Philippians 4:6 begins with these words,
“Be anxious for nothing!”
“For real, God, You are asking us to be anxious for nothing; right now in Twenty Sixteen, in this church, in this country? How can we choose to be anx-ious for nothing when everything is going askew?”
The verse goes on to say,
“In everything by prayer and pleading, with thanksgiving, let your re- quests be made known to God.”
Vandelia has been praying and pleading. But have we thanked God for all our broken hearts, all our diseased bodies, and for all our burdened spirits? Aren’t these things the very things that drive us to fervently seek God? And in re-sponse God promises us,
“the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.”
Has anyone experienced a peace in the midst of a crisis that can only be God’s peace? There is no other explanation possible- the peace is super natural. The verse goes on to say that this peace will guard our hearts, and minds through Jesus Christ. And then we are told to meditate on all things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy.
Dear Vandelia, let’s do this. Let’s be anxious for nothing. Let’s give Vandelia Church back to God and to allow God to do as God pleases with us. May God be glorified through our lives fully submitted to Him.
Have you ever thought about the way that we look at people? If we are truly honest with ourselves we make so many judgments about people simply based on the way they look. I know, you might be thinking, "I don't do that", but think about the last time you were in a restaurant or a coffee shop. Say someone walks in with sunglasses, long beard, leather vest, jeans, boot, and bandanna; who comes to mind? ....Biker right? What about a woman that walks in with her family and is wearing a hijab? Pretty easy one....Muslim woman. Once we've categorized, we can now begin (in our minds) to make certain distinctions about them based upon what we call stereotypes. Stereotypes are simply widely held but fixed and oversimplified images of a person or thing. This is something that we all do. Some more and some less, but we all do. We can't help it, because there is something in us that has to categorize people. The fact is, most people and situations are way too complex for stereotypes to ever be enough.
One of my favorite stories in scripture is in John 4, commonly known as the "woman at the well." Jesus interacts with a woman who has multiple stereotypes laid upon her. She's a woman, she's a Samaritan (hated by the Jews), she's an outcast from her own town, etc. What I love about Jesus' interaction with her is that even though he knows all these things, he blows right passed them, straight to her heart. He doesn't care about what people say, he cares about her. He wants to know her on a deep, personal level, and more importantly he wants her to know him on a deep, personal level. My prayer is that we stereotype like Jesus. We realize and understand the stereotypes that we have, but we blow right past them to the heart of the person. At the very least, we can be fully aware of our stereotypes and realize their inadequacy. May we be the people that get passed "issues" and stereotypes, and dive into the heart, depth, and complexities of life.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We who gather here at Vandelia come confessing our brokenness. We are a stubborn people and we like children and sheep often go astray. Father, draw us ever closer to your heart. We must discover and rediscover your way; without You we wallow in guilt, pride, and despair. Steady our course with your faithfulness. Help us to see your holy way and increase in us the desire to follow where You lead. Remove all self-righteousness from our hearts. Expose our fake securities. You alone are trustworthy.
We as your people at this Church have witnessed your creation and we are amazed by your creativity, power, and design. We see seeds in the parched land receive your water, sprout, grow, blossom, and produce cotton, pecans, apples, tomatoes, sunflowers, squash, zucchini, and zinnias; we are delighted by your gifts. We bow down in humble thanksgiving for all You do for us. We know that You are God and we are your creation.
Father, show us how to glorify You in everything we do, in every relationship we have, and with all our possessions. Remind us that our bank accounts, our homes, our cars, our jobs, even our bodies are made possible only through You. May we use all we are and all we have to show your glory in this world. Help us to trust that even our brokenness can bring glory to You, just like the man’s blindness did long ago.
We pray this in Your Name, Jesus, Amen
We recently were on a trip to the northwest. We had been preparing for a few months and thinking about things we might do and places we'd like to see and take the kids to see. We were going to visit some friends, see some areas that Kim grew up in etc. Traveling is a bit of an "other" experience. We seem to get so caught up in our routine, that when we aren't doing it, everything seems all wrong. It's so uncomfortable. It's like some kind of out-of-body experience when you go on vacation. Ironically, I think we kind of like that feeling sometimes, but we are usually ready to get back to our routine after a vacation. We also know that if we stay "on vacation" there won't be any money to take any more.
The life of a Jesus follower is much like this "other" experience. As his followers we are often called to "other" ways of living out life. These ways can often be uncomfortable and uncertain. They require a reliance that is beyond our human capabilities and understanding. We live in a world that is often filled with bad news and grim circumstances. We are surrounded by hurt, pain, and violence. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be bearers of "good news." Good news is only "good" if it changes the status quo of bad news and the mundane of our every day lives. Often, the circumstances and shadows of life demand our constant attention and tend to evoke negative responses. The nature of the "good news" of Jesus is that it breaks into these shadows and shows a fresh and better way. It quietly calls us into an "other" way of living.
Are we sharing this kind of good news to our world today? Are we bearing the name of Jesus in a way that breaks the chains and the darkness in the lives of people around us? May we all begin, or continue to share a message of real and living hope in a fractured and broken world. May we go out like the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10. May we go out with nothing but reliance on Holy Spirit and the message of peace, doing the work of healing and declaring that the kingdom of God has come near.