Fun is a part of how God has made us “to be”.
Through fun and play, we renew friendships, care for our minds and souls, and experience a side of our Creator God who laughs and enjoys what He has given to us… life, creation, and people.
Here are three ways you can experience God’s presence by having fun this summer without spending a penny.
Find Your Inner Child
Kids experience the world and learn through play. So, grab some toys, play make believe, or go out and run through the sprinkler.
As we “grow up”, childish fiction becomes somewhat immature. We become realists, jaded, and scarred by being bullied, fighting our own skeletons when it comes to what other people think about us, and being told that some things are “just for kids”. Through these hurts, we build walls of protection around our heart, mind, and soul.
That’s not “growing up” - it’s insecurity.
But, Jesus talks about how even our faith must become childlike (Matthew 18:2-4). Simple. Secure not in ourselves, but in what God has done for us in Jesus.
When we become secure in that God made us to be childlike when it comes to experiencing His never-ending love for us, we can relax. The bullies are silenced by Jesus’ promises. The skeletons are buried in Jesus’ grave. And other people’s opinions are unarmed with the words, “I have called you by name. You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
It may sound juvenile, but finding your inner child by finding some toys around the house, imagining life happening in a fantasy world, or just giggling in your front yard might just be what you need to re-engage your inner playful side that God created and you might have stuffed it down and away.
Best of all - it probably won’t cost you anything!
Take an Unproductive Walk
We say, “God made me”. We don’t always live like we believe it.
If God made our bodies (which He does), then God gives us the responsibility to care for them (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
So, go take a walk… wherever you want! Around the block. Explore the city. To the grocery store (instead of driving!). You don’t need an agenda. You don’t need anything to talk about. Just be together… and walk. You might end up laughing because it’s so un-American to be together without a plan, agenda, or reason. I mean, it’s so “unproductive”. And yet, God does His best work out of nothing (Genesis 1, Psalm 139).
Even if you walk in familiar places, you may notice new or different things when you're taking an unproductive walk.
Better yet - find somebody to go join you on the walk!
The only thing a walk might cost you is the lemonade or iced tea you’ll enjoy when you get home.
Oh... and leave your phone at home.
Draw a Picture and Share It
I think the older we get the more self-conscious we are about what we produce. Whether it’s a project at work, a meal that we cook, or the words that we choose to use in our conversations - our minds often overthink everything. Anxiety increases which leaves us drained and exhausted.
So, let’s try reversing our self-conscious thoughts!
Find a friend or someone else in your family and share a bible verse together. “Jesus wept” is totally fine. Then, grab some paper and markers, pencils, crayons… whatever you can find - and draw a picture of whatever the passage makes you think about using your non-dominant hand. Then, exchange the picture and guess what each other drew.
You’re engaging God’s Word (one of the places God promises to be present!) and if you’re so-not-a-Picasso, like me, you’ll share some good laughs!
Do you have a favorite way to experience God’s presence through fun and play without spending a penny? Drop me an email and let me know!
After 244 years, many of us continue the traditions of celebrating with food, friends, and fireworks to acknowledge the signing of the Declaration of Independence signaling our country’s freedom from King George III and British rule. I know that my family will be celebrating the 4th of July weekend with a cookout, hanging out with friends, and enjoying all of the colorful fireworks around us.
It is good and honorable to celebrate our nation's freedom. Our country (and every country) is a place and system that God is present in and works through. Indeed, we are citizens of our world, today.
As Christians, we value freedom and are able to express it in many ways. There aren't that many ways we can go wrong with celebrating freedom. And that’s a really great thing! Indeed, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).
However, national freedom (while important) is distinct from our spiritual freedom.
Let me explain (in brevity... this is not a complete explanation and I know there is so much more to this than a paragraph in a blog post. I'd love to talk more, if you'd like!).
