By Ed Twedt
It was John Wesley who once famously wrote, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.” At first glance this statement seems like a mere truism, but it has much more depth than a quick look can uncover.
First, Wesley tells us what to do: do good. He tells us how much good to do: all the good you can. He tells us how to do good: in all the ways you can. He tells us to whom to do good: to all the souls you can. He tells us where to do good: in every place you can. He tells us when to do good: at all the times you can. He tells us with what kind of energy we should do good: with all the zeal you can. Finally he tells us how long we should do good: as long as ever you can.
So, Wesley takes this simple Biblical concept of doing good, aims it squarely at each of us, and expands it to cover all the bases so to speak. When God calls us to do good, this call is all-encompassing, and extends throughout the entirety of our lives. In effect Wesley pulls together almost everything that can be said about doing good in the Biblical sense, and lays it right at our feet. God’s call to do good is a full time call to each one of us. It is like Woodland’s commitment to the idea of “every member a minister” because the ministry of doing good is a personal ministry for each one of us. How much good will you do today?
By Daniel Zamora
“When the trumpets sounded…the wall collapsed” Joshua 6:20
“…David would take his harp and play. Then Relief would come to Saul” 1 Samuel 16:23
“Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang… Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud…for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” 2 Chronicles 5:13-14
Every year in June, youth choirs from all over the United States attend the Nation’s Capital Festival of Youth Choirs. I had the opportunity of going this year and not only to accompany some anthems but to admire how youth voices could make such beautiful music together opening their mouths at the conductor’s cue.
From the moment the festival began, choir directors and counselors noticed the first rehearsal went beyond their expectations. Each choir member was prepared knowing his/her respective parts and many were ready to sing from memory. At the end of the second day, I was not sure about the remaining practices because the group sang so well.
Towards the end of the last day of rehearsals, they received an unexpected visit from the manager of one of the hotels across National City Christian Church, where the practices had been held. She wanted to listen to the choir in order to invite her hotel guest to attend. Randy Edwards indicated they would sing a few short excerpts from the festival music. The manager sat in the choir loft in front of the choir. Since there was no mention of any specific order, I got closer to the front to be available for accompanying.
They began singing “E’en so I love Thee, And in Thy praise will sing” from Jane Marshall’s anthem My Eternal King. Within a few seconds, the sanctuary was filled with sounds produced by these teenagers and I could not resist to walk in front of them to observe the visitor’s face but as I began doing it, the music became so intense that I had to stop, then went back to my seat and listen while tears flooded my eyes. Yes, the power of music had changed my mind, soul and spirit.
By Nikki Finkelstein-Blair
Over the past couple of months our family has been on a roller coaster. As a Navy family, we are relocated every three years; we move to a new city, a new job, a new church, a new life–and for two years we can simply Be There. But at that two-year mark, we have the opportunity to look at the available job openings and to make a request for our next duty station (and city, job, church…. and life). We recently hit that two-year mark of our time in San Antonio, so we excitedly scoured The List of jobs that will be coming available next summer, when it will be time for us to move again.
We painstakingly shaped a Top Six list, taking into consideration every possible aspect of the decision: the best career options for Scott, the best choices for our family, our dream jobs and dream locations. We submitted our list, and then waited.
And when the Navy finally came back to us to offer us—we knew—one of those six best-possible-options…. they offered us exactly NONE of them. And of the three choices they gave us, two of them were located in a place we have never wanted to live, and the third didn’t hold any particular interest or promise.
Our immediate reaction was anger. Questioning. A sense of waste for all the time we’d put into our requests. Our instinct was to argue, to complain, to make a whole new list and ask for new options.
But over the course of a few days, I believe God spoke. He spoke through a couple of internet blogs I occasionally read. He spoke through friends we consulted. He even (I believe this!) spoke through a fortune cookie. And this is the message I heard, again and again: “What if you say YES?”
What if you say YES; a big, loud yes? Not just a “Well, okay, if you say so” yes, not just an “I guess I don’t really have a choice” yes, not just a brooding submission of a yes… but a yes full of hope, a yes of anticipation, a yes that says “I’m all in!”
“Yes” doesn’t dispel fear. “Yes” doesn’t mean everything’s going to be easy or rosy. But when we say “yes” we’re affirming that our anxieties aren’t going to rule us. With “yes” we confess our trust in the God who can convert our greatest fears into powerful expressions of faith. With “yes” we proclaim that our frightened, human, instinctive “no ways” can be transformed by the One who is the Way, and that along that Way we, too, are willing to be transformed.
