Tag Archives: church

People of Good News

two chairsThe theme for our worship gathering at Valley Life Church this Sunday is First in Mission. As I was thinking about it, I was reminded that as Christians we are to be people of good news. This doesn’t mean that we need to be “shiny, happy people holding hands,” but rather people of hope. This was Jesus’ message when he read the following passage from the scroll in the synagogue.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18-19, CEB)

This passage is a message of hope for people who need good news. We receive good news from people who have received good news. We can’t give what we don’t have. So, how do we get the good news? This was Jesus’ first message he preached.

“The time has come, and the kingdom of God is near. Change the way you think and act, and believe the Good News.”
(Mark 1:15, GW)

We receive the good news when we change the way we think and act and realize that God is here, now, working with and for us for our good and God’s glory. It’s this change of perspective that allows God to bring freedom and healing in our lives, which establishes hope in us. It is this hope that we get to, in turn, share as the good news. Jesus’ message of hope from Luke 4 is also the scope of his ministry, which is now our ministry as the body of Christ.

If you have hope, share hope. If you need hope, reach out. I have learned that those who know and love us also have hope to share with us.

Grace and peace,
Brook

People of the Table

Of any church I have ever attended, VLC has the best fellowship by far! I am blessed by our commitment to eat together, including all the preparations by our designated hosts and by you all on the fourth Sunday of each month. It’s a delight to sit down across the table from a loving and smiling face and get to know each other and support one another. This is something to be treasured!

shared_mealI used the word fellowship above on purpose to describe our church family meals together. The word “fellow” conjures up notions of being on the same level, none being more important than another. It also describes the fact that we are all in this together. * I think it’s significant that we use fellowship along with our meal time, since when we sit down to eat we are, again, all at the same level, sharing a friendly, yet intimate, experience.

Being “people of the table” means more that just celebrating Communion, but it does include that. When Jesus gave us the practice of Communion, it was a part of a larger meal. When the early church worshipped and fellowshipped together, they did so house to house, sharing meals. I believe that when we sit down together for a meal we are declaring our unity, that together we are one as we enjoy God’s presence during our meal. For me that too is communion.

Lastly, Stuart Nice, in his Daily Scripture Reading email for Thursday, January 21, shared with us about Recognizing Our Brother. It is a great article on what little actually separates us when we choose to see Jesus in one another. As I read this I was reminded of the post-resurrection story of the disciple on the road to Emmaus. There Jesus meets them on the road, though they didn’t recognize him. He then sits down with them for a meal. While he is breaking the bread he is revealed to them, and they are revealed both to themselves and each other. Their example to us was that our hearts and lives can be expanded when we choose to be open to the leading of God’s Spirit and have eyes open to see Jesus in one another. These are also the marks of being People of the Table.

Grace and peace,
Brook

  • The etymology of the word “fellowship” comes from the Old English, meaning, literally, “one who lays down money in a joint enterprise.” Fellowship occurs when we commit and invest lives to Christ and one another.

Children Helping Children: Guatemala Service Trip, June 2015

This June (20-28) I am traveling to Antigua, Guatemala, with two eldest children, Lydia and Clayton. This is our third trip together. When we are there, all of our service projects, from start to finish, are Lydia playing with a girl in Guatemaladone with children in mind. The stoves we install protect children from smoke inhalation and burns. The concrete floors we install protect children from intestinal parasites that infect them through their feet. We also provide children’s clothes and shoes, child sponsorship, and a Vacation Bible School. To do this for just one child is more than worth the cost of going to them! For me, though, these trips are an opportunity for Autumn and I to provide for our children the opportunity to see how children in the two-thirds world live and let them love and serve these children, who, when it comes right down to it, are just like them, beautiful and worthy of every opportunity to grow up happy, healthy, and whole.

Jesus said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.” (Mark 10:14, CEB)

These service trips are sponsored by a Christian non-profit, Now Is The Time Missions, and a church, Valley Life Church. Christians of all stripes regard themselves as the body of Christ, a perpetual extension of the ministry of Jesus Christ. My heart, as well as all I get to serve with in Guatemala, is to be Christ to these children. Since they can’t possibly come to us, we will go to them!

