How Far Have You Fallen?

On October 14, extreme sky diver Felix Baumgartner jumped… fell the farthest of any human being. Felix jumped from a balloon nearly 24 miles above the earth. As he fell back to earth, he broke the sound barrier as 8 million viewers watched on a live internet stream. The previous record holder, retired Air Force Captain Joe Kittinger, fell nearly 19 miles to earth back in 1960. Said Kittinger, “I think God has a special guardian angel that’s space-qualified … to take care of people like Felix and I.”

A LONG way down!

For those few who missed this, both record-setting fallers did wear space suits and parachutes.

Tomorrow is All Saints’ Day, a day to remember and celebrate all those who have gone, and fallen, before us. That’s right, the “communion of saints” that includes disciples living and dead is a community of imperfect, fallen people.

As the apostle puts it: … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3:23). SIn resulting from self-pride, self-interest, self-absorption always brings a big fall. Though each of us is created in the image of God, we fall short of the divine within us, God’s will for us and through us. We fall WAY short of the life God expects us to live.

There is an old saying: “Saints are sinners who have fallen and then been picked up, fallen and then been picked up, fallen and…” You get the idea.

How far have we fallen? Far short, yet, as Paul writes in the opening to 1 Corinthians, those who are sanctified [think “saintified”] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints… with all those who who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ… are raised to new heights.

Who does God call to be saints? All of us, no matter how far we fall.


Clothe Yourselves…

Today was colder than I thought it would be.  When I left the house this morning in my gym clothes and a sweatshirt, my legs almost froze off!  I was very thankful that I had heat in my car and a bag with long pants and a shirt to put on later.  In the warmth of my house last night, I hadn’t chosen my clothes as well as I should have for the weather outside this morning.

Each day we put on the clothes we need for that day: a sweatshirt when it is cool, long pants when it is colder, gym clothes for exercising and work clothes for later, a raincoat when it is wet.  Putting on the right clothes prepares you for your day- and not having the right clothes can make you feel uncomfortable all day long.  Our clothes protect us from the elements and keep us as warm or cool as we need to be comfortable.  They take care of the outside of us… but what about the inside?

What did I do this morning to prepare my heart and mind for the day?  Did I prepare for the day last night?  Was I as careful (or careless) about the Christian disciple I was presenting to the world as I was about my outfit?  If so, I may be in big trouble.

Romans 13:14 says, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

How do you put on Jesus?

What if it is as easy as talking to him each night as you look ahead to tomorrow and talking to him first thing in the morning?

How do you wear Christ?

What if means to keep him in your thoughts throughout the day?

What about changing?  I change clothes all the time…

What if we make a point to check in with God as our situations and circumstances change?  Sometimes we may need a different word from God at mid-day than we did in the morning.

How might our lives be different if we worked- each day- to clothe ourselves from head to toe in the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you think other people would see a difference in us?

Instructors in Strength

Jennifer Walker, Director of Christian Education practicing with our Children’s Sabbath liturgists

This is the day that our God has made.

We will rejoice and be glad in it!

This is the world that our God has made.

We will rejoice and take care of it!

We are the children that our God has made.

Let us worship God together!

On Sunday, with churches around the country, we celebrated Children’s Sabbath.  We had 3 children’s choirs lift their voices in praise of God.  We had different children call us to worship, lead us in prayer, ask us to offer our gifts and our lives to God.  We even had parent-child ushering teams.

Children’s Sabbath is a bright spot on our worship calendar.  As one who preaches and leads worship at our church regularly, I am comfortable saying that some Sundays, we’ve really got the energy and can feel the Spirit of God strongly in our midst.  They hymns are just right, the Word is preached and proclaimed and we are sent out renewed in our faith and our call to be Christ’s servants.  Some Sundays, and we hope that these are few, we just don’t have it.  Something feels off… and suddenly, without anyone really knowing why, we feel like we’re just going through the motions.

