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Advent: The Thrill of the Countdown

It is the midway point of Advent. Two candles on the wreath are visibly shorter. They have been lit during the worship service and snuffed out at the end of the service to save some for the next week. After this coming Sunday, three candles will be shorter. And then four. And then…

advent-wreath

Photo Credit: High Street Photo buff Flickr via Compfight cc

Countdowns are fun. There is a thrill in enjoying a countdown as a group. On New Year’s Eve, it’s the countdown to a new, fresh year. “3…2…1…HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!” The crowd hugs each other, couples sneak a kiss, and everyone cheers. In sports, it’s the countdown to a victory. Even when my team isn’t in the championship round, I still get a thrill from watching the final seconds of a game tick away. One can feel a palpable need to burst out in celebration. For my children this past month, there was a countdown to the days to see all of their grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins in a matter of a few days. “How many sleeps until Thanksgiving?” they asked. From Thanksgiving day and through a few days after we saw pretty much all of our nearest relatives on both Theresa’s side of the family and mine. It was a blast to see everyone.

What type of a countdown excites you?

Advent, as a season in the church year, carries with it the idea of expectation. The word Advent is rooted in a Latin word meaning “coming.” It denotes that that coming hasn’t happened yet. Of course, from our vantage point in history, Jesus has come to earth the first time. He lowered Himself to be born as a baby. It’s somewhat strange to re-enact this story with which we are so familiar. And yet, in Advent, we reset the clock so-to-speak, and enjoy the countdown again. We get to re-live the pent up expectation that they felt as they waited for the Messiah.

As we live in this season of Advent, we enjoy that sense of expectation. It would be fascinating to go back in time to feel what the people felt as they waited for the Messiah to come. In a way, we share in that same pregnant expectation. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is coming again. In the meantime, let’s enjoy this “countdown” season: Advent.

Book Review – The Suburban Church

When I read a book I like to write a little “book review” for my personal benefit down the road. It’s always interesting for me to pick up a book, look at the portions I have underlined, and remember why I read that particular book in the first place. Theresa encouraged me to share some of these book reviews on my blog.

The Suburban Church – by Arthur DeKruyter & Quentin Schultze

the-suburban-church

Quick Summary

The authors seek to lay out the joys, pitfalls, and strategies for being a church in suburbia. While many write books about churches in rural or urban settings, this book focuses on how God can and does use suburban churches.

Key Insights

  1. p34 “We aimed instead to grow the people that God sent to us by being openly and obviously a church with ‘traditional’ worship.”
    This accomplished three things:
    1) It connected visitors and member to the historic Christian church
    2) It connected our suburbanites with most of the Christian traditions that they knew from their own childhoods or from other churches they had left.
    3) This order of worship gave us a rich, predictable structure for planning.
  2. p95 “The local congregation is most healthy when it looks outward, pursuing its greater mission beyond its tribal interests. If it does not do this, it turns inward, dissipating its energies on the administration of its programs, on who gets credit, on building new buildings, and on trying merely to keep church life peaceful.”

Personal Application

  1. God is giving me a love for the suburbs. I was hunting for a book like this. It seems like there are so many books, blogs and other materials that focus on rural or urban churches. It doesn’t seem like there is much out there about suburbs. I was hoping to get more specific instruction from this book, but was slightly disappointed.  God is driving me more to prayer to seek His guidance.  Books are great but are no substitute for His direction.
  2. After reading this book, I am more confident in being who we are as a church. I often feel the need to apologize for being small, not as hip as the other church, and so on. I think our “small town church” culture in suburbia can be and is a positive thing for Shakopee. Praise God that He has placed us here in this community to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Have You Heard There’s an Election Soon?

The election is coming November 8th. I don’t need to tell you that. It’s all over the news, social media, and peppered throughout conversations these days. I have thought about what to write to encourage you in this election season. It seems safe to say that this election cycle has produced the worst in us as a nation. From email scandals, views regarding women, pridefulness, deceitfulness, and much more, we have seemingly scraped the bottom of the barrel when it comes to politics. In preparing for my sermon this previous Sunday, a verse about Lot, the nephew of Abraham, stood out to me. “While living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 1:8). Staying up to date with the news lately leaves me feeling squeamish like Lot living in Sodom and Gomorrah. What are we to do?

