Everybody is Welcome at the Communion Table

Everybody is Welcome at the Communion Table

Everybody is Welcome at the Communion Table

In church this week, we looked at what makes a church a place for people to come and be community together.  Three things stand out:

1.         Everybody is welcome.  No one is left out.  Truly everyone is welcome.

2.         Nobody’s Perfect.  So many people think that we have to be perfect to join a church.  Or if we are members, then we become perfect.  Anyone who visits a church will soon find out no church has perfect members.  We come together knowing we are not perfect and we need God to be our God.  We desire to hang our sin on the Jesus’ cross.  And we long for the revitalization of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

3.         Anything is Possible.  More specifically, Anything is possible with God.  This truth reminds us that we serve an amazing God.  He still does miracles, signs and wonder.  He is worthy of our praise.

Our church service closed with communion for the entire church.  We come to the table welcomed by Jesus, no matter who we are.  The Bible says God is not a respector of persons.  He knows us all individually and accepts us for who we are, not for what we’ve accomplished.  We come to the table with our imperfections to our perfect Savior.  We give him our sin and receive His righteousness, fresh, once again.  And we leave reminded that no matter what we are facing in our lives, All Things are Possible with God.  The visit to God’s table reminds us to of these truths and refreshes us for the week ahead.


Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 3

Learning to Honor Difficult Parents is a Process

Learning to Honor Difficult Parents is a Process

The third step in the process is gratitude.    It helps to be grateful for the little things.  Let these build till there are larger streams of gratitude.  One man started with the simple fact that he was thankful that his mother didn’t abort him.  It took a long time to come up with other things he was thankful for about his mother.  So start with the basics and build with specifics.

Gratitude gets easier when we stop demanding perfection from our parent and start being thankful for the things we did receive.  Eventually we realize there are things our parents will never be able to fulfill that seem normal for any parent.  Maturity comes when we realize that we may never get our parent to do or be the parent we needed.  If we turn to God and ask Him to fill the gap, we give Him permission to meet our needs.  In doing so, we can collect our needs from various other sources till we are filled.  We can receive healing in healthy community, and sometimes directly from God.  There may always be a longing to get what we need from our parent.  But if we allow other people to accept us, encourage us, nurture us, compliment us, support us, and believe in us, then our needs can get met.  God Himself may meet the need directly.  No parent is perfect.  Allow God to fill in the gap.  His loving and surprising ways bring healing and wholeness.

To Catch Up, see Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 1 and Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 2

To continue, see Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 4


Fresh, Flourishing, and Bearing Fruit in our Old Age

God Designed Us to Flourish in our Old Age

God Designed Us to Flourish in our Old Age

When do we get old?  At what age do we get categorized as old?  My pastor John Ortberg asked the congregation last week, “Who thinks they are old?  Please raise your hands.”  Some people raised their hands.  Then he asked “Who thinks they are young?”  More people raised their hands. What do we do if we are neither? Is there a category for this? Or at least I don’t feel “old” yet.

It didn’t help that latter that Sunday I went to get my nails done and a shy 6 year old girl was walking around the shop while her mother was getting her toes done.  She wanted to show me a photo of her “way older,” who is 16.  I asked her if she thought I was old.  She froze at the question at first, and then studied my face.  She looked at my eyes and pointed to where there are lines on the outer edges.  She started to nod slowly. Then she smiled and said it was okay.  I didn’t have very many lines.  I thought, “Wrinkle creams are worth every penny.”

The Bible has a few things to say about growing older. Consider Psalm 92: 12-15.

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”

I really like the verbs in here.

I’m starting to declare this out loud, “I will flourish in my old age.  I will bear fruit in my old age.  I will be fresh and green.  My youth will be continually renewed like the eagles.”  Amen.

 


Steph’s Recipes: OLIVES WITH FENNEL SEEDS AND ORANGE PEEL

Olives with Fennel Seeds and Orange Peel Make A Very Tasty Appetizer for Dinner Parties

Olives with Fennel Seeds and Orange Peel Make A Very Tasty Appetizer for Dinner Parties

Once again, I’m reaching for this recipe from Linda Neff as I get ready for a dinner party. These olives are a great appetizer and they can be made ahead of time.  They are very tasty.  People often comment on these and try to sit near them as they converse and nibble.

