Honest

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As humans with limited minds, being honest doesn't always look the same. Sometimes it means we say something that is true. Other times, it means we admit that we don't know what the truth is. Despite the fact that all truths can be definitively known, you can't know all facts. Fortunately, one of the facts you can grasp is that you can't know it all. You're too small. You're too deceived. You can't handle (all of) the truth. 

So own this truth: you don't know it all. Believe it or not, when you're honest enough to admit that you don't know what the truth is, you open a door to finding it. When you're not, you lock that door, swallow the key, and run away. 

Open up. 

Proverbs 24:26 | An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. 

Pastor Kent

Smart

Interesting word, smart. 

On the one hand: intelligent.  

On the other: hurts. (Ouch, that smarts!)

Either way, smart is going to be part of your life. You decide what it means.

2 Peter 1:5-9 | 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. 

Yearbuilding

Two months in a row, Illumine is making up words.

Last month: Christmerosity. The kind of generosity you see at Christmas - inspired by Christ.

This month: Yearbuiliding. You want a successful 2017? Big surprise - so does everybody. Illumine doesn't exist (and wouldn't promise) to help you have a financially or physically helpful 2017 (even though that's the stuff most New Year's resolution are made of.) But spiritually? This is why Illumine is here. 

God wants you to have a spiritually beneficial 2017, too, and he's given you tools to help make that happen. The Bible, the sacraments, Christian community, prayer - all of these are gifts from God to help you grow closer to him. So, the question is: How will you use those gifts this year? 

Just so it's clear: a spiritually successful 2017 is very attainable. The tools exist, they're free, and they're for everyone. But you're a lot more likely to use them well if you make a plan, tell people about your plan, and then take it one step at a time. 

That's what this month is about around here. I hope you get to take advantage of it, and I know God has helpful things in store for your soul if you do. 

"“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?" (Luke 14:28)

-Pastor Kent Reeder

Read Important Things

An unprecedented amount of content, new and old, enters your purview every waking hour. This is the world in which we live, having dropped the limitations of page size and word counts in favor of the limitless internet-content-fire-hose. The only limit we now have is time - and we're probably working on getting rid of that one, too. 

It's not a crime to read the dumb articles on Facebook or dive down a Wikipedia rabbit hole just to see where it leads. These things even have some value, in limited doses, because our brains need to relax. It is a crime, however, to allow those distractions to steal from you your ambition and potential (and therefore your ability to serve God and glorify him with your vocation.) And when you read the word "crime," don't be mistaken. It's not as though Buzzfeed actually has any power to take something from you against your will. It's a crime because you give them time you don't have to give, making you the thief, robbing the one who gave you the time you have [read: God].

Since we can't make time stop, so that we could endlessly peruse, and since we were created for a greater purpose than our whims, we must be stewards of this limited resource, which brings us back to the title: read important things. Every day. A diet of Doritos is not a legitimate way to live, and a diet of nutrition-free reading is no way to learn. Read important things. 

Solomon is pretty clear on this: Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. (Ecclesiastes 12:12) Read important things, and make sure you do it with the mind of a diligent steward. Put the biggest rock in the jar first (the Bible) and make sure other important rocks are getting in as well - otherwise you'll be filling yourself up with sand

Finally, if you're reading this because you were on a Facebook binge and clicked it because you thought you had time to waste but now you feel bad about it, it's going to be okay. Jesus made perfect use of every moment of his life, and when God looks at you that's what he sees, because Jesus covered your wasted moments with his perfect moments. Theologians rightfully call the period you live in right now your time of grace. So, how shall you use it?

-Pastor Kent Reeder

The world is on fire.

That's a direct quote from a man with whom I was standing in a checkout line looking at newspaper headlines. "The world is on fire," he muttered, and we exchanged looks.

Just the other night, when talking about a drug that ISIS soldiers are taking to help them feel invincible, Stephen Colbert said, "I think I speak for everyone who has been watching the news when I say, 'Can I get some of that?'"

ABC News' December 14th article "The Anatomy of Trump's South Carolina Supporters" also paints a picture of people, people who live here in SC, who are so afraid of potential terrorist attacks and mass shootings at the mall that Donald Trump's strong words about immigration and defense have made this a one-issue decision for them. 