And yet the reality remains that election day is coming, and coming very quickly. What are you planning on doing in the voting booth that day? It appears that this election has put two main presidential candidates before us who are not concerned about being moral people. Perhaps for the first time we Americans, especially Christian Americans, are realizing that we are not electing a “Pastor in Chief” for our nation. On one hand, that’s a good thing because we must not put our trust in princes, rulers, or presidents. Our trust is, at all times, founded completely on Christ. Yet, on the other hand, we are better served as a people if the leaders are moral, God-fearing people.

Being a citizen of our country, our state, our city is one of the vocations that God has called us into. How can we serve our “neighbor” well in the vocation of citizen during this particular election? I don’t want to tell you who to vote for, but I would like to help walk you through the process in these short days leading up to the vote. Here’s the process: pray, be informed, vote, get involved in the “public square,” and remember that God is sovereign over the rulers of this world. Compelled and empowered with God’s grace, we compassionately seek to carry out our vocation as citizens through these actions:

1) Pray

It goes without saying, but sometimes it goes without doing. Let’s not skip past this point. One of the silver linings of this election is that we have been pushed to prayer more quickly. I’ve found myself breathing out this prayer quite often, “Lord, have mercy!” One thing I like to pray for politicians is that they rule well, using godly wisdom. If I suspect that they are not a saved brother or sister in Christ I pray for their salvation. Scripture invites us to pray for our leaders.

2) Be informed

Sure, you know the personalities of the candidates. But do you know what they have said regarding issues? What would they plan to do if they were to get in office? There is still time to do some digging. Run a Google search on a particular issue and candidate to see what you might find. I also encourage you to be more than a “one-issue” voter, only thinking about one single issue when going to the ballot box. As believers in Christ, here are some issues that appear to be rising to the top of importance in our day:

life issues– What is the candidate’s view on life? Do they support abortion?

future nominations to the Supreme Court– What kind of justice would this particular presidential candidate nominate to be on the Supreme Court? With the way the Supreme Court has been ruling recently, this issue is extremely important.

religious liberty– What does the candidate think of religious liberty? Will we as Christians still retain our freedom to proclaim the ultimate message of freedom found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Will we as Christians be allowed to live, operate a business, and generally hold to biblical teachings regarding sexuality and other social issues?

Obviously there are many more important issues. Do some digging. And don’t forget to keep praying as you do.

3) Vote

Step 1: register. Step 2: do it.
It’s a really unique thing that we in America have the privilege of voting. Recently I heard someone imagine what it would be like to have to choose between Nebuchadnezzar and Herod. As they thought through the world leaders of biblical times, it dawned on them that the people in biblical times did not have the privilege of voting. Hey, at least we don’t have to choose between Nebuchadnezzar and Herod! Don’t fall prey to the view that your vote doesn’t count. Vote. Let your voice be heard. It is a great honor as Americans to be able to do so.

4) Get involved in the “public square”

Have you engaged your neighbors, friends, and acquaintances about these issues? And I don’t mean on Facebook. Well, it is possible to have a civil discussion regarding politics on Facebook. But it is very difficult! I do believe that we could do well to be better involved in more local politics. Are there any particular issues in our communities close to home where we need to get involved?

5) Remember that God is sovereign over the rulers of the world

I really enjoyed preaching through the book of Daniel recently. God keeps bringing to mind that sermon series in light of this pending election. Even though Nebuchadnezzar was ruler, God’s people still remained faithful. Daniel, by faith, lived out his life of faith in the midst of, and even in service to, wicked rulers. Though people that we disagree with may be elected to offices of authority, God remains over them. We can’t see clearly the way God is moving history, but we do have the hope of seeing Christ wrap up all history to His praise and glory.

I’m praying for you, friends, as we go to the voting booths together. I heard of one priest who is opening his confessional booth for the two days following the election, believing that people will feel the need to confess their sins no matter which way they vote. I have jokingly told people to take a cold shower after voting. God’s kingdom marches on. We keep pressing on, knowing that we have a great message to share for the world to hear. Jesus is King! He is Lord. The election results won’t change that.

O Death Where is Your Victory?

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55–57

dark-roadThere are some seasons in life, some stretches of time that seem to overwhelm us with an onslaught of bad news. Like Job of the Old Testament having messenger after messenger bring news of the latest tragedy to happen to him, we feel that we are getting piled on. We have had such a season at King of Glory Lutheran. Many loved ones have died in the last few months. We are weary, we are broken, we are grieving. Death doesn’t hit in the way we expect it. It knows no bounds and strikes where we least expect it. Now is a time to weep together, pray together, rest in God’s grace together.

