Saturday, October 1, 2016

Two Year Anniversary


Today (October 1st) marks my two year anniversary as Pastor of Covenant Community Church. I have felt so blessed and privileged to be in ministry with this incredible body of believers. I have been living a dream and look forward to leading the church into the wonderful future God has for her. 

To mark my two year anniversary, I want to share ten things I'm most thankful for as Covenant's pastor:

1. The way the people at Covenant welcome anyone who walks through our doors

2. The incredible support they offer their pastor

3. Their willingness to try new things

4. Their commitment to serve the Asheville community

5.  The incredible staff I get to work with everyday

6. Their love for Jesus

7. Their desire to be a part of something bigger than their individual selves

8. Their grace for my shortcomings as their pastor

9. The way they love on my family

10. Their generosity 

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the great responsibility God has entrusted to me, but I try to have the same mindset John had when he proclaimed "He must increase, I must decrease." I understand God has called and positioned me where I am for a reason, however, I also know it's not about me, it's about getting out of the way of what God wants to do through me and through this body. 

I have loved the two years I have been at Covenant and look forward to many more years and many more people connecting with God, each other and our community.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Lessons from Pain

I recently hurt my back while on vacation. I think I did it on a roller coaster (the Rocking Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios to be exact). I remember feeling a weird sensation in my back while riding it. It was about six hours later that the pain set in and I found myself lying on a bench telling my family to go have fun.


I think it's a bulging disc and it has gradually gotten less painful (or that could be the Advil talking) after eight days. I didn't sleep on the floor last night which is progress.

In my better moments I have used it as an opportunity to ask myself: what is God teaching me through this?  

Here's five things I've come up with.

1. I am loved
It is very obvious that I have people in my life who genuinely care about me. It's not that I didn't already know it, this situation just confirmed it even more.

2. Help is available
Many people have offered to help in various ways. One person even offered to help unload the van on our return knowing it would be at 2am in the morning.  I reached out on Facebook for resources and people responded with options and prayers.

3. I'm not alone
There have been so many people who know exactly the kind of indescribable pain I'm in.  There's just something comforting about knowing that other people have felt what I feel. That kind of solidarity creates automatic empathy. Maybe pain is God's way of bringing humanity together.  

4. If I want to do something bad enough, I can
The next day we were at Magic Kingdom for the Halloween Party. It was a bid deal for our family. My 8yr. old daughter is into the Disney villains right now. Her favorite is Maleficent. At the end of the night they have a special villain show on the main stage at Disney world. She kept jumping up and down trying to see. I decided I would give her the best seat in the house: on my shoulders. After five or six attempts and various shots of pain, she was up there. She was going to see the villain show no matter what it took.  

5. There's a reason for this
Maybe God is teaching me to be more empathetic, maybe I needed to slow down, maybe He needed to show me the support I have in my life...whatever the case may be, I know deep in my bones that God has a reason for me to be going through this right now. It's not fun, but I trust in His purposes.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Scared in or Loved in



I was visiting a young man in the hospital yesterday morning after his surgery and he put something so simply into words that it has stuck with me throughout the day.  I'll call him John.

John had family in town last weekend and one family member who attended Covenant with him isn't used to our type of church.  We are a modern Methodist church and this man is used to his conservative baptist church.  

It sounds like they had an interesting conversation after the service and John summarized it for me this way:  

You can be scared into it or loved into it and I'd rather be loved into it.

I hope I'm that pastor that always leads be to be "loved into" a living and growing relationship with Jesus Christ and not "scared into" it.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Cost of Freedom



I know it's late, but I wanted to recap the main idea from the sermon last Sunday.  

Using the story of the Exodus, I landed on this idea: 

God doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free.

After the Israelites were set free from being slaves in Egypt, they found themselves in the desert where they became slaves to their own devices.  Some of them trade one type of slavery for another.

It started small, they complain about water and God provides.  Then they complain about food and God provides them with Manna.  They complain about not having meat, so God sends them quail. More quail than they can handle.

Each time they complain their attitudes escalate to the point of thinking they were better off as slaves in Egypt.  God constantly reminds them to trust Him by obeying Him and the people continue to complain and distrust God.

With the last complaint about meat, God gives them so much meat they get sick off of it and some of them die.  Numbers chapter 11 recounts the story and ends with their bodies in graves of their own cravings...their desires, their cravings, their lusts (the KJV word used for cravings) lead to their deaths.

The Israelites who craved meat allowed that craving to get the best of them.  They were set free from slavery only to find themselves in another kind of slavery.

Don't we often do the same thing?  God has set us free from guilt and shame and sin and death and made a way for us to resist temptation.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to convict us, lead us, guide us and be our advocate.  Yet, we often allow our desires, our cravings, our lusts to move us into dangerous territory of prisons of our own making.

God doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free. 
And it takes being intentional about staying connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit for us to remain in the freedom Jesus offers us.

In John 8 Jesus says it this way (31-32): "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

Paul said it this way in Galatians 5:1: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

The cost of freedom is discipleship.  Discipleship is remaining in a a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by being intentional about staying in love with our savior. 

He doesn't just want to set you free, he wants to keep you free!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sermon Recap: No Pain, No Gain

Jacob wrestling with some sort of "God-man" in Genesis 32:22-30 is a fascinating story.  I loved preaching on it this past Sunday to kick off our new sermon series:  



The video will be available by Wednesday morning here.

Jacob is so worried that his brother Esau is going to kill him and his family that he prays for God to save him then devises a plan to keep at least some of his family safe in case his fears come true.

It's in this state of fear and worry that the "God-man" initiates a wrestling match with Jacob.  

Commentator Terence Fretheim nails what I think is the point of the encounter:

At the moment of deepest vulnerability and worry for Jacob, God enters into the very depths of the struggle, binding God’s self to Jacob at that level.  Jacob is about to embark on a life-long struggle and he now knows that God the wrestler will be at his side.  The willingness of God to struggle with Jacob affirms a divine commitment to stay with Jacob.  God’s promise (from 28:15) involves not a passive presence, but an active, engaged relationship.

God doesn't initiate this "wrestling match" to get Jacob's attention because God already has his attention (Jacob's prayer just a few short hours before this proves the point).  God initiates this wrestling match to take Jacob's relationship with Him to an entirely new level.  So much so that he changes his name from Jacob (which means "schemer") to Israel (which means one who wrestles with God).

God is the great pursuer of our hearts and even if it takes wrestling with us to bring us to a deeper relationship with Him, that's what He's willing to do.  

In the wrestling, it's our willingness to hold on to God (just like Jacob did) that will bring transformation to our lives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Something New

We have been in transition at Covenant Community Church for at least the amount of time I have been here (a year and a half).  I have heard that even before I arrived it felt like this church was in transition.

Transitions have their frustrations, but they also have their benefits.  You often do not see the benefits of the transition until you have moved out of that season.

The biggest benefit of this season of transition happened on June 1st.  That's when we welcomed two new staff members who solidify our team and will be instrumental in moving us out of transition and into the church God is calling us to be.

It's exciting to see the season of transition ending to make way for a new season with these two incredible women on our team: this is Ginny Allison and Shonnie Streder (and her family).



They have only been here two weeks and I can already see the difference their presence is making.

We inundated them with bonding time as a staff by holding an overnight staff retreat their first weekend in town.  

We also officially celebrated their arrival this past Sunday with a church-wide potluck lunch.

It's so exciting to be in this season, I can't wait to see what God has for the future of Covenant Community church!

Here's to the benefits of transition and to a new season of becoming the church God is calling Covenant to be!

Sunday, June 12, 2016