Tag Archives: community

Monday


Each week our congregation has avaliable to them a devotional titled “Walk and Talk.” It’s purpose is to give people an opportunity to go a little bit deeper with the lesson from Sunday’s sermon. The readings are generally built off of the core idea from the sermon and the questions, hopefully, guide us into integrating the concept into a life practice.

During the seasons of Lent, we are traveling through the book of John and Jesus’ last week before the crucifixion. The first passage this week is from John 13:21-35 and it contains, what I believe is, one of the most significant statements ever made by Jesus. It is one of those passages from scripture that has been a constant voice in my journey. Have you ever had a verse or passage like this?… That just always seems to challenge you and stand out as extremely important… That is what verses 34 and 35 are to me. They read:

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34, 35 NLT)

I have heard people say that when someone knows they are about to die, that tends to be when they say what is really important. Maybe that is part of why this statement seems so critical to me. It is one of the last instructions that Jesus emphasizes to his disciples before he dies.

I know one of the reasons it stands out to me is because I often wrestle with the question, how is following Jesus any different than just being a good person? How is my life different when I choose to follow Jesus?

This passage gives me an answer to those questions… The way I love other people (especially those who are also following Jesus) should be the difference. This constantly challenges me. It challenges me in both my actions and my attitudes. It is a challenge I cannot get away from and at the beginning of this Lenten week, I am reminded of it again….


Engage the Word, week 2


Last week we started our community journey through the Bible. Here are the passages for this week:

Monday: Exodus 13:17-14:31 (On Dry Ground)
Tuesday: Exodus 32:1-34:35 (You have sinned a great sin)
Wednesday: Judges 2:6-3:6 (Yet they did not listen)
Thursday: Judges 6:1-7:25 (The sword of the Lord)
Friday: 1 Samuel 8:1-10:27 (Long live the king)
Saturday: 1 Samuel 16:1-18:16 (I come to you in the name of the Lord)
Sunday: 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25 (You are that man)

And here is a picture from our Harvest Dinner yesterday!


Summer Reading


I’ve been trying to keep up with some reading this summer and wanted to pass on a few awesome new books to you. What I really enjoyed about reading each of them is the common theme I discovered. Each book is wrestling with the question of how we can be people of God’s kingdom right now. Not a question that is easy to answer, but one that we need to ask. Each of them are good reads, but they are really great for small group settings. Take some time to look at a few of the reviews. Find a book you like and ask a few friends to read along with you! Ask me more if you are interested in more information about any of them- or if you want to borrow one!

The Money Experiment

 

The Money Experiment, Ryan Pugh. Challenging us to think about how we spend, save, and sue our money for God’s kingdom. I think it would be a pretty awesome book for a family with middle school or high school students to go through together.

 

 

Public Jesus, Tim Suttle. What I really liked about this book was how it presents dialog and not argument. Fantastic read for anyone who is interested in taking seriously what it means to live as a follower of Jesus in the world.

 

 

 

The Samaritan Project, Rob Fringer & Jeff Lane. Random story: I met Rob on a plane to Manchester, UK. And now that I’ve read his book, I’m excited to tell you about it. Fringer and Lane challenge readers to think about what it really means to “love our neighbor” in this world, at this time.

 

 

 

Thin Places, Jon Hutckins & Rob Yackley. This is a book you just need to check out for yourself. The words “community” and “missional” have been used a lot in the last few years, but these guys are really trying to help us explore what they mean.


