I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July celebrations. I hope you spent time with loved ones, watched some rockets red glare and enjoyed time relaxing.
Independence Day has always been one of my favorite holidays for a lot of reasons. I do love fireworks. I love summer and have great memories of playing in sprinklers and swimming with my friends on hot humid days and of course, I love it because we get to celebrate the freedom that we enjoy as Americans. I am glad we are free to speak our minds, glad we are free to worship how we choose and so many other amazing freedoms that many in the world do not have. I know those freedoms didn't come easily or without great sacrifice and so it's good to remember all those who served and died to give us and to protect those freedoms.
I also know that freedom requires caution. Just because we CAN do something doesn't mean we SHOULD do it. For example, freedom of speech means that I CAN call someone rude names or use fowl language...but that doesn't mean I SHOULD do this (how can I love my neighbor while insulting them?).
As Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 10:23, "Everything is permissible-but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"-but not everything is constructive."
I am so glad we have the freedom in this nation, but let us be careful not to use our freedoms to hurt others. The greatest law is not to love ourselves, but to love God and our neighbor.
In recent years there has been a push to do things locally. We are told (and I agree) that it's good to shop local, eat local and get our produce locally (like at a Farmer's Market for example). This makes sense because we get to support small businesses in our area and keep more of our money in our local economy, which helps our friends and neighbors rather than spending money at chain restaurants or from far away vendors on Amazon. My wife even gets honey from a local beekeeper to help with allergies, which apparently works.
Starting on Monday, July 6, we are going to do a local service week rather than go on our Kentucky mission trip as we had planned. While I would have LOVED to have gone on the mission trip, instead we get to serve our neighbors by staying and serving local.
Would you consider joining us? We have some great projects lined up and a real chance to make a difference in our own backyard. We will be serving local residents, helping at a local food pantry and cleaning up at local parks and trails (among a few other projects).
We are working every day that week (July 6-10) from about 9 am to 3 pm and could use more hands to share the work. Will you help us share God's love in physical ways with our friends and neighbors? Will you help us serve local? Just click on the link below to register. It's free and easy!
In the past weeks we have watched as statues all over our country and world have been torn down by protesters who wanted to make a statement. Many of these statues were of confederate leaders or other public figures seen to represent racism (Christopher Columbus for example has gone from celebrated explorer to hated in my lifetime because of his treatment of the native people he met on his journeys).
I am not going to comment on this issue directly, but do want to talk about the idea of statues in general.
Statues are there to celebrate something or someone and to remind us of what has happened in the past. They are there to help us remember those who came before.
In the Bible we don't see many statues, but we do see lots of altars that served much the same purpose. Some of these were set up to worship false gods, but many were set up (even commanded by God to be set up) to help remember something great that happened or a miracle God did.
My favorite one of these was after the Israelites crossed the Jordan river and crossed into the promised land. After this great miracle, God commanded the people to gather large stones from the bottom of the river (smoothed by the movement of the water over the years to prove where they came from). Then God told them this, "In the future, when your children ask you, 'what do these stones mean?' tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever." (Joshua 4:6-7)
We are supposed to remember to tell the stories of what God has done and we don't need a pile of rocks in order to do it (though they can be helpful reminders). Have you told your children and your grandchildren about what God has done in your life? Have you told the stories of God's goodness and faithfulness? Let us not neglect the call to pass on the miracles of God to others so that they will know.
What is your pile of rocks? Where was God faithful in your life? Can you think back to the places where you saw the hand of God at work? If so, tell the stories and share with others so that they will know and maybe start to seek God as well.
Not so long ago the world was different, more free. I remember in college that my best friend had been studying in Europe for a year and I, along with some of his other friends and girlfriend, missed him a lot. We decided that we would go to the airport to greet him. Back then, before 9/11, you could go right to the gate and be there when your loved one got off the plane (now you have to wait about 12 miles away I think). His flight was delayed several times, but finally he arrived to a group of friends with signs, banners and Mt Dew (apparently not for sale in Latvia and he was pretty much addicted). It was a hero's welcome and made him feel loved immediately.
That's pretty much how I imagined finally coming back to church once this whole COVID thing was done. I had dreams of dancing in the aisles and high fiving all my beloved friends and church family who I had missed...but things don't always turn out how we imagined. Instead of hugs, we will have to social distance. Things will need to change in order to keep us safe and help us feel safe...but at least we will be together again!
Paul loved his churches, but due to his missionary travel and the fact that he was often in jail; he couldn't always be with them in person. He said this to the church he loved in Thessalonica (Thessalonians 2:17) "Brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought)."
While we have been separated in person, we have never been separated in thought. We may be separated by 6 feet, but not in love. We might be separated by a mask, but not in care. Even those who choose to worship at home via online worship are still a part of our fellowship because of our mutual concern and love for each other.
I will be glad to gather back in the building starting on July 5, but we have never really been apart, not in thought anyway. We have kept praying for each other, loving each other, showing care for each other...we have been the church no matter where we may be.
