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Seven Ways to Connect, part 2

Last week we looked at a few ways to connect with people in a missional way. It strikes me that once the weather turns cold, the natural opportunities for meeting people become fewer. Make the most of the good weather that remains! Here are several more way to connect.

  1. Serve your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, or fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve.
  2. Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form mom groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids.
  3. Eat with Non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal invite others.
  4. Hobby with Non-Christians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try city league sports. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing lessons, piano lessons, violin, guitar, knitting, tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun.

Seven Ways to Connect, part 1

For those of us who have been with a church community for a long time, there is often a problem that arises. When it comes to mission, we just don’t know that many people who aren’t Christians. And the ones we do know, we certainly don’t know very well. Here are a few easy, simple ways to get to know people better outside your circle. (Credit goes to Pastor Jonathan Dodson of Austin City Life Church for compiling this list.)

  1. Walk, Don’t Drive. If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox, convenience store, or apartment office, walk there. Be deliberate in your walk by saying hello to people. Attract attention by walking the dog or bringing the kids. Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and maybe some people.
  2. Be a Regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, and coffee, go to the same places. Get to know the staff. Smile. Ask questions. You’ll be surprised at how many other regulars there are for you to get to know. Build relationships. Be a Regular.
  3. Participate in City Events. Instead of playing X-Box, watching TV, or surfing the web, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.

A Prayer Request

Even though Coast Guard Festival is done, it’s still summer. There are still beach days and vacations to be had. Still, you can sort of feel inside of you. You can almost see it in peoples’ eyes. Summer is winding down. It’s time to start thinking about the next chapter. This is certainly true for the staff here at FCC. Lori is working on the kick off for Sunday School and our fall programming. Paula is starting to plan out the year for our youth groups. I’m at work on the fall kick off series. In some ways August is the most critical month of all.

In light of that, I’d like to ask for your prayers for our church ministry staff. Pray that God would fill us with creativity. Pray that we would have a strong sense of discernment. Pray that we would be efficient and organized. Most of all, pray that we follow God’s leading as we serve the church that is really His after all. And let’s milk every last drop of summer we can from these last four weeks!

Coast Guard Hymn

Eternal Father, Lord of Hosts

Watch o’er the ones who guard our coasts

Protect them from the raging seas

And give them light and life and peace.

Grant them from thy great throne above

The shield and shelter of thy love.

Grant to them Your eternal peace, Oh Lord,

For they have followed your commandment,

That No Greater Love has he, who would give up his life for another.

Church and State, part 4

Here in the tri-cities, July is a rather patriotic month. We begin by celebrating our nation’s birthday. We close the month by kicking off the Coast Guard Festival. So I’ve devoted four articles to the intersection of church and state. Here’s what I’d like to conclude with: a check valve. This is a device that allows water or air to flow in one direction, but not the other. If you’ve ever blown up a water raft, you’ve experienced a check valve. In the stem there is a valve that allows you to blow air into the raft. However, it doesn’t let air escape when you stop blowing.

I’d like to suggest that there should be a check valve between the church and the state. And when I refer to the church, I’m meaning God’s people and the kingdom we represent. Not just a religious institution. There should be a constant flow of influence from the lives of God’s people toward our nation and its governing bodies. Christians should live and vote and advocate in ways that are fully informed by Scripture and our Christian commitments. However, the influence should never run in the other direction. God’s people should never have their lives and convictions shaped by politics or our government. We are the salt and light of the world, not the salted and illumined. We are first of all citizens of God’s kingdom. We have been placed in America to bless it and influence it. It must never be the other way around.

Church and State, part 3

I’m going to drift a little off topic in this installment. This isn’t so much about church and state, but about people and how our uniqueness impacts where we land politically. Last week I was backpacking in West Virginia. In some ways it was like being in a different country. Sure, they spoke English (after a fashion). But it was a totally different way of life than what we have here in West Michigan. The geography and topography were different. Industry and lack thereof was different. And I wondered… how different would I be if I was born and raised in the hills of rural West Virginia? How would it shape my perspective on life? More to the point, how would it impact my political convictions?