OLIVES WITH FENNEL SEEDS AND ORANGE PEEL

6 cups black and green olives, imported
Kalamata, Scilian, garlic stuffed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. fresh orange juice
2 T. minced orange peel
1 T. fennel sees crushed
1/2 t. dried red pepper crush

Combine all ingredients in large bowl.
Cover and chill overnight, stirring occasionally
(can be prepared 5 days ahead)
Bring olives to room temperature before serving

 


How to Deal with Sin – Part 3

Many people sweep sins under the rug, which is never quite big enough

Many people sweep sins under the rug, which is never quite big enough

Some Christians believe that because Jesus died on the cross for people’s sins, forgiveness is automatic.  They skip the step of taking their specific sin to the cross because it’s already been handled.  Without repentance, there is no forgiveness appropriated.  Forgiveness is available to all who bring their sins to Jesus’ cross, but it is not automatically given out.  It must be asked for to be appropriated.  God graciously lets the innocent blood of Jesus cover our sin.  Then He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. And we enter into a closer and closer relationship with God.  Sin hinders our friendship with God.  We may ignore the sin; God does not.  Sin stops the progression of relationship.  That’s why God designed a provision for our sin:  so we can enter back into relationship with Him.

Psalm 51:6-7 reads with King David speaking for all of us, “Behold You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.  Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Make me hear joy and gladness.”  Pursue truth about our sin, bring it to Jesus, receive forgiveness.  Enter into the joy and gladness of relationship with God.  Go and sin no more.

Of course, it’s impossible to never sin again. The good news is that there’s something we can do when we do sin.  As Christians, we invite the Holy Spirit to point us in the direction of the path that takes us to Him.  As we journey on this path, we walk with less and less choices for sin in our lives.  In some areas, we can receive complete victory.  Other areas take longer and we walk out the process of becoming less and less cluttered with sin.  The fancy five syllable word is sanctification.  Sanctification is a process.  It’s like cleaning a glass jar filled with black gunk with hot water.  It starts to flush out the black gunk and get clearer and clearer till there is no more black gunk in the jar.

Previous Published:  How to Deal with Sin – Part 1 and How to Deal with Sin – Part 2


Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 2

Learning to Honor Difficult Parents is a Process

Learning to Honor Difficult Parents is a Process

Have you ever wondered how Biblical characters might have told their stories to therapists?  Moses might have warranted abandonment issues when his mother floated him down a river for adoption.  Joseph was kidnapped and sold into slavery by his brothers. He could relate to any betrayal, jealousy and stolen identity case studies.  Isaac probably struggled with trust issues and complained that his Dad tried to kill him, “I don’t know what would have happened if that ram hadn’t happened by.”  Only God knows the prayers of the children of the Hebrew 11 heroes.

 

With all of the faith heroes, God cuts through their lives to find the redemptive threads in each person and calls it good.  He does the same with us.  He sees the good and the bad and looks for the redemptive threads.  One benefit of accepting Jesus as our personal savior is that God sees us through Jesus’ righteousness.  Whew. For the people who have hurt us, we might need to meet with a counselor, and we might need time to heal.  With God’s help, we can seek His perspective on the difficult people in our lives.  Ultimately, God calls us to forgive those who have trespassed against us.

The next step in the honoring process is acceptance.  The first step is honesty, and the second is acceptance.  The word, “process” indicates that coming to honor is a journey.  Accepting our parents for who they really are is a choice to love them honestly.

 

To catch up, see Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 1

To continue, see Learning How to Honor a Difficult Parent – Part 3


Prayers for the Parched: Desiderata

The  Desiderata is Etched in Stone at St. Paul's Church in Baltimore Maryland, 1692

The Desiderata is Etched in Stone at St. Paul’s Church in Baltimore Maryland, 1692

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  1 Corinthians 12:7

 

Go placidly amid the noise & haste, remember what peace there may be in silence.  As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.  Speak your truth quietly & clearly; and listen to others even the dull & ignorant; for they too have their story.  Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexations to the spirit.  If you compare yourself with others you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself.  Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.  Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.  But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.  Be yourself.  Especially do not feign affection.  Be neither cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.  Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.  Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.  But do not distress yourself with imaginings.  Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness.  Beyond a wholesome discipline be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees & the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.  With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.  Be careful, strive to be happy.

