God’s All Inclusive Call

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“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you.” John 15:17

It’s not so much that we chose him, it’s very much that he chose us. Here’s three things you can choose from that are relevant to our call as Christians.

The first is last week’s Nine to Five podcast was with the Executive Director of the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.  It was so good, that we broke it into two parts.  This is the first part.

Hugh Whelchel discusses God’s job description for us and the role of work, integrating life with work, and starts a discussion on God’s peace and what that looks like in a fallen world.

We also posted a blog Hugh Whelchel wrote that gives a little more biblical background on God’s peace and What Perfect Shalom Looks Like.

Finally, here’s a link to an earlier blog on our significance in God’s plan.

 

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More Blessing, Less Cursing

ben-white-148430-unsplash (2)John was having a particular difficult time finding what he wanted at Fleet Farm, until he met Kathy.  She was eager to help him and give him the time he needed, including checking the warehouse stock, getting the item, and helping him put it in the cart.  Besides telling Kathy how much he appreciated her, John decided to tell the store manager.

He found another clerk who had to go to the manager’s office and tell him there was a customer who wanted to talk to him.  Seeing the manager approach, John could tell from his face he was expecting an angry encounter.

As John began to laud accolades on his employee, the manager’s demeanor changed. He told John he would use this story at an upcoming employee meeting.

A Total Wine Encounter

Prior to John telling me this story, I had witnessed him in action. I was making a quick pickup at our local Total Wine.  We greeted each other, shared how good it was to run into each other, and then took off in our separate direction.

Unknown to John, as I wandered through the aisles, I saw him three more times. Each time he was engaged with either a store clerk or a customer.  When I was in earshot I could tell they weren’t talking shop.  John was taking genuine interest in the person and they were each enjoying the engagement.

The Art of Blessing

Christians have a unique ability to bless those around us.  The concept “to bless” comes from the Latin bendicere, which literally means, “to speak well of”.

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Who Is People of Praise?

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A People of Praise community barbecue in Shreveport, Louisiana. (Photo by Andy Bowar)

During Amy Coney Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Dianne Feinstein told her that her Christian “dogma lives loudly in you.”

Certain media mentioned a group that my wife and I are a part of, People of Praise. Their coverage and word choices did not put our community in a favorable light. From my own perspective and experience, their inferences did not at all reflect any understanding of who we are.

Now with Judge Barrett one of the top mentions for the upcoming Supreme Court nomination People of Praise has come up.  If your interested in a clearer perspective, click read more for three links that should be helpful. Continue reading

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Pay Attention and Don’t Slouch!

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“Tan Tuddy (Tan Toodie)!”, the Jamaican teacher calls to the students. You hear this phrase frequently in a crowded classroom where one small desk accommodates three students. The language is the native tongue, Patwa, and means “stand sturdy” as in “pay attention and don’t slouch”.

Because of the crowded conditions and the busy activity of others, it’s easy for students to become distracted and miss what the teacher’s about.

It’s the same way in our world. Life is chaotic, busy, and stressful. Contradicting voices speak to us. It’s easy to be distracted from what really matters. If we don’t “stand sturdy”, we miss what God is doing in our lives and how he might want to use us.

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Love Himself Never Grows Old

niagara Michelle Rosen

Note: Pentecost Sunday is a special day in our community (People of Praise).  Each year we pray with each other for more of the Holy Spirit.  In our local branch, I was asked to share an encouragement before this occurred.  This is what I said.

A personal joy recently has been witnessing a young man’s experience in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Luke and I were at a Christians in Commerce conference.  One evening we held a prayer meeting.  We told everyone there would be an opportunity to be prayed with for more of the Spirit.

Early in the meeting, Luke turned to me and said, “I’m ready now.” He was prayed with.  While he experience a new joy in the moment, it was over the next few months he felt the difference.

  • Past struggles with Morning Prayer were gone. He now craved conversation with God, not just in the morning but also throughout the day.
  • More and more priorities at home and at work were being influenced and guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • In difficult situations, he was quick to seek God’s wisdom. A new understanding and knowledge of what to do.
  • And, he was seeing other people differently. He was seeing them with the eyes of Christ.

It’s been great walking alongside.  His newfound fervor and enthusiasm has been infectious – to coworkers, family, and friends.

We all have memories of when this was all so new.  Three points come to mind.

Because Newness is Gone Doesn’t Mean It Grows Old!

The newness may be gone; but something more has taken it’s place.  Something richer and deeper.  The Spirit has proven himself over and over again. You know what I’m talking about.

The Spirit has done it in good times and he’s done it in bad times.  Because of this, it’s never grown old.  It’s only gotten better.  Today, we have a greater confidence God loves us then when we first began. And we know a greater love for God. The reason is the second point.

The Holy Spirit is Love’s breath. Love Himself.