By Glen Schmucker
Someone once asked an elderly black minister what he tended to pray about most as his life grew closer to the end. The old gentleman thought for a moment and then said, “I pray for three things. I pray that my body won’t outlive my mind. I pray that I won’t outlive all of my mourners. And, I pray that I won’t drown in shallow waters.”
It’s those shallow waters that are the trickiest part and the only part of those three prayers in which we have some power to fix the outcome. The shallow waters to which I think he was referring were the choices we too often make to live petty lives, lives that are not given fully to what matters most or allow ourselves to be drug down paths to places that are of no account because they are not the road of our true calling.
Awakening this morning, I realized that one of the shallowest of all waters in which we can drown is the shallowness of unforgiveness. Part of our problem with not forgiving is that we are, too often, waiting for something to change in others so that we will find them more forgivable.
I’m reminded of the way Eugene Peterson once put it. “It has always been more difficult to come to terms with Jesus as the way than with Jesus as the truth, more difficult to realize the ways our thinking and behavior” must become “fused into a life of relational love and adoration with neighbor and God, God and neighbor.” Yet, “only when we do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way do we get the Jesus life (Eugene Peterson, “Transparent Lives,” Christian Century, November 29, 2003, pp. 21-22).”
The Jesus truth and the Jesus way involve extending forgiveness before it is sought or earned. If we wait for an apology from the person who has offended us in order to forgive them, then we are not living the Jesus truth much less walking in the Jesus way.
Most all of our problems in life have some form of unforgiveness in the mix. And, the reason problems remain impossibly unsolvable problems is because we tend to think of forgiveness as a place toward which we are headed instead of the place we are to begin. It is the very character of God, as revealed over and over in scripture, to forgive first and ask questions later, if ever.
Some years ago, dear friend George Mason spoke at a Christian Life Commission conference on capital punishment. This is what he said that helps get the order of things in the proper Jesus order.
God’s forgiveness of us is “not the result of human repentance and confession that might allow us to be right with God and with one another. It is the beginning . . . While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Paul says. Not, once we prove ourselves sorry enough for our sins and provide enough restitution to our victims,” will God then forgive us (George Mason, “Capital Punishment,” BGCT Christian Life Commission Seminar, Trinity Baptist Church, San Antonio, Texas, May 4, 2004).
Waiting atop the hill of piety and condescension until someone climbs to our presumed height of holiness, thereby proving themselves worthy of forgiveness in our estimation, is taking God’s place, or trying to. It is also coming at forgiveness from the wrong direction. Remember, before Jesus climbed Calvary’s mountain he first came down from heaven, to walk where we walk. Then, and only then, did Jesus climb the hill that would have proven impossible for us to summit.
God so loved the world that God forgave us before we were born into the world for which Christ died and, thereby, made God’s eternal forgiveness, past, present and future, possible. That’s not the question.
Repentance is nothing less than the choice to stop walking in shallow waters and to start walking on the higher ground of Jesus’ way.
The question is not the existence of God’s forgiveness for us and for the world, paid for before we even knew we needed it. The only question is whether, no matter how young or old we may be, we’re running the risk of drowning in the shallow waters of unforgiveness.
New International Version (NIV)
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
that they may proclaim my praise
By: Bob Flynn
John the Baptizer and Jesus were about the same age. John was a bit older and began preaching first. “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Repent is an interesting word. In biology it means to creep or crawl. In religion it means to be contrite, to confess your sins and change your ways. It also means to change one’s mind. To re-think your past, your future, your goals. Some do that on birthdays, tax days, anniversaries, New Year’s day.
John called the people to demonstrate re-calculating their way by baptism. When Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized, John said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the wrath to come?” Who among us would say that was good preaching?
There were three major religious sects in Israel at the time: Pharisees preached a strict interpretation of the law and rigorous observance of the rites and ceremonies. Pharisee means separatist, and they were called “those loyal to God.” Biblical scholars who study the religious influences on Jesus believe he was most influenced by the Pharisees and was most critical of them. That shouldn’t surprise Baptists who are often more critical of other Baptists that of other Christians and nonChristians.
