Monday, October 31, 2011

Lumber

  My basement currently smells like lumber.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this smell, it's wonderful. I'm currently working on a project for a friend of mine's wedding, and while it's nothing big and spectacular, it's a project where I get to use a few power tools, so that makes it enjoyable for me.  I'm pretty excited about it, and one of the side benefits is the smell of lumber.  I love it--it is a breath of fresh air, a reminder of something being built, of newness.  It rejuvenates me.

  As I was standing in the garage, grinning like an idiot at the smell, it made me wonder what in my life smells like freshly cut lumber.  Where is God at work in my life?  What's the current construction project that God is trying to lead in my life?  Where is God building something new, some structure, perhaps, that I might stand upon to reach new heights?  And am I hindering construction, or ignoring what God is doing?  Or am I actively involved in God's work in my life?

  The smell of lumber is a reminder of construction, of newness.  God is also at work in me, in the world, trying to focus my eyes outward, so that I might take the love of God into the world, pointing to Christ in all I do.  One of the tricks for each of us is to examine ourselves and find where and what God is building in our lives, so that we might join in with what God is building.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

10/30 Sermon


Luke 21:5-24

The Destruction of the Temple Foretold

 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Signs and Persecutions

 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold

 ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

*****************************

I'm a triathlete. That word often brings to people's minds images of Ironmen out in Hawaii trudging across the desert. They imagine me swimming 2.4 miles, riding my bicycle for 112 miles, and then running a marathon to finish up a refreshing day.
That's not me. The best time ever recorded is 7 hours and 50 minutes. That's for the whole thing. I have every confidence that if the bike course was all downhill I could complete that portion in that time. Of course, I would then have no desire to go run a marathon, or to have warmed up for the bike ride by swimming 2.5 miles. I'd probably call it a day and go have a milkshake. I compete in sprint triathlons, which are about 10% of the whole enchilada. They take me about an hour and a half, and I still feel like I've earned a milkshake by the end of it.
The most important aspect to a triathlon is the training. You can't just dive into one without any preparation. Well, I suppose you could, but the results wouldn't be pretty. The triathlons in which I compete usually comprise of a 800 yard swim, a 15 mile bike course, and a 3 mile run. It's nothing compared to an Ironman or even a marathon, but it requires you to be competent in three different areas. For example, if you can't swim, a triathlon is a pretty poor choice of hobbies. If you hate riding a bicycle, I'd recommend you explore other options. But if you love to run, bike and swim, as I do, then it's a great sport to try.
But it requires a lot of training. I spend a good deal of time on the bicycle trainer I have in the basement, and I look for opportunities to swim every chance I get. I don't run a lot because I'm trying to save my knee, but I try to keep myself in good shape. Triathlons require endurance, so I work hard to prepare.
All this training comes in handy in the midst of a race. It's not that I worry I'm going to forget how to run or I won't remember how to pedal my bicycle. I don't worry that I'll be in the middle of a lake and suddenly have no idea how to swim, and I'm confidant that I can tie my shoes even when I'm stressed out. No, the training comes in handy when I'm in the middle of the bike course and my legs begin to feel heavy, when I grow frustrated and feel like the course will never end, when everyone is passing me and I forget why I do this—that's when the training comes in handy, because my body defaults to a certain setting. I've trained my body to compete in these events, and so when my mind wanders and I lose my focus, my body automatically responds and keeps driving me forward. It keeps my legs and arms churning and gets me through the low spots. This past summer I competed in a race in Kingston that wasn't fun at all. I had been moving for almost three hours, and running for over four miles, when I was ready to throw in the towel. No part of me wanted to keep moving, and I hurt. Cruelest of all, they had set the finish line on top of a hill, and you had to run completely around the bottom of the hill before ascending to the finish line. It was hot, and it was brutal, and I wasn't that interested in continuing.
But my training kicked in. I had prepared for this moment, so that when my mind despaired, my body kept moving. It knew what I was supposed to do, so that by the time my mind finally got around to deciding to continue, by body had already moved closer to the finish line. My default setting was moving forward—so when all else failed, I kept moving forward.

In this incredibly difficult passage from Luke's Gospel, we come to a challenge that seems as daunting as a hill at the end of a race. We've been traveling with Jesus from the stable in Bethlehem, and just as we draw near to the pivotal events in human history, we wind up having to spend a chapter listening to Jesus talk about a temple being thrown down and trials and tribulations that we will face. We want to move on to the familiar things, the Last Supper and the Trial, but Jesus is making us slow down and listen first.