National freedom is partially (perhaps, mostly) rooted in a love for a specific civic system. Typically, it’s because the system either benefits us or it seems to advance an agenda that we share with others. As a nation, the two seemingly most prominent (but not only) civic systems have historically been democracy and capitalism - though this ebbs and flows from time to time. Most conflicts that we experience on a wide social scale (and we certainly have them) can probably be linked to one of these two “loves”. Just study the events that have happened throughout US History and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Spiritual freedom is the freedom that the Apostle Paul is talking about in Galatians 5:1, is altogether different. It’s not rooted in a love for a specific civic system, rather, spiritual freedom is centered on a love of a specific person: Jesus Christ. Jesus is the One who sets us free from all which eternally holds us back from being the people God has created us to be. Our past sin can be forgiven (even while we don’t forget it). There is grace in our guilt and shame. There is respite from our grief. Ultimately, it’s because of the freedom that Jesus gives to the world and more specifically, to all people, we have “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow” (Great is Thy Faithfulness, Verse 1).
As a naturalized citizen of the United States myself, both national freedom and spiritual freedom are very important to me. I believe they can coexist - but that doesn't mean that they are equal.
National freedom is not bad or inherently sinful in and of itself. It's just different than spiritual freedom.
The challenge for us as Christians is to distinguish between them. From Jesus being wrapped in American flags to prominent voices echoing that America is the “City on a Hill” (Matthew 5:14) throughout our media waves - it’s easy to understand and reasonable that Christians today are challenged in distinguishing between national and spiritual freedom. For sure, they are separate and distinct from each other. And, they are certainly not equal.
Here are two key distinctions:
National freedom tends to lead us toward greater individual autonomy. We are our own people with individual freedoms and rights - which I believe is to be true... and spiritually dangerous. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom invites deeper dependence on God.
National freedom often wins by fighting for or against ideals, issues, platforms, and systems. While important, what we tend to become emboldened for and passionate about are more or less ideas and models than real people. It's not bad. . . just different than spiritual freedom.
Spiritual freedom wins by fighting for people’s relationship with God, others, and the world around them.
This is what Jesus followers believe that has already done for us on the cross… Jesus fought the war for our hearts against our greatest enemies - the judgement of our sin, the threat of eternal death and punishment, and the root and author of all deception - the devil. And, Jesus won.
You are God’s treasure. You are so valuable that while we didn’t even know we were slaves to ourselves, our judgement, and others - Jesus died for us (Romans 5:8).
Earlier I said that national and spiritual freedom are not equal. The Bible points us to Jesus, not any one particular nation or civic system. And while it may be difficult to separate the two - especially in a climate where church and country seems so intertwined, we must remember this one thing:
Jesus followers love God more than their country. Compared to God, there is no equal. Indeed, the Apostle Paul says that all things are garbage (literally, poop) compared to Jesus and the freedom we have in and through Him (Philippians 3:8).
Anything and anyone that has equality with God becomes a covert idol that captures your heart and is relentless in requiring your loyalty to pay it back with everything you have.
God doesn't require or demand repayment or your loyalty at all. You're free! And if Jesus set you free, you are free, indeed! (John 8:36).
And what happens when we prioritize and celebrate God’s freedom over any one nation's freedom?
I’m taking a few weeks away from the blog to rest and plan the next season.
My next blog will be July 23.
June 19th is officially a federal holiday.
Yesterday, The New York Times reported, “Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery and is also known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day and Juneteenth Independence Day. Its name stems from June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas, issued General Order No. 3, which announced that in accordance with the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.” Months later, the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the final four border states that had not been subjected to President Abraham Lincoln’s order" (17 June 2021)
This week, I wanted to share three key thoughts about what this new holiday means for Jesus people like us living in America, today.
1. We have an incredible opportunity to empathize and connect with our neighbors.
While some of us might not feel the hurt of past sins, we are called to empathize and share the pain that our black neighbors and friends have and continue to experience.
Empathy is part of Jesus’ way (Hebrews 4:15).
Want to learn more about empathy? Click here to check out Brene Brown’s video. Sharing this video does not endorse or imply agreement in all things.
