When I’m not feeling happy or content in my relationship – 1 Corinthians 7:17-24

happy vs joyAre you feeling discontent in your relationships? Maybe you’re not feeling happy about a relationship?  But are you feeling joy?  Is there a difference?  And what does it matter?

When we are unhappy or discontent, we are very tempted to RUN!  In our passage from this past Sunday, Paul says “Remain in the situation in which you were called.” Over and over he says this. Remain? What if we don’t like the situation?  As I have said before, if it is an abusive situation, this would not apply.  Get safe!

But what about when a relationship is frustrating?  What about when there is a lot of anger and arguing?  In Relationship Month, we have heard clearly from Paul that we should avoid separation and divorce at all cost.  In this section again he says, “Remain.”  Then he adds in verse 19, “keeping God’s commands in what counts.”

My NIV Study Bible notes summarize it well: “There is nothing wrong with seeking to improve your condition in life, but be content at every stage.” There is a tension between being content and keeping his commands. Sometimes keeping his commands means we need to make a change.

My dad, Harold Kime, has taught Corinthians for many years at Lancaster Bible College, and in his notes he says: “Keeping God’s commandments does have spiritual value and worth. The verb, “keep”, that Paul uses here is not a simple obedience. When he says “Keep his commands” it also includes the idea of guarding or preserving. This is not a mere outward obedience but an obedience that guards and preserves the very thing obeyed. We can infer from this that certain types of social condition require a radical change. Certainly Paul would not say, “Were you called being a prostitute, think nothing of it.”

We could summarize like this: Remain in the life state that you are in, but do not sin.  At the root of all this is a heart that is committed to say that “Lord, your way is the best way.”  Keep his commands requires a heart desire that believes that following God’s way is the best! “Find your satisfaction in the Lord”  Paul is not saying that the believers in the church should stay as they are for eternity. He encourages slaves, if they can, to be free. But the focus is to be content in the Lord where they are at. Things may change, but the focus for now is to grow that passionate, heartfelt relationship with the Lord.
We can be so discontent about life. We can start to grow a bitterness about our station in life. Paul says that the Christians should find their contentment in the Lord. And we can grow that deep inner joy without having our circumstances change one bit.

Contentment is being able to be joyful no matter the circumstance. There is a big difference between inner and outer joy. One way to describe the difference is to look at the difference between happiness and joy. I am bit hesitant to use these two terms because they are basically synonymous. But think about them this way: happiness is that outer expression of emotion based in how we are feeling. We like happiness a lot because it means we feel good. Joy is different from happiness because it is a deeper inner state of heart and mind that is trusting in God no matter how we are feeling, no matter our circumstance, no matter our station in life. This deep inner joy, this contentment is what Paul is saying the Corinthians believers need.

There is much about life that we can be discontent about. Paul would say to the Philippian church in Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

What are you discontent about? Your marriage? Your singleness? Your job? Your finances? The state of the world? Paul is saying that we should be a people who avoid rushing to change, but instead remain as you are, be content, find that deep inner joy in obeying Christ, and commit yourself to grow in your relationship with him. Here’s what’s interesting about contentment. It is okay to allow the deep inner joy of contentment to bubble up to the surface of your life and overflow with emotional outward happiness. We should never confuse that outward emotion for the inner real thing. But it is okay to be outwardly happy. I would go so far as to say that when we are content in Christ no matter our situation, we will see that outward happiness, that outward rejoicing on a more regular basis! And it starts with a contentment in our relationship with Christ.

It is not just in the pain that we can experience deep inner joy. We can also celebrate the joy of the Lord in the good times. We can and should be content in the Lord, no matter if life is difficult or abundant. A friend of mine from my youth group is now a professor at LBC. He and his wife were married a few years ago, it took them some time to start a family. They are now just weeks away from the birth of their son. I asked him this week how they are doing, and he said “Excited, things are going great, but they’re also thinking about those many sleep-deprived nights ahead of them.”