 

St. Pauls’s Church, Etched in the stone, Baltimore 1692

 


Prayers for the Parched: The Harmony of Two

Starting Life Together in Prayer Adds God to Create a Threefold Cord that is Not Easily Broken

Starting Life Together in Prayer Adds God to Create a Threefold Cord that is Not Easily Broken

“Again, I tell you that if two or you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”  Matthew 18:19

Father God,

I don’t know what Mary’s prayer for herself  is

But you do

I pray for the courage to pray it, especially on days when it’s tough to say the words and in seasons where it’s dry

I stand alongside my friend in prayer

We are two

We pray together in harmony

You promise that “it will be done”

Thank you

Lord,

We agree to believe this, no matter how long it takes will we see it

Thank you for the results we can recognize…

To 5 minutes of praying

To 7 days of praying

To 21 months of praying

To 40 years of praying

We will keep praying steadfastly

Even when thoughts and emotions try to tell us it’s foolish

We will continue to hold up the request

And hold fast to our confidence

You are at work on the issue

The victory is sure

Your love is relentless


Does It Matter If We Repent for the Sins of the Land?

The Prayers of a Righteous Man are Powerful and Effective

The Prayers of a Righteous Man are Powerful and Effective

Last week  in our Home Group we talked about the concept of repenting on behalf of the state of our nation.  We discussed the rise of sexual activity outside of marriage without being conscious of God’s thoughts about this. We lamented churches that are not exercising their voice to wake up the people in the church or ouatside the church.  We observe how our TV shows actively use foul language and show sexual acts on the screen. We express dismay at the level of occult that is creeping into society teaching people how to curse, hold grudges, welcome vampires etc. We are appalled that lying is becoming expected, and in fact coached, at all levels of life including excuses to not do what an employer wants.  We aren’t even surprised that politicians get compromised from their campaign promises once they reach their elected office.

In Bible Study yesterday, I asked the question at how to repent over the sins of our land.  Does it really make a difference?  How do we pray for our leaders? Can God reclaim territory of what is right and wrong to a conscious level?

One of our members added that we do need to pray about our fallen human leaders. He said,  “I think God likes it when we pray for our country and tell God we don’t like what we see.  I’m not pleased with the people’s hearts toward God.”  What was the prayer of one righteous man – Lot (hardly perfect) before God?   What was his cry for Sodom? What is our cry in these times?  How do we repent for the sins of the land?

It still gets back to individual decisions.  I can still serve the land by picking up the trash on the ground that people littered. I can care for the homeless, the afflicted, the impacted. I can speak praise to God, even when no one else ever cares what God might think, I can strive to live by the truth of God’s laws.

Yes, our prayers matter.  He hears every one of our prayers.  I think our prayers of frustration draw us closer to Jesus.  Jesus lived on earth as a man ad saw the injustices of His times politically and religiously.  Expressing our concerns in prayer connects our heart with His heart.


It’s All About the Bragging Rights Part 2

God's Criteria for Bragging is about Understanding and Knowing God.  We start with Studying the Bible.

God’s Criteria for Bragging is about Understanding and Knowing God. We start with Studying the Bible.

In Part 1, we read Jeremiah 9:23-24 where the Lord tells us not to talk about everything the world usually places high esteem on:  intelligence, power and money.  Rather God suggests a new criteria.  “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.”

God’s new criteria is based on knowing and understanding the Lord God Almighty. How much do we understand God?  How much do we know God?  Now, that’s a challenge.  Do I understand and know God better than I did a year ago?  I hope so.  I work at dialoguing with God in prayer.  I take time to read His word every day.  But even doing this, I see new things in scripture that I thought I had read or memorized years ago, but the meaning didn’t penetrate my heart till a “now” moment.  It’s an ongoing process.  At some point, we will all have our Appointment with God.  For some, it might feel like a global SAT test for a class they never took.  We will be responsible for what God has brought across our path.  Maybe we should take more time to nurture God’s criteria points.  It begins with reading the Bible to learn about Him.  It continues with a dialogue in prayer.