The other day my 4 year old was in the restroom washing his hands, or so I thought. The water was running and he was at the sink, but when I walked by (he almost always leaves the door open) he had the top off of the soap container and was filling it with water. He was actually very proud of this idea, he gladly showed me that he was adding water to the soap because it was almost empty and he thought he would fill it up.
I had to break the bad news to him that instead of fixing the problem, he had actually made it worse. The little bit of soap was now mostly worthless because it was so watered down, it wouldn't really clean our hands anymore and needed to be thrown out.
Truth is a little bit like this. We may have some truth (Jesus loves us or the Bible is good) but if we add to that truth our own ideas or interpretations we potentially lose some of the power of that truth.
We all know that Jesus loves us; but what does that mean? Our culture has taken this true idea and added to it the idea that Jesus is some always happy, smiling caricature. He never gets mad, never judges and is like our best buddy...but this isn't the truth. In the Bible we see Jesus get mad (holy indignation is the proper term), we see him rebuke his disciples and tell them they have little faith, we seem him frustrated and sad and all kinds of emotions besides just happy all the time. It turns out that the love of Jesus is a deeper love, a more complex love that we are led to believe by our watered down truth.
We also are told that the Bible is good, which is true; but we tend to water it down to its simplest version.
Growing up I did learn the stories of Noah or Moses in Sunday School, but I did NOT learn the parts where Noah gets drunk and naked or where Moses killed a man...those parts were conveniently left out. I also learned that the Bible is a simple story of God's love for us; but the truth is far more complex. The Bible is a collection of books, written over thousands of years by many authors (some of whom are unknown to us), in several languages (not English) and requires diligent study to try and understand and interpret. There is nothing simple about it! And while the Bible is good, it is also at times depressing (read the first 11 chapters of Ecclesiastes for example) as well as violent and full of terrible sins (murder, rape, racism and much more). The truth about the Bible has been watered down to the point that when we actually start to read it, we find that we barely recognize it.
In the book of Romans we are told about some who had "exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator" (Romans 1:25). I pray that we do not also fall into this trap and love the watered down version more than the real truth of God, the complex and real truth of God.
Let us not rely on the easy or simple, on clique answers to the hard questions of life; but to rely on the real God who is so much more than these watered down truths.
When I was a child my understanding of prayer was very limited. I was taught a few memorized prayers like the terrifying "now I lay me down to sleep" one that honestly gave me nightmares (telling a kid to think about their death and then expect them to drift off to a peaceful slumber is just odd) as well as, a few others including the Lord's Prayer...but I mostly just prayed for me. I prayed for new toys, a better bike, to do well on my test in math...very self centered. Occasionally I would pray for others if someone was sick or if my mom told me to. I bowed my head, folded my hands and hoped that God would answer my prayer.
Now I pray differently. I rarely pray for myself. I almost always pray for others or the world, often for people I don't even know (world leaders...). One of my most common prayers is for peace. I pray that we could lay down our weapons and live in a world without fear. Is this a crazy prayer? Maybe. Do I think it will happen on this side of heaven...no, not really; but if anyone can bring peace it's gotta be God and so I keep on praying.
In Exodus 2 we read "the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning." The prayers of the people for help reached the Lord and moved Him to action on their behalf (he sent Moses to help deliver them).
While world peace may seem unlikely, I will keep groaning, I will keep praying, I will keep asking the Lord for His help. I will trust that He is good and that He does hear us. I will pray for peace.
Will you join me?
I just finished watching the ESPN Documentary "The Last Dance" about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls on their run to championship #6 and Michael Jordan's last season with the Bulls. I grew up a HUGE basketball fan (go Hoosiers) and was obsessed with MJ since his days at North Carolina. I used to stick my tongue out when I went in for a layup and I practiced his fade away jump shot for hours in my driveway. I had his posters on my wall and watched every game.
But now, many years later, I was a little sad to see this up close version of Michael's story. In the documentary he doesn't come across so well. He is mean, condescending and more than a bit arrogant. He is kind of a bully to be honest. By the end of the 10 part series I thought two things
1. He is the greatest player ever (way better than LeBron)
2. I do not want to be his teammate
But there was one section in one of the final episodes that I did think, "well, that's commendable" and in it he tells us that he never asked his teammates to do anything that he didn't do himself. He pushed them hard, but he also pushed himself just as hard or harder. He ran all the laps, did all the weight lifting and worked to set an example of excellence for others.
I do not consider myself an expert on leadership and most of what I do well as a leader I just steal from Jesus (the perfect leader). Jesus always led by example. He didn't just tell us to care for the needy, he did it. He didn't just tell us to love our enemies, he prayed for the men who crucified him on the cross. He didn't just tell us that kids are important, he welcomed them to himself. Jesus always walked the talk.