2. We have a chance to love people and not an opinion or social issue.
People are people - not a collection of opinions or social issues. God made each of us with intrinsic value (Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:14). So, to pride ourselves on an opinion or social issue as if it is gospel truth is not loving people - it’s actually loving oneself.
Jesus chooses humility (Philippians 2:1-5). He empties his opinion (Philippians 2:6) in order to love all people (John 3:16), not to judge or condemn them (John 3:17).
One way to love people this Juneteenth is to listen and learn from somebody in the black community. Invite them to share how you can honor their freedom and join Jesus in His mission of reconciliation.
3. Juneteenth brings another opportunity for people to experience grace in a different way.
Jesus’ spirit is alive and well in every time, culture, and place. That means through something seemingly secular as a federal holiday, God is at work.
The Emancipation Proclamation echoes the words of the Apostle Paul: you are free (Romans 6:18). This is grace! Freedom was originally theirs. It was taken from them by somebody else. And now freedom was restored.
This is their story. This is God’s story. This is our story.
When we connect the dots, we can come together and experience God’s grace in a shared and different way than the earned grace the world can offer us.
Let me know what you think about this week’s blog by sending me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
I love you and I’m cheering you on as we live life on mission, together! -pt
Over the years, people like you have become a vital part of our Parkland-Summit-Waller community through simple acts of service. Our goal has been and will continue to be seeking out and responding to needs in and around our area.
According to Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. and Lawrence Robinson, serving 2-3 hours a week brings incredible health benefits as well as a sense of purpose and joy.
So, here are 3 ways to tell if it’s right for you.
1. You Feel Isolated from Others and Know You Need to Get Connected
Whether it’s ZOOM calls, Team Meetings, or simply just not getting together with people as often or in the same way, life today just feels different than our pre-COVID days. So, let’s name it: pandemic isolation. And it’s real. And it’s OK to feel it.
When we feel isolated (whether from the pandemic or any other reason), we have a choice. We always have a choice.
Choice 1: Remain isolated and disconnected
Choice 2: Reconnect with somebody
Faith in Action Saturdays is a great way to reconnect with somebody. Call up a friend and spend a few hours together pulling weeds for your neighbor or help make some VBS decorations at church. And if you’re an introvert - it’s only 3 hours… you can go home and enjoy some quiet time over lunch afterwards.
Remember - when you feel isolated, you always have a choice to get reconnected… and serving together is a great place to start.
2. You Want to Help Others and Don’t Know Where to Start
I believe that God has made every human being with a natural desire to help other people. When we study Genesis 1 and 2, it’s how I believe God created us to be and to live.
The problem is that there are so many ways we can help others or we see such an overwhelming number of needs that sometimes we don’t know where to start.
Faith in Action pairs real community needs with simple hands-on projects while focusing everything we do toward giving our time and skills to real people. Sometimes we help people through our community partner organizations who extend the hands and feet of Jesus beyond our capacity as a church. Other times, we help people that we already know within our church family. At the end of the day, it’s still all about people.
Are you overwhelmed by so many ways to serve or the incredible amount of need that you see?
Let’s begin with Faith in Action Saturdays. It will help you help others with real needs - simple.
3. You’re Tired of Negativity and Want to Remind People of Hope
I don’t know about you, but it seems like Debbie Downer is everywhere.
On the radio. On my news feed. At work and school. Even in my own mind and heart.
In a world broken and shattered with the shrapnel of hopelessness, through serving, we can be reminded that there is hope.
In ancient times, lights reminded people that the safety of a city and the resources of others were available when they were in need. All they needed to do was to follow the light.
In a world filled with dark moments, Jesus continues to be the light that reminds all people that there is hope. And who is that tangible, human light today?
It’s you and me. Jesus said, you are the light of the world (John 8:12). You are Jesus’ hands, feet, and voice of hope.
Are you tired of negativity in your life and in the world around you? Bring the hope of Jesus that is alive in you alive through a Faith in Action Saturday. Trust me - you will leave filled with more sunshine than rain clouds.
