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,
A while back, a new store opened up where Morrison’s bookstore used to be on E. High St. called the “Prissy Peach.” Now I haven’t been in it, but it looks to be a ladies clothing store. Not long after it opened, we were driving by on our way to Park and Madison said, “look, the pricey peach.” We corrected her gently. But I totally understand how she got to pricey peach. They have been around me plenty of times where I have called things too pricey or expensive. I like to think I’m frugal, but I’m probably just cheap. And so Madison just saw what she knew I would call it. That’s my girl.
It probably isn’t fair of me or Madison to label a store before we actually go in and see it, but we all do it at times. Maybe it isn’t with a store, but sometimes it is with people, or sometimes with apartment buildings, or sometimes with group gatherings, or so many other places. Maybe it is individuals we see on the street, see in our office, see at the store, see in line to go somewhere or do something. The truth is we don’t really know much about them and we surely don’t know their whole story.
There are different scriptures that we could point to that tell us this. The easy one would be the story of Samuel anointing David King. Remember God’s words to Samuel, “man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) We could think about Jesus’ response when He saw the crowd coming after Him. In Mark, it is before He feeds the 5,000. It says “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mark 6:34) But one of my favorites would be when Jesus tells a woman “don’t cry” and then reaches out and touches the casket with her dead son (only son) in it and tells him to get up. And he does. (Luke 7:11-15) Think of all that Jesus must have known about the Mother. By the way, did I mention she was a widow? At this point, her life was going to be hard. She had no husband and now, no son. Life just got difficult if it wasn’t already. Doable, but difficult. And so Jesus, seeing more than just a funeral march, saw a grieving widow and mother, and He did what Jesus does.
So next time you go by a person, a place or a group, let’s not presume to know the story. One moment in time doesn’t tell a story. It just shows a glimpse. Let us have eyes of compassion and ears to hear. All people are image bearers of God and His heart hurts for us all and He desires life for us all. So let me remind us of the lesson from James, because it could be useful here. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)
Who knows maybe it is a pricey peach, but I really should go and check it out before I make that call. And maybe I should be asking about someone’s story instead of just making one up in my mind to fit the moment in time I see.
Because of Him,
Michelle was getting mashed potatoes ready for the potluck last week we had after worship. (By the way, our next ones are on the 9th and then the 23rd, come and join us. It is good to break bread together) Kaitlyn was watching her and Michelle told her that if she wanted some that she should get in line pretty early because they will probably go quickly. Michelle also told Kaitlyn that she probably wouldn’t get any because she would wait until everyone else went through to eat. So Kaitlyn, without missing a beat said to Michelle, “well then you better taste their glory now.” My girls do love mashed potatoes.
As I have had a chance to laugh at and think about what Kaitlyn said to Michelle, I have been thinking about the wonderful words from the hymn “Blessed Assurance” - “O what a foretaste of glory divine.” Have we ever had a taste of the glory? Gotten a glimpse of the glory of God? At a lot of our district and conference meetings, we will talk about glory sightings, those places where we have seen God at work.
In Psalm 97:6 the psalmist declares that “The heavens proclaim his (the Lord’s) righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory.” It is there, but do we know what it is. Sometimes it is easy to see, the work of God, God revealing himself. Isaiah says that “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.” (Isaiah 35:1-2) Sometimes for those who have eyes to see, it is so obvious.
Scripture also reveals to us that there are probably a few things we need to have in order to recognize and see more and more of this glory that God is revealing. Remember when Jesus was at the tomb about to raise Lazarus? "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:39-40) Do we believe we will see it? Do we believe that our God is still at work in our lives, this world and all of His creation? When we wake up in the morning, is it with the thought of I get to see God reveal His glory today? Do we really believe that those places that are dead, those bodies that are worn out, those spirits that are broken can be brought back, revived, healed? Do we truly believe?
We also find a hint in David’s 63rd Psalm. It says “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.” (Psalm 63:1-2) Are we seeking? Really seeking? As one who is in need of water searches for water? Or are we more like the one who is hungry for a good burger, but I know if I can’t find a good burger place, I have plenty of other options?
