April 13, 2011

Six Habits: Give Generously

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:32 am by Steve

Generosity is a path that takes you closer to God, always unfolding in new and exciting ways. The more you stop focusing your sight on your possessions and wealth, the more you will see the gift of God and the purpose for which they were created.

Jesus recognizes giving as an action of the heart, and as a measure of the heart. People tend to look at the size of the gift. Radical generosity is generosity that flows from an encounter with this radically generous God we meet in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Gospel takes root in our lives, it becomes the story that shapes, informs and defines the decisions and direction of our lives. So, just like Christ, we gladly become poor, giving sacrificially of our lives to enrich the lives of others. Just as our Savior poured himself out to rescue and enrich our lives, so we would pour out our lives to rescue and enrich the lives of others – not just friends and family, but even those who are removed from us.

Step 1: Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Many people do not practice radical generosity because most of their resources already have claims upon them.  We cannot support God’s church, bless the poor, and give to change the world unless we spend less and create margin in our lives in the area of finances. If we are going to be generous toward God and others, we must forsake any excessive generosity we have shown to ourselves. At First United Methodist Church we speak of living simply so that others can simply live.

Step 2: Grow in Giving

Giving is something we should grow in, just like every other area of our spiritual formation. God increases our resources not to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving.

Step 3: Encounter the Gospel

Tim Keller teaches that without an experience of the gospel and grace, our giving is passive and spontaneous – – we only give when guilted into it by someone else and when we do give it is whatever we have or can afford at that specific time.  However, when we experience the gospel our giving then becomes active and intentional.  We become active in seeking out ways to give and bless others with our finances and we become intentional about how much of our income we want to give to others.  The gospel completely changes the way we view our money, and it gives us the freedom to give it away in acts of radical generosity.

March 28, 2011

6 Habits: Spend Time with God Daily

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:17 pm by Steve

Many of us struggle to find the time to read the Bible and pray daily. Often we start with unrealistic goals or expectations. We try to fit another activity into our already hectic schedules and simply cannot find an open block that size. That leads to guilt and guilt leads to isolation and isolation leads to more guilt. Let me suggest a way to spend seven to ten minutes alone with God each day. Start small and let it grow. Once you develop this habit, your time with God will expand at a natural pace as you experience more of God and see the world through His eyes.

Start with a simple daily prayer for God’s guidance.
Memorize a prayer so that it is always on the tip of your tongue in the case of emergency. This is one of my favorites.

Lord, be a bright flame before me,

Be a guiding star above me,

Be a smooth path below me,

Be a kindly shepherd behind me,

Today and for evermore. Amen.

Start with a simple prayer for God’s guidance as you read the Bible.
For Example: “Dear God, Help me to understand your truth as I read the Bible today.” This will take from 30 seconds to one minute.)

Take time to read enough of the Bible to develop a complete thought. Read a whole chapter or a whole story instead of a verse or two, here and there. Some stories in the Bible last for several chapters; some are only a few verses long. Read enough to discover a thought or principle you can think about during the rest of your day. This will take from four to six minutes.

Round off your time alone with God with personal prayer – really talk to God. As you begin, this will take two to three minutes. Ask yourself these questions: (1) When have I felt the most connected to God and why? (2) When have I felt the most separated from God and why? (3) when have I been the kind of person I really wanted to be and why? These questions will draw you into the heart of God’s will for your life.

Let it expand naturally as you develop your practice.

Finally, talk with God about the everyday activities that makes you “YOU”. (what are your wants, needs, hurts, joys, etc.) Do not Hold Back. Don’t evaluate what you think God does and doesn’t want o hear. You can’t surprise God, shock God, or reveal that dirty little secret you think He doesn’t already know about. By sharing your heart honestly, you get it out in the open and the secret is not longer dirty or secret. It’s power is gone!

You can use this simple acronym:

ACTS

Adoration    ex: God, I praise you for who You are, Your steadfast love and forgiveness and for believing in me more than I do.

Confession    ex: Forgive me for not loving others like you love me. Help me to put aside petty jealousy, pride and arrogance and to grow in my ability to show love to others. Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.

Thanksgiving    ex: “Thank you for the love of my family, friends and church. Thank you for loving me enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for me. Thank you for helping me become like him and to know the full meaning of love and forgiveness.

