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.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A Family Thanksgiving Psalm

A Thanksgiving Psalm
from Rick & Carol Wallis’ Thanksgiving Table
Written by family members sharing thanksgivings for God’s gifts
To be said or sung antiphonally; loosely based on Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
            for his steadfast love endures forever

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
            for his steadfast love endures forever

to him who provided a new rental house
            for his steadfast love endures forever

and a job with friends as team members
            for his steadfast love endures forever

to him who has given us local friends and family
            for his steadfast love endures forever

and a new season for pursuing college plans
            for his steadfast love endures forever

to him who provides important work to do
            for his steadfast love endures forever

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Bear one another's burdens..."

Since October 9th, we have experienced “community” through a wide variety of gifts and helps. It was in meals brought to our house, or errands run by neighbors; it was through the gift of friends taking time to “house sit” with our son, and family taking time away from work or school to visit and help in practical ways. In these and in other ways, we were gifted with real expressions of community.

Why? When you’re sent to a hospital with a medical emergency, and then you’re in ICU for two weeks, you are in real need of practical “community!”

In the upcoming weeks on this blog, we’ll share some stories about what we've experienced and learned about Christ-centered “community” that will hopefully encourage you to be an active part of each other’s lives. 

We believe that each of us is already part of someone’s community, and that Christ wants to show each of us how to share his life and his love in community with others.

This week, some thoughts about how community comes with a cost.

Every gift or help we received during my hospital stay had one thing in common – each gift was not convenient for the giver. In fact, caring for one another is not “convenient,” by definition. You must give up something in order to care for some one.

Time is limited. Money is limited. And our personal energy is limited. So, in order to “be” a Christ focused community, it will cost; and that means we will usually be inconvenienced.

That’s why we are called to “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6.2)  We can help shoulder a burden, and that involves a certain amount of sacrifice and effort to pick up and carry a “burden.”

But being a community in Christ is not a legalistic work; it is a spiritual expression of love for each other. The love or empathy we feel for others will make the giving sweet and holy.

This is expressed by the apostle John when he wrote: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3.16-18)

Friday, October 6, 2017

“In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”

(This is part 1 of a series of reflections on current crises and Christian faith)

“In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” (John R.W. Stott)

Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53.3)

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4.23)

There is much to grieve in our world.

We’ve been living through a time-line of events that seem to be increasing in violence and trauma. Hurricanes. Shootings. Earthquakes. Riots. It’s difficult to recall everything that’s been streaming across our TV screens in just the past six months, but we shouldn’t forget how…

…in May, there was a bombing at a teen concert in Manchester, England, killing 23, injuring 250. …in June a shooter tried to murder a group of US Congressmen during a Congressional Baseball practice, seriously injuring Congressman Steve Scalise; and how in that same month a terror attack on the London Bridge in England, killed 11, injuring 48. …in July, North Korea began a series of ICBMs test launches, raising the specter of nuclear war with the US. …in August, riots erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia during a nationalist rally, ending in an auto homicide of a peaceful protestor.

Then there are the hurricanes – Harvey floods Houston and south Texas; Irma rakes Florida, bringing floodwaters into Jacksonville; and Maria devastates Puerto Rico.

And now this month, a Las Vegas shooter kills 58, wounds over 500 at an outdoor country music festival. The more that investigators dig into the shooter’s life, the scarier the story becomes. He stockpiled weapons for months; he had a cache of explosives; he had planned to attack Chicago’s “Lollapalooza” music festival, or Boston’s Fenway Park, but those plans mysteriously failed. Such insanity. Such sorrow.

How do we avoid losing heart, when our hearts are breaking?  How do we live as followers of Jesus in this land infected with trauma and tension?

As followers of Christ, we need to guard our hearts, to guard our minds, and keep our daily walk with God vibrant.