Food for Thought-5 Ideas to Improve Your Prayer Life

5 Ideas to Improve Your Prayer Life

1. Cut your prayer time in half and focus more on God. Talk less about yourself, your needs, your issues, your concerns and focus solely on God’s goodness.
2. Prayer is about persistence. How persistent can you be about doing step number 1?
3. As our bodies tell us when we are hungry and thirsty; our souls tell us when we need to pray. There are times when God slows us down. There are moments in our lives when we feel a need to be as close to God as possible.
4. Prayer is not solely about listening or talking. It’s also about doing. Take some action on your prayers. Do something about your joys, concerns, and celebrations. Go see someone, visit someone, or call a friend. Turn your prayer into a three-dimensional living reality.
5. Tell people you are praying for them. If you’re praying for people, don’t hesitate to say it, “hey, I’m praying for you.”

Food for Thought-Five Good Things You Could Do Today

1. Make the time to have a meaningful conversation with a someone today.
2. Remember that today is a miracle.
3. Say thank you for the smallest and most seemingly insignificant of courtesies.
4. Write a plan for what you can do tomorrow that is different from today.
5. Watch a little less TV and read something that expands your mind. Find some way to invest in your future today.

Food for Thought-Richard’s 5 Evangelism Ideas

Richard’s 5 Evangelism Ideas

1. Emphasize we’re asking for one hour (or less) per week. That’s all. Put a basic church commitment into perspective for people. They give much more time to much less important stuff.
2. Lower expectations. It’s not going to be Mass at St. Peter’s or a mid-western mega-church. It’s going to be 100 or so if your neighbors singing, praying, talking, and listening. It will be like an interactive meeting where people aren’t afraid to laugh or cry. If people are afraid to laugh or cry, then I’m sorry, you might be doing something wrong.
3. If they haven’t been in a while, make sure they know church is nothing like it was when they were last there in 1979. If after attending, people do think it’s like it was in 1979, you might need to head back to the drawing board.
4. Try to make everything you do user friendly. You can do this without changing a bunch of names or eradicating concepts altogether. Use your head. Just give good explanations. Have decent signs. Answer questions clearly and concisely without going on for hours.
5. Invite people to church for the most regular and hum drum services. You want people to see you at your ordinary best.

Food for Thought-Matthew 16 and the Messianic Secret

5 Thoughts on Matthew 16:21-28 and the Messianic Secret

1. It’s not a secret if it’s an observable fact. Jesus tells his disciples to tell no one that he is not the Messiah; yet Jesus continues to do messiah like things. There is no messianic secret when the reality is an observable fact.
2. Sternly warning the disciples to tell no one that Jesus is the Messiah is like James Bond warning a call-girl not to tell her bad guy employer she just hooked up with James Bond of Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Jesus knows there are going to be some leaks. He needs there to be some leaks in order to test how many friends (or enemies) he may have in high places. In other words, as word trickles out to the bad guys, does he have in friends on the inside? As we’ll see, he does.
3. We need to become more comfortable with mystery. If Jesus has things he wants to hold back, that’s obviously Jesus’ business. Sure, we’d like to know. But we need to realize, there are some things about Jesus that we will never understand.
4. People like feeling like they are in the know. Especially when it comes to being the custodians and keepers of knowledge. People feel important when you give them a secret to keep. Jesus wants us to feel included and part of the team. Even if the secret is not really a secret, just an observable fact.
5. If Jesus tells you his secret and the plan relating to his secret. Just go with it. He’s probably put a great deal of thought into this plan. Our knee-jerk reactions don’t really help matters. Jesus is looking for forward thinking people who will be willing to accompany him through suffering and death. Not those who want to second guess everything and talk stuff to death. He’s interested in people who want to live until they die; not talk utter nonsense to the point of the death. There is a difference.

Food for Thought-A New List of Fears

I am working on a new list of fears,
Ebola,
Rheumatoid Arthritis,
Drinking the wrong beer,
Being shot by a white dude,
Getting fat,
Finding out my credit score,
Am I buying the right dog food?
Waking my wife when I snore,
Having my head cut off in some feud,
Should I eat more health food?
Are my nonexistent dentures coming unglued?
This is more than I can handle,
I’m going to light a fireless candle,
For I’m terribly afraid,
Of what might come about,
If a blaze were to burn out of control,
Especially since I’m writing on a totem pole.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Arnold Horshack in Caesarea Philippi-A Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20

Arnold Horshack in Caesara Philippi

A Sermon on Matthew 16:13-20

Richard Bryant

How would you answer the question, “Who are you?” It’s actually harder than you think. Jesus wanted to know, “who do people say I am?” In this country, we’ve got a whole subsection of the genealogy industry devoted to helping the famous and not so famous find out who they are and who others say they are. That is because we value identity. It matters to people where you come from, who your parents are, what house you were raise in, and especially in a place like this. I’m going to preach now. People put a value on having been born and raised on this island over those who have not been or came after they left their momma’s womb in some mainland hospital. This distinction exists. You could go to a tiny little island off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada and hear the exact same discussions about how you’ll never be considered a local, probably word for word. This is because we’re not as unique as we think we are, and yet we’re all individual, wonderful human beings on a quest to find out who we are, in relation to each other and to God.