Supplication    ex: “God, help me today at work. I want my work habits to reflect well on you. Help our church to grow and touch many lives. Reach ___________ with your love and forgiveness and draw them to your side. Be with ___________”

Six Habits of a Transformed Life

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:06 pm by Steve

Six Habits of a Transformed Life

The Six Habits of a Transformed Life are at the heart of our Christian Journey. Nobody gets very far in life without some effort, commitment and follow through. They are ancient disciplines that Christ followers have practiced for centuries and all are proven effective in transforming the mundane and routine into the Adventure of a Lifetime. They are proven ways to grow deeper in our relationship with Christ and farther our walk with God through every season of life. Every member is asked to practice these habits and encourage those around us in staying true to who we are as the Body of Christ.  While there are other spiritual disciplines, these six are at our core.

  • Spend time daily with God        March 28, 2011
  • Invite friends to church
  • Give generously
  • Serve in a ministry
  • Participate in a small group
  • Worship Regularly

Each week I will share some thoughts and helpful hints on how to follow through on these important disciplines.

March 13, 2011

New Spirit Church

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:03 pm by Steve

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
(Ezek. 36:26-27)

Imagine sitting around a campfire with a close friend. You talk about the day’s events – obstacles on the trail, unusual sights, and perhaps even about the trails you would like to explore. You talk about where the journey has taken you and where it may lead tomorrow. As the day draws to a close, you embrace the silence with grateful exhaustion staring into the crackling flames, quiet serenity envelopes you like a blanket. Although no words are spoken, you find you are at peace with yourself and your life.

Living the inspired life means living in moments like these. It means having a purpose so powerful that it guides even the simplest choices. It means choosing the path not because it is easy but because of where it leads.

Our lives are constantly in pursuit of a destination unknown to us. We feel like we’re late for a dinner engagement, but can’t remember the address. Frantically we try anything, go anywhere, or follow anyone who seems to know where they’re going. We’re lost and we know it. Where can we turn for help?

Engaging: I wish my church was a place where all people with all kinds of backgrounds, viewpoints, habits, hang-ups, hurts, successes and defeats felt welcome to belong and begin to imagine all God wants for them. I want to be in a church that encourages people to share honestly about where they are in life, their doubts and fears, as well as their hopes and dreams. Jesus was criticized for hanging out with “outcasts” and I want to be criticized for doing the same (Matt. 9:9-13). I believe that no true healing can happen until we’re honest about our faults, struggles and fears. (James 5:16).

Transforming: I believe church was created to see people transformed through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Church was meant to be the place where addicts find liberation, workaholics find fulfillment, and where life takes on the grand adventure. I do believe that church is a battle ground where our best ideals are confronted by our own destructive selfishness. It is where a God encounter is life changing and admirers of Jesus become followers.

Connected: Only in trusting, committed relationships can we let go of the past and risk discovering a new future. Without healthy relationships life becomes a series of tasks, but with them every meal becomes a banquet. . Our dream is not that every person knows everyone by name, but that every person know a handful of people so well that when one of them rejoices they all do and when one of them weeps, they all shed a tear. The word on everyone’s lips would be “I’m so glad you’re here!”

Poured out: When we feel spiritually dry, we’ll do just about anything to quench the thirst. I believe that belonging to a church is an invitation to be poured out in service to others. I believe the church is commissioned to fill the darkness (Matthew 5:14), quench the thirst (Matthew 10:42) and feed the hungry (Matthew 25:37) whether physical, emotional or spiritual. I pray we never stop pouring out our time, energy, talent and money into meeting the spiritual, material and emotional needs of others.

March 11, 2011

Hear His Voice

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:17 am by Steve

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

If you had an opportunity to follow Jesus, would you do it? Sounds like an easy one to answer, until you think about it. And that’s the problem isn’t it, we don’t think about it. Most of us think of Christianity in the abstract, taking little time to really consider the practical implications of what Jesus said, did and asked of those who followed Him. So much so that when the real Jesus does comes knocking, we’re not that prepared for the shock-and-awe of who Jesus is and where He’s asking us to follow. So we create labels for those opportunities like ridiculous, outrageous, impractical, or simply crazy, and then watch God Himself walk right on past.

Such was my life and my spiritual journey until I met Barb and Jim Richter in one of those odd ‘chance’ encounters that creates an itch in your soul that no amount of religious busyness can cure. I first met Jim and Barb who live in Ohio last July when they visited the church I pastor in West Virginia as part of a Florida mission team. Coincidental? During their visit we were able to share a meal together, talk at length about their passion for Haiti and in general make a connection that looked an awful lot like a one of those crazy ideas. You see for most of my life I’ve been pretty comfortable listening to God filtered through stained glass and well worn traditions and translated through carefully crafted liturgies and my favorite hymns. But hearing about Haiti was different and I knew it. Up until then I really didn’t know what following the Shepherd involved. Maybe I really didn’t want to know or maybe God just knew I wasn’t ready yet to see the world as it is. Either way I knew this was no ordinary opportunity, it was crazy.

