Community

Me and Cornerstone sign You may have noticed, over the last few weeks, that churches in Minnesota have been holding their fall kick off events. If you haven’t noticed this, perhaps you just aren’t paying attention as it has become traditional for churches across the state to hold some form of fall event. These events are designed to reignite involvement among the regular attenders and to promote the church among those who may not be regular church attenders. These events are often promoted with signage around the community and even ads may appear in local newspapers, so generally they are pretty hard to miss.

Here in Minnesota, our relatively short summer represents our best chance for vacation fun, so most churches see a drop in attendance during the summertime. But once Labor Day has passed, the State Fair has ended, and the kids are back in school; it’s time to get back to more spiritual matters. So the tents go up, the picnic caterers are scheduled, the bounce house business goes crazy, and churches across the state help us get back into our religious grooves. Programs for our youth are scheduled, small group signup sheets are posted, adult Bible studies begin meeting, and church attendance begins to grow again.

But why? Why is all this effort put towards getting us back involved? Is the church just trying to line its pockets with our donations? Do our pastors seek bragging rights about their attendance figures? Are these events just excuses to eat hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad until we can no longer stand under our own power? What is the real purpose behind the activity?

I will submit for your consideration that it can be almost fully explained with one simple word: Community.

Yep, that’s it – one simple word, just four syllables. Community. You see, we are designed to be in community. Right at the very beginning of the earth, during creation, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) Our Creator designed us to share life together and we simply cannot put too much emphasis on this fact. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reads: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

In this Old Testament verse we see clearly that fellowship with another person helps us in our work (labor), in our trials (falling down), in our comfort and survival (keeping warm), and in our safety (defending ourselves). All of this would seem to be pretty common sense to most of us but the reality today is that we often have less true fellowship, or community, than at any time in the past. Sure, we may spend lots of time with other people, but how much of that time actually involves meaningful discussion? How much are we experiencing the true love and support that all of us crave? Indeed, if we are completely honest with ourselves, our busy lives, technological distractions, and lack of serious conversations have left many of us experiencing deep loneliness even in the middle of crowded situations.

Just pause for a moment and think of a time when you were feeling loneliness, experiencing a loss, suffering illness, or otherwise hurting. Was someone there to support you? Did that support make a difference to you? The Bible is rich with explanation of our need for community and I am confident most of us can think of a situation where the love and support of another human being made, or would have made, all the difference. The local church is concerned with helping us follow God’s intended design by providing the framework within which we experience the love of God through the support of our fellow human being. It is our respite from the busyness that often leaves us feeling so alone.

Having moved to a new geographic location, Donna and I found ourselves feeling a need for greater fellowship and community as we simply were not well connected locally. Over this past summer we had many discussions about our situation. Having failed to truly connect at a larger church that was rather distant from our new home, we ultimately made the decision to find a smaller church that was closer to home. Our search ultimately led us to Cornerstone Church in Crystal, Minnesota.

We have been attending Cornerstone for about a month and a half and already I am involved in the men’s Bible study fellowship on Wednesday mornings and both Donna and I are attending the Wednesday evening Bible study. And just today we were connected to a new Lifegroup (small group) that will soon be starting. While it may take some time for deep fellowship to grow between us and our fellow church members, the process is well underway. And the feeling of belonging and purpose is filling Donna and I with a new joy that has deepened the love we already share with each other.

Below I am pictured with Pastor Scott Salmon. Scott is preaching a series on community and we are truly sensing how God is working at Cornerstone.
Scott and I
So if you have been feeling the need for a greater sense of community in your life, if you have been feeling lonely even in the middle of a crowded room, if you have been yearning to feel the love and support you are designed to need, then please visit us at Cornerstone Church in Crystal. Or visit a church close to your home. It is in the church that you will find God’s people practicing community and yearning to meet you!

If you are unsure how to get started finding a church in your area, drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. We are happy to provide you with easy-to-use resources. And if you are in our area, check out Cornerstone Church at www.cornerstonecrystal.org.

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One Woman’s View of Chivalry

knight I was riding in the car with Tim the other day when our conversation turned to chivalry. Chivalry’s origins are traced back to the Middle Ages and knighthood. Initially a code of conduct of honor for knights in times of war, chivalry evolved to mean a code of conduct for men, particularly how men act toward women and, finally, as a challenge to the independence of women. I’m not sure how chivalry evolved to the latter, but it somehow came to be the antithesis of the independent woman. In my opinion, chivalry should not be discounted as an affront to women. The appropriate definition of chivalry, with a biblical concept, is the right definition for society as a whole.

