Hungry Within..

Hungry Within…

Here we are in March. It is coming in like a cold lion and I hope ends with a warm lamb. The vagaries of weather have certainly effected our ability to have regular services. We have had to cancel a Sunday and a couple of Wednesdays. Even when we have had church, attendance has been affected since some folks could not get out or risk the severe temperatures. So, I am looking for a warm lamb finish to March.

In the midst of all this, we have been making progress in revealing our vision, journeying along a path of discovery. We have been focused around GO-LOVE-SERVE, but we are learning the depth and intention of what Christ meant. In reading the New Testament, I am reading with fresh eyes and heart. I am looking deeper and looking for clues as to the new covenant.

I realize this whole life has been a journey of discovery. We start with what we are taught. We are influenced by traditions, habits, and the limit of the revelation given around us. If you were Catholic, you grew up with a certain bias, training, and tradition. In the midst of that you were able to experience God, hopefully meet Jesus, and deal with eternal issues. Likewise, if you grew up Baptist, you came from a different perspective, but you were looking for the eternal issues as well and probably met Jesus in some form of conversion. But neither of those traditions and all others were the complete picture, the full understanding. There is so much more.

Personally, I thank God for my upbringing, the church of my youth, and the few traditions we had. The church taught me to respect the word of God. It was in this fellowship that I received my call to ministry at an early age. However, as I grew in faith and relationship with God, it became starkly clear that this church practice and doctrine, while good, was incomplete, not enough, rigid. As a teen, I began to question and look for more. Although there was some doctrine, theology, that I wanted; that was small. What was missing was the vibrancy of faith and life that I saw in scripture.  Something was just missing. There was inside a call that was not being satisfied or touched. Oh, there were moments, at church camp and mostly when alone with God. 

To this day we are still seekers. There resides in us an unrest, a spiritual unrest. It will not be satisfied in doctrine, a song, or a message. We will have it touched and assuaged momentarily. Like this past Sunday, it got touched, or when we hear lyrics that reach inside, it gets touched. Yet, it fades and recurs with the hunger. Our journey of discovery will continue to touch that part of us and throw us a promise of being filled. We will more readily and steadily have that in us filled regularly as we learn of Christ and this new covenant.

There is much to be learned by seeking the face of God.

  • Pastor Bill

GO LOVE…

GO LOVE…

Planning for Serve the Valley 2019 has begun. The team had its first meeting this past Tuesday. The participation level is increasing this year. It is so good to have all three churches working together for the good of the community.

With our GO-LOVE-SERVE vision and theme, it causes us to focus on the true meaning of being a Christian, a Jesus follower. The greatest of the three is LOVE. When Jesus delivered his new commandment, it was love one another as I have loved you. The challenging part of that statement or command is “as I have loved you.” How does Jesus love us? Well, for one thing, he loves before we love him. Secondly, even after we know him, he loves us regardless of our faults, foibles, and failures. His love is not performance based. It has never been how good we are. He has not prerequisites of attaining a certain level of cleanness, holiness, or dress style before we become acceptable. And then after becoming acceptable, we have to grow or comply to a certain creed before we get the love. Nope. Never.

He loves where we are and even before we are aware he cares. How do you do that? “Love as I have loved you.” This has to mean that love is not defined they way we define it. It has to be way beyond what we consider love to be. Jesus introduced a new kind of love that is reflected in the Greek as AGAPE. This word speaks of the “God love” that reaches us before we can respond and return any affection. It is the kind of love that parents have for wayward children. They do not deserve it or have not earned it. There has been no giving, just taking. Yet, God extends that love, “Just as I have loved you.”

I have become a little annoyed using the word “outreach.” Sorry, it sounds to me like a club that is having a program or a recruiting drive. That may sound cranky, but I really would not want to be considered anyone’s outreach program. I would like someone to care about me. I would like someone to help me. I would like someone to love me. But I do not want to be a number, a special project, an object that makes people feel like they fulfilled a religious duty.

“Just as I have loved you,” should become our reason. Someone loved us. Someone cared. So, when we venture forward, we should be wanting to help, wanting to serve, wanting to go. The goal is the interactions. The goal is to provide or create opportunities for genuine caring. 

I have noticed how sour some folks look as I walk through life in the common things we do. But I have been forcing myself to speak to more people and I am wonderfully surprised by how many people perk up when someone takes an interest in them. A casual comment can turn into a conversation of some time and importance. Other times, it is just a comment acknowledged and a returned smile. Who knows what can happen when you love “as he loved us.”