Over the months that followed I badgered Barb with too many questions, thought and prayed about Haiti, and worried how in the world I was going to explain this to my family and friends. I solved that last one by not telling them until the week before I left! In the end I’m not sure who took a bigger leap of faith, Jim and Barb or me.

So on February 1, 2011, I set off on my journey to follow Jesus to Haiti not really knowing what to expect but willing to experience the unexpected. During the week of our stay, my prayer each morning was simple but sincere “God grant me an encounter with you today that will change my life, no matter the cost.”

What God did was open the eyes of my heart to see the Kingdom of God, perhaps for the first time. I was so inspired and moved by the passion and spiritual connection Jim and Barb have with the Haitian people. In a country of unimaginable poverty, they have planted an oasis of hope for children who have no family and invite them to become part of theirs, to live, learn and know in Christ, and to ultimately become ambassadors of Christ to transform Haiti.

While in Haiti we were all blessed to participate in a true movement of the Spirit of God when six young people were baptized in the blue Caribbean waters. Through Jim and Barb’s passion for sharing Christ, I saw a man living in the most deplorable conditions accept Christ and come to church the next morning to hear me preach. (of course no one ever said if he came back the following Sunday) We played soccer with the kids, we shared our gifts and were overwhelmed by their love and generosity. I experienced an honest faith in Haiti that has been purified by adversity and is stronger through weakness. The Haitians love to sing and praise God, not for what they have but for who He is.

So much happened and so much was experienced in Haiti that I am unable to put into words. There impression on my life, however, will continue to be a significant part of my future.

I wish to thank God for Jim and Barb as well as Bato and Gina for their passion to share the Love of Christ in a real, honest and personal way without seeing borders, color or economic status. Maybe, in the end, the Christian life really is outrageous, impractical and simply crazy. And still he says “Follow me.”

Blessings,


Steve Gedon

February 14, 2011

Top Websites

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:06 pm by Steve

Top 10 Websites to Stay Connected

I am not a “web surfer,” but I do realize the need to use the internet to assist my knowledge and strengthen my sense of connection to a world that is increasingly “cyber.”

I am also not inclined to spend a lot of time on the internet, but without some system, I tend to forget to stay in touch with some sites to the extent that I’d like to do so.

But for what it’s worth, here are some sites I’ve found valuable.

1.  Christianity Today           http://www.christianitytoday.com/

2.  Christian Century            http://www.christiancentury.org/

3.  Books and Culture           http://www.booksandculture.com/

4.  Renovare                         http://www.renovare.org/

5.  Metamorpha                    http://www.metamorpha.com/

6.  Spirituality & Practice       http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/

7.  Courage Renewal             http://www.couragerenewal.org/

8.  Leonard Sweet                 http://www.leonardsweet.com/

9.  First Things                      http://www.firstthings.com/

10. Shapevine                       http://www.shapevine.com/

I also recommends the following e-letters:

Time Magazine      (daily e-updates)

Atlantic Monthly’s “5 Best Editorials of the Day”

Books and Culture (weekly e-letter)

The Barna Report (2x mo)

Economist e-letters (various topics)

Weavings Journal (e-letter)

Fast Company e-letters (various topics)

Love as a Verb

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:42 pm by Steve

My friend and I sat across the table chatting over lunch.  With February being the “month of love” we began to discuss our plans (or lack of plans at that point) for Valentine’s Day weekend.  Eventually we moved into sharing some marriage lessons we’ve learned throughout our combined 45 years of marriage. 

Without thinking much of it I shared that I’ve learned that love has to mature for a marriage to go the distance.  And then I followed that with, “I guess love has to move from being a noun to being a verb.

We both paused and considered the implications of that.  My friend said it was one of the most profound things I’ve ever said.  While I’m quite sure it’s most likely the only profound thing I’ve ever said, I’ve definitely not been able to get the concept out of my head. 

Immature love is a noun. A thing we long for. A feeling. An expectation of what someone will do for us.

Mature love is verb.  An action we take. A decision.  A choice to do something for someone else.

Unfortunately too many of us have yet to mature in our love and our relationships bear the scars of that fact.  But it’s never too late to grow up.  And if we want our love to last a lifetime, we can’t afford to keep believing that love is a noun.  The feeling of love is short-lived.  We have to transition to understand that long-lasting love is really a verb.

