Monday, December 19, 2011

Church Christmas Party

We had a church Christmas party yesterday after the Children's play and I think it went well.  The children did a great job in the play and the adults did a great job of getting them ready for it.

The youth were also really great with the children.

The Christmas party itself was fun too.  We had pizza and delicious desserts.  It was a good night. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Trip Lee Vid

The youth of the church went to a concert last month and Trip Lee was there.  They told me about him.  Since I am a fan of Christian Rap, I decided to check him out on YouTube.

It's impressive the way he breaks down Phillipians in rhyme:

Saturday, November 19, 2011

19

The number for the title is the number of days it has been since I blogged.  I'm not sure why it's been so long but it has. 

I've had a rough last two days.  Thursday night I was in a fender bender.  Then I had major stomach issues on Friday as a I tried to get the van repaired.  We think it was food poisoning.  I'll let you use your imagination on how bad I felt.  I still haven't eaten a full meal since Thursday at lunch and it's Saturday afternoon.

It was a terrible time for all of that to happen.  I have two sermons to prepare for tomorrow.  The normal Sunday morning messages and a special Thanksgiving message Sunday evening at the Baptist church.

Anyway, my family has been awesome through all of this.  It's been hard to concentrate on getting sermons prepared, but I know I'm in good hands and that God will help me with the preparation and delivery of both messages.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Fall Festival

Last night Catawba UMC held a fall festival for the community.  We had free hot dogs, games, hay rides, trunk-or-treating, door prizes, a silent auction, Bingo, a costume contest and whole lot of chaotic fun!

Here are a few pictures for your enjoyment!  I'm so glad the "Holey Ghost" decided to show up at our fall festival!




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the Dust of the Rabbi

We have been doing the Ray Vanderlaan Faith Lessons Bible study called In the Dust of the Rabbi on Wednesday nights at Catawba UMC and I have really enjoyed the series. 

The idea up to this piont is that discipleship is all about being like the rabbi.  It's not enough to know about the rabbi or to learn the rabbi's teachings or to be with the rabbi.  The whole purpose of discipleship is to be like the rabbi.

Jesus is a different kind of rabbi in that he chose fisherman and tax collectors and doubters and betrayers to be his disciples.  He chose people that didn't have what it took to be the disciple of any other rabbi.  Jesus chose his disciples and said in essence "I believe and trust in you enough to be the kind of disciples that make other disciples who are like me."

It's nice to know that Jesus believes in me even when I don't.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Images of God

We think all kinds of things about God.  Each one of us may use similar words to describe God but we each may mean something a little bit different by those same words.  If you had good parents, your image of God may be different that if you had abusive or distant or altogether absent parents.  Your image of God will be affected by whether or not you were raised in the church and just as much by what church you were raised in.

Our image of God is absolutely essential to knowing God.

C.S. Lewis said "I don't want my image of God, I want God."

This message series will be based on the book by Jarrett Stevens The Deity Formerly Known as God.  Which Stevens intends as an update to the book by J.B. Phillips titled Your God is too Small.




The idea of the series will be to take a look at the kind of pictures the Bible paints of God.  To get biblically accurate and faithful images of God so that our God is not one we create in our own minds, but one He presents to us in His word.  The irony of a series like Images of God is to discover not just images of God, but God himself.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Finishing a Series

I always have mixed feelings when we conclude a sermon series.  This Sunday is the last message in the series Pastor's Favorites: Movies.  This Sunday we will be looking at a children's animated movie.  The text will be from Luke 15:1-10.  Can you guess the movie?

Anyway, the mixed feelings are due to the sadness of being done with the series and the excitement over the next series. 

I think our next series will be an excellent pre-cursor to our Christmas celebrations.  Our next series will be called Images of God and center around unhealthy and unbiblical images of God and healthy and biblical images of God.

I look forward to it and I hope you do to...but first, we have to talk about the final movie in Pastor's Favorites: Movies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Current Series

Every year I will plan to do a message series called Pastor's Favorites which will give people a glimpse into my little world and give me a bucket-full of ideas to choose from.

Last year the series was Pastor's Favorites: Scriptures.  This year we are currently in a series called Pastor's Favorites: Movies.  The first two movies were The Matrix and Remember the Titans.