One Year


Today marks one year that I have officially been Ontario Nazarene’s Pastor to Children and Families. So naturally, I’ve been reflecting on everything that has happened over this last year. Anniversaries kind of force us to do that… reflect and remember. I’m glad they cause us to do that. It causes me to think about what I have learned, the good moments, the challenges, and all that God has done. So here are a few of my thoughts about the past year…

  • Moving all your stuff from one place to another is really frustrating. Especially when you realize everything you own you purchased because it fit your previous place. Everything had a place to belong but after moving into a new place, nothing seemed to below anywhere! That was frustrating. But after a while, it seemed to start working out.
  • The smell of onions is the smell of money… at least around here anyway!
  • I have learned to appreciate something that I never thought I would since moving to Ontario. Running. I have never liked running, but over this last year, I have developed a great appreciation for it. I have learned so much through the process too. It’s amazing. And I can honestly say I never expected it.
  • Nothing says “Welcome Home” like a road sign that says, “Correctional Institution” this way…
  • Time really does fly by- and it’s not always fun. But time really does go quickly. In a lot of ways, it seems like I’ve been here for a long time. But on the other hand, it’s hard to believe a whole year is now complete. Which kind of leads me to my ultimate reflection for this past year…

Everything really comes down to making the most of every opportunity. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Life goes by quickly and what I have learned this year is that it really is worth taking the moment and just going for it. I have made some amazing relationships over the last year and been a part of awesome God moments. It amazes me. I think what it came down to was the choice to make the most of every moment. To make these moments count in view of what really matters- eternity.

We may be in unexpected places in our lives. (I can honestly say I never expected to be where I am at!) But making the most of every opportunity makes the place (or circumstance) fade in light of what God can do with that moment. I think that often God is waiting to do amazing things for us, and through us, if we will just take the moment we have, commit it to Him, and make the most of it. That’s what I’ve been learning. And that is how I hope to live in this next year….


Run, run, run


I do not like running. I never have. But lately something strange has happened. I’ve taken up running… I do use that word loosely, but nonetheless, it has happened. It really started with moving to a new location. I have gotten connected with a great group of friends and one of the things we all do together is workout. Running often comes mixed in the routines we do and at first I would just walk that bit of the routine. But slowly I began to run.

Then came the week most of the group was registered to run The Dirty Dash, a mud run. Well, they had one slot left on the team and guess who they talked into running. Yup. But it was a mud run and completely just for fun- no pressure of time or anything like that. So I did it. It was kind of fun. Really challenging for me but fun. And I discovered something: I discovered someone in our group who I could keep pace with really well. Our running level is about the same. It was perfect! But I thought that would pretty much be it for me and running.

Then came the Run for the Hills. A community run for a totally good cause. I had planned on walking in the 5k but as my friend and I talked, we realized we could probably run it together. If we tried on our own, then likely it would not happen, but maybe together… after all, we did the mud run with obstacles! And again, nearly the whole group of friends was registered for the run, so we did it. It was not easy. But we did it! And honestly, I was pretty sure I was done with running until maybe next year’s Run for the Hills. But no.

Most of the group was planning on participating in another community run. I had no intention of participating because of other events on the same weekend. Then something really wild happened about four weeks ago. Some of the group registered for one race but through mass confusion my one friend ended up registered for a different race. Well, she definitely didn’t want to run alone, and I didn’t really want to leave her to run alone because I would never want to have to run alone, so I registered for the Farmstead 5k. And then something even more wild happened… we actually spent time over the four weeks preparing for the run. And we did really well in the run. The rest of our group came out and cheered us on before their race- which was awesome. And we totally shaved off time from the Run For the Hills time. It was great!

At the beginning of the Farmstead I realized something… you see, a college friend had once tried to explain to me the incredible experience of running in a community. I never understood what she was talking about until the Farmstead. As we started running through the corn field, I got it. It was no longer about running. It was about setting out with my community to experience, accomplish, and live life together. (And there is something about physically pushing yourself through running.)

About the time we were running the last 1/4 mile I began thinking about how this parallels with our walk with Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…. I kept thinking about how following Jesus through life is like a long-distance race. But it is not one we do alone… We have have a community that watches us, cheers for us, and even runs with us. And for us, our goal is Jesus. Do you seen that?  “We are surrounded… let us run with endurance… We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…”

I would never, ever have started running except for my community. It is in community that it has become significant. In the same way, I need to run my race towards Jesus in community. I need to be with other people who will push me, cheer for me, pace with me, and help me keep my eyes on Jesus. Actually, I think that is what we all need… What do you think?