But what does this English lesson of nouns and verbs have to do with real relationships?  How do we take this concept and apply it to real life? Maybe these scenarios can help paint the picture:

  • Love as a noun spent all last week wondering what your spouse was going to do for you for Valentine’s Day. 
  • Love as a verb spent all last week preparing your expression of love for your spouse.  

 

  • Love as a noun feels despair when you no longer feel “in love” with the person you are married to.
  • Love as a verb understands the ebb and flow of feelings.  It focuses more on expressing love than feeling love.

 

  • Love as a noun demands its own way. 
  • Love as a verb works to understand differences and is open to new ways of doing things.
    • Love as a noun finds faults in others. 
  • Love as a verb gives grace and forgiveness.

 

  • Love as a noun expects others to serve them. 
  • Love as a verb serves freely.

 

  • Love as a noun expects to always feel warm and fuzzy and “in love.” 
  • Love as a verb realizes that often we have to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it.

 

The most frequently quoted Bible verse at weddings is I Corinthians 13, which is often referred to as the “love chapter.”  It says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 

It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago that I realized that every time love is mentioned in this often quoted verse, it is a verb.  Maybe this concept has been right in front of my eyes all along, but I just didn’t understand it until recently.

The most interesting thing, however, is a less often quoted part of the verse that says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

So love has to grow up.  It has to mature.  Who knew grammar could reveal so much about love?

Jill Savage is a wife, mother, author, and speaker.  As the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home (www.hearts-at-home.org), Jill has co-authored two books and authored five including Real Moms, Real Jesus, and My Hearts at Home.  For more marriage encouragement, join Jill and her husband Mark online at www.jillsavage for their weekly blog post known as “Marriage Mondays.”

January 29, 2011

A Far Country

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 am by Steve

“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26

 

Every time I read this statement by Jesus I have to stop and wonder whether he’s talking directly to me. There are times I feel I’ve lost the sound of the Master’s footsteps, I’ve missed the boat because of my obsession with comfort and convenience, or I’ve just gotten so tired and worn out that I sat down too long. Where exactly is Jesus going, what kind of people will he associate with and what kind of work is He doing? Perhaps I already know the answers, I just don’t like where they lead. Henry Blackaby in his best seller “Experiencing God” says that immediately after the will of God is made knowing to us we face “a crisis of belief”. A crisis of belief is a moment of doubt or indecision as to whether we will follow and do what God is calling us to do or simply fall back.

When I stop to consider my own faith journey, I find myself wondering less about where Jesus is and more about where I am. When Jesus was at work in the world 2,000 years ago, very few people had any doubt in their minds that something from God was happening, they just weren’t sure what. As a matter of fact, whatever Jesus did so upset the people who saw it that many wanted to kill him in order to get him to stop. You may not like it what He did, but you couldn’t deny it was unlike anything you’d seen before. Wherever he went, Jesus drew a crowd because something was happening. In these days of overwhelming demands and unrealistic expectations, it’s easy to get lost, to lose sight of where Jesus is going and even harder to follow and serve.

At the beginning of February I will be making a personal journey to follow Jesus again to a place I believe He is at work, an orphanage outside of Port-a-Prince Haiti. Why there? Well I know that when Jesus was in Israel He went to where the poor and the broken people gathered and He healed them, He went where there was no hope and taught them about the love of God, and He went where there were children and told them the Kingdom of God was theirs.

So during the first week of February I will be travelling to a far country that is broken beyond my imagination in order to love on some children that will probably never know a mother’s hug or the confidence of have a family behind you, to teach local pastors about the meaning of the Sacraments as God’s Means of Grace, and to help build a place of hope and security for children year to come. But if you really want to know why I’m going, I’m going to follow Jesus.

January 15, 2011

A New Year, A New Body

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:18 pm by Steve

What’all this talk about a new body? Do we change bodies? Is the new one different than this one? Will I recognize anyone? Will anyone recognize me?

“He will take these dying bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own” (Phil. 3:21 TLB).

Your body will be changed. You will not receive a different body; you will receive a renewed body. Just as God can make an oak out of a kernel or a tulip out of a bulb, he makes a “new” body out of the old one. A body without corruption. A body without weakness. A body without dishonor. A body identical to the body of Jesus.

Would you like a sneak preview of your new body? We have one by looking at the resurrected body of our Lord. After his resurrection, Jesus spent forty days in the presence of people. The resurrected Christ was not in a disembodied, purely spiritual state. On the contrary, he had a body—a touchable, visible body.

