The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Plumb Lines -- Living on the Street

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY HAS ITS SHARE of those who live on the streets. Some do so by choice, others by choices that have been made for them.  Most of us though would rather live within the walls of a comfortable home.  A place that is warm in the winter, cool in the summer, with windows that let fresh air in and a roof that keeps the rain out. Walls, roofs, floors and doors make for places of comfort and safety, they provide us with a place to call home.
     We also desire that our church be a place to call home.  A place of comfort and safety where family can gather to enjoy the blessings of being family.  This is all well and good, but while God desires that the church be a place of comfort and safety for all who enter in, the Lord also does not want us to lock ourselves within the walls of the buildings we refer to as church. Jesus’ command to His followers was not to come and stay, but to gather, pray, wait and then go. Consider His words, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-5,8) And, at another time He commanded, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
It is because of these commands of our Lord that one of our Plumb Lines states that we believe the Body of Christ is to live outside the walls and the church.  We are each called to minister in our neighborhoods, schools and places of employment for the glory of God through the building of His Kingdom. Yes, we are called to live on the street.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Plumb Lines -- Real Worship

I MAY NOT KNOW ART, but I know what I like.”  It often seems that this quote is applied to that thing that we call “worship.” In one way or another I have heard people say, “I may not know worship, but I know what I like.” The problem stems from the past fifty-some years where we have taken worship out of the realm of “spirit and truth” (John 4:21-24) and placed it in the realm of platform and pulpit.
     For many people, worship is what we do once a week as we gather with other like-minded believers. The effectiveness of that worship experience is based on whether or not they sang the songs I like and whether or not the pastor preached a simple, short, and personally applicable sermon. In general worship rises or falls based upon what had taken place on the platform or from behind the pulpit (or music stand, depending upon your church’s liturgy.)
     The truth is that worship is so much more than what we do when we gather together to sing, pray, and hear the Word of God proclaimed.  Yes, those aspects of our corporate worship are important, even vital to our lives as the family of God, but true worship is vastly more. That is why one of our plumb lines states that we believe and seek to practice a worship that is 24/7/365.  It is a life of worship to which we are called. Worship is what we do not only inside the walls of our church, but more importantly what we do outside as we live our lives for the Lord. It is to this definition of worship that the Word of God speaks, when the Apostle 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.” (Romans 12:1-3)
     This is true worship.  This is worship that is Holy Spirit-led, and Holy Spirit-empowered and truly God-glorifying. This is the worship we seek to live!
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Plumb Lines -- Family

The Adventures of Ozzie and HarrietImage via Wikipedia
WHAT IS A FAMILY? That question used to be pretty easy to answer; all you had to do was have someone watch the “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” television show, or if you wanted a more “real” family you could tune to “Leave it to Beaver.” It used to be that a family was pretty much a well-employed father, a stay-at-home mother and a couple of kids; my how things have changed!
      Trying to define what a family is in our present culture is not an easy task.  I suppose the simplest answer, to a very difficult question, would be: a family is anything you want it to be. Even terms like “traditional” and “non-traditional” seem to change on a regular basis. So, when we here at Felton Bible Church state that one of our “Plumb Lines” is that we are a “Family of Families,” it is not surprising that a few people will ask, “What does that mean?”
     For us this phrase “Family of Families” means that we seek to live as the family of God, knowing that God’s family is made up of all types of “families.”  We understand that God’s family is made up of people from various stations in life: Young and old, Married and single, Rich and poor, Families with kids and those without, Widows and widowers. We believe that we are all part of God’s family, and thus, an important part of this local expression of His family called Felton Bible Church.
     I firmly believe one of the greatest blessings that God has granted us is found in the wonderful sisters and brothers that make up the family of God here at FBC.  From our oldest to our youngest, we have been blessed and we seek to live together within that blessing. Therefore, one of our leading desires is to create a place that people from all stations in life can call home; A home that is a place of safety, growth, acceptance, service, love, and yes, even fun.
     Come. Join the family.
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Monday, February 07, 2011

