The following words were spoken at the closing session of the 2014 Ministry Conference of the Evangelical Friends Church Mid America Yearly Meeting. They were presented by the Yearly Meeting Superintendent, Dr. David Williams, on July 27, 2014. A very special thank you to David, Matt Macy (Associate Director of Evangelical Friends Missions), and all those Friends whom participated in the formation of the document at the Ministry conference.
‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
We have a dream…
We have a dream of the gospel lived out…and that God would use us to do it.
We dream that whatever is true in Heaven be true on earth…in our local churches, in the communities where our churches serve, and in the family of churches called Evangelical Friends Church- Mid America Yearly Meeting.
We dream of the ethnic participation of our churches and larger gatherings reflecting the ethnic makeup of our communities. What if when we gathered as a church, we saw a vast crowd from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in worship together before the Lamb? What if they held palm branches in their hands, and in unity were shouting with a mighty shout, “Salvation comes from our God on the throne and from the Lamb!”
We have a dream of Jesus-followers being known as the most generous and live-giving people in the whole world. A church that is unstoppable, built by Christ, fueled by the Holy Spirit. Believing that what’s impossible to men is possible with God.
We have a dream that we as a family of churches would become known as Friends of sinners, where our churches would become places of forgiveness rather than judgment. What if we shared openly of our own weaknesses and stories of brokenness, and how God’s love and grace is so much greater! What if our neighbors were our friends and not our projects? What if the Word became flesh where we live, and also in the places where our unbelieving neighbors hang out? What if our co-workers and class-mates knew that we loved them as they are rather than as they ‘should be,’ but what if they also joined us side by side in this dream and pursuit of Heaven?
We have a dream of God’s Kingdom coming to heal the sick and the broken. Forgiveness of sins. Redemption. The homeless and hungry knowing that God cares, and has sent friends to help them. Prisoners and orphans and widows and the sick believing that their creator knows their name. Addictions falling away in the power of Jesus’ forgiveness. What if our churches were constantly celebrating recovery? Marriages and families growing stronger. Broken relationships being healed. What if one of God’s children was running the race, and fell, and couldn’t go on without help…and what if we stopped everything else for the sole focus of helping them continue across the finish line? What if we would lay our lives down for our friends?
We have a dream that every local church was actively participating with God in the process of making disciples. What if church culture changed from maintenance or preservation to multiplication? What if we knew exactly who God was sending us to, and we knew them by name? What if every church made at least one disciple in the next year, starting with non-disciples?
We have a dream that the youth in the church be equipped as disciple-makers. What if every day was like a mission trip? What if adults saw the children and youth of our churches as warriors in the Kingdom, and we walked with them and also sent them out? What if we gave more space for new expressions of the church lived out?
We have a dream that all of the small churches in EFC-MAYM felt truly loved. That big churches felt loved. That medium churches felt loved. What if each and every one of our churches understood clearly how to use the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? What if every church knew their significance in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth? What if believers and churches worked side by side to accomplish common dreams? What if we served the world around us with no concern about our growth, our reputation, or our benefit, accepting whatever fruit God gives us?
We have a dream, that our properties, personal and corporate, be used 24/7 to bless the community around us, and even be used for community objectives. What if we had no spare rooms in our homes or church buildings? What if we all knew our neighbors across the street, and down the road, and across the tracks and helped them with their needs? What if our churches were like store-houses for ministry? What if God restored the broken and we could hand them the keys to our church vans and even our church buildings?
We have a dream that our church would emerge in the neighborhoods where we live. And a deep sense of awe came over them all. What if all the believers lived in wonderful harmony, holding everything in common? And they sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met? What if they followed a daily discipline of worship in the temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God? And people in general liked what they saw! What if every day their number grew as God added those who were being saved?
Turn from your brokenness and turn to God, because we have really Good News that the Kingdom of Heaven is near!
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,[a]
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,[b]
but rescue us from the evil one.[c
Let us all join together to make this dream a reality.
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Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7 The whole point and purpose of this blog is to encourage a deeper and more satifying life of prayer. I do not claim to be a great biblical scholar or a spititual guru who can direct you into some deeper realm of yourself but I can walk with you as we proceed down a similar path. The method I use is a hybrid of sorts. I have sat with spirital directors that have introduced me to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatious of Loyola, I have engaged in Lectio Divina, I have sat in silence and meditated on Christ within. All of which are great tools but geared around a lifestyle of a monk. I would love to be a monk but my wife may not appriciate it as much as me.
