Michelle, the girls and I were out to lunch with a young couple the other day. During our lunch, somehow we got into the conversation about Madison driving and her getting the keys to the van and being able to drive. Michelle asked her what she would do once she got in the van. Madison said that she would put it in drive and drive. Michelle told her that would be a bad idea because we had pulled into a parking space and driving forward wasn’t an option. Madison said that she would put it in reverse first and back out. Michelle asked how she was going to know if it was okay to back out and she said she would look in the display on the dash. Michelle told her that she would also need to look and not just trust the display. Michelle asked her what she would do once she had backed out. Madison said she would drive home. Michelle asked her how she should do that. Madison went on to say that she would put the van into drive and push on the pedal. Michelle said, “which pedal?” Madison said, “the go pedal.” I must have missed that when I learned how to drive. The good news is, she knew which pedal it was and she didn’t call the brake pedal the stop pedal, so that is good. Also, she is only 13 so we have a few years.
As I laughed at her comment, it made me think about the times in my life I need to press the “go” pedal. There are times when we need to stop, and maybe that is where you are. A time to be still and know that He is God. A time to have a sabbath with our Lord, to enjoy His presence and peace. After Jesus’ resurrection, before the disciples were to “go” into all the world, they were called to wait for the Spirit. So, maybe that is where you are, but I am in a place where I need to go. I am one of the slowest people at doing some things. Things I know I should do, but don’t feel ready. Places I should lead, but don’t think the church is ready. Work I don’t ask others to do, because I don’t want to inconvenience them. What I am really doing though is not allowing God to use me, not trusting that God will work it out, and not allowing God’s people to serve Him in work that He has created them to do.
Some of those things that I know I am supposed to do are to have what I am calling holy conversations. Conversations not just about how you are doing, not just about letting you know you are thought of, but asking you things like: How are you letting Jesus be your Lord? Where are you seeing Him in your life? How you are about His business in all you do? How can I help you know Him more fully, surrender to Him more deeply, and love Him even more?
I am going to try and make expectations known, starting in particular with our leadership. Not just job descriptions about what needs to be done, but what type of people and behaviors we need to be and display. To help us experience God in a more profound way as Lord and we as His servants. A body being about His work to which He has called us.
Those expectations will extend to the whole church as we define who we are and how we believe God has called us to be about His business here at the corner of Clay and E. High St. Looking at the way we establish connections with those whom God is putting around us and calling us beside those who don’t know Him. Expecting us to be cultivating relationships and out of those places inviting people to join us in community, to at least see who we are and what God is doing among us. Challenging us to call people to surrender more fully to Christ, to share with them things we have done, ways we have made room for Him, opportunities that are coming up for them (and that would be us too) to allow Christ to be Lord of another piece of our heart and lives. And then not allowing this journey of transformation to be taken alone, establishing intentional relationships where we walk together trying to help each other keep Christ and His work at the center of our lives.
I don’t know where you are, but I need to press the “go pedal” in some things. Pray that the Lord directs all that we do, that His Holy Spirit encourages us and reminds us that He is on the throne and empowers us to be about His work. Know that you are dearly loved and that I desire for us to be a community of faith who surrenders to Him, looks out for each other and goes out into the world.
We got up around 5:35 a.m., the sun had already been up for about twenty minutes. We got dressed and ready to go and out the door. We were at Mesa Donuts by a little after six because, if I am going to get my girls out of bed this early there should probably be a treat, and got to Usery Mountain Regional Park, outside Mesa, AZ, by about 6:25. The temperature when we got there was about 78 degrees. It felt pretty good. We got out of the car and started heading up the Wind Cave trail. It was three miles, one and a half there and one and a half back. The sun was on the other side of the mountain, so when we started the hike, we were in the shadow of the mountain. In fact, our whole hike up we stayed in the shadow of the mountain. Now, I didn’t find the desert particularly picturesque, at least not compared to some of the other places we have seen, but it was beautiful in its own way.
I will say that I was a little disappointed when we got to the top and the “cave” was more of an indent in the rock face. The view of the valley was nice and there was a good sense of accomplishment.
