Friday, January 21, 2005

A Fresh "Faith Lift"

It is amazing what a difference lipstick can make. I know, it sounds odd. But sometimes just making my face look brighter has a way of making my heart feel brighter. Have you ever noticed how the way you dress can affect your mood? I mean, don’t you feel special when you dress up or wear a new or favorite outfit? Sometimes we need to make changes on the outside as a way of jumpstarting changes on the inside. It is kind of like the advice Peter Böhler gave to John Wesley (who was contemplating quiting ministry because he thought he didn’t have faith): “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” By the way, John Wesley is the guy who began the Methodist movement. He is considered our founding father. Even he needed to have a “faith lift” every once in awhile.

Well, God is doing some new things here at the Wesley Foundation. There is a fresh Spirit blowing; and there is an invitation to step out in faith in new ways. It is time that our appearance begin to reflect the new thing God is doing. That’s why we are beginning a new ministry here at the Foundation called “The Solid Rock Café.” It is like our version of TLC’s trading spaces, except we’re not trading spaces with anyone; we are just using paint in some creative new ways. We are updating the look of our downstairs fellowship hall (formerly known as “the basement”) into a coffee house atmosphere. This is one of the ways we are fulfilling our mission to create a safe place for students to meet Jesus. Atmosphere is so important. Stark walls don’t contribute to feelings of warmth and receptiveness. It is one way that we can extend hospitality to students who really don’t get into the church thing, but really do enjoy the coffee thing. Jesus doesn’t care what the walls look like as long as He is welcome there and those who need him most feel welcome too. And while this transformation will be a gradual process (dependent upon our money supply), isn’t that the way Jesus works in our hearts too?

BUT before we begin painting, I want to invite you to share in the new heart and new spirit of our ministry, to make sure that Jesus is all over this place. Before we paint you are invited to write your prayer for this ministry on its walls. You can even choose your favorite verse of scripture that you want to see God fulfill through this ministry. It is a way of preparing the faith of the future by standing on the faith of the present. And just think, even though you may not see the words you write today, for as long as these walls stand you will know they are there. Kind of like the way God is active in our lives: while we can’t physically see Him, His presence is steadfast in our lives. So come and leave your mark, your prayers and hopes for this ministry, on our walls.

Stop by this weekend or early next week. Painting begins soon.



Saturday, January 08, 2005

Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

Sometimes you just have to believe that it works, even if you aren’t feeling anything at the moment. I’m talking about faith, having a relationship with the Lord, trusting that Jesus really is there. There is this wonderful story of how the good news of Jesus Christ was brought to non-Jews for the first time after Jesus’ resurrection. A roman military commander, head of a hundred soldiers (called a centurion), was praying one day to God. He was a man who feared God, prayed continuously, and gave money to people in need regularly. His name was Cornelius. On this particular day, an angel appeared to him and said, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God” (Acts 10:4). It’s not like this happened everyday, because Cornelius was terrified. As it happened, the angel told Cornelius to send for Peter, the apostle. Once Peter spoke the gospel to him, Cornelius and all his family and friends received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were baptized that day.

What so comforts me about this story is that it tells us where our prayers go—straight to the ears of God. In fact, God saves them as precious treasures. When I picked up Noah for his last day of day care before the Christmas break, his teacher had made an ornament for our tree by tracing Noah’s hand prints and foot print onto brown construction paper to make a moose head. Now I have lots of ornaments, some very fragile and pretty expensive. But none can compare to my construction paper moose. To me it is a precious treasure. This is how every word and thought of prayer and heartfelt good deed we do is to our Heavenly Father. God saves them up like construction paper mooses.

It’s hard to always know these things. It’s why we need scripture, and the encouragement of good Christian friends. And it is also why God said that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We know our prayers are precious to God by faith. In some ways it is like Christmas decorations. Even though I don’t have my Christmas ornaments out year round, they still exist. Even though I don’t see my little moose everyday, I know it is there. Even though we cannot always feel God’s presence, or feel how much He loves us, His presence and His love are very real.

So come on back to school. Start the semester off right: knowing you are loved, your prayers are heard, and your life really does make a difference.