The world is on fire. Paris, San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Charleston, military bases, Syria. A pile of words that are kindling to an escalating unease that every-once-in-a-while starts to look a lot like panic. And here we thought it was beginning to look like Christmas.

I don't want the world to be on fire. Most of us, in fact, would prefer those things that Christmas so often brings to mind - peace, love, hope, and joy. We like those kinds of things (it's part of why we like Christmas so much,) and we like them, mostly, because we believe that they work. When hope and optimism, compassion and kindness, love and grace are employed in a life, a community, or a nation they seem to lead to better and better things. They work. 

This fire stuff - violence, ignorance, oppression, fear - these don't seem to work so well. (You'd think we'd remember that, what with Star Wars paraphernalia everywhere you look. These things lead to the dark side, people.) All joking aside, though, when compared hope and kindness, violence and fear are broken. They do not lead to increased life or quality of life. They do not lead to better societies or communities or families. They lead to deterioration, destruction, and pain. They lead to fire. 

The world is on fire. The fire is sin, and sin is anything that doesn't work. The broken things that cause more brokenness. The ignorance that leads to hatred. The prejudice that leads to injustice. The ambitions that leads to deceit. The deceit that leads to ignorance. The sparks that lead to fires. The fires that lead to infernos. 

The world is on fire, and so I'm asking you, as a regular guy who doesn't want to see anyone else get hurt: Please, don't fight fire with fire anymore. You're allowed to be passionate about your beliefs and active to pursue your rights. But please, everyone, do not fight fire with fire. When people speak out in ignorance, do not respond in sarcasm. Both destroy. When people shout hateful things, do not respond unfairly. Both are broken. When people are deceitful, don't hate them. What will that accomplish?

Some may suggest that, sometimes, fiery words offer a kind of light to a situation that wasn't there before. Certainly, this particular presidential season has seen angry, fear-filled comments lead to important, necessary conversations. For some, it's been appealing to have light where there had been only dark deception or ignorance.

But even when the fire offers some light, are we okay with the destruction it guarantees? Isn't there some other way that light can be brought into our confusion without also bringing so much pain? I know we're frustrated, I know we're scared, I know we just want a safe and good world for our kids. Why aren't we doing the work that know, that we believe, brings a satisfying solution? If you're singing about peace on earth this holiday season, don't forget that "on earth" includes everyone, not only you. If you're singing about good-will toward men, don't forget that that includes people who aren't like you, who don't think like you, who don't worship like you. 

Do you want a solution that works? Do you want to put out the fire? Then please, please, stop fighting fire with more fire. Start fighting it with things that we know work. Let those good things that come up so frequently in the Christmas season shape your next steps. Follow them toward a solid solution to these increasingly complicated problems that we're all trying to navigate.

And, if I may, don't just follow them forward, toward a solution. Look back. See where they came from - identify their source. Realize that Christmas wouldn't be about those good things if it weren't for the best thing - the free, unlimited, peace-bringing love of God.

The world is on fire - don't add to it anymore! We have been given a better way to fight it - the same way that God did. With love and hope and patience. With kindness and compassion. With justice and fairness. With truth and knowledge. With hearts that seek not to be served, but to serve. May these good things give us a way forward and open our eyes to a vision bigger than our ideals, our desires, or our personal well-being. May our minds be the same as that of God himself, who sees each person on this planet as someone he desperately loves, and may we act accordingly.

Why a Trivia Night? (or, why fellowship?)

FACT: It is not the job of the Church to entertain.

FACT: It is not the goal of the Church to give people "happy distractions" until they die.

FACT: The Church (universal) and the congregation (local) are undeniably and essentially made up of people. (No people = no Church)

FACT: People need relationships with each other to work together effectively.

FACT: Trivia night promotes wholesome relationships.

FACT: In a context of Christian living that includes many people  engaging in spiritual rest, education, and service we are strengthened by having wholesome relationships with our fellow disciples. 

FACT: You should totes come.

Friday, August 7th, 7:30PM @ Illumine's Ministry Center