Category: Meditations

Meditations – September 12, 2018

By Pastor Nathan Richardson  Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Ways to grow – Part 2
When I was growing up I had a go to person to ask for advice or to request prayer. His name was Dave. He was my youth pastor. I look back at him and say he was also a mentor. Throughout life we will have mentors whether it in an official capacity or not. I believe we all need someone to mentor us. It helps as an act of encouragement or one who challenges us to take the next step. This person can pray for and stand up for you. I once read a mentor is “one who walks with the student part of the way, then stops and points out the rest of the journey.” I like the simplicity of this defining quality. The mentor shows us the way but is only there when we invite him back on the path.
In Luke 8, Jesus shares a Parable about different types of soil, and how the soil reacts to the seed being planted. The first is a beaten down path so the seed is eaten by birds before it takes root. The seed is the Word of God and the path is an example of someone who hears the gospel but it goes in one ear and out the other and never really rests in the heart of the individual.
The second is planted amongst the rocky soil. The seed grows but eventually withers because of the lack of moisture. The seed was never able to take root. This shows an example who believed the gospel but eventually fall away. Maybe the person did not take faith as their own and lived it through the experiences of others, or during a time of testing the fall away because their faith had never taken root.
The third seeds are planted among the thorns. The plants grew up but were choked by the thorns. They may have accepted the gospel but life’s worries or distractions of the world destroyed their faith.
The last seeds were planted in a good soil and yielded a crop 100x more than was sown. This is an example of someone who has read and trusted the gospel of Jesus, they live and embody the life of a disciple. Even when they face struggle they persevere by allowing God’s strength to cover their weaknesses.
Do you ever wonder why faith sticks with some and not others? I have seen many friends walk away from faith. Why them and not me? I believe the answer lies in who and what we surround ourselves with. It is in what we spend our time doing by reading and watching therefore impacting us on a deeper level. Jesus set an example of community which allows us to see how it could be done.
Jesus spent the majority of his time during his ministry with twelve people. He gave them a call to Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. For the next three years they were together a lot. When Jesus taught, they were there. When Jesus healed, they were by his side. When Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, fed the 5000 and predicted his death, they were witnessing the miracles.
The disciples had a group to grow with. We all need a group. Having a group of Christians helps us to live life together. A group encourages and challenges one another to take the next steps of faith. If you look in the sky later you are bound to eventually see geese flying south. They will be in a flying v formation. The v helps the geese save a lot of energy similar to a race car saving gas by driving behind another car. The geese are able to fly longer distances at one time; I have read up to 70% more. The v also helps them keep visual contact with one another. This keeps them from wandering off and becoming lost. Just like the geese we are stronger and better together. We all need a group.
We also need a few to be accountable to. Sometimes it is hard to open up to a larger group, but it is easier to be real with 1-3 others. Jesus set this example with three of the disciple; Peter, James, and John. He was vulnerable with them during the transfiguration revealing to them more who he was and the voice of the Father declared in Matthew 17:5, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When Jesus eventually left the disciples so he could send his Holy Spirit, he gave them the words to “Go and make disciples.” This commission is for us just as much it was for the eleven disciples. We were meant to pass on our faith through encouragement and equipping others for ministry. We all need one to mentor. So as we close today ask yourself these three questions.
Who is your group?
Who are your few?
Who is your one?
Now is the time.

