Monthly Archives: June 2016

What Color Are We In?

green trees

We are in the green season of Pentecost now.

Now that we are at the beginning of what is called “the long green season of Pentecost.” I find it beneficial to review for myself the significance of the color of this season and the colors of all the seasons of the Church Year.

Whether you know it or not, church tradition has established colors to correspond with each season of the Church Year. Currently, we are in the “green” season of the Sundays after Pentecost (which will end in November.) Green is a symbol of growth and maturity. This is a time for us to grow in and become more grounded in our faith. Green helps us to remember that Christ is the Vine and we are the branches, so we need to continually rely on him through prayer, worship, devotion and Bible study. We are always to be lifelong learners of faith. Let this be your mindset and mood during these weeks.

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The Two Kingdoms

votingNow that we are deep into this election year, it is important for us as Christians to be reminded of the doctrine of the two kingdoms, which states that God rules through two kingdoms: the secular (or lefthand) kingdom and the heavenly (or righthand) kingdom.

We as Christians live in both kingdoms.

The secular, lefthand kingdom operates through government officials and through the laws set in place. The Bible is clear that we must obey the rules of order established by our leaders in government and that we must pray for those in authority over us.

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The Rise of the Nones

none of the aboveThe recent book The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated by James Emery White brings to light a phenomenon that has been bubbling under the surface in Christian circles for several years now.

The number of people who check the box for NONE when asked for their denominational affiliation has risen exponentially in the last decade, and has led to a decline in membership in almost all mainline Protestant denominations in America today. The reality of that fact has left many in the institutional church in a quandary because trying to bring the “nones” back into the fold only makes them want to run further away, but changing the message of your particular denomination to placate or soothe the “nones” undermines why the various denominations exist in the first place.

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Virtual Witness

worldwide webWhen Jesus said to this disciples in the Great Commission: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to all nations,” little did he know that 2000 years later that would include something called the worldwide web and that the ways we would speak to one another would be through tweets and texts, posts and blogs.

Along with the advances in communication technology, there has been an explosion of ways to witness to others about the Gospel and about our life of faith.

People know more about our day-to-day activities than they ever did 20 years ago because of Facebook and other social media outlets, and that has created more opportunities to voluntarily display what living the Christian life in the world today looks like. And, unfortunately, it can also reveal our sinful nature and the ways in which we have not lived as in line with our calling as Christ’s disciples as we should. Most often these “less than Christian” activities include angry rants and images that often degrade others or ourselves.

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MTD or SFL?

Moralistic therapeutic deism (or MTD for short) may not be a familiar term to most of us, but according to the 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith and Melinda Lindquist Dento, it is what defines the practices of most Christian young people in the United States today.

teen prayingLet’s take a look at each part of this term:

Moralistic: The belief that a central part of religious life is being a good and moral person.

Therapeutic: The belief that religion helps us to feel good about ourselves.

Deism: The belief that God exists, created the world and defines our general moral order, but is no longer personally involved in one’s affairs.

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Escalators

escalatorIn his book In the Face of God, Michael Horton recounts a childhood memory of attempting to run up the “down” escalator, and uses that image as a metaphor for what we as Christians still wrongly attempt to do in our lives of faith.

While we know that the only way to salvation is for God to come down to us through his Son, Jesus (the “down” escalator), Horton says, we still make attempts to get closer to God on our own through what Martin Luther called the ladders of mysticism, merit and speculation (the “up” escalator).

We climb the ladder of mysticism when we try to reach out to God through our own emotions or our individual reflection and meditation. Continue reading →

Prayers for Orlando

As the depth of the tragedy in Orlando came to light throughout the day today, our nation’s collective anguish and helplessness seem more pronounced than ever before. We are at a loss to understand why such a devastating and senseless event could occur again on our soil.

What breaks through the mayhem and confusion for me at this moment are the words of St. Paul in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is in this conviction that I pray for the people of Orlando tonight that the all-surpassing love of God would surround, support and strengthen them during this terrible time.

 

Keeping the Sabbath

people in churchIt seems like it is getting hard and harder these days to “keep the Sabbath,” unfortunately. There are so many competing activities on any given Sunday morning with soccer games conflicting and sporting events starting at noon and homework and family obligations that have to be taken care of before the end of the weekend.

The wife of a friend of mine recently said, “The devil is really hard at work on Sunday morning.” It’s a fact, especially in households with teenagers, where it is more difficult than ever to get them to wake up and go to church with so many other things to do.

But that is exactly why we must keep the Sabbath, to keep all the competing events in perspective. If we don’t have time for God on Sunday morning, what does that say about having time for God during the other days of the week?

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Agents of Blessing

hands of blessingWhen my niece was confirmed several weeks again, I as her godfather was asked to place my hand on her, along with her parents and godmother, as she was being confirmed by the pastor. Then last week, to mark the 20th anniversary of my pastor’s ordination and his 10th anniversary as a pastor at my church, the assistant pastor asked everyone in the congregation to reach out their hands in blessing to him as the assistant pastor played over it.

Both instances proved to be particularly emotional for me as I considered the passage of time and what God was doing in the lives of my niece and my pastor. And the mirror events recalled for me the calling that we all have to be agents of blessing in this world.

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Driveway Moments

driveway

I may not have a Mini Cooper, but my car can serve as a mini church.

On National Public Radio (NPR), they talk about “driveway moments”:

What is a driveway moment? Maybe it’s happened to you as it has to countless others…you’re driving home, listening to a story on NPR. Suddenly, you find yourself in your driveway (or parking space or parking garage). Rather than turn the radio off, you stay in your car to hear the piece to the end.

Listeners are continually recounting to NPR the stories that kept them in their driveways listening.

The idea of driveway moments got me thinking: What are some other driveway moments? I know that in my childhood before a long vacation, my father would always say a prayer before we left the driveway. And I remember many a time after a long ride home or a treacherous trip, that I have stayed in the car a little longer to just take a deep breath and say thank you to God for keeping me safe. Continue reading →