Posted by: pastordarren | October 31, 2014

Wonderful Fruit

I used to love to stop by road side fruit stands, get a huge, fresh pear, and enjoy it in the middle of a busy day.  The only reason I don’t any more is that we don’t live where we have access to stands with pears!  As I would finish one off, I was usually in the mood to go get another.  I was able to do this again, albeit with blueberries this summer because of my wife’s job at a blueberry farm and she even brought them home.  It is something about the wonderful fruit that draws me back again and again.

I was reminded of this enjoyment as I am preparing for the sermon this Sunday from Luke 6:43-45:

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

There is no way that I would have chosen a bad pear and the farmers would not have put one out because they would turn people away.  Jesus says here that it is our heart and what is there that will be seen in our words and actions.  If there is grace and love then that will be evident in what we do and say.  If there is fear, anger, unforgiveness, etc., then they will show themselves in our actions and words.

In the church, too often, we don’t let the transformative power of God make us different and create a clean heart in us.  We instead continue to produce questionable fruit that is made to look differently or excused in one way or another.  It is that change that our faith is supposed to bring, that will change the way we act and talk.

I wonder, what flows out of my heart through my words and actions?  Is it goodness that speaks of Grace and Love and draws people into God’s presence?  Or is it spoiledness the will turn them away and leave them hurting even more?

What flows from your heart?

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Posted by: pastordarren | October 22, 2014

Choices

We face them every day – Choices.  Some are simple others more complex but unless we make the choices before us, then weChoices will not move forward.  What ever choices are before us, there will be effects from them.  You can call them results, consequences, or whatever other term you choose but the will be there.  All of our choices have consequences.

It can be as simple as what you choose to wear or eat each day.  If we wear shorts and flip-flops on a day that is snowy and cold, we will probably be miserable.  Or if we eat something that is full of fat, grease and calories; we will not be feeling very well.

Think though, about the choices that will affect others and most of them do.  The reasoning that we use to make our choices will be based on a lot of different criteria, including what I want (or we want), financial, time, etc.  None of those are necessarily wrong but let me give you another criteria – others. The results of our choices will spill over and affect those around us in our families, work and school, churches, even those we don’t know.  I’m sure that we have all been affected by the choices and actions of those around us to varying degrees and it is easy to point out what someone else has done, but harder to see what we have done to others.

Coming from a background of faith there are certain ways of making choices that are important, even if you are not a person of faith, think about these things.  When the consequences of our choices bring about harm and pain to others instead of healing and reconciliation, then we should seriously look at what we are choosing to do.  When the results of what we choose is going to exclude and alienate someone or a group, then we need to stop and think it through again.

Spock once said this, “The needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few, or the one.”  The scriptures tell us to think of others before ourselves.  Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Jesus lived this way. Maybe this is not such a bad way of thinking.

Posted by: pastordarren | October 16, 2014

Heaven at 6500 Feet

Heaven at 6500

Heaven at 6500 Feet Redfish Lake, Stanley Idaho

Earlier this summer, we had the opportunity to gather with our extended family at a place in central Idaho called Redfish Lake. This is a glacier carved and snow fed lake in the middle of the Sawtooth Mountains that is a beautiful place not just to gather and relax but to renew your spirit as you recognize the presence of God in your midst. I also had the privilege of baptizing one of my cousins as she continued her faith journey. It really is Heaven at 6,500 feet.

Many mornings, I would wake up and while making and drinking my coffee, would watch the sun rise on the mountains, being quiet and still, recognizing and reconnecting with God’s Spirit. The passage from Psalms 46: 10 was constantly before me, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

We all need those times of getting away and being renewed, even Jesus did this from time to time. Away from cell phone, Facebook, Instagram, email, etc. to really take the time to ‘detox’ and listen to God speaking to us. It is hard to put all that down, to quiet our own minds and hearts and really experience God. It is easier when we are away, but it is necessary on a regular basis. There is so much that clamors for our attention, so many distractions to deepening our relationship with God, we have to be disciplined in what we do and how we live.

Taking the time each day when you are most able to put aside the business of life and all it demands, takes some work and effort but it is necessary. Through quiet prayer, listening to God speak through scripture and other disciplines of ‘being still’ in body, mind and spirit, we can regularly experience the presence of God even in the midst of the chaos of the world. Read the whole of Psalm 46 to see how the psalmist describes this.

I hope that you would have a place where you can get away, that is special and you can escape to and really hear God’s Spirit. I also hope that you take those opportunities on a regular basis and develop the discipline to stop in the middle of life’s business and listen to what God is speaking on a daily basis.

Peace.

Posted by: pastordarren | October 10, 2014

An Anxiety Fueled World

fear-and-anxiety-shutterstock_104556128-617x416We live in a world that is both filled with and fueled by anxiety and fear.

