Pastor’s BLOG

God Meets Us

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ!
 
One of the lessons we learn from the Christmas story is that God will be revealed where God wants to be revealed, and many times that will be where we least expect it.
 
Ask Elijah. He had run away from those who were seeking his life and had taken refuge in a cave when God came to him in a “still quiet voice.”
 
Ask Moses. He was busy shepherding his sheep when God came to him in a burning bush.

Ask Paul. He was on the road to Damascus with plans to round up Christians when Jesus met him on that road with a blinding light.
 
We make a point to come to church during the Advent / Christmas season in order to be closer to God. We have choir cantatas, children’s pageants, and candlelight services to help create an atmosphere where we can experience God and the warmth of Christian fellowship. And this is all good! I surely love all of our traditions and Christmas events.
But let us remember that God is not limited to our humanly crafted experiences. God will come to us where God chooses to come to us; and sometimes, the places where God will meet us will be surprising to us. Who would have thought that the savior of the world would have been born in a stable and placed in a manger in a small town in Bethlehem? Yet, he was!
 
So while we may experience the presence of God in all of our church services and activities this year, let us not forget to open our eyes to the ways that God will be revealed in the unexpected places out on the roads of our lives. Perhaps God will come to you in a kind word of a stranger, or a phone call from an old friend, or the smile of a child. It may be subtle, so be looking!
 
I wish you all a blessed and happy Advent!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Bringing Your Best

Last weekend I spent the better part of two days painting the new railing of our home. With our top and bottom porches, there is over 100 linear feet of railing. Each of the ten sections have a top and bottom rail with at least 7 spindles. It was quite tedious work that required patience and precision as it was all detail work.
 
Anyone who knows me knows that I like a bargain, and many times in my life if I can get something comparable for less, I will. However, when approaching this project, I decided that given the amount of time it was going to take, I wanted to make sure it lasted. So, I got the best outdoor paint I could find. It was $20 more a gallon than another “good” brand, but it was advertized as more durable and lasting. I also sprung for high quality brushes. I knew I was going to get out of it what I put into it; so I put in the best. While only time will tell how “durable and lasting” the paint job will be, the rails look good and I am pleased with the outcome.
 
I believe this illustrates a truth in life. The result of our efforts are often directly related to the quality of our effort. If we put in average effort, we get average results. If we put in quality effort we will usually get quality results. This is certainly true with our physical health. If we make exercise a priority and if that exercise is done with quality effort, we will see positive results in our health – things like lower blood pressure, weight maintenance or loss, increase in strength, etc.
 
This is also true in our spiritual lives. If we approach the practice of our spiritual life with an average effort, we are going to see average results. They may be adequate when times are average; but when the storms come, we might find our faith not as “durable and lasting.”
 
This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders. The wise man built his house on the rock – a firm foundation. The foolish man built his house on the sand – a shifting foundation. The foolish man’s house was easier and quicker to build; he didn’t need to dig much of a foundation. Yet, when the storm came, it was the wise man’s house that stood, because that man had put in the quality effort to build a strong foundation.
In this day of fast paced living and competing claims on our time, it is easy to allow the effort in our spiritual lives to be average, and it is possible that average will suffice. Yet, there are times when it will not. We are offered more than average and indeed are called to more than average. God wants our best, because God has given his best. And the results of giving God our best are not only pleasing to God, they rebound back to us. When we give God our best, we are building our house on the rock.
 
So I encourage each of you to reflect on ways you can give God your quality effort in worship, in scripture reading, in studying, in serving. I can guarantee that you will be pleased with the results, and you will find yourself more “durable and lasting!”
 
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Responding Like Jesus

In the space of four days, a right-wing political extremist murdered 22 people in El Paso, a left-wing political extremist murdered10 people in Dayton, and 4 people were murdered in a two city crime and stabbing spree in California. We could add to this list: the 309 people killed in Chicago, 179 killed in New York, and 155 in Los Angeles so far in 2019. This list could go on and on with every city in the USA included.
 
The hate and pathology that are present in this world is depressing, and I have got to say that I am at a loss when reflecting on what can be done. Some say what we need are more armed and trained citizens who can respond to threats when they arise; others say we need to remove guns from our society so that access is denied to those who want to do harm to others. I am not sure either approach will “solve” the problem.
 
