Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bearing One Another's Burdens

Scripture: Matthew 5:38-42

I work in an auto part factory and, like the rest of the industry, we have suffered from low sales. For the last few months we have been on reduced hours with everybody pining for the 'good 'ol days' of plentiful hours and bigger paychecks. Then of course volume picked up recently and for the last month and a half we have been getting so much overtime there is no room to breathe (feast or famine?). Well with all this overtime, tension has been mounting at work. My shift is down to two regular workers on my line and we both have felt that the workload was somewhat unevenly distributed. Long story short; we were being forced to work a certain set of overtime hours while the other shifts were given much more freedom to choose their working hours. It came to a head with my friend and I arguing and fighting with our line supervisor.

My friend, Billy and I are both Christians and seeking to grow in Christ so this confrontation left us both feeling pretty bad. Not that we were wrong, in fact the supervisor saw the discrepancy after the confrontation and corrected the "injustice". But the feelings we had were still there. We talked about putting in written complaints that I was commissioned to write. As I wrote I felt deep conviction that this was not appropriate and was at a loss of what to do. I felt depressed, angry, frustrated and very "unspiritual".

The next morning I decided to "take it to the church". I sat down with my wife and children at lunch and began telling my problem and sharing my feelings of frustration. They all listened and I read some selected scriptures from Matthew 5, the sermon on the mount. This was before my boss relented though he never admitted his transgression, lying to my co-worker and I about what choices of working hours the other employees getting. Jesus said that we are not to resist an evil-doer and that if someone asks you to go one mile with them, go two. He was saying that we are to submit to our situation and if asked to do something, even if we are forced, we should do more. The Roman Government had a law that those conquered lands who were considered slaves of the empire could be asked by a Roman citizen to carry a burden for the distance of one mile and they could not refuse the request. Jesus was telling the faithful to go ahead and carry the burden another mile of their own free will. Once again the message was one of submission! Why is that so hard to learn and even harder to do?? Of course the kids were all over this one. Yeah dad, you need to do what your boss tells you even if you disagree and even if it seems unfair to you.

I decided to do just that and found out later that my friend Billy felt God telling him roughly the same thing. We met with our supervisor and explained that, while we felt that the situation was still wrong, it was not good for us spiritually to demand our own way. If he told us what our schedule would be, we would work it without complaint. It was then he admitted that the "situation" was wrong, though admitted no wrong-doing on his part, and placed us on roughly the same type of schedule as the rest of the department.

Yes, a happy ending. But the real victory was not in getting the equal and fair treatment we were looking for. The victory was what happened during and after my meeting with the Church. As I spoke and honestly shared my feelings I began to increasingly feel the weight, frustration, anger and stress lift off of my shoulders. I was LITERALLY sharing my burden with the Church, the Body of Christ, and they were LITERALLY helping me carry it! When we were done I felt completely free all negative thoughts and feelings and completely at peace with the situation. It gave me a new perspective on just what the Church is. I could not have done this in a traditional setting. I may have said I am having a problem at work the next Sunday and prayed around the altar or something, but to get to hash it out, right when I was hurting and needed help. To have the ability to share challenging scripture and get instant feedback, counsel and even rebuke from my own children who were speaking with the wisdom only God can give through his Holy Scriptures was simply AMAZING!

If there was ever any doubt about the authenticity of house church/simple church, and let me tell you I have been struggling with a lot of doubt lately, it was squashed right there. I saw my kids, who I have to rebuke, correct and teach many times in a day, rebuke, correct and teach me from God's word just like the Bible says we are supposed to do it! Around the table of communion sharing from our hearts, caring for one another and lifting one another up like the Church should do!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Church!