So much of what we do and who we are is based around the fears and anxiety of perceived threats, worries about what could happen and fears around things that we have no control over and they ultimately end up controlling our lives.  They can be big things – war, sickness, famine, etc.; or small things – latest clothing, gadgets, etc.; and everything in-between.  Many times these things so consume our lives that we can not see the anything but the fear and anxiety and we become paralyzed.  We know too, that this type of worry and fear can eventually lead to an early death.

So what do we do about it?  I don’t think it is wise or even possible to shut out the world, we all have to live in the world and address the things of life that we face.

We can’t run from life but we can’t worry and fret either.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

There is so much in the world that we are not in control of, but as Believers, we are supposed to have faith in God who IS in control.  Things may not go as planned and in the time that we want them to go, yet through prayer and faith, we place it all in God’s hands.

This is usually a hard journey for us because it very much goes against our nature and what we are surrounded with each day.  This is a lesson I am continually learning and relearning too.  When it is Jesus that is at the center of our lives, the anxiety, worry and fear is displaced from our lives to the point that it no longer consumes and controls us.  This doesn’t mean that we stop working in the areas that we can, helping those who are in need, and being watchful for things around us.  We just realize and live by faith that God is in control.

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a wonderful prayer that many of us know the opening to, but the whole of the prayer is very powerful as well.

The Serenity Prayerseren

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

What are the areas of anxiety, fear and worry that you have and how can you give them to God in prayer and petition and then receive God’s peace?

Posted by: pastordarren | October 8, 2014

Developing Patience

I have not posted here in a while, but after moving to Dallas First Christian Church in Dallas, OREGON (not Texas) and being here for about a year, it is time to start again.  I will be trying to post 2 or 3 times a week, at least one addressing the sermon for the coming week.  I always invite your comments and thoughts, as long as they are respectful of everyone.

One of the issues that I’ve been dealing with is the development of patience.  Here are some thoughts:

How many times do we, in our everyday lives, miss different things, chances to grow as believers, chances to touch the lives of our neighbors (someone with a need), chances to show love to those who need to know that love. There is a great scene in the movie “Evan Almighty” where God (Morgan Freeman), meets with Even’s wife as she is trying to figure out what is happening. As they talk, God speaks these words: “. . . Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something, if someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If they prayed for courage, does God give them courage or the opportunity to be courageous? If someone prays for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings or does He give them opportunities to love each other?” (Click here to view the video clip.)  I have been wondering lately about that word ‘opportunity’.

There are times each day where we have opportunities to grow, to be stretched, and to respond to what is placed before us. Wouldn’t it be nice to pray for something – patience, courage, close family, peace, self-control, etc. – and have them immediately a part of our lives. It might be nice but it would be too easy. It would be like taking a short cut in learning something or getting somewhere and missing the journey, and sometimes the struggle to get there.

The journey of faith is just that, a journey. We don’t get to the end immediately nor do we have everything done for us. We have opportunities each day to notice what is around us and how we are going to respond. Many times, I find myself focused on other things and not on what the Holy Spirit is trying to show me and teach me. Specifically, the lesson of patience. The process of purchasing a house, the waiting for the paperwork to go through has, and continues to be, a lesson of learning patience and waiting for God’s timing in things.

I pray for patience and get opportunities to be patience with the process and people. Sometimes I’m not, but I’m learning and in the learning, the lessons learned will stick. Are you aware of your opportunities around you?

Peace.

Posted by: pastordarren | October 16, 2013

The Changing Cycles of Life and Living

20130917_084109I can vividly remember when growing up, going with my parents to these new video stores to rent a VHS movie AND the Video Cassette Player, spending $25-30 to watch a movie that the top quarter of the screen was messed up because we could never get the tracking just right.  It soon became that the rental came down in price, stores got rid of the machines because people were buying their own and video stores sprang upon every corner and in most strip malls.

Then the transition to DVDs happened, which got rid of the tracking issues, but whether or not you purchased or rented, had to have new machines to play the DVDs and replace the tapes that you had at home.  For a little while you could get both technologies together but it did not last long.  With the advent of HD TVs, we moved to Blu Ray discs which required a new way of playing them, although the Blu Ray players could play the DVDs.  We still had rental stores that also included video game rentals for most  of the systems.

We are in the middle of another transition, from the Blu Ray to streaming our movies, TV shows and even our games.  With the advent of services such has Netflix and Hulu, we can get on demand almost anything we want in HD any time that is convenient for us.  With the streaming happening the video stores are on their way out.  The picture with this post is of the last Blockbuster closing in our area.  There is no longer a demand for the rentals when we can stream and we don’t even have to go out to get the movies.  In short, we still have our movies and entertainment, yet we have changed the way in which we receive the material, share it, and enjoy it.  In other words, can can stream Star Wars on my big screen TV, put in one of several versions on DVD, or if I can find a working player, put in a VHS copy (and still deal with tracking).  Basically the same movie viewed in different ways.

