What matters

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees” (Psalm 119:68 NIV)

Home. What does that word mean to you?  I suppose it might depend on your experience. Home could be a place of neglect or despair. A place where you felt unloved, or in turmoil. But hopefully your image of home is better than that. Home is a place where we have familiar sights and smells.  A place where you feel loved and cared for.

Home is in some ways a difficult word to define. It probably means something  different to almost everyone.  But for most of us home is simply this, the place  where things simply feel right.  You know it when you find it. Home is the place you return to  in order to make sense of the world. It gives you a foundation to figure everything out. It gives you a place you can return to when the world is in turmoil. You know it when you are there. Hom just feels right.

More and more lately I’ve been retreating to this verse in the Scripture. Or at least retreating to its central thought. God is good.  Maybe in it’s simplicity we miss the profundity of that statement.  God is good. Well yes, we know. We say it all the time. We sing about it. But I’ve found myself coming back to that simple statement and making it home. God is good has, in many ways, become home. It’s the place where everything makes sense. Its the place where everything seems right.

Yesterday my youngest daughter participated in Graduation Sunday at church. And even though I was reappointed  last year, I had the great privlege of getting to preach  at that service.  And the one thing I tried to stress to these young people, indeed to everyone, not miss out on the fact God is good.  We don’t always know what lies ahead of us. We can’t always know God’s plans for us. But perhaps we don’t need to. Because God is good and what He does is good.  When I know that God’s plans for my life are good, I don’t need to know what’s coming around the corner. I have a good God who will not bring His children to a bad destination. God’s plans for us are good.

That same day, in the afternoon we went to the funeral of a family member of a dear friend.  Many wept even as we sang and worshipped.  But sitting in that pew it occurred to me the Good God we celebrated as these young people go into the world, is the same good God  that welcomed His child Home. The circumstance was different, the emotions were differnt. But God was still good in both places. He is a good God when the world is ahead of us and he is good when we find our home in eternity.

Life can change. people change. Most certainly Our plans change.  But he doesn’t. God never changes. From the before time He is good. When time ends He will still be good. The faster my life moves, the more transitions I experience, the more I find rest in the goodness of God.

What about you? Have you experience His goodness? Has the goodness of God become home to you yet? We cannot stop time. We cannot stop the transitions in life. But when the goodness of God becomes our home, we begin to see that it doesn’t matter. Life will change. We change. But God is always good. Have you experienced the goodness of God? Has it become your home?

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

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Burn, Baby, Burn

“Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them” (Acts 2:3 NRSV)

Prayers for those affected by the wildfires in Alberta, Canada.  Pray for those who have lost their homes and all their possessions. Prayers for those whose work is affected. And of course prayers for those who are fighting the fires.

It’s hard for me to get my mind around what it would be like to live in an area with a wild-fire.  We don’t have a lot of those in Ohio, certainly not in the size and devastation of the one in Alberta.  We have Tornados. They are horrible. Bu they are quick. Wild-fires are different. They can move with terrible speed or at a slowed pace. You can see them coming, which I guess can be a blessing if you have time to get away from them. But they also bring with them the heat and smoke. You have time to fear.  And they spare nothing.  What they touch they burn.

There are, however,  some benefits to a fire in a forest. There are times when a part of a forest  needs to be burnt away  so something else can grow. It gives space for new life in the forest as well.  There are times, when the fires will be intentionally set  in order for this to happen. This is done by what we call a controlled burn.  Those in charge have mechanisms set up so the fire will be , well, controlled. They compartmentalize it so it burns exactly what needs to be burned away and nothing more.

Controlled burns are so beneficial they are often used to fight an out of control wildfire. Areas are  set on fire to remove the fuel from the forest fire itself.  when the wildfire has nothing to burn, the fire will slow down, and hopefully  be put out.

