Tag Archives: mail

Reading other people’s mail – Titus 1:1-4, Part 1

10 Jun

Have you ever accidentally received mail for your neighbor?

It happens to all of us from time to time.  The question is, what do you do with it? Usually just walk it over to their house, right?

Do you ever just throw it away?  Please don’t!  It’s illegal!

Most often misdelivered mail happens when you move to a new house, and you get mail for the people who lived there before you.   Here at Faith Church, we get mail for previous pastors or for churches that rented from us.  It is almost always junk mail from organizations not aware of the pastoral change or that the church no longer rents space here.  So I tend to open the mail and read it, or more frequently just throw it away.  You can tell 99% of all junk mail by the outside of the envelope!  But if it is real mail we make sure it gets in the proper hands.  The USPS says all you have to do is write “Return to Sender” or “Not At This Address” on the envelope and place it back in the mail.

But have you ever read someone else’s real mail? 

That’s a bit more personal, isn’t it?  There are ethical concerns and legalities, right?  It’s illegal to open other people’s mail.  But in our technological age, it happens. 

Have you ever been sitting next to someone with their phone or laptop out, and you glance over and their email is open for all to see? I’ve heard stories about how that has happened and friends have learned shocking things about one another, and it has led to hurt.

You might think, “Well, you should have averted your eyes.”  That is easier said than done. Maybe it was one of those situations where it was unavoidable.  Maybe you’ve been there before.  You aren’t looking for it, and boom there it is right in front of you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  You’ve seen it. 

Starting with this post, that is exactly what we’re going to do.  Actually, for the rest of the summer, we’re going to read other people’s mail.  Letters, to be specific.  Ancient letters.  

In the Bible, in the New Testament, there are a bunch of them.  Letters written from one person to another.  We call them books of the Bible, but they are not even close to what we normally think of when we think of books.  They’re letters.  Many are quite short, more like emails in our culture.  Notes, you might even call them.  This summer we are going to study the short letters of the New Testament.  Formally they are in the genre called Epistles.  Often when we use the word, “epistle,” our minds conjure up really long letters.  In fact many New Testament epistles are long letters: Romans, 1st Corinthians, 2nd Corinthians, and Hebrews, to name a few.  In our modern Bibles they are all divided into multiple chapters with intricate argumentation, and they frequently get the lion’s share of attention.  Since I have been pastor, I have taught through Philippians, 1st Corinthians, 1st Timothy and 1st Peter.  Maybe someday we’ll get to the 2nds of those epistles! 

There are also a group of short epistles in the New Testament, and they rarely get mentioned.  This summer we’re going to study all of them.  We’re going to read other people’s mail such as Paul’s letter to Titus.  His note to Philemon.  John’s two short notes called 2nd and 3rd John.  And finally the short note written by Jesus’ brother, Jude.  Some are so short, we’ll cover then in one sermon.  Today we start with Titus, which is the longest of the short letters.

Let’s begin with a quick overview of Titus.  There are many theories about when, where and why Paul wrote this letter, and for our sermon series I am going to take the position that Paul is writing later in life, most likely after the events described in the book of the Acts.  By this time, Paul is deeply established in the early church as a missionary statesman who has traveled on numerous long mission trips throughout the Roman Empire, preaching about good news in Jesus, starting new churches, and raising up other leaders.  He regularly brought people with him, and trained them to be new leaders.  One of those guys was Titus.  Peek down at Titus chapter 1, verse 5 and you’ll see that Paul has dispatched Titus to lead the network of house churches on Crete, where Paul had previously ministered and started the churches.  Crete is an island right smack in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  You can read in Acts 27 when Paul visited there as a prisoner, and based on what we read in Titus 1:5, he visited there again with Titus.  Titus was a close associate of Paul.  Though Titus is never mentioned in the stories in the book of Acts he is mentioned in numerous other letters, where we learn that Paul trusted Titus to deal with difficult situations. And that is exactly what was happening in Crete.

Paul has two main concerns for Titus.  Good works. Sound Doctrine.

One is prophylactic. The other is evangelistic.

Wait, prophylactic? Isn’t that birth control? While it relates to that, prophylactic has a broader meaning.  A prophylactic is something that prevents disease.  In his letter to Titus, Paul is writing a prophylactic letter.  He wants to prevent disease in the church.  And so he will talk about sound doctrine.

Paul also wants the church to reach out, and so he will talk about doing good, which Paul sees as foundational to all outreach. 

What we will see in our series through this letter is how much we need to hear this message today.

Check back in tomorrow as we begin reading someone else’s mail.