When I saw the store closing and snapped the picture, I began to think about these transitions and how it is not just related to the video industry but to our lives as a whole, including the church.

I came across the following quote the other day, that even though is 150+ years old, speaks to our lives today:

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
–Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

How often do we try to deal with the problems and situations of our current, daily life, with ways and means that are not appropriate for what we are living in.  As the video industry changed over the years, we gained things and we lost  things.  Some people maybe upset that they can’t go to the store and rent a tape or DVD, yet we are adapting to the new technology and opportunities that streaming affords.

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our community with past resources?

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our government with past methods and models?

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our churches with past mindsets and practices?

The issues in our churches is what hits home for me.  I believe that those who hold the faith and strive to grow and live it truly want to do so.  That doesn’t mean that we have to do things the same way or that holding on to the things of the past will engage the culture of today.  In other words, the ways in which we live out our faith, structure and live as a local, regional, and national church will be different from even 15-20 years ago.  Those practices and disciplines will draw from the past, such as the Spiritual Disciplines that have been part of the Christian life for hundreds of years, yet the way in which they are practiced are new.  There will also be things that we may have to leave behind and find new ways of living, structuring , and engaging that are more suited for today.

I believe that each person and each church will need to find that way and it begins by carefully looking inside at who they are and the culture around them.  Then finding new ways to address where they are and incorporating people into the Body so they can grow and express their faith too.

What do you think?  Where are areas where new ways of thinking and doing are needed and what might some of them be?

Posted by: pastordarren | October 3, 2013

To What Do We Apply?

There is a phrase that we use all the time in the Church as we study and read scripture. I’ve used it; I’ll bet you have used it too. That phrase is, “How does this scripture apply to my life?”. By asking that question, we are trying to determine what the text we are studying means to us.

I’ve been thinking about that simple word, “apply” lately. When we apply one thing to another, what we apply usually takes the shape of what we apply it to. Paint is a great example of that idea. The paint on the walk or the car does nothing to reshape the surface.

So I wonder, when we apply scripture to our life, does the scripture get changed or adjusted to fit our lives and situations?  I think that happens far too often, even if unintentionally.

What would it be like if we would flip it and apply our lives to the truths and guidance that we find in  scripture? Would our lives be what is changed and transformed to match the love and grace that is shown in the life of Jesus? Would we take more seriously the calls to forgive, love, disciple, give, welcome and the many other calls for those who believe?

Does may think this is a matter of word play and maybe it is.  If words have power and the way we use them can move people and change situations, then this maybe something to think about.

Do we change scripture to suit us, or are we changed and transformed by the power of God’s Word?  Let me know what you think.  I hope for the later.

Posted by: pastordarren | October 3, 2013

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Posted by: pastordarren | June 13, 2013

Do What We Can

In the latest Star Trek movie, in the midst of one of the crises, Capt. Kirk tells Spock, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”

This brief admission has stuck with me and been bouncing around in my head.

Many times in our lives and the life of the church, we don’t know what we are supposed to do when we come to a crossroad.  Too many options, too many options that are different from what we have done in the past, none of the options seem good at the moment, and with many more excuses, we don’t act and take a direction.  We want the big picture, we want to know what each step is going to be like and that everything will be ok and smooth sailing.

What Kirk says here, I think is important to us in real life, “I only know what I can do.”  What would it be like in the church if each person took that task upon themselves, doing what they can do and have been gifted to do?  If our focus is following Jesus’ call on our lives in the world today and being the Body of Christ in the world, then each of us has a part.

Ephesians 4:11-16

 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upuntil we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Just do what you can and have been gifted to do.  We may not know the next step, we can’t do it alone and we don’t have all the answers; but working together, we will build the Kingdom.

Posted by: pastordarren | May 2, 2013

Pray for Healing in Our World

Today is the National Day of Prayer. A day set aside to come together and pray for our communities, states and country. It is good to have this day and I was fortunate to participate in a powerful prayers service at our city council chambers in Hampton. Prayers were lifted up for all aspects of our lives – families, schools, churches, all levels of government, the military, repentance and renewed dedication to living the Kingdom of God in this world today.

Even though the following text was not the official scripture of the day, I was reminded of its importance – 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Lately we have seen many different examples of the brokenness in our world and it was good to be reminded that it is God’s people who are called to pray and allow God to work through them to heal the land and the people.  In the specific text, God’s people are the Israelites and today, I believe, the Church as a whole and each believer would be included.  The denomination that I serve in, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has as part of its identity statement, “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world”.  While it may seem a little vague, the meaning is clear, will we be a part of God’s healing movement in the brokenness and fragmentation that is all around us.

So the question remains, will we pray for the brokenness of the world?  Will we work toward bringing that healing?  Today reminded me of the importance of prayer and working toward healing.

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