What's Love Gotta Do With It? Why Symbols Matter

Logos are part of our cultures both in the physical world and cyber world. Logos draw out different responses. Symbols on the other hand often draw out and emotion or convey a story. What symbol do we commonly see for love? The Bible give us a very different symbol to consider...wonder why it didn't catch on? Check out today's video and I think you'll see. It won't sell many Hallmark cards!

MAY I ASK? Take some time to reflect on this Mini-Message and ask these questions.  These are good for both individual and group study.

  1. What logos do you love to see? (Golden arches, swoosh, Apple, Windows, etc)
  2. What do the brands people buy say about them?

  1. Why is Jesus giving this talk now?
  2. What is the “new command” Jesus gives?
  3. How are other people going to know who Jesus’ disciples are? (v 35)
  4. How do people get eros (romantic love) confused with agape (sacrificing love)?
  5. Why could this confusion make life/conversation more difficult in our world?
  6. How could you use the symbol of the cross more effectively in your life?
  7. How is love a sign that someone is a disciple of Christ?
  8. Can actions and words deny someone is a Christian?
  9. Who do you need to love this week in the way Jesus did? What exactly will you do?

I Am Not Happy And I Will Do Something About It.

I am not happy.  Of course, I am not happy for what cancer is doing to my wife.  I am also not happy for what it is doing to my children.  I am not happy with what cancer is doing to me (doubly so as cancer survivor and as a caregiver now).  I am not happy for what it is doing to friends both new and old.

These thoughts are some of the ones which get going in my head.  The church I serve is an amazing group of people who have been The Church to our family again and again.  But I grieve I cannot be the pastor at times I want to be.  It breaks my heart when I reach my limits and people choose to leave because I cannot be the pastor they need me to be or wish I was.  I hate to say "no" not because I have boundary issues but because I know, if things were different, I could say "yes."

My mind races as I wonder and worry over the United Methodist Church as we prepare for General Conference.  It tears at my soul so many Christians are so obsessed with conflict and trying to draw lines regarding who is "in" and who is "out."  As a nation, we are so quick to move to sides and to ostracize someone because they post an opinion different from our own.  I suspect even these words someone will find offensive because I did not show myself to be "transparent" regarding my beliefs.

But I am not on any of these sides.  I am seeking to be on only God's side.  No "side" has a monopoly on God that I can see.  Tragically, the line is not so clear cut, it is not so simple.  Don't give me this cop out nonsense either.  The power we're talking about is nothing compared to the power of the...Divine (some of you thought I was gonna say something else didn't you?)  But let's go there shall we?

What was it Luke and Yoda said in Empire Strikes Back?  THIS:
Luke: "But how am I to know the good side from the bad?"
Yoda: "You will know... when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack."

How calm are you on the "issues?"  When were you at peace and passive? When have you listened intently for God, not assuming you already knew what the Divine might say?  When did you last pray for God to speak?  And did you actually listen or run off your own way?  Did seek to discern God's will or simply dig out the Bible passages which would affirm your agenda?

I am not happy about a lot of things but in truth, what I am not happy with is myself.  I am not more like Jesus and this does not make me happy and I will do something about it. This week I am praying, Holy Spirit, quiet my mind so I might hear your voice [and follow You].

Are You Hearing God? Two Tips Jesus Gave Us

This week's Mini-Message on YouTube picks up on not just the topic of prayer, but on three practices that John Wesley called, "The Means of Grace" which all help us to hear and discern the voice of Jesus.  Check it out and be sure to subscribe:

May I Ask?  Reflect on the message (and Scripture) with these questions?
John 10:22-30

What are some truths that hard for you to accept? Why?
Who are some of the people whose voice you love to hear? Why?
What question were the Jews trying to get Jesus to answer?
How did Jesus respond to their question?
What did Jesus say His sheep did (the two “tips)? 
How does the comparison of sheep and our phones help your understanding?
How did the Jews respond?
Why do you think prayer, Scripture and communion rank as the top three ways to hear God’s voice?
When have you heard/met God in your prayers, Bible reading, or taking Communion?
What has God’s voice sounded like to you?
What steps will you take to follow your Shepherd closely this week?

Where is the Spirit? Thoughts On A Breath Prayer

Do you ever get caught by the ads online asking: "Whatever happened to these 15 Hollywood stars? You'll be shocked!" I know I do. I got caught by one about NBA stars now bankrupt (Just in case you're interested). Curse you internet!!!

Seriously, though this is part of the breath prayer for this week. Whatever
happened to the Holy Spirit? Where did the third person of the Trinity disappear to in our lives and churches? In their defense, my pentecostal friends and clergy will certainly step up and remind us they have not "lost" the Spirit (and I'm very thankful for this). But in most of pop-Christianity today, I hear mostly the talk of "feeling the Spirit's presence" or "we felt the Spirit today!"

But Jesus did not say he would be sending us one to primarily help us “feel God.”  Jesus said instead...