This past Sunday we celebrated Pentecost. Symbolized of course, not only by a dove, but by fire.  I like the symbol of fire to symbolize the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what the Holy Spirit does, when it comes upon us it comes like a fire. It brings light to illumine our sin and light  a path for us to follow in life. It causes our hearts to be strangely warmed”.  It burns away our sin, and burns down old ways to do new things so that new life can grow. We all love The fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We are generally in favor of it.

The problem is that what we want is a controlled burn by the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit, but only bring fire to where I tell you. Burn this, not that. Light this, not that. Change this, not that.   When we seek a controlled burn by the Holy Spirit, we eventually remove the fuel. A church, or a Christian that only wants a controlled burn will eventually grow cold.

When the Holy Spirit truly comes it comes like a wildfire. It warms us, yes. But it also comes to change everything. Sin is burned away and holiness grows. New ministry comes alive, old ways and old wine skins are put away as God moves in a new way. Let us begin to pray for Pentecost. Not as a Sunday, or as a season, but as a way of life. Where the Wild fire of the Holy Spirit will ignite and burns blazing a new life and new hope. Come Holy Spirit. And Burn, baby, burn.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><

 

The Sure Thing

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev. 1:8 NRSV)

The Kentucky Derby was this past weekend, in case you missed it.  Having a father who grew up in Kentucky and having lived there for seven years while  in school, it has always  been a big deal in our  home.  We gather together and decide which horse we will root for. All for bragging rights mind you.  Being good United Methodists rooted in Wesleyan theology, we don’t gamble.

But since it is for bragging rights, I’m going to take a moment and brag that I did, in fact, pick the winner.  That makes two years in a row I’ve emerged victorious in our family. Which really isn’t all that impressive.  The last two years I’ve gone with the favorite to win.  That’s usually a good idea. They are favored for a reason.  In fact, the favorite won the Kentucky Derby the last four years in a row.

Since we have a pattern, its probably safe to say next year the favorite will win again.  expect it doesn’t work that way.  Anything can happen. A horse might run the best race of its life while another had a bad day. Or gets spooked.  That’s why it’s called gambling. Because here is no such thing as a sure thing.

But what if there was a sure thing? A no lose, you’ll win guarantee sure thing.  What would you do? Would you be willing to go all in on a sure thing?  Would you hold onto the sure thing or let it go on a gamble that won’t pay off?

Is there a sure thing in life?  Several years ago at our annual meeting for our denomination in our area a particularly contentious resolution came to the floor. There was a lot of arguing  and protests on both sides.  When the vote came, some were less than thrilled with the result.  In fact a few of them were livid over what transpired.  two young delegates came stalking back to their cottage protesting what had happened and threatening to leave the denomination.  To their surprise their father, a long time minister came in with a smile on his face, and calmly sat down to read the paper.

Knowing their father was against what had happened, they were surprised at his calm demeanor.  “Pop,. didn’t you see what happend? Aren’t you upset?”  The father put down his paper,looked over the top of his glasses at his sons and said “Boys, I want you to remember something.  Jesus is still on the throne.”

It wasn’t that the father was a defeatist or didn’t care about what had happened. It’s just that once the smoke cleared, he knew he had a choice. And he decided to go with the sure thing. No matter what happens, Jesus is still on the throne. His kingdom will not fail. All will one day be made right and be redeemed.

As we as a denomination head to General Conference, have our Annual Conference in a few weeks, go to our local church I wonder if a focus on the sure thing might benefit us all. A simple reminder that no matter what happens Jesus still sits on the throne.  It doesn’t mean we don’t care or work hard to live out our mission. But in the end, we simply remember that  Jesus is still on the throne and will bring about the fullness of His Kingdom. Whether we are in line with that Kingdom is an argument for another day.  But HIs KIngdom will be fulfilled. Jesus is still on the throne. I know that thought keeps me from a lot of doom and gloom, and hopefully makes me more loving to those with whom I disagree.

It works in our homes as well. No matter what happens at work, with your health or relationships, Jesus is still on the throne. No matter what unexpected curve life might throw at us, Jesus is still on the throne.

You know, I think I’ll hold onto the sure thing. And that’s no gamble at all.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones

When The Body is Broken

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt 18:15-17″

“Who made this mess?”  If you have toddlers, kids, teens, young adults, cats, wild howler monkeys etc. in your home, at some point you have asked this apparently rhetorical question. Rhetorical  because most of the time, rather than confession you’ll be faced with blank stares.  You know the stare, the one that says “What mess? I see nothing with the chaos around us. Doesn’t the house always look like this?

If not the blank stare, we get the blatant disavowal of any wrong doing. Not me.   Faster than a presidential candidate they’ll throw anyone, and everyone under the bus. “It’s their fault.”  Like this kid

Everyone wants to blame somebody else. The toddlers blame Batman, siblings blame siblings, the howler monkeys just scream, but they are probably blaming somebody.

Whatever the case we find ourselves saying, “Well I don’t care who did it you better clean it up, because I’m not going to do it.” And then we do. We try to clean up the mess around us.

Homes are one thing, but what do you do when someone else makes a mess in your life? What do you do when someone sweeps in and creates chaos in your life? Let’s up the ante a bit. What do you do when it’s a brother or sister in Christ?  What happens when another part of the body hurts you, makes a mess of your life? What do you do when the Body is broken?

The truth is, we all have to face that question at some point in our lives.  As long as the church is filled with human beings, even the best of us have the potential to let someone else down. We hurt one another. We make a mess of each other’s lives. What do we do, when the body is broken and the house of the Lord has been made a mess?

First, we must acknowledge that blame is not as important to the Lord as is healing and wholeness. It is, after all, His Body and His house.  Jesus is always about healing and making whole what is broken. Before we ever get started in cleaning up the mess we must pray that God puts His mind in us and that we make no movement until we are aligned with His purpose. “God is my purpose to win, to show that I was wronged? Or is my ultimate purpose to bring healing to the body and clean your house so that it is fit for your presence?”

Secondly we must understand that healing is painful. Wholeness isn’t easy. God always asks us to start with ourselves first. even when we are sure it’s not our mess, when we examine our hearts we can always find something. A moment that we added to the mess, created some brokeness. We should confess to God, and others when appropriate our role in the mess. This is the only way to begin to remove the bitterness that often delays healing.

The Above Scripture stresses the need to hold one another accountable. What often curtails healing is that ignore the mess around us. Ignore it long enough and we stop seeing it altogether. We do no one any favors by ignoring their sinfulness and hard hearts.  Yes it’s easier. But ultimately it is more damaging. When someone in the church makes a mess of your life we are to hold them accountable. Time and time again we are instructed in the Scriptures, not to ignore brokeness in the body.  Paul writes a good segment in 1 Corinthians about this very thing.

But notice the Scripture stresses the importance of not doing this alone. Brokeness is never a one on one thing. It effects the entire church. That’s why we are called the Body. Stub your little toe sometime and see how your entire body reacts.  Find a mature Christian in the faith and meet with those that have created the mess. It’s not gossip if your goal is about healing.  I’ve done this before and it isn’t easy. It’s not pleasant and everyone was  uncomfortable. but God also brought healing out of it.

Be patient. Healing and cleaning take a while. It doesn’t always happen over night, but it can happen.  One of the reasons we don’t experience a greater cleansing and healing is simply because we are unwilling to let God move in His time and heal us. It’s not always instantaneous.

At some point we’ve all been hurt or disappointed by someone within the church. It happens to all of us, if you don’t believe it wait a couple of weeks until the Untied Methodist General Conference.  Whether it’s on a global scale, or with the person next to you in the pew it’s always painful. But the truth is, as we said in church recently, My God is bigger than my mess.  He’s bigger than our broken body. Let the healing begin.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><