August 30, 2011

This Week @Vineyard

Be one of the cool kids and read ahead for this Sunday, Sept. 4. 1Corinthians 14:1-46. It's about prophecy, but you already knew that!

Remember, worship starts at 10:30 sharp! :-O

August 23, 2011

This Week @Vineyard

Cheryl Perkins will be at Concord Vineyard this Sunday (8/28 @10:30) to share her experience serving in Gambia.

August 8, 2011

Summer Sabbath Devotional- Week 6

Faith, Hope and Love
August 8, 2011

We’ve been working our way through first Corinthians all summer, so with this, the final devotional of the Summer Sabbath, I want to focus on arguably the most familiar passage from that book. And though it is very familiar, I want to look at it with fresh eyes.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels,
but didn’t love others,
I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy,
and if I understood all of God’s secret plans
and possessed all knowledge,
and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,
but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor
and even sacrificed my body,
I could boast about it;
but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable,
and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice
but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—
and the greatest of these is love.

Paul is saying if I had a magic wand and it could grant me everything of value to this world: a brilliant mind, all knowledge of now and the future, all riches and power, but I lacked love, I would lack everything needed for a life that mattered. And I want a life that matters now and long after I’m gone.

This is really the whole point Paul is trying to make in his letter to the Corinthians. He is trying to stress to them, the new life they have in Christ, isn’t about rules and laws or about freedom verses constraint. He wants them, and by extension, wants us to understand it is much, much bigger than that. Because this new life we have is about love.

We may think we understand love. (yawn here)
But I know I don’t. If understanding goes beyond theory, to doing, I have a long, long way to go in my understanding of love. I certainly don’t live love, as described above, all the time and in all of my relationships and all my encounters with other human beings on this planet.

Love is what God is
Love is why Jesus came
The love we show and extend to others matters more than we can possibly imagine
Love changes everything
Love is bigger than life and stronger than death
And love is as small as the broken cracks in our heart that no one else knows about
Love breathes life
into us, into others and into the world
Love has no fear (what would it be like to never again experience fear, worry, or dread?)

Every good thing I have, every right I claim, everything of value in my life comes from Christ. And through Christ I have every freedom. Freedom matters.

But when freedom’s aim isn’t love it becomes freedom wasted.
Love matters more. And ultimately love will always win.
And at the end of the day, the end of my life and ultimately at the end of this age, only one thing will remain.

Questions to think about:

1. Re-read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, (many times this week) what hits you the most? Does any part of it jump out and hit you right between the eyes? Is there part of this description of love you wish you embodied more?
2. Is there a relationship in your life that could use more of a certain aspect of this love? What, by God’s grace, can you do about it this week?
3. Love is His will being done, His Kingdom coming now, on earth as it is in Heaven. Look for opportunities where you can take some risks to live out this type of love at work or school or just in everyday encounters with people.
4. Another way to think about love is this: what do I fill my life with, nouns or verbs? Things or actions? Which will leave behind the story I want my life to tell?
5. What are you nurturing in your life now that you will bring into heaven? Selfishness can’t come. Jealousy, envy, greed, sarcasm, worry, fear, cynicism, bitterness, these things won’t be in heaven. But patience, kindness, joy, truth, faith and hope, will come with us. These things are a part of the Kingdom to come. How can you cultivate more heaven on earth in your life now?

Romans 11:29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.
May you recognize His call and live committed to it.

“Indeed, God’s grace is enough.
Now friends…
Go in peace, and may the grace of our mighty God go before you.
May the hand of our Lord Jesus rest upon you,
And, may the power and love of the Holy Spirit fill you,
now and forever more.”

Karen Greschel
1965 - 2011

August 1, 2011

Summer Sabbath Devotional- Week 5

Quietness and Confidence
August 1, 2011

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24

I grew up believing in God. I never doubted there was a God. I believed He created and ran the universe. He suffered and died on a cross for all of us; past, present and future. He reigned over all and was somehow in all. The nuns told me so and I believed them. And I was one of the multitudes included in what He did for ‘all’.

I never doubted He cared in a large, cosmic sense, for me. I never expected any personal conversation. Nor did I expect any personal attention or favor. It was enough. It was enough that He was Creator, Savior, and God. It seemed to me kind of greedy to expect more.

