There are lots of ways to change the world--pick one!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent: arrival that has been awaited

This Sunday (November 29) we light the first candle of the Advent wreath at Sojourn. This is the candle of HOPE. Most people understand hope as wishful thinking, as in "I hope something will happen." This is not what the Bible means by hope. The Biblical definition of hope is "confident expectation." Hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown.
With Christians around the world, we use this light to help us prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we receive God’s light as we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.”The Prophet Isaiah

Friday, November 27, 2009

When God Makes Us Angry

As we turn to the last Chapter of Jonah, we are met with one of the most remarkable statements by a servant of God.  Furious with God for extending his grace to the Assyrians (Israel's arch enemy),  Jonah finds he cannot live with the true implications of God’s grace nor can he live without grace. 

In this remarkable Chapter IV, we will find God exposing the idols in Jonah’s life that keep him from experiencing the true freedom of God’s Grace.  As with us, the stress brought about in Jonah’s life exposes his real self.  Jonah cannot give what God has so undeservedly given him—unfailing love and compassion. 

When God does not fit into Jonah’s plans, he again turns from God, this time in anger.  We will see God bring yet another living illustration into the life of Jonah to take him one step further to becoming the man God destined him to be.  We will also take a practical look at how to rid ourselves of idols of our own making and discover the glorious grace of the Father through Jesus.  

Monday, November 23, 2009

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation of the Continental Congress

November 1, 1777
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE:  That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth "in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost."

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Abandoning the Run

This coming week we will be looking at the second Chapter of Jonah.  Between two narrative bookends (verses 1 and 10) these versus give us a window into the soul of Jonah.  It's the anatomy of his heart as he abandons his run from God and experiences the wonder of God’s grace as never before. 

Take a few moments and read the 48 verses of Jonah.  As you prepare for the message Sunday Morning, pay particular attention to the development of Jonah’s progress as he moves from recognizing his brokenness to adoration of his God.  Do you see any parallels from our study of the beatitudes a few months ago (Matthew 5)?

As you see Jonah running from God and God’s pursuit of him, we find the themes of sin and grace beneath the surface of this great book.   As we unfold the steps in Jonah’s return this week, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any areas in your life where you are running from God and ask the Father to use the Jonah's life example set out in Chapter two to help you stop, look and listen to a God who loves you beyond measure.  

Remember, where there is sin, there is always a storm cloud attached.  But the story does not end there.  Under the loving discipline of God, he makes ready his provision beneath the waves. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sojourn Welcomes Glenn Wagner this Sunday (November 15th)

Glenn Wagner is more than just the president and visionary of FutureLead. He’s a catalyst helping pastors and senior level executives learn to lead with purpose and passion. He is also the Executive Director of the Center for Development and Deployment. Glenn is a former pastor who specialized in helping struggling churches achieve aggressive growth and health. He was also a founding board member and vice president of Promise Keepers, where he led the national and international expansion efforts and helped the organization attain double-digit growth for six straight years.
Glenn is an author and contributor of nine books including: The Church You’ve Always Wanted, Escape From Church, Inc., The Heart of a Godly Man, and Fire In Your Bones.
He holds a D.Phil in religion and society and a D.Litt in advanced research from Oxford Graduate School.  He also earned a D.Min from Northwest Graduate School.
Glenn and his wife Susan have two grown children and live near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Learning to Fly (Kierkegaard's Geese)

Some of you asked for a copy of the story I shared in a recent message on Engaging our City.  Here is the story written by Soren Kierkegaard.

"A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it.  Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. 'My fellow travellers on the way of life,' he would say, 'can  you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence?

I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.

The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. 'How poetical,' they thought. 'How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.' Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.

And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher's message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!"

Søren Kierkegaard

The Sojourn Cross . . . .

The following was written by Jonea Mohn, a member of the Sojourn Worship Team . . . .)

The Sojourn Cross

When I was asked to design and build the cross for Sojourn, I accepted feeling only a responsibility to serve.  Neither sculpture nor woodworking has been a focus of mine, but I am always up for a challenge.  My connection began when I began comparing planks of oak for tone and grain pattern.
Then the handcrafting began.  My husband, Jeff, routed the crux, and turned it over to me.  We laid thick blankets out to protect the planks, and I sanded the surface smooth.  I chiseled and turned and chiseled some more.  I hammered divots into the face, and pummeled the planks with bags of rocks.  Jeff carefully painted the grain with a dark stain, and then wiped it with a contrasting stain to accentuate the texture and “wounds”.   I, myself, suffered headaches from the constant “chink, chinking”, backaches from bending over for days, and a few finger injuries.  It was finished with just enough time to dry for the service, and I realized how much a part of me the cross had become; how much I loved it. It was difficult for me to give it away to those who might not understand it the way I do.
This was my lesson:  I know each part of that cross.  I know every chisel mark.  I carefully chose which would be shallow or deep, or long.  At times, the tools would slip and threaten to split the grain, but I would react quickly to control the damage.  I would create purpose out of what could have been disaster.  I examined it front to back, side to side, and considered all angles as I put my care into my creation.  When I cut into the surface, I worried over every grain pattern, knowing that if I chose the wrong angle, it could split the plank.  I had no desire to ruin that wood.  I winced every time the bag of rocks hit the surface, leaving indentions in the material that survived, but turned the rocks to sand.  I know every grain pattern.  It starts out slow and wide at the top, like a lazy river, and draws close and fast until the bottom few feet where the rapids break free into a playful tiger-oak.

The Creator carefully chooses the materials out of which we will be made, knowing our purposes and what we will have to withstand.  He has a vision for our end products.  He understands our grains, and loves our surfaces.  As he shapes us, He takes care that anything that happens to us is used for purpose and beauty.  His only desire is to protect us and hold us to Him.  When we are hurt, He hurts with us, but knows that He made us from materials to withstand the pain.  He holds us up before others, wounds and all, and says, “This is My creation!  I made it myself!”