Jesus didn’t come as a mist or a wind or a ghostly specter. He came in a body. A body that maintained a substantial connection with the body he originally had. A body that had flesh and bones. Real enough to walk on the road to Emmaus, real enough to appear in the form of a gardener, real enough to eat breakfast with the disciples at Galilee. Jesus had a real body. (Luke 24:13-35; John 20:10-18; John 21:12-14.)

At the same time, this body was not a clone of his earthly body. Mark tells us that Jesus “appeared in another form” (Mark 16:12 RSV). While he was the same, he was different. So different that Mary Magdalene, his disciples on the sea, and his disciples on the path to Emmaus did not recognize him. Though he invited Thomas to touch his body, he passed through a closed door to be in Thomas’s presence. (John 20:14; John 21:1-4; Luke 24:16; John 20:26)

So what do we know about the resurrected body of Jesus? It was unlike any the world had ever seen.

What do we know about our resurrected bodies? They will be unlike any we have ever imagined.

Will we look so different that we aren’t instantly recognized? Perhaps. (We may need nametags.) Will we be walking through walls? Chances are we’ll be doing much more.

Will we still bear the scars from the pain of life? The marks of war. The disfigurements of disease. The wounds of violence. Will these remain on our bodies? That is a very good question. Jesus, at least for forty days, kept his. Will we keep ours? On this issue, we have only opinions, but my opinion is that we won’t. Peter tells us that “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24 NIV). In heaven’s accounting, only one wound is worthy to be remembered. And that is the wound of Jesus. Our wounds will be no more.

God is going to renew your body and make it like his. What difference should this make in the way you live?

Your body, in some form, will last forever. Respect it.

You will live forever in this body. It will be different, mind you. What is now crooked will be straightened. What is now faulty will be fixed. Your body will be different, but you won’t have a different body. You will have this one. Does that change the view you have of it? I hope so.

Your pain will NOT last forever. Believe it.
Are your joints arthritic? They won’t be in heaven.
Is your heart weak? It will be strong in heaven.
Has cancer corrupted your system? There is no cancer in heaven.
Are your thoughts disjointed? Your memory failing? Your new body will have a new mind.

January 7, 2011

What Happens at Death?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:34 am by Steve

Into the Warm Arms of God
by Max Lucado

What about my loved ones who have died? Where are they now? In the time between our death and Christ’s return, what happens?

Scripture is surprisingly quiet about this phase of our lives. When speaking about the period between the death of the body and the resurrection of the body, the Bible doesn’t shout; it just whispers. But at the confluence of these whispers, a firm voice is heard. This authoritative voice assures us that, at death, the Christian immediately enters into the presence of God and enjoys conscious fellowship with the Father and with those who have gone before.

Isn’t this the promise that Jesus gave the thief on the cross? Earlier the thief had rebuked Jesus. Now he repents and asks for mercy. “Remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Likely, the thief is praying that he be remembered in some distant time in the future when the kingdom comes. He didn’t expect an immediate answer. But he received one: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). The primary message of this passage is God’s unlimited and surprising grace. But a secondary message is the immediate translation of the saved into the presence of God. The soul of the believer journeys home, while the body of the believer awaits the resurrection.

Some don’t agree with this thought. They propose an intermediate period of purgation, a “holding tank” in which we are punished for our sins. This “purgatory” is the place where, for an undetermined length of time, we receive what our sins deserve so that we can rightly receive what God has prepared.

But two things trouble me about this teaching. For one, none of us can endure what our sins deserve. For another, Jesus already has. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, not purgatory (see Rom. 6:23). The Bible also teaches that Jesus became our purgatory and took our punishment: “When he had brought about the purgation of sins, he took his seat at the right hand of Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3 neb). There is no purgatory because purgatory occurred at Calvary.

Others feel that while the body is buried, the soul is asleep. They come by their conviction honestly enough. Seven different times in two different epistles, Paul uses the term sleep to refer to death (see 1 Cor. 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20; 1 Thess. 4:13-15). One could certainly deduce that the time spent between death and the return of Christ is spent sleeping. (And, if such is the case, who would complain? We could certainly use the rest!)

But there is one problem. The Bible refers to some who have already died, and they are anything but asleep. Their bodies are sleeping, but their souls are wide awake. Revelation 6:9-11 refers to the souls of martyrs who cry out for justice on the earth. Matthew 17:3 speaks of Moses and Elijah, who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus. Even Samuel, who came back from the grave, was described wearing a robe and having the appearance of a god (1 Sam. 28:13-14). And what about the cloud of witnesses who surround us (Heb. 12:1)? Couldn’t these be the heroes of our faith and the loved ones of our lives who have gone before?

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