So, are you in?
Our next Faith in Action Saturday is June 19 from 8-11am. We will begin at our Tacoma Campus where we review the projects for the day, form teams, and work to complete our projects. You can learn more and register at go.oslc.com/fia.
Our Annual Voters’ Assembly (Church Business Meeting) is scheduled for Sunday, June 27 - and to tell you the truth, I’m really looking forward to it.
Over the years, I’ve learned that many who have given up on the “business of the church” have not necessarily given up on their relationship with Jesus. In fact, many of them still regularly attend worship, are engaged with other people in a group, and may even serve donuts or serve on a ministry team.
They have simply said, “no” to being a Board member, elder, or part of an Annual Business Meeting for a variety of reasons including not having the time to commit to evening meetings, sour past experiences, too many meetings, that they have no desire to "see how the sausage is made", or they simply find church business to be boring - especially when they know that other people will step up and do it.
All those reasons are reasonable, understandable, and fair.
At the same time, the truth is, while church business is not everybody’s cup of tea, I believe that each person has a part to play in the “business” of the church.
Here are three reasons I believe being engaged in church business is important… dare I say, even mission critical.
Church Business Gives You a Wider Perspective of God’s Work
When you attend worship, it’s easy to consume the “spiritual goods and experience”. A mentor of mine once told me, “no money, no ministry”. And while God can use anything and anybody to do His work, I believe God explicitly brings together people to be His church to do His work.
When we see the dollars and cents and together say “yes, let’s use these resources to make a Jesus-like difference in the lives of other people”, God is showing us that His work begins long before we walk up to a table to grab donuts and coffee, gather for your Life Group or Bible Study, or pack a backpack full of food for a hungry local family.
God’s work begins when His Spirit invades the hearts of people and inspires them to faithfully and generously give away what God has already given to them. Why? So that more people can experience God’s love through ordinary people and participate in Jesus’ mission of loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.
Now, I don't know about you, but that gets my "let's join Jesus on His mission" blood flowing!
Church Business Connects You With New People in Your Church Family
Let’s be honest. We tend to stay in our individual circles. It's not bad. It's human.
And, in a larger churches, it's a fact that it is difficult to know a whole lot of people unless you totally immerse yourself into it - which takes time, and a degree of God-given extroversion. Side plug: this is why Connecting in a Life Group and Joining a Ministry Team is so important here at Our Savior.
Gathering at an Annual Meeting gives us an opportunity to meet people who may attend different services than you do. And, now with both our Tacoma and Online Campuses, there’s a good possibility that you really don’t know other people until you spend time in a shared experience with them.
During an Annual Meeting, you’ll hear members of the Board of Directors and perhaps some of our elders, too. It’s a time for you to get to hear from and get to know these people you may never have met before. And yet, even though you’ve never met, you share an incredible commonality with them: your love for Jesus and your desire to see more people love Him back with you.
God Can Use Church Business Meetings to Change Your Heart
While I know plenty of people who get excited for baptisms, worship, serving our neighbors, mission trips, and opportunities to grow in God’s Word, I think I’ve only heard one person who has told me “I’m really excited for this year’s annual meeting”.
Heart change takes time and we usually don’t experience it or even notice it as a result of a single experience.
The transformation of our hearts by the Holy Spirit happens when we share multiple experiences with multiple people over multiple times around multiple topics of conversation. Each interaction is like a mini lego. And if C.S. Lewis would take that image, we could say that while we may think God is building a house with those legos, the truth is, God is building a mansion with them - a mansion with His throne in the center of it.
The truth is, there can be a lot of different opinions and perspectives shared at church business meetings. And while division like this in the “kingdom of the world” suggests non-compliance and signals a need to win an augment - in God’s kingdom, this is the kind of diversity that augments our unity in Jesus’ work in us.