Today we celebrated Pentecost Sunday. We started by going into the "upper room", actually the baby's room that happens to be the highest room in the house. We sat on the carpet and read the story about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the disciples talking in other tongues so that the visitors to Jerusalem could understand in their own languages. We discussed the trinity and what part the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the church. The roles of the Holy Spirit is to convince the world of sin, teach and reveal to us through the scriptures and to use us to share the message of Christ to others.
We talked about the divisive issue of tongues in the Church today and about how different denominations view the gift of tongues. Tongues has always been a sensitive spot with the Church of the Nazarene where I was a pastor and, though I never wanted to squelch the work of God in ways I may not understand, I wondered what I would do if someone came in the church talking in tongues. I finally hit on the answer though I never had to use it. I read Paul's instruction that if any talked in tongues they should have an interpreter or keep it to themselves. However in this passage it isn't a concern as the word tongues is the simple Greek word for "languages" and does not refer to "tongues of angels" or "unknown tongues". We talked about how it was perfect timing for the Spirit to be given in this way as the large number of converts from other nations allowed a jump start for the church to grow throughout the world.

We ended the study with prayer asking God to help us live in the Spirit, to let us see God add to the church those who are being saved, and to help us be in one accord.
We then followed the study with dessert ... Birthday cake! This isn't the same cake but it looked just as exciting (at least to the children)!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Let's Go Fishing!

Our Scripture passage came from John 21:1-14 today. We recited some of the stories that we discussed the past few weeks. The appearances in the locked room, the garden and the road to Emmaeus came to mind. This time I think Peter was dealing a bit with the stress of the time after a few appearances of Jesus. He also was probably still pained by his rejection of Christ the night Jesus was taken. So Peter said, "I'm going fishing!" the other disciples decided to join him. Jesus saw them and had his breakfast already cooking before leading them to a huge catch. They didn't know it was him on the shore when he said let down your net on the right side of the boat.

We talked about how we don't always recognize the presence and leading of God so we always need to be obedient when we feel we should or should not do something. We talked of testing the spirits and being prayerful about everything. Adding that God will provide while at the same time giving us the power to do whatever he asked. Jesus had the breakfast already prepared for them but he did not just GIVE it to them. They, as my son pointed out, had to have faith and obey him when he told them to cast your nets again. They did the work while God provided the huge catch of 153 large fish. God will empower us to do whatever he asks!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Great Commission Is Not Rocket Science!

Today we read Matthew 28 and talked about the Great Commission. The three instructions to the disciples were to 1) Go and make disciples, 2) baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and 3) teach them all the things that Christ has commanded us. We asked the question, "How would you go about making a disciple?" The kids pondered that question with that clueless look on their faces. We then followed up with the question, "What scriptures do you know that might help?" This question rang a few bells and my son quoted John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life". With a little direction they understood that this verse tells anyone who is not a Christian that God loved them enough to send His Son to die for our sins and that simply believing in Him will save one from their sins. We talked about how we can rely on the power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit's work for converting the unbeliever. Our only job is to be ready to answer for our faith using the scriptures we know. We pointed out that it doesn't take a special "sinner's prayer" or church service or even a professional clergyman to lead someone to faith in Christ. Jesus said that we couldn't enter into heaven without the faith of a little child. The process of believing on Christ and entering into faith is simple.

We then asked, "Well, what does it mean to make disciples and teach?". We talked about the commandments and how even they were simplified into loving God with all our strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The discussion turned towards what we were doing in our house church, simplifying the process of making disciples so that anyone can do it just like the Bible teaches. In the act of gathering together around the table for the communion meal, conversing about God and what it means to be a Christian, studying scripture and praying for and with each other, we are in the disciple making process! Like the Old Testament says, we talk of God when we sit, stand and walk in the way.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jesus Appears In The Midst

