Friday, January 25, 2013

Showing up

I used to teach a small group of adults at my church.  We met every Sunday night in a different person’s home, and would spend time eating a meal together, and discussing a passage of Scripture. I remember one particular evening, we were all in a funk — all of us.  It was winter, dark early, cold, snowy, and one of those nights when it would have been easy to just stay home. We talked about the struggle we each had getting up the energy to walk out the door to our cars and come to our group. Even though most of us felt the same on this particular night, we were all there.

So we all had a weak moment together.  It was highly unusual for us all to feel the same way, so we began to talk about why we had come. Someone said guilt, which I totally resonated with.  Another said they had come out of obligation. And another said they missed the week before, and they just didn’t want to miss two weeks in a row. One person blurted out, I didn’t want to come, but my wife made me, so I put on my pants and just showed up!

“I just showed up.” I think there is something to be said about “showing up.” Now, I don’t mean to over spiritualize this, but that evening turned out to be one of the most meaningful conversations we had in weeks, talking about what it meant to be faithful to each other, to be accountable to a group of people, and that we were better people because we showed up.  It probably goes without saying that after that evening, no one wanted to miss, simply because we showed up.

Well, this weekend and next week is revival. I’m not certain about what God wants to say to us this week. I know we all have very busy schedules, and it isn’t possible for us to attend every evening service.  I’m not going to take attendance, and I don’t think God will either. I’m neither one who believes that God is limited to working in certain designated spaces. In reality, there is nothing special about a space; but there is about those who gather in the space. 

What I think I’m trying to say is that something happens when we gather. Something does happen when we “show up.” Just like it did for my small group that Sunday evening some two years ago, I believe that God has something in mind for us this next week. Because when we show up, we can be assured he is always there waiting for us. In the meantime, will you help us all prepare by praying?

Pray for Susie Shellenberger, that the message God has laid on her heart is straight from His heart to ours, through her.

Pray for Kyle Owens as he leads worship in chapel in the mornings, and in the evening services at College Church.

Pray for Kendall Franklin, and the staff at College Church.

Pray for those among us whose relationship with God has yet to be restored.

Pray for renewal for our campus.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Choosing your clothes

I woke up this morning and went through the same daily routine that we all go through — I chose my clothes for the day.  I’m not sure what you do, but the final approval on what I’m wearing is my wife.  This is the pattern I follow every morning: I get dressed, walk into our living room where she is usually seated with her cup of coffee, and ask the same question, “Does this look okay?” And my wife, true to her character, and because she doesn’t want me to embarrass her or my family always responds honestly with either  “You look good,” or, “You can’t wear that!”

There are some days, though, where even I can sense something is off, and that happened today. As a matter of fact, as I walked myself in front of her, I didn’t ask her if this looked okay,. I asked her if this looked “wonky.”  Her reply was reassuring to me as she simply said, “yes,” and proceeded to help me find something that was a match. Well, my name had been preserved and my family saved another embarrassing moment, thanks to my wife. But my mind has wandered a little as I reflect on what happened to me this morning.

This incident, which actually happened by the way, allows you a peek into the paranoia that is my life, where I find myself wondering every day whether my clothes match.  But as important as my “physical” clothes are to me, this also has me wondering about another set of clothing — the ones that Paul instructs us in Colossians that we are to “put on.”  Read again what he tells us to wear:

“These are the clothes you must put on, then, since God has chosen you, made you holy, and lavished his love upon you.  You must be tender-hearted, kind, humble, meek, and ready to put up with anything.  You must bear with one another and if anyone has a complaint against someone else, you must forgive each other.  Just as the master forgave you, you must do the same.  On top of all this you must put on love, which ties everything together and makes it complete.”  Col 3:12-14, Kingdom New Testament

Love is the “article” of clothing that, if you’ll allow me to say it this way, makes our outfit complete.  It’s like the sweater vest that brings together your pants and shirt, or the scarf that makes your ensemble “work.”  Love is what helps our outfit make sense, so it doesn’t come across “wonky.” I’m not sure about you, but I’d rather not have that happen.

It’s written for those who might disagree, or at times even be offended. When this happens, Paul is telling us that, as people of faith, there is a proper way for us to respond, and that is by wearing a very specific set of clothing.  As my wife serves as the final word on my physical clothing, there is One to whom we are accountable for our spiritual clothes as well, the One who determines the wardrobe for us as described above.

So, I’m thinking about clothing this morning.  And as I’m thinking about clothing, I also find myself asking a question: if these are the words that are the standard of dress that we don’t want to compromise, are my clothes matching today?

As we continue to move through this semester, my prayer for us all is that we are wearing the right clothes, put together in the right way.

Text for the week:  Colossians 3:12-14

Friday, January 11, 2013

A lesson learned

Have you ever heard the phrase, “don’t speak out of turn”?  I think the first time I heard this was in kindergarten.  According to my trusty Random House Dictionary, College Edition, this phrase carries several meanings.

First, and the one most applied to my kindergarten classmates, it can mean that you’ve said something at the wrong time — like you’ve interrupted someone else while they were talking, or maybe it was someone else’s turn to speak.

It can also mean that you have said something that you had no right to say, or you don’t have the authority to speak on.  So if you make a decision at work that isn’t yours to make, it could be said that you have “spoken out of turn.”

Another way to interpret this phrase is to say that you have spoken unwisely.  Who wants to be accused of that?  How do we protect ourselves from unwise conversation, especially when dealing with the important issues of life and faith?  Well, like I said Thursday in chapel, there is a reason and a way we do this.

Remember, in his letter to Colossians, Paul is talking to a young church, a group that has quite possibly only been gathering together for five years.  They need a lot of instruction, and Paul gives them some sound advice in two verses, that I believe can help us as well as we move forward this semester.

The reason we have this conversation is because we don’t want to be deceived.  If we’re going to believe something, give our entire life away to it, we want it to be truthful.  We want it to be able to stand the test of time, and withstand the challenges that speak against it.  We need to be able to discern what we can know, and trust God with what we can’t.  I believe as we walk through this semester, God will be faithful by providing clarity for us.

The reason I’m confident of that is because of the way we’re told to go about it.  Listen again to the words that Paul uses to describe this conversation:  compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, love and unity.  These are the “clothes” we want to wear, and the way we desire to speak and act with each other.

My prayer for us as we begin is that we won’t forget the lesson from kindergarten, not to speak out of turn, and that as we seek wisdom, we look and sound like Jesus.  May our minds and our hearts be shaped by the wisdom and heart of God.

Text for the week:  Colossians 2:8, 3:12-14