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.

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Habit of Connecting

I recently read that a congregation should be following up with guest for six weeks.  That is a long time.  I have seen some churches that connect with guests for three weeks, but six weeks is the longest follow-up that I have seen.  It makes sense, though.

Imagine being a first-time guest at a church.  Perhaps you have been to church before, but maybe you have only gone to churches for weddings and funerals.  It could be that you have memories of being shushed by well meaning adults while wearing uncomfortable clothes.  Perhaps you remember the formality of weddings or the grief of death.  No matter what the memories, it takes courage to visit a church for the first time.
Before you even walk into the building, there are decisions to be made.  What will you wear?  You don’t want to be overdressed, but it would be worse to be under-dressed.  Maybe you are not someone who is comfortable in a suit or high heels.  Will it matter?  Finally you decide on the outfit.  You see that the service starts at a specific time.  You don’t want to walk in late, but you  have to decide what time to arrive.  Where should you park?
Finally, you make it into the building.  Hopefully someone welcomes you.  They have a program, so you can have a clue about what is going on in the service.  You find a seat.  Did you sit in someone else’s seat.  Maybe you have heard that some chuch folks always sit in the same seat, like in school.  You sit in an aisle seat because you want to be able to make a quick exit.  You never know if things are going to get weird.  (Maybe you have seen some documentaries on snake handling churches.  You don’t think this is like that, but you want to be able to leave if neccessary.)
The service starts.  There may be a pastor leading it.  There may be a worship leader.  There may be a kid who comes in to light candles.  There is music, and there is a good chance that you don’t know the music.  There is someone reading from the Bible.  It is starting to get interesting.  Hopefully the sermon or message from the pastor connects with your life, but there may be things you don’t understand.  Everyone else seems to know when to stand or sit.
Maybe the service is something that you enjoy, but you are not sure if it is for you.  You have plans the next week for brunch.  The church sends you a gift.  That is nice.  You decide to go the next week, but you over sleep.  The following weekend you go visit family for the weekend.  You  have to work the next weekend.  You wonder if they will notice how long you have been gone.  You don’t go because you cannot decide what to wear.
They are still inviting you.  They do care and want you there.  You make your second visit.
Six weeks is not that long when you are following up with guests, especially if their decision has eternal effects.

Simple Faith

Mark 9:30-37

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

In-Between

Two family members are in the in-between.  These two happen to be in-between their regular doctor, also know as their general practitioner, and a specialist.   Each is having to wait, knowing that something needs to be done.  There are others who are in the in-between.  There are those who are in-between jobs.  There are those who are in-between childhood and adulthood.  There are still others who are in-between relationships.  We are all somewhere in-between birth and death.

Often we  are living in the in-between, we establish a way of living that is a holding pattern.  We do nothing, waiting until we are no longer in-between.  For example, we don’t move forward with our lives because we are waiting until that time when are in a relationship, at our ideal weight, have things under control, or have our life organized.  So, we do nothing. We just maintain the same pattern of living waiting for our circumstances to change. Yet most of life is lived in the in-between.  If we are waiting for the times when we are not in-between, then a lot of life is spent waiting.  There is very little time for living.

Live everyday.  Don’ put yourself in a holding pattern, waiting for the in-between to past.  You will never have another chance to live this day.  Let us rejoice in this day and make the best of it.  We may find that in this in-between time, there is new life for you and others.

Choices Along the Way

We all make lots of choices.  We choose what we will have for
dinner.  We choose who to include in our lives.  We choose our marital status.  Some choices are more significant that others.  Some choices require us to persist on a journey that may not be the easiest way.  Consider how we learn to do a new thing – walk, ride a bike, play golf.  Whatever the new thing is, most of us are not experts at the beginning.  We must practice.  We must keep trying.  We must decide if this is something we want to continue to try.  We continue to make a choice to persist in our endeavor.  With persistence, we gradually improve.  We grow confident.  We grow more certain of our conviction.  Our persistence is rewarded.

Elisha was persistent.  Elisha made choices to be a prophet.  First, he made a choice to go with Elijah.  Elisha was in the field with the oxen.  Elijah threw his mantle over Elisha.  Elisha could have just thrown off the mantle.  He could have rejected the calling, the anointing, that Elijah was giving him. Yet, he chooses to begin the journey with Elijah.  We don’t hear much about Elisha’s choices until the last journey with Elijah.  In 2 Kings 2:1-18, we see Elijah and Elisha on a journey.  Three times Elijah tells Elisha to wait.  Each time Elisha persists.  Elisha chooses to stay on the journey with Elijah.  He chooses to stay with Elijah.  He chooses to stay on the journey.
Are we choosing to stay on the journey that God has for us, or do we give up and go home?  When the journey requires more of us, do we give up or keep going?  Do we grow stronger in our conviction, or do we give up at the first sign of difficulty? God calls us to keep moving forward.  God calls us to do the work to which we have been called.  We will not be masters at serving at the beginning.  In fact, it may take our whole lives to learn how to be the person God has created us to be.  God doesn’t call us to be perfect disciples at the beginning of our discipleship.  God calls us to persist in our discipleship. Stay the course.

Why Music Videos?

I’m currently sitting in semi-darkness.  This morning the overhead lights in my office did not work.  The lamps work, so there is some light.  A member of the congregation, a retired electrician, is working on the lights, so I am sure that they will be restored soon.  As he works, he turned off one of the electrical circuits that controls the overhead lights.

Churches are often unusual buildings, which means that the circuits are not wired in a way that seems logical.  You just never know how things are wired.  The same is true with people.  There are many of us whose wiring is not necessarily logical.  We are spiritual and emotional beings, so things don’t always fit with another person’s logic.  Sometimes we don’t even understand why we are wired the way that we are.
What I do know is that music often touches us in the way that mere words cannot.  A song can move us to tears or action.  We can connect with the presence of God, memories, or a motivation that we never even new we had.  Because of this connection to music, I send a song to connect with Sunday worship.  The song connects with the worship we are about to experience at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.  It is my prayer that it also connects with you and your spirit.  I want your spirit to light up so that you can experience God’s love.  This opens all of us to the message God has for us.