As we reflect on this season of grieving, I’d like to offer a few comments that can help those who are grieving and those coming alongside grieving people.

1) Give careful thought to what you say and don’t say to a grieving person

While a common saying, I submit that we not approach a grieving person with the statement, “If there is anything you need, please let me know.” While we can’t get into the mind of a griever to know their needs, I’m not sure the grievers themselves know how to answer that question. They often don’t know what they need in that moment. Perhaps later they might think of something they need. But, it takes a lot out of them to ask someone for help. Instead, I suggest, think of concrete ways to help and offer that help to a grieving person. For example, one could say, “I have some time to mow the lawn for you. Would it be okay if I come over this Tuesday?” Please don’t be offended if the grieving person politely refuses. I would suggest that we find other questions to ask about the state of a griever. Saying, “How are you doing?” in a sad tone is a tough question to answer. Once again, I’m not sure the grieving person knows exactly how they are doing in that moment. J. Christian Andrews, a fellow AFLC pastor, lost his wife to death and reflects on the grieving process after six months. He offers similar observations in this blog post. He especially deals with being asked these types of questions. Our words and presence can be a great blessing and encouragement to grieving people.

2) Come alongside the grieving person…after the first month following the death

There is a great outpouring of love, support, concern offered to a griever the days and months following a death. What happens when that initial outpouring seems to stop? The grieving person may be left alone in a quiet house. It can feel like torment at moments. A smell, a thought, a sight, a routine of the day may trigger a memory or a moment of grief. Objects, clothes, something that the deceased loved one enjoyed brings a flood of emotion at moments. Grieving person, the Lord is with you to comfort you in those moments. He loves you deeply! Friends of grieving people, these days in the second month, third month, first year, second year following a death are crucial. You can come alongside your friend in the love that Christ fills in your heart for your friend. Don’t assume that so much time has past since the death that your friend is “okay” now. Check in with the grieving person. In addition, don’t forget others that are effected by death. It is good to acknowledge the loss of a spouse. There are children, parents, grandchildren, siblings, cousins and other close friends even that are hit with grief too. How can you check in on those friends?

3) Grievers can find comfort from other grievers

It’s been a blessing to me to observe those stung by death minister to each other. Someone who has been through the fire of grief acutely knows what another person may be going through. 2 Cor. 1:4 states, “The God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” In addition, it may be helpful to read the thoughts of other grieving people. An influential person in my youth, Jeremy Erickson, was a musician. He visited my home church many times during my youth. His music still blesses me. Tragically, this young man died a few years back. His wife, Jenny, recorded her thoughts in her blog as she dealt with the grief of losing her beloved husband. She became a single mom raising three young boys. Check out her blog, “Still Here and Still His”. It appears that she has not written in awhile, but her thoughts immediately after her husband’s death and in the months and years since are extremely valuable. I would also recommend a book by Pastor Michael Brandt, “Sent and Received. This book is a compilation of emails that he sent to family and friends leading up to the death of his wife. Finally, I would suggest you check out this link for a list of “minibooks” covering a wide variety of topics. These short booklets deal with grieving and coming alongside grieving people. Many other issues are covered in these wonderful booklets. What resources have been helpful for you?

Grieving people, what has been helpful to you through these moments of grief? Let’s talk. Let’s cry together. Let’s continue to grieve with hope. Jesus has conquered death. While sounding cliche, the hope of heaven is great, and becomes sweeter in light of the pain of grief. We look forward to the day when we will see Jesus, our Savior, face-to-face.

Reading with Pastor- Sept 2016

I’d like to start a new series of blog posts where I give you a chance to read along with me over my shoulder. Lately I have been thinking how selfish I am to not share the great stuff that I am taking in through my reading. Each month I’d like to recap some of my favorite resources that I’ve consumed. Enjoy!