I will end by reminding you of what David wrote in Psalm 34:1-8 “I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Taste and see that the LORD is good.” He is good and His glory is so much better than that of mashed potatoes.
Because of Him,
Normally, I like to start my little articles with a story of something fun, funny or silly that the girls did and think about it in terms of what we can learn from where those lead. There are always stories I can use from our families lives, but today I want to tell on myself. As I got ready for Easter and the series to go along with Easter and as we started to talk about summer and what worship was going to look like in the summer, I listed out all the dates, slotted in the sermons, when Easter was, when we were starting the summer schedule (this week by the way), and Pentecost. But apparently in the shuffle, I was off a week. In my head, Pentecost was last week, but on the calendar, it is this week coming up. If you were thinking there was something off about your pastor, you were right (really there is more than one thing off).
But I was so excited to get to Pentecost. I was so excited to share the truth that God provided something even after the cross, even after the empty tomb, even after Christ was seated beside the Father, another helper. Maybe it is because I know that I am in such need. Maybe it is because I find myself depending. Maybe it is because I truly believe that, like Good Friday and Easter, Pentecost is a game changer. But as I think about what I did, I think I can learn something from it. Don’t get ahead. We are going to talk about how Moses did just that in this next sermon series. We see King Saul doing it when he is supposed to wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice in 1 Samuel 13. Saul waits the 7 days he was supposed to, but Samuel hasn’t shown up and his men are starting to scatter. Saul sacrifices the offering himself and as soon as he is done, Samuel shows up. We see it with Peter trying to get Jesus out of the garden by fighting with his sword. We see it in ourselves, as well, I am sure.
Aren’t there times that we think we know what to do, or we think something is supposed to happen? But, the truth is, all we have done is used our wisdom and not listened to our Lord, to the Spirit. Aren’t there times when we think we need to say a word, because we think it will change something, but it isn’t the right time and looking back we can see we should have been a little slower to speak. It isn’t even a question of simply wanting to say or do the right thing, but also doing it in God’s time and way.
The Israelites heard the report from the spies that went to check out the promised land. After hearing the report, they decide not to go. So God declares they will not enter, but wander for forty years. The people then decide that they should go, and they try, but fail. God’s desire was to bring Israel into the land He has promised, but the people had the wrong time.
There are lots of scripture that remind us to wait and sometimes it is easy because we aren’t sure what to do anyway. But sometimes we just get ahead of God. We think, surely this is what He would want me to do. This is another reason why Pentecost is so important, because the Spirit will guide us. Before we go forward with what we think is right, we should go to the Lord to seek His counsel. When God says go, we go. If God says stay, we stay. If God say no, then no.
So be assured, Pentecost is coming. I was just a little early. Be assured that the Lord is working and has a plan. Don’t get ahead. I’ll leave you with two of my favorite verses about waiting. Psalm 27:13-14 “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
Because of Him,
One of the things that I know Michelle and I have to look forward to are our two girls spending time on cell phones (not making calls with them, really, who does that any more -insert sarcastic emoji here. I do of course because it’s a phone and isn’t that what you are supposed to do with a phone.) Neither of them have a cell phone yet, they have tablets and they spend plenty of time on them. But Madison has a group of friends that text each other and so she uses Michelle’s cell number for the group text. It is not a great situation for Michelle, but there is an advantage. We can see everything that is being texted. Right now there is nothing inappropriate that is being said in the texts, but give it time and I’m sure it will happen. But it is good for Madison to understand that we can read them all.
This has made me think about what Jesus said to Nicodemus, after the John 3:16 part. Jesus says: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21). Darkness, hiddenness, and secrets are all places where we can allow the worst of ourselves to thrive.