We continued our series of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples today. We went up into one of the Children's rooms (the darkest one) and closed the door with the light off. We read from John 20:19-29 and discussed what this narrative says about Jesus. The disciples were locked in a room and found Jesus appearing in their midst. Later Thomas, who was not with them, said he wouldn't believe unless he could see and feel the scars on the Body of Christ. Our kids were quick to point out that we are the "blessed" ones that Jesus talked about not seeing his physical form and yet believing in him.
We also talked about how Jesus was already among the disciples when they gathered just as he promised to be among any two or three who gathered in his name. Other points included the fact that Jesus said as he was sent so he also sends us. We are to go out and spread the good new that Jesus is Messiah, the savior of the world. Asking who Jesus would save, the children were reminded that Jesus said, behold I stand at the door and knock and if any man heard his voice and opened he would come in...Jesus comes to those who open and receive him!
So much is packed into these two passages of scripture that we need to hear today in the church world. How hard is it to remember the excitement of those who newly find Christ is alive and ready to forgive them and be their savior? The disciples were frightened and hiding and soon were to become a force in the power of the Holy Spirit that would change the world. This little group of believers would soon change history forever! How many times in our traditional churches do we see excited new believers come wide-eyed into fellowship of the Body of Christ only to soon succumb to the apathy and drudgery of the week to week religious observances of the rest of the 'congregation'. One of the things I look forward to in the house church is seeing the energy and passion of these new believers become a fuel to inflame the passion of the church. For in a house church they are immediately placed into the full participation of all aspects of fellowship and worship. They don't need to sit in a pew until they rot into leadership material. God is doing something new in our country through simple churches...something the western church desperately needs. Jesus is showing himself once again in our midst...we are just now learning to truly look for him!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On the Road to Emmaus

We had to take last Sunday off due to illness but we were back this morning. We are trying to be more creative in our approach to our get-togethers. Between the time of Easter and Pentecost we are looking at the Scriptures that deal with the post-resurrection appearances Jesus made to His followers. This morning we looked at Luke 24:13-35, the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that encountered Jesus along the way.

The kids were told to dress for the park, but that was all. We started by packing drinks and stopping at the grocery store on the way for donuts. JP hid the donuts from the kids so they wouldn't see them. We arrived at a local park with a walking trail. We walked until we came to a beautiful fountain where we pulled out our Bible and took turns reading the story. We talked a little about the story and then went to find a picnic table. As we were walking we talked about how the disciples were feeling and how they did not recognize Jesus. When are there times in our lives when we do not recognize Jesus? JP told a story about a time we were broken down with a dead battery in a desolate area in the middle of the night. A motorcycle dude dressed in leather and riding a Harley stopped to help us. We were very scared at first, but he turned out to be a struggling Christian who helped us and then asked us to remember him in prayer. Jesus told his disciples when they helped the least of people, they were doing it for Him.

When we got to the picnic table, we talked about how surprised the disciples were when Jesus broke the bread. Then we pulled out the donuts (our kids favorite breakfast). Needless to say they were surprised. Tera later confessed she thought we were learning about fasting today, since we had not fed them before we left. After we ate, we walked back to car just like the disciples as they returned to Jerusalem. As we go on our way this week, may we recognize Jesus this week as He comes to us in the most unexpected skin.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Sunday!

This Easter we read the story of the Resurrection from John 20 had a time of music worship and praise in the morning. Our get-together meal was a big breakfast meal with sausage and biscuits. We then had the kids go upstairs while we hid eggs around the yard (including the Resurrection Eggs in the picture). After the children went crazy looking for plastic eggs around the yard they split them up (we mark each egg with the initials of the child so they each get the same amount).

The Resurrection Eggs were placed back in the container and, setting the candy eggs aside, we opened up the Resurrection Eggs one at a time. Each plastic egg in the set contains a symbol of the Easter story including; the triumphal entry (a little plastic donkey), the betrayal of Jesus (three silver coins), the crucifixion (a cross fashioned from three nails), and so on to the last egg which is empty symbolizing the empty tomb. The amazing thing is that, after doing this activity for the last few years, the children can tell each part of the story (they are 8 and 6) from the triumphal entry to the resurrection with no help from an adult! We have used this set for just our family and for groups as large as fifty and it always holds every one's attention. Definitely worth the twenty bucks!