Clayton having fun with a Guatemalan boySeeing my children play with these children in the villages we visit is so precious to me! My children are as much of a motivation to go to Guatemala as the children we get to serve.

In order to make this possible for my children and me, we need to raise $1700 each. That’s $5100 for the three of us. This cost is beyond our resources to fund. Would you consider partnering with us? Donating money for us to go not only covers our airfare, food, and lodging, but nearly half of the $1700 goes to funding the service projects that we will be doing. No money goes to either organization sponsoring this service trip. Everyone involved are volunteers and raise their own support, even the directors. This is a very good use of your money!

By donating money to help us cover our fees, we get to be an extension of your ministry to these children. We get to be Christ to them for you. This is an opportunity we don’t take lightly. We deeply appreciate your support!

To donate, please follow this link. Thank you!

Grace and peace,
Brook

A Picture Is Worth…

Bible and coffee cup on a weathered picnic tableWhen I first saw this picture, the congregation I attend (Valley Life Center) came to mind. There are three elements in this photo that seem to characterize VLC as a community. The first is that God’s word is vitally important to us. The second is that the cup of fellowship is central to our gatherings. And lastly, the table, which is weathered and worn, reminds me that there is a common ground on which we all stand. We are all students of Jesus, children of God, and one in the Spirit. For these reasons I love being a part of VLC. Sometimes you just have to give a shout out!

Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Simplicity

One evening this last week I was listening to the radio on my way home. I caught the last few minutes of an interview. I don’t remember the program or the person being interviewed, but I remember what she said.

bowl of riceShe was talking about an exercise in simplicity with the purpose of becoming more present to the situation at hand. The exercise was to take a measure of rice or sesame seeds, let’s say one cup, and count the grains. After a few minutes, most people will become completely overwhelmed with the task because of our inability to focus on one thing at a time.

Her contention is that technology is outpacing our brains’ ability to cope with its advancement. If we allow, we can be inundated with stimuli in the form of information, media, and competing goals and expectations. She was giving an exhortation toward presence, which is staying attentive to the person or task before us.

This has many implications, but the three that immediately came to my mind were family, community, and church. All three require us to be simply present. Presence, especially in the family and church, is expansive. It can be said that it is the presence of God being collectively expressed in the present. This is the basis of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23.

I’m not praying only for them but also for those who believe in me because of their word. I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. I’ve given them the glory that you gave me so that they can be one just as we are one. I’m in them and you are in me so that they will be made perfectly one. Then the world will know that you sent me and that you have loved them just as you loved me.

May the grace of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit empower us to become present to those who are near and dear to us.

Grace and peace,
Brook

Embracing Us, Because There Is No Them: Audio Version

This is a talk I gave at Valley Life Center Foursquare Church on Sunday, February 17, 2013. I address what I call the “us and them” perspective and the implications past and present of holding such a perspective. There is a lively dialogue that follows the talk. Enjoy!

A Community of Christ’s Love: Week 4 of Christmas Advent 2012

For this year’s Advent series, we will look at the themes of Advent, hope, peace, joy, love, and Christ, through the lens of community. This week let’s see how we can be a community of Christ’s love. (Since my thoughts this year are so close between the last two themes, love and Christ, I will combine them in one article.)

 

Christmas is love. Or, at least it should be. It is love that gave us Jesus’ birth. (John 3:16, Luke 1:38) It is by love that he lived, died as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, resurrected, and ascended. (Philippians 2:5-11, 1 John 3:16) Advent and Christmas are the remembering and celebrating this love.

 

To be clear, the definition of love that I am working with is that love is a giving of one’s self. God gave of himself by giving his son. Mary gave of herself by receiving Jesus as her son. Jesus gave of himself by living for God that he may die for us.

 

I believe that the church is the physical expression of Christ on the earth. As such, the church is to love as Christ loved, since it is his example we are to follow.

