As the year draws to a close, many people consider what new adventures they would like to embark on in the new year and ponder major changes in their lives. While this may be good and something that is beneficial in some circumstances, oftentimes the best plan is to stay put with where you are.
When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven to be with his heavenly Father, he said to his disciples: “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here … until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Jesus wanted the disciples to stay where they were until the Holy Spirit came and moved them to venture out into new locales. And the disciples listened: “They were continually in the temple blessing God” (Luke 24:53). They waited patiently to be guided by the Holy Spirit on what to do next.
Sometimes the best and most beneficial thing for us to do in life is to stay here. Be at peace with where God has placed you in life and not pine for some other location that sounds more appealing to us, yet may not be.
The Holy Spirit will tell you when it is time to move. In the meantime, spend time in worship where you are, pray to him, serve those around you right now in the name of the Lord Jesus, who called us to this place and time to be his hands and feet.
So my advice to you for the new year is to stay put and be content with where you are in life. Who knows what God has in store for you right where you are?
Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota, has set up a unique space up front in their sanctuary called the “pray-ground.” It is a place filled with small chairs and tables, crayons, coloring books and soft toys, where kids and parents can better engage in the service.
Pastor Andrea Roske-Metcalfe, a mother herself, explains that in her experience children often pay more attention in worship when they can see what is going on. Parents that first thought it would be a disaster have been surprised that the children were not disruptive and enjoyed it. It has even brought new families with young children to join the church (Living Lutheran, May 2018, pp.38-39).
While, admittedly, a “pray-ground” may not be the answer for every church, the idea of creating a welcoming environment for children is crucial in a worship setting. Consistently making children’s sermons a part of worship relates that children are a special part of the church family. Making it clear where the nursery or cry room is makes parents feel more comfortable about where to take their children if they need to, And simply engaging with children on a regular basis from week to week gives children (and parents) the assurance that your church cares about the interests and well-being of children. Even offering to hold a child for a time while a parent is busy with another child or in an important conversation with the pastor or another church worker can be a godsend.
We remember well that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). So the church should always be a kid-friendly zone, a place where we are quick to say to every child of God (big or small), “Come on in!”
Many of my friends say that instead of listening to the radio in the car anymore, they are listening to podcasts. While I have heard of podcasts, I am not as well-versed in them as I am other technology outlets. Believe it or not, podcasting is having an impact on the Church.
For those who may not know, the word podcast is a combination of the words iPod and broadcast. Though most people do not use iPods for mobile listening, the use of the word has stuck. Simply put, a podcast is an audio segment downloaded to your smartphone that you can listen to wherever you are whenever you want
Even in the Entertainment Weekly magazine I subscribe to, there is now a podcast section for subscribers to read about the latest podcasts out there to listen to, as you would your favorite streaming TV show.
Since listening to and looking for podcasts is becoming such a common practice in our current culture, it is a perfect opportunity for the Church to offer something in this arena as well. Worship, Bible studies, sermons, Sunday school classes, devotional reading and prayer petitions can all become podcasts that people who cannot make it to church on Sundays or those who are homebound can access when they have time available.
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In an interesting article in the October 2017 issue of First Things. columnist Mark Bauerlein explains that we currently live in a society where younger generations are a-literate, meaning that they can read, but they don’t read much of anything. A 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts found that only half of 18- to 24-year-olds read a book during leisure hours during the preceding 12 months.
What does that mean for the church? Quite a lot, actually. If no one is reading anything, and if the basis of our growing in faith is built on reading, learning and inwardly digesting the Word of God, then that is a problem.
If they are not reading, how are people being fed words and getting information, then? Our lives are filled the sound bites and short quotes and pithy statements on Facebook and Twitter and on TV scrolls. But are we getting deeper into the meaning behind these words? Most likely not.
The old models of in-depth Bible studies are lost on younger generations, and have led, in general, to a decline in Bible class attendance on Sunday mornings.
So what is a church to do to appeal to the increasingly alliterate society. One thought I have is that the church needs to be more and more present on social media platforms with intriguing words of Scripture that then start a conversation thread and a larger discussion moderated by leaders in the church of the meaning and impact of the Word of God on our everyday lives. That is one way of reaching the younger generations with the Word in the places where they are reading and receiving information.
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The Bible says, “Humble yourself before the Lord’ (James 4:10). But what does that really mean?
Mark R. McMinn, in “The Science of Humility” in the July/August issue of Christianity Today, gives us some guidance in this area, explaining that scientists point to three primary qualities of humble people (82-82):
Quality 1: Humble people have a reasonably accurate view of themselves (neither too high or too low).
Quality 2: Humble people pay attention to others.
Quality 3: Humble people are teachable.
The wheels in my head are turning almost immediately when I consider each of these qualities. One common thread that weaves through each of them is that humility involves fighting the internal tendency we have as humans to say, “I am the best. I am the most important. I know how to do this.”
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Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. —Acts 4:36-37
Throughout the Book of Acts, we read about a disciple of Christ named Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.” His name indicates the kind of impact he had on those in the early church and those he witnessed to on his many missionary trips with the apostle Paul.
Here are some examples of what Barnabas said and did in his travels:
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. —Acts 11:22
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. —Acts 11:25-26
This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul. —Acts 11:30 Continue reading →
Pastor Matthew Peeples talks about how people in our society today in the new realities of communication are emboldened by anonymity. Because we cannot physically see the people we are talking to on social media and other platforms, we often tend to say things we wouldn’t otherwise do in a public setting, Peeples explains, and so we share things publicly that we would normally keep private.
We all know of situations or circumstances in which people perhaps “overshared” on social media which then led to some unintentional consequences or had unforeseen implications.
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In their March 2017 Christianity Today did a cover article on the Benedict Option and I was recently in an acquisitions meeting in which the Benedict Option was discussed. So I did some digging into the topic and here is what I found:
The “Benedict Option” means partaking in a communal withdrawal from the mainstream, for the sake of sheltering one’s faith and family from corrosive modernity and cultivating a more traditional way of life.
Now I am getting a better sense of why this concept is being discussed with more frequency as our secular society is tending to go more and more off course from traditional Christian values.
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Author Michael Kelley in the book Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, takes a good, hard look at how we approach the Lord’s Prayer.
“in modern usage,” he says, “the prayer has become something of an incantation, recited laboriously before a sports event or a civic meeting. It’s become a tool we use in an attempt to guarantee God’s endorsement of whatever we’re about to do” (p. 30).
Sounds somewhat harsh at first reading, but the more I think about it, the more he is right about how I personally approach the Lord’s Prayer from time to time: something to just say, get through and check off to say I talked to God today.
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