While we may have a wide variety of opinions when it comes to candidates, votes, financial and ministry plans; God’s Spirit continually changes our hearts to remind us that ministry is not about me or us - it’s about Him and what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do forever.
For me, I often leave church meetings more passionate about Jesus’ work, more encouraged that Jesus’ mission is alive and well in and through us, and inspired to see what God has already prepared for us to do in the next year and beyond.
And, that’s my prayer for you, too. . . that if you’ve never been a part of a church business meeting, that you would consider giving our Annual Voters’ Assembly on June 27 a try. You can learn more and register at oslc.com/annualmeeting.
If you’ve been part of church business meetings in the past, your continued presence encourages and inspires your church family to “keep going”.
And, if you’ve been jaded by church business in the past, send me an email because I'd love to walk with you through that jadedness into a new place filled with God's healing of your past and His forgiveness of the wrongs as His Spirit does "heart surgery" on you.
When I think about it... that’s the kind of work God has been up to since the beginning of time and will continue to do forever... even through church business meetings.
If you consider our current news cycles, you know that our world needs better stories than what we are currently seeing, hearing, and reading.
The truth is that you have a better story than the world could ever report.
I do, too.
We all have a story about how someone in another generation influenced or helped us understand our relationship with Jesus. And each of us probably has a story about how we are influencing or helping somebody else understand their relationship with Jesus, too.
Can I be honest with you? Sometimes I get so busy and distracted that I don’t take time to share those inspirational, life-changing moments with anybody. I bet you can relate.
So how do we begin sharing more of these kinds of stories?
I see 2 barriers that hold us back and 3 bridges that will help us get started sharing powerful stories of what God is doing in and through every generation of people.
Barrier #1: We intuitively believe that we need to sell Jesus.
In a culture that thrives on marketing, appearances, and sales being the primary indicator of success, it’s no surprise that we translate that into our spiritual lives, too.
I remember from an early age hearing about how we need to make sure we advertise church events, worship services, and put on a good face and show for Jesus.
Why? Because I believed that Jesus was sending me off for him.
Intuitively, I think that to a degree, we all feel this pressure to "perform for Jesus" (as if Jesus needs us).
Have you ever felt that pressure?
Barrier #2: We fear being rejected, judged, and condemned.
Deep down inside all of us is a desire to be connected to a greater purpose and to other people. It’s how God made us. . . to be connected to and love Him and love and care for His creation.
So, when it comes to sharing stories of Jesus’ life change either in our lives or other people’s lives, there is a part of us that fears rejection.
Simply put, we never want to be a loner (or weird!).
Have you ever been afraid of being a loner (or a weird-o) because of your faith?
Bridge #1: Point out where Jesus is alive… everywhere and in everybody!
What I missed was that Jesus wasn’t sending me off for him… Jesus is sending me off with him.
We were never told and we are not meant to sell Jesus to people. Jesus is not a product to be bartered, sold, traded, or given away. Jesus always gave everything of his away - his life - to us and to the world.
What a relief! Let’s let Jesus do Jesus work.
We are sent with Jesus not to sell his forgiveness, life, and salvation - but to point out where His freedom in forgiveness, life identity, and forever hope is making a difference in an increasingly dark and broken world.
Where do you see freedom, secure identity, and hope in the lives of people (or in yourself!)?
Those are the stories that we want to share!
Bridge #2: Ask yourself, what good can I celebrate in people and the world?
This is more than having a “glass half full” mindset. Jesus said that the fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35). That means that Jesus’ good work is already done. It’s time to gather it, give it away, and enjoy what God has done for us!
Sometimes I think we fall into the trap of needing to produce something good in somebody else. We need to invest in our kids. We need to teach our grandchildren. We need to show others the Jesus way. And while there is some truth to the fact that God uses people as His hands, feet, and voice - God’s Spirit is already at work for good.
When we share stories of the good that we see in people and the world, we’re really pointing out where God has worked. Every good gift comes from God. So, let’s share it!
What good do you see in people and the world today?
Bridge #3: When in doubt, share how you feel loved by God and others.