Now I am an independent woman, college educated, and a believer in equality. Still, when my husband opens the car door for me I like it. For me, it is an act that embodies his respect for me. If that makes him chivalrous, fantastic! I don’t see this as a gendered action or an affront to my independence. I’ve seen him open the door for his father too. I’ve opened doors for men and women too. It is not a statement on one’s ability to open a door on their own, nor is it any type of judgement about them. To me it as an act of kindness and respect. I expect these things of myself and of Tim. Why? Because, as Christians, this is what God calls us to do; to exhibit kindness and respect for each other. Do I have high expectations of Tim? Yes, I do! I have the highest of expectations, as he should of me.

There is a great scene in the movie War Room where a woman prays for her husband “to be the man God made him to be.” Our “expectations” should be to become as God intends us to be. We ought to have the utmost expectation of each other based on God’s instruction that we strive to be more like Jesus. That doesn’t mean we won’t fail or that we will always live up to those expectations. It means that we recognize in each other the effort to become the person that God expects us to be. I do not think it an unrealistic that non-Christians also strive for a higher level of respect for others. Unfortunately, the daily news is full of examples of people who need to have higher expectations.

I think the idea of chivalry being something that we must reject, or as an affront to women, has been an injustice and a Biblical concept of chivalry, a concept that our society is in desperate need of, is essential. I feel we need to revisit the idea of chivalry and define it more accurately. An independent woman needn’t give up her independence on the actions of a chivalrous man. In fact, I’m not sure that chivalry should be classified in such a way as to define actions and expectations between the sexes at all. It’s time for a new definition of chivalry, or rather a return to its original concept, a definition that fits well into a code of conduct for all people today, a definition that fits both men and women, a definition that can be applied to society as whole.

Definitions of chivalry include: nobility, virtue, strength, loyalty, kindness, honor, righteousness and praiseworthiness. These definitions embody the idea of integrity. The Bible has a multitude of Scriptures which illustrate the true concept of chivalry: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing, fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) This is an excellent example of chivalry defined. Notice here it says “brothers and sisters,” these aren’t directed toward men, nor are they directed specifically toward men and how they act toward women. They instruct all of us in the way in which we should think and act.

Biblical teaching doesn’t differentiate the call to be people of integrity between the sexes. There are Scriptures for women that embody the definition of chivalry, too, so it isn’t just a term defined toward men in Scripture. Proverbs 31 talks of a woman who “opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy” (kindness); Titus 2 says “be reverent in behavior (respect) and teach what is good” (righteousness); and Proverbs 11 tells us “a kind hearted woman gains respect.” These are all illustrative of chivalry.

So chivalry isn’t something to be rejected; it isn’t a concept to be shunned as an archaic idea or a means for men to keep women oppressed. A quick glance at the news at any given moment makes it abundantly clear that we have moved too far away from the principles of chivalry – to our own detriment. So it’s time for chivalry to once again be embraced, demonstrated, and expected by everyone, Christian or not. We need to return to the values that create a better world we can all live in!

As always, we love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or drop us an email at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. God bless.

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Fitness Regimen

Jay Cooke photo Almost everywhere we turn these days, we are bombarded with advertising about our fitness. Gyms offer us easy, 24 hour access, the latest exercise equipment, personal trainers, and the latest yoga-zumba-crossfit super workout routines. Or we can buy our own exercise machines for just a few unbelievably low monthly payments and workout in the privacy of our own homes. The commercials feature perfectly fit, hard-bodied men and women who assure us we can look just like them if we just follow their simple 20 minute per day formula.

The food industry isn’t absent from this concern for our physical well-being, either. Advertisements for the latest diet plan, health food alternative, or miracle weight-loss supplements are constantly beaming into our living rooms. Spokesmen and women who are surely experts are kind enough to offer us the healthier food choices; assuring us of longer, happier lives where we will simultaneously be more popular and content. With just the right fitness regimen and diet we can be better parents, more productive workers, smarter and better citizens, and live longer lives. And social media provides the tools we need to share our progress with the world.

