Wednesday, January 21, 2015

True Freedom

Our congregation is searching for freedom in 2015.  This Sunday, January 25, we will begin a three-year journey together called "Freedom For The Future" through which we will seek to completely eliminate the long-standing financial debt of the church.  So many opportunities await us in mission as we become free from the bondage of debt.

On a deeper level, our search for freedom is a spiritual journey to become free from the bondage of sin.  In this first quarter, we are studying Exodus to learn how God redeems and leads His people to freedom. Moses, Miriam, and Aaron provide us with a lens through which we witness our own redemption in Jesus Christ.

Jesus made the greatest statement about becoming spiritually free:
          Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you continue in my word,
          you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make
          you free." - John 8:31-32

Two verses later, Jesus says:
          "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin." - John 8:34

Human beings are enslaved to sin. Our bondage is stated clearly in Genesis 6:5 - The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.

The Good News is that God has provided us with a path to freedom through our Savior Jesus Christ.  The path is simple, but narrow.  It is the path of Jesus, the Word, the Word made flesh, the ancient way of God. As live into the Word, we find its truth and light dispelling the darkness of sin.

You can walk the path to freedom through grace.  Turn your focus to Jesus.  Tune your senses to the Word. Walk in love with the Redeemer.  You will find freedom and true life.  You will be a slave no more.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. - John 8:36

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Church = Preserving Or Expanding?

I recently came across a sentence that jumped out at me while reading History of Christianity in the Middle Ages written by Bishop William R. Cannon.  In describing the fall of the Roman empire, he said of the Eastern half of the empire, "it was busy preserving what it had rather than expanding into what otherwise it might have become." My soul was wrenched into conviction by these words.  This sentence could serve as a perfect description for the state of the Protestant Church in America today including the United Methodist Church.  We are good at preserving what we have and are quite busy at doing so.  We are less concerned, it seems, in expanding into what God otherwise might have us to become.

I think there can be a healthy balance between preserving and expanding as it relates to the church.  History, traditions, and even systems of "doing church" are necessary and even needed.  History grounds us into the continuous movement of God's Spirit and connects us with God's people throughout the ages. Tradition gives us identity and connects us with the catholic church.  The problem occurs when, instead of operating in balance, we neglect expanding into what God would have us to become for the sake of preserving what we have.

As I begin this New Year, I want to lead our local church to seek after God and what God might have us to become so as to find a balance between preserving and expanding.  My vehicle for this leadership is prayer.  I'm asking church leaders, church staff, and small group leaders to pray intentionally for the church every week while providing them with suggested prayer foci.  These prayers invite God to work deeply within us and to lead us outward in mission.

The longer I serve in ministry the more I realize the magnitude of my inability to "make things happen" in the church.  Only God can make the eternal and supernatural occur in the life of the church.  Dear God, help us to expand into what you would have us to become - all for your glory, and for the sake of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.