Bible

My reading plan has taken me to the book of Job. To be honest, I typically focus my attention on the very beginning and the very end of the story but somewhat tune out the middle section. We get a glimpse of the “behind the scenes” action at the beginning and hear God’s conclusion at the end of the book. But in the middle Job is “counseled” by his friends and then one youth that speaks up. Most people agree that the friends do not offer wise counsel. While mixing in truth and being well-intentioned, they could have done a better job ministering to Job by doing what they did in Job 2:13 “Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw this his pain was very great.” The friends did not know that God had allowed Satan to attack Job and yet spare his life. They assumed Job faced suffering because he had sinned in some way. How often have we made this assumption? And with that in mind, I have paid more attention to the conversations between Job and his friends in the middle chapters of the book. There are many beautiful, poetic, vivid pictures used as these friends do verbal combat.

Books

The-Vine-Project.jpgRecently I started reading a book called “The Vine Project.” It is a follow-up to a book called “The Trellis and the Vine,” which is one of the best books I have read. In the first book, the authors describe congregational life. A “trellis” is an administrative structure that allows the “vine” to grow on it. The “vine” in their illustration, is the spiritual gospel-growth of people in congregations. I am enjoying the good questions the book is asking, especially in light of our gearing up for Fall ministries. The purpose of the book, as they state it, is in answering the question, “How can we shift the whole culture of our church in the direction of disciple-making?” How is God growing you in faith through the ministries of King of Glory Lutheran?

Blogs

I would like to include blogs in this slot on these posts, but this time I want to tell you about some videos and not blog posts. The Worldview Everlasting YouTube station has a series of videos entitled “Grappling with the Text.” Pastor Wolfmueller creatively writes thoughts, outlines, and drawings on a piece of paper as he walks through a text. These videos have been encouraging and edifying to me in recent days. I encourage you to walk through the series on the book of Proverbs. He is now working through the Ten Commandments.
Worldview Everlasting: Grappling

My Pastor is an Introvert

If you are connected with King of Glory Lutheran in Shakopee, you can confidently say the title of this post is true. While it may come as a surprise to you, it is a reality that I have long known. First, let’s define “introvert.”
An introvert is someone who generally gets recharged by being alone. There is a t-shirt out there that says, “Introverts, Unite…Separately in Your Own Homes!” That statement captures well the essence of being an introvert. Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge by being with people. Introverts tend to be on the shy side, are unassuming, and quiet.

Introverts Unite

As one who has sensed the calling to be a pastor, I have wrestled with how my personality fits with a calling to be a “people-person.” Those around me have strongly encouraged me to fulfill the ministry to which God has called me. That has been my drive for a long time, but every now and then I wallow in the struggle. That struggle usually comes with a time of introspection. It is good to be thoughtful, but sometimes the thoughts tend toward the discouraging side. I have been doing some introspection lately. I even confided in a group of fellow pastors about my struggles in this area. They were extremely encouraging to me, reminding me of God’s grace through this battle. Now that I’ve come through that “valley,” I’d like to share some points with you regarding my introversion. It will give you a glimpse into my mind and heart and hopefully will help us grow together:

1) I struggle with initiating stuff

Hosting, planning, and carrying out of get-togethers are especially draining on me. I really struggle with inviting people to special events. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? I love that event and I love that person and I want that person to benefit from that event. What’s wrong? As an introvert, I often feel like I am bothering people. I need to keep reminding myself that I am not a bother (at least I hope not!!). As a pastor, I feel the need to promote and emphasize ministries. Perhaps I sometimes come across as not excited about a certain ministry. I have loved to join forces with others who are gifted in initiating. This is a reminder to me that one person cannot fulfill every aspect of ministry well. God has gifted all of us in different ways. Perhaps those of you who are good “initiators” can fill the gaps where I am weak.

2) I care deeply about people even though I’m not a “social butterfly”

An introverted pastor will most likely be found in a corner visiting with one person instead of floating around the fellowship hall. A pastor from my past exemplified this well. Though he seemed to not flutter around the room and be chummy with everyone, he was well-loved and respected. Sure, some people would like a pastor who can “talk your ear off” in conversations, but I’m afraid I won’t provide that as an introvert. But that does not mean that as a pastor I love you less than pastors who have that gifting. On the flip side, I have noticed that a strength of introverts is the ability to listen. In learning myself and how I work, I have tried hard to be a good communicator, a good listener, and good question-asker. Another thing I’ve noticed that I enjoy as a pastor who happens to be an introvert: people tend to approach me. By being a pastor I have a built-in benefit of people seeking me out to talk. That fits well with point number one above.

3) I will not use my tendency towards introversion as an excuse to not fulfill my duties as pastor.