All of the various traditions I have studied require time. Time is probably the scarest resource in your life. Time is the one things that every human gets equally,we are all alloted twenty-four hours each day. And out of those twenty-four hours we determine what activities are important to us and we divide our day out into a schedule. Sleep gets eight hours, work eight hours, I will eat a couple of meals which will take around 3 hours, and around 2 hours of driving I have already scheduled 21 of my hours leaving three hours of my day open. I am already tired. I am sure you understand what is going on. In basically 3 short hours we are trying to fit in shopping, family, games, television, reading, soccer practice, intimacy, homework, the list will continue on and on. We are to put into a window of 3 hours everything about our lives other than mere survival. It is no wonder that our culture is plagued with depression, fatigue,and anxiety. We do way too much. Our days are filled with hobbies and entertainments to the point we are nearing a breaking point.
We cannot fit our “life” into the 3 hour window so we cut out a meal, gaining an hour, we stay awake and only sleep for 6 hours instead of the recomended 8 and we gain 2 more hours. Now we have 3 extra hours to spend in helping your son with math or your daughter with her dribbling skills. But what is the cost? We have 24 hours in a day. At first it sounds like plenty. I could get so much done in 24 hours…yet I don’t. Time management is important. But what does this have to do with prayer or a life with God? If you have only three hours a day to do everything outside of basic survival what will you invest your time in? If you are like me you look at the time requirements of the spiritual excercises and you think where will I get the time to spend five hours in prayer? So we turn away from these activities an instead we invest the minutes of our day else where. We are spread so thin in the time department that businesses have made billions of dollars on calanders, planners, and apps to assist us in our time management.
I encourage you to utilize these tools. Because if you plan out your day you may find a few extra minutes hiding between breakfast and bed. I mention this only because I realize time is valuble. The lack of time in our lives can cause incredile stress and illness. Yet time was created by God for us. That is what I where my mind goes as I am using my few minutes to pray. According to the creation story, the week is split into seven cycles of light and dark, and within those cycle various things happened: the creation of light, water, land, trees, bugs, whales, horses, and humanity. Then there was one day set aside to do nothing. One day set aside to enjoy what was created the week before. Have we ever really considered the amazing love and grace God had to encourage us to take one day, one 24 hour period of time in a week to not do anything beyond enjoying the world around you. This is the first thing to consider as we pray and reflect on the scriptures today. We were given one full day to rest and enjoy our family, friends, and God. Why do we then fill that day with the business we carry on during the other 6 days?
The thing about that seems to pop out at me in this scripture is that God is there with us. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” God is with us every hour of the day. How often do we take time to recognize this? We spend all but 3 hours of our day working, sleeping, and eating. When we have a break we only want to rest to do something that does not require us to perform. Then we wonder why does God seem so far away?
Jesus said once that he is the bread of life, that if you were to eat of His flesh and to drink of His blood then you would have life. For many this statement points to the mystery of the eucharist or communion. But let us think about this in our daily life. Around 3 hours of our day is spent prepairing and consuming food stuffs. One of the most powerful spiritual disiplines is a fast, where instead of investing the time in eating we invest in prayer. Three hours a day we focus on bread. What if you were to use a portion of this time to focus on your relationship with God?
What if while you are eatng your breakfast (Which you should do) you were to read a portion of scripture and just spend some time reflecting on that passage. And while you are drinking your coffee, talking with Jesus about it. I did this today I sat reflecting on Isaiah 43 while I ate my bowl of Quaker Oats, it is amazing at how that set the course for my day.
Then at lunch the second meal of the day reflect again examining your life in more detail while you and Jesus engage again with the passage. What does it mean to you to know that God formed you? Does it actually help you face your work day by knowing that God has redeemed you? As you eat your ham salad sandwich what is Jesus saying to you? He is with you while you eat. Feeding you the bread of life.
Imagine, you have just spent around 2 hours in prayer. Two hours with God. If you have spent this time reflecting on Isaiah 43 consider how percious that relationship with God is becoming now that you have spent 2 hours eating with Him? If you were to do this a few days a week would you notice a change in your relationship?
