Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is Ecstasy Fueled By Doing?

For many Christians, intentions and purity of heart rather than “doing religion” have been considered the truest expression of religious experience. But it is interesting to hear the Bible speak of the ecstasy of religious experience, not only in terms of our passionate feelings we find described in the Bible’s Song of Songs, but also in terms of doing. In Exodus 24:7, Moses records the devotion of God’s people expressing their path to knowing God: “We shall do, then we shall understand.” [my paraphrase].

In his psalms, David calls the law of God “most precious gold” and “sweet like honey, like honey from the comb,” comparing it to the most valuable element known to humankind and the best sweetener of life known to people of his time [see Psalm 19]. A number of times people came to Jesus seeking to find understanding, devotion and relationship with God—inner aspects of faith—and Jesus would say over and over again, “Go and do...”

So why were Job, Moses, David and Jesus, along with the apostles Paul, John and James, so in love with doing? Because law—or right actions—is the way love works. And love is the way the universe is structured. It is doing laundry, cleaning the house, washing dishes, and squeezing that tube of toothpaste the “right” way that lead us to experiences of greater intimacy. And it's the same way with God. Ecstasy is fueled by doing. You disagree?

Adapted from "The Ecstasy of Doing" by Samir Selmanovic. Click pic to read post in its entirety.

Lord, Save Us From Your Followers?

If you don’t understand anybody else, can you have a real conversation with them? Dan Merchant says you can't. That's why the Emmy-award-winning filmmaker donned a white jumpsuit plastered with religious and anti-religious bumper stickers all over it, and traveled across America, interviewing prominent and not-so-prominent Americans about Christianity. The result is a very entertaining yet extremely thought provoking documentary entitled Lord, Save Us From Your Followers [click pic for more info]. Click the triangular play button below to sneak a preview.

A Torrent of Change?

According to Wikepedia, Gilbert Keith Chesterton [29 May 1874 – 14 June 1936] was one of the most influential English writers of the 20th century. He is well known for his reasoned apologetics and even those who disagree with him have recognized the universal appeal of such works as Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. Listen to his take on conservatism in the church:

"Conservatism is based on the idea that if you leave things alone, you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone, you leave it to a torrent of changes. If you leave a white post alone, it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white, you must be always painting it again. Briefly, if you want the old white post, you must have a new white post."

I was reminded of that quote when I saw this vid recently describing the incredible torrent of change surrounding all of us. Perhaps you can use this quote or vid to suggest to someone else that whether you're Christian or not, change is not an option. The question is not if, but how. And when.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shouldn't Prayer Have Options?

Questions don’t disappear after we become Christian. Often they multiply. So when they do, isn’t it encouraging to know that our prayer options also multiply?

Here are six ways we're experimenting with and expanding our participation with prayer at Toledo First on Wednesdays from 10am to 9pm. Just follow the directions at each prayer activity table.
  1. Forgiveness: Write something you want to bring to God on a piece of paper with a felt pen and put it in a bowl of water. Watch it wash away.
  2. Scripture Prayer: Meditate on a written and provided Biblical passage and pray it into your life.
  3. Adoration: Contemplate how God has revealed himself through various provided props and staged objects. Adore his revelation.
  4. Write a Prayer: Select and recopy a written prayer from the handful provided that expresses your heart [or write your own]. Carry it with you throughout the day, put it on you dashboard, mirror, etc.
  5. God Speaks to You: Ask God if there's anything he wants to say to you. Begin, on paper, with your name, [i.e. Dear Mike, ...] and then write whatever comes to your mind, as if God were writing to you. Henri Nouwn published a book of these types of prayers, too, emphasizing that prayer is a dialogue and not just a monologue.
  6. Bring it to Jesus: Write or draw something that represents a personal concern, burden, or intercession. Place it in the provided heart-shaped bowl, representing the heart of Jesus.
Here's the fine print:
  • You do not have to be a member of Toledo First to participate.
  • You don't have to bring anything with you.
  • You don’t have to be an accomplished "pray-er" to participate.
  • You don’t have to pray out loud.
  • You don’t even need to know what to pray for because Romans 8:26 reminds us “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Outreach In The Airport?

