And Be Thankful

Life Notes—August 30, 2012 

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.”  Colossians 3:12-15 

When I was a child spending the night at a friend’s house, my mother would be full of instructions and reminders. “Now, Greg, don’t forget to chew with your mouth closed, and make sure you eat everything on your plate!  Do you have clean clothes for tomorrow?”  I would be headed for the door.  “Don’t forget your toothbrush.”  “Yes mother,” I would say as I headed back to the bathroom.  “Do you have money in case they take you out for ice cream?”  When I finally made it out the door and down the steps her final plea would be, “And don’t forget to say ‘Thank you!’” 

The above exhortation by the writer of Colossians, likely an associate of Paul’s, reminds me of instructions from my mother.  “Don’t forget, young Christian, you have been chosen and are holy and beloved.”  (Yes, sir, I won’t forget.)  “Remember compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience!”  (Oh yes, I could never forget those.)  “Forgive those with a complaint against you!”  (Must I really?)  And as I turn to leave, “Remember love binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  (Ya think?)  “And let peace rule in your heart.”  Finally, as I am nearly out of sight, “And be thankful!” 

Being thankful to someone outside ourselves is a fundamental instruction for everything we do.  No doubt that is why expressing thankfulness is the last instruction we generally receive.  In every action and every situation and every environment, no matter how unpleasant it may seem, there is always reason to be thankful.  And it is always helpful in every situation to recall something to be thankful for, even if that something seems far distant at the time.  A positive attitude, a joyful heart, contentment and peace all grow out of an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation.  It is one of the ways we acknowledge we are not alone, because there is always someone to thank for something—a parent, a friend, a spouse, a Savior.  And when we acknowledge we are never alone, we do not get so lonely and are reminded we never face our challenges by ourselves. 

Tom begins a sermon series on the book of James downtown this Sunday, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Reverend Eduardo Bousson, campus minister at WashburnUniversity, will preach at the west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  And remember to be thankful…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Inspired, not Dictated

Life Notes—August 23, 2012 

“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”   2 Timothy 3:16-17 

In school there were subjects where I took notes like I was taking dictation, striving to write down, word-for-word, exactly what I was being told.  I did not want confusion over what was being taught.  That is a good strategy when the lesson is a clear-cut, black and white, right or wrong type of subject.  The Ten Commandments are an example. That we are not to kill or steal or covet are pretty direct instructions, not readily misinterpreted. However, other subjects and teachings were more conceptual in nature, made to stimulate thought.  They were not intended to provide specific directions to be followed as much as to point the student’s thoughts in a particular direction and to encourage exploration of where that led and what it meant.  Notes from those classes might include general ideas or inspirations springing from the teacher’s lecture—like drawing a mental map of where I was being led in order to help find my way back another time. 

Timothy, a companion to Paul, writes, “All scripture is inspired by God…”  My study Bible says the word translated “inspired” is the same word used in Genesis 2:7, where God breathes life into the first human.  None of the translations I read interpret this passage to say God “dictated” scripture, and I think that is an important distinction.  Had God dictated scripture to its writers we would read it much differently than the God-inspired writing it is.  Christians differ widely on how literally scripture should be interpreted.  But Jesus taught in parables—a technique intended to provide an easily grasped concept for thoughtful application to more difficult issues.  Many of the more direct teachings in the New Testament are actually interpretations made by others, inspired by the parables of Jesus and the life he lived.  But the words directly attributed to our Lord tend to be more reflective thought-producers than recipes for righteous living. 

Personally, I believe God intended for us to wrestle with scripture, and in the wrestling we are drawn closer to God.  I love passages, like the first chapter of John, that can be read many times and inspire new and wonderful insights with each reading.  It is through careful reflection, both alone and with fellow believers, that scripture comes alive for “teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” 

Tom preaches downtown this Sunday, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch continues his sermon series on the Bible at the West campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.  His sermon title is “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” based on 2 Timothy 3:14-17. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Finding Truth is not a destination, but a journey…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Powerful and Effective

Life Notes—August 16, 2012 

“The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.  The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”  James 5:15-16  

When I was learning to ride a bicycle I focused so hard on not falling that I was a very unsteady rider.  When I was learning to drive a car there were so many things to try to remember at the same time that I was a poor driver.  When I was learning to play guitar I redefined how bad a guitar can sound.  Few of us are born with specific and useful skills.  We must learn to walk, cook, listen and relate to others, and when we are learning we cannot expect to be very good.  Whatever the skill, it seldom comes ‘naturally.’ 

What makes a skill come naturally?  It is rarely something we are born with.  Rather, it is something of enough value to us we are willing to put in the time and effort to learn.  When we first learn something we focus our conscious mind on the details of the task.  And the conscious mind is slow and deliberate and jerky.  We cannot get really good at anything as long as the task is controlled by our conscious mind.  It is when our sub-conscious mind learns the skill that it becomes natural.  In guitar-parlance it is called developing “finger-memory.”  You see or think a chord and your fingers move into position, without having to consciously remember and direct where the fingers should be. 

