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If You Arrive At Church Early (via Cornerstone Community Church)

Here are some benefits of turning up to church early.
(Roughly defined as more than 60-120 seconds before the appointed starting time, though in reality that’s actually arriving dead on time. Early would be sooner than that.)
If you consider your attendance as ministry to others, rather than as something that you do, or something that is for yourself, these are just a starting point.

If you’re early:
Your heart will be more settled and ready to worship our majestic Creator God.
You can take a few minutes to sit quietly and think about the Lord you came to worship.
You can get your children to the appropriate classrooms without rushing.
You can take a few minutes to encourage one another in fellowship before the service.
You can take a few minutes to read through the church bulletin before the service starts.
You can encourage your church leaders by showing greater respect for their careful and prayerful planning of the worship service.
You set a good example for your children in holding high the principle of love for others.

Read the whole post at Cornerstone Community Church.

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The Place Where Wounds Become Openings For A New Vision (via Henri Nouwen)

There is no place where wounds and pains are absent, even in the fellowship of the church.
The Gospel enables the wounds to be openings where light breaks through, the pains a common pointer to future wholeness and joy.
This is our expectation as we gather in worship tomorrow.
Henri Nouwen writes:

It belongs to the central insight of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, that it is the call of God which forms the people of God.
A Christian community is there for a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision. Mutual confession then become a mutual deepening of hope, and sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 94.

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Pastoral Ministry Does Not Try To Save The Redeemed (via Henri Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen makes an important distinction about pastoral ministry.
A contemplative is able to live fully in the moment, but not be ruled by, and reacting to, the anxiety of that moment.
In that he is able to help others to look beyond their present ‘panic-stricken convulsions’ to responses that resonate with the character of the kingdom.

It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped. In this way the contemplative can be a leader for a compulsive e generation because he can break though the vicious circle of immediate needs asking for immediate satisfaction. He can direct and steer their erratic energy into creative channels.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded HealerMins, Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 44.

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Congregational Life – A Place Where We Are Saved From Our Yearnings, Rather Than Having Our Yearnings Met (via M Craig Barnes)

In a brief article at Christian Century, Craig Barnes writes about the disposition of wanting to protect people from their own hurt feelings, and how the life in the church is not meant to be place where flawed people grow in Christ likeness by experiencing the imperfections that remain within us:

Congregations are filled with people who bring their yearnings with them into the community. Often these yearnings have not been met in other places like family or work, so people are hoping the church will be the place where they will finally find affirmation for their heart’s desire. But the church is not paradise. It’s a divine reality of redemption in which we are saved even from our yearnings. It’s a community in which we learn to sacrifice our hopes, failures, and hurt feelings in order to turn to Jesus Christ, our savior.

Read the whole post here.

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Remembering The Saints

Tomorrow is a day when many many Christian Churches take time to remember faithful disciples of Jesus who have departed the Church on earth and have joined the Church in eternity.
We will do so in prayer and song.
Some will have departed during the last year, some will have departed during our lifetimes, some departed before we were born.
Some will have been friends and family, others names we have seen or heard in various media.
This is the body of Christ, and taking time to remember specific members of it, is to further remember him.

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When Jesus Calls Us Out It’s Not For A Doctrine Test (via Winn Collier)

When Jesus restores Peter after his denial he does so not by questioning Peter’s knowledge, but Peter’s heart.

From Winn Collier:

Warming by the enemy’s fire, three critics posed Peter the most straightforward query: “Are you a follower of Jesus?” They did not ask what Peter thought of the Galilean’s theology. They did not quiz him on the political positions of the carpenter turned prophet. They did not interrogate Peter on whether he believed Jesus’ claim to be Messiah was a farce. Peter faced a more basic, less theoretical, inquiry. “Are you a follower?” Peter, doubting all he had experienced with Jesus, offered what might have been the most honest response available to him. “No.” Peter’s betrayal was born of disillusion. The gloomy garden and the Judas kiss and Jesus’ deafening silence in the face of it all were simply too much for Peter. And three times, all before the cock finished its crowing, Peter’s confusion took shape in the form of a harsh, disillusioned No He had no space for this sort of king, no category for this twist in the story. Peter’s heart was good, but as with most of us his “clenched hands [were] stuffed with his own devices. When what we expect will be is smothered by what actually is, doubts and clenched fists are our common response.
Peter’s betrayal was odious. Though redemption came for Peter in the same way it is offered to us all, he will forever be remembered as the one who denied Jesus. This is a sad and unfortunate tale; yet if my read on Peter’s place in the night before Good Friday is reasonable, I detect a sliver of respectability in Peter’s disloyal hours: Peter was honest. Peter was angry. Perplexed and disappointed by Jesus’ anarchic actions, Peter had more questions than faith. When asked if his loyalty lay with Jesus, he would not lie. Honesty of any sort, even the treasonous kind, is better than deception. The one barrier to redemption is refusing to own up to the darkness that led us to our humble place. Such refusal will keep us from falling at the feet of grace, which is precisely where Peter finds himself several days following following his threefold denial.
When Jesus appeared to Peter after the Resurrection, he didn’t address Peter’s treachery. Jesus had obviously not been surprised by the denial; in fact he warned of its corming. Jesus did not offer Peter a theological treatise on doubt and faith. He did not chide Peter for his seditious acts. Jesus chose a more subversive path. Rather thai answer Peter’s many questions, Jesus proffered his own. Do you love me? It’s the sort of question that cuts to the center of things. It bypasses should and why and how could you. It digs deep for the rawest place. It is the sort of question that swallows you who] With Jesus, the question takes shape; it becomes flesh and bones.
It is this flesh-and-bone rawness, this rich humanity of Jesus, that meddles with our callous, constricted hearts. Jesus does not ask a question — of Peter or of us — merely as a mechanical apparatus to make a point. It is not just a rhetorical device, Jesus with his sterile bag of tools. Sometimes Jesus asks a question because he would really like to know the answer: Do we love him? It is a mystery how both true Divine knowledge and true human inquiry mingle in one man, one God. But they do. The ancient catechism insists as much. There is nothing more human, more honest, more open to friendship than a good soul-opening question. It cuts to the center, past the hubris. It carries love with it as it queries into our depth. And the question lingers until we answer.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008.

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Good Churchmen (via David Burke)

It was good to see David Burke at the General Assembly of Australia this week.
He and Paul Cooper were launching their book Read In The Light, a compilation of essays relating to the Declaratory Statement that the Australian Presbyterian Church adopted at its formation which formalises its understanding of certain aspects of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Anyway, David was reflecting on having heard of a couple of people being described as ‘churchmen.’
In a certain time that phrase may have described someone who seemed to have a higher loyalty to the institution of the church than to Jesus.
But David set himself the task of composing a positive formulation of what that description might mean.
“A good churchman is someone who sees and relates to the church in Christ. He is committed to the church through, in and for Christ. He values the church not in itself but as the body and bride of Christ. His loyalty to the church is conditional on and conditioned by his loyalty to Christ.”

Read his whole post at his blog.