We have been enjoying reintroducing symbols and experiential worship to our get-togethers and will eventually move back into prayer stations. We don't think that this takes us out of the realm of 'simple church' as Jesus frequently used such means to get the message across to his listeners. He used the bread and wine to teach of his atoning sacrifice, seed and ground to describe the act of spreading the gospel, coins, fish, the temple, even a prostitute crying and kissing his feet! But instead of on a platform before a sardine can audience he used these things in everyday settings..."teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:7-9)"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Palm Sunday

Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
Last week my wife and I both felt the Lord was leading us to do some simple experiential type services for our weekly get-together. We used a Palm Sunday reading and talked about how the person must have felt when the disciples came to get the donkey. Jesus told them to untie and take it when they found it and if anyone asked what they were doing just reply, "the Lord has need of it". We discussed how we would feel if a couple of guys came up to us and started to drive off in our car saying, "the Lord has need of it". This led to a discussion of what important things in our life the Lord may have need of such as; our time, money, our comfort as we are asked to help others who may not look like us or act like us.
We then read a prayer that began, "May our praise today be soft petals at your feet, Lord Jesus...". We used some of the petals of the beautiful tulips that have sprouted all over our yard and wrote some names of people we were praying for or anything we might want to give thanks about and laid them at the foot of the cross. We talked about how the path into Jerusalem with the people shouting, praising, laying down the palms and clothes was still a path to the cross. Even though the people thought he was coming to be an earthly king.
We ended our time with prayer and anointing a member who wished prayer for healing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Getting Back On Track

We we were back on track today with our service (we have struggled through the last two weeks just barely getting service after sleepless nights). We finally got placed on the simple church directory on the House2House website. They have an interactive google map that you can use to locate a church in your area. We are the only house church listed in the area so we hope that others will find us and visit us soon:)

We have been reading through the lectionary during this lenten season. The kids are doing really well remembering what lent is all about and can quickly recall that it commemorates the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. We took turns reading through the following:

Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
I Cor. 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

The Exodus reading was the Ten Commandments and we discussed why God would give a list of rules. Not to dominate the people but for their own protection. We talked about how God punishes us with natural consequences and his own punishment because he loves us and doesn't want to see his children harm themselves. The kids could remember that when the Israelites failed to follow God they ended up with a divided kingdom.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

new addition to our gathering

Sorry for the lax start to our postings but we have been a little preoccupied. This little guy came along on February 20th and we have been sleepless ever since! But have no fear we will resume posting our services next Monday...sleep or no sleep:)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Our first post from our house church services!

Scripture Readings:

I Samuel 14:1-23
Psalm 11
Proverbs 8:12-26
I Timothy 1:1-11

After lunch we took turns reading the scriptures. The kids really got into the OT reading and begged me to keep going when I got to the end of the section ( I was mean and made them wait until next week even though I knew that they would be sneaky and read it on their own before then). It was the story of King Saul’s son, Jonathan and his battle against the Philistines. The armies of Israel were encamped opposite the Philistines and Jonathan and his armor bearer went to check out the enemy. Jonathan gets it into his head to attack the entire army by himself and asks the Lord for a sign which he receives. Just before this we learn that many Israelites had abandoned the army and some even joined the Philistines leaving Israel with only about 600 men to the thousands in the Philistine camp. But Jonathan, following the Lord’s sign, attacks the Philistine camp alone freaking out their army who begins fighting amongst themselves. An earthquake occurs at the same time adding to the confusion and the Israelites finally join in and defeat the lot of them.
We talked about how the Lord isn’t concerned with how outnumbered we are or how bad the odds are. If we follow Him we will always emerge victorious.
Psalm 11 was the icing on the cake!

“I trust in the Lord for protection,
So why do you say to me,
Fly to the mountains for safety!
…the foundations of law and order have collapsed.
What can the righteous do?
But the Lord is in His holy Temple;
the Lord still rules from heaven…”

The “adults” discussed how this speaks to our collapsing economy, political structure, job market, etc.. And how we feel like running someplace safe like building a cabin in the mountains to escape all the chaos. It was the ‘child’ who spoke up and connected our reading this afternoon. 6-year-old Daniel said, “that’s just like what Jonathan did! He trusted in the Lord and even though he was all alone he was able to attack and destroy the Philistines all by himself because God was still in charge!” I am so glad we decided to allow the children to have equal voice, participation and responsibility during church (how much we missed pushing the kids out of the "big ppl's service"!).

We ended our time in prayer, praying especially for some friends and family members who are battling cancer, my son, as always requested prayer for Haiti. He never fails to pray for Haiti before bedtime and always mentions the nation during service time. Of course we prayed for mom and the new baby coming in less than two weeks!