I wrote back and said, “You will get through it. I won’t deny that I had a hard time in the middle of the night. But it is a phase that passes. I think what I have been learning with my kids, though, is that I can yearn too much for each phase to pass. I can be way too focused on “getting them out of diapers” and “getting them out of car-seats” and so one. In so doing, I have found that I can miss out on the wonderful aspects of the present phase. I think this is the message of Ecclesiastes: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. Enjoy the moment that God has given you. While the moment definitely can have its hardships, it also has great joy. Be content no matter the circumstances. I would encourage you to revel in each and every one of those nights of seemingly endless crying and feedings.”  (Not that I was the model dad in that regard…)

What will it mean for you to grow contentment in the Lord?

Kid’s Art, Petrified Cheerio, Penny, and More – The Monday Messy Office Report SANCTUARY Edition – May 19, 2014

My tidy Friday office is mysteriously messy on Monday…except this week.  Since starting this series on the blog a few months ago, I have not lacked for material.  Almost every week people drop stuff off in my office, or my kids leave half-eaten snacks there, or things just show up for reasons I cannot explain.  But this week that didn’t really happen.  There have been a few weeks where I’ve stretched a bit and told you about stuff in my office that recently got there, or had been sitting a long time, but didn’t actually appear over the weekend.  So I could have told you about the trumpet that has been in here for months that is waiting for a buyer.  A family from the church donated it, saying that the proceeds can go straight to supporting our missionaries, which is very cool.  So if you want a trumpet, let me know.  It has a stand too.  But because my office was relatively tidy, I decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while: a sanctuary edition of The Monday Messy Office Report.

You would not believe what we find each week in our pews, and especially in our pew racks.  Well, then again, maybe you would believe it, because, if you are a part of the family of Faith Church, you sit in the those pews, you know what goes on there.  Each week I go through the pews to get rid of stuff that is easily seen, mostly bulletins that people slide behind a hymnal in the pew rack.  But every couple months, I give those pews a thorough picking through, and I always find treasure amidst the trash…lots of trash.  Those pew racks are designed to hold hymnals and Bibles, people, not trash!  Like I said, there are some treasures.  So here goes:

1. A Penny – Who knows how long that has been in there, but one of the church’s kids was probably supposed to put it in the offering basket…and didn’t. Reminds me of the time I was supposed to my two quarters in the offering on a Sunday morning when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  And I didn’t put it in the offering.  Instead, after church I “luckily found” two quarters in the alley behind our house.  The perfect amount to buy a pack of baseball cards.  Well, I found a penny in a pew rack today, and the church is one cent richer.

2. A Petrified Cheerio – It is hard and discolored.  That has probably been in there quite a while, like the penny.  Actually, the presence of that single Cheerio cheers me.  I like Cheerios a lot, and in fact had some for breakfast this morning.  But more than that it is a simple reminder of the change that has gradually been in the works at Faith Church. It is okay now to bring food and drinks into the sanctuary.  I’m really thankful for that.  People are growing in their understanding that the church is not a building, but the people.  Sure, I believe that we should have a proper understanding of sacred space, but it is wonderful to see a small reminder that the church is the people!

3. The Notes!  I remember passing notes OFTEN when I was a kid in church.  Check these out!

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4. Kid’s Art! – This is the real treasure among the trash.  I love seeing what the kids, presumably, are drawing on their “Scribble Cards”.  Take a look for yourself!20140519_152302  Faith Church kids are geniuses!

Maybe in a couple months I’ll have to see what has accumulated in the sanctuary again!

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Feeling discontent in your relationships?

discontent

What would you say has been bothering you?  Anyone been feeling discontented lately?  A change that you are hoping for too long in coming?  A change that you weren’t hoping for came unexpectedly?  Change or die, they say.  Or maybe they say it like this, if something does not change it is dead.  Or, all living things change.  But as much as we claim to embrace change, thrive on change, it can be unsettling, leaving us with that feeling of discontent.  Change too fast, and we feel unprepared, off kilter. Change too slow, and we get impatient, grumpy, disillusioned.

It can be hard to be content.  There is a sense in which discontent can be a very good thing.  There is such a thing as holy discontent, an inner feeling that something is wrong that needs to be righted.  I’m not talking about that kind of discontent. Instead I’m talking about a dissatisfaction with life.

