Help support the vision of Woodland Hills Community Church!

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, August 9

Today’s Readings: Psalm 83; Genesis 49:29-50:14; Luke 9:1-17; Acts 21:27-36; Psalm 129

It wouldn’t take a person visiting my blog for the first time very long to figure out I have a deep appreciation for the Emerging Movement. The name of my blog is a dead give away. Some of the folks I’ve bumped into the last couple of years have wondered why I have such a passion for the movement. Well, I could go on and on about why I’m so excited; but for the sake of time, I’ll share just three reasons. Unlike the Traditional Movement - which stresses the repetition of spiritual practices simply because “We’ve always done them that way before” – the Emerging Movement stresses the conviction that our spiritual practices should have deep meaning for us. And unlike the Contemporary Movement that stresses the importance of cosmetic changes (i.e. throw in a LCD projector, a couple of guitars, and a drum set) to capture people’s attention, the Emerging Movement stresses community based expressions of worship that have integrity and authenticity for each particular worshipping community. In other words, it’s not a “one size fits all” approach. My third reason I’m so enamored of the Emerging Movement was named in today’s Gospel passage from Luke. As Jesus was preparing to send the disciples out on their missions, we are told Jesus said these words: “Don’t load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment” (Luke 9:3 – The Message). I love that statement – you are the equipment!! Let me tell you why I love that statement. You see it’s so easy for communities of faith to think to themselves: “We could grow if only we could hire another staff person, or pave the parking lot, or put up a glitzy new sign...” In other words, they think of the “equipment” of ministry in terms of things and not people. A similar thing often happens in the lives of individual people of faith as well. They think to themselves, “I could really make a difference if I could earn that degree, make more money, get that promotion...” All they while individuals and communities of faith completely forget that they already have the single most important piece of equipment they need: themselves. Some may wonder what it means for a person to be the equipment for ministry. It’s really very simple. Being the equipment for ministry means things like sharing your personal story/experience with others and not a pre-rehearse litany of doctrines or dogma. Being the equipment also means identifying and using your existing spiritual gifts (what some in the secular world might call your passions) to help others. Today I invite you to consider a shift in your approach toward life. Instead of looking at your life and saying, “I could do amazing things if only I had…” - stop yourself in mid-sentence and remind yourself: “I CAN do amazing things because I have the most important piece of equipment I’ll ever need: ME.” Til next time…

Friday, August 8

Today’s Readings: Psalm 142; Genesis 49:1-28; Luke 8:40-56; Acts 21:17-26; Psalm 60

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.” I first encountered that saying when I was working to understand the dynamics involved in the life of an organization. It’s easy to see how flawed that logic is when it comes to the life of an organization. When you put that same principle within a personal context, however, it’s much more difficult to see the flawed logic. For instance, some people will stay in abusive or neglectful relationships year after year and never change their own behavior (i.e. set healthy boundaries for themselves with their partner); instead, they simply hope that things will unexpectedly change. Others will find themselves in financial distress because of their spending habits - yet do nothing to change their behavior. As a result, all they do is hope their luck will change. So what does all of this have to do with today’s readings? Well, today’s Gospel reading from Luke contains the story of a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. For years and years, I’m sure the woman had tried the same things over and over in an attempt to change her circumstance: I imagine she sought out leaders from her religious community and the "medical experts" of her day . And yet 12 years later she had nothing to show for it! Then one day she encountered the presence of something (I should say, "someone") new. Instead of repeating past behaviors, the woman took her encounter with Jesus as a call to try something new. She did just that; and as a result, she was healed. What was it that healed her? As Jesus said, “You took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole” (Luke 8:48 – The Message). Perhaps there’s a difficult area of your life where you’ve been trying the same things over and over and simply hoped for a different result: maybe that area is in a relationship, a financial situation, or a circumstance involving your health. Instead of following the same tired old patterns, follow the hemorrhaging woman's example and take a risk: put your faith in something larger than yourself. If you summon the strength and courage to do that, you might just find yourself healed and made whole in ways you never dreamed possible. Til next time…

Thursday, August 7

Today’s Readings: Psalm 140; Genesis 48:8-22; Luke 8:26-39; Acts 21:7-16; Psalm 46

One of my favorite experiences in seminary was bumping into people from various parts of the world and seeing how our different social locations influenced our understanding of the Gospel. Most of the folks I had interacted with to that point in my life (white, heterosexual, middle-class folks) came from a place of privilege. As a result, they tended to experience the Gospel as a ringing endorsement of the status quo. When I got to seminary, however, I was surrounded with folks of different social locations who saw the Gospel very differently. Instead of seeing the Gospel as a ringing endorsement of the status quo, they saw the Gospel as a call to action to challenge the status quo in order to bring the Reign of God closer. It is this latter spirit that the psalmist captures beautifully in today’s first Psalm – for the Psalm culminates with the psalmist’s assertion: “I know that you, God, are on the side of victims, that you care for the rights of the poor” (Psalm 140:12 – The Message). So where do you stand on this issue? Do you see the Gospel as a ringing endorsement of the status quo, or do you see the Gospel as a challenge to the status quo? Til next time…