This is my challange to you, I challange you to spend your breakfast and lunch with God eating of the bread of life. Now you know my personal excersises for spiritual development. I eat with God. And after that time I will continue to reflect on our conversations and I then write my reflections down. This is just a small way that I have found to encourage my spiritual development. We are all busy and to imagine adding more things to our schedules scares us, but our reationship with God is important. I encurage you each to find a way to spend time with God. If you need help contact a pastor or spiritual director to help, if fact I encourage you to do this as well. Have lunch with one and together see what God is doing in your lives as you eat.
A life with God is as simple as eating bread. Yet it is the most important thing to do. He is walking with us as we work and walk down the paths of life and time, when we take th tim to share with Him we will then begin to recognize how amazing His love for us truly is.
Scripture: Ephesians 3:1-12
I have been sick for nearly a week. I hate being sick because when I am sick I miss out on life around me. I could not go to watch the Hobbit with my wife and son, because I was at home sick. To be restricted from something is not all that fun.
Or is it? In today’s passage I was struck by Paul’s excitment for being a prisioner. He is excited to be restricted from life. Does this strike you as odd? We can take a logical approach that he was excited because he was imprisioned do to his strongly held beliefs, and the excitment comes from firmly standing on his principles. Which is a good approach. I think it is even a correct answer. He is excited to be sitting in prision because of the mysteries of Christ.
There is an excitment that builds when you pursue the right cause even if the culture around you finds it wrong. In the past few years I have become more entrenched in the core values held by the Society of Friends: the values of simplicity, peace, integrety, community, and equality. I have latched on to these values because I see them as being right something worth holding onto. I believe that it is right to promote a life lived in simplicity so that I can free more of the tools God has given me to serve Him in His kingdom. I have come to realize that even though my nation is at war, the promotion of life and peaceful means of resolving conflict is important. Not because I think that all war will end right away but because I firmly believe that there is a way to make peace without killing innocent life. As I listen to and watch news programs I realize that honesty and integrety has lost value in our culture, as I see people from all sides crying about the other while both are participating in the same actions. I drive along the streets and see buildings being torn to pieces by people just haveing a good time, and the community just sitting back expecting someone else to do something about it. And in that same breath blaming others for their problems.
Simplicity, Peace, Integrety, Community, and Equality. They are ideas true, but they are the ideals that I am called to pursue. These are the ideals that I find sum up the essences of what the Kingdom of God is all about. They are the spice of life, the salt of the earth. Even in a world that seems so empty of theses values I have a desire, a longing, a passion really to do everything I can to bring it about. It is a mystery. I cannot explain why I have this desire, but just as mysteriously I do not want to force my values onto anyone else.
There is a liberty in this restriction! That is why Paul I excited to be in the chains for his God. He has tasted the spice of life, life in he most pure sense and he willingly does what ever he can to share that with others. Paul did everything to pursue this life and to share this life. He did not force anyone to submit to his vision. He was actually beaten and imprisioned because others opposed his views and still he was excited.
As I pray, and as I recover from illness I wonder if I have ever really had that type of passion? Would I truly totally pursue the values that I have grown to love to such a degree that I would be willing to lose everything for them, even my freedom? Am I so sure that the mystery in God that I have found is so much stronger than ay other aspect of life that I can freely give myself and everything around me over to Him mknowing that He will take care of me? Would I willingly stand before murderous humans and willingly share what I have found to be most meaingful to me?
Deep questions…questions that I would venture each of us would answer similarly at first. I want to say yes I am willing, but then I must ask what have I done to bring the spice of life to the world around me? How many resources did I invest in improving my community, or how have I actually tried to promote peace in a war torn world? You see we are not prisioners of Christ, but we are all really bound by the world. We have passions but those passions are not bound in the mysteries of God but in the strength of mankind.
Well I’m tired of being sick, and I’m tired of not being excited by the mysteries of God. So what am I going to do? Well that is where the life of prayer comes in. I cannot do anything alone. Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” If I say that I believe that then maybe I should start living it. I will pray using the scripures, letting the words whirl around in my head, and let the Spirit of God direct them into the very center of my heart. And out of the quiet place of prayer, I will then ask for the strength to change.
We have passions, but let our passions be directed by God. We have desires, let our desires be full of God. We have hope because God have provided that hope to us. Let us be willing to lose it all for the mystery that is Christ.