In the church at Corinth, which we have been studying since the beginning of the year at Faith Church, we see a group of people struggling with the realities of change. It is relationship month at Faith Church, as during the month of May we are walking through 1st Corinthians chapter 7, which we have divided up into four sermons about relationships.  We’re covering all sorts of relational ground, and much of it is about changing relationships and the feelings of discontent that we so often have about our relationships.  Perhaps that is the most important question to ask: How do you feel about the most the important relationships in your life?  Could it be said of you that you have feelings of discontent about them?

My guess is that you would be the exceedingly rare exception if you could say that you were perfectly content about the relationships that matter the most to you.  The Christians in Corinth had written Paul a number of relationship questions, as it seems that they were experiencing some discontent.  And so tomorrow at Faith Church we’re going to take a look at what Paul has to say to them about this fundamental issue that affects so many of us.  When we are discontent, what should we do?

There are plenty of ideas out there.  Some say if you are discontent in your marriage, for example, get out.  These people feel that there is nothing worse than being in a sub-par marriage.  Or how about your job?  Are you longing for something more?  Make a change people say.  You deserve better.  Feeling dissatisfied with your church?  Move on, there a plenty of other options.

What do you think Paul would say about that? If you want, check out 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 to get ready for tomorrow’s sermon.

Finding healing for a broken relationship – 1st Corinthians 7:10-16

broken heart

How many of you have been impacted by divorce?  Separation?  During the sermon on Sunday I interviewed two couples from Faith Church, each of which had one spouse that was previously divorced.  I was so thankful for their courage and vulnerability to stand in front of a roomful of people and talk about the painful past.  There were tears.  And yet, as they shared about the work of God in their lives, there was also joy.  I urge you to listen to the sermon and be encouraged by their stories.  While this was certainly a sermon about the struggles and brokenness that can occur in marriage, it was also a sermon about how God can work his restoration and healing in all of us. It was a sermon that says there is hope, when we put God at the center of our marriages.

It is relationship month at Faith Church, and we’ve been walking through 1st Corinthians 7, learning how Paul answered some questions about relationships, questions that the Christians in the city of Corinth had written him about.

So how would you answer these questions:

  1. Should Christians ever separate from their spouse?  If so, when?
  2. Should Christians ever get a divorce?  Again, if so, when?
  3. If divorced, is it okay to remarry?
  4. Is it okay if Christians marry those who are not Christians?
  5. What does it mean that people are sanctified through their spouses?
  6. How does a Christian parent make their children holy

I introduced those questions last week, and on Sunday we looked at 1st Corinthians 7:10-16 where Paul answers them…kinda.  Those last two are thorny ones, and Paul mentions them, but I feel he could have said a whole lot more to help us understand them!

So our sermon this past Sunday was all about seeing what Paul had to say about these vital questions that have impacted many lives. Feel free to discuss it further in the comment section below!

Mug, Magazine, Brochure, CDs – The Monday Messy Office Report – May 12, 2014

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found:

1. Coffee mug half filled with coffee. I have a suspicion about why this was on my counter because it looked a lot like the half-filled cups of coffee that are frequently on our kitchen counters at home…

books-and-culture_200707102. Books & Culture. When I graduated from Bible college, the academic dean at the time, Bob Willey, also one of my favorite professors, got all of us graduates a trial subscription to Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and one other magazine.  I’ll never forget him telling us that college grads have a horrible reputation for barely ever picking up a book and reading it after college.  I wonder what the stats are today.  At any rate, I am super grateful for that word of encouragement from Dr. Willey.  I never did get a subscription to one of those magazines, but he definitely piqued my interested. A few years later my uncle Jim Ohlson highly recommended Books & Culture, and offered to get me a subscription.  I was delighted and have been a subscriber ever since.  I have a large stack of B & C issues on one of my bookshelves in my office.  The issue in the bottom of the pile is July/August 2002.  Here’s why I love B & C: it takes me places I would never otherwise go.  Every single issue is like a rollicking romp around the world, through the lens of academic reviews of books (primarily) and other cultural artifacts.  The current issue (May/June 2014), for example, has articles about the recent movie about Noah, and loads of books about such varied topics as the “Secret Gospel of Mark”, young Catholic America, Protest England, and the countries of India, Guatemala, and various places in Africa.  Not to mention the topics of death, public schools, Jimmy Carter, and more.  See what I mean?  But let me say this, most of the articles are not easy sledding.  I am regularly challenged just to comprehend them.  Frequently, however, I my mind is expanded by what I read, and I’m thankful I stuck with it.  I haven’t read every issue cover-to-cover, but I come close.  Go to booksandculture.com and you’ll see what I mean.

