God is the ultimate artist. All things natural and beautiful are the works of His hands and His creative spirit. God hung the stars (Job 9:9-11), he knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139: 13), he is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64: 8), he so clothed the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:30), and every word of the Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).
When we create, write, draw, sculpt, paint, or doodle, we are experiencing part of the nature of God that He put in us. Some of us have honed that skill with patience, practice, and tens of thousands of throw-aways. Some of us leave the artistry to God.
Art has been a part of the human experience from the beginning: telling stories, preserving ideas and experiences, instructing, admiring, and communicating through the generations.
In October and November, I will be preaching a series of sermons on some of the most famous biblical works of art etched into our cultural memory. The statue of David, Last Supper, Sistine Chapel, and Pieta might be some you’re familiar with along with the names Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and da Vinci.
Please join us as we explore the details of and stories behind the masterpieces that illuminate Scripture, the human experience, and the Holy Artist. With such a theme in mind, take the time to read all of Psalm 139 aloud right now - “marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” (v. 14) SK
Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. -Ephesians 4: 29
Have you ever heard the word “caustic?” Perhaps on a chemical cleaner or on a caution sign on the side of a semi? “Caustic” is an adjective that means something has the ability to burn or corrode. It usually happens pretty quick.
How about the word “Encaustic?” Probably not, unless you’re in the art world. Encaustic art begins with a flat surface or canvas. Heat is used to melt colored wax that will be poured line by line, dot by dot. Over a long period of time heating and cooling, the layers, lines, and colors eventually begin to come together as a picture. If paint is used, each layer must dry before the next is put on.
Caustic eats away quickly, and encaustic builds up slowly. I couldn’t help but read this passage with these related words coming to mind. Give it a try:
Let no caustic talk come out of your mouths, but only encaustic, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
When people we love might need correction, guidance, or wisdom, it’s real quick and easy to tell them everything they’re doing wrong and what they need to do instead to be a better person. Do those conversations tend to result in a quick and drastic turn around? Or do they usually sizzle the emotions and eat away at the person?
Paul’s encouraging a long game that looks more like waiting for paint to dry. Encaustic discipleship encourages a drawn out process of influence that builds up over many passes, varying colors, and preserves the relationship in a way filled with grace and beauty.
The kid’s song “God’s Still Working on Me” is no less true today than it was forty years ago. Week by week, lesson by lesson, God’s working on us with the same Encaustic method we’re talking about - building us up bit by bit. We may not feel like a piece of art because we’re a work in progress. We may not be able to even see the end result, but as He keeps dropping brush strokes and colorful layers, others might be able to see what He’s up to.
Let us treat others with the same holy approach.
See you at the art studio. -SK
I recently read a strange study done by scientists with mice. They put the mice in a cup of water to see how long they could tread water. On average, the mice lasted up to fifteen minutes. Before they drowned, the scientists dried them off and let them recover before putting them in the water again. How long would they last treading water the second time? Fifteen minutes? Ten? Five?
With the knowledge that being saved was a possibility, the mice tread water for sixty hours! Sixty! Hours! The lesson we can take from the experiment is that what we HOPE for can dramatically enhance abilities, strength, endurance and perseverance. When we don’t have a vision of hope, we can only last a fraction of what we are capable of with God.
Our little church had a vision of coming out of the pandemic stronger, and here we are gathering around the table with a renovated kitchen and fellowship hall, and worshipping in a simplified, brighter, and cleaner sanctuary. In this time, we’ve also had some new members join and plug right in!
But the vision of hope doesn’t stop there! We are putting together a directory with pictures so as we get new members it’s easier to remember their names, and easier to keep track of contact information for everyone in our growing family.