Jesus is trying to prepare us. Jesus is trying to help us train our minds, our hearts, our lives, so that when the trials come we will be ready to live with integrity, with honor, staying true to the Word of God. Listen to his words again:
They will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over...
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name.

Jesus knows what lies before us. He knows what lies before him. Just think about his mindset—he's standing on the edge of his own death, on the lip of the abyss into which he is about to plunge. In the coming days he will be arrested, beaten, and hung upon a cross, betrayed by a friend, and then he will descend into the depths of hell itself. This is what awaits him, and he does not go easily, lightly—rather he knows that he must prepare his disciples for the same journey, knowing that they will suffer similar persecutions, similar betrayals, similar deaths. He knows that the future of the church will, in large part, be determined by the actions of those that are listening to him speak. He wants to prepare them. Listen again:

Make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance, for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.

Those words would be anathema to most lawyers in this country. Indeed, to anyone with an ounce of common sense, deciding not to prepare your own defense seems crazy. It seems like you're abandoning all hope—your very life may be on the line, and Jesus wants you not to prepare for your defense.

What he wants the disciples, what he wants from you, is a heart so fully focused on him that, in your time of trial, when all the world has deserted you, you will default to a position of complete and total dependence on him. What he wants from you is a life that is in training to follow him—think of yourself as training for the most important competition in your life. How is your training going? Even Jesus is using language athletes are familiar with—By your endurance you will gain your souls. Endurance—and to gain endurance we have to train. Throughout the New Testament, we hear cries for endurance—that we are to endure.

Now, endurance is not a very popular term in a modern culture fascinated with instant gratification. We like our results to happen now—when I had Directv we had the option for OnDemand movies—we wouldn't have to wait at all. Any cell phone advertisement will discuss the importance of instant gratification—they need to offer 4G service, because waiting just will not do. We want things and we want them now.

Jesus doesn't promise instant gratification. He instead calls us to discipleship, which has an entirely different connotation. Discipleship is a slow process—indeed, it takes a lifetime, and we often don't see the results immediately. We may not see the results for years, or even for decades. Discipleship requires great trust in the Holy Spirit, to trust that God is working in us and through us, even thought we may not always realize it. We want to be impatient, to see what God is doing now, when God works on a much longer time frame—he wants us to build throughout our lives, to grow as his children.

If I sit and stare at my son, I won't be able to see him grow—if I wanted, I could even become frustrated that he wasn't growing before my eyes. But I know that in a month, or six months, I'll be able to look back and notice the changes. Discipleship is the same way—we may not see the results immediately, but we'll be able to look back after a period of years and notice the ways that God has been working, the places where God was moving actively without our even realizing it.

Jesus calls us to a life of discipleship, and it's no different than the training I do for my triathlons. Discipleship is a life of training, of slow growth, and we can't rush it. I can't wake up tomorrow morning and decide that I'm going to be spiritually mature. What I can do is decide to sit down tonight and begin a process that will help me grow in faith. What we are worth doing is worth doing well, and to do it well requires long amounts of time, years and years, a lifetime's worth of effort—you may well grow frustrated that God doesn't seem to be working fast enough, but trust me, God is at work, through your prayers and study, through your conversations and time alone. God is at work in you, doing a mighty work of turning your heart toward him.
In this work, God is preparing you, and you are training, so that when challenges come, when you despair because of betrayal or hatred, your default mode will not fail, but you will default to trust in God's sovereign grace, in his mercy, in his love. In the darkest hours of your life, you will know that God is with you because you have been preparing for them your entire life. Indeed, in our own deaths, we will not fear because we have been practicing for them every moment of our lives, and that even in the moment of death we will have trust in God to prevail, and prevail he will, carrying us through death into life everlasting.

By our endurance we will gain our souls, Jesus tells us.

Will you be practicing to endure, or will you grow impatient with God's slow progress?

Will you commit to be patient, to let God do a mighty work, or will you rush out for what's new, for what promises instant results, and be led astray by the temptations of our instant gratification culture?

Let us pray.




