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Why We Need Jesus

Urgency is at the core of evangelism. We evangelize because we believe that, as the song says, people need the Lord! The deeper that our relationship is with our creator the more convince we become of this important fact. The more we minister to people and become attentive to their needs the more aware we become of their need for God.

Christianity in some circles has become so obsessed with belief that it hase painted itself in a corner. We have separated ourselves from “others” who are sinful, wrong, evil. We have become modern day pharisees. Many in contemporary society view Christians as out of touch, hypocritical, and prejudiced. In response to these concerns some churches have gone to the extreme of removing all semblance of church in their building and in their message hoping that this way people might reconnect with God (a Christianized “bait and switch” technique). Other churches have gone the other extreme, they have strengthened their “positions” and have declared themselves the faithful remnant, those that do not agree with their positions are just sinful, evil people, especially if they claimed to be Christian. No wonder so many unbelievers are so confused! We continue to fight amongst ourselves instead of reaching out to others.

In light of all of this why do we need Jesus? In the early chapters of Genesis we receive the answer: we need Jesus because left to our own devices we are not going to love others, creation, or really ourselves (that’s what we call sin). Left to our own devices we are easily deceived into thinking that the fruit before us is better than the fruit of relationship to God and other people (here is sin again). Left to our own devices we are unable to satisfy the longing for something larger than ourselves (this longing is what Wesley called previnient grace).

Jesus is the one that bridges the gap between sinful (broken, sick) humanity and a holy God (creator, sustainer). Since God in Jesus took our form, remained sinless (while eating and drinking with sinners), and finally was able to conquer sin (through resurrection) then humanity is able to be restored to what God intended, restored to being God’s image in the world.

Here is the urgent message: You too can be restored! You too can find life! You too can find community!

See you on Wednesday . . .

Peace, Juan+

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After the Storm

We are blessed that all is well. No damage, no leaks, no rebuilding. Others were not so lucky. All our people are back and we are trying to settle into our lives and continue the work of ministry in this community.

After a storm there is normally a time of evaluation. Experts weigh in on the damage, they asses it and plan for reconstruction. Property owners try to determine if they will rebuild, those who do not own wonder if they will come back. Decisions have to be made after a storm.

Although we did not suffer damage I believe we can also take this opportunity for evaluation. I wonder what God is calling us to? What is God’s invitation to us? What do we need to change and what do we need to continue doing?

In one of my current reads Leading Beyond the Walls, Adam Hamilton says that churches need to ask themselves three questions:

1. Why do people need Christ?
2. Why do people need the church?
3. Why do they need this particular church?

(Abingdon Press; 2002, p 21)

These are wonderful questions. We need to ask them, answer them and act on them. We need to be open to what God is leading us into as a community of faith. Vibrancy, mission, zeal are important to those who follow Jesus, the one who is with us in the midst of the storm and the one who calms it.

Others need to hear about it!

Peace, Juan+

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On Living Churches

Recently a lay leader at Squyres told me about a quiz he was giving his students the next day. The quiz was about the Five Characteristics of Living Things:

  1. Are organized or have an orderly structure.
  2. Respond to their environment- this includes homeostasis: mantaining proper internal conditions.
  3. Take in and use energy.
  4. Grow and develop: individual cells grow and the organism grows by adding new cells – over a lifetime, living things develop and change.
  5. Reproduce.

Upon hearing these characteristics a “light bulb” went on and theological senses heightened. Here is my version of the theological characteristics of living churches:

  1. Are Community: are organized and structured communally.
  2. Are Missional: Respond to their environment.
  3. Are led by the Spirit: Take in and use the Spirit’s power.
  4. Are Maturing: grow in & develop their discipleship (sanctification).
  5. Are Reproducing: make disciples by sharing the good news with others.

So is our church “alive?” What can we do to make sure that it is? What are your thoughts?

Peace, Juan+

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Journey

In a recent congregational letter I invited our members to journey with us. For those of you who know me this will not be a surprise. I am one who has been deeply formed by the idea of life as a journey, especially as a person of faith.

I have been on a journey my whole life. I have moved many times, went to many different schools, different churches, and have met many wonderful people. There have been heartbreaks along the way but by and large it has been a wonderful life. In fact, I would not be who I am if I had not been on those “adventures”(as my family sometimes refers to our travels).

Being on a journey is an intentional decision. You prepare for it and within it are always aware of where you are, taking it all in, knowing that at every point God is there guiding, prodding, and inviting.

In baptism we have been initiated in a communal journey. Our walk is not solitary but instead it includes all the faithful from the beginning of time. That community takes shape in our worship on the Lord’s day as we gather around font, word, and table. In the gathering of God’s people we rehearse what it means to be on this journey, what it means to be in it together.

I am thankful for the many who have walked this journey with me. Father and mother who got me started, a sister who was an early companion, now a wife and children who walk with me hand in hand. There have also been others: friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors, and strangers. All have been companions, all have been Christ for me at different times, all have made a mark in my life.

God is constantly inviting us to be part of this great adventure that we call a life of faith. I wonder if we will take God on that invitation? I wonder if we will join him and the community of faith in this journey?

Peace, Juan+

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I Believe!

In a recent blog my best friend, brother, and colleague Josh Hale asked the question “What is it like to be a priest, a prophet, a preacher, a pastor, a parson?” it was interesting that he asked the question because I have been asking it about myself in the last few weeks. What is like and what does it mean? Why do I do what I do each day? What does it mean to feel called to it?

