Monday, June 29, 2009

Coming Up!

Wednesday July 1st
--Pastor Charity leaves for Burundi. You can keep up with the Saltshaker team's progress at
Just keep a lookout for posts marked Burundi Saltshaker!

Saturday July 4th
--Church barbecue and picnic on the parsonage lawn. 6:30 pm is when the fun begins. Bring a lawn chair, side dish, and something to throw on the grill!

Sundays July 5th & 12th
--Guest speakers Tom Miller and Frank Dorsey will share with us in our morning worship.

Tuesday July 14th
--Elder's meeting 6:30 pm.
Pastor Charity arrives in Wichita, back from Burundi!

Thursday & Friday July 16th-17th
-- Bilingual Vacation Bible School!

Sunday July 19th
-- Regular Business Meeting following Morning Worship.

Wednesday July 22nd-Saturday July 25th
-- Ministry Conference in Haviland, Ks.

This week's sermon: Living in Unity

When we first started looking at the Ten Commandments, we talked about this being a pivotal point in the history of this people. Once they were only the children of Abraham, now they are the children of God. This is where God forms his covenant not with a single individual, but with an entire group of people. God speaks to all of them out of the cloud and they all hear his voice. He gives them these Ten Commandments so that if they follow them they will become a great nation, enter the Promised Land, become prosperous and live good lives. We also have talked about Jesus summing up the law and prophets with two commands: Love God, Love others.

We have seen how the commandments are given to put the people into right relationship with God, their family, and with those in the community. From this point forward, it is not every man for himself; it is a community of people moving forward together, the people of God with a purpose to show forth his Glory to the nations. But they can only fulfill their purpose if they follow God’s commands.

The five final commandments are listed all together. There is no commentary in between. They are simply meant to improve life in the community and honor God, period. There is no reasoning given, just commands. And we can see why. If these people are going to move forward together, they can’t have division over things like theft, false witness, envy, murder, and adultery. These are all such preventable things that we have laws in our court system for three out of five of them. That means that even the secular world expects people to be able to control themselves when it comes to perjury, theft, and murder. Those are no-brainers. They disrupt community. They make society unstable, and therefore are illegal. It stands to reason then, that God, who knows all things, and created all things, would understand that in any society, these are relationship breakers. Add to that envy and adultery and you cover most of the basis for conflict in our culture and society.

The nation of Israel was about to face a tremendously difficult future of crossing wasteland, entering and conquering the Promised Land; and they would need to do these things together. A character on a popular television show is constantly saying, “Live together, die alone.” For the newly named children of God, that statement could not be more true. Imagine standing up to fight a common enemy beside the man who just had an affair with your wife. How about the person who falsely accused you in court? What about the person who murdered your children, or stole your most prized possessions? And how are you going to be a trustworthy partner in battle and in nation-building if you hate your neighbor for having what you lust after; whether it be his wife, his cattle, his servants, etc? In order to accomplish the tasks before them, they would have to unite as a community, and not let these things stand in their way.

So, what does that have to do with us, you might ask? We are not national Israel; we aren’t trudging through the wilderness facing battles left and right. In the physical sense that is true. But spiritually, we are a community. We are a people, the people of God. We have been joined together as a family with God as our father. We draw support from each other, encouraging each other to continue to press on in spiritual growth. We may not face physical enemies, but we face a spiritual enemy who would like nothing more than to bring division and strife to the people of God. And the things that would divide us have not changed in the 3,500 years of history since Moses shepherded the people out of Egypt.

These last five commandments are really a result of allowing self-centeredness to reign in our lives:
"I want what you have, so I will take it."
"I want something (satisfaction, pride, revenge, power) so much I will do anything, even kill you or lie against you in court to get it."
"I want to fulfill my own desires to the point that I will break faith and covenant and have an affair."
"I want what you have and I will hate you because you have it, and I don't."
All of this is about self. None of those statements come from a heart with any concern about the needs, welfare, or interests of another. I know of churches that have been torn apart because two people in the church had an affair. I know of churches where the secretary or treasurer embezzled money from the church and it almost closed their doors. We are foolish if we think these final five are not a problem in the Church, they are. The temptation is still there. Wherever people are struggling with placing the interests of others above their own, you will find these transgressions.