The Sadducees were the aristocrats of Judea, often priests and high priests, and involved in political matters. They presided over sacrifices, and maintained the temple and its centrality to Jewish worship. They collected taxes and mediated domestic disputes. They did not believe in an afterlife for individuals except through the preservation of the tribe.
John the Baptizer is believed to be most influenced by the Essenes who denounced riches and physical comforts, including marriage, baptized, devoted themselves to charity, and prohibited anger.
That prohibition didn’t stop John. He insulted the religious superiors who came to him to be baptized. Then he twisted the knife. Having Abraham as their father counted for nothing. God could turn stones into children of Abraham. He told them they had to re-think their religious tradition, to re-calculate what the law and the prophets said.
Some are too old for new ideas from young people. And young John introduced an idea that could subvert an ancient tradition. That was a personal insult to God-favored people. They reacted as expected. “You little crumb snatcher, who are you to tell us something new? Sonny boy, when you have studied the law as long as we have, crawl back and we may listen to your childish babble.” (K-Bob Translation)
None of the religious sects came to John’s aid when he was imprisoned for speaking truth to Herod. But young John’s courage to speak the truth, encouraged young Jesus to make his own shocking statement. He read from Isaiah 61, and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” And those who believed in him had to recalculate their Scriptures, their traditions and their lives.
By: Garrett Vickrey
What could be worse than the smell of wet carpet? Wet carpet that still hasn’t dried three days later.
San Antonio was blessed (or blasted) by rain a few weeks ago. Around the church we had about ten inches of rain. David, Mylene, and Mike Elliot came up to the church Saturday to change out the sanctuary banners for Sunday morning. Thankfully, they came Saturday night and not Sunday morning. They came in through the administration building and found the floor to be sloshy. Before long we had a group assembled at the church to assess the situation. Ramiro was out of town this past weekend. So Debra Arredondo, Joe Manuel, and I met up at the church to try to make a plan. Joe started cleaning up and putting out fans. David Elliot began sucking up water with the carpet cleaner. I brought my brother-in-law with me, and he took a turn on the carpet cleaner too. Debra worked the phones to try to get carpet cleaners out to the church ASAP. Within 2 hours we had carpet cleaners in the building setting up fans and humidifiers.
We decided to go ahead with Sunday School the next morning. Thankfully, the sanctuary was dry so worship was not affected. But, we had Sunday School classes meeting in every nook and cranny of the church. Ellen and Lance ran around putting up signs and directing people to classes. Classes moved, classes combined. All in all, it was a pretty crazy morning.
We got through it and church happened. Church happened because Woodland is flooded with the Holy Spirit. I’m reminded of it constantly. I was reminded that Saturday night when I met Joe, Debra, David, Mylene, and Mike at church. And I was reminded the next day when a father and son showed up in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday to clear the sidewalks of mud and sweep the sand and rubble from the prayer garden path back in the garden and off the parking lot. I was reminded that our church is flooded with the Spirit yesterday as I read a thank you note to our church from Buckner International in response of our gift of $7,500 to them for ministering to children at the Community Transformation Center down on the border.
The Spirit is here. May we never dry it up, fan it out, or dehumidify it. Lets dive in together.
On another note: The Spurs are headed for the finals. That’s not lost on me. I’m considering a few blog posts on basketball during the NBA Finals. I’m feeling good about the Spurs chances, and feeling great about cheering against the Heat.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.”
The explosions this week at the Boston Marathon have shaken our hearts and minds. We have been awakened again to the terrible reality that evil lurks here and there in this world. It’s a tragedy. It’s scary.
As Christians we respond as best we can through prayer and compassionate action. Pray for peace. Give blood. Pray for justice. Thank a police officer for serving. Pray for forgiveness. Donate to the Red Cross. Pray for guidance as you grieve. Donate clothes, gifts cards, and food to the Salvation Army. Pray.
The question that skulks through our minds tends to be, “Where is God?” It’s a difficult question. But, I think that Psalm 46 gives us a clue. The psalm says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” When the earth shakes or when we are rocked by tragedy look and see where help comes from. You might see God.
After the Newtown tragedy and again this week a quote from Mr. Rogers has gone viral. The quote says, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother always said to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Just after the bombs went off this week, the helpers jumped into action. Some of these helpers had just run 26 miles. At the end of most marathons you see people either collapsing at the finishing line or walking gingerly to embrace loved ones after the race. Yet, by the grace of God these marathoners caught their breath and began tearing back the barrier between the road and the crowd to get to the wounded. Police and first responders leapt into action to direct the effort. The terror of this act cannot be undone, but the response of the people in Boston is a light in great darkness.