I have found that I have a lot energy around these messages.

I've enjoyed re-watching the movies and paying attention to themes and messages that connect to our faith. 

The next movie in the series is a comedy.  It was not nearly as successful or as inspiring as The Matrix or Remember the Titans, however, it is just as relevant to our faith.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vacation

I was on vacation from the 8th to the 14th of this month.  We spent two days in Colonial Williamsburg and two days at Busch Gardens and two days between the beach and two museums.

The weather was perfect and we had a blast.  The hilight for me  (besides spending time with the family of course) was the roller coaster The Griffon at Busch Gardens.

 

When you get on the Griffon there is a floor under you.  Before the coaster pulls out, the floor drops and your feet are dangling.  It creates a thrilling and frightening feeling.  The first drop is straight down and before you drop you dangle for 5 seconds.  The coasters momentum carries you it at speeds of over 70mph.  Also, because it's newer, it's a smooth ride. 

The most important thing about family vacations is the memories.  I know we made some good ones and I look forward to talking about it with my wife and children as the years continue to go by.

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bucket or a Pipe



We are in a message series at Catawba UMC called The Three.  The idea of the series is based on what makes a person a person. And if you think about it, the three things that makes a person a person is thinking, feeling and doing.   The series has focused on what it would look like if we submitted each of these areas of our lives (our thinking, our feeling and our doing) to our creator.

Yesterday the message was titled "Doing."

The scripture was James 2:14-26 where James is communicating clearly that faith is about more than just what you believe.  Jame's point is that faith is equally about what you do as well.  Maybe one way to put it is that faith in Jesus Christ saves you and good works done in His name keep you saved.   

The illustration I used was the contrast between a Bucket-like faith and a Pipe-like faith. A bucket's purpose is to hold something. It just sits there. A pipe's purpose is to carry something from one place to another. I asked the question, is your faith a bucket-like faith or pipe-like faith?

Water in a bucket either evaporates or it just gets nasty from just sitting there. Water that is moving is fresh and clean and drinkable. Is your faith like a bucket? Do you just hold to the good things God has done:

-You know God's love...but you aren't showing it to others.
-You believe God has forgiven you...but you aren't willing to forgive when you've been done wrong.
-You have hope for all of eternity...but it's your hope and your not about to share it with others.

Paul says that kind of faith is dead. It's like water in a bucket. It either evaporates and the bucket no longer has a purpose. Or it gets nasty and unuseable.

God is good at resurrection. So if your faith is dead, God can use a pipe and syphon out that hope, that love, that forgiveness and all the other good things of God and allow you to become a conduit of His goodness so that your life honors God and blesses others.

So may your faith be a pipe-like faith and not a bucket-like faith.

If you want to hear the full sermon, you can check it out in the sermon player at the bottom of this blog.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Clothing the Splachnon

This morning I preached from Colossians 3:5-15. In verse 12, Paul says "clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

Paul originally wrote those words in Greek. And in the Greek language the word translated "yourselves" is the word "splachnon". The splachnon in Paul's day was the seat of emotions. The cultural equivalent today is the heart. We say things like "he broke my heart." Which means "he emotionally hurt me."

The splachnon was the seat of emotions in Paul's day.

So Paul is saying "clothe your splachnon (the seat of your emotions) with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."

This morning I asked "how's your splachnon?" Do you lash out in anger when you are hurt? Do you hold grudges when you don't get your way? Do you withhold affection from your spouse when you are angry with him or her? What is your first emotional response when your pride or ego is threatened? Is it anger, malice, retaliation or passive-aggressiveness? If it's any of those things, God wants you to get rid of your old ways and clothe your splachnon with the virtues of love.

So how's your splachnon? How are your emotions? Just imagine how much better all of your relationships would be if they were filtered through the virtues of love.

May you clothe your splachnon in love!

To hear the message, you can scroll to the bottom of this blog and find it there through the sermon.net player or you can go here and click messages.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Trying to Hide Worry

Our next two day project at CCC was a large wheelchair ramp that had two platforms. The most experienced construction person on our team was a senior in high school who had built a wheelchair ramp last year on a CCC trip. The ramp was for Mrs. Hood's Bible study and prayer group. Of the group, she told us that some are in their 60's, some 70's, some 80's and even a 90 year old. So no pressure on us at all to finish it!