If the world does not see us as set apart, a people who interact differently than they do, why would they want what we have? If there is theft, murder, adultery, envy and false witness among us, why would people outside the church believe they could trust those inside the church? And if those things were going on, how could we trust one another? Yes, there is forgiveness, yes, there is restoration, but trust is something difficult to rebuild once it has been lost. It is difficult at best to work together as a community of faith, the family of God, without the ability to trust one another. Our enemy knows that divided, we stand less of a chance to fulfill our purpose to glorify God and spread the gospel message.

We have talked about being standing stones: having lives that testify and witness to the power of God at work in our lives. If we are truly seeking to follow him, we will find a spiritual growth in our lives that produces in us love for God, and love for our fellow man. It does not come from ourselves, it comes from the Holy Spirit at work within us. While following the Ten Commandments is not the way to achieve that love for God and neighbor, they are a good measure for how well we are doing at surrendering our lives to the Lordship of Christ. Are you loving God with all that you have and all that you are? Are you loving your neighbor as yourself, looking after their interests as though they were your own? Or are you allowing self and selfishness to come between you and a right relationship with God and those around you? Go deeper in seeking Christ and laying down self. Ask God to open your eyes to the needs of those around you. Only then can we get at the root of the problem and move forward together in unity.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This week's sermon: Honoring Imperfect Parents

Deuteronomy 5:16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Father’s Day is this Sunday. For many people it is a day filled with warm memories of fathers who gave them good advice, taught them how to ride a bike, and soothed their tears when their hearts were broken. For them, observing Father’s Day is easy. They overflow with gratitude for the experiences they had with Dad. They will find a way to honor their father whether he is living or has passed on.

For others among us, Father’s Day serves as a painful reminder of the failures of their fathers. For some growing up was accomplished without the guidance a father should give. Maybe he was absent. Maybe he was a substance abuser. Maybe he was just mean and abusive. For the children of fathers like this, Sunday will be a hard day to suffer through.

The question that begs asking is how can those who have dishonorable fathers follow this fifth commandment to honor their father and mother? And should they? I find it interesting that when God gave the commandments, he left no loopholes. He did not say honor your father and mother, unless they don’t deserve it, just like he did not say do not steal, unless you really need something. The command is simple and straightforward: “Honor your father and mother.” So how do we do that, when it seems impossible?

We need to remember this command is the only one that comes with a promise of blessings just for obeying: “that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.” You would think that honoring our parents would bless them, and I am sure it does, but God specifically says that honoring them will bless us. I have met many people who have had difficult and painful experiences with their fathers. Most try to live their lives without even allowing the thought of their fathers’ existence to come into their minds. Others seem to be hyper-focused on the pain their parents caused them. Neither of these brings honor to the parent, and neither benefit the child. These friends of mine have been surprisingly prone to repeating the mistakes and bad choices of their fathers. How do we move past the pain to get the blessing?

I believe the key is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not forgetting what happened, in fact it is quite the opposite. Forgiveness requires us to acknowledge the hurt and pain. We have to recognize what it is we are forgiving, name it. Then comes a choice to set aside the offense as we would a debt marked “Paid in Full.” Forgiveness means laying down our right to revenge and our right for them to “owe us” because the wrong committed against us. For some of us, the only honor they can give their parents is forgiveness. But from that forgiveness we can begin the process of healing. Our lives can then become something other than a repeat of their mistakes. Living lives that are positive in the face of all the potential for negative brings honor to our imperfect parents.

Monday, June 8, 2009

This Week's Schedule 6/7/2009

Tuesday June 9th-Elder's Meeting 6:30pm

Sunday June 14th- Sunday School for all ages 9:30 am
Fellowship in the Birchwood Room 10:30 am
Worship 10:45 am

Iglesia Evangelica Amigos 3:00 pm

Remember to pray this week for those who are ill and those who mourn.