After the resurrection, Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, “Receive my Holy Spirit.” Like the first disciples, the Holy Spirit is the air we breathe. And, the air we breathe is Love Himself.

Scripture tells us “God is love”. Where true love is, there is God. And the Holy Spirit is actually Love’s breath. Let me explain.

God breathed his Spirit into us. The Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son personified. It’s an actual person in the Trinity. Love Himself.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes our life in God and with each together possible.  It is this gift of Love Himself that has proven himself time and time again. And, here we are surrounded by other Christs participating in the pouring out of his love on each other.

We breathe this air together, this air of love. The deeper we breathe it in the more we know this is from God.  As John says in his Epistle, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”  We are drawn into the very life and being of God through the Holy Spirit.

This is the life we share together. The air we breathe.  Love realized. Love personified. Love quantified in our lives.  In the ups and downs of daily living.  In the trials of a fallen and broken world.  In our friendships, our areas, our relationships, our neighborhoods and on the West Side. In our outreach, Trinity Schools, missionary work, Marriage in Christ, Christians in Commerce.

All driven by Love’s Breath – the Holy Spirit – Love Himself.

“What the World Needs Now” is this Love!

Personally and together, we know there’s always room for more of this love – the love of God, the self-giving, sacrificial love of God. Life in the Spirit can always use refreshing.  Whether we’ve let it grow stale through our own neglect.  Or, have gotten lost in life’s demands.  Or, just want not to take it as much for granted.

We live in a world filled with factions, conflict, and anger.  By turning it’s back on God, the world is suffocating itself and cutting off its “oxygen”.  What the world needs is more of us breathing God’s great love. And breathing that love into the world, radiating the fruit of the Spirit.

This is our time and place.  As Christians in this world, we need to breathe in deep!  As we inhale Love Himself, let the Spirit fill our spiritual lungs, oxygenate our blood, fuel our lives, and pour God’s love out on our world.

Today let us fill our lungs with the breath of God. The Holy Spirit has more to give. He’s inexhaustible.  He says come. Open your hearts even more. Jesus says, “Come, let me breathe on you. Receive my Spirit.  Love Himself.”

Photo: Michelle Rosen

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Creating New Spaces for Life and Blessing

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Mark is a psychiatrist working at a facility for adolescents in Northern Wisconsin.  Their behavioral problems are serious enough that they reside in a locked, secure facility where they can spend from one to twelve months.

Mark likes the work. The kids are a challenge but Mark has hope on their behalf.  There may be society and family challenges that seem overwhelming, but there’s also youthful energy and the possibility for new beginnings for a young person.

It’s pretty common for these young people to be entrenched in a defiant and oppositional stance.  It was no surprise to Mark to enter the male unit and find a sixteen year old boy in an argument with a nurse about the existence of God.

The boy’s parents are serious-minded Christians.  They expected that a conversion towards God would be evidence he was making progress. The boy knew that by resisting their religious beliefs he was irritating them and exacting revenge from what he viewed as injustice from his parents.

The nurse was a devout Christian and she was approaching him with arguments based in scripture.  Mark watched from a short distance away and observed as the conversation deteriorated.  The young man only grew more insistent that he didn’t believe in God and did not want anything to do with him.

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The Grandfather I Never Knew

Ellis Beebe Maternal Grandfather

Last week was the first time I had seen a photo of the man who was my maternal grandfather. Let me introduce you to Ellis (Al) Beebe, jazz bandleader, composer, playboy, and bigamist.

I knew my grandmother very well, though we never talked about Grandpa Ellis.  I could not imagine her having a former husband who had spent time in Leavenworth.  And, I had heard whispers that he might have even been connected with Al Capone.

To me my grandmother was a devout Catholic, a wonderful person who, as young boys, let us climb in bed with her so she could read us the Sunday comics.

She was self-sufficient, played a mean piano, and headed the housekeeping at the Minneapolis Club.  She did have strong opinions and wasn’t shy about sharing them. She was a strong-spirited woman, who was very generous and a tremendous support to our mother after our father died at 46, leaving seven children behind.

At her funeral, I was asked to give the eulogy.  As it ended, I had to pause and gain composure as I quoted the parable of the talents.  “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:21)

While I had a front row seat on how my grandmother’s life had turned out, until last week, I had few details where my grandfather’s life had gone.

On February 27, 2018, the Kansas City Archives featured my grandfather on their #TrueCrimeTuesday.  My cousin Betsy’s research uncovered the story and she passed it on to my brother, Tony, and his wife who are writing a book on our genealogy.

While the contrast between my grandmother and grandfather’s life is startling, there was certainly a time when their two lives came together.  It was the “Roaring Twenties”.  Ellis had a jazz band and my grandmother was a talented piano player.  And here’s their story. Continue reading

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