Learning Together

dog_on_computerfeature“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” is a saying that most of us have probably heard.  But, we are not dogs!  We are followers of Jesus.  We are people who continue to grow and learn until our lives are over.  The cartilage in our bodies continues to grow, including our noses and ears.  We also can continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God.

This spiritual discipline is an act of piety.  It allows us to reflect upon our lives and God.  These acts of reflection prepare us to receive God’s grace more fully.  Study allows our minds to grow.  When we study with a group of other people, we are able to grow even more because we have the benefit of their knowledge.  We can learn more when we study together.

We also have the chance to grow our relationships with others which is an added benefit growing-in-christ-300x200to becoming involved in a study or small group.  Church membership is not required to get involved.  Below are some of the types of classes and groups:

Bible Study:  God has given us the Bible so that we may learn about God.  There are many ways to study the Bible.  Some of these studies occur during a morning class such as Sunday school.  Some of these are long term studies.  Others focus on a specific biblical theme.

Virtual Classes: These on-line classes offer a digital class experience.  Some of the course are at a specific time and offer interaction with the group while others are done at your own pace and in your own time.  Many of these are offered through the United Methodist Church.

Workshops: These are usually one or two days and focus on a specific topic.  We often have workshops with outside trainers and teachers to gain new knowledge.

Book Study: The number of times these groups gather can vary.  Some will meet once to discuss a specific book while other groups will meet over a course of weeks to glean insight from a book.  These are great opportunities for those who like to have time to process information before sharing thoughts about the information presented.

Thematic Study: Sometimes we want to delve into a topic or theme.  These studies can vary in length, but they are usually focused around a specific topic.  Our church is focusing on spiritual disciplines, so we will have a study on prayer as well as Sabbath.

There are many types of classes and ways to get involved.  The important thing is that we never stop growing.  In order to grow, we must find time for growth, study, and fellowship.

All New

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

 

I have often praised newness, but I am starting to wonder if I want all things new.  My family and I are in the process of transition.  We have a lot of new coming into our lives.  We will have new jobs, new school, new community, new house, and a new urban lifestyle.  It can be overwhelming to think about all of the changes that are coming into our lives.  We are comfortable with the way things are.  We know what to expect.

I imagine that most people are like us in feeling overwhelmed by all things new.  We want the expected and familiar.  Yet, we want others to experience new life in Christ.  We encourage people to take a leap of faith, but we don’t even like when our television shows are moved.

Perhaps those of us who have become comfortable in our faith need to remember that we were called to a life of transformation rather than a life of comfort.  We are called to trust that God is in control of our lives, so we can experience new life and transformation.  If we have become so comfortable that we want nothing to change, then how can God work in and through us?  If we are unwilling to move from our comfortable and familiar places, then how can we experience the new life that God is offering to us?

I invite you to experience change.  Put yourself in a new and different situation.  Take a new way home.  Do a new thing at lunch time.  Dye your hair.  Experience life in a new way.  New life is only possible when we allow the new to come into our lives.

Being Better

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter ...

English: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to better.  I want to send emails and write blog entries with  no spelling errors.  I want to be healthier.  I want to be a more compassionate person.  I want to be more effective in my time management.  I want to be neater. I want a better relationship with God.  I want to give my family more quality time.  I want to cook more and eat out less.  I want to drink less soda.  I want whiter teeth.  I want to be in a better place financially.  I want to be a better listener.

The list of my wants goes on.  I imagine I am not the only one who wants to be a better version.  The way I live my life is a testament to God, so every error seems to be letting God down.  My imperfections are glaring and ever before me.  I imagine that is why I like Peter so much.  He routinely makes mistakes in the Bible.  He is rebuked, warned, and scolded.  He denies Jesus.  Yet, it is on him that the church is built.

Peter shows us that we are not expected to be perfect.  We are expected to do our best to honor God.  We are expected to realize our need of God’s guidance.  We are called to realize that we need other people to help us and hold us accountable.  No one is perfect.  We all want to be better.  We can only expect a certain amount of self improvement, the rest is god improvement.  Especially this week, let us be molded and shaped by the one who loves us unconditionally.  Let’s not pay attention to the small things, but let us pay attention to the large things.  Let us pay attention to Jesus, our faith life, and how we share our faith with the world.  Peter denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.  Do you deny Jesus?  Do you deny Jesus your time or attention?  Do you deny Jesus a place in your decision making?

Maybe we cannot get all our wants met, but we can grow as children of God.  We can in our imperfect states be builders of the kingdom.  Allow God to work in and through you.  Accept God’s offer of relationship with you just as you are.

Money, Money, Money

 

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Money is an issue.  Who has money.  Who does not have money.  Money causes conflicts and special treatment.  Money often divides class and dictates our social standing.  Married couples argue about money.  In a recent article in the LA Times, Gina Rinehart suggests that those who want more should work harder.  Since she is the richest woman in the world, it may be easier for her to offer that advice than someone who is struggling to get by.  She seems to believe that the lack of wealth is due to wrong priorities or laziness.  Sometimes this is accurate.  Other times, people have twists, turns, and tragedies in their lives that hinder their earning potential.  Those things that may hinder earning potential may also be blessings.

Consider a person who grows up in a low-income family.  The priorities of the family are vastly different from the priorities of a wealthy or high income family.  So, the person has to challenge the entire family.  Also, maybe the family does not understand investing the way a wealthier family does.

Others are not born in poverty, but the twists and turns of their lives are financially costly.  Maybe there is a job loss.  That job loss ends up being a long unemployment.  The job loss may have nothing to do with a person’s capabilities, but it may have everything to do with a company down-sizing.  Maybe another person has to battle a long illness.  The illness leaves the person unable to work for a season.  The medical bills mount up.  The person is off the career track.

Poverty is often the result of issues beyond an individual’s control.  Income does not have to define us.  Income does not have to create social divisions.  But, it often does.  In the book of James, we are warned about letting money divide us.  Yet, it seems that it is still a dividing line.  Everyone, the very rich to the very poor, are created in the image of God.  If we judge someone to be more or less because of their net worth, then we are denying their worth as created in the image of God.

Consider your own relationships.  Are  you friends with people in various social standings?  Are  you only friends with those in a similar income bracket?  Do you judge those who have less?  Do you need to broaden your social circle?

  1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? 2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my 5 feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? 8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.   –James Chapter 2 

 

Name of Jesus

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

22A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

and favor is better than silver or gold.

2The rich and the poor have this in common:

the Lord is the maker of them all.

7The rich rule over the poor,

and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

8Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,

and the rod of anger will fail.

22Do not rob the poor because they are poor,

or crush the afflicted at the gate;

23for the Lord pleads their cause

and despoils of life those who despoil them.