Credit Card Statement, Thank you note, Check, Letter from England – The Monday Messy Office Report – March 17, 2014

17 Mar

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

1. Credit Card Statement – This came in the mail over the weekend.  Four of us staff have church credit cards, and we use them for church ministry expenses.  When we make a purchase, we keep the receipts, so that when the statement arrives, we attach the receipts to the statements, matching each purchase with a line item in the church budget.  Then we give the statement to the church treasurer, and he pays the bill.  Each month as I’m stapling receipts to the statement and scouring the church budget to find the correct line item, I think “Is the church a business or a ministry?  Or both?”  I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of the business side of the church.  I can spend a lot of time doing paperwork, financial reporting, and the like. I hear people say things like “it’s a necessary part of the church these days.”  But is it?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.

2. Thank you note – A family that lives in our church’s immediate community had a tragic accident a few months ago.  One of our Faith Church families is very close long-time friends with the community family.  So the family from our church suggested that the church take up an offering to help with aftermath of the accident.  It was an awesome idea, and I’m so proud our Church Council approved it and that our Family of Faith Church responded generously.  The community family wrote this in a thank-you card that came in the mail over the weekend: “We cannot thank you enough for the wonderful gift you have given us during this difficult time.  It is much needed and greatly appreciated.  All of the help and support we have received from not only family and friends but from people such as yourselves who do not even know us has restored our faith in humanity and reassured us that the Lord is constantly working in our lives, even at the most trying and desperate times.”  Awesome!

3. Check from sign language class – One of our Family of Faith teaches sign language classes at the church, and she dropped off a check to pay for building use.  It reminded me that we have so many groups using our church, and I’m thankful the church is willing to let the building bless people that way.  The church is not a building.  It is the people who are the church.  But our building is a gift from God, a gift that many people over the years have given lots of time and energy and money to build and maintain.  So we see our building as a tool through which God can show love to the community.  We try to offer the building to groups either free or at a minimal charge.  In addition to sign language class, we have martial arts classes, a drama ministry, ballroom dance, Girl Scouts, and an Ethiopian church using our building every week.  Many other groups use the church here and there for one-time events throughout the year.

4. Letter from England – This one came in the mail too.  A prisoner incarcerated in England wrote me wanting to know more about the Amish.  The funny thing is that he seems to think that I am Amish. I kid you not.  I have no idea how he found out about me or why he thinks I’m Amish, except that visitors sometimes assume that about us Lancastrians.  I wonder if he found my accident story online?  I plan on writing him back. We’ll see where this goes…

Now it’s time for me to clean up!

 

USB Flash Drive, Employee Salary Audit – The Monday Messy Office Report – March 3, 2014

3 Mar

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

1. A USB Flash Drive.  A nice one too.  32GB.  But truth be told, I know why it is here because I put it here.  Kinda. I did receive it from someone yesterday, and I put it in my office for safekeeping.  We’re having another Family Night on Wednesday, and after the meal, a lady from Faith Church, Terry, will be talking about her recent trip to Boone, North Carolina where she and a couple friends served with Operation Christmas Child (OCC) at their distribution center.  One of those friends made a PowerPoint that we’re going to show on Wednesday, and she loaded it onto the flash drive.  Are you familiar with OCC?  You know the shoeboxes that a lot of churches fill for children in need around the world?  That’s Operation Christmas Child.  Do you know what happens to all those boxes?  Maybe you filled one last year?  I’m excited to hear what happens when the shoeboxes leave the church.  Terry has told me a bit of the story, and it is amazing, especially the part about the impact shoeboxes, filled with love, can make in the lives of kids around the world.  How about joining us Wednesday night to learn more?

2. Employee Salary Audit.  Booooooooooring.  I really wrestle with the business elements of being a church in our era.  This audit is a form that our denomination asks us to fill out each year.  It’s not that complicated, really.  We just have to write down the list of everyone we paid salary to this year and how much.  Frankly, the business side of the church doesn’t interest me all that much.  I have a hard time caring why my denomination would want to know that, but I trust them that there is a good reason.  Thankfully, I don’t have to fill out that paper.  We have dedicated volunteers that are much more talented at managing the finances of the church than I am.  I praise the Lord for the way he has gifted people in different ways, such as having a business or financial mind.  What scares me, though, is when the church is so business-oriented that we can be side-tracked from the mission of God’s Kingdom.

3. Mail.  I have a couple pieces of Saturday’s mail sitting on my counter: a packet from International Christian Concern (ICC), and a newsletter from Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).  Lots of acronyms today.  ICC is an org that documents the persecution of Christians around the world.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe face hardship and personal violence that no one, no matter what they believe, should face.  It is hard for me to read ICC’s publications sometimes because the stories are so painful.  We need to remember, pray for, and advocate on behalf our our persecuted brothers and sisters.  CEF is the group that gives oversight to Good News Clubs (GNC) in elementary schools around the county.  We have a great group of volunteers that run the GNC in our local elementary school, Smoketown.  In fact GNC for spring 2014 starts today!  It is a great way to reach out to kids in our community, and we are quite thankful for the generosity of our school district to allow us to meet after school in Smoketown’s large group room.

Now it’s time for me to clean up!