Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quotes that caught my attention in my reading the last couple of weeks

Pastor's notes for 28 April 2013 bulletin

Quotes that caught my attention in my reading this week

I thought I would share some of the quotes that caught my attention the last couple of weeks.

Consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.
-           Quote attributed to William Booth (a Methodist minister who founded the Salvation Army(  made at the end of the 19th century.

 I do not tire of telling everyone, especially young people who long for their people's liberation, that I admire their social and political sensitivity, but it saddens me when they waste it by going on ways that are false. Let us, too, all take notice that the great leader of our liberation is the Lord's Anointed One, who comes to announce good news to the poor, to give freedom to the captives, to give news of the missing, to give joy to so many homes in mourning, so that society may be renewed as in the sabbatical years of Israel.
-          Quote attributed by Archbishop Oscar Romero (a Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador who was assassinated on 24 March 1980 for refusing to stop speaking out against government repressions and violations of human rights

Each of us has a mission in life.  Jesus prays to his Father for his followers, saying:  "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).
 We seldom realise fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks.  We act as if we have to choose how, where, and with whom to live.  We act as if we were simply plopped down in creation and have to decide how to entertain ourselves until we die.   But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was.  Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.
-          Henri Nouwen (from “Bread for the Journey”)

How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?
-          Eugene Peterson (from “The Contemplative Pastor”)

A note on Psalm 23 v3a “He (God) restores my soul.”

Pastor's notes for the 21st April 2013 bulletin

A note on Psalm 23:3a “He (God) restores my soul.”

For those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, this Sunday’s Psalm is Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is arguably the most well-known Psalm in the Bible and probably also the most beloved. For me personally, not only have I read it numerous times, I have also preached on it a number of times. So in reading it again this week, I wondered if it were possible for me to do so with fresh eyes.

I am thankful that the answer was a resounding YES. God’s Word is indeed amazing. The phrase this time that caught my eye was verse 3a “He (God) restores my soul.” I suspect it was because at the moment of reading, my soul (nepes) was feeling tired. (“Nepes” basically means “breath, the inner being with its thoughts and emotions”).

The question that came to my mind was: “How Lord? How do you restore my soul?” I was reminded afresh via a word study that word translated “restore” (sub) basically means “to turn, to return, to go back, to change, bring back...” And while I must confess that my understanding of Hebrew grammar is weak, I do know that the “active” voice and “imperfect” aspect of the word “restore” (sub) reminds me of two things.  The first is that God is the one who does the restoring. And the second is that the restoring comes not via a one off action but through ongoing progressive actions.

The “open secret” of having our souls restored (refreshed) is simply to allow God to regularly and consistently restore our souls back to the way it is meant to be. (Perhaps back to the basics of my relationship with God and my reason for existence?) While things like holidays, entertainment, recreation and sleep have their place, the primary source of lasting refreshment is God himself. And in the context of Psalm 23, we know God who is the LORD (the God who has made a personal covenant with us) who seeks to care for us as would a Good Shepherd for His sheep.

            “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30: The Message) 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The importance of prayer for a victorious spiritual life

For the 14 April 2013 bulletin

The importance of prayer for a victorious spiritual life

Jesus is recorded to have spent a lot of time in prayer.  In the NIV, the word “prayer” comes out 51 times in the Gospels, where the context is Jesus praying and / or teaching on prayer. Prayer for Jesus was an essential part of his life. He habitually took time off to pray and taught his disciples to do likewise. It was one of his “open secrets” to his victorious life.

When Jesus taught on the challenges related to the end of the world, prayer was stated as crucial: Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)

Just before his arrest, Jesus went to the Mt. of Olives to pray because the temptation to walk away from the horror of crucifixion was so heavy. We read that: He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:41-42). And through prayer he found the strength to go to overcome his temptation, and went to the cross securing forgiveness for us. And interestingly, this was the context of Jesus telling his disciples twice: Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” (Verses 40 and 45)

Jesus’ disciples understood this and taught and practiced this same priority as we can see in this description of the early church: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) And when the church grew in numbers from 120 to 3,000 more in just one day, and the priority of prayer did not change for we read that still …. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”(Acts 2:42) And even when the busyness of legitimate day to day church activities piled up, the apostles reorganized the church so that prayer would be clearly seen as vital to the life of the church: “We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:3b-4)

The apostles knew that without fervent and consistent prayer, they would go astray as would the church. And in the specific context of temptation, when teaching on the Armor of God, Paul reminds us why prayer is so important. It is because “… our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). And lest we miss the vital importance of prayer in spiritual warfare, notice how prayer is emphasized.

1And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (6:18-20)

If we want to see victory in our spiritual lives and our church, let us not neglect prayer and coming together for prayer. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Three Women (Pastor's notes)

Pastor's notes for the 7 April 2013 bulletin
I was doing early preparation for my Mothers Day sermon this week and came across this devotion. Thought it too good to wait till Mothers Day to share as once again during this week's prayer meeting, some of us were reminded with thankful hearts of the many at KCC who serve behind the scenes.  
Three Women
by Jim L Wilson  Fresh Start Devotionals. (2009)
Every Easter I think about a sermon I heard my Dad preach when I was just a boy based upon the resurrection narrative in the gospel of Mark. In the sermon, he emphasized that the extraordinary events of life are usually enjoyed by those who are willing to give themselves to the ordinary tasks of devotion.
The three ladies, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome came to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ remains with spices. Jewish law prohibited them from performing these tasks immediately after his death, because of the prohibition against working on the Sabbath, so they delayed going to the tomb until the Sabbath was over.
Where were his disciples? We know John was at the crucifixion, but we don’t know where the others were. Why wouldn’t those who were the closest to Him, and who would take the reigns of the church after His ascension, be there to take care of this unpleasant task? Why would they leave it to these women?
Even if the duty was beneath their stature, shouldn’t the men have come to roll the stone away so the women could fulfill their obligation? What if there was a confrontation with the guards? Wouldn’t three women be a mismatch for the highly trained Roman guards?
These three women are prototypes of Christian service. No, they weren’t leaders, they were servants. They were get-it-done people with a whatever-it-takes attitude.
Like the people who type our letters, watch our nursery and clean our buildings. They are no nonsense servants of the Lord.
The result of their work is greater than the sum of their labor. Because they were faithful to be in the right place in the right time, they were the first to hear of Christ’s resurrection and the first to bring the good news to others. But before they did, they saw Him, face to face.