I kept looking back on our hike up the mountain, to see how much of the hike back would be in the sun. With each step we took, it kept creeping up the mountain. The good news was we started down and it was still creeping up. We met the sun on the last half mile or so of the trek back to the van, and it was still early, so the heat wasn’t too bad. When we got back to the van it was just before 8 a.m. and the temperature was at 89 degrees - this is why you get out early. I’m writing this at 9:30 and it is 98 degrees outside. Early is definitely better for hiking. On the hike back down the hill, I started thinking about the scripture from Genesis 3:8, after Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit, it says: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” It was the part about the cool of the day that got me thinking. Do I walk with God in the cool of the day?
We find Jesus up early meeting with the Father early in the morning, in the cool of the day. And that was after Jesus had been up late. Mark 1:32-35 says: “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” The people waited till the sun went down and the sabbath ended and then flocked to Jesus to be healed. So, Jesus probably didn’t get much sleep, but saw the need “in the cool of the day” to be with His Father. To be in prayer before the heat started, to be in the “cool of the day” before people showed up looking for him, which they are going to do in the next verse. “In the cool of the day” before His time was no longer His own. “In the cool of the day” before he was going to have to walk places, talk with people, teach people and whatever else the day was going to hold.
You see there is truth that Jesus knew and that we need to know. If we can’t quiet ourselves before the throne of God in the “cool of the day,” before the meetings have to be attended, before conversation have to happen, before interaction ensue, how do we expect to be with Him in those times? He is with us always, yes. He has to be, He is everywhere. But we want to be with Him. If it doesn’t happen in the “cool of the day,” do you really think it is going to happen later. If we don’t set our mind and our hearts on Him before we are pulled here and there, how are we going to do it when we are being torn. Paul say it this way in Colossians: 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Jesus would say it like this in Luke 12:29-31 “do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
So, in the cool of the day, set your hearts and minds to seek first the throne of God. Remember, we don’t go there because it is our right or because we are able to. It was God who came and walked among Adam and Eve. It was Christ who came and walked among us. And, it is the Spirit who has been sent to be with us. The only reason we can approach His throne is because we are invited. God has come. Meet with Him in the cool of the day and know that He will be with you always.
I wanted to write to you all and let you know how grateful I am for the opportunity that you, the district, and the conference have given me to take a renewal leave this June and July. I have wanted to take a renewal leave for a few years now and time wise it just didn’t seem like it was right. As I looked toward this year, I think I decided that there is never going to be a “right time” or at least a time that feels right. There will always be reasons not to go and things that lie ahead that are going to need attention, so I just decided this would be the year I apply.
As I look at where I am though, I see some interesting things. I don’t think before this time I really would have been ready for this time. There are some practical things. We now have a newer van that I trust to make the journey. Michelle has been working and we have some extra income to cover more of the costs. Those are really just practical, the truly interesting things are what has been happening in my Spirit and in my heart. I’m looking for something, longing for something that I’m not for sure I was ready to look for before this year. I am enjoying my time with my heavenly Father over the last few months in a way that I haven’t really done before. There is still a depth of love that I haven’t tasted, but I want to go deeper. There is truth that is life altering, spirit reviving, soul quenching that I know I will only find as I quiet myself in Him. I have eyes I need Him to open, a mind I need Him to renew, a tongue I need Him to clean and a heart of flesh I need Him to give me. Pray this for me and my family these next two months.
I don’t want to come back with a little more energy. This isn’t simply a longer vacation or a well-deserved break. These next two months are a season where my work is taking time to allow Him to transform me, break me, awaken me, wrap His arms around me and so much more. More energy isn’t want I want. What I want is a deeper understanding of His presence, a fuller joy in His strength, a greater hope and faith that leads to love and peace, boldness and surrender. Pray this for me and for my family these next two months.
