronger walls had already been destroyed.

Nehemiah built the walls and hung the gates – not to keep the enemy out – but to declare the glory of God and the presence of God within the city. It wasn’t defensive; it was a proclamation that God was in this place.

Even in the midst of a recession, as people are anxious, there is an invitation here to discover the glory of God, the provision of God, the faithfulness of God, the care of God, and the sustaining of God – for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, and for our nation.

Then comes the second promise – “I am with you,” God says. Whatever it is that we are facing in the midst of the recession, whatever anxieties four our children, our grandchildren, all the people whom we love, there is a promise here that rings loud and true – “I am with you.” We don’t walk through this alone. God is with us and so are other members of the body of Christ.

Closing Thoughts

We need to take practical action, where we can, to help those who are struggling. We already do a good job of that here…making food, shelter, and clothing available to those in need. Is there more that can be done? Let’s give thought to how we might help each other if one of us is hurting. Let’s think of ways that we can be of help and service before falling on hard times – not waiting until the problem crops up before finding a solution. And what about those who have benefited during this time of recession? Is there a responsibility on those who have more to give more when others have less to give?

In order to be Faithful Stewards, Haggai’s message is just as applicable to us today as it was to the ancient Hebrews. Regardless of circumstance, we must put God first. It is then that we will focus less on what we have and we will focus more on how we use it.

Scripture

  • Haggai 1:1-15
  • Matthew 25:14-30
  • Matthew 6:33

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Faithful Stewards 1 – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWe apologize for the late posting of this Quote page. We were experiencing technical difficulties.

Faithful Stewards – Introduction

Since everything that was, is, and will be is a creation of God, all we have is His. We are merely the stewards of what belongs to God. In difficult times, like those we’ve experienced over the last few years, how do we remain Faithful Stewards of all that God has given?

Spiritual Quote

“The world asks, “What does a man own?”
Christ asks, “How does he use it?”
~Andrew Murray

Planned Scripture

  • Haggai 1:1-15
  • Matthew 25:14-30
  • Matthew 6:33

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Have I Forgiven? – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceHave I Forgiven? – Introduction

As Christians, we know the importance of forgiveness. However, occasionally a question arises – How do we know we’ve forgiven someone?

Spiritual Quote

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”
~C.R. Strahan

Thoughts

As you know, someone recently smashed one of our front windows, broke in, and robbed us. Thankfully, all that was taken was our iPod. And, extremely thankfully, our landlord has graciously offered to pay to replace the broken window.

The day after the break-in, a young man who visits on a regular basis asked me an important question – Would I be able to forgive the thief. Without much hesitation I replied that I already had. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t want the person caught, and to face the consequences of his actions. Still, I had, indeed, prayed about it, and felt that I had forgiven the perpetrator, whoever it might be.

That question, though, got me thinking. How do we know we’ve truly forgiven someone? We’ve talked about the importance of forgiveness before. And, we’ve discussed the numerous Scriptures about forgiveness. Scriptures such as:

  • Matthew 18:21 & 22 – “Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!””
  • Ephesians 4:32 – “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
  • Colossians 3:13 – “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
  • Even the Lord’s Prayer speaks to forgiveness: Forgive us our trespasses as we have already forgiven those who have trespasses against us. (Matthew 6:12)

Scripture definitely tells us that forgiveness is part and parcel with following Christ. But the question remains…how do we know if we’ve truly forgiven? The short answer is, when we no longer have to think or say “I have forgiven him…” In reality, though, it’s not that simple. We can forgive, but we can’t forget. The experiences are written and imprinted on our minds. And forgiveness doe3s not bring about amnesia. Triggers will occur that cause us to remember. It’s what happens when those memories are triggered that will tell us if we’re experiencing unforgiveness. Do we feel a desire for vengeance? Do we speak harshly or rudely about the person who wronged us? Do we feel like hauling off and slugging them? If we’re experiencing these types of feelings and emotions, we haven’t truly forgiven – we’re not demonstrating love. Remember, 1 Corinthians 13 tells us love does not behave rudely, love is not provoked, and love thinks no evil.

On the other hand, some of the ways we’ll know we’ve forgiven are:

We make the choice not to dwell on the person or situation. We can’t stop the memories. But when they come, we can recognize them and make a conscious choice to think about something else. Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about things that are noble, pure, lovely, and admirable. So, when those memories come up, focusing and changing our thoughts will help us maintain an attitude of forgiveness.

When we stop talking about it. When we’re hurting, we tend to want to share our story with anyone and everyone who will listen. When we do, we keep the hurt alive. We don’t have to add dues to the fire. Proverbs 26:20-22 tells us, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife. The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, and they go down into the inmost body.” If we fight the urge to share our story, we won’t be rekindling the fire of unforgiveness.

We no longer have a desire for retaliation. We’ve all heard, “an eye for an eye.” This, however, is justice. Forgiveness is when we can say, “I could get even with him, but I choose not to.” That’s why Paul, in his letter to the Roman church, advises not to return evil for evil; and to live peaceably with everyone – not just those who treat us well. (Romans 12:17 & 18) Eliminating the desire to get even with those who have wronged us will foster true forgiveness.