Also, a team is meeting over the summer to initiate an children’s ministry by the Fall. If you’d like to be involved, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other ideas and inspirations are swirling around, waiting on the Lord’s timing and direction, but I’m so excited that God is so evidently alive in our church body. Everyone can be involved in one way or another, even if it is through intentional prayer or special contribution. Even if it is to keep us in line with our goal always being within the wisdom of Psalm 127: 1 -
“Unless the Lord builds the house,
Those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.”
Let us always put the Lord first in our efforts and desires to serve Him and advance His kingdom! See you at the watering hole. SK
Bearing Fruit Update.
Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last - and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” - John 15: 16
As a church, we have dedicated this year as “The Year of Bearing Fruit.” During the strange year of 2020, we were given a pause to examine ourselves as individuals and as a church. It was much like the chance a gardener has to assess the fruitfulness and practices of the previous season during the winter months. The gardener tills, prunes, and makes plans for a better garden during this time.
During 2020, we initiated various changes to till, prune, and improve the grounds for the type of fruit bearing we are called to do.
Recognizing the need to be able to reach people at home, setting up for live streaming involved a number of things. The stage was cleared and cleaned to better emphasize the simple and important aspects of worship: communion, songs, and Scripture. The lighting on the stage and above the pews makes the whole environment brighter and more awake, and the very ability to stream the services makes it an option that if you can’t make it to church, you can still be a part of it. We pray the fruit of worship increases with less clutter and more light.
The kitchen and fellowship hall have been completely renovated, painted and updated. The stove can hold six big pots of soup, double oven keep up to eight casseroles warm - all while cooking three dozen eggs on the built in griddle! We have always been a church that thrives around the table, and now we have a kitchen and dining room that reflects it. We are prepared to bear the fruit of fellowship as we are better set up for Sunday breakfast, Fellowship suppers, senior game days, the bazaar, fundraisers, and other celebrations (graduations, showers, receptions, etc.).
Class rooms have been cleaned and cleared for continued bearing fruit in the active classes, and we are “tilling the soil” for a new bed of growing a children’s ministry. The playground area is being cleared and made safe for future plans of fellowship and play. And this summer, a team is being formed to germinate a vision for the kids.
To top it all off, we have planted two fig trees (that are already bearing fruit!) and six grape vines to commemorate this year of intentional effort to answer our call to bear fruit, fruit that will last. Let us not forget the second part of Jesus’ words amids all this, though! God is FOR us bearing fruit in His name and for His purposes. He says whatever we ask toward that purpose will be given. So let us close with this prayer:
Gracious God, we desire to bear fruit as individuals and as a church in this community. We ask for the wisdom, encouragement, finances, and patience it will take to bear YOUR fruit through us. We ask for your Spirit’s stirring in volunteers and leaders to do YOUR will in this work. Let it never be OUR work. And let us bear fruit that lasts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
See you at the garden. SK
“If only _______, I’d be able to serve God better.”
What do you fill in the blank with? If only I was younger? If only I was financially stable? If only I had the time, was stronger, smarter, less socially awkward. If only I was healthier, wasn’t such a worrier, knew what to do?
Sometimes we blame others or outside circumstances. If only so-and-so didn’t screw up my life, or such and such hadn’t happened. If only so-and-so came with me or so-and-so stayed home. If only the decorations were better, a/c cooler, heat hotter, and if only there was a better teacher.
Flip it around. “If only ________, God would be able to love me better.”
Sounds wrong doesn’t it. It is. God can’t love you any better because He’s the best and has the best love and there is nothing that would change the amount or quality of His love for us and desire for us to walk with Him in service and in joy.
And there is nothing you could “if only” to love God and others better. God has a plan for you right now, right where you are, in exactly the position you are in, with exactly the people that are around you, with exactly the problems you are facing and emotions you are dealing with. God has made you for exactly “such a time as this” (just like the story of Esther!).
But what about your “if only’s?” Don’t they count for something? Nope. Paul says in Romans 8: 28 that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” That means God can use every little bit of exactly how things are to work His purpose through you.