We keep resentment tucked away until we think we are safe to let it out. We hold lust back until we are alone. We talk behind backs, in secluded corners, and away from others ears because we don’t want people to know what we are really thinking. We keep up a mask hoping no one sees through it or looks behind it. But one day we need to know that it will all be exposed. 1 Corinthians 4:5 tell us to “judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
This is why we are encouraged to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, because it is in confession that we are brought into the light and the light is life. Confession is scary. Being honest with ourselves is hard enough, but being honest and open with someone else can be downright frightening, but it is there that we find freedom, it is there that resurrection and new life is found. This is why Paul when he is writing to the Ephesians says: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” (Ephesians 5:11-14)
So no one is probably reading your text messages to see what you are saying and no one knows what you are thinking in your heart or what you do when you are alone, but I want to encourage you to find someone you trust, who you know loves you and desires the best for you, and spend some time together sharing. Do it on a regular basis. I have questions for our transformation groups that can help shed some light if we will be honest. Life is found in the light, so let’s walk in the light.
Because of Him,
We were on our way to New York for spring break. On the way, we were listening to a book on cd called “Ribsy” by Beverly Cleary. Ribsy is a dog and the story is about his adventure of getting separated from his family and being found by his family. The third disc had just ended. In the story, Ribsy was still separated from his family. As Michelle takes out the third disc and puts in the fourth and final disc, she says “last one.” To which Kaitlyn replies without missing a beat, “they better find Ribsy.” Michelle and I just laughed, she is so quick.
As I have had a chance to think about it. I wonder if we ever get anxious, ever get worried (not that I think Kaitlyn was anxious or worried they wouldn’t find the dog, she was just being funny). I wonder if we ever think “it better happen quick,” “something better happen soon,” or similar thoughts?
I wonder what the Israelites were thinking as Pharaoh’s army was coming upon them with their backs against the Red Sea? “Something better happen soon!” I wonder if these were some of the thoughts that Elijah was having as he was running away from Jezebel? “God, you are going to have to do something. I’m all that is left!” But God was already doing something, even if Elijah couldn’t see it.
I wonder if Peter was thinking some of the same thoughts when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden. “God, this isn’t right, we have to do something.” Maybe this is why Peter draws the sword. He thought something had to be done and he was going to do all he could to do it. The problem was, God was already doing it and it was different than Peter thought.
Do we ever find ourselves in those spots? We feel anxiousness, we experience worry, fear wells up within in us and our thoughts turn into prayers of “how, when, and please.” I think prayer is absolutely the right place to turn, because it is us turning to God, but maybe the prayer shouldn’t be for answers to relieve our questions. Maybe it shouldn’t only be a pleading for His help (although we find it in the psalms, “be pleased O God to deliver me, O lord make haste to help me” Psalm 40:13, 70:1). Maybe part of our prayer should be out of the confidence that God is at work. Maybe part of our prayer should be simple, asking for the eyes to see what He is doing. And maybe part of it is to ask for peace and courage to stand even in those times we can’t see it.
As I thought about examples of people who might be looking for God to act quickly, I also thought about people who didn’t seem anxious in situations that I certainly would have been anxious in. Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac (which of course God doesn’t let him). I thought about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. Even Christ and the cross. We know that for Christ, and I would assume the others, there was the thought of “God if there is another way, but whatever you need to do so that your work is done.” That is the place I want to be. The place of knowing God is at work, the faith to stand even when I can’t see it and the faith to go and do even when I may not know how.
There is a way God desires us to live and we can see it even in how He talks to the Israelites about the promised land. Deuteronomy 1:21 says “See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD, the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." Do you hear it. God has already given it to you; go get it; don’t be afraid; don’t be discouraged.
So hear that today. The promises of God are already a given, let us live like it. Don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged. I don’t know how many more chapters my life might have, but what I do know is that my God has a wonderful ending written, even if I can’t see how all the twists and turns will work out.
Because of Him,
March 1st starts the Lenten season. If you are wondering what lent is, let me share with you a section from the United Methodist Church’s web site.
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.
Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.
Good Friday and Easter are just around the corner. Sometimes they sneak up on us so quickly that we don’t have time to truly live in these moments too deeply. I think this is where Lent is helpful. Lent gives us time to prepare, reflect, and repent. It gives us the opportunity to take a longer and deeper look at the cross and the resurrection.
