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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Monday, May 30, 2011

pray for the welfare of the city (jeremiah 29)

To God's people in Exile, the Lord speaks challenging words through the prophet, Jeremiah:

“Seek the welfare of the city… and pray to the Lord on its behalf.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

This challenge connects to the covenant of old, in which God told Abraham He would bless him that Abraham and his children might be a blessing to the whole world. It does not matter that God’s people have been taken from Jerusalem; they are still able to fulfill their covenant purpose of being a covenant community of faith and blessing those among whom they lived.

There are several points about this challenge to “seek the welfare of the city” that I want to lift out. First is the meaning of the word translated here as “welfare” (or 'peace'). The underlying word here is shalom. Depending on context and shade of meaning, it can mean peace, well-being, completeness, wholeness, blessing, or as translated here, welfare. The use of shalom here stands in marked contrast to what the Jewish exiles seem to have lost. Taken from home, they felt lost, broken, incomplete, and cursed – anything but shalom. Yet God asks – even commands – that they pray on behalf of the city of Babylon for the very thing that they feel is missing. Can you imagine? I think some of you can, as you are identifying with the kind of loss the Exiles experienced.

“What about me, Lord? What about MY welfare?"

Interestingly, God says, “In the city’s welfare you will have welfare.” Pray for the shalom of this city and her people – the place where you are exiled – and as they experience my peace, healing, and wholeness, then YOU will experience my peace, healing, and wholeness.

“But Lord, I had those things back in Jerusalem. I just want to get home.” In this case, the Lord had them in Babylon for a reason, and peace was not to be found in returning to the place from which they had come. Peace and healing and wholeness and blessing was to be found in their praying and God’s providing shalom for the city of Babylon.

The New Testament talks about some teaching as milk and some as meat. Well this, I believe, is a thick bit of steak. The shalom that I long for – that I NEED, Lord –

...is not found in the place I came from,

...nor where I think I might go,
...but in obediently following the Lord to the place He leads.

Adapted from the full sermon here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

sinners, sinners everywhere

I've been disappointed by some people.  They didn't do what I wanted them to do; they didn't do what I thought God wanted them to do.  They've heard the scriptures; they gather regularly in worship; they say they want to do the Lord's will.  And bottom-line, I think they missed the mark.

I know that sounds judgmental.  I don't mean it that way.  It's more sadness mixed with frustration.

What am I supposed to do?  Should I stop associating with them?  Should I only get together with the ones who seem to "get it?"  Should I pray for them to go away?  Or more actively try to get them to go away?  Should I confront them more forcefully?  Should I try to convince them more winsomely?  Should I be patient and continue to love them with consistency and grace?

What do you think?

Oh, did I mention that I love these people and I've been called to be their pastor?  They are family to me.

Oh, and there are a lot of days I don't do what I think I should do or what I think God wants me to do... many days I miss the mark.  So, yes, I do have patience with them, because I'm right there with them.

Oh sorry, did you think I was talking about church politics and voting and some presbytery out there somewhere?  Maybe they were on my mind, too, but then they reminded me of my own congregation... the ones I love... the ones God has called me to pastor.

I guess I don't see the distinction.  I am where God has called me to be.

Monday, May 02, 2011

who is my neighbor?

My congregation has been stretching and growing as a “searchlight church” over the past 5-6 years. One of the key studies for us has been Jesus’ teachings on neighbors. More recently, I’ve been asking the key question, “What is God doing and how can we be a part?” This question assumes, of course, that God is already at work in the world around us and outside the walls of the church.

A year or more ago I met a literal neighbor, Wendy Smoliak. Wendy lives down the street from the church. My recollection is that she called asking about older adult ministries… but that conversation soon turned to the neighborhood. I found that she had a huge heart for the neighborhood – HER neighborhood and OUR neighborhood. She was involved in the homeowner’s association; she took food to sick people; she was aware of the needs around her. The Lord was already working in the Swan’s Run neighborhood with this sister in the faith. And when I shared with her about our deepening vision as a church, we hit it off immediately.

Wendy has connected us to needs in the neighborhood and has helped connect the neighborhood to us. Very recently, with her great encouragement and leadership, we invited our Swan’s Run neighbors to have a potluck at the church. We also invited several of the police officers who patrol our neighborhood. And a few church members came. I asked Wendy to describe a bit more and here’s what she wrote:

Potlucks: A Call to Community
Wendy Smoliak

I am the co-chair of our Neighborhood Watch Committee. The purpose of Neighborhood Watch is ‘neighbors watching out for neighbors’. The motto of Neighborhood Watch is that if you know who is suppose to be there then, you know who is suppose to not be there.

So for several years, I have gone about the business of getting to know my neighbors in several ways. Neighborhood Watch has sponsored an ice cream social in 90 degree weather; a pool party with hotdogs and chili; a Christmas event where decorations were hung; a garbage day where 4 tons of refuse was removed; a National Night Out event where neighbors walked the streets with a flashlight; a beautification day where neighbors planted perennials; and many neighborhood yard sales.

This last week, Neighborhood Watch did something different. We decided to sponsor a Potluck. We invited our neighbors and we invited the local police. Further, we had this event in our local church – just ½ block from our neighborhood. The church to which I belong.

At this potluck affair, Christ brought people out of their homes to meet their neighbors, Christ brought the local police, and lastly, Christ brought people to His church. Community at its finest.

In the end, only Christ knows what seeds were planted at this event. What seeds are you planting in your neighborhood?

He told then another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” ~Matthew 13:31-3

This is what I mean by “searchlight church” (with a little lighthouse thrown in there, too!). We have been blessed by Wendy and the new ways in which we are learning to be good neighbors.

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