3. All Pro Dad brochure – This past week our younger kids’ elementary held its second All Pro Dads breakfast.  Actually, I should clarify: I don’t know how much the elementary school was responsible for organizing the event, but the principle and a couple teachers are very involved.  I have been very impressed with it’s powerful, yet simple approach.  A whole bunch of dads and their kids meet in the school cafeteria to eat breakfast and talk. There is almost no program.  Just a brief, guided discussion.  I told a brochure called “10 Ways To Be An All Pro Dad” and brought it to my office.  Here are a couple of the ideas: “Love your wife” and “Eat together as a family”.  I’m excited for the continuation of All Pro Dads breakfasts in the fall.  If your kids go to Smoketown Elementary, I hope you’ll join us.  Or maybe you’ll check out the website to learn about starting a chapter at your kids’ school.

jesus among other gods4. Sermon CDs – Last week I did some cleaning in my office, as there were a few items that had been in here for years that I never, or rarely used.  For example, I had a CD rack.  As you are aware, CDs are not as popular as they used to be.  I remember see my first CD player at a friend’s house around my junior year of highschool.  1990-91 or so. His player had a clear plastic lid so you could see the disc spinning super-fast.  I remember thinking how improbably that something spinner that fast could result in a clear, crisp sound.  So last week I got rid of the CD rack.  It was mostly filled with discs that had photos, denominational info and videos, Bible software, etc.  I did find a bunch of sermon CDs too.  I stacked them in one of my cabinets, except for two which I took to my car to listen to. The one is by Frank Viola about the simple church, which I don’t remember having ever listened to.  The other is by Ravi Zacharias from Urbana 1993, which I have listened to around 100 times.  I was there in person when Ravi gave the sermon, as a group of us from Bible college had traveled to the conference. There were many speakers that week, some good, some bad.  Ravi’s message, entitled “Jesus Among Other Gods”, was a heads above the rest.  In 2000 he published a book by the same title.  I had never heard of him before, and by the end of the sermon, we didn’t want him to stop.  If you want to borrow it, I’d be glad to share it with you. Dr. Zacharias’ combination of intellect, passion, storytelling and humor is amazing.  Learn more about him here.

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!

Separate? Divorce? Remarry? – What to do?

r-CHILDREN-OF-DIVORCE-large570I’ll never forget a moment at summer church camp when I was in 6th or 7th grade. One of my cousins was with me that week, and we were sitting in the gym for a Bible discussion. Next thing I know, my cousin who is a year older than me was bawling, body heaving up and down in the throes of emotion. His parents had just recently divorced. It was the first time I felt the emotion of divorce touch my life. I had other cousins and friends who parents divorced, but before that day at camp, I don’t remember having seen the emotion up close and personal.

As I share that story, many of you know those feelings in a deeply personal way because you experienced the divorce of your parents, or you yourself had a marriage lead to divorce. Statisticians have been telling us for years that 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and that goes for Christians as well.

That also goes for second marriages. About 25% of children who have not only lived through the divorce of their parents also watched a parent’s second marriage ended in the divorce.

This sermon on Sunday is not meant to present a judgmental attack on people who have been divorced. Instead I want you to hear what God says about something that has profoundly impact on our society.

relationshipstatusMay is relationship month at Faith Church. Last week we looked at marriage and this week separation, divorce, remarriage and couple other related questions. We have been studying the letter of 1st Corinthians, and in chapter 7, the author of the letter, Paul, responds to a number of questions that people from the church he started 5-6 years before had written him about.

He talks about divorce specifically in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.