From the cradle to our youth, our heyday to the nursing home and to the grave, God’s glory can shine to us and through us. If only we took “if only” out of our vocabulary. And “would be able to.” And “better.” That leaves us with a simple sentence to live: “I serve God.” Much better. I do, too. Imperfectly, sometimes uglily, often awkwardly, but somehow beautifully.
“With humans none of it is possible, with God all things are possible.” Jesus said that. I’m so glad he loves you and has picked you exactly where you are to walk with him.
See you at the garden. SK
Your Christian faith is not to become a person who people admire as a good person. “Look at (insert your name here),” it might be good for our imagination to hear about ourselves, “they are so strong/smart/giving, and have such great character.” Or “They have the perfect family, a great marriage,” would also be so nice to hear.
It sounds like a reasonable end, and the Bible has certain rules and regulations that help get you there, right?
Nope, your Christian faith is not faith in a self-help plan.
The simple aim of your Christian faith is to allow Jesus to do his work through you in a world that needs him so much. And for Jesus to do his work through you, our faith allows him to do his work IN you. But for God to get IN us, our faith must accept and initiate and seek an ever increasing, sanctifying, atoning relationship with him.
It is the relationship with God that is the beginning and ends of our faith. Not the relationship with the world, or even others. But it just so happens that as we increase in relationship with Him, we do become a better person. But we’re not hoping for that recognition, we’re hoping people say instead, “I know Jesus better because he lives in (insert your name here).” And when they say, “I want what (Insert your name here) has,” they’re not talking about the things of this world, they’re talking about your relationship with God.
Jesus says, “Walk with me.” -Matthew 11: 29, 1 John 2: 6, etc. Faith trusts that invitation. Say yes like it was a friend inviting you jogging.
Jesus says, “Abide in me.” -John 15: 4-11. Jesus is the source of our life, the Word that gave us meaning. There is nothing in the world that can make us happy with our looks, health, status, or bring us true and lasting joy. The only and best satisfaction is when we receive everything we really need as a result of our strengthening relationship with our friend, the source.
Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” -Matthew 28: 19. This doesn’t have to be in fancy debate rhetoric, building houses, or sending money. None of that will matter anyway if you don’t make the first thing first: your relationship with God as HE walks out from your house into the world.
Seek Him in the morning, evening, and throughout the day. Talk to Him in prayer. Let Him sing to you through hymns and songs. Steep in Scripture as if He’s trying to tell you something. Increase in relationship with others who are close to Him. And pay attention to the things in your life and world that are trying to come between you and God, distract you from the search, and deter you from following that eternal dinner bell we have in Jesus calling us home.
See you at our friend and perfect Father’s house, at the table. SK
Brothers and sisters in Christ, I love you. I love our time together on Sundays. I love those of you at home or in other towns but on our mailing list. I want to share moments with each of you, eat meals together, go fishing, study the Bible, and just BE with you. Each of you reading this has found a place in my heart, and I want so much good for you.
This month we will be studying the book of 1 John with an investigative overlay of our year’s theme of “bearing fruit.” One of my favorite and most life impacting segments of Scripture can be found in 1 John 4: 7-21. This is where John tells us that “God is love.” See, as a lost teenager looking for truth, I didn’t believe in God because of the Christians around me that claimed to be representatives of God but bore bad fruit (not all of them, but enough to put a bad taste in my mouth). I DID, however, believe in love. This passage gave me hope, opened my mind to what the Bible had to say about God, and gave me something to strive for.
The last verse in this passage is, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love each other.” I have to tell you, in knowing you, that’s the easiest commandment I’ve ever heard.
But my love aches because we all don’t get to worship together every Sunday. It pains that we’re all working so hard that we can’t go fishing or share meals as often as I’d like. And it frustrates me that there’s not even enough time in a week or month to spend the time with ALL of you that it takes to make relationships fully bloom. There are so many things that keep us apart as time speeds by.