Leadership these days isn't easy. Many people right now disagree with each other and trying to keep the peace in a diverse group is gonna be tough (likely some of you will disagree with a few things I say or do over the next few months as we try to get back from this pandemic) and so I want to make a few promises.
1. I will do all I can to care about you, love you, listen to you and pray for you.
2. I will do my best to lead us well and wisely
3. I will probably make mistakes
4. I will lead by example.
As I have from the first day I was at Six Points, I will not just ask you to give to the ministry here, but I will contribute financially to the cause. I will not just say that servant leadership matters, I will model it by taking the worst parking spot and eating last at every meal. I will try to tell you how I think we should love each other, and then model it by showing grace to each other when we disagree.
We have interesting days ahead, and there are likely going to be some bumps in the road and so I will be praying the prayer that Jesus taught us in John 17 for unity in the church. Would you join me as we pray together that God will draw us closer during this season and not tear us apart?
that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
This week we had our first (ever we think) Drive-In Church service in the parking lot. The concept is simple (stay in your cars), and the technology is old (Drive-In's were super popular 60 years ago) but most churches had never tried one before and so it was new and a bit scary to see if it would actually work.
Our biggest fear was that the sound would be poor. Since it was raining on Sunday, people couldn't open their windows so we really needed the radio signal to work well. We had tested and tested the equipment, but never with this many cars. We were worried that after all this work and promotion, we would end up with static. Static means that your message is lost. Static means that you can't quite connect. Static means you are a bit fuzzy or unclear. Static is bad.
Sometimes, I feel like there is static in-between me and God. I want to hear Him, but the message is fuzzy. I hope He hears me when I pray, but I often don't get a response and the conversation feels lost. Prayer is hard and we worry that we aren't communicating well or clearly.
The Biblical truth is that God does hear and see us at all times; but only chooses to answer some prayers, which is hard for us to understand. God loves us, but only does what is good for us (according to His understanding of good, not ours).
In 1 John 5, for example, it says "if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." This is just one example of many scriptures where it makes it plain that God responds not to every whim request we might make (asking for a ferrari for example) but to our prayers that are in line with His will.
So don't think that God doesn't hear you, He does, but He might not give the answer you desire. He might say no because what you have prayed for isn't in line with what's good for you or others. He might say "not yet" which means we have to wait until our prayer is in line with His timetable. He might say yes and give you the answer you desire...but this will be because you are asking in line with His will for you.
Oh, and the static...just spend some time with God, it will clear. Jesus said that he is the good shepherd and the sheep hear his voice. Listen, wait and you will hear clearly soon.
We took a drive down to southern Indiana the other day and were just about to Martinsville when Isaac (age 4) shouted out "look, mountains" as he pointed up ahead. Nicole and I laughed because we know that those are just hills, but to a kid born and raised in the flatlands of central Indiana; those look like mountains.
Life is often about perspective, right? To a kid from Indy, hills are mountains; but to someone born in Colorado they barely count as hills. To Elon Musk, a hundred bucks is nothing, like pocket change...but to you and me it might be a lot of money.
It's easy in these strange days to lose perspective. Days seem like weeks, weeks seem like months...and every day seems like a Monday. Most of us are out of our routines and, therefore, feel a bit off. We might be more grumpy, or more stressed...but few of us feel normal.
So here is a truth you can hang your hat on. God is still good and He still loves you. Perspective doesn't change this truth. Your mood doesn't change God's faithfulness. Each day is the day that the Lord has made and we should try to make the most of it.
Maybe a drive to see some hills is just what we all need (or a lake, or a sunset...) to get our perspective back...and maybe you'll see a mountain if you look through the eyes of a 4 year old.
Pastor Scott McDermid
I have a Pin Oak in my front yard. It's a cute little tree, apparently planted by a kid who used to live here for an Earth Day celebration many years ago. I like its location and the shade it provides to the front yard...but there is one thing I dislike about it...its stubborn leaves. Pin Oaks keep their leaves all winter and only lose them once the new buds push them off. This means that all winter long I look at a bunch of brown dead looking leaves on my tree and that every Spring I have to pull out the rake (a tool I would normally be done with around November) and rake up all these stubborn leaves. I am normally the guy out raking while all my neighbors are out putting down mulch.
But I respect these leaves. They don't give up. They hang on through all those cold winter winds. They hang on through all that snow and ice. They hang on when all the other leaves on all the other trees have been bagged up and thrown away. These little Pin Oak leaves just don't quit.
Jesus taught about a woman who had been taken advantage of. She did not get justice, not at first, but she demanded it and she DID NOT QUIT! Every day she fought for justice. Every day she demanded help. Every day she called out until she was granted what she deserved. (Luke 18:1-8).
Let us be like this Persistent Widow. Let us be like this Pin Oak leaf. We will not give up. We will not give up on hope. We will not give up on love. We will not give up on kindness. We will not give up on God and His plan for us. Though some may falter, we will persist. We will hang on through every storm. We will hang on through every hardship (including this one). We will hang on to the promises of God and to His great love! We will hang on.