By some definitions, Chester Cook has the largest church in the country. As the full-time chaplain of Atlanta's international airport, his flock includes a quarter of a million travelers who pass through each day. But it's not just distressed travelers he [and 40 other chaplains] serves, there are also tens of thousands of flight attendants, baggage handlers, cashiers and soldiers coming and going from tours of duty overseas. Wouldn't it be cool if every Christian took on the role of airport chaplain when we travel?

You have GOT to read this article about a guy who treats the airport as his very special mission field. Click the pic to read the article "He'll Help You Find Your Flight, And God" in it's entirety. Photo and article courtesy: Barbara Bradley Hagerty/NPR.

Cash For Tech?

Did you know you can trade-in your used cellphones, laptops, digital cameras, camcorders, mp3 players, video games and systems, GPS devices and all kinds of other electronics and receive Costco cash gift cards in return? PC Magazine voted Gazelle's electronics trade-in website one of the top websites in 2008 for its innovative solution to recycling. How does it work?

1. Click pic to visit the trade-in website.
2. Find the value of the items you would like to trade-in.
3. Ship the items to Gazelle for free.
4. Once your items are evaluated, receive a Costco Cash Card within 10 days.

Gazelle does not yet accept faxes, printers, and TVs but is committed to providing an easy, fast, and safe way for consumers to get rewarded for responsibly recycling more than 15 other kinds of electronics. For items with hard drives, Gazelle utilizes Department of Defense approved software to erase personal data and reset items to factory settings. Want some cash for all that tech?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Does Inreach Affect Outreach?

We at Toledo First believe inreach affects outreach. We spent a week this summer fasting and praying about it [BIG thanks and WTG to those of you who joined us!!!]. In preparation for sharing in church last week what we heard God saying through His word, quiet time, and your responses [click pic to read in its entirety] , Pastor Rachel and I were pleasantly surprised to find other organizations have come to the same conclusion. Such as Texas Roadhouse. Much to the chagrin of financial experts. Click the triangular play button below [scroll WAY below if you're browsing with FireFox] to see what I mean!!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prayer and Simplicity?

The 2nd film in our Fall Film Fest emphasizes the virtues of prayer and simplicity as reflected in the life of Francis of Assisi. Come for worship @ 5pm and the film @ 7pm which includes free snacks, hot drinks, and simultaneous children's videos in another room. Bring a friend to talk about these questions for reflection:
  1. Francis often quotes the words of Jesus, especially passages about wealth and sacrifice (Matthew 6:19-21,24-33 ; Matthew 19:29 ). What other Scriptures are cited in the film?
  2. How does prayer and a life of simplicity apply in Francis' life? How does it apply in yours?
  3. Giocondo fears he won't be able to keep the vow of chastity, saying repeatedly, "God forgive me, a miserable sinner," adding that he'd "gladly face eternal damnation for one moment of love." How would you have responded? How does Francis respond?
  4. Various characters have a change of heart toward Francis, including several of his companions and two of the churchmen he comes in contact with. Are these "conversions" convincing?
Click the pic above for a more thorough review and the triangular play button below for a preview clip.

Can Tragedy Confront Eternity?

Wm. Paul Young believes tragedy can help people confront eternity. And judging by the millions of copies of his book The Shack has sold, others do too. They have been touched by Young's compassionate God [that obviously loves us like crazy!!!] in the face of great evil.

But when I listen to Christian radio, it seems there are just as many people who vehemently disagree with Young. Not about tragedy confronting eternity. But about the nature of God the kind of eternity he has in mind. Which means it's going to be a great book to discuss this fall. Driving us to Scripture and challenging us to speak truth in love about what we find there or anywhere — including a wildly popular novel.

The discussion begins September 16 @ 6:30pm and continues on Wednesdays this fall. A weekly study guide will be available discussing questions including: Where Is God in Senseless, Innocent Suffering?; Is God Really a Family of Three?; Is God in Charge But Not in Control?; What’s Wrong with the World and Us? Does God Forgive Everyone Unconditionally? Simultaneous children and youth programming too. Invite a friend!!! Everyone is welcome!!!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

No Soup for You?