When we studied this in sermon roundtable a couple weeks ago, we identified no less than six different questions that Paul is potentially trying to answer in these verses. Here they are:

  1. Should Christians ever separate from their spouse?  If so, when?
  2. Should Christians ever get a divorce?  Again, if so, when?
  3. If divorced, is it okay to remarry?
  4. Is it okay if Christians marry those who are not Christians?
  5. What does it mean that people are sanctified through their spouses?
  6. How does a Christian parent make their children holy?

Why we have had four sermons about sex in less than two months

relationshipstatusDo you realize that we have talked about sex in four sermons in less than two months?  Take a gander:

  • March 30 – 1 Cor. 5:1-11 – Paul mentions incest and sexual immorality
  • April 13 – 1 Cor. 6:9-11 – Paul mentions sexual immorality and homosexuality
  • April 27 – 1 Cor 6:12-20 – The whole thing is about sexual purity
  • May 5 – 1 Cor 7:1-9 – Paul talks about sex in marriage

I’m slightly embarrassed about this prevalence of the topic of sex in these sermons.  But there it is.

So why did this happen?  Going back to the historical situation in the city of Corinth, we hear how Paul describes it in 1 Cor 7:2 “there is so much immorality”.  I can’t tell you how many people, since we started this series, have remarked that it feels like Paul was writing to the church in America in 2014.  We live in a world where the expression of our sexuality has moved from a private thing to a public thing.

Paul’s advice in 1 Cor 7:1-9, then, is very timely.  I said something in the sermon on Sunday that I think bears repeating: while Paul was single and will make a case for the value of singleness (which we’ll get to in a few weeks), he says clearly that marriage is a very good thing. That is true for many reasons, none the least of which, in a sexually open culture like ours, is that marriage is God’s wonderful design for the expression of this incredible gift that we call sex.  Paul says that Christian husband and wives should not be withholding sex from one another, except for mutually agreed upon periods of fasting, where they devote themselves to prayer.  Simply put, Christian marriage should be marked by husbands and wives having lots of sex.

There is much more that could be said about sex in marriage.  Particularly, husbands and wives need to talk about it.  Often we do not. And I get it.  Talking about sex can be awkward.  But we need to bring it up.  If you feel it isn’t happening enough, talk about it. If you feel you’re being pressured to have sex too much, talk about it.  Like Paul says, come to a mutually agreed upon decision about how often you have sex.

And here’s where Paul opens the door to the secret of marriage.  Not just by saying that couples should have lots of sex.  Instead he says that “your spouse owns your body”!  Just as he said in the previous chapter (for which Phil Bartelt had a powerful sermon on sexual purity), your body is not your own.  God owns your body.  Now in chapter 7, he goes on to say that your spouse owns your body.  Doesn’t that sound weird? In our hyper-individualized culture the thought that you don’t own your body seems wrong.  Twice, though, Paul says others own our body.  God and our spouse.  This is the secret to marriage.  When you embrace the idea that you don’t own your body, you know that you can give yourself lovingly and generously on behalf of your spouse.

That you do not own your body does not mean that you allow others, including your spouse, to treat your body with disrespect.  If your spouse is abusing you emotionally or physically or in any way, you should get to place of safety immediately.  Paul’s conveys his understanding of our spouses owning our bodies in a mutually beneficial way.  What he says is actually quite radical for his culture!  In the Greco-Roman era wives were considered possessions of their husbands.  So when Paul says “wives, your bodies belong to your husbands”, the people would have understood this as the norm for their culture.  But when he goes on to say “husbands, your bodies belong to your wives” a hush would have gone through the room.  That was radical stuff.  That kind of mutuality in marriage was unheard of.  It’s why our treatment of each other in marriage must be a practice of mutual loving-kindness (the kind of love Paul will go on to describe in 1 Cor 13).

So in summary, we learned what it means to give yourself away to your spouse.  If you cultivate that kind of attitude, you’ll be creating furrow ground in which a fruitful marriage can grow.