God has not promised us a life free of trouble and suffering. But, God has promised to be a present help in trouble. Paul writes in Romans 8, “In everything God works for good.” God is in the reaction — inspiring courage, rousing generosity and grieving with us. God is our refuge and strength. As the bombs went off Monday, God’s was the first heart to break.
“God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.” ~Psalm 46
I was recently at a funeral for the elderly relative of a dear friend. It was a beautiful service – Scripture readings and songs from the woman’s great-grandchildren, glorious choral and congregational music, and moving eulogies by both her daughters. Lois Jeane had been a lifelong Christian who brought her husband to faith and raised four children in a loving, creative, God-honoring home.
When the pastor rose to give the sermon, he compared Lois Jeane to several characters in the Bible. Like Sarah, she had shown great faith. Like Esther, she had tremendous courage. Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, she had been obedient to God. But, he said, the Biblical characters that Lois Jeane most resembled were three ordinary women – the three who were first at the tomb on that surprising Sunday after his death.
You see, these three – whom Mark names as Salome, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James – were going to anoint Jesus’ body. In the midst of their grief and bewilderment, they went to the market in preparation for the next morning. They bought spices and rose early the next day. As they ascended the steep path, they expected to find things as they had been left, with a heavy stone blocking their way. They even wondered aloud how they would move it to perform the task to which they had assigned themselves. But out of sheer love, they journeyed on, faithful to the calling to anoint the body of Christ.
And Lois Jeane? Her pastor marveled at how often Lois Jeane had spoken words of encouragement to him. Her friends told him stories of her devotion to the Body – her own money, time, and energy freely given to those around her. The positivity she brought to every interaction. And all in the service of strengthening her family, her fellow worshippers, and church leadership. She did these things out of an abundance of love for the Church, without any expectation for a return.
What would it look like to be like Lois Jeane? To be like Salome and the two Marys? How might we anoint the Body of Christ with our own love and encouragement?
Several weeks ago we planted some tomato plants in our backyard.
We’ve been told that squirrels and birds love to hijack the fruit. So, Nancy also planted two bird feeders among the tomato plants. So far, the feeders and our Golden Retrievers have kept the squirrels and birds away from the tomatoes.
One squirrel has figured out how to tip one of the feeders over and spill its seed everywhere. Now, there are all kinds of weeds growing in the flower bed near the feeders and tomato plants. I mentioned them to Nancy (code for “You have some weeds to pull.”). She then told me that those are plants growing from the seeds that fell out of the bird feeders and took shallow root. Using no code whatsoever, she told me that they won’t be hard for me to pull.
Though we intended the seeds to give life to the birds, the thieving squirrel made sure they fell to the ground. Now, given time, those seeds born of stolen seed will produce even more seed. Sometimes, what we intend for one thing becomes something else better than we could have ever imagined.
When the bombs went off in Boston this past week, two things happened. First, a lot of people were killed or maimed for life, not to mention those who will live with emotional scars that may never heal.
The second thing that happened was even more spectacular. The bombs blew loose the seeds of heroes, scattering them all throughout the crowd in thousands of different directions. Total strangers rushed to tend to the wounded and carry them to safety and medical care.
We saw a graphic picture of a man being carried to safety in a wheel chair by two total strangers. Both of his legs had been amputated beneath the knees.
One of the rescuers was pushing the wheel chair with one hand and clamping several inches of the victim’s severed femoral artery in his other bare hand so the victim wouldn’t bleed to death. The line of people wanting to donate their own life’s blood was out the door and all the way around the block.
This is something that cowardly terrorists have never figured out. They can blow up hundreds of people. What happens next they can never control nor can they conquer.
The moment the bomb goes off the seeds of heroes are scattered, instantaneously taking root by the thousands. The history the terrorist intended is rewritten, not in the blood they spilled but in the life blood others give. What one intends for evil always spawns something of greater good.
After Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and then got caught red-handed, they just knew that Joseph would have them enslaved, tortured or killed as payback. Except, Joseph knew the seed-to-hero scenario God always works. “‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’” (Genesis 50:20).
Our redemption story is literally written in the blood someone spilled with evil intent that God only used to fertilize the seeds of heroes.