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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.

One Conversation

     Are your eyes open to the possibilities around you?  I confess that I am often so tuned in to my own life, thoughts, issues, lists, plans, and conundrums, that I can be almost oblivious to the world around me.  However, our church is involved in a new endeavor.  It is called Reaching New People.  Basically, this is a new ministry in which the church tries to build relationships with people outside of the church.  We ask that church members try to build connections with non-church members.  Eventually, these relationships will lead those outside the church to be curious about the church.
     Another part of this ministry is to get the pastor out of the church.  I am supposed to be building relationships with people outside of our church instead of staying insulated in my office.  I must confess that this is a little intimidating.  How does one approach total strangers?  How do I move beyond a few casual words of greeting to establish more of a relationship.  I was coached to have a question ready.  I still felt awkward.  However, I want to help grow the church.  I know that my life is better because I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want others to have that same experience.  Because this is important to me, I’m willing to be a little awkward.  I’m willing to be a lot awkward.
     It was suggested that I get out into the community in places that invite conversation.  I go to several places including a couple of nearby coffee shops. I decided that one of the things missing in these adventures in awkwardness was prayer.  We have a goal of a prayer team for our events, but we do not have anyone covering our Reaching New People in prayer.  This time I prayed before I entered the coffee shop.  I confess that it was a prayer of almost desperation.  Lord, please let me find someone to talk to!.
     I walked in to a new coffee shop.  There were very few people in the shop.  I found one outlet.  It was at the table next to one of the few patrons.  I looked at the patron.  He was in scrubs!  Well, there is a conversation starter.  I began by assuring him that I was not trying to invade his space.  I told him he was sitting next to the outlet.  There was a brief exchange.  It was not earth shattering conversation.  It also was not awkward.  I just talked, listened, and shared.
     Thank you, Jesus, for non-awkward conversations.  I hope you will pray for me as I continue to search for ways to be in connection with the community.  I hope that these regular conversations will open the door for God to move in my life and in the lives of others.  I also hope that  you will be reaching out to new people, making connections, and transforming the world.  We serve a Savior who invited a few close friends into fellowship.  Then, they went about changing the world.  We can change the world as well, one conversation at a time.

Be Opened

Jesus offers healing in a variety of ways based on our need.  If you are dry and parched, come to the well and be filled.  Let Jesus care for your need.

Mark 7:24-37

The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Jesus Cures a Deaf Man
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Tattered

Recently we had a  lot of wind at my house.  We had a decorative flag hanging out front.  The wind was whipping the flag all around, and I didn’t give it much thought.  Then, after much blowing and whipping around, the wind stopped for a moment.  I realized in that moment that the flag was damaged.  The flag had become frayed at the outermost corner.  It was overwhelmed by the circumstances.  The twisting and turning was too much for the flag to handle.   The fraying is a small issue now, but without proper attention , the flag will soon be in tatters.  If I left the flag to twist and turn in the wind, the flag would have quickly been shredded into pieces.  A lot more repair work would have been needed, and it would never be the same.

 We are, in many ways, like the flag at my house.  There are times when we feel whipped about by our lives and circumstances.  We are constantly dealing with people and issues. It can come to a point, when we start to fray a bit at our edges.  We become stressed or frustrated.  We start using a clipped tone with the people around us.  We are worn down and tired.  We become so overwhelmed that we forget what we need to do next and why.  This is when we need to stop, to withdraw from the storms that assail us.  Jesus invites us to come away to a quiet place.   Before our lives are ripped apart, God wants to restore and heal us.    For many of us the healing quiet place is worship.  Many of us feel renewed from being in worship.  We sing hymns and spiritual songs.  We are with brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are connected to the body of believers.  We are in the presence of God.  We hear the Word of God proclaimed.  We confess.  We are forgiven.  We are transformed.   This is what happens when we worship.  The frayed points of our lives are knitted together.  Each one of us needs this experience on a regular basis.  We need to be in worship for ourselves and for others.  Be in worship on a regular basis so that you may find renewal, as well as help others experience God’s healing.
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