Saturday, August 31, 2013

Are You Ready For a Food Fight?

Tomorrow at First Saints Community Church we kick-off our Football Food Drive. Non-perishable food donations are your "vote" for your favorite team. There are boxes in the lobby to vote for the WORLD CHAMPION RAVENS or the Redskins. There is also a box for football fans who vote for other teams and a 4th box for people who want to donate, but aren't football fans at all. We are accepting donations through Sunday, September 23rd. 1 pound of food = 1 vote. Let's see which "team" comes out on top!

We’re starting this because the Food Pantry at First Saints is a little bare. food pantry bare.We’ve seen an increase of about 25% in the last two months in the number of people who are guests at the Soup Kitchen and take home food from the food pantry. Even our area schools are seeing a noticeable increase in the number of students living below the poverty line in our area. We’ve been given a great opportunity to help out, but we need the food to do it!

So that’s the idea behind the Football Food Drive.

And just to make it interesting here's a personal challenge from me to all of the REDSKINS fans! This is your home territory; your backyard! You should win easily. And it's no secret I'm .. *ahem* ... less than a Redskins fan. So, here's what I will do... If the Redskins win the Football Food Drive - I will wear a Redskins jersey in worship the following Sunday. I'll make it my Facebook profile picture for the entire NFL season.

But there's more! If the REDSKINS collect more food than all of the other teams COMBINED - I will become a REDSKINS fan for the 2013 NFL season. I will root for your team, say nice things about them on Facebook and Twitter every week (I will even post something nice about Dan Snyder!).

Football Food FightIt's all up to you REDSKINS fans. Do you have it in you? How much do you love your team really? Is it on? The next few weeks will tell.

Godspeed

 

~ Pastor John

Friday, March 15, 2013

When You Are Troubled

 

The following is from the Great Experiment blog, posted on March 13th. It’s a reflection on John 14:1 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.”

Like the Scripture from my last post on Friday, this Scripture was also part of a funeral I officiated last weekend. It’s one of the most frequently used passages at funeral services. Jesus speaking with his disciples offers them comfort and reassurance as the time of his death and departure grows near. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me,” is his calm reassurance.

It makes sense that we would use these words when we are facing the death of our own loved ones and struggling with the significant lose that their departure represents for us. We’re troubled. Our hearts are stirred up. We are unsettled and unsure of the future. Jesus says, “You believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus says, “Trust me. I have it all under control.”

It may not occur to us to meditate on this Scripture as we contemplate prayer. However, in all circumstances of our lives - large and small - this should be a calming and reassuring message. Whenever we are troubled, unsettled and unsure, we need some rock to hold onto and we find it in Christ. When we call out in prayer because our family is dealing with death or long-term illness – our hearts do not have to be troubled. When we pray and ask God for answers to problems that seem insurmountable – we can have peace. When we seek guidance and discernment for the direction of our lives – we can be sure that God is in control.

Don’t let your heart be troubled. Instead, believe. In believing, we find peace and reassurance. We are reminded that he is faithful. That the Lord is with us. That He is on our side. And our hearts are not troubled.

 

~Godspeed

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Season and Out

 

The following is from the Great Experiment Blog, posted on March 8th. Reflecting on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1.

This Scripture from Ecclesiastes was one of the passages used in a funeral I officiated last weekend. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heaven …”

I’ve used it in a number of contexts over the years: funerals mostly, but also sermons, memorial services, welcoming new pastors or saying goodbye to old ones, even weddings. We are mid-way through the Great Experiment and I’m thinking about it now in the context of prayer. There is a time for everything, and all that we bring to the Lord as we pray.

Sometimes we will bring to the Lord our tears, mourning, scattering, tearing, silence, hatred and war. At other times we will bring the Lord our life; planting, healing, laughing, dancing, embracing, mending, love and peace. All of life, good and bad, belongs before the Lord in prayer. There is no sense in holding anything back; he wants to be Lord of it all!

At times, I try very hard to put my best foot forward. I want to give God excellence. I want God to know that what I’m offering is nothing short of the best of me. I think that’s a laudable thing. But there must also be times when I bring God the foot that drags along behind me. There needs to be a time when I give God my failures and my unworthiness. I need to acknowledge before God (God, of course, already knows) that my best is nothing but filthy rags. For each of these extremes there is a time, and a season.

Prayer is a must in all times and in every season of our lives. We must avoid the pitfall that believes a life of prayer is only for some seasons and during certain times. It is always a good time to turn to the Lord. Prayer is never out of season.

 

~Godspeed

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Trouble I’m In

 

The following is from the Great Experiment Blog, posted on Monday, March 4th:

“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things.” – Isaiah 59:1-3

 

We underestimate the impact of sin in our lives and its impact on our prayer life. I underestimate the impact of my sin in my life and its impact on my prayers.


I have a lot of excuses for my sinfulness and a lot of ways to minimize the impact of my sin. “It’s really not as bad as it seems.” “It doesn’t have the impact that you might think.” “It’s just a little thing, compared to some of the really bad things that people do.” I’m not a bad person. I generally get it right. When you weigh the good against the bad it’s pretty clear that the good wins out [at least I like to think that it does].