I’m not arguing for some sort of relativism where whatever a person thinks is right. What I’m saying is that the life we are given, including where we’re born and raised and by whom we’re raised, has a powerful impact on our convictions in politics. Again, I’m not saying that every view is right or even acceptable. I’m saying that people arrive at their convictions for reasons that go deeper than logic (yet aren’t illogical). It’s true of me. It’s true of you. I can disagree with your position and consider it wrong. But may I never fail to recognize and respect the powerful undercurrents of your life that led you to that position. May I also humbly recognize that forces greater than logic are leading me to the positions I hold too.

Church and State, part 2

Last week in this space I suggested that the Bible presents no overarching, specific model for how to engage in the affairs of our nation. The Israelites and the early Church were in a very different position with respect to the governing authorities. That leaves a large spectrum of ways to interact with our government. However, any approach to political engagement must have a biblical flavor to it. People have said that the ends will justify the means. But this is certainly not true for followers of Jesus. Jesus is the prime example of one who did the right things the right way to achieve the right results.

Specifically, I would like to address the rhetoric that we use in political discourse. Reading political comments on Facebook is perhaps the most disheartening thing I do. I love it that people feel convicted about certain issues. But the angry and disrespectful way some of those convictions are expressed is disturbing, especially when it is coming from Christians. Please remember that more than representing a position or a political party, you are representing Jesus and His kingdom. Everything Jesus did was motivated by love. Not fear. Not ego. There’s a place for righteous indignation. But even that must be motivated by love in the first place. So please, before you make the post or the comment or write the letter, examine your motives. Remember the One you represent. No matter how noble our cause or sentiments, we must express that truth in love.

Church and State, part 1

This week we will celebrate our nation’s birthday.  In honor of that I am writing four articles in this space that deal with our nation.  I hope it will help us appreciate what we have in the US.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we as Christians engage in the policies and governing of our nation.  I’ve wrestled with questions like, “How involved should we be?”  “How outspoken should we be from church platforms?”  “How do we think of ourselves in relation to our government?”  These are tough questions.  And what makes them even tougher is that we don’t have a great comparison to our situation in the Scriptures.

In the Old Testament, God’s people were the government.  Israel was a theocracy.  It was governed by God through leaders who set the tone both politically and spiritually.  Later in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament God’s people were in a different situation.  They were under a government in which they had very little stake.  They were exiles or under Roman occupation.  Their religion was illegal at times, barely tolerated at others.  So throughout the Bible, God’s people either were the government or were oppressed by the government.  That’s not our situation in the US at this time.  That leaves us with many different options.  Some will choose to become very involved in government.  Others will not make this a focus.  Some will be very outspoken.  Others will not develop strong opinions.  So I want to start by affirming that their are several legitimate approaches to engaging our government.  Next week will look at one component that I believe is non-negotiable for any approach.

 

I Believe

I believe pain and suffering are a part of the broken world that we live in.

I believe that, like stars require darkness to be visible in the night sky, joy requires suffering and struggle to become real in our lives.

I believe that there is no sorrow, pain, wound, or tragedy that God cannot and will not redeem.

I believe that God’s power is mostly found at the end of ours.

I believe that the kingdom of God is visible, like the glow of the eastern sky before dawn.

I believe a life lived for that kingdom is far fuller than a life lived for oneself.

I believe that the little things make a difference and that even the smallest act of kindness ripples into eternity.

I believe that each one of us was created for such a time as this.

Kingdom Rock Review


kingdom-rock-logo-hi-res

Last week was an exceptional one at our church facility. And it didn’t happen by accident. There is so much time an energy that goes into putting on a successful and engaging VBS experience. The planning starts several months in advance and final details are still being worked out each day. Many people helped decorate. Many people gave up their morning to lead a crew, work in the kitchen, or facilitate a station. Many people donated items. Many people invited their friends’ and neighbors’ children. Many people prayed.

Here is what God did with all that time, energy, and prayer. First, each day nearly 100 kids heard the good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Some of these kids have very little exposure to church or the Gospel. Second, volunteers came together to accomplish something bigger than themselves. There is a bond that forms when you work together to do something awesome. Third, relationships between adults, student helpers, and children developed across the generations. These relationships will only serve to strengthen our church family. What else did God do last week? Time will tell. But I’m certain that all kinds of important things were happening – seeds planted, fires lit, and lives changed if only in small ways. Thank you for being a part of all that God did at Kingdom Rock last week.