I say this because at the core of all this murderous violence is evil in the hearts of those who feel a need to harm other people. As someone raised to believe in the God given gift of life, it is shocking to see someone willing to take another person’s life. And yet, as long as there have been humans, there has been evil and murderous intent. I am reminded of Cain in Genesis 4 who murdered his brother Abel out of jealousy, or King David who arranged the death of Uriah the Hittite to cover up David’s sin of adultery. I also think of the violence and oppression of Rome against its citizens in the first century. I recall the constant clashes between Christians and Muslims during the years of the Crusades. In the 1500’s there was the violent upheaval surrounding the protestant reformation. In the Twentieth Century, we were witness to the violence between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the rise of militant Islamic terrorism that came to a head in the 21st Century.
 
As much as we want to find something to “fix” this problem, I am not sure that, short of the return of Jesus, anything can. This is not to say that we have to accept it as normal or do nothing to try to prevent this kind of violence from happening in the future; but it is saying that ultimately it is a heart and soul problem.
 
As I have thought about how followers of Jesus should respond, I think we would do well to model how Jesus related to the world around him.
He loved, he listened, and he strove to see the best in people rather than the worst.
He loved his enemies and prayed for those who persecuted him.
He forgave, and he shared his peace.
 
So perhaps we can help heal people’s hearts and souls by working harder to listen to them
and try to understand the life experience of those with whom we disagree. We can strive to see the best in people rather than the worst. We can forgive, we can pray, and most importantly we can love. Perhaps if all Christians committed themselves to living out these words from Paul, we might see evil be overcome with love:
 
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor…Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-10,14-18, 21
 
This is my hope and prayer.
Grace and peace to you.
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee


Call it good

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:14-15, NLT
 
As I have said many times, we are living in a time in which incivility and division characterize much of the discourse we hear in the public square. The worst is assumed of the other person, and this general negativity of our culture leads to a tendency to speak words of criticism first even before learning another person’s story.
 
We Christians are no less susceptible to this critical spirit than those who don’t know Jesus. I know I have to watch myself to make sure I don’t first criticize or complain when I run up against something that hits me the wrong way; and I have been on the receiving end of people expressing their critical spirit as well. It seems to me that it is worse than it ever used to be. I wonder if you experience this too.
 
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul is giving encouraging words of instruction to his beloved church. He wants them to shine like stars in the world by “doing all things without complaining and arguing.” In the Greek, the first word is defined as “grumbling or murmuring from discontent.” The second word has to do with contentious disputing. (Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000)).
 
If there were two words that better describe our world right now, I don’t know what they might be.
 
For Paul, it was important that the church live differently than the “crooked and perverse generation” by providing an example of another way – a way of love and understanding where Christians would lay aside grumbling and arguing. Instead, they would follow the example of Jesus who looked not to his own interests but to the interests of others, and they would work to live in humility with those around them.
 
I think one way that we followers of Jesus can apply these words of Paul in our lives, as we seek to “shine like stars,” is to begin to look for ways to call things “good.” Almost always there is something good that we can focus on in another person or situation rather than the “bad.”
 
My mentor Stan Ott tells the story how a decorating committee of a church he was serving was tasked with changing the decor of the entrance spaces of the church while he was away on sabbatical. When he returned, he was bombarded with complaints about the results. Not everyone liked what was done. However, instead of focusing on the color of the carpet or style of furniture, he focused on their heart of the people on the committee. “Isn’t it good that we have a group of people in the church who are giving their time and effort to make our church’s welcoming spaces more inviting?” The tenor of the discussion changed almost overnight. Instead of complaining about the color of the walls, people began expressing appreciation for the work of the committee.
 
This is the power of “calling things good” and “doing all things without grumbling and complaining.” Almost always, there is something good that we can focus on rather than allow our culture’s critical spirit to permeate our lives. So, I challenge you to begin to look for ways to call something good – at work, at home, in the community, on the ball field, and in church. As we work to apply this practice in our individual and corporate lives, we will be well on our way to shining like stars in the world, and hopefully we will be part of reducing the rancor and division that is so prevalent in our world today.
 
May the Lord bless each of you!
Your friend and pastor,
Pastor Lee