Church, I want to come to a place where my heart breaks for you more and my life is poured out for you more fully. I want to hear and learn to be wise in shepherding and caring for the flock God has allowed me to be with. I want to be able to share the Fathers heart with you, speak His truth in love to you, call you into a place of death, knowing there we find life. Pray this for me and for my family these next two months. Know that we will be praying for you, that my spirit will be sitting before the Lord with you in my heart.
I don’t know if this is the right time, but it is a good time for this and I am so thankful for the opportunity that you all are giving me and my family. I know that it is a big ask. Pray that we don’t waste this opportunity, that it doesn’t simply become a break, but that I will understand that my work over these next two months is to allow Christ to work in my heart, my life, and my family.
Know how precious you are to me. Know how much joy you bring me. Know that I give thanks to God that He has allowed me the privilege of being in community with you, being His community with you. Pray for me and for my family.
With Much Love,
I was rearranging and cleaning my office the other week, by the layer of dust on some of the book shelves it had been a while since I last cleaned, I came across a connection card. You know the cards for visitors to fill out on Sunday mornings that are in the pews. Madison, my oldest daughter, had filled it out a few years ago. It, of course, has our names and address on it and when it asked how you heard about Park, she put “Lynn”. When she had the opportunity to check what she wanted more information about, she checked “Children’s Ministry.” She checked the age groups of our family – 0-11 for her and Kaitlyn and 25-35 for Michelle and myself (It made me smile that she thought that was the category we belonged in). It also made me smile that she checked the box, I would like to meet with the pastor (I wonder if I followed up on that one). The other part that made me laugh was on the back. It was for a Wednesday night series, you had the opportunity to say if you were coming to eat and what study you were thinking about joining us for. The line she checked was, “I may come for dinner and bring a few others. I’m estimating a headcount of __________.” In the blank she put 105. Yes, way to think positive Madison.
As I thought about Madison’s 105, I was reminded that it isn’t about the numbers. We may say that because the numbers are not what we want or because we truly believe it. We know that each number is a person and that is what truly maters. And although we may not want to get caught up in numbers, sometimes pastors can be bad at it. Pastors can be like fisherman, who exaggerate how big the fish was they caught, because a group of 70 can turn into close to a hundred petty quickly when they talk about how things are going.
What I do want to remind you of today though is a parable from Jesus. It is a unique parable. Jesus tells it as he is having dinner at a prominent Pharisee’s house (by the way I suspect Jesus ate at their houses just as much as they would have complained that he ate at the tax collector and sins houses). They talk about healing on the Sabbath, which of course Jesus has done. Jesus talked about not taking the place of honor when invited to a banquet. Then Jesus talks about who to invite when you give a lunch or dinner. The answer is those who can’t repay you. Jesus goes on to say “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13-14).
It is after this that someone around the table said “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (14:15). In response to this Jesus tells a parable. This is my paraphrase of it. A guy was giving a banquet and he sent out save the date cards so that people would know it was coming. When the time came, the guy sent out his banquet planner to tell everyone to come, but none of those who had been invited were able to come. They all thought that they had something better to do. When the host hears about this he gets really angry and tells his planner “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” The planner says, “yeah, I already did that and there is still room.” So the host tells his planner “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” (For the real parable, read Matthew 14:16-24)
Two things, one about God and the other about the servant, both are about the heart of God. One, God wants a full house. We aren’t talking about churches and worship services (although I am sure that pleases him as well), but about His kingdom. Remember when Jesus was talking with His disciples and said “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The father desires His house to be full and Jesus made it possible, prepared it for us. The father doesn’t need a full house because he wants to feel important, but because the father knows that in that place (don’t just think physical location) is where we find full life.
Two, the servant (banquet planner in my story), knew that the father wanted a full house and did what he could to make it full. Did you notice that the people Jesus told the crowd to invite to lunch or dinner when you throw a party was the same list the servant said he went out and got? (the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.) The servant knew the father’s heart (Master in the real parable). The servant knew it and did all he could to fulfill it. Do we do the things we do because they are the heart’s desire of the master?