Children and Communion


This Sunday our congregation will be participating in communion. It makes me excited! I love when we participate in communion together. And I’m especially excited because it will be one of the first times we take communion since we’ve moved the kids into our service. But I know that can bring up a lot of questions from parents…

Whenever I begin to think about having children participate in communion, I think of a story my grandma tells about one of her daughters, my aunt. She must have been about 5 years old in this particular story. Grandma starts off the story by telling how she was almost always playing the piano for the church service and so she rarely sat with her kids during service- this was back in the day when all the children were in the worship service for the entire time.

So Grandma was at the piano, my aunt was sitting with family friends, and communion was being served. In this church’s tradition, the elements were past down the rows of people in trays. Each person was supposed to take a wafer and a small cup of grape juice. Well, the trays were past by my aunt and the family she was sitting with and one of the adults (I think it was the mom) decided that my aunt should probably not take the elements- “she was really too young.” But my aunt didn’t think so, and she expressed her frustration. “What? You mean all that praying I do and I don’t even get to drink the juice?!!”

This story makes me laugh; “all that praying and I don’t even get to drink the juice.” I’d be upset too! But was she really ready to take communion? Some traditions don’t allow a person to participate in communion until they have gone through a class and chosen to join the church. But we don’t do that.

There are requirements about communion in scripture though. 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 says this:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

We must examine our hearts before we take part in communion to allow Jesus to show us what we need to surrender and what He needs to correct. It’s a serious thing to participate in communion.

So how do we know if our children are ready for this? Well, here are a few things to think about and discuss with your children:

  • Can your child tell the story of Jesus? That he loves us enough to sacrifice everything for us?
  • Does your child spend time talking about Jesus? Praying and wanting to know more about Him? This can be a great indication that the Holy Spirit is working!
  • Can your child recognize the difference between choices that honors Jesus and those that are against Him (sinful choices and behaviors)?
  • Does your child identify a moment when he or she chose to start following Jesus? Would your child identify him/her-self as a Christ follower?

These are all good places to start to understand the heart of your child. I believe this is a great opportunity to understand where your child is in responding to Jesus. I don’t expect our children to all understand everything that Jesus has done for us- I don’t understand! But if they are understanding that Jesus loves them, that they are attempting to live in a way that honors Him, then I think we don’t hinder them from participating in a time that allows them to reflect on who Jesus is and what He has done for us… but don’t let them participate without examination!

Communion should be a time for all of us- child or adult- to examine our heart in light of what Jesus calls us to… to follow Him… to love others no matter who they are… to be obedient to God’s word. If we can examine our hearts and to the best of our ability, understand what it means to surrender to Jesus, then we should joyfully partake in communion together!


Worshiping Together


There is something incredibly significant about gathering all together to worship God. We miss out when we choose to not be part of a gathered community that worships God together and here is why I think that:

We need to know we are not alone. God did not intend for any of us to walk life alone. We need to know that there are others around us taking each day as it comes and choosing to follow Jesus. We need to see and hear one another praise God.

We need to hear from others what God is doing. If I was left on my own to remember and find how God is working in this world, I know I would not always find Him. There are many days I forget to look or my life is so clouded by life, that I cannot see what God is doing. That is when I need to hear from others what they see and believe God is doing.

You need to hear from what why I choose to praise God. As much as I rely on those around me, I also need to realize that they rely on me. There will be times when I will be excited about what God is doing and you may be fogged in by life. That is when I have a responsibility to you.

Those reasons feed into why we are beginning to purposefully include our children in our worship services at Ontario Nazarene. Psalm 145:3-4 says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” The reasons I gave above for worshiping together are not confined to one generation. They are true across generations.

It is important that our children learn to worship God by being with and among us. It’s important for them to learn they are not alone; that God is doing great things around them; and that they are vital to the community’s experience of worship. This is a big shift in our Sunday experience, but it is on purpose. We believe it is a key part in discipling our children towards Jesus.