At Toledo First, we enjoy ordinary outreach. But some of us are learning [the hard way] that unless we cultivate and fuel our appetites for ordinary inreach as well, we may burn out, not be entrusted by God with even bigger outreach endeavors, or even worse, lose our first love [cf. Revelation 2:4].

SO to avoid all of those those precarious situations, our fall midweek series starting September 16 will be focusing on spiritual formation for all ages. There are classes for Adventurers [children in grades 1-4], Pathfinders [children in grades 5-8], YO [Youth Operate serves grades 9+], and adults all meeting simultaneously preceded by supper, puppet shows, and worship.

Please bring a can/person of soup [red or white base] to share the following week. And feel free to enjoy the quietness of the very special prayers activities Pastor Rachel is setting up throughout the sanctuary every Wednesday starting @ 10am. Mmm Mmm God!!! [If you don't participate, there will be "No soup for you!!!" or Seinfeld LOL]

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Who'll Stop the Rain?

Creedence Clearwater Revival aren't the only ones wondering. Many of our sponsors and volunteers who made the Kidz Crazy Car Show a success this year anyway were asking the same thing!!! Though rain fell until nearly 7pm when we gave away the trophies, a steady of stream of guests [some we first met in the park giving away Lemonade!!!] enjoyed Cookie the Clown, watching the movies on the big screen, munching in the food court and splashing in the puddles. Which reminded me of this vid of Toto's Africa by Perpetuum Jazzile. Enjoy!!!

What If It's Really All About God?

My pastor friend Samir wrote this new book recently. I love the title don't you?!! The subtitle is just as intriguing don't you think? I already ordered my copy from Barnes and Noble. Maybe you should too [shameless plug — click pic for more info]. WTG Samir!!! Wouldn't this book be great for a men's study group, small group, or ongoing lunch hour discussion?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Family Fun for Labor Day?

On Monday, September 7, 2009 from 4-7 pm, the parking lot will be full of guests and friends looking at some really cool cars big and small [Kidz, don't forget to bring your fave Matchbox or HotWheels car to enter into the Kidz portion of the show].

In addition to People's Choice, Kidz Choice, and Principal's Pick, there will be 12 more categories of trophies this year along with drawings at the top and bottom of every hour. Volunteers still needed to set up [noon], work the food court, and tear down [7pm].

General admission and some food is free [courtesy Aladdins]. All donations and proceeds go to support the gym building project for Toledo Junior Academy and James Meade Learning Center. Click pic to pre-register online, download a flyer, or read up on our proud sponsors!!!

Ordinary Outreach With No Money?

Wanna make a difference in the life of a future leader without spending any money to do so? Here from the Office of International Students at the University of Toledo are two ready made ordinary outreach opportunities for you and your families to impact lives:
  • The Toledo International Hospitality Program. This is a once a month friendship program, where you (and your family) can be matched with one of the record 420 new international students the University of Toledo is expecting from 90 countries this fall. Many will return home after their education and assume positions of leadership in their professional careers. You don't necessarily have to spend any money or plan extra activities, just invite your student friend along with you and your family to whatever fun and family activities you already are doing. Click pic to fill out the online application and for more info.
  • Conversation Partners. This is a once a week friendship program, where you would give a student the chance to practice using English by speaking. You don't need any teaching experience [though charade skills could come in handy!!!]. After you click the pic to apply online, you will be invited to an orientation meeting, and then later to a social gathering where you will meet your student. If you are interested in either opportunity, please sign up as soon as possible, since the orientation meetings are in the next few weeks.

Health Nuts?

Health Nuts is scheduled to begin Thursday, September 10 from 7:00 - 8:30pm. Each month a portion of the book "What Would Jesus Eat?" will be discussed and food samples will be featured from that night's discussion. It's all about caring enough to reform your own health!!! Class is free but requires purchase of book [click pic to do so]. You do not have to be a member of Toledo First to participate.