Archive for the ‘Community’ category

Spiritual Practices 5 and 6: Having Spiritual Conversations with Believers and Those Not There Yet

November 16, 2016

spiritual-conversationI apologize for not getting out a post last week about our fifth spiritual practice: “Engage in Honest, Authentic Conversations with Other Believers.” Let me say something about the spiritual practices in general. The only way any of these spiritual practices can really work is if we want to do them.

For example, most days I spend a few minutes practicing scales on my guitar. (Don’t worry, that’s not one of the nine practices.) It’s something I enjoy doing because I love the sound of a guitar and because I’d like to improve my playing. What doesn’t work is comparing my guitar skills with Tim Sawicki’s, for example. Then my inevitably small signs of progress can seem like a waste of time.

Likewise, it would be completely off the mark for any of us to compare our spiritual lives with the spiritual lives of other people. Jesus is our teacher, and each of us is his very personal disciple or student. We’re all wired differently — by his design. It’s also not going to work to treat these spiritual practices as obligations or requirements. Like I said earlier, at some level, we have to want them, or at least want the life they point to. (more…)

Spiritual Practice 4: Identify and Use Your Spiritual Gifts

November 2, 2016

bodyOn Sunday, which happened to be Reformation Sunday, we talked about faith – faith as gift, as trust, as faithfulness, as risk, as obedience, as perseverance, and finally, as freedom. This week’s spiritual practice zeros in on one of the most important and specific ways we exercise faith. The apostle Paul writes:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

So it seems that there are particular ways God assigns each of us to exercise our faith. And those ways and ministries aren’t the same for everyone.

But here’s the deal. We’re going to be hesitant to invest time and energy to explore and use our gifts in the body if we don’t have much faith in the body. There are so many things we can do with our talents and gifts and lives, and if we don’t believe that the church, the local church, is that big a deal, we’re going to understandably be cautious about directing very much of our time and talent there. Our motives for not engaging may be selfish – i.e. there are the things I want to do with my life – or they can be unselfish – i.e. I believe there are better, more efficient, more effective ways for me to make a difference in the world. (more…)

Baptism and the Body — Sunday’s Almost Here

October 11, 2014

ChurchSunriseWe’ve tried to learn what we can from John’s baptism, as well as John’s baptism of Jesus. Today I’d like to look at one more baptism story – the baptism of the first Christians at Pentecost, a day that many consider the Church’s birthday.

“‘Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.’

“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:37-39).’”

If you’ve read the previous posts about baptism, you’ll recognize some familiar elements in this Acts account – repentance, forgiveness, the emphasis on Jesus, receiving the Holy Spirit, the focus on mission (i.e.“for all who are far off”). But there are a couple of new aspects as well. First, there is the fact that baptism and the Holy Spirit are offered not only to adult believers but to their children. (At other points in the book of Acts we read about whole households being baptized.) I’m not going to attempt to defend infant baptism to those who hold exclusively to what’s often called “believers’ baptism.” No matter how we understand the appropriate timing of baptism, all of us have to ask ourselves where children fit into the life of God’s people, his church, the covenant community. (more…)

John’s Baptism – Getting Ready for Sunday

October 8, 2014

JohnBaptizingThis coming Sunday our community will have the honor and blessing of baptizing the Smith’s baby daughter. Reformed churches, like most Protestant denominations, reserve the word “sacrament” for two community events – baptism and the Lord’s Supper (or communion). Recently we’ve begun a discussion about the Lord’s Supper, especially in the context of our current experiment of celebrating it weekly. We’ve discovered that many of us are confused about the meaning of this meal. I wonder if the same may be true about baptism. I thought that a good way for us to get ourselves ready for Sunday would be to do some thinking together about baptism over the next few days. (more…)

Acts 29 Church – Beginning the Journey

January 30, 2014


At last night’s Acts 29 Discussion Group we began to unearth how the earliest Christians understood church. In order to keep everyone abreast of what we’re learning, I’ll just briefly list the clues we discovered in just the first chapter of Acts:

1. The church is a community (not a religious organization or institution).

2. The church is a Jesus community.

3. The church is a Spirit community.

4. The church is a suffering community. As we discovered this aspect of the church’s identity and wondered how that might play out in our country and in our generation and in our church, we were given help that surprised us. Pat O. offered two words that had surfaced for her with some insistence. The words were bolder and stronger.

5. The church is a Kingdom community.

6. The church is a witnessing community.

7. The church is a praying community.

Even as individuals we are Jesus people, Spirit people.

What would you need to do at this very moment to shift your self-awareness to being a Jesus person, a Spirit person?

Opening Day

December 6, 2013

Ruth'sPlaceYesterday was opening day for Ruth’s Place. What the box stores call a “soft” opening. No advertising. Just a sandwich board sign telling people we were open for business.

Enough happened yesterday to confirm our hopes for this ministry. People bought stuff – $63 worth. Customers shared stories. It wouldn’t be right to share details here, but connecting with people around their stories was one of our hopes for Ruth’s Place.

One’s person’s story included a significant stretch of recovery time from substance abuse. A volunteer who recognized them told them about Celebrate Recovery. The person said they were going to come.

Another woman came in with her two daughters and their children — lots of children. Lois sat down with the kids and started reading books to them. Then Lynn came in the door, saw that Lois was inundated with children, grabbed a book and started reading too. After the woman made several trips to the counter she said she was amazed at how well-behaved the children had been. (Not surprisingly, she also bought some children’s Christmas books.)

It’s happening. Thank you for your prayers. Don’t stop.


September 18, 2013

CommunityEvery day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to the number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). 

Every day. Daily. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the word “daily” lately. Many of you know about my interest in addiction and my concern for addicts. I’ve been doing some reading recently about the beginning of the AA movement, and I’ve been struck by the emphasis upon the ‘dailyness’ of recovery as it was talked about and lived in the early years of the movement, especially in Akron, Ohio, where one of the founders, Dr. Bob, lived.

In Akron, instead of AA meetings, “there were Christian fellowship meetings every day” for newcomers to recovery who had just been released from the hospital. Something resembling an actual AA meeting occurred only once a week. (more…)