The last thing I will tell you is that although the servant knew the masters heart and brought the people he knew that the master would have wanted invited, there was still more because there was still room. This is why the master sends the servant farther out of the way, farther out of town, because there was still room. Have you ever wondered how many rooms are in the father’s house? I will tell you the answer, at least one more. There is always room. So invite 105 people to a Wednesday night meal, or how about just one person to worship or to a study or even out to lunch or coffee. Let the heart of the Father be what leads your actions and determines how you see people. Go, there is still room.
Michelle, the girls and I were at my parent’s house the other Saturday having lunch. We had salad and potato soup, it was very good. Kaitlyn didn’t finish all her soup and said that she was full. My mom then brought out dessert. It was a pistachio salad. It was one that has a lot of whipped cream, those small marshmallows, bits of pineapple and bits of pistachio. It is really more of a dessert than a salad. This one was dyed green and tasted wonderful. Although Kaitlyn said she was full, we could tell she wanted some of the salad. Since we were at my mom and dad’s house we allowed her to have some of the “salad” (at our house, she probably wouldn’t have gotten any because if she were too full to finish her lunch, she would have been too full to have dessert). One of Kaitlyn’s reasons for why she should have some was because it was green, “and green things are good for you.” Michelle, who is so quick, looked at Kaitlyn and replied back to her “that is why I eat mint chocolate chip ice cream.”
Oh the way our minds reason things out. As I sit and think about Kaitlyn’s statement and Michelle’s follow up reply I was wondering about the different ways we can interpret good. We hear our doctor say that “it would be good for you to eat less saturated fat, but eat more vegetables. Then we say to ourselves, “Oh that mint chocolate chip ice cream is so good.” Well, which one is good? Both I guess, but in different ways. There is good as in beneficial, helpful, right and then there is good as in enjoyable, pleasurable, and gratifying. Let me take the conversation outside of food.
Peter, James and John are on a mountain with Jesus and “there he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:2-3). When Peter saw this, he spoke up and said to Jesus “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” In Mark we learn that he was so frightened, he didn’t know what to say. But think about Peter’s thinking with me. Good for Peter in that moment was something that they would enjoy, but it wasn’t the right thing or apparently the good thing to do. They were going to go back down the mountain and find the other disciples in a tough spot.
Good as in enjoyable for me, and good as in right, don’t always lead the same way. What we consider enjoyable, pleasurable, or gratifying when it is about us may not always be good in the other sense. I would really enjoy a nice new car but it may not be the good way for me to use what God has given me. There may be a way that He desires me to use what He has blessed me with that is good. Please don’t hear me say that enjoyable and right can’t go hand in hand. God has created the world to be enjoyed. He has blessed us not only so that we can survive, but live as well. The question is what “good” directs us? What Jesus found as “good” – right – was obedience to His Father. His Father’s will gave Him direction.
Where do we find our “good”? For me, the scriptures are at the heart of it because they share with us the heart of the Father, Christ and the Spirit. They give me a foundation to stand on and a direction to go. What defines your “good’ as in what is right? Have we confused the two goods? Is pleasure, enjoyment, gratification our foundation we stand on and our guide that directs us? Again, the two can walk hand and hand at times, but if we are going to follow one, which one is it? The cross is an obvious picture of this. I don’t think Jesus would have said that it is good, as in pleasurable or enjoyable. But, I do think He would say that it is good, as in right or beneficial. He knew that it was the Father’s will. He knew that is was good, but also that it was not going to be “good” for him in the moment.
I will remind you that where God the Father and Christ the Good Shepherd lead us, is to a good place. On the journey, we may find ourselves walking through the shadow of death, to places that may not gratify our physical pleasures and sometimes cause us to be in a hard spot. But where we end is good. I know pistachio salad is good and not good at the same time. Are there places in my life where I live with the same tension? What good do I let lead me?
The girls and I were in the kitchen one morning, getting breakfast and packing up school lunches, when we hear Michelle tell us to “look out the window.” I look out the window and scanned the ground, thinking there is a creature in the back yard, but I don’t see anything. Then I look up and got to enjoy a gorgeous sunrise. I called out to Michelle saying that it was a beautiful sunrise to which Kaitlyn, who was standing beside me says “It happens every morning.” I just laughed and shook my head.