Sometimes we need to experience what we want to share.
Who has made you feel loved and accepted?
Share the story of how and why you feel that way.
Today, I want to share with you what to expect over the next 40 days, how we are applying the rapidly changing guidance with love and honor, and why we are choosing to do it.
What to Expect Over the Next 40 Days
Different Comfort Levels
We know that everybody has different comfort levels when it comes to gathering with other people. That’s normal. And, it’s to be expected.
No Temperature Checks
Beginning immediately, we will not be requesting temperature checks as you enter our facilities.
Limited Capacity - Related Procedures
However, registration, check in, and physical distancing procedures will remain in place until we transition from limited capacity to full capacity.
Hospitality Food & Beverages
We are currently learning about how to offer safe ways to socialize around food and beverages and expect to create these spaces soon.
Our plan is to continue using prepackaged communion elements and re-evaluate this in the fall.
Because the current guidance regarding wearing facemasks would create a divisive dichotomy between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons and considering the fact that the guidance does not conflict with God's Word, we ask that facemasks are worn both indoors and outdoors while on-campus.
How We Apply Guidelines with Love and Honor
It's Always About Jesus' Mission
Jesus' mission for us is clear: we are disciples who make disciples who love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
We are the family of Jesus so that people who do not yet have a faith family have a place to be invited into and experience love and belonging.
Embracing Opportunity in the Challenge
As the world becomes more divided. This is indeed a big challenge. However, we as Jesus’ church have the opportunity to stand more united.
Jesus says it best as He prays that we may become perfectly one.
Why? So that the world may know that Jesus loves them (John 17:21). And I know that Jesus’ love has changed me. It has certainly changed you, too.
Love Changes Everything
In this unique moment, when we gather together on-campus, I believe that the best way that we can love God, love people, and live like Jesus is to freely and joyfully choose to stand together unified in Jesus and not in individual choices.
Everybody Wins When We Honor Each Other
We all win when we choose to honor each other by placing our freedom of individual choice aside for others, we level dichotomies and diffuse division.
We also all win when we honor the guidance from those whom God has placed in authority over us - in so far as it doesn't conflict with God's Word or lead us to sin.
Indeed, how good and pleasant it is when we live together in unity (Psalm 133:1).
Why We Are Choosing to Do This?
We Have a Choice
We always have a choice and in freedom and joy, we choose unity over division. We will not allow facemasks or guidelines to divide who God has brought together here at Our Savior and in our greater Pierce County community.
We Promote Unity
The current guidance regarding wearing facemasks would create a divisive dichotomy between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons. Creating two different sections of people and checking vaccination cards does not promote unity.
We Honor Authority
We do not believe that the current guidance conflicts with God's Word nor does it lead us to sin.
Jesus' Mission Is Greater
God's Work is too valuable for us to loose influence over guidelines. I know this decision does not make everybody happy and I certainly know that not everybody agrees with it. I also know that biblical unity is not defined as human happiness or social agreement. Rather, biblical unity looks like a shared conviction that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and that Jesus’ mission is so much greater than this issue and much longer enduring than this present moment.
We will Continue to Wisely and Safely Adapt
We will continue to monitor further guidance as it is released and will adapt in wise and safe ways.
Every summer, kids gather for Vacation Bible School (VBS).
Gregarious games. Sweet and savory snacks. Magnanimous music. Creative crafts. Bodacious Bible stories. Kids would leave the week-long extravaganza with t-shirts, CD’s (remember those?), and new friends.
I think you would agree that historically, Vacation Bible School (VBS) has been primarily for kids.
And as with most things, VBS is not exempt from the “Butterfly Effect” of a global pandemic.
So, this year - what if everybody gets to play at VBS?
Here are three ways that VBS isn’t just for kids, anymore.
Love Kids and Everybody Wins
This one might seem obvious, but it’s a big one.
I learned early on in ministry that the key to every parent’s heart is their most important thing: their kids.