I don’t want to appear that I am whining in this post. I am opening up myself to you and sharing what goes on in my mind and heart. Though I have certain strengths and weaknesses as an introvert, I refuse to use that as an excuse to avoid doing the tasks that seem hard to me. This weakness often leads me to pray, “Lord, give me strength and boldness to carry out this task.” And, I can confirm, God has been faithful to me. I have seen through the years how God has molded me and changed me. He has equipped me with what I need to serve in this role. Sure, it might mean that I need to crash after church in nap time by myself to rejuvenate. But, God gives me a love for His people, His flock that He has entrusted to me to shepherd. That is a great privilege and I will not hide behind my introversion. If it seems that I am, you are welcome to confront me.

It’s amazing to me that God uses me, and each of us, in our weaknesses. You know what? I believe extroverts can say the same thing. No matter how God has wired us, no matter what type of personality He has given us, all of us can say, “For when I am weak, You (God) are strong. For your power was perfected in my weakness.”

AFLC Millennial Consolidates Evangelism Effort into FLY T-shirt Collection

*Disclaimer: in the spirit of the ‘Babylon Bee’ – this post is pure satire. I had fun writing this and in some ways, it hit close to home.

“You wouldn’t believe how many people through the years have asked me what “Tetelestai” means!” shouted AFLC millennial, Jeremy, excitedly. After a number of years of feeling guilty for not verbally talking to others about Jesus, this young adult has decided to consolidate his evangelism efforts into his growing FLY Convention t-shirt collection. On the heels of his new-found freedom, Jeremy was interviewed Friday in Minneapolis. How many people came to believe the sweet Gospel message of Jesus through the sheer witness of his t-shirt collection? Jeremy furrowed his brow as he brainstormed a way to craft his over-exaggerated response. “I don’t know for sure. I guess I’ll find out in heaven.” Next, he was asked if he has had any deep, meaningful conversations with people as a result of wearing the t-shirts. Jeremy replied, “As I think about it, I have mostly gotten blank stares and awkward comments back. No, I haven’t delved into a deep conversation right there on the spot, typically at the Walmart check out line. But, the seed was firmly planted.”

How did this young man’s habit begin? In this exclusive, behind-the-scenes interview, Jeremy opened up about his plan to reach the world for Christ: “I read the quote attributed to Francis of Assisi, ‘It is written, Preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words,’ and I thought to myself, ‘I need to have this attitude to rescue my neighbors from the pits of hell.’ There is certainly more to this life than wearing a blank t-shirt. Why let opportunities for witnessing slide by? This has become my identity. It all began in junior high when I was encouraged to join my Christian friends at school by participating in ‘Witness-Wear-Wednesday.’ Back then, we enjoyed shining brightly for Christ by wearing ‘Lord’s Gym’ and ‘Built Lord Tough’ t-shirts. I’m sure my classmates were grateful for letting my shirts speak for themselves. Now that I’ve collected so many t-shirts from attending FLY Conventions, I can consistently share my faith wherever I go.”

When asked to comment on other avenues of evangelism, Jeremy responded, “The whole process of actually trying to talk to people about Christ is broken. I’m really seeking to be unshackled from the mindset that there is only one way to be a witness for Christ. How could I go wrong with this mindset?” The interviewer then posed this question, “Do you own any other t-shirts that you have not gotten at an AFLC event?” The millennial tilted his head and replied, “Come to think of it, I don’t own any other shirts. My “Only Jesus” is tattered, but I just can’t bring myself to throw it away. Maybe my wife can make a quilt with it to preserve it for posterity. How else are my children going to know the way to heaven?”

Jeremy concluded with a tone of hope, “I’m really looking forward to putting my hands on that new ‘Illuminate’ shirt. Maybe it will be glow-in-the-dark. That would really enhance my efforts to reach my neighbors for Christ after dark.”

For more information about the 2017 FLY Convention (which is almost exactly one year away), please visit flyconvention.org.

Devotions Like Daniel

“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10

Daniellion

“Dare to be a Daniel!” I repeated this phrase often in our most recent sermon series. Does this refrain apply to how we pray? We understand that it’s important that we pray, but we aren’t given a command of exactly how to pray in terms of how we carry it out. Daniel prayed three times a day, but should you? What does the rest of the Bible teach? The Lord’s Prayer offers a great blueprint of what to pray, but does not include other instructions like what time of day one should pray or what position to move your body while praying.