So, Kaitlyn is right. It does happen every morning and it got me thinking about all the incredible things that happen and how often I miss them. I forget to see them because I am distracted by other things or my eyes aren’t paying attention.
There is a passage of scripture in Lamentations 3, that some of you will know. It is the one that implies that God’s mercies or compassions are new every morning (Lam 3:23). New every morning, just like the sunrise. It is true and something for us to be thankful for, but the verses before 23 are important for us to hear today.
The section from Lamentations 3:19-23 goes like this: “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
I think it is important to hear the verses before 23 because I know, at times, I never make it to 23. I get stuck in 19 and 20. I remember my affliction, my wandering, my bitterness and my gall. I remember all these things and my soul is downcast. Maybe my day is going lousy, my week has not been great, my month has been tiring, and my year has worn me out. My soul is downcast, or to say it another way, I’m just down and if not in, close to the dumps. When you are there, it is easy to stay there. It is easy to just look at what is going wrong, to look at what has gotten you into your funk, to play over and over again what has made your soul downcast. All we remember is the bad, the trouble, the pain, and the weariness. But there is a yet.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s compassions (sometimes translated mercies) never fail, they are new every morning and our God is faithful. Do we forget the yet? Do we get so consumed with our eyes on our own problems and situation that we don’t see the sunrise, hear the birds chirping, or enjoy the smile of a friend? Do we miss what God is doing in someone’s life around us that should remind us that God is still at work? Do we forget that there is a yet? Trouble will come. Heartbreak will happen. Affliction will find its way into our lives. YET. Don’t forget the Yet.
I know that there are days that I will enjoy a sunrise, but it is not every morning. Sometimes it takes someone reminding you to look out the window, reminding you that God is doing something wonderful and beautiful and life changing. To be reminded, with Him is great love and His mercy is new every morning, that He is always faithful. May your eyes be open to all that God is doing, yet. May your heart be awoken again by all that our Lord is yet to do but will because He is always faithful.
Because of Him,
Michelle, Kaitlyn and I went to the furniture store the other day. We normally don’t just visit furniture stores, but we had some time to waste before we picked up Madison from an event and we were close by, so we went. Kaitlyn was so excited to go in, when we told her where we were going she said, with a smile, “I love furniture stores.” Of course we know why she loves them. She gets to try out different chairs and sofas, lay on different beds, and it is a lot of fun. Kaitlyn likes to do more than the normal person though. She saw a blue fuzzy carpet and went over and felt it. Then she ran back a little way, got a running start, and just slid, head first, onto the carpet – kind of like a baseball player sliding into second base. She looked up at Michelle and I and said, you have to feel this. It is so soft. Michelle and I just laughed. I did bend down and feel the carpet and it was soft. I didn’t go for the slide though.
As I thought about our trip to the furniture store, Kaitlyn’s slide onto the fuzzy blue carpet, and how much it made me smile, I started to wonder if I need to slide more in my life. Really, everybody sits on the couches, tries out the chairs, lays on the mattresses, but how many people slide head first onto the carpet. I’m not even for sure that the carpet is for sale. People don’t seem to be there to shop for that. I have started to wonder if I should start doing the unexpected, the thing that is out of the ordinary, those things that most people aren’t going to do, as a follower of Christ.
We see this in the life of Jesus, don’t we? He stops a funeral procession because He touches the coffin (Luke 7:14), He reaches out and touches the leper (Matt 8:3), He ate with sinners (Matt 9:10), He remained quiet when accusations were flying (Matt 26:63), He slept while storms where raging (Luke 8:23), He didn’t fret when food was short (Matt 14:15-16), and He didn’t run when the enemy came for Him (John 18:4). That is how we find Christ acting. How do we act? Do we act as expected? Do we talk like people think we should? Do we limit our sharing, protect our pride, defend our honor, try to be seen in the right way, or be on the right side?