Thursday, October 27, 2011

10/27 E-News


**Sorry about the earlier version.  I've been using a different word processor program, and apparently that doesn't work very well with Gmail.  Hopefully you can read this a little better!**

Announcements
Trunk or Treat—It will be on Saturday, 10/29, from 11-1. Please plan on being there by 10:30 if you're bringing a trunk to decorate.

Music for Ministry—Thursday, December 15—we’ve made Christmas plans for you! Come and join us at a Christmas recital by John Brandon and other great talent as we seek to raise money for Living Waters for the World. Details on Facebook.

Next Wednesday—
If you're interested in the environment, join us at 5:00 in the McMillan Building to discuss our church's efforts to be good stewards of God's creation.

New Hope News
Evelyn Piatt has moved to Martin-Boyd home. Please drop her a card in the mail to help her feel welcome in her new home.
Martin-Boyd Christian Home
Room 101N
6845 Standifer Gap Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421

Pray for…
Marilyn Suber, as she mourns the passing of her daughter-in-law Linda.

Janet Sump and all in our music programs as they enter a very busy time of year

Roger & Lynn Meyer

Links
Ways to be missional at work



For all the dads out there—have you been to see Courageous yet?

Text for this Week

Luke 21:5-24
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold
 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’

Signs and Persecutions
 They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.

 ‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

 ‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

The Destruction of Jerusalem Foretold
 ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

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--

Where's the dam bait?

  Yesterday, I watched the Condit Dam breach.

 

  The Condit Dam was on the White Salmon River in Washington State.  They blew a hole in the bottom of the dam to drain the reservoir, restoring life to a river that had been trapped behind a dam for decades.  I will freely admit, it was pretty dam exciting.  (I couldn't resist)  Not so much the viewing, because once the hole was blown it was simply a matter of water pouring out, but the fact that the river was restored to its natural state--that it could run as the good Lord intended it to, rather than how we decided to allow it.

  I couldn't help but think about our church while I was watching the water course with renewed life.  I spent time yesterday at a meeting discussing the denomination's travails, our struggles to go forth and fulfill the mission God has laid forth for us.  We are so caught up in ourselves that we miss opportunities to engage culture, to proclaim grace.

  I got to thinking--what are the dams in the church?

  What are the objects/structures/programs that are so ingrained in our culture that we don't notice them anymore, but that now serve to obstruct the Spirit's flow?  What have we built that was once useful but now serves to constrict and limit us?  Where is the church failing to be the church because we're caught up maintaining something that doesn't serve a useful and faithful purpose anymore?

  I wonder what these might be.  I wonder how we might serve more faithfully by letting some old structures or ways of life go so that new life might spring forth and the Spirit's power might course more freely through our lives, through our churches, through our people.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Kingdom

  About a year or so ago I read John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress , a book I enjoyed more than I thought I would.  I had expected a dry slog, but instead Bunyan did such a fine job of illustrating the challenges and temptations we face in our life that I placed myself in the middle of the story very easily.  I was surprised to find C.S. Lewis' updated version The Pilgrim's Regress not as enticing.  Bunyan captured the truth of the Christian life in the fact that it is a journey, and we finish in a very different place than we started, filled with adventures and character that we have gained along the way.  Not that we are any more deserving of God's love at the end of our journey than we are in the beginning, but we have hopefully grown in faith by the end of it.

  In preparing for the beginning of our study on 1 Timothy, I was reading the first chapter to Rachel and asking her what she thought about Paul's language describing faith as a fight.  I wonder what we have lost in ceasing to describe faith as such.

  One of my biggest struggles as a Christian is to continue to look down the long road.  It's easy to get caught up in the here and now, the immediate, the pressing.  It's much harder to take a long look down the road and see where I am growing--what kind of person am I becoming?  What are the habits I'm putting in place now that will help me grow later.  A good friend of mine is helping guide me through the Ignatian exercises--they're not always fun, but I believe they are helping me grow.

  Last week, I had lunch with another pastor, one who has served the Kingdom for many years, and he suggested I pray for God to show me my growing edge.  It was a great recommendation, for it lifted up several helpful ideas.

  For starters, it reminds me that I abide in God's grace.  God longs for me to grow in my relationship with Him, but I will only do so thanks to the presence and reality of His Holy Spirit.  When He gives me His eyes to see, then I will grow.  Not until then, no matter how badly I may want it.