I am so glad, though, that I am not what unites us - Christ is. And I’m so encouraged that even though a thousand things may prevent our paths from crossing more frequently, Paul says it best in Romans 8: 38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And I am overjoyed at the thought that even with the depth of my love for you, it’s hardly a puddle compared to how much God loves you, desires to go fishing with you, dine at your table, study Scripture with you, share moments with you, and just BE with you. And He can, NOTHING will be able to separate you from God and His love - it’s who He is. See you at the garden. SK
Have you been getting our weekly email? For most of our email inboxes, there is an automatic filter that pushes incoming email into various places. Most personal messages from a personal email account goes directly into the “inbox.” Emails from twitter, facebook, or instagram go into “social.” Correspondence from companies or with numerous recipients usually end up in “promotions.” And then there’s the “junk” inbox, where all kinds of strange emails and scams congregate.
But sometimes the filters get it wrong! Sometimes a newsletter you want to read by your favorite author, musician, or club gets filtered and hidden away amongst the piles of promotions! (My favorite weekly is by author/friend Lois Olmstead www.timeoutwithlois.com). Sometimes a potential client, employee, or long lost friend ends up in “junk” because you’ve never received an email from them before. And sometimes, the church email with links to the service, important announcements, and words of encouragement gets filtered away and never opened - even if you wanted to!
It’s a great metaphor. God is ALWAYS trying to reach us, and uses various ways to do so! The author of Hebrews opens his letter reflecting on the past and present, “at many ties and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Today, he speaks through his Spirit (John 14: 26), yet like the people in the Old Testament who kept missing what God was saying and like the people who listened to Jesus in person but they still missed his points - and like humans SINCE, our brains have a tendency to filter some of God’s important messages into the wrong folder! Hebrews 2:1 still applies, “therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.”
Yes, if you are getting this message, you have a church that cares about you, wants to involve you, and enjoys the thought that you’re on the other end of every communication. Will you make sure today that our messages aren’t getting filtered away, and that we have your correct email?
But more importantly, use the metaphor to make sure God is in your appropriate inbox. After all, he is social, has a ton of people on his mailing list, is promoting the best product the world could ever see (redemption & salvation!), the world considers Him “junk,” and the devil will do anything he can to keep you from getting His Word.
See you in the inbox. SK
A lot of people are ready for 2020 to be behind them, and for many good reasons. But just changing a number, flipping the calendar, and taking a deep breath really doesn’t change anything. There is so much out of our control - COVID, politics, global and domestic unrest, deceit, and full blown information warfare. The world has been shaken, and we find ourselves on our knees. And on our knees is a great place to find our “self”, find God, and strengthen the bond between us.
Of all the things that are out of our control, there is one thing, one purpose God has called us to that He wouldn’t commission us unless we could: bear fruit. This year, we are going to intentionally focus on that end goal, why it is essential, what it means, how to act towards it, and what a fruit bearing person/church/community looks like. And we’re going to go for it.
Paul says in Galatians 5: 22-23 that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These are things that we could all use more of! But these are things we can’t self-motivate or force into action. They are results of a life connected to the vine (John 15: 1-17).
Growing fruit means that soil is sufficient, seeds are planted, time passes, water is given, light is shined and absorbed, time passes, branches are connected to the vine or trunk, leafy branches are pruned, time passes, flowers bloom, pollinators fertilize the seed, the flower closes and develops into a fruit. And the fruit - the love, the joy, the peace, et cetera are not meant to drop and rot away! They are meant to be life sustaining food for others!
So this new year, let us aim together, united (at home AND in church) at answering the call to action to bear fruit! It’s not a “New Year’s resolution,” that we try for thirty days like a diet and give up. It’s a “New Year All Year RESOLVE” to start with the soil with the fruit in mind.
And join me in bringing fruit to church to share, enjoy, and keep the focus on the purpose! See you at the garden! SK
Sean King is the Pastor for First Christian Church of Cisco.