“That’s not fair!” Are words many of us have heard throughout our lives. They often are spoken, shouted by children when they feel like brothers, sisters and family, or teachers, and life are short-changing them. It often gets even worse as we get older. So much of the rhetoric we hear every day in our country and world, is really a magnification or a result of those same feeling that life is not fair. We don’t like to be cheated. We don’t like to see other people, especially someone who seems like a tyrant or privileged person, get more of an unfair portion than we do, or cheat people in need.
Recently on Sunday, I shared some research I read about, where it was observed that several species of animals and even fish can measure and compare the portion they receive with what others in their group are receiving. I found myself laughing at the image of how, when two monkeys were trained to do a task, and given the same treat for accomplishing it, either a grape or a slice of cucumber, they responded well and worked together. But when one of them was given a grape, and the other the slice of cucumber, the one who received the cucumber felt cheated, and started throwing the food at its keeper.
The really incredible part of the dynamic is that among some more advanced groups of animals, apes and human beings, some incredible behavior emerged: when some noticed that they were receiving more or better than the other members in the group, they had a willingness to sacrifice their needs for the sake of those who received less. Researchers look for answers; some say it is because in the complexities of the behaviors and structure of the group, some individuals are more dominant than others. The submissive ones defer or give up and give away their benefits. Much of the world, many human beings see our lives in such a way, and they may dismiss our faith and practices.
“God Is Love”
Jesus Christ teaches us differently, and shows us a transformative, more faithful way of life. As Christians, we believe we are made in God’s image; there is a great part, the essential parts of our lives and hearts that are made to be like God. We are made to love. God is generous; just look at creation and how we have been entrusted with life. We then aspire to centering our motivations on love, not our self-centered ambitions for dominance and control. We are far more than animals; we are God’s beloved children and want to share such a status and relationship with others.
Jesus Is Lord & Savior
Christians often say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior; we must then set out on the journey of life and discipleship seeking to understand just what the phrase means. One dynamic that is vital for me, is to say Jesus taught us we always have choices, especially in the ways we respond emotionally to our circumstances and the people we live with. We can take ownership for our emotions. “You make me so angry!’ May be a statement we feel. Yet no one can ever really “make” us angry; we choose to be angry; we choose our emotional responses. Jesus showed it to us on the cross when in the midst of its torture he said, “Forgive them Father for they do not know what they are doing.” He chose to forgive by God’s love.
We are able to love, because God first loved us, and showed and shows us how (& why). When we remember what Christ has done for us, how he lived, died, and was resurrected, we are empowered in incredible ways. The early Christians provided even more of a witness and testimony by the ways they lived their lives. Paul writes in II Corinthians 5:6-7, 9b, & 14, “That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in, but don’t yet see that keeps us going….. Cheerfully pleasing God (who loves us) is the main thing; Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.”
So if it seems like life is serving you a lot of cucumbers, and not the treats you are looking for, remember how God has given us the greats gift of all: God’s heart and a personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ, one that leads us to incredible relationships with each other in love. God is with us in the midst of life, good times and challenging ones. Our daily journey in devotion, prayer, and fellowship can empower us to choose how we respond with our emotions to life’s situations, and be claimed by the grace and mercy of the One who loves us. May God bless us this summer, and provide a great time for us to grow closer, and be more intentional about living deeply in our faith. – Tim
VBS Hopes –
This past week, we were blessed to have 14 youth attend our Tuesday evening youth gathering. They are a great group of kids, and we are looking forward to seeing the group grow in a variety of ways. A special thanks to Matthew and Lisa for their leadership and the love of Christ they share. While they led the group, I was observing an additional 6 or 8 youth go by the church on bikes, and considered how many of the youth in our community might be shown God’s love through our ministries.
Vacation Bible School is a vital way that most churches help the children in their community grow in faith, and in the relationship we share with Christ. Bible School helps us all see and understand that we all have a place in the church, as we have a place in God’s heart. We need your help and Christ calls us to support the movement of the Spirit in reaching out to include others. We pray God will also lead us to additional new endeavors to expand our offering of fellowship to children. Do you have any ideas inspiring your heart? Please share them and let us know how we might grow.
On Sunday, August 12, we will celebrate VBS by inviting the children and their families to join us for worship and lunch. We want to hold a very welcoming time when we can get to know the children and their families better. Please join us, and invite a neighbor, friend, or family member to share with us.
New Ways for Outreach
We are prayerful about new ways we as a church might reach out to our community and invite and share in participation of our fellowship and ministries. We’re blessed to have mid-week youth happening; we’d also like to do more with our younger children, both preschool and grammar school aged. Additionally it would be great to host some movie nights for our kids and some times for all of the church or just adults to share, with varying degrees of maturity that are tailored to a variety of groups in our fellowship. A suggestion one person has made is that we show the movie, “I Can Only Imagine.” I can think of at least a half dozen films to offer. Please keep your eye out. We will count on you to respond.
Men’s Summer Picnic
The date for the summer picnic, held at Wayne and Deb Kennedy’s home, has been moved to Sunday August 5th. This is the same day that Vacation Bible School registration begins. We expect the picnic will conclude well before our Bible School begins, and we are hopeful that men young and old will feel at home joining us at Wayne & Deb’s home. It’s a great time of food, fellowship, horseshoes and games.
Annual Conference was held June 14-16. A special thanks to Cindy Forry for attending and representing our church. Ordination is always a great highlight for me where I reconnect with God’s call in our lives. This year during another part of Conference we heard some incredible preaching from an ordained pastor who has not allowed his Cerebral Palsy to slow him down in his vocation. If anything, it has deepened his journey in faith. His wife recently gave birth to their first child.
One of the great features of this year’s Conference was that attendees were invited to share in dialogue their viewpoints on the issue of homosexuality. Two different groups presented to extreme sides around the issue, and then the whole group, approximately 1500 people, talked at the tables were seated at. My prayer for years has been that just such a dialogue would, and will continue to occur. For we need to share, listen, and hear one another’s stories, experiences and viewpoints. I don’t think the issue will be “won” in a debate. The Bishops of the Church will be making recommendations to General Conference on the issue. Several paths have been outlined, and we pray God is at the center of how we go forward.
Our stewardship Committee will be meeting over the summer to help us move forward with keeping our focus on the ministries God is calling us to serve. We are expecting that we soon will be able to give our offerings and participate in ministries using electronic giving and payments for the convenience of everyone. We also will be investigating options for investment, as donations are coming in with the vision and intention they will be invested in something more active than certificates of deposit at a local bank. My greats hope is that our efforts will lead us to be more assertive about standing up for our faith, not apologizing for who we are in Jesus, and making sure our ministries are being as faithful as we can be. A special thanks to the members of the group. If you would like to join our efforts, please speak with pastor Tim. We will include more info and an update in our quarterly thank you report.