And then, when I became a parent, I learned that kids are not just the key to a parent’s heart - kids become their heartbeat. I mean, there are few things I wouldn’t consider doing to love my kid. And, when other people love my kids, they don’t just have my attention - they have my love, too.
Want to show a parent that they’re loved? Love their kids.
In our current cultural moment, it seems like almost every parent is at least concerned, if not worried and absolutely terrified about how their child is faring and how they will be changed by the past year of uncertainty. The disruptions in schooling, friendships, parent’s job schedules, most likely the death of somebody they know, and if they attended church - Sunday mornings will certainly shape the younger generation because let’s face it - the last 15 months might be all they know of memorable life.
So, yes, VBS is one of the staple, stable, and predictable experiences for many. And that kind of consistency is the key to not just a child’s overall health, but to a parent’s or grandparent’s heart.
Plus, VBS is still very much a perceived safe space in our world (at least, for now).
When you love other people’s kids, everybody wins.
This year, kids, students, and adults get to experience VBS, together either onsite, online, or in their neighborhoods.
Parent(s) hear about God’s love from their kids. Siblings want in on the new games they learned. Parent(s) get the songs stuck in their heads as they hear the music over, and over, and over again. And if the kids make new friends - bring on the playdates!
Want to love parents? Love their kids.
Neighborhoods are the New Church Buildings (at least right now)
That sounds weird, doesn’t it?
Hang with me and allow me to explain what I mean.
Even when restrictions are completely lifted, it will take time for life to return to “normal”. Some even say, we will need to establish a “new normal”. I’m not here to debate which one is more likely. I’m simply saying that I’m not expecting the rush of people to return to any institution, concert venue, or in our case, church building.
I could be wrong, but my sense is that the return to church buildings will be more like the gradual flow of a creek rather than a gushing Rainier waterfall.
This is all to say that the people who would ordinarily gather at a church building for VBS are still living in their neighborhoods. They eat, sleep, play, do yard work, clean their garage, and spend quite a bit of time up and down the same streets you and I live on.
And this is good news.
Everybody who needs to experience God’s love for them are within 500 feet of you.
Paul puts it this way: Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV).
Indeed, your neighborhood is the new church building. And your neighbors (in a way) live at church.
Why? Because you’re there.
So, if kids used to attend VBS at a church building, and if the new church building is in your neighborhood - then grabbing a few other families and friends to host a VBS in your neighborhood is an incredibly powerful and effective way that God has invited you into His game of loving Him back, loving people around you, and living like Jesus.
You can reach out to Dereem to learn more about hosting a neighborhood VBS in August.
Everybody is Online
The world changed in 2007. In an instant, all of the world’s greatest inventions were in the palm of your hand. The good and the not so good were now accessible within moments. And nobody else would need to know what you’re reading, looking at, or watching because it was on your phone.
Fast forward 14 years later and almost everybody we know has a smartphone. We bank with it. We register for classes. We talk to family. We document our meals. We go to the doctor. We get counseling. So much of what we do everyday could be done or is done on or through our phones.
Simple point: everybody is online.
Mark records Jesus saying, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15, ESV). Let’s be honest, we don’t need to go very far. In fact, I don’t even need to move (as I type this) to “go” into all the world.
Our VBS content will be made available online for you to share and invite other people you know to share.
Sharing “Jesus stuff” can be intimidating. We’re afraid of what others might say or think. We prepare ourselves for a potential adverse response or reaction because we aren’t sure where those we may invite are when it comes to “Jesus stuff”. So, we go back and forth wallowing in doubt and worry until we either give up, forget, or something a little bit “less controversial” comes up to forward on our social media feeds.
The Zero Property applies in both math and invitations. I remember my 3rd grade math teacher saying, “if you multiply anything by zero, you get zero”. Likewise, if nobody invites anybody to consider "Jesus stuff" online, then nobody may ever consider Jesus an anybody.
Zero attempts will always result in zero opportunities.