I agree with Josh that most of us do a poor job at describing our vocation. Complaining, sharing “war” stories and whining does not help those called to answer that call. In fact for many it’s probably a big turn off when they hear pastors describing what they do in such negative ways.

I do what I do because I believe! I believe in the transformative power of the gospel. I believe in the amazing empowerment of the Spirit that the gathering called the church has to carry out God’s vision in the world. I believe that some of us have been called by God to lead God’s people into that fullness into God’s own work. I believe that the work is grounded in the incarnation as we become the body of Christ for the world. I believe passionately . . . maybe at times to my detriment.

All of this to say that I believe in the church and in its power to be God’s agent in the world. Every church has that response-ability in their own community where ever they are. I believe in our own congregation Squyres UMC and in its potential to be this kind of transformative community in this place. I Believe . . .

Peace, Juan+

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On the Church: A Beginning

Some years ago, while our family was on vacation, we attended a local congregation for worship. As we arrived we were given bulletins by the greeters, who were friendly but not extremely helpful, and typical of pastors I began to look at everything around me, the space, the people, the layout, and what this church said about itself in the different pieces of material in the pew and in the bulletin. Soon I found their mission statement: “Committed to an informed membership.”

An “informed membership?” I was disappointed at this congregation and I was only a visitor. Although I am sure that they meant well it spoke volumes that their “mission” had nothing to do with the mission of Jesus. I wonder how they arrived at seeing themselves in this way? What did they mean by it? How did they perceive this way of being as one that would guide them into kingdom work?

As I begin my work at Squyres UMC I ask myself: what is our mission? and how do we accomplish it? If our mission is centered on Christ, driven by God’s Spirit, and rooted in table fellowship, what does our living in this way look like? Our ministries? Our ways of conversation and administration?

All of these are important questions. They are important because society needs the church to be the church, the gathering of those transformed by God’s Spirit into agents of God’s reconciling love. That is our mission, our calling, and our identity.

We could be committed to an “informed membership” or to any other cause, but that does not make us the church. What makes us the church is our commitment to live the way of Jesus in the world, empowered by the Spirit, sealed by the waters of baptism, and constantly sanctified by table fellowship.

In the next few weeks I will continue writing on the church. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to write them. My prayer is that God may guide us as we seek to be the church, the people of God, in our community.

Peace, Juan+

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On the Church: A Beginning

Some years ago while our family was on vacation, we attended a local congregation for worship. As we arrived we were given bulletins by the greeters, who were friendly but not extremely helpful, and typical of pastors I began to look at everything around me, the space, the people, the layout, and what this church said about itself in the different pieces of material in the pew and in the bulletin. Soon I found their mission statement: “Committed to an informed membership.”

An “informed membership?” I was disappointed at this congregation and I was only a visitor. Although I am sure that they meant well it spoke volumes that their “mission” had nothing to do with the mission of Jesus. I wonder how they arrived at seeing themselves in this way? What did they mean by it? How did they perceive this way of being as one that would guide them into kingdom work?

As I begin my work at Squyres UMC I ask myself: what is our mission? and how do we acomplish it? If our mission is centered on Christ, driven by God’s Spirit, and rooted in table fellowship, what does our living in this way look like? Our ministries? Our ways of conversation and administration?

All of these are important questions. They are important because society needs the church to be the church, the gathering of those transformed by God’s Spirit into agents of God’s reconciling love. That is our mission, our calling, and our identity.

We could be committed to an “informed membership” or to any other cause, but that does not make us the church. What makes us the church is our commitment to live the way of Jesus in the world, empowered by the Spirit, sealed by the waters of baptism, and constantly sanctified by table fellowship.

In the next few weeks I will continue writing on the church. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to write them. My prayer is that God may guide us as we seek to be the church, the people of God, in our community.

Peace, Juan+

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On Being Named

I remember the excitement and joy of selecting a name for our children. It was not easy, we poured over baby name books for hours, yet little by little we began selecting and putting names together. Some early favorites did not make it while others kept on coming up. Our goal was to find a name that “fit” our dreams, hopes, and desires for this child. In some ways naming became a sort of invocation, a calling of God’s promises and our promises on this child. It is not surprising then that in scripture God uses naming as a powerful tool that speaks of a change in a person’s life.

Spirit Stirrer was a name (a description) given to me. Out of a very difficult time a close friend poured out in poetic utterance and named me. Sharing in this pain and this naming changed my life. It was a gift of God’s grace. At the time I did not realize it. Others were given names also and we had a wonderful time decoding who was who (see like a great poet she allowed for us to figure out who was who and after much banter she revealed it).

Last week I had a dream about this “name,” I was told to use it. I was not sure how, dreams are like that, what I knew was that I needed to claim it. After a conversation with my name giver I decided that it was ok to use it as the name for my new blog.

I hope this medium becomes a conversation about life together. As I begin my work as pastor of Squyres United Methodist Church I am aware of the importance of community. As Christian people we claim that our life together is made possible by God’s Spirit. It is this Spirit that I hope is stirring all of us towards one another and towards God.

I am blessed and honored to be given the opportunity to be a catalyst, an agent, of God’s initiative in the lives of people. I pray this medium extends that ministry, the ministry of the church, to all that God sends this way!

Peace, Juan+

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Welcome!

I am excited about this new beginning! I’ll have to admit that I have not been a very effective blogger. I’ve had fits and starts and an occasional encounter with my muse. Overall not much has been written so I decided to bury my old blog (Sacramental Ramblings) and begin a new one.

Soon I will talk about the name and what I hope these musings accomplish. For now all I will say is that I am grateful to be back and look forward to the conversation.

Peace, Juan+