June 7th Bear the name of God in a worthy manner & Observe the Sabbath because God Delivered you from Bondage

Deuteronomy 5:11 "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

The word here is not misuse, it is “to take up.” In previous translations, it would say, "don’t take the name of Yahweh your God in vain." The Hebrew carries this connotation of taking up, or bearing the name of God.* Remember that before this event, the people were the children of Abraham, or Israel. After this event they are the children of God. They are bearers of his name. And the name of the One True Living God is not something to be carried lightly. As his name-bearers, they would represent him to the world. Their lives would show everyone around them about this God who brought them out of Egypt. And we have the same responsibility.

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus does not tell his disciples that they should be his witnesses, he says they will be his witnesses. We are his witnesses. Our lives tell people around us about the God that we serve, and the savior who has rescued us. So how are we doing? Are we driving around cutting people off in traffic with a Jesus fish on our bumper? Are we telling off cashiers at the supermarket for being to slow while wearing our cross necklace? Are our lives good witnesses or bad witnesses of who God is in his mercy, grace, and love? One of the things that is true of God, and always has been true of him, is that he loves mankind. He made us in his image. He walked with us in the Garden. He reached out time and again to form relationships with man. And it is demonstrated in the fourth commandment of how we can honor him. It is a command to rest.

Deuteronomy 5:12 Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

This command is a blessing. Many of us who grew up under strict holiness teaching may not see it that way, but I think that is because we misunderstand the Sabbath. The people God is talking to here have been slaves for their entire lives. Their ancestors have not had a day off in 400 years. And God is saying, as a favor and honor to him, that they are to take off one day a week just to rest and enjoy his company. This is a release from toil, worry, stress, and strife. It was not a legalistic decree, it was a vacation day once a week—for everyone in the community whether they were Hebrew or not. Everyone gets a day off. Everyone is on the same footing before God on this one day a week. And I am sure that the first generation of people saw it as a blessing. But what happens when we get a set of guidelines and they carry into the next generation? They become rigid immovable laws.

Suddenly the Sabbath is not a day of rest, it is the day in which you can take no more than X number of steps. It is the day on which, if your candle goes out, you cannot relight it. It is the day on which, if you forgot to cook enough food, you would have to go hungry. Jesus confronts that kind of restrictive view of Sabbath in Mark. He and his disciples were walking through a field and picked some heads of wheat to eat because they were hungry. When they were chastised, Jesus responds like this:

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."

The Sabbath was made to be a blessing and gift for man. To show him his worth before God and to allow time for man to seek God every week. I am going to revisit again the reason why it is so important to bear God’s name in a worthy manner and why it is important to take time to rest with him; it is all because he delivered them from slavery, and he delivers us from sin.

God did not ask us to do a single thing before he saved us, but once we have his stamp on our hearts, we belong to him. We are his witnesses to show the world who he is. And we have a value and a worth to him that he wants to teach us by giving us time to spend with him in a restful way. I don’t care which day is your Sabbath. I don’t care if your Sabbath rest looks like my Sabbath rest. What I care about, and what I believe is important to God is that we push back the busyness of life and rest with him. I believe we need to do that at least in a small part each day.

We need that rest and renewal to live in the way he calls us to live. We need to remember his redemption of our souls; to remember our worth in his eyes. And we need to trust that even when we are not working, he is always at work on our behalf. We have to learn to let go of the feeling that if we take a day off the world will stop spinning. It won’t. If you are holding the world together, then we are all in trouble, because you will get sick. Someday you will fail and make a mistake. But God is perfect, he never fails, he never gets sick, he never sleeps, he never gets bogged down with things to do. He will keep things going when we mess up, when we need a break, and especially if we are resting and reconnecting with him.

Deuteronomy 6:17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. 20 In the future, when your son asks you, "What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?" 21 tell him: "We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders--great and terrible--upon Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."

We show our right relationship with God to the world through what we choose to do in our daily lives. Remember that he redeemed you, ask him to fill you so full of himself that all people see when they look at you is Jesus. That can only happen if you are taking regular time to get away and rest up and spend time with him. Don’t wait until it is convenient, just step out in faith, set aside some time and trust that God will take care of the rest. Then you can be the bearer of his name in a worthy manner, his ambassador to the world you live in.

*This thought first came to my attention in the book "Jesus Wants to Save Christians," by Rob Bell.