Piece of Paper, Side Table, Welcome stuff, Note – The Monday Messy Office Report – May 5, 2014

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy by Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. A piece of 8 1/2 x 11 lavender colored paper folded in half.  Laying on one of my counters (I have two…long ago my office used to be part of the church nursery), the paper is completely blank.  I have no idea why it is in my office.  A find like this is precisely what motivated me to start this series on the blog.  Things just show up sometimes.

2014-05 lobby2. A small circular side table.  This will become a regular fixture in my office, I think.  I was actually the one who put it here.  For years it was located in our church lobby, but this weekend we began experimenting with a new look for the lobby. In recent months the lobby had become cluttered with all kinds of stuff.  Good stuff, mind you.  Displays for various ministries or opportunities for the most part.  Because our lobby is a big part of the first impression that guests develop, we want the lobby to have an airy, welcoming appeal.  A couple of our ministry committees are going to discuss it further and come up with a plan.  This weekend was our annual youth chicken BBQ (which was awesome again!). The BBQ requires that we remove everything from half of the lobby, and that became a natural stepping off point to do a little experimentation with the rest of the lobby.  If you haven’t checked it out, come see!  It looks great.  And if you have any ideas for how to improve it, please comment here.  Additionally, we are discussing a similar update to our fellowship hall.  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

3. A couple welcome table items.  Related to #2 above, we used to have a small welcome table in the lobby.  Our welcome team members would stand there to greet visitors after the worship service and give them a Faith Church mug.  A couple week’s ago we ran out of these mugs.  One of our committees is now looking into what new gift we might want to give visitors, perhaps a reusable grocery bag with our name on it.  That’s a great idea!  But because we ran out of mugs, a few items on our welcome table were out of date, and I brought them into my office temporarily.  For years we have floated around the idea of installing a more substantial welcome center.  Now with lobby update talks going on, that idea has been brought up again.

4. Note from a Neighbor.  During the BBQ, one of the neighbors who lives adjacent to our parking lot stopped by asking if someone from the church might help her pump water out of her basement.  The April showers were abundant last week, and many people in our community got water in their basements.  I had her write a note so I could remember to follow-up today!  I knew that if there was no note, there would be no follow-up.

Now it’s time for me to clean up this mess!

What is the status of your relationship?

relationshipstatus

Facebook has made relationship status a big deal in our culture.  What is your status?  Single, Dating, Engaged, Married, Separated, Divorced?  Sometimes that status changes, and sometimes it is painful.

So how is your relationship going?  Is your marriage thriving?  How are you and your spouse doing?  Are you struggling?  Are you single?  Wondering if you’ll ever get married?  This series of sermons is for you!

It’s relationship month at Faith Church, and each of the four weeks will focus on the various relationship stages in our lives: marriage, divorce, our relationship with God, and singleness.

When I plan out a sermon series, I usually plot it out months in advance.  I felt that 1st Corinthians chapter 7 needed to be broken down into four sermons, and it just so happened to fall into the four weeks of the month of May!

Paul has received some relationship questions from the disciples of Jesus in Corinth, and in this chapter, he attempts to give them answers.  The Corinthian disciples’ questions might sound very familiar to you.  My guess is that whether married, divorced, separated or single, you have asked at least some of these questions about your life and relationships.  While the Corinthian disciples didn’t ask all of the questions below, they did ask quite a few.  I’ve expanded the list because the questions they ask often lead to others that people wonder about in our culture.

  1. How often should a married couple have sex?  Is it okay to take a break from sex?
  2. What is the key to a happy marriage?
  3. I’m married to someone of a different religion, or to someone with no religion.  Is God mad at me?  What should I do about this?
  4. What about roles in marriage?  The traditional understanding of the Bible is that of male headship.  What does that mean?  Doesn’t the Bible also teach that men and women are equal partners?  What if my husband is not the spiritual leader?
  5. Is it okay to be separated?  What should I do if my spouse is abusing me?
  6. We know God hates divorce, but isn’t it okay sometimes?  Doesn’t God want me to be happy rather than be in an awful marriage?
  7. What about single people?  How much should they seek to be married?  What does it mean that God might give someone the gift of singleness?  What if I suspect I have the gift of singleness, but I really want to be married?
  8. What does it mean to be in a relationship with the Lord?  What does it mean to be satisfied in him, when I really want to have a spouse too?

