Tag Archives: 1 John

God is in the Connections (Newsletter Article September 2015)

Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn’t looking down at a device in their hands? We’ve become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture,

the people right in front of us.
– Regina Brett,

 

“I don’t know how people do it without church.”  I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve heard this.  I heard it as a child growing up in a community where we thought everyone went to church (they didn’t).  I heard it as an adult struggling to find a path for my life.  I heard it as a parent looking far off at my children’s future and my prayers that they will be people of faith.  I’ve heard it as a pastor at the grave with a family who lost a child.

What I hear us saying is that we need to be connected.  God designed us to be with each other.  And people do survive without being disciples in a church.  They survive by creating pseudo-churches within friends at work, family, social networking, and sometimes going to a bar like Cheers where everybody knows your name.  I say pseudo-church because it isn’t the same.  Sure people ask about one another, look out for each other.  Yes, there is a connection, but this connection is limited to space and time and the physical world.

Church, when we’re not just going to church but being Church, is getting connected to God and being connected to one another through the love of God in a deep and vulnerable way.  You’ve heard it said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right?  In our broken world, each of us is the weakest link.  But through Jesus, through this amazing experience of forgiveness, resurrection, and recreation – we become connected, and we become the strong chain of change the world needs.  Without worshipping God weekly, without being with God’s people often, without living in prayer: our lives tend to fall apart.  The Spirit keeps us connected to the Divine and to one another.

I don’t know how people live life without church.  I do know how people live life with church.  We live it fully.  We live it connected to our Creator.  We live it connected to one another in a fellowship that the world doesn’t understand.  We live it with purpose, and meaning in our lives and hope for future generations.  We live life connected.  God is in the Connections.

 

But if we live in the light in the same way as he is in the light,

we have spiritual connection with each other,

and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin.

  • 1 John 1:7

Disciples are…

Disciples Are…

“Remember from dust you came and to dust you will return.”

Traditional phrase used on Ash Wednesday

 

In our faith, we often use earthy elements as a means of God’s grace upon our lives.  In Baptism, the water reminds us that a free flowing grace has marked us as loved by God, called to be a part of the church, and a force of salvation in the world.  Ash Wednesday places a different mark – a reminder of our mortality and a call to change our ways as disciples.  What is a disciple?  Here are four possible answers this Lent.

A disciple is faithful.  This means our “yes” means “yes,” and our “no” means “no.”  We show up.  We promised God we would serve, and as followers of Jesus, we intend to live out this promise in the power of the Spirit.  We don’t let petty arguments, worldly priorities, or even theological disagreements cause us to abandon God and one another.  In our consumer society, we are told the lie that life should be filled with effortless happiness and products and services of pleasure.  People stop coming to this church or that church because they know they can find a church that scratches their itchy ears.  The Bible teaches us that to truly be disciples; we have to faithful to one another and to God in showing up.  “The one who claims to be in the light while hating a brother or sister is in the darkness even now.” 1 John 2:9.

A disciple is loving.  At both worship services recently we’ve sung, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  This is a quote from Jesus from the Gospel of John.  The love of a disciple is a love that is selfless and self-giving.  We don’t mind giving up something that we enjoy so that we can provide for the needs of others.  When we see poverty, we look for opportunity and ways to change the system.  When we see hunger, we share our food.  When we hear that someone is sick or dying, we give hugs and prayers of hope.  What is most amazing about this love?  It is given freely – without price or membership.

A disciple is holy.  1 Peter 1:15 says, “you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy.”  Holy is one of those words that has been smeared and overused to the point that it has no meaning.  Holy is Other.  We are called to be other, just as God is other than this world.  We are not citizens of this world.  We are citizens of the Kingdom of God that is here and is coming.  Are there things that we need to avoid in our pursuit of being other?  Yes.  We probably should avoid hate, apathy, and abuse of anyone or anything.  Are there things we need attend that will help us on our journey?  Yes.  We should often pray, read the Bible, study, take communion, sing the songs of our faith, and give of ourselves in charity.

A disciple is disciplined.  In the Gospels, Jesus would say “be stricter than the Pharisees in your faith” at the same time he put his arm around a prostitute welcoming her to forgiveness.  Following Jesus isn’t easy.  We have to fail, fall down, and get back up each and every time.  We are called to be comforted.  God loves us.  We are called to be challenged.  God wants us to change our behavior and the world.  Discipline means training like a weight-lifter, going to the gym and aching the next day.  Pray for ten minutes each day.  Try to give more time and money to the God through the church.  Give up that bad habit and take on a good one.  Discipline means no more milk and cereal because it’s time for meat and potatoes.  Read the Bible and let it change your opinion about politics, economics, and how you behave.  Bring Christ into the relationships you have with people so that they know you are a follower of the Savior.  Discipline means no more giving up.

