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I Could Do That

“Modern Art = I could do that

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Yeah, but you didn’t.”

— Craig Damrauer

 

Have you seen everything that church is doing during this pandemic? We could have done that. But we didn’t.

Remember the time you saw that person do such a simple thing that made such a major difference? We could have done that. But we didn’t.

Not long ago you had that great idea. Said you couldn’t get away from it. Even said you thought maybe God was nudging you in that direction.

You could do that. I could help.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action. (James 1:22-25, The Message version)

When do we start?

It’s a Monday: Without Fathers

Jay-Z: “We were kids without fathers, so we found our fathers on wax (records) and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves.”

And you?

Hope in a Time of Crisis, part 3

Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us.

Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be.

And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23,24, The Message version)

There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.

But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won’t let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death!

As the psalmist said, “He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them.” When Scripture says that “he walked all over them,” it’s obvious that he couldn’t at the same time be walked on.

When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending! (1st Corinthians 15:21-28, The Message version)

— All together, join me in what we’ve been practicing these last couple of days: “Better than I deserve!”

Hope in a Time of Crisis, part 2

“Christians need to recognize that things are bad because we are bad, and if things were as bad as we deserved, they would be a whole lot worse.”

That’s Steve Brown again, same source as yesterday. It’s from an early book of his, originally titled When Your Rope Breaks, and reprinted as God, Are You There? with the subtitle Hope in a Time of Crisis. 

I’d like to come back to all three parts of both books’ titles. But for now, in spite of it falling about as far from the currently popular cult of “God’s favor” as imaginable, I’m too busy being wading through Mr. Brown’s sentence.

“Christians need to recognize that things are bad because we are bad, and if things were as bad as we deserved, they would be a whole lot worse.”

Plenty packed in there for me today, how about you?

And let’s try this for a second day: “Better than I deserve.”

Hope in a Time of Crisis

“How ya doin’?”

“Better than I deserve!” is how Dave Ramsey answers that question.

I’ve admired many things about him for several years. At the top of my list is that response.

It speaks of God’s grace and generosity, and it reminds me of so much.

Imagine my surprise yesterday when reading something Steve Brown wrote and came across this: “The late Art DeMoss, one of the great personal evangelists of our time, used to reply to someone who asked him how he was, ‘Better than I deserve.'”

Just for today, let’s you and me practice that line in conversation…whenever we’re about to automatically say we’re fine, or doing ok, or can’t complain, let’s try responding with, “Better than I deserve.”

Deal?

Beyond Squinting in a Fog

“Share your dots, but don’t connect them.” Austin Kleon advises that in his book, Steal Like an Artist.

“People are going to draw their own conclusions anyway,” a leader told us at a preaching workshop when I was fresh out of seminary, “so let them. Don’t do it for them.”

A couple of years ago I had the chance to walk a labyrinth. Among the many lessons I learned through that simple experience is that we’re all at different points on our journeys, and that where we are affects our perspective.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

That’s 1st Corinthians 13:12, in The Message version.

It then promises, But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! 

Exhale.

“Better Than Everyone Else”

“Jesus is better than everyone else but he refuses to brag about it,” writes Maria Kane, an Episcopal priest.

“Vindication or being ‘right’ is never on Jesus’ mind,” she continues on page 322 of Disciplines 2020. 

“Instead, he lets the way he lives his life speak for itself. That’s why he loves, serves, prays, and teaches with abandon — even with the people who most question his worthiness and presence.

Jesus is confident in his identity and therefore his purpose and mission. Can we say the same?

“Today, can you slow down? Think before speaking. Listen before answering. Love before judging. Love is the only thing worth proving.”

Where does she get such ideas?! Philippians 2:1-13 is a good place to start; check it out.

See you back here tomorrow.

 

Gimme 3 Steps Toward the Door..of Discipleship

Ruth Storm is an active member of a church I had the honor of pastoring. For well over a decade, she has been doing a weekly email update for people who had to miss worship. She continues this ministry and it’s delightful.

Pastor Kara Wolf Berg is doing a fabulous job there! Here’s one example from a recent Ruth Storm update

Pastor Kara talked with the kids about ways to feel and show love.

She continued her sermon series on Discipleship and love being relational.

The Discipleship process:

Come and worship.

Stay and connect.

Go and serve.

We need to love our enemies and pray for others.

Love is a verb.

Without action it is merely a word.

See? Good Stuff.

Join me in celebrating The First United Methodist Church of Watseka, IL, the church staff, and all their ministries.

The community is better because of them!

It’s a Monday: What to Wear, What to Wear?

“My rule of thumb is to dress well enough not to be distracting one way or the other: not badly enough that people want to take me shopping, and not well enough that people spend time wondering how much something cost or where I got it from.”

— Carey Nieuwhof

Looking for a Celebrity Pastor?

Jason Woolever is a friend and colleague who speaks wisdom here (as usual, the highlights are mine) —

We live in a culture that is obsessed with celebrities. This has become a part of Christianity and is most likely unhelpful to true spirituality. Christians often look for celebrity pastors to follow and learn from, then hang on every tweet, online sermon, and position statement they make, without any awareness of what the person is like up close.

I want to suggest that rather than looking for a celebrity Christian to take your cues from that you look for a quiet faithful Christian in your own community.

Look for someone in their 70s or 80s, who has been faithfully serving in the church for several decades, and still cares more about reaching lost people than their own preferences.

Look for a retired pastor who never became cynical or critical and continues to serve joyfully and faithfully and grow more in love with Christ and God’s Word with every passing year.

Tap into the minds and hearts of veteran Christians who have read the Bible multiple times and have built their life upon its teachings, rather than the changing winds of society.

Look for the steady, joyful, quiet Christians who have passed the test of time, and are still passing it. That’s where the true wisdom will come from. God’s Word lives so deeply within them that their lives are a demonstration of what it looks like to live out God’s teachings in your local setting.

I have a few of these Christians in mind as I write this. There is a 99% chance you have never heard of them. They’re way too Christ-like to ever become famous.

—- Indeed.