The cross is called foolishness (1 Cor 1:18) and if it is our hope, we are called to be fools (1 Cor 3:18). We are called to surprise the world with an attitude that is unexpected. To make them wonder with our gestures and acts that are unanticipated. To bring something different to the table, a new song to the dance, light into the darkness.
Most people visit furniture stores and test out the furniture, but maybe we, as Christians, are call to dive on rugs. Go through the power and call of the Holy Spirit and look like a fool, a fool that hangs every hope on the cross.
Because of Him,
About five years ago on a Saturday night my family had just finished eating dinner (the girls helped me make some baked cheese raviolis, I fixed a nice salad and Michelle made a wonderful brown butter sauce with sage – it was very good) and Kaitlyn asked Michelle “mommy can we have a little dessert?” We actually didn’t have anything for dessert, at least not enough for everyone to have some, and so Michelle said “We don’t have a little dessert.” Kaitlyn wasn’t deterred by this answer and so she asked, “Well, how about a big dessert.” (That’s a great reply isn’t it.)
There is a parable that Jesus tells in Luke 11. In Luke, Jesus tells it right after He answers the disciples request to teach them to pray, just like John taught his disciples. Of course in answer to that request, Jesus teaches them what we call The Lord’s Prayer and then directly after that goes into this parable. (See Luke 11:1-8)
Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' "Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.
Isn’t that a wonderful parable? Let’s think about it for a bit. There is a lot about how we live that makes it hard to get the fullness of this parable. Maybe the first has to do with how available things were. There were no 24 hour convenient stores. So when someone comes knocking and you don’t have something, running down to the corner isn’t an option. Maybe we need to remember that the majority of these people weren’t living in a house were each kid had their own bedroom, not only did they not have their own bed room, they didn’t even share a bedroom with just their siblings, as you can pick up from the scripture, everyone was just in on big room. It was a family slumber party every night.
There are two other things that are at the heart of this parable that we need to understand. The first is an understanding of hospitality in that day. I’m sure many of you can think about stories from the Old Testament where we see just how important hospitality was. So when a traveling friend comes knocking at your door, who you didn’t even know was coming, you don’t turn them away. In fact, even the stranger who is in need would hopefully find a place to rest in some kind persons’ house. The writer of Hebrews tells us, “do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (12:2) The other thing at the heart of this parable is boldness, the boldness of someone to knock on your door even though he knows you are asleep, even though he knows it will be a disturbance, but because there is a real need, he knocks.
Now, you and I realize that after Jesus teaches on The Lord’s Prayer and goes directly into a parable it probably means it is connected to prayer in some way. This is true here. It is about boldness and how God is not afraid of our boldness. Remember we are called to “approach the throne of grace with confidence.” (Heb. 4:16) I think sometimes we “don’t know the power of God” (Matt 22:29) and therefore we don’t pray with boldness. Now, that boldness has to be through faith and, if I can take the parable a little farther (maybe farther than Jesus intended) the pray of boldness isn’t just for us. The bread was for the neighbor, but ultimately for the visitor.
So the question becomes, why would I ask for a little dessert instead of a big dessert? In all truth, I don’t deserve dessert, but praise God our Lord is a God of mercy and grace.
Because of Him,
We had gathered together for thanksgiving with my family and a few family friends. There were 26 of us all together. After we had eaten our fill, some of them played a game of Telestrations. This game is like a mix between Pictionary and the telephone game. Like the telephone game, a word or phrase gets passed along, but instead of saying it, you draw it (so, like Pictionary). Kaitlyn was playing and her word was candy cane. This is a pretty easy one. Most people can draw a candy cane and most people can recognize a candy cane. After the end of each round each player shows the progression of their word. This is where the game gets really funny. Kaitlyn is showing everyone the progression of her word and it was going like you would think, people where drawing candy canes and people where guessing candy cane – right up till the last guess. Sitting next to Kaitlyn was one of my nephew’s friends who didn’t grow up in the United States. When Kaitlyn flipped over the last page to show this guy’s guess, she read “Christmas stick.” “Christmas stick!” We laughed hardily at this!