God has a very different perspective. Sin is sin. The distinction we make between “big sins” and “little sins” is not a distinction that God makes. It’s all just sin. It’s not about the sins that have a big impact or the ones that have a small impact – all sin has the same impact. It separates us from God. Separated is separated. Hidden is hidden. Out of earshot is out of earshot (see verse 2).


When we struggle with our sin, we don’t need to do a little better. We need a complete makeover. We need our hands, and the rest of us, washed clean. We need a Savior. We need Jesus.


The hope we find is revealed in verse 1: “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.” The Lord will save, the Lord will hear. He is waiting for us to call.

 

~Godspeed

*The Great Experiment is a 40-Day Journey of Discipleship that the people of First Saints are participating in during Lent. It involves prayer, scripture, small groups, tithing, ministry and acts of service. If you’d like to know more, leave me a message in the comments.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday, Second Week of Advent – December 15

Something ironic about the fact that today, in 1791, the Bill of Rights became law.

So much attention is focused on the 2nd Amendment today after what happened in Connecticut. It’s evident that in the wake of this unspeakable tragedy - all we can do is argue. Gun control THIS! Right to bear arms THAT! Demonize anyone who doesn’t agree with you! YELL LOUDER AND MAKE SURE YOU GET HEARD.

Meanwhile we neglect to mourn with the two dozen families who are going through today with a huge hole in their lives where there shouldn't be one. We're so quick to rally to our causes that we forget their cause. Let me be clear – God does not forget.

God hears the cry of the suffering and the mourning. God enters into pain and suffering in a way that no other can. My God, as a parent, knows what it’s like to lose a Son. My God is well acquainted with grief and sorrow. God’s heart, God’s eye, is focused on Connecticut today. And also on Birmingham. Wherever there is suffering, loss, and pain – my God is there.

This was NOT God’s will. God’s will is life and health and wholeness and peace. This was not God’s will. This was human frailty and free will at its worst.

We can yell and scream about issues another day. Now is not the time for that. Now is the time to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who are afflicted. Now is the time to be with those who are wondering “Where is God” in all of this.

Let’s be clear. God is right here with us. That eternal message of Advent hasn’t changed. Emmanuel. God is with us. Moved into the neighborhood. Taken up residence. With us.

~Godspeed

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday, First Week of Advent – December 3

I chose today to retreat a bit; to work from home and venture out just to enjoy the 60+ degree weather and the sunshine. It seemed a shame to waste the day inside when we were given the rare gift of an almost 70 degree day in December.

I don’t do that very often, but now and then feel like I need to. It’s partially that I just needed a break. But it was also a way to escape and search for something deep inside of me that I wonder and worry is growing smaller and smaller.

In today’s reading from Jesus Blessed Son, Nouwen talks about living at a place of innocence. There’s a sense that we need to trust God to take care of us, but there’s also something here that means letting go of control and security. Something that makes me think back to yesterday when Jesus talked about worry.

When we think of innocence we think of children because they live in the moment. They are focused on the immediate and they are so “un-self-conscious". They don’t make a decision to go there, they just do because they just are. Innocent.

I can’t just “go there” anymore. Over time things have changed. It takes thought and intention to choose innocence. Jesus said, “Unless you become like little children …” as though he were giving us a choice. I don’t think that’s a one-time decision. It’s a choice we have to make all the time.

Innocence is acknowledging that on my best days, I’m far less in control than I believe I am. And admitting that doesn’t have to mean that my insecurity gets the best of me.

Innocence is understanding that my worry and insecurity are sure signs that I’m trying to do God’s job. And certainly not doing it well.

If I’m not a child as I stand before God each day; I am not as I should be. But innocence lost can be innocence found.

Dearest Lord, help me overcome my insecurities and discover what it is you want for me. Amen.

~Godspeed

First Sunday of Advent – December 2

This Advent we (First Saints Community Church) are reading together from an Advent Devotional booklet called Jesus, Beloved Son. It contains scripture, prayers, and excerpts from the writings of Henri Nouwen. nouwen

For those unfamiliar with Nouwen, he was one of the most powerful & beloved spiritual writers of the 20th century. He wrote over 40 books before he died in 1996. They often focused on his experience of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. After teaching at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, he walked away from teaching to work with mentally challenged people at the L’Arche community in Toronto, Canada and served their for many years as he continued to write.

On the First Sunday of Advent we read Luke 21:34, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with … the worries of this life."

In worship on this Sunday we talked of peace, recalling the words of Micah 5:5 – and he shall be their peace. I hear echoes of that longing for peace in Jesus’ words. If our hearts are weighed down with worry, we will not be able to find peace.

Nouwen says, “Jesus has to be and to become evermore the center of my life.” In worship Sunday we said that “Jesus is our peace.” Not that he brings peace, but that He is peace. If we want peace, what we need is Jesus. For that to happen, Jesus has to be and to become evermore the center of our lives.

That is the journey of our Advent this season. A journey that I pray will lead us to only one place – to the feet of Jesus.

Lord Jesus, the fire of my life, be my companion, my guide, my all. Amen.

 

~Godspeed.