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Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!
For those of you who would like to support the vision & ministry of Woodland Hills Community Church (the faith community I serve that continues to encourage me to minister outside the box), please click on the link just above.

Saturday, November 24

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 97; Zechariah 14:1-11; Matthew 20:1-16; Philippians 2:1-11; Psalm 92

Once of the things that most intrigued me growing up in the small town (population less than 1,500 when I was a kid) was the stories my mother told of how life use to be when she was a girl. She used to tell me that when she was little, there were only a few churches in town: a Catholic parish, Congregationalist church, a Lutheran church, and a Methodist church. The result of this was that when folks moved to town from other denominations (i.e. Presbyterians or Baptists), they would have to find a church that was outside their tradition in order to worship. The amazing thing was that in the 1940’s and 1950’s, people from other backgrounds in these churches didn’t fight for supremacy or control; they actually got along. Not only that, they saw their differences from each other not as things that must be stamped out or eliminated; they actually saw their differences as opportunities to learn! Unfortunately, something happened to the soul of the church in the 1980’s and beyond. People from certain traditions stopped talking and learning from others, and started battling those who differed from them for control or supremacy of the faith. If you saw the Bible differently than I did – if you had a different understanding of Jesus – if you belonged to a different political party – if you had a different position on abortion or homosexuality – then it was war. As a result of this split, our faith became seen by many in our society as the thing that caused the troubles in our world; not the thing that healed them. On this eve of Reign of Christ Sunday, today’s passage from Philippians reminds us what the original vision and purpose of Christ was. Listen to these amazing words from Philippians 2:1-4: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ… then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” As we prepare for the start of Advent next week, let us keep this vision in mind. My prayer is that we may hold to that vision so strongly that the world may see the coming of the Christ child for what it is: good news. Til next time…

Friday, November 23

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 51; Zechariah 13:1-9; John 11:28-44; 1 Corinthians 3:10-23; Psalm 105

One of my favorite pairings of individuals in the Bible is a pair of sisters: Mary and Martha. I appreciate them because they provide us with two different approaches toward living out one’s faith. And the beauty is that there is room in Jesus’ company for both approaches. There’s the Mary approach (“get your priorities in order and respond immediately in a heart felt way”) and the Martha approach (“dutifully respond in socially appropriate ways). Once again we encounter the contrast between the two approaches in yesterday and today’s Gospel reading. The passages from the 11th chapter of John tell the story of Jesus’ raising of Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus. In John’s telling of the story, Jesus intentionally waited to see the siblings until Lazarus had died so he could use the situation to reveal God’s glory. The difference between the sisters’ response to Jesus’ delayed appearance is telling. When Jesus finally shows, Martha said (in a respectful and dutiful way): “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11:21-22). Even in the midst of her overwhelming grief, Martha goes to great lengths to clean up her raw emotions and use the situation as an opportunity to express her faith. Mary was different. In today’s passage, Mary let’s loose when she sees Jesus finally showing up. She says simply: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32) In the depths of her grief, Mary includes no affirmation of faith as Martha did. And what was Jesus response? Did he walk away offended by Mary? No. The very next verse reads: “When Jesus saw her (Mary), and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved and troubled in spirit” (John 11:33). And then Jesus wept with them. The story reminds me that the loving spirit of Jesus has room for BOTH our Mary moments AND our Martha moments. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition of faith. Today, let us continue to give thanks for our relationship with a God that allows us to not only think outside the box – but have a faith that defies boxes as well. Til next time…

Thursday, November 22

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 109; Zechariah 12:1-10; John 11:17-27; Jude 14-25; Psalm 125

First things first: Happy Thanksgiving. May you and yours have a blessed holiday time together! There was a verse from the first of today’s Psalms that really captured the essence of the day for me. That verse was Psalm 109:30 (from The Message). It read: “My mouth’s full of great praise for God, I’m signing his hallelujahs surrounded by crowds.” That verse reminded me of conversations I’ve had with folks over the years where they have asked: “If God is the Creator of the universe and Source of All life, does God really need the praise of little old folks like us?” My answer is typically both a yes and no. On one hand, the questioner is correct. As the self-sustaining source of all, God probably could get by without little old Craig Peterson taking some time on Thanksgiving Day and expressing gratitude for all that he’s been given. On another level, however, I like to think that God is so great because of God’s relational nature; a nature that is fed in ways we’ll never fully understand by the intimate connection between Creator and creation. In this day and age where we are increasingly losing our connection with others, let us give thanks for the One whom is always connected to us – whether we stop to realize it or not. And then let us respond in the only way appropriate: WITH PRAISE! Til next time…