It would be easy to claim, “Well, Daniel prayed three times day so that means everyone should pray three times a day. If you don’t, you are either not a Christian or not a ‘good’ Christian.” Though perhaps well-intended, a statement like this stifles true spiritual growth that is brought by the Holy Spirit in our lives. Imagine setting out to get on a routine of praying three times a day. First, times are chosen that fit with the schedule. Next, you eagerly pray during that first prayer slot. Then, for some reason, it slips your mind to pray during that second prayer time of the day. What happens? You immediately feel guilty. What is that guilt founded upon? Answer: man-made regulations and not God’s command.

I have been very hesitant to ask people to pray, read the Bible or live out their life of piety (good works) exactly the way I have done it. Sure, I’ll tell people how I do one thing or another, and have even done that on my blog. But, I don’t expect others to try to copy my every action. When I was a kid I used to imitate the batting stance of my favorite active baseball player, Frank Thomas, by flicking my wrists as I awaited the imaginary pitcher’s toss my way. But when it came time for me to play the game in real life on my little league team, I developed my own unique style of batting. The same scenario applies in our Christian life. Being set free by the Gospel of Jesus, our relationship is not fettered by specific laws of how to pray or how to study the Bible or how exactly to “engage in good deeds” as Scripture says (Titus 3:8). We simply do them. God forgives us, sets us free, and fills us with new desires. One of these new desires is the desire to come to Him in prayer.

That’s not to say that the example of Daniel is instructive or inspirational. Should you read the Bible the same way as Daniel? Should you pray in the same way and kneel as Daniel practiced while praying? It may be helpful to use others as an example as you begin to develop what works best for you. I will say this: it is vital as a disciple of Jesus Christ to develop habits to take in God’s Word and express prayers to God. When God saves us, He gives us a hunger and thirst for His Word and for communication to Him in prayer.

Perhaps there is a bit of wisdom in how many times a day Daniel stopped what he was doing to pray. You may have time in the morning to read the Bible and pray. Some people do better at night. Why not three times a day? There is no command in Scripture declaring how many times a day we should pray other than 1 Thess. 5:17 which calls us to “pray continuously.” In Psalm 55:17 David mentions praying at morning, noon, and evening. Is this descriptive (showing us how others have done it) or prescriptive (telling us how to do it)? The descriptive stories in the Bible (Daniel, David) help us brainstorm how to carry out the prescriptive commands (God invites us to pray) in our own way many times throughout the day as we live continuously in a spirit of prayer.

So, should you pray three times a day? Should you use a certain prayer app? Should you write down your prayer list in a notebook? Should you simply pray for whatever comes to mind? Should you pray in the morning? Should you pray at evening? I’ll leave those specific decisions to you in your freedom in Christ and offer suggestions. But, as you feel compelled to pray, realize that God is putting that spark in your heart to come to Him through prayer. As Steven Curtis Chapman sings, “Let us pray, let us pray, everywhere in every way.”

Thinking Biblically about Minimalism

It was 8:57 PM at the Boe household last Saturday night. Typically my wife and I would be winding down, doing something relaxing until bedtime. On this night, though, both of us were conked out, fast asleep. Our usual bedtime is around 10:30. Why were were so exhausted that we just couldn’t keep our eyelids open? We had just completed two full days of hosting a garage sale. For those of you who have had a garage sale, you understand what we were feeling. It was a ton of work. And, in the end, we got rid of a lot of stuff, big things and little things. We even made a little bit of money to boot. But, I don’t think we’ll plan on doing another in the future!

The motivation to have a garage sale came from our desire to reduce clutter in our home. Spring cleaning and my growing interest in the “Minimalist” movement provided the perfect springboard. While you could do a quick web search to learn all you might ever want to know about minimalism, a simple definition of a minimalist is this: he or she keeps the possessions that are truly needed to focus on the most important things of life while discarding non-essentials items. It’s not about having fewer than a certain number of possessions, but it does consist of using the items you have for God’s glory. (You can see I am already adding a biblical worldview to this lifestyle.)