While sharing our online VBS content might be a “passive” way to be part of God’s greater story of love in somebody else’s life, it can be powerful and life-changing.
Just think, an entire family could be changed by Jesus’ love through VBS that would change the eternal destiny of their future generations. All because you and they were both online in a time such as this.
My friend Greg often reminds me that we are not Jesus salespeople going around and "selling" Jesus. We don't advertise Jesus. We don't sell Jesus. We are Jesus followers who show others where Jesus is alive and working in us and others, our communities and world, online and in-person.
Sharing online VBS content when it's released later this summer on your feed, via email, or however else you can share it doesn't "sell" Jesus - you are following Jesus into a place (online) where Jesus already is working. You simply get to join Jesus in what He is already doing... even online.
Can you think of other ways people besides kids can "play" at VBS?
Send me a note and let me know.
This weekend is Mother’s Day.
So, let’s be honest: It’s OK to feel what you feel.
Happy. Mad. Sad. Glad. And every emotion in between - God made you, you - and God made you to feel what you feel. Own it and see it as a gift from God.
And, to clear the air: Mother’s Day is not a Christian, religious, or even faith-based holiday.
In other words, you will not find Jesus celebrating Mother’s Day in the Gospels. Search the Scriptures and this kind of day isn’t anywhere to be found in the Hebrew Religion or Early Church.
Now, I’m not anti-Mother’s Day. I will be calling my mom and mother-in-law this weekend. My kids will be making cards for them. And, the boys and I will be treating Beth to a day full of love to honor her for how much she gives to us.
However, when it comes to loving and living like Jesus, I want to level the playing field because not every person who wants to be a mom is a mom. I also know that everybody doesn’t have a positive mom-experience. And (I've heard from some moms) that as wonderful motherhood can be, it’s one of the most difficult and challenging experiences of their lives. It’s exhausting. It’s overwhelming. There is no instruction book. It's all on-the-job training.
It’s certainly safe to say that without the Holy Spirit’s help (from the Christian perspective), it’s impossible to have a mom or be a mom.
I’ll just let that thought sit with you today.
So, here are three things about Mother's Day that will help all of us love and live more like Jesus: Remember, Dream, and Celebrate.
When Jesus remembers what might have been, Jesus wept (John 11:35).
Sometimes crying it out ourselves or allowing others around us to cry out their memories is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are grieving the loss of a mom or child, sad about not being a mom, or angry about not having a mom when you needed one… The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). You can love others like Jesus by taking some time to remember the people you gave life to and know that God is not far - in fact, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39).
Believe it or not, God is always looking at what is ahead. God’s plans are not always our plans (Isaiah 55:8-9) - but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan (Jeremiah 29:11).
Sometimes dreaming about what is on God’s mind with others is how we can love and live more like Jesus.
For those who are dreaming of motherhood… Dreaming about being a mom who gives life to other people is a God-dream! Remember that after God made humanity, people were blessed and God said, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).
Don’t lose God’s dream that He has given to you. Place the dream you have into God’s hands and entrust your plan to His… remember God’s plan is always better than our own (even when it doesn’t seem like it).
Those who are/have been foster children or adopted/have been adopted… you may not know who your mom was. You may even assume that your mom was an evil person. Being adopted myself, when I fall into this kind of thinking, I have learned that more often than not, it’s my own fear of being completely loved and totally accepted that is clouding my mind and messing with my heart. In those moments, I’m reminded of Isaiah 43:1: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine”.
Keep dreaming and remember that “the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
For those who have mom’s alive today… for those who have children today… for all mom-like people who give us life… we celebrate you. The Psalm writer says: give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).
One way to celebrate moms and mom-like people today is to thank them for teaching you about God’s love for you. For taking you to church. For helping introduce you to Jesus. For showing you a glimpse of what God’s love looks like as mom gives, and gives, and then gives more life to you.
I think it might be safe to say that we all have someone who is a mom or has been mom-like to us. These are people to celebrate well today. Indeed, God’s love through them lasts forever.
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.