Children’s Sabbath is never a Sunday of going through the motions.  When our children lead us in worship, they bring with them enthusiasm and joy- something we all, particularly we adults, need to be reminded of.  Scripture rings true, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Children are cute, and they make us smile, but more importantly, they model a strength of faith that many of us strive for.  Children of faith, with seeming ease, give their all to worshipping God.  They help us refocus our attention and realign our priorities to where they should be: the praise of our loving, living God.

Thanks be to God for our Children- some of our church’s best teachers and leaders!

 “People were bringing little children to Jesus in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’ And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.”—Mark 10:13-16

Whether Favorable or Unfavorable

… proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable… (II Timothy 4:2)

Timing. Timeliness can be an important factor in our lives.

“Is this a good time to buy (or sell) stocks, houses, cars, collectible Nascar plates, etc.? Are the market indicators favorable or unfavorable?”

“This may not be the right time to tell Dad I scraped the car. He looks in a bad mood. I’m waiting for a better time to break the bad news.”

“Thank God you showed up! You arrived just in time — we could sure use your help!”

There’s nothing like good timing. However, if we spend most of our time waiting for the perfect time, we may never speak or act at all. We miss some providential opportunities if we wait only for favorable times.

“I wanted to speak with him, but the time never seemed right. Now I missed my chance.”

“We were waiting for the perfect time to take that trip, but it never seemed to come, then she got sick and the time past.”

The apostle mentoring Timothy exhorts him to “proclaim the message” –to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ — to “be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”

If disciples of Jesus Christ obey this word, the timing issue becomes a lot simpler, doesn’t it? Whatever the circumstances, good, bad, or in-between, we keep on sharing the love of Jesus Christ. And his gracious love IS the message.

As a pastor, preacher, and teacher,whether speaking to a ‘packed house’ or mostly empty pews…

sharing with a group of Christian friends or dubious skeptics…

facing hard times or smooth sailing in my life or in our community…

praying at a family celebration or a time of shared sorrow…

I pray to make the most of the time God gives and to make clear the love God gives.

So, you and I can share the message of forgiveness and fresh starts and let God take care of the timing.


Take 25 Challenge

Yesterday, as part of our 175th Anniversary Celebration, we talked about making History.  How do we do it?

During World War II, the English government put posters up to boost morale, “Keep Calm and Carry on.” In the face of Nazism and a likely invasion, the people were discouraged- how were they to live in the face of such anxiety?  What was coming?  No one knew.  The posters were able to remind them that by keeping calm, and carrying on every day, they continued in the fight- not giving up until they prevailed.

While not facing something like the Nazi war machine, Christians today also live in anxious times.  Who knows what is to come?  We, too, could use a boost to our morale.  Interestingly, a similar phrase works: Keep faith and carry on.  When we do this, we keep from becoming discouraged, and more importantly, we improve our bond with God- our true source of strength.  We are reminded to hope in the Lord.  That is the way we make history.  History hasn’t only been made by great people doing great things.  I’m convinced that most of history has been made by regular people who have kept faith and carried on every day.

At worship, your pastors challenged you, in honor of our 175th, to spend 25 minutes a day with God for the next week as a tool to help you to keep faith and carry on [Note: 25 minutes x 7 days = 175 minutes… 175!].   Spending time with the God of today and tomorrow prepares us, as his servants, to do God’s will in the world.  While this seems a daunting task, if broken down into pieces, it becomes far less threatening (ex: 10 minutes in the morning, 5 at lunch, 10 in the evening).  We’ve suggested one chapter from Luke each day to help guide your devotion.

We chose this section of Luke’s gospel because it is when Jesus seems to speak directly to us.  There are parables that seriously challenge and teach us- it is our job to listen.  When we do, Christ prepares each of us to be history makers as we Keep Faith and Carry On, Every day!

Day 1: Luke 13; Day 2: Luke 14; Day 3: Luke 15; Day 4: Luke 16; Day 5: Luke 17; Day 6: Luke 18; Day 7: Luke 19

Today is Day one.  I challenge you to join us.  Take 25.