We could go on and on.  These are the major questions we’ll be looking at. I can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to answer them all.  In fact, I really doubt that we will.  Four 30-35 minutes sermons will likely only scratch the surface.  So maybe you’ll join us for sermon discussion on Sunday morning after the sermon.  Worship begins at 9:30, and sermon discussion, along with other classes, begins at 11am. You can also feel free to discuss the sermons further on the blog site.

So as we enter into relationship month, what questions do you have?  Do you have some that are not on the list?  Feel free to ask them in the comment section below.

The first sermon is going to be all about marriage: It is a good thing!!!  You can prep for it by reading 1 Corinthians 7:1-9.

Reports CD, Books, Mug – The Monday Messy Office Report – April 28, 2014

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy by Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. CD with Reports for EC National Conference – I know that for many the word denomination is a really long four-letter word. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with the institutional nature of the church.  Maybe you’re a part of a denomination that you’re not proud of.  Maybe you question that denomination pretty much equals disunity.  Maybe you have another reason for not feeling so happy about a specific denomination or even the idea of denominations.  If any of those “maybes” speak to you, I don’t blame you.  A lot of junk has happened in the name of denominationalism.  Junk happens in mine too.  But I also want to share that I love my denomination, the Evangelical Congregational Church.  Well, except how long of a name it is.  When we changed our church sign a few years ago, people asked me how our church handled it when we changed our name. I said “Great!”  Because we didn’t actually change our name.  Saying “Faith Evangelical Congregational Church” is such a mouthful, that amongst ourselves we have always shortened it to “Faith Church”.  Our byline on the sign still says, “an Evangelical Congregational Church”.  We’re thankful to the Lord for our denomination. We were planted by the EC Church in the late 1960s, and we are proud to be a member of the EC Church.  Every year in May delegates from all EC local churches gather for a national conference, something I come away from every year inspired and excited about what God is doing.  Some years more than others!  Like I said, the EC Church isn’t perfect, but it is passionate about the mission of God’s Kingdom.  Take a look for yourself at the EC Church website, and you’ll see what I mean.  So today I popped the CD in my laptop and read most of the reports of what God is doing in and through the EC Church.  It is exciting!  I can’t wait for conference to hear more, to connect with friends, and be inspired to worship and serve the Lord.  I love conference.

Mission-Drift-cover2. Mission Drift & The Searchers – These are two books given to me that I recently read.  My father-in-law gave me The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joseph LaConte, a book intended for those who are, as the title suggests, searching for the meaning of life.  If you are reading this and not a religious person, maybe searching, maybe not, would you do me a favor and read the book?  I’d be interested in your feedback.  Personally, while it included some good stories, I was only so-so about it. But that’s me.  Maybe some other people would have a different opinion.  The other book was given by a friend from church, Jonathan, as his brother, Chris, is the co-author, along with Peter Greer, both of HOPE International, an organization doing amazing work in the area of micro-finance.  I thought Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches was excellent.  I just saw Jonathan at the church a few minutes ago, and told him that while it is the accessible kind of book that a person could read through in a couple days, Chris & Peter loaded it with so much thoughtful and applicable material that I can see it having a lasting impact for years. I copied the chapter on board members and gave it to Faith Church’s Ministry Council at our strategic planning meeting this past Saturday.  Though the book is written primarily for non-profit Christian organizations, its principles are broadly applicable to churches, and leaders of all kinds.

3. CEF Mug and brochure – Because our church sponsors a Good News Club (GNC) at our local elementary school, and because CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship) oversees GNCs all over our county, some of our people went to CEFs 70th anniversary banquet over the weekend.  They brought me back a mug and brochure from the evening.  At home our coffee mug cupboard is packed, so I think I’ll put this one in the church kitchen.  A couple weeks ago we finished our spring session of Good News Club at Smoketown Elementary. I’m very grateful for all the volunteers from our church, and a couple from other area churches, that work hard to run GNC.  7 weeks in the fall and 7 in the spring.  About 40 kids participate, and it has been wonderful to see God at work in their lives.

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!