Wednesday, August 6

Today’s Readings: Psalm 102; Genesis 47:1-26; Luke 8:1-15; Acts 20:28-35; Psalm 125

For those of you who are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test, I am a strong “J”. For those of you not familiar with Myers-Briggs, let me take a moment and tell you what that means. When it comes to the way people use information, there are generally two types of people. First, there are those people who are labeled “P”; these folks dislike making a decision because they are enamored with the idea of keeping all of their options open as long as possible. Then, there are people like myself who are labeled “J”; these folks tend to be decisive – they love to make a decision and arrive at closure as quickly as possible. As you could probably figure out from my brief description, as a “J” one of the things I love most in life is experiencing a sense of closure or completion. This aspect of my personality presented me with one of my greatest challenges when I first answered my call to ministry. I say that because one of the few things you rarely experience in ministry is a sense of completion. There are always more people to visit, more causes to help out, and more books/articles to be read than any one person could ever accomplish. Consequently, if a person is going to last in ministry; he or she needs to learn how to be okay with not personally seeing every project through. In many ways, this is the same conclusion the author of today’s passage from the Book of Acts was pushing. For as the author was getting ready to move on with his ministry, he wrote these sage words to those he left behind: “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends” (Acts 20:32 – The Message). That sense of being able to let go before closure is achieved is a crucial element of our spiritual lives. Today, I would invite you to examine your own issues around completion and control. All of this makes me wonder what type of person are you. Are you the sort of person that expects to see everything through on your own time and according to your own terms; or have you cultivated the ability to let go and trust God to see things through to completion? My prayer for today is that God will help each of us grow in our ability to step back at crucial junctions in our lives and trust the Creator of all things to see things through for us. Til next time…

Tuesday, August 5

Today’s Readings: Psalm 61; Genesis 47:27-48:7; Luke 8:16-25; Acts 21:1-6; Psalm 114

In the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) community, there is a saying about family. That saying would get paraphrased as such: “There are two kinds of family: biological family and family of choice.” The saying is an important one since so many LGBT people are cut off from their biological family members when they come out. By some people’s standards, the result of these losses would mean the person no longer has a family. What happens, however, is that the LGBT person creates a family around him or herself with close friends who take on the role of family; hence, the phrase “family of choice”. While Jesus’ circumstances were much different in today’s Gospel reading, he made a similar point. When he learned that his mother and brothers were trying to push through the crowd to reach him, how did Jesus respond? He responded by altering the traditional definition of family: “My mother and my brothers are the ones who hear and do God’s Word. Obedience is thicker than blood” (Luke 8:21 – The Message). Today I would invite you to look back over your faith journey and give thanks for your “family” members who first heard God’s Word in their lives and then embodied that Word for you – individuals who nurtured you on your own faith journey. Take a moment and give thanks for all of the forms family take – and then go out and embrace your role as a family member for someone else. Til next time…

Monday, August 4

Today’s Readings: Psalm 59; Genesis 46:1-7, 28-34; Luke 7:36-50; Acts 20:13-27; Psalm 9

One of the character traits I struggle with is my tendency to blow things completely out of proportion. When I bump into a friend or acquaintance and that person is a little short with me, for instance, I’ll find myself re-living our last couple of encounters to see what I might have done to make the person upset with me (this is a textbook expression of my co-dependent tendency). In my quest to find something to justify the other person’s behavior, I’ll often take something small and magnify it. Let me tell you, such an approach to life can get down right exhausting. In today’s first Psalm, the psalmist reminds us that thankfully God doesn’t share our tendency to blow things out of proportion. God has something we often lack: a sense of perspective. Here’s how the psalmist makes this point. The psalmist begins by getting in touch with his inner drama queen when he identifies his opponents as “enemies”, “mutineers”, and “desperadoes”! So how does God see the very same individuals? “But you, God, break out laughing; you treat the godless nations like jokes” (Psalm 59:8 – The Message). Maybe there’s an aspect of your life where you’ve lost a sense of perspective – something relatively small that you’ve blown out of proportion and allowed to take over your life. If that’s the case, take some time in prayer and/or meditation and open yourself to seeing things from a new perspective: God’s. You might be surprised how quickly that huge challenge is cut down to size. Til next time…