With all of this said, is it easy? Does it happen automatically? No…not always. That’s where prayer and turning it over to God comes in. With time and patience, forgiveness will come. It may be so subtle that we may not even realize it’s happened. As a dear friend told me recently, fake it till you make it. Just saying the words, “I forgive,” doesn’t always mean we truly have.

Sometimes it’s a process. With time and repetition, we’ll find that true forgiveness comes easier and easier, and becomes part of our very nature. And, when we have those momentary lapses, there’s one other person that needs forgiveness – ourselves. We’re human, and we’re not perfect. We must remember that God forgives us, and we should, too.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, I’d like to share the February 13th passage from The Daily Word titled “As I forgive, I am peaceful in mind and heart.”

“Jesus taught us to forgive “seventy times seven times.” In other words, unceasingly. But what if I don’t believe I can forgive? What if I haven’t reached that state of willingness in mind and heart?

If I am having difficulty letting go of resentment, expectations, or anger, I know I have help. Spirit is my ever-present support. When I am ready, I ask for help in releasing my pain and moving forward with love and understanding.

To prepare for forgiveness, I acknowledge my feelings of anger, frustration, or helplessness and surrender them to God. I release thoughts of resentment, revenge, or ill will. I treat myself with loving compassion. I remember that God can provide what others have failed to give. As I forgive, I find peace.”

And the Scripture for the day…Numbers 14:20 – “I do forgive, just as you have asked.”

Scripture

  • Matthew 18:21 & 22
  • Ephesians 4:32
  • Colossians 3:13
  • Matthew 6:12
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Philippians 4:8
  • Proverbs 26:20-22
  • Romans 12:17 & 18
  • Numbers 14:20

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Have I Forgiven? – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceIntroduction – Forgiven

As Christians, we know the importance of forgiveness. Occasionally, however, a question arises – How do we know we’ve truly forgiven someone?

Spiritual Quote

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”
~C.R. Strahan

Planned Scripture

  • Matthew 18:21-23
  • Ephesians 4:32
  • Colossians 3:13
  • Matthew 6:12
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Philippians 4:8
  • Proverbs 26:20-22
  • Romans 12:17 & 18

Join Us

Join us Sunday for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

A. S. K. – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceA. S. K. Introduction

We often turn to God in prayer, expecting a certain outcome. And, when that outcome isn’t forthcoming, we get discouraged. We may even feel like God isn’t listening, or can’t be bothered to answer. The truth is…God always listens, God always hears, and God always answers. We just have to remember to A. S. K.

Spiritual Quote

“Pray as if everything depends on God. Work as if everything depends on you.”
~Augustine of Hippo

Thoughts

So many times we turn to God in prayer, asking for this or for that. This is especially true when we have a specific, urgent need like housing, food, shelter, healing. And, many times, it may seem like God is taking His own sweet time – which can be frustrating. It can also lead us to doubt. We may begin to doubt His Word. Our faith may even be shaken. It’s in those times we would be best served to remember this little acronym – A. S. K. It stands for Ask, Seek, Knock.

Scripture assures us that God listens, hears, and answers. Isaiah 65:24 says, “And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” And Luke 11:9-13 Jesus tells us, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for a bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Yes, Scripture reassures us that our prayers will always be answered. However, they may not be answered in exactly the way we expect. We must be open to signs as they come.

Our passage from Luke tells us to Ask, to Seek, and to Knock – A. S. K. But, remember that Jesus often spoke from a spiritual standpoint, rather than a material and physical standpoint. Notice the end of the passage…what will our heavenly Father give to those who ask? The Holy Spirit. His Holy Spirit will come upon us, and guide us, when we ask. Can our prayers sometimes be answered in some immediate way? Yes. At times, though, we may need to let the Holy Spirit guide us in doing the work that is necessary for our desires to be made manifest.

That’s where Seek comes in. Seeking is searching. Searching implies what we’re looking for is hidden or lost from our sight; and searching for something can take some time. We must continuously watch for, and pay attention to, the signs that the Holy Spirit puts before us. We should pray for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide us in our search. Sometimes there are things we must do at one phase in the process before the next phase can begin. And, we must go through the process before the full answer to our prayer is realized.

And this is where Knock enters. Knocking implies time and repetition. Knocking is not a single thump on a door, it is a repeated series of thumps. For what? To be granted entrance, or to be provided with an opportunity. Sometimes, it takes several knocks before the door is opened. Think about it for a minute. When you go to someone’s house, and you knock on the door, does the door automatically swing open? No. There is a delay. And, sometimes you have to knock two or three times before anyone inside hears you. In our passage in Luke, Knocking implies we continuously come to God, asking for guidance, to pave the way, to provide the opportunities to overcome any barriers. It is also realizing that some things take time and work – they don’t happen automatically or immediately.

Closing Thoughts

And so it is, we Ask, we Seek, and we Knock. When we do, the Holy Spirit flows in and through our lives, and provides us with the answers to all of our prayers. It may not be all at once. It may be a process – steps we must take along the way to bring our desires into manifestation. It is the Holy Spirit that guides us, gives us strength, and gives us courage. God does answer all our prayers – He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide our way so that we can do our part. We just have to remember to A. S. K.

Scripture

  • Isaiah 65:24
  • Luke 11:9-13

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!