Sunday, May 31, 2009
Every Sunday morning, there is a moment of prayer in the church office. Our Associate Pastor and I come together with John, a layman from our congregation. This morning's time of prayer was like so many we have shared. When we pray, we always leave the office door open. We have never really talked about the door, but I have come to like having the door open to the church and the world outside when we pray. If we are interrupted, so be it. The interruption can become a time of inviting someone to join us. After all, we are praying, not hiding. But, something else happens as well. The choir is usually doing its final rehearsing in the Sanctuary as we are praying. Today is Pentecost and as we prayed I kept hearing the words of the anthem, "Come, Holy Spirit,...revive Your church today!" Another song they sang in preparation was, "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me." As I overheard the music, my spirit kept saying, "Yes. Yes."
I found myself praying at two different levels. There was the praying going in the room with the other two guys and there was praying going on with the choir in another space. The choir members never knew the impact their pre-sevice singing was having on my heart. Strange as it sounds, it was not confusing, but full of power. It certainly prepared me for worship on this Sunday when we read about the wind and fire of the Day of Pentecost. It prepared me, too, for preaching on this day. I love preaching on Pentecost. Along with Easter and Christmas, it offers such a great preaching moment!
"Come, Holy Spirit, Dark is the hour. We need Your filling, Your love and Your mighty power; Move now among us, Stir us we pray, Come, Holy Spirit, Revive the Church today. Revive the Church today." Yes, Yes, and Amen!
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The young boy had a dollar in his hand. He had found it somewhere in the church. His Grandfather, who was standing nearby, said, "Son, tell Rev. Bill what you are going to do with that dollar." Somehow I already knew. For a moment it was like seeing myself fifty years ago. I listened to him say, "I'm going to put it in the offering plate next Sunday." From me it prompted a story of a childhood memory.
It was not dollar bills that I found at church, but coins. At the time we attended the Hebardville Methodist Church on the edge of Waycross, Ga. It was a small church on a corner. The parking lot was the grassy area next to to the Sanctuary. One Sunday I found a quarter in the church parking lot as I was walking home. Grassy parking places are unlike their asphalt counterparts. On grassy parking places coins make soft silent landings, mostly unnoticed to the person who pulls a coin or two out of his pocket with the car keys. After finding the first quarter, I started looking for others. It was not always a fruitful search, but often enough to keep me looking. When my Mother found out about the coins I was finding on the church parking lot, she said, "Since you found them at church, they belong to God so put them in the offering next Sunday." So, I did and so I learned an important lesson about giving to God.
However, it was not my first such lesson. Already she had taught me about tithing or giving a tenth of what I earn to God. Mom always said a tithe, a tenth, belongs to God. To this day I practice that spiritual discipline. However, as an adult I have learned she was wrong. It is not just the tithe of my money which belongs to God, but all of it!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I finished up another Disciple Bible Study Group this past Sunday. I led my first one back in 1991 and with the exception of a couple of years, I have been involved with 10-15 people a year as we moved through the 34 week study of the Bible together. This year's group was an exceptional group. The 17 who started and finished made it the largest of any group, but it was also one of the most diverse in terms of age, background, and theological perspective. It is something which requires a lot of work for the participants and the one who does the leading. Even after all these years, it is still work, but it is work that always has the feel of being significant for the spiritual lives of those God brings to the group.
As I finish up one more, I find myself thinking back over the years of Disciple groups and the individuals who have been a part of them. One thing is sure: God has brought blessing to so many, not because of my leadership but because of the way His Spirit works in people's hearts as they take the Scripture seriously. I have always felt it was such a wonderful ministry tool and I have been grateful for the opportunity to be with folks who are listening to God.
Disciple is certainly about reading the Word of God. We often say it is not so much about information as it is inspiration. What I have discovered over the years is that it is also about lives being changed. I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am to have been in the place where God was changing lives. A testimony in verse says it so very well.
As we journeyed through the Old Testament,
I began to see the light.
By the time we finished the Gospels,
Christ was reshaping my life.
Nothing in ministry is remembered with greater joy and thanksgiving than the changed lives.
When I opened the envelope a check fell out. The letter said it was the subscription money I had recently sent for the renewal of Pray!, a magazine I have been reading with such appreciation for several years. It was a spring of ideas. I have used many of them in the ministry here. It was a source of inspiration for me in my personal prayer life. Of course, what stopped the printing press was the economy. And while, I knew it was a wasted effort, I called the toll free number to speak a word of appreciation and disappointment. As I said to the woman on the phone, "I would have been glad to pay more for my subscription." But, it was a case of "too little, too late." Another ministry is buried by a faltering economy. Pray! was not the first ministry to suffer such a fate. I suspect it will not be the last.
The returned check caused me to think about my own giving and the way it gives support to God's work in the world. I am realizing that a struggling economy may be God's call for me to give more, not less. There is important spiritual work in jeopardy. If I can still afford to eat out, or feed a dog, then I am still able to give more. But, I suppose the real issue which I keep running into is as I think about all this is the old issue of trust.
A few nights ago while channel surfing, I saw an old movie about Abraham. The scene which was unfolding was the moment when his son was waiting on his father's hand to fall with the knife (Genesis 22) and as I watched I heard the question in my heart, "How much am I willing to trust God?" Will my trust in God enable me to give more when the economy is shouting out a message about such an act being foolish? Is what God doing in the world really so important to me that I will dare to live with greater trust instead of greater fear?
Friday, May 1, 2009
I have included a link to Rick Bonfim Ministries because of the way his blog posting have blessed me again and again. I also include it with a hope that those who are reading the words of these postings might look at his from time to time. In his blog dated May 1, he writes about two new grandchildren. He set me to remembering the birth of our two daughters. Like any parent, I remember the first time I saw each one of them. And I remember, too, praying in those moments for each. I know what I prayed. As I held each one in my arms and called each name before the Father for the first time, I prayed the child given to us would grow to understand the love of God and know Jesus as their Savior. While I prayed prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of each daughter, my first prayer was for each to know Jesus.
What a blessing it is today to know that those prayers were heard! What a blessing it is to know that each has a strong and sure relationship with Jesus Christ. Whenever I visit parents and newly born child in the hospital, one of the great personal joys and privileges afforded me is to offer one of the first prayers for the spiritual life of a child. It is a moment that is valued so very highly.
The tradition of our church recognizes the importance of our praying for and caring for the children who are a part of the church family. When we witness their baptisms, we as a church always affirm that we will do everything in our power to help that child grow to love Jesus. We commit ourselves to do everything we can to create a spiritual environment that will help them grow toward personal faith in Jesus Christ. It is no small thing to make such a commitment. It is one of the highest callings of the Christ upon His church.