Meditations – September 5, 2018

By Pastor Nathan Richardson  Heartland Community Church, La Porte City
Ways to Grow
There comes a time in every young person’s life when you feel like you have finally arrived, where life seems so good it could not be any better. For my son, Tedy, it was when he was tall enough to go down the big slide at the LPC Aquatic Center. He loved it so much he spent the next ninety minutes on the waterslide.
We all grow. Growth is necessary but we are unable to control the growth process. We must start to see growth differently than we do now. For example there is more than one way to grow. Even Jesus himself grew, Luke 2:52 says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” This passage describes four different ways of growth. I would like to break them down for you in a new way.
Stature- High Chair/Physical Growth-High chairs are used to help feed babies. Babies grow by a physical growth. Is the church like a high chair? Yes, but high chairs are temporary. Eventually the baby will outgrow the high chair. The baby will learn to feed themselves. It would be awkward to see a 40 year old being spoon fed in a high chair. You have to be careful as a high chair faith can lead to a lazy, unhealthy, narcissistic faith. There must be more than a high chair and spoon fed faith.
Wisdom- Desk Chair/Mental Growth- Desk chairs are used by students to learn. Students grow through information. Is the church similar? Yes, but a desk chair is also temporary. Eventually a student graduates but hopefully does not stop learning. The role of education is to teach a student the ability to continue growing for a lifetime. However if not focused a learning driven faith leads to works driven and prideful faith. Faith is more than attaining knowledge. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 confirms, “knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.”
Favor with God- Pew/Spiritual Growth- Pew’s are where people sit during a worship experience. In spiritual growth people grow in the heart. However just because you sit in a pew on Sunday’s it is not an automatic heart change. The danger is sitting in a pew becomes just another thing we do, but never impacts your life. The second danger is that your heart becomes legalistic thinking your way is the best or even only way. The pew is also temporary. You may sit in it an hour or two a week. The real test is if your faith is actually lived out when you are not sitting in a pew.
Favor with Man- Piano Bench/Relational and Application Growth- A piano bench is special, it is meant for two people. The teacher and the student sit side by side as the teacher demonstrates. There is a relationship of one pouring into the other. Then as the student grows is able to play the piece on their own. The student practices, the teacher gives advice, the student applies the advice and grows. Eventually the student may grow enough and be able to move into a teaching role.
This is what it is meant to be a disciple. Jesus came alongside each one. Walked with them, taught them and there was transformation. Then Jesus released them to make disciples. Each disciple eventually makes disciples. It was always part of Jesus’ plan for us to be in the role of disciple maker. Now talk to your Pastor to see how you can make disciples.

Meditations – August 29, 2018

By Christopher Simon
Incarnation
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” ~ John 1:14 NIV
The doctrine of the incarnation in Christianity refers to the notion that God became man in the person of Jesus, and thereby became embodied. We sometimes forget that God had a human body. Catholics should be reminded of this every time they look at a crucifix. There is indeed a body there!
The incarnation is pregnant with meaning and significance, including the fact that Mary was literally pregnant with Jesus and that He had to be born just like every other person. And everything that is born must also die.
As Sir Thomas Browne so eloquently put it, “With what strife and pains we come into the world we know not, but ’tis commonly no easy matter to get out of it.”
Among other things, the incarnation means that God understands our physical suffering. It also entails that our bodies are something we share with God. We can use our senses to taste and see the goodness of the Lord, and to imagine what Jesus experienced.
An interesting way to make the stories of the Bible more real is to imagine what the experience was like that is being described, whether it is Jesus having his last meal with his disciples, or Paul being shipwrecked in the Mediterranean. We miss something important when we think of ourselves as only minds or spirits that happen to be in a body. We are essentially embodied creatures, and so is our God.
 

Meditations – August 22, 2018

Against the philosophers
“But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NIV
Philosophy, or intellectual inquiry and criticism, has its place in a well-ordered mind, and in civil society as well. But philosophical analysis is often inferior to experience and intuition in the spiritual realm.
The French philosopher Blaise Pascal perhaps putit best, “The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith: God felt by the heart, not by the reason.”
Pascal is famous for his work in mathematics and philosophy, but he had a brush with death at the age of 31 which is sometimes linked to his religious views. The experience occurred when the horses pulling his carriage went over the side of a bridge. Pascal was thrown from the carriage, and wasn’t badly hurt, but the carriage hung precariously over the edge of the bridge. A few weeks after this experience, Pascal had a religious vision, which he recorded on parchment and kept with him always (sewn into his clothes) and which was only discovered upon his death.
The parchment said “Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars…I will not forget thy word. Amen.” Pascal realized that intuition and direct experience are often superior to reason.
The Irish philosopher and bishop, George Berkeley, said of philosophers “We have first raised a dust and then complain we cannot see.” Philosophize as you will, but learn from your heart as well as from your mind.

Meditations – August 15, 2018

By Christopher Simon
Love and belonging
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”   ~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV
In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the need to be loved and to belong lies midway between our physiological needs and our need to self-actualize. Love and belonging are thus partly physical and partly spiritual. We are social animals, animals who are built to function best in groups and who don’t do well
when cut off from others. Hormones such as oxytocin help create bonds between mothers and their children and between loving partners, which perhaps explains why it hurts so much when we are separated from our loved ones.
 But in addition to the physical aspects of belonging, there is something inherently spiritual about love and belonging. We are inextricably connected to others by something bigger, i.e., love and compassion. We fulfill the need for love and belonging through our friendships, through our families, and through intimacy.
 Unfortunately, modern lifestyles often require people to move away from their friends and families for work, and although phones and computers can help us to stay connected, they can also lead to social isolation. Loneliness, social anxiety and depression are a serious problem in most modern societies, and we do well to remember that love and belonging are central to both a healthy society and to the individuals that make up society. Nurture your relationships with family, friends, and partners.

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