  • Pastor Bill

Godspell

Godspell

Good news, Godspell, Glad Tidings, these are all translations of the Greek word used to describe the four books of the New Testament. This word had some special meaning to those who heard it. They did not read it. If anything, it was read to them. And it was not in the form of a book with 27 items in it. It probably came alone. Greeted with enthusiasm and listened to intently because it may have to be passed along to another gathering of believers.

Not unlike Russia during the Communist regime or China, people thrilled at having a piece of the bible. In those cases, they often, upon having a bible given, they would tear it into sections and pieces and hand it out to everyone. Then as days passed, they would trade their precious piece to another for their reading. We are so blessed to have the Bible around for us. We have numerous copies, different translations, commentaries, and ones we have not opened for years as we find a favorite for this period. I know I have a shelf of bibles that are not being used; some fragile from a lot of use and others collection pieces.

But the early church got the good news from people who were eyewitnesses or knew an eye witness or studied with someone who was taught be someone who was with Jesus. It reminds me of two of my professors who were discussing and debating an issue of theology. The one made a quote or attempted one of a German theologian, possibly Karl Barth, and the other said that was not accurate. The first thought it was so, but the latter said, no, I was in class in Germany sitting under his teaching and this is what he said. You could have heard a pin drop for the one who was there and heard the teaching had the experience and knowledge of the famous theologian. The eye witness trumped the observation of the other.

The Gospels were great news, but the good news preceded the writing of the good news. There was good news as the believers shared their powerful life stories. Somehow the good news was transmitted without a written document. The documents came 30 to 50 years after the resurrection. For the Jews, the believers could take some prophecies of the Jewish scriptures and make a case, but the overwhelming power was not the pulling of prophecies, but the power of the resurrection. Why do you think the Jewish leaders tried to spread rumors? The resurrection was such good news that they had to try to destroy it or muddle the belief in it. Yet, there were over 500 witnesses to the resurrection. IN a court of law, that would be such overwhelming evidence that it would be irrefutable.

The power of the new covenant is the resurrection. The power is Jesus. When he said that he IS the resurrection and the life, we can take him at his word since he proved it and had so many witnesses that the good news remains powerful to this moment!

  • Pastor Bill

The Amazing Gospels

The Amazing Gospels

This coming Wednesday we begin a new series in our Connect Group. Actually, by popular demand, we will begin looking into the Gospels. As I have mentioned several times, the Lord kept me in the gospels for cycles before releasing me to read or study further. 

What I found was the teachings of Jesus are difficult. On the surface they seem so benign, easy, simple in the statement. Yet, as you ponder them, they become revolutionary, hard, complex. The challenge he puts before us contradicts our human nature. There is no way to live his principles without serious divine help. For instance, love your enemies. We are taught to hate our enemies, set traps for our enemies, misconstrue everything they do, fight our enemies, and ultimately destroy our enemies however that can be accomplished whether physical or character assassination. But love your enemies. Can you see how this teaching, along with many more, will upset your lifestyle, challenge your thinking, and force significant change in your actions.

I think that we have studied the gospels or least read through them on our way to Paul’s letters. We pull our favorite Christmas stories and Easter events from the gospels, but to really, really see the universe changing teachings of Jesus, not so much.

I know I really like the miracle accounts, the healings, the power over death. We can focus on the miracles and have a great time moving through the displays of his power over sickness, nature, and incurable diseases. We can see him as the healer, the miracle worker. We may even want to do the same. I know I do.

But, as you peel back the displays, the authority over the demonic, there is so much more. The compassion for humanity, the care of the outcast, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised begins to grab your attention. There is so much more going on than a prophet speaking to a corrupt system; there had been many of those before. He is so much more than a reformer, a teacher. There is something going on that had not happened before in anyone’s teachings. In fact, the remark that he taught with authority was made regularly. So powerful his assertions that it impacted the listeners that this was something new, a source that had not been explored before. The religious system could detect that in Jesus there was something that was going to ruin them. They decided to kill him before it went too far. Kill this 33 year old and be done with this new authority that was being expressed and enthralled the people, drawing them to him and his word.

It is this approach that we will take in our study. We will be looking for the teachings that turns the world upside down, that shakes the heavenliness, that moves nations and peoples. This teaching and lifestyle that will dictate and rule eternity. I am looking for Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. Then to walk in the way.

  • Pastor Bill