  Next, it points out the long time span of discipleship.  I may want instant results, but the reality is that God works far slower than I may want.  God's plan has been unfolding for over 6 billion years, and the final redemption may well be a long way off.  I won't be on this earth for that long, but I may be here for a while, and I'm not going to know everything in the next five years.  I need to be patient and let God lead me in a slow life of discipleship.  (I just picked up Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society)

  Third, it reminds me that I am sinful.  I don't need much reminding of this, but I'm not perfect, and God loves me anyway.  I have plenty of directions to grow, and in seasons of my life I may grow in only one direction.  That's ok.  As long as God is driving the bus, I'm happy to be on board.

  It's going to be a long journey.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

30

  I suppose I'll let the immortal words of Tim McGraw sum everything up:



  30 seemed like a pretty big deal a few years ago.  I suppose most of that was because everyone always talked about 30 being the age when you left your youth behind and entered into an age of responsibility.  Fortunately, I don't have to worry about ever leaving my youth behind--I'm destined to have the maturity of a 13 year old for the rest of my life.

  Rachel and I discussed how we were going to celebrate 30 when I was busy turning 29.  (We like to dream about the future.  And, in the last year of your twenties, one can't help looking ahead to what looms in the distance like a plague of locusts.)

  Then we got pregnant.  (And by we, I mean she.  Pregnancy is totally something we do as a couple, and we went through the adventure together.  But, let's be honest.  I was doing triathlons all summer while she was putting on 30 pounds and wasn't allowed to do ab exercises and had trouble walking a long way without getting worn out.  She gets 99% of the credit for being pregnant.  I get 1% for not doing anything stupid enough like making comments on her weight gain that would have legally entitled her to kill me in 47 states.)

  Suddenly, 30 didn't seem like such a big deal.  30 seemed like a small mark in comparison to the new adventure we were going to be taking.  I was certainly closing the door on something, but it wasn't what I thought I would be leaving behind--I thought I would leave behind my youth with wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Instead, I left behind a worldview primarily centered on myself (I'd love to say it was centered on Christ, but I'd be lying.  I'm as broken and sinful as, well, anybody, I suppose.) and entered a new world, one where a child weighing less than 10 pounds who can't control his arms is the single most wonderful thing in my life.  My birthday seemed so insignificant compared to his life.

  Now, this isn't to say that we didn't celebrate my birthday in grand style.  (Scallops, anyone?  I've got a few milk stouts left, too.)

  What it is to say is that I see myself through a different lens now.  Now, I'm a father, who's primary responsibility is to his son, to ensure that he knows he is loved and valued and treasured by me as well as God.  Where I once wondered about the mark I would make on the world, now I wonder about the mark I will make on my son.  I'm still dreaming about what God has in store for me, and I'm not giving up yet, but I have another responsibility which excites me in a way that no challenge has before--I get to introduce the world to my son, and in so doing, I look forward to seeing life through his eyes.

  So I'm 30.

  In other, much bigger news, I'm a dad.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sermon from October 23


**A note:  Because I preach without the manuscript, every sermon is different than what is written here.  I feel that this sermon, in particular, was pretty different than the manuscript.  Not that one is better than the other, but just wanted to let you know.**


Luke 20:45-21:4

Jesus Denounces the Scribes

 In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

The Widow’s Offering

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury;he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’

It’s easy for us to name people whom we would label as evil. The name Hitler is usually the first to arise in people’s minds—he is portrayed as the pinnacle of evil, a man willing to kill millions simply because they were different. I have a book discussing nonviolence titled What About Hitler, based on the idea that surely we can use violence against someone like Hitler.

What’s more difficult, for me, is to figure out how someone gets to that point. I don’t believe that Hitler woke up one morning and decided to be the world’s epitome of evil. I don’t think Stalin spent time on the playground as a child thinking about the best way to exterminate millions. I don’t believe evil takes over someone’s life in a matter of minutes—I believe that its influence becomes greater and greater over a period of time, until a person is almost completely unrecognizable from who they once were. I believe that a slow, gradual process takes place and masks the image of God so completely it’s hard to see it at all. Just like the power of water can carve the Grand Canyon given enough time, so, too, can evil transform the landscape in someone’s life.

It may seem a bit dramatic to turn from a discussion on Stalin and Hitler to the scribes, who pale in comparison to such evil, but I believe that what we learn from one can be applied to the other.