Many people, if asked, to define themselves, would go to their Facebook page. Like it or not, whether you have a computer of not, that’s how most people define themselves to the world, whether they are 9 or ninety. That’s where you’ll find their profile, their family albums which once sat in stacks under the coffee table (or on shelves in the closet) , their favorite books, movies, and songs. When you go and look at someone’s Facebook page, you realize it is more than a question of simple identity. It is a composite of many factors that creates of mosaic like picture of who this individual is.

If you were to go to my Facebook page, what would you see? Who am I? Who do people say that I am? I am many things. It would tell you that I am my family. You would see things about my friends and my experiences. You would see things about the church. You would see some poetry and crazy pictures. But does that tell the whole story? But none of that is all of me; it’s part of me. It reflects parts of portions of me. For instance, nowhere on my Facebook page do I say anything about my love of Jazz improvisation and taking pop hits (say those from the Dave Clark Five) and turning them into smooth jazz piano classics. No matter how hard you look, it’s just not there.
This is because out identities are not about stuff. Our identities, as people and Christians, are ultimately defined by what we believe. The best example of this in modern Christian time is the Amish. The Amish have nothing, in the most practical sense of modernity. They have only what they need. Yet they live, are known, and are defined by their beliefs. Their lack of a belief in a modern sense of identity defines them. They are what they believe. Identity is about belief.

So when Jesus asks the disciples (and the group), “Who do people say that I am,” he’s also asking, what do people think I believe? And in another way, he’s also asking, “What do people believe about me?”

In modern political parlance, you might call this a focus group. He wants to know what people really think. He wants to go beyond what they go get off of the Facebook pages, Twitters, on village yard gossip of the day. The common knowledge, the stuff that was unique from Ocracoke to Nova Scotia, to Mauritius, he didn’t want to know. He wanted to know, what were people saying that they weren’t posting on the internet and that they weren’t talking about in public. Tell me that stuff!

One of my favorite television shows from the 1970’s (and really of all time) is Welcome Back Kotter. You probably know the premise. Gabe Kaplan came back to Brooklyn to teach in old high school. One of his students, Arnold Horshack, had a very distinctive laugh as well as an insistent manner in which he answered questions. If you know it, do it with me. “oooh oooh, Mr. Kotter, Mr. Kotter” Horshack always wanted to be called upon.

I like to imagine the disciples as group of first century sweathogs with Peter, particularly in this passage, just nailing Arnold Horshack.

Jesus asks, who do they say I am? Peter goes into full Horshack mode, “ooooh Jesus, I Know, ooooh Jesus, I know.”

Jesus gets back, what may seem to our ears, three rather random answers. But on closer inspection, not really:

Some say you’re Elijah
Some say you’re Johnny B
Some say you’re Jeremiah

Those are the greatest prophets in Israelite history. If they had portraits and posters back then, people would have had commemorative plates with each of these guys on plates from the Franklin Mint.

Everybody knew who they were and respected their work.
It’s only natural if they heard that a new prophet had come back, they might first assume it was one of these big three, someone everyone was more familiar with from the very beginning.
It’s as if someone would say, “Who else would it be?” It’s because their world had not expanded to include the idea of Jesus yet.

But then Jesus turns the question back onto Peter. Who do you say I am? What, Peter, do you believe about me? And believe it or not, Horshack gets it right.

You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Do you see the genius of that statement? It’s not just a statement of identity. It’s a statement of belief. Peter believes Jesus is the Son of the Living God. Identity and belief are one.
The step between identifying Him and believing in Him is the action. That’s where we build a relationship with Jesus. You can call it salvation, friendship, companionship, whatever word you want to use. When you realize that the moment you utter those words, you are making a statement of belief, that’s when your journey can begin.

If you have the common sense to identify Jesus you have the common sense to believe in this rational, inquisitive, compassionate Jesus who is there exploring with his disciples what people believe and how people can believe together-he’s in search of unity here.

So who is Jesus for us today? Is he someone who unites us or divides us? The answer, as I hope we’ve started to explore this morning means much more than are you saved or not. For many people, it raises the question if America is saved. Is the world saved? Jesus is savior, moral arbiter, judge, shepherd, king, moral arbiter, and messiah; he has a complex layer of titles, many he never applied to himself. Is he those things so that we may better understand who we are?

What a journey of enforced complexity we have laid at the feet of this man from Galilee who never knew any of what we tried to attach to him, classify him as, or simply want him to be 2000 years after his humble birth and humiliating death.

Are we ready to identity what we believe and to start the path toward a  deeper relationship with something we may not fully grasp, we may not want to post about, but is as real as the building we are in and the person sitting next to you.