The scripture from James, above, talks about the prayer of faith and the prayers of the righteous being powerful and effective.  Praying in a powerful and effective manner is a skill we can each develop, not unlike many of the relational skills we learn over our lifetimes.  What makes a ‘prayer of faith’ or a ‘prayer of the righteous?’  I believe it is intimately tied to our view of the world and how we see ourselves in relation to it.  If we see ourselves as the center of the universe, where everything and everyone exists for our purposes, our life-view will lead to selfish and ineffective prayers.  If we see ourselves as one part of the universe—important and valued as any other part—our view helps us understand our place in a larger life.  That view helps us focus on and pray about needs around us and how to make the world better—for ourselves and others, together.  And in praying for something larger than ourselves we identify with more faith and more righteousness than we can ever attain on our own.  With focused practice our world-view and prayers will align more closely with those of God, gaining power and effectiveness. 

Tom preaches downtown this Sunday, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch continues his sermon series on the Bible at the West campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Practice your praying skills with us.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

Truth in Love

Life Notes—August 9, 2012 

“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”  Ephesians 4:14-16

Truth in Love

“You can’t handle the truth!”  Col. Nathan R. Jessup, from A Few Good Men

 “Whenever you have truth it must be given with love, or the message and the messenger will be rejected.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Truth is like the sun.  You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t goin’ away.” Elvis

One more ‘truth’ quote, one I heard often as a child being taught to be truthful, “The truth sometimes hurts.”  I was often around trouble.  Nothing terrible, mind you, just regular, little-boy types of trouble.  Of course, it was never my fault—I just hung with an ornery crowd.  And when we got caught I would protest loudly and mostly truthfully, “But I didn’t do anything!”  The lesson, which managed to escape me until years later, was that passive observers are as guilty as active participants.

Distinguishing what is true is particularly challenging during an election season.  Both sides try to convince us the truth is the opposite of what the other side says.  But the truth cannot be found in the exclusion of one side.  And Jesus was very clear that Truth is not of the government.  If we are to believe the drone of the politicians, our salvation lies with them and their party.  But the Truth is so much simpler, yet so incredibly more complex.  The Truth is that we are one body and if a single member of the body is ill, the entire body suffers.  We can argue ourselves silly about whether the best course of action for the poor is a redistribution of wealth or the creation of employment opportunities for all, or some point on the continuum between the two.  But that begs the underlying Truth that the health of the Body is not the responsibility of the government.  It is my responsibility.  When we seek Truth outside our own skin we have looked too far.

Certainly, political elections matter in the affairs of the government.  But in matters of Truth, what matters is within.  It is where we connect with God that matters, where healing and hope reside.  It is where the Truth builds the Body up in love.

Tom returns to preach downtown this Sunday, where Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  Mitch will begin a sermon series on the Bible at the West campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  Find your place in the body of Christ.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

The Root of the Matter

Life Notes—August 2, 2012 

“Then I thought, ‘I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days like the phoenix; my roots spread out to the waters, with the dew all night on my branches; my glory was fresh with me, and my bow ever new in my hand.’”  Job 29:18-20

Our hanging baskets struggle the most, followed closely by the other potted plants.  The flower beds do slightly better, with our shrubs and trees doing the best.  The heat and lack of rain create crippling stress on plants, and some deal with it better than others.  Our plants are fortunate on at least two fronts.  First, they were planted in an area without major restrictions on water usage.  Second, they were planted at our home where one of us is out with a hose daily.  Hanging baskets and potted plants must be watered daily.  Some plants wither from the heat alone, regardless of their access to water.  The river birch trees are quick to drop leaves and look neglected, in spite of adequate watering.  The red oak outside our bedroom stands tall, aloof and apparently unaffected.  Yet the heat takes its toll, even if some plants whine less than others. 

Heat stress is visibly apparent in the plant world under these harsh environmental conditions.  Plants survive and thrive in this type of summer in large part due to the depth of their root system.  Trees like Mr. Oak, with roots spread deep and wide, tolerate stress well.  Flowers and grass, with their entire root systems in the top few inches of soil, struggle mightily and need lots of human and/or divine intervention to survive. 

We humans suffer under stress, too.  Heat and drought impact us, for sure, but our stressors are often less visible.  Aches and worries and conflict and social pressures take their toll on us—not just in the heat of the summer, but year-round.  And some of us are so good at putting up an unaffected front, like Mr. Oak, that our internal condition may not be readily apparent.  Some deal better with stress than others, and like their leafy counterparts I suspect it has a lot to do with their roots.  Some people have a well-grounded spiritual life, with roots anchored deep and wide in scripture, prayer and a strong faith-life.  Others have a well-rooted family life, drawing strength and reinvigorating nutrition from a stable and loving family.  And others, by choice or by other factors, have shallow roots dangling in the poorest of soils, and the first signs of drought dry them up, and they wither and crumble.  Christ calls us to plant our roots deeply in his word and life, to refresh and renew, where no earthly drought can penetrate. 

The seven-week sermon series on David concludes this Sunday, with Stan Hughes downtown and Mitch at the west campus.  The sermon title will be “David‘s Legacy,” based on 2 Samuel 23:1-7.  Life worship is at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00.  West campus worship is at 9:00 and 11:00. 

Come home to church this Sunday. A strong foundation helps weather many storms…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator