St. John's Center

United Church of Christ

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August 18, 2018

"Let us love one another, for love comes from God..."

God is love. Jesus is the embodiment of love and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to be that love today.

Verses 9 & 10 repeat the display of God's love through Jesus - in his life and especially in his death, paying our sin debt. 

If this love is for us and in us, then we are to love one another. Love is to be sacrificial. Love needs "skin in the game." When this occurs, God's love is made complete in us.

Prayer for the day:

Lord, work your love in and through me for the sake of your kingdom and the benefit of those you've called me to serve - my family, your church, and all those that you bring into my life.

September 19, 2018

"Each...should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:4). 

Self-interest is the focus of people with a sense of entitlement. Please understand, this does not mean that we avoid self-care (in the physical, emotional, or spiritual areas of our lives); Paul is clear in Philippians that we must engage in self-care (that is, look to our interests). However, if all that we do is focused on us, we miss the point of being a Christ-follower. Jesus taught us to "deny oneself" and to "carry our cross daily." Paul encouraged his readers to walk in humility, like Jesus, and to be willing to seek the interests of others, to the point of self-sacrifice. 

The context here is that we do nothing out of selfish motivation or conceit; instead, we willingly look to the best interests of others. If we want others to treat us with love and respect, it would be beneficial to begin in that place with others - "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Many would do well to heed this word.

This Sunday we'll build more on this thought so that we may be more fully aware of what it means to be a Christ-follower. We invite all to come and join us.

Prayer for the day:

Our Father in heaven, empower me to move outside myself and into the lives of those you bring into my sphere of influence. It is not mine to control; rather, it is my responsibility to walk with them in their journey, to discover who they are and how you have designed them for that which is yet before them. Help me, in humility, to look to their interests even as Jesus looked to my best interests and the best interests for all humanity. 

October 19, 2018

​"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16-17).

It seems that everyone likes a "makeover" story. Reality shows of makeovers come and go. People's lives are changed (at least for the moment). There is joy in the moment of the transformation of home, body, or business. There is a new vision, a new perspective. There is hope for the future. The viewers of the show are left to wonder, "How long will it last?" 

Transformation lasts as long as one remembers that it is a process. The quick fix rarely goes to the heart - it touches the surface, it touches that which is presentable. If we want a makeover that transforms, we must remember the process. The process begins in the head - what we believe; it continues to the heart - what we believe; and, it is completed with the hands - what we achieve. 

The letter to the Romans is one of encouragement to transformation, not a simple makeover. It is the power of God for everyone that believes. The word translated "believes" gives us a sense of process - belief occurs in the moment and continues as a work in progress in the life of the child of God. What work are we committed to in our lives? Do we want a quick fix? Do we desire something that will last? 

I believe, and am not ashamed, to declare that God is calling us to a deeper place. The good news of Jesus (our crucified and risen Lord and Savior) is a message of promise and hope that leads to a transformed and transforming life. We will begin to explore what that can look like as we begin to look at this rich letter from the Apostle Paul.

Prayer for the day:

God, you alone transform the lives of those that call upon your name in faith. It's more than a makeover. You go to the heart and make us new. We know that we have a role to play - we are called to trust and to work out all that you have worked in. We remember the words of the father in the gospel that declared, "I believe, help me in my unbelief." We are like that man. We want to experience your work, yet we are often fearful of what it may require. Let us grow in faith so that we may trust that you love us and your work in us is to fulfill your design for us. 

September 27, 2018

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

I'll be honest...I'm not always sure that I want the same mindset as Jesus. I'm not saying that I want to avoid God's working in me to become more Christlike; yet, at the same time, I'm not sure that I don't want to avoid God's work in me.

Think about it for a moment in light of this section of Philippians. 

  1. Jesus could have used his position ("being in very nature God") as a place of entitlement to advance himself in the world. 
  2. Jesus could have done what he wanted; instead, he chose to be a servant of all.
  3. Jesus could have set an agenda that was self-promoting; instead, he humbled himself and in obedience endured the Cross.

Now, none of us are God and so we don't have the position and entitlement that Jesus could have insisted on. And, there are few of us (if any) that would choose the Cross (or its equivalent) as our act of ultimate obedience. So, as it comes to being of the same mindset as Jesus, this is an extremely uncomfortable proposition. 

More than that, Paul is writing about this mindset regarding our relationships with one another...he doesn't seem to address this as a way of thinking about God. Of course, this is exactly what he did. Our mindset regarding others will be directly related to the relationship that we have with God. If I am willing to put others first, it is because I have already put God first. If I am unwilling to be a servant of those within my sphere of influence, it is because I am unwilling to be a servant of God. There's more, but this gives us enough to start to rethink the words we pray every week, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven...Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors..."

Together, we will explore this mindset a little more on Sunday. Come, join us and be part of the fellowship of people seeking to learn to be more Christlike. As the "famous" philosopher, Red Green, reminds us, "We're all in this together."

Prayer for the day:

Our Lord and God, in view of your mercy, grace, and love for me, empower me to be transformed in the renewing of my mind so that I may more fully display your character - in my thoughts, my words, and my actions.

October 4, 2018

"Continue to work out your salvation..., for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:12b-13).

I'm sorry but I skipped the words "with fear and trembling" because the words are too often misunderstood. The fear and trembling is not about our being afraid of a vengeful God, remember John wrote, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment..."

Fear may be better understood, in this context, as our understanding the nature and character of God and being in awe of the Creator of all that is. If God did this awesome work, then what is our response to the One that spoke the universe into being? We can all respond by working out in our lives all that God has worked in.

This Sunday, World Communion Sunday, we are celebrating our faith with like-minded faith communities. We are also celebrating the first graduating class of Stephen Ministers at SJCUCC. These seven have committed to working out the grace and love of God in their lives by being trained and now being ministers to those who are hurting. The goal is to walk alongside those that are struggling during their time of need (no matter what the issue or problem). Each has received 50+ hours of training in Christ-centered care-giving. Each is continuing with ongoing training and accountability. When it comes to working out what God has worked in, these Stephen ministers are loving conduits of God's amazing grace. 

Prayer for the day:

Our gracious and loving God, we entrust our lives to you in this day and ask that you connect each of us in the love of Christ for the mutual benefit of all the children of God. Let us be united in mind, heart, and action so that the world may know you. Let us be the embodiment of the peace of God for all people.