Wednesday, November 21

Today’s Lectionary Reading: Psalm 20; Zechariah 11:4-17; John 11:1-16; Judy 1-13; Psalm 124

I can sure relate to the disciples in this morning’s Gospel passage from John. They are a step or two behind Jesus. When he talks with them about Lazarus’s condition, for instance, they don’t understand. That’s why Jesus has to move from coded language (“our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep”) to explicit language (“Lazarus is dead”). There are many times when I, like the disciples, am a little slow on the uptake. This is particularly true around Thanksgiving. When it comes to giving thanks, I go part of the way. I stop and give thanks for the blessings in my life. But I often miss an important step in my spiritual walk. In addition to giving thanks, I forget to experience those blessings as signs that both point me back toward God and strengthen my experience and understanding of God. To say it another way, it’s kind of like what Jesus said to the disciples as they approached Lazarus and his circumstance: “You’re about to be given new grounds for believing” (John 11:15 – The Message). What signs have appeared in your life that could be considered “new grounds for believing”? This Thanksgiving let us not stop just to give thanks, but explore those blessings as new opportunities to strengthen our relationship with God. Til next time…

Tuesday, November 20

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 103; Zechariah 10:1-12; Matthew 18:21-35; 3 John 9-15; Psalm 104

Today’s reading from 3 John reminded me of an experience I had attending a denominational meeting in Cleveland seven years ago. At the quadrennial meeting, delegates were dealing with a variety of controversial issues ranging from contentious social issues such as abortion and homosexuality to crucial organizational issues such as the regional election of delegates. I had gone to the meeting hoping the gathering would show me how the amazing grace of God could transform a potentially divisive gathering into a place of unparalleled peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed. For what I found was that the powers that be chose to mimic the ways of this world (i.e. shameless power plays and brutal manipulation) instead of the ways of Jesus. The maneuverings at the gathering would have made folks in Washington, DC blush. It was so easy to want to adopt the methods I saw displayed around me in order to do what others were doing – getting what I wanted. Thankfully, I had the words of 3 John rattling around in the back of my mind – words that said: “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good if from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God” (3 John 11). I’m sure there have been times in your life when you too have been tempted to adopt some of the questionable approaches around you in order to get what you want. Today, first let us give thanks for the Good in our life – the One who constantly shows us a better way. And second, let’s resolve to follow that way - no matter what! Til next time…

Monday, November 19

Today’s Lectionary Readings: Psalm 100; Zechariah 9:9-16; Matthew 18:10-20; 3 John 1-8; Psalm 23

In reading today’s Gospel passage, I stumbled upon a lesson I need to learn in my day to day life: how to handle conflict. I have a problem in my life with something called triangling. Here’s what triangling means. Let’s say John and Susan get into a conflict about something. Instead of handling the issue between themselves, let’s say John comes to me to complain about Susan with the expectation that I can help get Susan to come around. What originally started as a conflict between John and Susan escalates into an issue between John, Susan, and me. As a pastor, there are many times when things like this happen. Folks expect me to have all the answers (or at least pull the ‘pastoral privilege’ card in order to get the other person “to come around”). Of course with my propensity to be a people pleaser, more often than not in the past I’ve dived in when I shouldn’t have. Hence, my experience of triangling. Let me say from years of experience that triangling IS NOT FUN (This would be the understatement of the year). Jesus’ words in Matthew, however, remind me of another way of being in the midst of conflict. Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) says: "If your brother [or sister] sins against you, go and show him [or her] his [or her] fault, just between the two of you. If he [or she] listens to you, you have won your brother [or sister] over. But if he [or she] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he [or she] refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…” Jesus’ words remind us both to place accountability where it belongs – with the individuals involved. Jesus’ words also remind us that we are not a magical fix it tool that can accomplish the work of peace and reconciliation on our own. Whether or not you have an issue with triangling in your life, those words of wisdom regarding accountability and peace-making might help make your life a bit easier. Til next time…

Sunday, November 18

After a 15 hour day yesterday and a full day of responsibilities today, I'm exhausted today so I'll take a break from my postings. Check back tomorrow. After an evening of rest I hope to get back on track.