“I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord, plans to give you a hope and a future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” Jeremiah 29

Then on August 11, 1973, when I was 17, I heard more of His story. I heard that He loved me. Not ‘me, one of the multitude in His creation’, but me. He loved me. He wanted to know my heart. He wanted me to know His. Not only as revealed in Scripture, but He wanted me to know the depth of His love for me and to understand this covenant He initiated with me in the context of my everyday, very real life.

And learning this, I was never the same. I don’t know WHAT changed that day, exactly. But I know all my decisions from that day forward have included this understanding.

“I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49

Seeing God as close and relatable was certainly different and strange. He wanted to hear from me, He wanted me to hear from Him. My Catholic upbringing had led me to understand my covenant relationship with God in a certain distant, yet valid way. But now I was also seeing this covenant between God and me as something more ‘one on one’, not just ‘one on everyone who ever has or ever will live’. I was not just a speck in His creation. I mattered as if I was His only child. Paradigm shattering. I know it will take my lifetime here on earth to reframe and understand this loving covenant relationship God has made with me.

“Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye.’’ Zechariah 2

With this new understanding, I realized this was a personal relationship. There would be personal interaction and communication. But, how? Scripture, for sure, tells me a lot about God and His character. My brothers and sisters speak His voice in my life often. But I knew there was a more personal element in this communication.

“What's God going to say to my questions? …. I'll climb to the lookout tower and scan the horizon. I'll wait to see what God says (to me)… Habakkuk 2

I recently re-read this wise, old saying in my devotional: “They who watch for the providence of God will never lack the providence of God to watch for.”

And I thought how that is similar to how I know God speaks to me. It makes sense to me, because He wants to say that when I ‘listen for the voice of God, I will never lack the voice of God to hear’. And that the inverse could be true as well, ‘They who never listen for or expect to hear the voice of God will never have the voice of God to hear.’ Not that His voice won’t be just as present, but it won’t be heard without having the ears to hear it and the expectation of hearing it… So,

“This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” Lamentations 3

I wait and hope and expect to hear. Often I don’t think I am hearing anything in particular or at least not hearing anything I am aware of. But I now see the world, my world, as a place where God does want to speak to me. At many times, and in various ways, I know His voice now. In rare, rare instances, it is a clear and resounding assurance. Often, it comes through Scripture or a trusted brother or sister. Mostly it is a still small voice, a knowing in my core. A ‘thought’ even, that I know isn’t just mine. A knowing I can’t explain or put into words adequately.

Hearing God on one level is very mystical, and on another level very ordinary. To expect nothing mystical is wrong. I’d miss out on those rare amazing moments with God that are somehow mysterious. But to not acknowledge and appreciate the voice and presence of God in the ordinary would be for me to miss out often, to miss out regularly, and dismisses the wonder of God’s interaction with me in the sacred mundane of my life.

If I look and listen for the Divine in the ordinary I see and hear the voice of God. The Voice that so loved the world, that so loved me, that He made a covenant with the world at large and with me personally that cost Him everything.

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” Psalm 27

In the (many) years since I was 17, I have invested a lot of time thinking about these things. And there are some things I know for sure. I know God lives. I know God reaches into my individual life to show me His love and compassion. I know the rain will fall on the just and the unjust. I know the troubles of this world will come. I know I will be confused and hurt, not able to see the whole picture. I know too that I have had His voice in my life from my earliest years. I know there is more to hope for now than just going to heaven someday. I know God’s will does happen on Earth, even now, as it is in Heaven. Amazing. Heaven does invade my present suffering, my present joys, my present life on earth. I know He is a God who wants me to know the plans He has for me. And I know that I know more of Him and hear more from Him when I wait and expect, knowing Him to be a good God.

“In quietness and confidence (is my) strength.” Isaiah 30

1.What are your expectations of hearing God speak to you?
2.What beliefs or assumptions have you brought in to these expectations?
3.What experiences have you had when you felt you heard God’s voice or knew His leading for you?
4.What can you do to learn to recognize His voice / leading in your life more? And by the grace of God, may you do it.

Romans 11:29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.
May you recognize His call and live committed to it.