Does God feel distant?

Does God feel distant? Have you wondered if he has abandoned you? Or maybe you’ve abandoned him? It’s a common experience, that inward fear that you and God aren’t doing so well. Why does this happen? Why do we allow ourselves to get to that point?

As we prepare to start a new series this weekend, I hope you’ll take time to think about these questions and discuss them here.

The new series is the 12 Minor Prophets, those short books with the funny names at the end of the Old Testament. We’re going to study one per week, and rather than going verse-by-verse through each book (some are over 10 chapters long!), we’re going to take a wide-angle approach, looking for themes, seeking the heart of God.

So as you discuss the questions above, also take time to read the book of Hosea, a surprising and beautiful message from God.

How long have you been waiting?

Is there something that you are waiting for?  What is it, and how long have you been waiting?

Are you going through something difficult that doesn’t seem to end?

I was in seminary for 8 years, and that seemed like a long time.  For the first 4-5 years it seemed like there was no end in sight.  Ever been there?  Know what I’m talking about?

Would you be willing to talk about it here?  If so, comment below.  Then read James 5:7-12 in preparation for this Sunday.

Paying our workers

So to continue where we left off, you are rich, and you are not paying your workers fair wages!  Yes, you.

Take a look at the tag on the shirt you are wearing right now.  Where was it made?  What is the name of the person who made it?  Chances are they were not paid fairly.  How about the toaster you used this morning?  If it wasn’t made here in the USA, it is highly likely the worker was not paid fairly, might have been a child, might have been a slave.  Is that okay with you?

Maybe you’ll consider reading what James had to say in James 5:1-6.  Then continue the discussion here.  What can we do about this?

Are we rich?

I know almost no one who would say “Yes, I am rich.”

Here’s a fact: the US Census reports that the average income in the USA between 2006-2010 was $52,000. Some of you might read that number and think to yourself, I would be loaded if I had that much.  Others would not be able to stay afloat.

Rich is relative.

So how do we decide who are the haves and the have nots?  ((But hold up a second…why are we even talking about this?  Well, the next section of James is about rich people.  Brace yourselves by reading James 5:1-6 ahead of time.  He’s let some strong words fly already, and this passage might feel like a flamethrower in the face.  James talks about it, so we’re going to talk about it, melting flesh included.  Now back to the question…))

Check out this thought-provoking article using recent world stats.  Who are the haves and have nots?  I think you’ll be able to decide for yourselves.  Take note of the comparison between the poor in the USA and the rich in India.

Before we come to hear this teaching from James to the rich it is vital that we make the leap from seeing ourselves as just barely making it America to seeing ourselves as wealthy by world standards.   So read the article and let’s discuss: are we rich?

Knowing and doing what God wants you to do…easy, right?

Did you ever wish God would visit you, in the body of Morgan Freeman, and tell you what he wants you to do?

Like this.

I have wished for that, even the Morgan Freeman part.  But it has never happened.  Well, not quite like that.

Does God still speak?  In this past week’s sermon James talked about how our plans for the future should be “God-willing”.  Makes you think, “Thank you very much, James, for making my life more confusing.”   How many of you have wondered how we find out what God wills if he rarely visits us like he does with Evan Baxter?  We had a great sermon discussion about this on Sunday, so let’s continue it here.

What are you waiting for?

Over the last few weeks on Facebook people have been posting errant pictures from the movie Back to the Future.  The occasion is the so-called “Future Day”, the date that Doc types into the time machine, when he goes to the future.  As a kid I was, and as an adult I still am, fascinated by the various conceptions of the future we find in literature and film.  Flying cars, light sabers, time travel.  What are you waiting for in the future?  By asking that question, I’m not just referring to technology.  Perhaps you’re waiting for a dream to come to fruition.   Maybe a relationship to blossom.  Maybe a pain to be healed.  Let’s discuss!

Taking back our words

This post is late because I was away for the first half of the week enjoying Dads & Lads camp with my son at Twin Pines.  It is a kid’s paradise.  Twin Pines has a variety of camps, and they still have room this summer.  Check them out here.  But now to discuss this past Sunday’s sermon.

I really appreciated all the input, and some of your stories made it in the sermon.  We had a lively and helpful discussion in our sermon discussion group following the sermon.  Perhaps you want to keep that going.

How can we not just manage our sinful talk, but instead have a Spirit inspired change of heart?  As Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Enemies of God, Friends with the world…or just sin management?

Thanks to those of you that joined us for the sermon discussion on Sunday, it was excellent!  Let’s keep the discussion going.  Have you been thinking more about what James wrote?  Post your comments below.

As I have thought about the sermon, and all of James, one of my concerns is that you are getting the idea from my sermons that God only cares about sin management.  Dallas Willard used that phrase a lot in his book The Divine Conspiracy, which I highly recommend.   Yesterday, I found out about a blog post called “dear Pastor” which, as you can imagine, had me interested from the beginning.   Let’s discuss that too.