Saint Andrew United Methodist Church

1528 Church Road

Toms River NJ 08755

Going Above and Beyond

Posted by on Monday, August 21, 2017 @ 8:28 AM

Jesus teaches: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your God in heaven". (Matthew 5:13-16)

Salt and light? What's that about? If we think about 'salt' and 'light' for a minute, one thing is clear: these are things that CHANGE their environment around them. They leave a mark. They serve a purpose. They make a difference. OK, so if this is true...   let me ask another question: what changes, what leaves a mark, what purpose is served when salt is added to an already salty meal? What changes, what leaves a mark, what purpose is served when light is added to an already lit room? Nothing.

In our normal, human, cultural, social thinking it is a worthy goal to find like-minded people, hang-out with those who are similar to us in life, and to seek comfort, security, and affirmation by fitting-in with those around us. But, Jesus is asking his followers to 'rub off' their saltiness and their brightness in places and with people where there is no salt or light. In other words, Christ-followers are called to spread their faith, love, and good works beyond the comfort zone of people, places and things that are like us, safe for us, and secure for us.

According to Lance Ford and Alan Hirsch in the book Right Here Right Now: Every Day Mission for Everyday People (Chapter 9) our mission as Christ-followers is meant to be lived-out beyond the walls of the church not within the confines of church programs and events. The mission we are on is NOT to bring people into the church as much as it is to bring the love of God into the world by our faithful and hopeful actions and examples.

Of course, this can be a scary thought for many people. It's common to think of the church as a place that serves our spiritual needs rather than a place from which we serve the spiritual needs of the world. It's common to think of the church as a safe house in which we refuge from the big bad world rather than a launch pad from which we extend an even bigger good. It's common to think we are not yet ready for such a grand mission, that we need a little more time, knowledge, preparation, when in fact God has already commissioned every believer (whatever our level of maturity) to be salt and light in the daily world into which we are sent.

 May you get out there this week and share your salt and light!

Make sure you check out this week's video by the authors Salt Blocks and Salt Shakers

Posted by on Monday, August 14, 2017 @ 11:08 AM

Body Building

Posted by on Monday, August 14, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

What is the church? Is it a building? Is it a group of people? Is it a 501c3 non-profit organization?

Why do we go to church? Is it to be 'good' people? Is it to show God our love? Is it to do good works in the community? Is it to make friends?

What is the purpose of church? Is worship God once a week? Is it to learn about Christian faith? Is it to practice our devotion to God? Is it to be an example of God's love in action?

 Lots of questions, all pointing to true things about the church...   but not the whole truth

In the Bible, Paul often refers to a group of Christ-followers as 'church'. And, when he says 'church' he means the BODY of Christ. Why would he use imagery of a 'body' to describe God's people: "we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work". (Ephesians 4:15-16)

 When I think body...   I think athletes. There are many different kinds athlete's bodies. They are all shapes and sizes. But, whatever the shape or size, all athletes bodies share three things in common:

1) They are all readily recognized for the type of sport they train for. Bodybuilders are strong with large muscles and runners are thin with wiry muscles.

2)They are complex 'engines' in which each muscle group works together with the others to achieve top performance

2) They are trained and tuned with hard-work, dedication, and discipline that wells up from a LOVE for the sport that they do.

In Right Here Right Now Chapter 7 Lance and Alan take up this discussion of the church as BODY of Christ. They point out that Christ-followers who gather together as the church, do so in a way that is far more personal and involved than merely being members of an organization, or casual friends, or even co-workers. Rather, they characterize people coming together as the 'Body of Christ' as being connected and committed partners together (and together with God) in living, loving, and extending love to others.

 Something really special develops between people who make a daily commitment to love God and each other, grow together, and take on God's mission together. Just coming to the church building once a week on Sundays won't do it. Just participating in the life of the church when it is casual and convenient won't do it. Being a Christ-follower and part of the Body of Christ is a lifestyle and a life journey. One where the joys and benefits can't be realized until we are committed and on our way!

 May you grow in faith and grow together with others into the Body of Christ fit to accomplish great things in hope and love.

Watch this week's video House Churches and Small Groups by Alan and Lance as they discuss this subject in more depth

Posted by on Monday, August 7, 2017 @ 11:22 AM

Beyond Me & Mine

Posted by on Monday, August 7, 2017 @ 11:19 AM

Think about how you came to have the best and closest friends of your life?

For most of us...   we first came to know the best friends of our lives through circumstances that 'forced' us together. Maybe we sat next to one another in the same class in grade school or played on the same little league team. Maybe we shared a dorm room together our freshman year in college. Maybe we worked together on the job. Maybe we met because our children became friends with their children and we spent time together while the children played.

So...   what happens when we aren't 'forced' to meet new people and develop new relationships? Sadly, most of us tend to turn inward, grow inward, and invest inward. We concentrate on our family and current friends and make them the center of our social life and sphere of care and concern. We opt for safe, secure, and comfortable interactions with those whom we already know and leave aside the riskiness of going new places and meeting new people, different people, and strangers. The results of this lifestyle is made evident in 'suburban living' in places like here in Toms River. Behind high privacy fences and closed windows and doors are highly private people living very individual lives with very small circles of friendship, care, and concern.

We should all ask ourselves this question: HOW MANY OF MY ACTUAL NEIGHBORS DO I KNOW? Our neighborhood is the most elementary daily space in which we are 'forced' to live side by side with other people who are not-yet-friends. The answer to this question will give us a good indication as to how developed and intentional our friend-making is. As Christians and Everyday Missionaries, friend-making is a vital endeavor and part of the great command that Jesus proclaims: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself" Luke 10:27. In that same story, a shrewd follow-up question by a lawyer in the crowd asking "and who is my neighbor" allows Jesus to more fully turn the command into practical marching orders to bring tangible redemption to people we encounter in our daily life:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, "Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend." Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

For Jesus and his followers loving our neighbors is a type of friend-making that goes beyond our families, church families, and current friends. It is intentional and generous, risky and courageous and it results in new deep, abiding relationships that bring tangible redemption to people though love, care, nurturing, and ongoing committed relationship. From the parable:

More than just cultivating safe relationships...   we are called to reach out to the stranger we encounter in our daily path (the man was not known to and not like the Samaritan who found him.

More than just sticking to safe and secure and comfortable places...   we are called to extend ourselves and risk (the person who beat and robbed the man could come back and beat and rob the Samaritan.

More than just providing incidental or superficial care...   we are called to deeply and generously give of ourselves and our resources and commit to a future relationship of care (the Samaritan gave much and pledged much to care for the man he rescued).

May you go into your neighborhood this week and notice those with whom you have been 'forced' onto the same daily path. Love God...   Love Them...   not just for a moment but for a lifetime.

Check out this week's video by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford entitled 'Oh Raaawb" to go deeper into this dimension of living as an everyday missionary.

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