As I think about “Christmas sticks,” it makes me realize how hard it can be for some people to understand what faith in Christ looks like or is about. People that have not grown up around a church or with the scripture being read to them are going to find understanding some of our language unknown and concepts unfamiliar. Even as we go toward Christmas, what you and I think about when we think of Christmas is not even close to what some may think. For some, Christ is just in the name of Christmas, it isn’t the title of a person.
So my word of encouragement for us is to be ready to share in a way that can make sense. Be willing to ask someone if they understand. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If there is a time for you to live like you have hope, to share your hope, it is Christmas. I know the thought of sharing Christ’s story and the story of Christ in your life can be scary. I know that there are many times where we don’t think we know enough or have enough answers. We are fearful because we worry someone will ask us something we don’t know, and they may.
I do want to remind you what Christ told his disciples about being able to answer people when they were arrested. “Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11). I know we aren’t talking about you being arrested, but the truth still stands that the Holy Spirit will help you know what to say. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared.
Can you verbalize why you follow Christ? Can you share about what Christ has done in your life? Can we be like Philip, who explained to the Ethiopian eunuch about the scripture passage he was reading when Philip came up beside him? Or explain to others the joy we have, the peace we have, and the grace that we have received? When there is such confusion about what the meaning of some things are, you have a wonderful opportunity to share the truth.
You would think everyone knows what a candy cane is, but they don’t. And if some people don’t know that, I’m sure there are some who don’t know Christ. What a wonderful opportunity our Lord is putting in front of us. Keep your eyes open.
My family had gathered at my mom and dad’s house to celebrate my niece’s birthday. Not only was my family there, but my parents and my niece’s parents and siblings were there as well. After the party was over, my family and my sisters’ family all left about the same time. For the first part of the journey we even went in the same direction. Their car passed our car and Kaitlyn saw them pass us and she yelled “catch up, catch up.” To which Michelle said “mustard, pickles.” I said “mayonnaise.” At which point Kaitlyn asked “why are you all just saying random words?” Michelle and I thought it was funny.
Sometime we just don’t understand things do we? Our mind is in one place, but someone else’s is in another. We hear someone say “ketchup, but what they really wanted was for us to catch up.” We aren’t in the same mindset, we aren’t thinking about the same thing, we aren’t seeing things in the same way. But there is a place in 1 Corinthians where Paul talks about having the “mind of Christ” (2:16). How do we do that? How do we come to the place where the way I see things, the way I understand things, the way I think about things are in line with my Lords?
At the beginning of Romans 12 Paul writes: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- His good, pleasing and perfect will.” There are a few things in here that might help us have minds more in line with Christ. We are told to do a few things: to offer ourselves, to not conform, and to have our minds renewed by being transformed. Transformation and renewing is God’s work, ours is offering ourselves and to continue to look away from the thinking, acting, and working of the world and look to our Lord (the one we are offering ourselves to). We do this trusting that God will do something. The more I look toward Him and think on Him, the more I start to look like Him and think like Him.
The other part in the Romans 12 passage is the idea of testing. Testing what we believe God is thinking about things, wanting to see done about things, desiring for us and all of His creation. So, how do we test? First, we look at scripture. We come at not looking for an answer we are wanting, but looking for it to reveal God’s heart to us. We seek out council. The wisdom of Godly men and women. Not as Paul would tell Timothy, people who will tell us what our itching ears want to hear, but people who will speak God’s word to you. And I also think we test it by, well, testing it. If I think God is desiring me to go somewhere or do something, then go and do. Ask God to bring peace and make it fruitful for His kingdom, if it is what He desires. And to make it obvious if that is not the spot you are supposed to be at.
I want all of us to have the mind of Christ, to be able to look at things with His eyes and understand with His thoughts. There are times it is so obvious, but at other times so complicated. I want to be able to run ahead when I hear my Lord say catch up and not stop and decide what other condiments I want on the sandwich my Lord is going to give me.
Because of Him,
Rev. Lynn Beach is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two adorable daughters. He has been at Park Church since July 2013.