The fitness business in the United States is booming. According to IBISWorld, gyms and fitness centers alone take in about thirty billion dollars annually. When you add in the additional business of providing the proper gear, attire, equipment, food, supplements, media, and consulting, the revenue of the fitness industry as a whole is staggering. With so much money in play, it is no wonder there are so many options vying for our attention – all of them trying very hard to convince us our lives could be better and longer if we just spend our hard-earned money with them.

The fitness industry has become a benevolent monster; a seemingly unstoppable force for our own good. Concerned only with making us healthier, happier, and longer-lived; few seem to question the sincerity or integrity of the movement. And while exercise is not a bad thing in and of itself, today’s fitness industry has worked hard to create a sense of insecurity in the general public; in essence it thrives on our deepest fears by convincing us we are not good enough the way we are and we’re not going to live as long as we could. With so much money at stake, is it any wonder that the industry is working so hard to earn more of our cash?

Now I want to be clear that I do believe we should get our exercise. Donna and I try to get in a walk every evening, we hike when we can on weekends, and we try to be reasonably active working in the yard, gardening, and other similar activities around the house. It’s a given that a reasonable amount of physical activity does indeed do us some good. The Bible agrees on this point in 1 Timothy, we’ll get to that verse in a bit. But if we are standing in front of a mirror with our shirt off marveling at our own bodies while we lift weights, if we post endless pictures of ourselves on social media so everyone can see how toned our bodies are, if working out or running has become the highest priority in our lives, it’s quite probable we’ve crossed into a form of idolatry.

The truth is that exercise really can’t make us live longer. Yes, you read that right: exercise will not make you live longer. The fact is, God already knows exactly the number of your days. And nothing you do will change that number. “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live and we are not given a minute longer.” (Job 14:5) If, for example, you were obese and heading for an early heart attack and decided to follow doctor’s orders to lose weight and get in shape…well, God already knew that you would do that, so from a heavenly perspective, you didn’t really increase the number of your days. You only did what God already knew you would do.

I hate to bore you with math, but a little discussion of statistics is in order here, so please bear with me. As most of us know, statisticians can twist numbers to make them support whatever argument they wish to make. But there is one statistic that cannot be twisted, misrepresented, or argued. In fact, it is the only statistic I know of that simply cannot be debated. It is a statistical fact that ten out of every ten people will die. Perhaps we should pause just to let that reality sink in for a moment; every single one of us is dying. It’s only a matter of time. And God already knows the amount of time each of us has.

And pondering this statistical truth isn’t something we should fear, rather, it is a sign of wisdom: Psalm 39:4-5 states: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.” And in Psalm 90:12, we read: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” So instead of buying into the constant fitness industry advertising onslaught trying to convince us how to live better and longer, we are wise to consider the finite length of our lives

But here is the good news, a truth that perhaps the fitness industry would rather ignore: death is not the end! And while the fitness industry would have us fear our physical mortality, Scripture tells us: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)

I hope you are seeing these truths in those verses:

1) Your physical body and your soul are two things; one mortal and one immortal
2) The people or things that can kill our physical body cannot kill our soul
3) Sparrows are not as valuable as we are yet God knows the precise details of every sparrow that has ever lived
4) You are so valuable to God that He knows every detail of your life down to the number of hairs on your head (a detail that, in my case, is getting easier for God to remember with every passing day!)

Scripture has the best advice for our fitness regimens that we will ever receive: “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.” (1Timothy 4:7-9) In other words, we should get some exercise, it is clearly beneficial for us in the here and now. But it should not be our primary concern or obsession, rather we should apply ourselves to rigorously working out spiritually.

And here’s how we can do that: first, read God’s Word daily and do what is says (i.e. James 1:22). Pray regularly and give thanks in all circumstances (i.e. 1Thessalonians 5:16-18). Love others (i.e. Romans 13:8). Attend church and have fellowship with other Christians. (i.e. Hebrews 10:24-25). Tell others the Good News about Jesus Christ (i.e. Matthew 28:19). Make these things your spiritual fitness regimen and you will ensure your eternal future. And remember – life is short but eternity is long.

To summarize, and I want to be perfectly clear, be active when you can, follow your doctor’s orders, and take care of yourself physically. But don’t make physical exercise your number one priority. Rather, recognize that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, you are beautiful just as you are, and God loves you dearly. Pour your heart, mind, and soul into your spiritual fitness regimen and reap the benefits of a personal relationship with the God who cared enough to send His one and only Son so that you may have everlasting life. And feel free to post your spiritual progress on social media!

