Seeking a Fresh Look at the “Welcoming Time”

The “welcoming time” has become a fixture at churches across America, with the goal to make visitors comfortable and to give regulars a time to visit during the service. Time before the service is often hectic as people arrive late, are jostling to find seats, and perhaps reading the bulletin. Afterwards, it’s common for people to leave quickly, heading out to lunch or other activities. Although both of these times could, and perhaps should, be times for the same kinds of activity as the welcoming time, the reality is that it generally doesn’t happen. So, the structured time within the service provides a time to visit when everyone is settled.

However, anyone who pays attention during this time, and especially anyone who has experienced it as an uncomfortable visitor, knows that not everyone experiences it the same way. The meek visitor full of questions has a much different experience than the gregarious “old timer” who seems to know everyone there — they clearly are not equal in their ability to interact and benefit from that time.

Such differences bring to mind a passage from James that, although focused on money, may offer some insights to make this time even more effective. Continue reading

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Beginnings

Holidays like Easter give us a great opportunity to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to reflect on the importance and reality of that historical event. It’s obvious to Christians that His resurrection is the most significant moment in history, but even non-Christians acknowledge the impact of Jesus. Celebrating the resurrection helps us remember it, however it’s also important for us to remember that the resurrection wasn’t the end of Jesus’ ministry, but the beginning.

Since it was at the beginning of “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), the resurrection involves more than a single moment in time — its importance continues through history because He continues to work through history, both among and through His people. He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), so His defeat of death doesn’t just mean that He rose two thousand years ago, it means that He still lives and is still with us. (Colossians 1:27)

We can count on the fact that, especially in days of uncertainty, we are not alone, for the One who overcame the world is with us. (John 16:33)

Paul was given this understanding on the road to Damascus, when Jesus told him that he would be a witness not just to that single experience, but to all that Paul would see Him do. (Acts 26:16) Paul would go on to see Jesus work miracles through him, provide support for him in Corinth, provide guidance on his mission trips, and more. Paul was able to personally witness to the reality of the resurrected Christ because of his own experiences with Him.

Just like Paul, we are witnesses to all that we see Jesus doing in and around us. The reality of His ongoing life and presence makes Acts 1:8 an ongoing truth — we not only testify to the fact that He changed our life some time in the past, but also to the difference His presence makes every day.

The resurrection was not just a one-time defeat of death, it released an ongoing source of abundant life. Look around at all that He is doing in your life today, so you can testify to the reality of His resurrection, the reality of everything we have to celebrate this season.

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Understanding Gideon and the Fleece

The story of Gideon’s fleece is well known. For a long time I didn’t really understand it, because it seemed like Gideon was testing God. But I recently re-read the account, and noticed an earlier encounter between Gideon and the Lord that provides valuable context for the later episodes of the fleece.
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On the Plains

Our spiritual walks have many ups and downs. We speak of mountaintop experiences, where God’s presence is especially manifest to us. During such times we feel as if our spiritual batteries are being recharged, and we’re ready to face the valleys of life. We think of those valleys in terms of the “valley of death”, and know that our Lord is with us. These are the times of Job, when we find that God’s presence is especially close during times of trial.

So we see the Lord walking with us on the mountain tops and valleys, and even carrying us from time to time. But what about the boring, featureless, daily plains of life? Continue reading

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Why is Love Greater?

A very common verse lists faith, hope, and love, and declares the superiority of love. That easily makes sense given the significance of love, but exactly in what ways is it greater? Looking at the context, we can see at least one interesting possibility. Continue reading

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Seeing Jesus Face to Face

What do we mean by having “a relationship with Jesus Christ”? There’s an interesting passage of Scripture that suggests we need more than intellectual knowledge and understanding, more than religion, even more than using our gifts. It has to do with listening, knowing, and being known… Continue reading

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Open Eyes and the Voice of God

Walking with the Lord in a life of love and obedience involves listening for Him to speak. But in these days of always-on lifestyles saturated with social media, entertaining distractions, and the normal busyness of friends and family and jobs, it’s easy to miss that still, small voice. It may even become easy to miss a loud interruption. As difficult as it can be sometimes, we need to remain receptive, but it’s important to realize this may involve more than listening. Moses’ encounter with the burning bush illustrates this. Continue reading

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