This Lent, God doesn’t want you to give up.  God wants you to take up this cross, the cross of being a Disciple of Jesus.  More than anything the life of a disciple is the life of discipline.  During this season of Lent and for the rest of your lives: be a disciple.

 

“Repent and Believe in the Gospel.”

 – Mark 1:15

The Truth about Love

the Truth about Love

by Pastor Nathan Decker

 

“The Truth about love is it’s nasty and salty

it’s regret in the morning, it’s the smelling of armpits,

It’s wings and songs

and trees and birds

It’s all the poetry that you ever heard.”
– P!nk

 

Love is a four-letter word that is over-used and under-shown.  As followers of Christ we are called to be known by our love.  Christ commands us to love God and love our neighbors.  Famously, Scripture says “God is love.”  Sometimes we get caught up and imagine this means we’re all flower children of the Divine Harmony and if only we’d follow the way of love all our problems would go away and life would be simple.  Friends, that kind of thinking is watered down gospel and huck-a-buck!

Love is messy.  Love is complicated.  Love hurts, heals, and can feel so welcoming and challenging at the same time.  Most of us know our language is limited because we really only have one word for love.  In the Greek there were a variety of words: Eros for the sensual love between people, Philos for the sturdy love of faithful friends, Storge for the puppy dog affection of a parent for an infant, Mania for the overly committed mad love of a stalker.   Agape is the love we are called to live out.  Agape is a selfless love, a sacrificial love.

Agape is the most time and giving involved of all love.  Erotic love is about a sensation in the moment.  Philo love is about a bond that gives us support and allows us to feel needed.  Science tells us that the affection (storge) we have for babies – be they kittens who cuddle or lion-cubs who could one day kill us – has more to do with evolution and survival than bond.  And honestly speaking, any love that you have to manipulate and control is not really love at all (mania).

Perhaps this is why Jesus doesn’t give us an honest challenge.  “Love your enemies.”  “Turn the other cheek.”  “When someone demands one mile of you, walk with them two.”  We are incapable of doing these things.  Jesus calls us to a love that is given to us freely, but costs us our lifestyle and our motivation.  When we see a homeless man freezing in the winter, we are called to get involved, but for more than a moment.  When we see a child being beaten down by the words of her parent, we are called to get involved, but for more than a moment.  When we see a teen walking the streets long after dark, we are called to get involved, but for more than a moment.  Remember I said love was messy.  Simply giving food and a coat is not enough.  Opening our doors at church and providing cots and warmth is not enough.  Changing the way we vote so that candidates understand the plight of the poor is not enough.  Writing letters to the governor and legislature about education and mental health is not enough.  Changing the way we pay ourselves and those who work for us is not enough.  All of these are wonderful acts of charity and advocating justice, but they are ‘dirty rags’ when compared with God’s love.

Unfortunately even our best motivation is questionable.  We do it out of a sense of duty.  We give because of guilt for having more than others.  We give because it makes us feel good to provide for those who do not have.  We like for others to see us be so nice.  We provide because of the long-term relationship we have with ‘the least of these.”  Christ said “greater love has no one than to lay down their life for another.”  Dying to self is the motivation that Christ desires us to have, dying to all motivation other than simply being like Jesus.

Love is nasty and salty.  It’s changing diapers for kids who aren’t yours.  Love is regret in the morning.  It’s realizing that you did do good but for the wrong reasons.  Love is the smelling of armpits.  Remember the church-people accused Jesus of hanging out with the wrong crowd – prostitutes and sinners.  Love is messy.  Love is complicated.  Love is beautiful.  It’s wings and songs, birds and trees, all the poetry that you ever heard.  God’s love is not only sacrificial and selfless agape, but never ends.  The Hebrew word for God’s love is hesed or steadfast love.  We must be committed in our showing and sharing God-like love.  This love is freely given to us in salvation, but it costs us our whole lives learning how to love.  Still it is the only life worth living – a life of love.  That’s the truth about love.

 

“We should love one another, because love is from God; everyone who love is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God.  God is love.”

 – 1 John 4:7-8