Sunday, September 9, 2018

"Guilty by Association"

Are we guilty by association? 

If someone accused us of being followers of Jesus, would there be any evidence in our associations to convict us?  Would we be “guilty by association?”

As followers of Jesus, we can live like Jesus did, and that means associating with the same kind of people that Jesus associated with.

Recently, we watched a “Verge Network” video teaching by Hugh Halter, pastor of “Missio” Christian fellowship, and advocate of incarnational ministry and missional leadership. In this teaching, he offers this grace-filled challenge:  Are we guilty by association? Are we guilty of associating well with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit? Are we guilty of associating with friends that are truly on mission with us? And are we guilty by associating with those that we normally just have never even been on our radar? And I don't say this as a condemnation. Read the scripture and just listen to this. John 5:3 says, "This is how we love God: We obey His commands. But His commands are not burdensome."

In view of Halter’s message, here are three missional and practical ways we walk as followers of Jesus – three ways we can be “guilty by association.”

Associate with the Father
Are we learning to listen for the Father’s voice, and respond to his leading in our daily lives?

Jesus said, “…the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5.19)

If this is how Jesus lived, how much more will this apply to us!

We can live an adventurous and spiritually exciting life as we learn to live like Jesus, and do what we see the Father doing!

Associate with the disciples
Are we personally investing in relationships with others on mission with Jesus?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The journey continues

Wherever you are in your life's journey, consider the underlying truth in this JRR Tokien quote:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

Any journey begins with walking through a door; it continues with following a road; and is enjoyed by daily looking to join others along the way who are walking in the same direction.

What is your journey all about? How did it begin?
Where do you want to eventually go?
And who is walking with you?

Can it be possible that someone is guiding and even orchestrating the journey so that we might know a greater and better purpose than anything we could ask or imagine?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

“It’s Saturday, but Sunday’s comin’

Jesus died on a Friday. He was buried that same day.

His execution felt unexpected to his followers, even though he had warned them many times that it would happen.

Events had swirled around them ... A late night arrest on Thursday. A midnight trial.  A morning execution. Then nailed to a wooden cross in the midst of thieves and murderers, Jesus bled and died. The situation seemed out of control. The power and rage of Rome was in full flower. And it came crashing down on Jesus.  

Then came Saturday. Jesus was dead and gone, and his followers and his closest friends were hiding behind locked doors. They undoubtedly feared they would be next.

We have no record in the Gospels of where they were hiding that day, or who was in their group, or what they said to each other.

The Scriptures are silent about what happened on that Saturday. 

But we do know that a group of them were hiding together, with the doors locked, out of fear.

We can imagine the atmosphere in that place.  The anger and the confusion and the hurt; the betrayal.  Could they look at one other without rage or resentment? They all had run and left Jesus to die. Well, the guys had run and hid. But the women knelt and wept.  But either way, it seems that they all had lost hope. Their messiah was murdered. Their rabbi was killed, dead and buried. In reality, they all had lost hope.

Can you imagine the cold silence; the glares of resentment? How did they express their acrimony and accusations, spoken and unspoken?

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Rule For Life

We have a lattice attached to our front porch, along which is growing Climbing Jasmine. Over the years, it has become quite a thick and substantial covering! We enjoy the fresh aroma of this vine in warm summer nights, and throughout the year, we have a natural privacy fence when we share meals and meetings on the front deck!

Just as this lattice helps the Jasmine grow in strength and in fragrance, when we keep a daily and regular set of habits in our spiritual life, we can grow stronger in our faith, and be more of a blessing to others. In other words, developing a personal "Rule For Life" is one way of helping us grow in our faith and daily witness. 

Over the past year, our fellowship ("The Table") has been developing our own "Rule For Life." These aren't legalistic rules, but guidelines - like the cross sections of a lattice - intended to help guide our growth, life, and health. 

Over the centuries, several "Rules" have been developed in the Christian Church, the most notable of which is the Benedictine Rule. So, this attempt by our fellowship is really nothing new; we're just trying to follow in the foot steps of ancient church leaders.

Here are our guidelines or "Rules." Take a look; we hope they will encourage you in your spiritual growth, and give you some ideas how you might develop some personal healthy habits. 

Daily Prayer and Study. We intentionally set aside time each day to be alone in prayer with God, to rededicate our lives to Christ, to pray for others by name, and to reflect on the Scripture long enough to hear what the Father is saying to us through his Word. We will memorize Bible verses that God is using in our lives to bring encouragement, wisdom, or guidance in our prayers. We will seek to “practice the presence” of Christ in our hearts and minds. (Ps. 119:11,164, Rom. 12:12, 1 Thess. 5:17, 2 Tim. 3:14-17)

Encouraging and caring for one anotherWe will seek to build others up through words and acts of love and support. When necessary, we will confess our sins to one another in order to seek cleansing and healing, comfort and freedom. As much as possible, we will live transparent lives with one another, being honest about shortcomings and humble about our successes. (1 Thess. 5.11, Phil.2.1-3, James 5.16)

Monday, February 12, 2018

Why serve the Refugee?

It’s a complicated process gaining legal status as a “Refugee.” People just can’t catch a flight to New York, and walk up to Customs and say, “Hey, I’m a refugee. Let me in!”

The process involves extreme vetting by international agencies, US immigration agencies, and domestic non-profit organizations. It then requires acquiring sponsorship by a resettlement agency, such as World Relief. The entire process usually takes over 10 years to complete.

But recently, the US State Department has significantly lowered the number of refugees allowed into the country. Although this is not unprecedented, it has created a wave of financial cutbacks in non-profit refugee resettlement services, and has led to an increase in fear and anxiety among the refugee community. Moreover, many people are backing away from helping or volunteering with agencies servicing local refugees. They feel it’s too political, or too controversial.

So, why are we still serving the refugee community in our area?

Imagine what it would be like if you had to run from your apartment or house in the middle of the night, leaving behind everything that couldn’t fit into a bag or backpack. Then, imagine you find safe passage out of your city, and are granted access to a UN supervised refugee camp … in Mexico. There you are given a new home, which might be little more than a shack with a blue tarp roof. You have no air conditioning, nor any indoor plumbing; you eat the basic staples provided by the UN refugee commission; you are given second hand clothing supplied by volunteer groups; you have no access to the internet (oh, the horror!); and then you have to learn a new set of survival skills when human traffickers roam through the camp, shopping for human flesh. Then, imagine that ten years later, you’re selected to resettle in a new land … but that new land is Singapore, which has a very different culture, a foreign language with a different alphabet, and a people with a different story to learn. Consider the trauma you’d experience, and then you can appreciate the journey of a refugee.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Community that Prays

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2.42)

Over the past 4 months, we have shared numerous “prayer requests” with praying friends. We’ve seen God answer many of these prayers in visible and dramatic ways – such as healing and physical recovery; but we’ve also seen God give us patience and grace to trust him when our prayers are not visibly answered. Either way, God responds and intervenes in our lives.

For many Christians, a “prayer request” is a familiar term – it represents a request that the community of believers ask God to act behalf of a person or a situation. Prayer is a Christian community effort. It is more than a “hope” or “keeping someone in our thoughts.” A community “prayer request” assumes that God is alive, and wants to act in daily or real-life situations.

Asking for “prayer requests” is an ancient practice in the Christian Church. Just a quick review of the scriptures will reveal that the early church had a habit of praying as a community. It was something they were devoted to: And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2.42) Here are just three examples of how Christ’s community prays.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My power is made perfect in weakness - Jesus

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, he includes the story of John the Baptizer’s birth in some detail.  In particular, he shares that John’s parents had been childless and were too old to hope for any change in their condition …That they [Zechariah and Elizabeth] had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years... (Luke 1.7)

Consider the reality of Elizabeth’s life. When we meet her, she was beyond the natural age to bear children. She had grown up and grown old watching other women bear children and grandchildren; she never had her own. She didn’t have her own sons or daughters or grandsons or granddaughters to hold and feed and teach and train. She was “very old” and had lost the chance to have kids. She was “left out” of that precious experience, and probably felt like she was on the fringes of her culture. 

But God did not see it that way. God was doing something “behind the scenes” of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s life. When it was too late and life had passed them by, God showed up with his plan unfolding in his perfect timing.

You know the story, right? Zechariah was doing his regular priestly duties, in the Temple, as he would regularly have done throughout his regular life’s routine. But…And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John…” (Luke 1.11-13)

“…your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…”  Um, what? When it seemed impossible – well, when it was impossible – God was announcing a new work. A new life. This was totally impossible and totally had to be something of God’s doing.