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)”

Paul would go on to say the Spirit’s presence would be revealed in us through the Fruit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)”

Praying for the Spirit to be rooted builds on images throughout Jesus’ teaching and reminds me I’m still growing in my understanding of and, maybe more importantly, my relationship with the Almighty. When I began to wonder and question about where the Spirit is, the answer is likely in the fruit of my life and what people see, not what I feel.

Gone Fishing: How to Find God in Everyday Moments

It is hard sometimes in life to make that connection with God. In the everyday moments, trying to find God can be so difficult. What some people say about the spiritual life and journey can be so confusing or sound like nonsense. Following the incredible events of Jesus' resurrection, the Bible tells us how the disciples made a connection with Jesus by going fishing! Check out some of my thoughts from this past week's Lectionary text in John 21:1-19

BTW: If you haven't figured it out, my videos won't always feature a Star Wars quote or reference but look closer and you'll find some item. You just never know what will show up.

May I Suggest: Ask yourself these questions

  1. What are your favorite activities or hobbies?
  2. Who all had gone out to fish? (21:2-3)
  3. How successful had the group been at fishing that night? (21:3)
  4. What was the result when they did what Jesus had told them to do? (21:6)
  5. What did Peter do when he realized Jesus was talking? (21:7)
  6. What did Jesus ask His disciples to do once they were on shore? (21:8-10)
  7. Why do you think this group went fishing?  What activity would you have done?
  8. Why can’t we see God working in our lives?
  9. When have you encountered Jesus in everyday life?
  10. How do you most often experience fellowship with Jesus?
  11. How did this week’s sermon and mini-message help you connect with God?

Learning to Live through Suffering and Be Sharpened by Grace

Breath Prayer for your week: "Loving God, make me able to love all people."

When facing death, your own or the death of a loved one, I have learned it is not "iron sharpening iron," but iron being sharpened.  Whether by stone or sharpener, it matters little, your life is brought into focus and what matters least, what needs to be cast aside, is done a bit at a time.  We are not left the same but, by grace, I think we do get some say about how we will end up (This is part of our being freed from sin which I will touch on in an upcoming YouTube video).

One of the more difficult parts of this is how loving others and forgiveness plays into the sharpening. I just cannot seem to shake the nagging work of the Holy Spirit convicting me of this particular element.  It is not just forgiving we are called to do though.  We are called to love.  Love not just family and friends.  Not just acquaintances or that person who stole our parking space at Wal-Mart.  We are called to even love our enemies.  On this account, Jesus did not mince words:But  love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and  you will be sons of  the Most High, for  he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35) 

We (myself included) are having a really difficult time with this it seems. Sadly, Christians today seem no longer intent on labeling those we disagree with on opinions of Scriptural interpretation and application. No, now we will cozy up to any group, any political party and seek to discredit and humiliate other believers because they do not "love" as we love or "seek God" by our definition. What is sharpening me is the fact my wife is dying and this has made me keenly aware the problem is not that I disagree with people on both sides. The diagnoses Jesus is giving is that I'm not loving these people AND I may even consider them an enemy. This is MY problem, not their's. Jesus does not say post and parade about with my superior stance. Jesus calls ME to do something just like HE did something and that was to love enough to die for enemies.

So let me suggest this idea for you to take on. As you pray this prayer, consider someone (or someones) you struggle getting along with. Rather than say "all people" insert their name. If you are dealing with a hidden bigotry, consider praying for that people group. Breath prayers are simple prayers. I did not say they would be easy. 
 (For more on Simple Prayer, go to my YouTube video)

Doubting Thomas (and other things I question)

There are a lot of crazy stories that float around on the internet. How likely are you to believe them (BE HONEST!)? How likely are you to visit Snopes.com and find out the truth?

Do the people involved help make the story more believable or less believable? Now imagine what it must have been like 2,000 years ago. How would the internet react to a story like the resurrection of Jesus?

Take a moment and watch this Mini Message regarding John 20:19-31 (Special focus on 24-31)

I do not think doubting makes you a weak person, it reminds us we're human. Jesus was incredibly gracious to Thomas and I think we need to remember that grace and doubt are both important (and real) elements of the faith journey. Consider these questions for yourself or as part of a small group study.

Where do you think Thomas might have been when Jesus first visited the disciples? (Where might you have been if you had been Thomas?)

What does Thomas say he needed to believe Jesus was raised from the dead?

How does Jesus respond to Thomas when he returns?

What three observations does Ken make? Why are each important? How do they help you?

What does Jesus say about believers that will follow? What did Jesus mean?

When have you had doubts about your faith in Christ? What helped? What didn’t help?

What circumstances exist causing you to question right now in your life?

What spiritual practice is a regular part of your day? Prayer? Bible reading? Devotional reading? Journaling? Something else? Nothing at all?

Are you meeting with others who share your faith? If not, why not?

What is 1 thing you can do to be sure to be in worship this coming week?

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