In the beginning of our lesson today, the scribes are not lifted up in a positive light by Jesus. Beware the scribes, who like to walk in long robes, who love to be greeted with respect, and love to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor in the banquets. They devour widows’ houses and say long prayers for the sake of appearances.

In the beginning, they’re hypocrites, empty houses that look great on the outside, but have no heart for God on the inside. By the end of the passage, though, they’re devouring widows’ houses. They hypocrisy harms others—the widows who give offering to support them are supporting expensive lifestyles. The scribes want more, so the widows give more. It would be no different than if I asked you all to raise $1 million so I could go live in a massive house that I didn’t need. It would be a burden on you that would do nothing for the Kingdom. Jesus is warning the disciples to watch how they live.

But I want to propose that the scribes didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to rob the widows. They didn’t decide to be hypocrites because it seemed like the right thing to do. Rather, I would propose, the influence of evil grew daily, and they stopped fighting. At first, they decided they needed a little fancier robe, and they decided they liked not sitting in the back row. They believed that a fancier robe would satisfy their needs—they didn't turn from God with intent, they rather turned toward the things of this world, hopeful that they could find what they needed there. Soon, the robes got fancier and fancier, and they welcomed flattery more and more, and soon they had the best robes in town, and would only frequent places that welcomed them with an over-the-top reception. It wasn’t long before they were asking widows for more and more without giving any thought to the widows. It didn’t happen overnight—and I would imagine that if you told them at the beginning what they would turn out like, they would have been horrified. But little by little, their hearts were corroded, and soon a Grand Canyon appeared, a giant gulf into which any good disappeared, leaving only an outside appearance. They thought they could be satisfied by the things of this world, but in turn the world only led them farther away from God. Jesus warns the disciples.

He warns us, too—be careful how you live. Be careful about the little decisions you make, because over time, those little decisions make us. If you cheat a little now, you’ll be cheating a lot later. Cut a corner now, and you’ll be cutting two before you know it. Evil’s influence grows, which is why we need to be resistant to sin, even tiny sins, because small sins grow into large ones. It’s why those who have been through Alcoholics Anonymous can’t take even one drink now, because one drink leads to two, and two leads to three, and soon the walls are crashing down around one’s ears. Be careful with sin. The second you begin to believe that the things of this world can satisfy your deepest needs is the same second the world steps in to make promises—and it's the same moment you're led a little father from God.

It’s interesting to think about where Jesus is saying this. He’s teaching them this by the treasury, where he is sitting watching people deposit gifts. Notice that Jesus sits with the disciples and watches people give. What we give matters to Jesus, but even more important than that is why we give—which is what Jesus is trying to teach the disciples.

This poor widow, with her two copper coins, has put in more than the rich. They have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty. She has put in all she had to live on.

Jesus lifts up these two contrasting attitudes—those who give out of wealth, and those who give out of poverty. Notice that he doesn’t say that what or how the wealthy give is bad—he simply lifts up the poor widow as having given more. But he’s making a radical point, one we lose when we debate what percentage of our income we ought to give, one we lose when we wonder whether we should give on net or gross income (and just for the record, if you have enough money to have this debate, it should be given on your gross income. But I digress)—he’s making the point that the widow gives more because she gives all she has to live on, meaning that she is completely dependent on God for sustenance. She recognizes that God alone can give her what she needs—that money cannot give her anything she needs—only extras. And she’s made the decision that she doesn’t need the extras.

In short, God has satisfied her.

Satisfaction is an interesting idea for us to talk about today. I heard a great preacher talking about satisfaction in terms of a good meal—about how you couldn't possibly want another bite. When we are satisfied, we don't want any more. When we are satisfied, we couldn't hold any more. We have no reason to desire anything else when we are truly satisfied.

The struggle we have is that only Christ can truly satisfy us. The world offers us all sorts of satisfaction—but only Christ truly satisfies. And, when we are satisfied, when we are living by faith in Christ, our relationship to money is fundamentally changed.

Think about the ways we view money now. Think about how important we make it out to be. We place so much value on money—on the accumulation of it, on how we spend it, on how much others have. No one would have any idea who Warren Buffet was if he didn't have so much money—he's a quiet old man who has accumulated billions through investing. But we know him as inordinately wealthy. We are often guilty of ranking people by their wealth—as though that has any effect on the kind of people they are, as though that affects how God sees them. We worry about money all the time in our own lives—we worry that we don't have enough, or that we're not saving enough, or that we're not spending it on the right things. We worry about money, about making it and losing it, and it's so hard to come to grips with it, because we think we need so much of it to live.