If you have questions about how to improve your spiritual fitness regimen, please write us at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. We’d love to help and we won’t charge you a dime!

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Signs of Fall

Fall Pic 1 Labor Day is a national tribute to the contributions American workers have made to the strength and well-being of our country. The origins of Labor Day can be traced back to a celebration first held in New York City in 1882. There is a bit of debate over who actually first proposed the Labor Day holiday; some records show that Patrick McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first to suggest the holiday, while others believe it was Michael McGuire who proposed the holiday while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

While the actual founder of the Labor Day holiday may be unclear, what is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a celebration and picnic in 1882. It was originally held on a Tuesday but, in 1884, the Central Labor Union proposed holding the holiday on a Monday and urged similar organizations in other cities to also celebrate. Over time more municipalities and states began to adopt the celebration but it wasn’t until June of 1894 that Congress finally made it a national holiday. It has been celebrated on the first Monday in September ever since.

In addition to being a recognition of the American worker, Labor Day is also the first obvious sign that fall is coming. Here in Minnesota, another sure sign of fall is the conclusion of the Minnesota State Fair, which also happens on the first Monday in September. The beginning of the NFL’s new season is another indicator that summer has passed and fall has come. Upon returning to work after the Labor Day holiday we are sure to hear water cooler discussions about NFL roster cuts, fantasy football drafts, and predictions of how our home team might do.

Fall Pic 2

Another telltale signal of fall’s impending arrival is the gradual color change that is already beginning in some foliage. Just today, Donna and I walked through the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary (a gorgeous nature center in the heart of Minneapolis) and, despite the sweltering heat and stifling humidity that suggest otherwise, we found plenty of early fall color. All the pictures accompanying this post were taken on our walk today. It won’t be but a few weeks and the rakes and light jackets will be out in full force and fall activities such as pumpkin carving and fall color drives will be on our weekend agendas.

Fall Pic 3

For me personally, September marks the anniversary of my conversion to Christianity twenty-two years ago. I had attended a men’s event at Evergreen Community Church where the pastors and speakers shared their conversion stories and it was there that I first realized that Christians weren’t perfect people; they were individuals just like me who had accumulated a lifetime of regrets and mistakes and were in desperate need of forgiveness. The only difference was that they had found that forgiveness and I had not. I cannot begin to explain the impact four hours of such testimony had on me.

With my head full and my heart twisted, I left that event not really knowing where I was going or why. Unsure of what to do or what to think, I just got in my car and started driving. Soon I found myself at a bookstore where I purchased a paperback Bible for $4.99 and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on a rock at Taylor’s Falls (another beautiful place in Minnesota) overlooking the river valley as I started reading God’s Word for the very first time. Freed from my misconceptions of what a Christian is, the words in my $4.99 Bible touched my heart in a new and meaningful way. Starting that day I read the Bible as much as I could.

Just a couple weeks later, in mid-September, I found myself alone in my apartment when the reality of my situation came over me. I was newly sober (just over two years at the time) and besides the elimination of drugs and alcohol from my life, not much else had changed. I was continuing to live a life I could not be proud of, and deep inside I was not a happy person. And through God’s Word I was learning that all throughout history, men just like me had found themselves in the very same place, in the very same dire need of forgiveness. Men like King David, who had committed adultery and covered it up by having a faithful soldier named Uriah killed.

And it was then and there that I fell to my knees and I prayed and released my guilt, remorse, and regret to the only One who has the true power to forgive, Jesus Christ. And in that very moment, twenty-two years ago, I became a Christian; a new creation. The old had gone and the new had come. I was reborn and had found true recovery at last. I was a Christian; a child of God. Life has been far from perfect in the intervening years, but the deep and ingrained joy of knowing Christ has guided me, informed me, and comforted me.

Are you feeling the need for forgiveness? Is this fall the time for you to experience the cleansing and healing that can only come from the One who died so that you might live? The Bible says in Romans 10: “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart. And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:8-11, NLT).

And in Hebrews 4 it is written, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NIV). It’s often hard for us to imagine, but Jesus walked this planet just like we do now, and He experienced life as we know it. This is why He is so accessible to those who seek Him, so I pray you will let today be the day that you come to Jesus and find His forgiveness and perfect love.

If we can help answer any of your questions, please do not hesitate to write us at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. And as we prepare for the changing of the seasons, may God bless you and keep you.