The “Minimalism” movement has been picking up momentum in recent years. I have enjoyed reading and listening to what authors and speakers have to say on the topic. Perhaps certain stereotypes come to mind when you hear the term. For example, there is a major league baseball player who styles himself as a minimalist and lives in his van with all of his few possessions. While some concerning things, such as Eastern mysticism, appear in scattered bits of the literature, there is also a Christian community within this movement. Minimalism itself is not inherently right or wrong, it is simply a tool that some people choose to use.

Norris Van

Joshua Becker, blogger at BecomingMinimalist.com, writes about how he started along his minimalism path: He was spending one beautiful Saturday afternoon in his stuffy garage, cleaning and organizing. As he wiped the sweat off his brow, he noticed his son playing football in the backyard. It dawned upon him, “What am I doing?”
Another minimalist teaches this form of decluttering: Pick up each possession and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?”
The “Minimalists” are two guys who blog and create podcasts on minimalism. They have a 20/20 rule for those “I might use it later” items. If I get rid of this item, can I purchase it for $20 or less from a store or person who lives within 20 minutes of me? They have another helpful rule: Have you used this item in the last 90 days? Will you use it in the next 90 days? If not, it may be time to get rid of it.

While I am not asserting that you need to become a “minimalist,” I would like you to consider how you use your possessions, or how they use you. There are a number of Scripture passages that touch on this subject.
In Luke 12:15 Jesus asserts, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” I think we forget this. At least I do. I get easily wrapped up in what I want to buy next. Thinking carefully about this topic has helped me slow down in considering my next purchase. What purpose will this item serve in my life?

In the sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21). As we were preparing for our garage sale, I actually found a dead moth in the back of my closet. These verses immediately came to mind. We won’t take any of our stuff with us anyway. As a country song asks, “Have you ever seen a hearse with a trailer hitch?”

hearse-uhaul

We may be feeling guilty for having too much stuff, or for falling into greed. It’s in that moment that God graciously shows you His treasure that He gives for free to you. That’s better than any deal you can get at an auction or yard sale!

Surprisingly, we can and should think biblically about the “stuff” we own. Having that knowledge helps us keep everything in perspective and efficiently serve those around us in our vocations.

Even So Come

As I’ve been preaching through the book of Daniel, I’ve been refreshed by another opportunity to study and think about eschatology, or the study of the end times. It’s not a topic that one takes up lightly or as right-before-you-are-about-to-fall-asleep bedtime reading. It sometimes causes strife between believers who both believe in the end that one day Jesus Christ will personally come again. The essentials get lost in charts and disagreements over how one handles Scripture. Certainly one must be fully convinced of his or her opinion on what Scripture teaches. It takes time to study all of Scripture in-depth and to develop those convictions. I challenge you to continue in this pursuit. I know I will not stop looking into this topic even after I’m finished preaching Daniel. Some have asked that I do a series on the book of Revelation. Sorry, I think that might have to wait for awhile. 🙂

Two Bible verses summarize the great comfort of studying the second coming of Christ. These verses have breathed a great excitement in my life to see the return of Christ. As we wait for His coming, there is much to be done in the meantime to proclaim the Gospel.
1) Titus 2:13 states that we are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” While disagreements over how events will exactly unfold leave a sour taste in the mouth, this verse reorients us to what is most important. The appearing of the Lord Jesus is our “blessed hope.” In the midst of a world without hope, God fills us with great hope. This is the kind of hope that keeps us ticking in the face of sin and suffering in our own lives.
2) Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things, says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Maranatha! The word “maranatha” means “come!” Knowing that our blessed hope is the coming of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, our next statement is “Come, Lord Jesus!” How often, when faced with difficulty, do we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” This is a good expression of the love for our Lord that He has worked into our lives.

Sometimes when I spend quality time with close friends or family, a song comes to define that time together. Does that ever happen to you? When that song comes on the radio, it immediately takes you to that time and place. Last summer my brother and I were on a road trip to Indiana on our way to a retreat. We listened to a lot of different music, but two songs captured that time together so well. One of them is the song entitled, “Even So Come.” We listened to it a number of times and each time we turned up the volume as much as possible and belted out the lyrics. (Side note- please don’t try to imagine this too much!) Cruising along the highway, we sang at the top of our lungs, “Like a bride waiting for her groom, we’ll be a church ready for you. Every heart longing for our King, we sing, ‘Even so, come. Lord Jesus, come.’”
As I’ve studied the end times again during this season of my life, I often find myself saying, “Even so, come. Lord Jesus, come.” And I invite you to join me in that song.

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