Plumb Lines: Seen, Heard and Listened To

CHILDREN ARE TO BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD, so the old adage goes. Well, that’s not quite the way we see it here at Felton Bible Church. Over the past few weeks, and for a few more I suspect, I have been sharing about our “Plumb Lines,” those measuring sticks we use to ensure that we are doing what we believe God has called us to do as a local expression of the Body of Christ.
     One of the key plumb lines for us here is that we treat kids as part of the kingdom. That means we see them as important, vital members of the Body of Christ. They are to be seen, heard, and yes, even listened to.  This is not to say that they don’t need to hear and respond to the Gospel, but it is really about understanding that children are important to God (“Let the little children come..” Mark 10:14) and can have an active part in the building of the Kingdom of God. (“…unless you change and become like little children…” Matthew 18:3-4)
     This plumb line is what drives us to prayerfully produce the best Vacation Bible School in Santa Cruz County (No brag, just fact! J)  It is what empowers us to continue to provide our weekly AWANA Club where kids can encounter the love of Christ and His Word. This belief is why we purposefully encourage our children to remain in the worship service and to have their own special time through “What’s in the Box?” and at the proper time the teaching of God’s Word at their level of understanding through our Children’s Church and Sunday school classes.
     We believe that children can and do help us to see God with fresh eyes.  Their statements are honest and their prayers sincere.  Truly, the little ones can lead us. To welcome the children is to welcome Jesus. For Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37)
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Plumb Lines -- It's All about God

ANOTHER ICON OF MY LIFE IS GONE. This past week, at the age of 96, Jack LaLanne passed away from respiratory failure.  This almost superhuman man at the age of 60 swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco, shackled and towing a 1000 pound boat!
    I remember as a young kid watching this man on television telling us to get up and start taking care of ourselves. We were told to eat right, and do his exercises.  He never seemed to quit never let down and seemed that he would go on forever.  But he didn’t.
    He used to tell people that the most important person in the world was himself.  He had to take care of himself, and he challenged us to do the same.  He would often declare such proverbial thoughts like, “Your waistline is your lifeline!” He would say, “Work at living and you don’t have to die tomorrow.”  But the truth of the matter is, we all do die.  If not tomorrow, then someday, and if all we have to worry about through the course of our life is taking care of ourselves, then there will be a rude awaking for us at the end of it all.
     At Felton Bible Church we also have had a few “proverbs” to share.  One of them being, “It’s not about you, it’s about God.”  That is not to say we should not seek to take care of the body that God has given to us, but it is a statement about the greater and more important reality, there is a God and you are not Him. When all is said and done in our life it will not matter two-hoots whether or not we could swim across the San Francisco     Bay, but whether or not we have submitted our lives to the One who is the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ.  In the end it’s not about how many push-ups you have done in life, but how often you have bowed head and heart before the King of kings and Lord of lords. As Jesus said, “Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)  Let’s pray that Mr. LaLanne knew that Truth as well.
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Language of Love

THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES, a book by Gary Chapman, helps us discover the ways we give and receive love. Chapman writes that we all express ourselves in one of these languages, which he describes as, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. He must have hit on something for his book, and the seminars, website, and other “tools” that have derived from it because it has ministered to thousands.
      In the month of February our thoughts often turn to the idea of love, thanks mostly to the Hallmark Cards and See’s Candy holiday we call Valentine’s Day.  The day many of us seek to make up for the other 364 days in which we seemingly fail to express our love. And so the theme of this “Pondering.”
     Now, love is a good thing and discovering our love language could be a helpful endeavor. (You can even take a quick online survey to discover yours.)  But, the real issue before us is not knowing what our love language is, or knowing what the love language is of someone we love; the real issue is whether we will actually actively love those around us.
Jesus told His followers that people would know whether or not we were His followers by the love we had for each other, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)  This love we are to have for one another is a love marked by more than just knowledge of another, but by sacrificial living.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
For more than a decade, the Mission Statement of our church family has been, “To Love God and to Make God’s Love Known.”  Our prayer is that this simple statement will be more than a set of words that graces our church letterhead and bulletin cover, but that it would be truly lived out on a daily basis within our homes, church, community and world. It must be a love that lays itself down first for God and then for those around us.  To love God is to obey His Word; that Word that is first and foremost found in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God. (John 1:1-2)  It also means we are to obey God’s written Word, the Holy Scriptures. (John 15:10; 1 John 5:3)
So, as we are given cause to stop and think about love during this Valentine time of year, may our hearts and lives consider deeply how we might express our love for God by loving those that God loves in the very ways that God loves them.  I suppose what we really need to discover is not our own “love language,” but God’s. To learn God’s love language simply begin by looking toward the cross of Christ, for it is there that the language of love was so powerfully declared to all. (John 3:16)
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