 

The beautiful thing about love is that it can only flow from love. We are only asked to do what Jesus himself has done for us. At Christmas we can receive the love of God in Jesus so that we can in turn love as Jesus loved.

 

May God’s love be yours as you love those around you this Christmas! Merry Christmas!

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

The Hope of Equality

This week I had a conversation with a young man, which ranged over many topics, but one topic is something that I have taken for granted for many years, the role of women in the church. This young man attends a church in which women are not allowed to hold leadership roles in the church. Though he and his wife feel called to that congregation, they do not agree with their church’s stance on the role of women in the church and beyond. I, on the other hand, have been in churches, from the time I was saved until the present, that embrace women in ministry, even women pastors. This is not only my personal heritage, but that of the Foursquare Church as well. This is why I have taken it for granted. It is normative within the circles I engage. But this is not the norm for a large portion of the Christian church in America and around the world. And, though this saddens me, I still have hope. I have hope, because this is a current conversation in both social and theological circles. I have hope, because there are denominations and movements, like the Foursquare Church, that license and ordain women in roles of ministry and leadership. I have hope, because I know that my daughters are and will continue to be raised in a home and church that will embrace them as equals, gifted by God, to serve as God’s Spirit leads in the capacities that they choose to aspire to. My hope, conviction, passion, and experience are founded on this passage of Scripture (one among many).

 

“There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

 

Herein lies the universality of the atoning work of Christ, and if we are unified in his one salvation as equally saved, then we are also unified in his one Spirit as equally equipped to minister his love and grace to a world that desperately needs to be touched by his love through his people, both male and female. 

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

Participating in the Mission of God

With this Sunday being Guatemala Mission Sunday at Valley Life Center, I’ve been thinking about the mission of the church as being grounded in the mission of God. I even mentioned the mission of God as the framework for our Sunday conversations on joy over the last few weeks. I described it like this, the mission of God is a mission of love (John 3:16) and it’s out of God’s unconditional love for his creation that the Son was sent to redeem not only the people of God, but as well, all creation. My point about joy and the mission of God was that just as love and joy were integral to creation they are both integral in redemption, making all things new. 

 

The beautiful thing about the mission of God is that God invites us to participate in this mission in Christ. The goal of the mission of God is to establish the kingdom of God both in this age but also in the age to come. We participate in this mission when we orient ourselves to God’s mission, to others, and to the world – in the context of the local church. (Thanks, Scot McKnight.)

 

It sounds silly, but we first must become aware of God’s mission to be able to participate in it. I only mention this because Christianity has over the generations become more and more individualistic, focusing on the benefits to those who believe, instead of becoming part of something God wants to do in the world. If God is others oriented, then his church should be as well. The fun and challenging part is exploring how the mission of God can be expressed within the local church. 

 

Even though we do a lot of things at VLC that can be described as missional, I pray that we continue to ask God how we can connect to the mission of God both as individuals and the body of Christ.

 

Grace and peace,

Brook

 

Many Strands Strong

“He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults-to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.” ( Ephesians 4:11-13)

 

This week I had the chance to talk with a brother in our church. He was expressing a desire to be a pastor, even though he is currently in the business world. Through our conversation I got to share that being a pastor is a gift from the Lord to his church, not just a position within the organization of the church. I was able to affirm his desire to be a pastor based on how I’ve seen him live out his faith, mainly caring for people. He is using God’s gift to him to the benefit of others and the glory of God.

 

Why am I sharing this story? It comes out of my preparation for this Sunday’s conversation – The Culture of Joy.

 

An aspect of the culture of joy is celebrating diversity. This is something I think we do well as a faith community. I’ve always appreciated that we strive for unity over uniformity, and the manifold way God uses us for the expansion of his kingdom.

 

If, as we discovered last Sunday, that joy is an expression of God’s character and we rejoice in God’s gift of ministers then we can find strength in the many strands of his people standing together in love for him and one another. Let’s continue to celebrate who God has made us to be in his family!

 

Grace and peace,

Brook