Hmmm….

You know, one of the things I really like is when you can read the Bible in a different version and the change of the words even just slightly produces a thought or a moment that makes you think harder or differently about your life, the Bible, the World or something totally different.

Acts 18:1-8 is one of those sort of packages for me.  Packages?

Yes, when I read Acts 18:1-8 today three things jumped out at me:

  • When Paul got to Corinth, he stayed with displaced people.  But they are Jewish just like he was.
  • Even in Paul’s life, there is a time where he had to “do something else” to make a living while still doing ministry.  The start of his efforts in Corinth were not self sustaining.
  • Paul’s greatest success in ministry in Corinth happened not to “his own” people, but happened with people from other nations.

Hmmmm….

TJV

Seeing God in the Cafeteria

(Note, this actually happened on May 30 – it’s just taken me a few days to get it to the point of feeling it is ready to share). A few weeks ago, I wrote about a concert that the Potter’s House Gospel Choir gave. It gave me hope. You can read that here.

This morning, I saw something else.

I saw promise.

I saw promises made and promises that came true.

Come with me.

It’s about 7:10 and the principal and a few other staff are putting the finishing touch on lining up chairs in the cafeteria. There’s a great big circle of chairs.

Hmmm, this doesn’t look like the prayer services that I’ve been at before.

A few of the seniors come in, a few parents do as well. No one is quite sure what to do. But the kids know and they start sitting down in the circle of chairs.

Before long all of the chairs are filled by students. Around the circle, parents and teachers are just kind of wandering, talking amongst themselves. Sharing relief that their student made it, sharing the happiness of an accomplishment, sharing stories of growth (and stories of white water rafting and baseball games at 2:00 in the morning in the Indianapolis airport).

Little by little over the next 10 to 15 minutes, people drift in. And then all of the chairs are full and the principal welcomes all of us to a time of prayer. He opens with a prayer and then says that for the next 30 minutes or so, it’s time to pray for the seniors.

And then it happened.

It started with just a few quiet prayers. And it grew.

And it grew.

Parents praying for their own kids.

Parents praying for their kids friends.

Parents praying for the kids of their friends.

Teachers praying for every student.

Teachers from the middle school came over to pray for these “their” students.

Administrators praying over every student individually.

Prayers of thanks for what God has done for them. And through them.

Prayers of support as they venture into the “unknown.”

Giving thanks and celebrating God’s promises kept.

Claiming God’s promises into the future.

And you could feel the atmosphere shift in the cafeteria. It wasn’t the lunch room at school.

It was a place of worship. And God was doing something special.

He was saying, “These are my children. I’ve got them.”

“I promise.”

Just as the parents were feeling the emotions of a milestone, whether easy or hard, God was saying, “Have hope for the future. I’ve got them.”

Just as the seniors were feeling the mixed emotions that come at a time like this, God was saying, “Have hope, my child, I’ve got you. Trust me and hold on to my promises”

I’ve seen hope and I’ve seen promise.

And I see a class of high school graduates who have both and have them for such a time as this.

God is good, all the time.

TV

It started with a piece of tape.

And then another, and another and another. And then the next roll. And the next….

A view from upstairs and you can see what it is. The chairs are all gone and the tape marks the outline of where the congregation normally sits.

Why?  Because Good Friday isn’t comfortable.

Then came the musicians.

Plugging in cords. Setting up microphones. Tuning the cello and the guitars.

Hey, you see those two over there? What are they doing? I don’t know.

They move from place to place around the room. Soon it’s obvious what they are doing.

They are praying. They are praying for the worshippers that will soon be coming in. .

Every one of them.

The pastors and musicians gather for prayer as people start wandering in. Some of the elderly sit in a row of chairs around the back. Everyone else sits on the floor.

Just enough light shows to help people pick out spots on the floor. Families sit in groups. Parents tell their little ones why it’s dark and why they are sitting on the floor.

Some are very comfortable on the floor, many are not. But more and more people are coming in.

It’s quiet, unusually quiet. Reflective, somber, anticipatory.

And more people come in. The ushers keep busy trying to find a place for them.

They succeed even as the empty spots get smaller and smaller. They ask and people gladly move closer together.

The minister spoke in the dark. Words of reverence and hope. Words of redemption. Words of awareness.

The music joined in – many of the musicians were playing from their heart and soul – and without any written music. The music wove itself throughout the room, turning people’s hearts to Jesus and to Good Friday.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be a present far too small.” A heartfelt admission that we are more broken than we think we are and more loved than we could ever imagine.

The seven stations of the cross – followed by a candle being extinguished. The darkness grows.

Judas betrays Jesus. The darkness grows.

Peter denies Jesus. The darkness grows.

The thief begs for salvation. The darkness grows.

Every step of the way, the darkness grows.

“Father into thy hands, I commit my spirit.

It’s late on Friday and a wise man and a believer worked with the Mary’s and get him down and buried him.

It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming.

The pastors jointly said, “May the Lord Bless you, may the Lord make his face to shine on and keep you. Go forth in the knowledge it is currently Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

Sunday is coming and God is so so good.

Tom

So What Did You Learn Today?

That is a question I’ve been driving my kids nuts with for decades. So many nights at supper time, that question comes up…..

But I figure, hey, if we’re spending the time and effort and money to send them to private Christian schools, we should have the right to know what they learn, right?

I won’t tell you how many times they can’t remember, at supper time, what they learned that day at school. Those of you who are teachers would cringe…….

But I want to share with you two things I learned at and about church a few weeks back and I hope you’ll find them useful……

First, if someone shares a struggle that they are going through – whether that be a physical, emotional, relational, financial or ? Kind of struggle, you should consider the fact that they shared it with you as a holy compliment. That means you should pray wholeheartedly for that person and do what you can to help them. There are very few things more disillusioning to a hurting member of a church than for them to open up to a fellow church member and then either find the news gossiped around the church or completely ignored.

Secondly, if someone brings you into the circle of people who know about their journey – journey of illness, journey of pain, journey of whatever they are fighting against, don’t apologize for not knowing about it sooner. Be grateful for the chance to help them be strong from the inside.

Simple things – but simple things that could make the church a much healthier place.

And together we could then Rejoice in the Lord in a much more deeply personal and spiritually healthy way.

God is good.

All the time.

TJV

Grief – Wrapped in Worship

It happened again this morning. Pastor Dave was finishing up his sermon on Isaiah 6. If I had to summarize the sermon, I would say it this way, “We serve an awesome God who is way bigger and more powerful than we could ever imagine.”

At the end of the sermon, Pastor Dave had the congregation sing the song, Holy Holy Holy and do it without instruments.

The singing was powerful.

The song is powerful.

As we started the second verse, the feeling hit again.

The grief hit again.

It has many times since March 23 when my Dad entered heaven.

Not only do I miss my Dad but I also get a very strong sense that when we are worshipping God, when we are gathering as believers, those who went before are somehow gathered and watching and supporting us.

I don’t know if it’s theologically sound or not, but I firmly believe that when we are gathered in worship it can quite often be an opportunity to feel closer to those who have gone before us.

This morning, my Dad wasn’t there singing Holy Holy Holy with us.

But he was. And it hurt. And it was good.

Because God is good.

All the time.

Tom