The reality is that you don't need any of it.

That's right—I said it. You don't need money. If you didn't have a dime and lived on the street, you'd still have the most important thing in this world—a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters as much as that life-giving relationship. You may die of hypothermia if you don't have enough money, but nothing can seperate you from the love of Christ. And when we're living in Christ, when we're centered in Christ, we are satisfied, and we don't need anything else. Other things are nice additions, or add some color or flavor in life, but nothing can meet our needs, because every need is met in Christ.

It's why the old widow wasn't afraid to give every dime—because she was completely satisfied.

It's why so many of us are afraid to give more—because we think money can meet needs that it can't.

When we're in Christ, our relationship to money is fundamentally changed. Money cannot meet our needs, because there are no more needs for it to meet. It can only adorn the walls, or dress up some dark corners, but money is merely a tool for us to use, to give away, to wonder how Christ can use. When we're in Christ, money becomes something that is fun to imagine how God might use it. When we're in Christ, money is superfluous, and we can rest easy, knowing that the single most important thing in our life is taken care of, and that nothing can tear us away from the one who satisfies our every need.

Let us pray

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10/20 E-News


Announcements
Music for Ministry—Thursday, December 15—we’ve made Christmas plans for you!  Come and join us at a Christmas recital by John Brandon and other great talent as we seek to raise money for Living Waters for the World.  Details on Facebook.

Young Adults—
Tuesday, Oct. 25, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. – Dinner at Mojo Burrito (1414 Jenkins Rd, Chattanooga).  Free child care will be available at New Hope Presbyterian Church (7301 Shallowford Church)

Equip's Small Church Ministry Group has planned an excellent Leaders Academy to help supplement your own officer training. This overnight opportunity will be at John Knox Center on October 28 - 29.  You can register quite easily on-line by going to the presbytery's website -www.presbyteryeasttn.org and clicking on the Leaders Academy link. That'll pull up a page of description at the bottom of which is the REGISTER button.  Let us know if you have any questions.

New Hope News
Trunk or Treat—It will be on Saturday, 10/29, from 11-1.

Pray for…
Marilyn Suber’s daughter-in-law Linda, suffering from Congestive Heart Failure

Roger & Lynn Meyer

Links

25 Books every Christian Should Read.  (What do you think?  Others you might add?  Some you might subtract?)




Text for this Week

Luke 20:45-21:4
Jesus Denounces the Scribes
 In the hearing of all the people he said to the disciples, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.’

The Widow’s Offering
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’





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Things We Wish We Had Said

  It's interesting to read such a book as this now that I'm a father with a son of my own.  I no longer live in the hypothetical, wondering about how I'll raise my son.  I still ask such questions, but they are real, because my role as a father has begun--how I treat my son when I am home now is just as important as it will be later on.  I am setting priorities now, getting practices in line, so that he will always know how important he is to me.

  Things We Wish We Had Said: Reflections of a Father and Son is a series of letters between Bart and Tony Campolo.  I had expected it to be pretty light and fluffy, the kind of complimentary tone two grown men (Bart is 26 at the time of writing this) might take in letters that are meant to be printed in a book.  The reality, though, is pretty hard hitting.  They aren't afraid to be honest with each other--and they invite you into a relationship that is deeply trusting and loving.  They are open about each other's strengths and weaknesses, willing to discuss one another's fault, in the hopes that the mistakes they made along the way might benefit others.  They are not the perfect father-son combination by any means, but they aren't writing to perfect people.

  I enjoyed this book so much because it gave me the chance to think about my role as a father.  I know I'll make plenty of mistakes along the way, but the most important thing Tony Campolo gave his son was the gift of confidence in his love.  I want to do the same--to make sure that Caleb knows that I love him and value him more than my job, more than the other things that make up my life.  He is my priority, and I want to raise him to be confidant in himself, and in the love I have for him.  In all these things I hope to point to Christ, but if he doesn't hear and see my love it will be much harder to see God's love shining through.

  What are the things you've been longing to say to those you love? What message do you have for family members and friends that you haven't taken the time to share?  May we each be open with our love, not holding back or waiting for another day, but taking advantage of the present to reveal our love to one another.