So I want to encourage us all to use this season. A lot of times people will give something up for lent. Giving something up gives us a continual reminder what we are heading toward, the cross and an empty tomb. Sometime people take on something; this can have the same effect. The real question is what is going to help you to slow down and remember that you are on a journey to the cross of Christ and a tomb that lies empty? We need to be drawn back, because life can just speed away from us and before we know it the Easter ham will be in the oven and family will be gathering and we will sing and worship, but there is an opportunity for us to journey toward it and not just suddenly be upon it.
So use this season to journey. Use this season to keep your focus on what is coming and be drawn even deeper into what that means. Give something up, start something new, prepare, reflect and repent. Good Friday and Easter will be here before you know it, don’t let it sneak up on you, journey to it and let it be something more.
Because of Him,
The forecast said there was a chance of snow. The possibilities for a snow day were there. When morning came, snow was on the ground, but it was only an hour delay. I saw Madison in the kitchen that morning and I think her and Kaitlyn were glad for an hour delay, but I’m sure they were wanting more. In fact, I know they were wanting more. Madison’s words to me were “I turned my socks inside out, they say that is supposed to help. They say to turn everything inside out, but I only did my socks.” In my head I was thinking, “and that is why there is only a one-hour delay,” but I didn’t want to encourage the thinking. I applaud the attempt though.
As I thought about what Madison said and did (turning her socks inside out), I started to think about the things that Christ said and how it sort of turns our view of life inside out. Think about it with me. If you want to be first, you need to be last. If you want to be the greatest, you need to be the least. If you want to have life, you need to lose it. Wouldn’t you say that is a little inside out?
Most of the time our world is pretty self-focused. We like winning, we like having, we like achieving, and those aren’t necessarily bad. I think what we learn from scripture is that it depends on where our heart is. If I have to win, if I have to have, if I have to achieve, that is where I start going off. When it has to be about me, then we need to start thinking about seeing things inside out. Paul encourages us in Philippians 2:3-4 to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” Does it sound inside out to you?
What I want to make sure we don’t do, is think that our view has to be just for others. I don’t think it is either thinking about me or thinking about someone else, but thinking about the King and thinking about the King's kingdom. I am a child of God, a child of the King, and I am also a servant of God, a servant of the King. So it is helpful for me to remember that I am a steward of all my heavenly father, the King, has given me. So how do I use it, not for me or even for others, but for the Kings good and glory. I think that may be inside out as well.
Because of Him,
This article is a repost from December 2013 – The Beach’s first year at Park Church
My daughter Madison was watching television a few weeks ago and saw a commercial for a Hallmark ornament called the Santa signal. It was the one that is supposed to let Santa know where you are. When Madison saw the commercial she was very excited about it and thought that we should get it. I think she was worried that since this will be the first year in this parsonage, Santa may not know where we are. She doesn’t have much faith in Santa’s underground network. And really if the oriental trading magazine can find us and send us another magazine in just a few weeks (really how do they do that so fast), surely Santa can do it in six months.
As I thought about Madison’s desire for the ornament and the reasoning behind it, I get happy because my Lord always knows where I am. (He really does see me when I am sleeping and knows when I am awake). I may feel lost, but He always knows where I am. I may feel alone, but He is always with me. I may try to hide, but I can’t get away. David reminds us in Psalm 139 about how God is everywhere.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
Although the truth that God is always where I am is a great truth to remember, an even deeper truth is that He wants to be with you and me. Not only is He where I am but He wants to be with me, or maybe more correctly said, He wants me to be with Him. We find the fulfillment of this truth in one of those names of Jesus. In Isaiah we read: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) We learn in Matthew that Immanuel means, God with us. How crazy is that. David reminds us that we can’t get away from His Spirit, but Jesus reminds us that He wants to be with us.
This season as you see Christmas trees decorated with ornaments, and you might see one that has the Santa Signal ornament on it, remember that not only does God know exactly where you are, what you are going through and how to be your Lord in every situation, but also He desires to be with you. He was, He is Immanuel – God with us.
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.