I was worried. Everyone on our team was willing and tried to have a positive attitude, but I was really worried that we would not be able to do it.

I was the team leader and felt it was my responsibility to be positive and I tried not to show my worry.

I'm proud to say that we were able to get most of it done and it actually worked as a wheelchair ramp. I was amazed to see how much we accomplished with the little bit of experience we had on the team.

Because we were unable to finish it, I had asked a couple of guys from our church if they would be willing to stay over on Saturday for a few hours to finish it. Being the awesome guys they are, they said "yes."

So instead of heading straight home from an exhausting week with the rest of our church group, we went to finish the wheelchair ramp. And in 4 hours with four of us it was finished.

Here's a picture of Mrs. Hood on her new ramp:

Friday, August 12, 2011

Improved Prayer Life

On the first two days of the CCC trip we painted the exterior of a house for an older man. We told him we didn't think we could get to the very top on one side of the house (probably 40ft. hight). We had the 28ft. extension ladder extended as high as it would go. Then we had to use a paint roller on an extension rod to get the very top of where we were painting. Since I was the tallest in the group I was chosen to reach those high areas.

Of course we had a spotter to anchor the ladder...but how much could a spotter do if the ladder started to tip or if the one on the ladder lost his/her balance?

My prayer life improved greatly those two days as I painted those high areas. Hornets flew around me. My muscles grew weary with the odd angles I was painting. The extended paint roller was awkward to maneuver as I tried to keep my balance that high up. Did I mention that we had to prime it the first day and paint it the second day? I couldn't wait to finish that high area.

I prayed over and over again for God to protect me and literally reminded myself over and over again that "God is with me."

It feels good to know that it got done and that no one was injured. I truly think God was watching out for us.

Reflecting back I now wonder why I don't have that sense of God's presence and urgency to pray everday. People are always in need...so where's the urgency? God is always present...so where's the awareness of that? Why does it take a risky situation to bring about an awareness and an urgency?

I'm not sure of the answer to those questions but I am sure of God's grace that sustains and strengthens me everyday even when I fail to acknowledge it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spills

While at my first CCC mission trip last week on the very first work day we spilled the water cooler in the back of the van (a van borrowed from another church). After we cleaned it up we were the last ones to leave and had the furthest to drive to do a two day painting project.

On our way back one of the paint cans tipped over and spilled in the back of the van. (Did I mention we borrowed this particular van from another church). I wasn't mad, I was just exhausted from working all day then working to get the paint cleaned up (which took another hour). By the time I got the paint cleaned up my feet were wet from the water hose I had been using to spray it out and it was dinner time. So I went to dinner with soaking wet feet.

It just so happened that it was our workgroup's night for KP (kitchen patrol). That means your group stays after dinner to clean up the kitchen. It was lasagna night...lasagna night is the worst KP night.

I wasn't mad, just exhausted.

That was my first day of my first CCC mission trip. And at the end of the day I still wasn't mad, but I do think it might've been one of the best showers and best nights of sleep I've ever had.

That was day one.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Carolina Cross Connection

This past week, from Sunday (the 31st) to Saturday (the 6th), I was at Camp Carolwood on a mission trip with 13 others (6 adults and 8 youth) from Catawba UMC through an organization called Carolina Cross Connection (CCC).

There were 5 other churches particpating. Throughout the week we helped over 50 families in the Western North Carolina region. The projects included exterior and interior painting, building decks, building wheelchair ramps, yard work, cleaning and replacing floors.

The experience was the combination of camping and serving. Our Monday-Friday schedule looked like this:
7:00am - Wake Up
7:30am - Breakfast
8:00am - Private Morning Devotional
8:30am - Meet with your workgroup (same all week) and get project details for the day.
9:00am - Gather tools and head out to worksite, work until project is finished or until 5pm.
6:00pm - Dinner
6:30-7or8 - Freetime
Rest of the evening - Organized fun activities, corporate worship and opportunities for sharing what God had done that day.
10:00-10:30pm - Lights out

I have told people that I worked harder last week than I've ever worked in my entire life.

I'll share more details about the trip throughout this week.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Peter Rollins Video

Interesting twist on the resurrection:

I Deny the Resurrection from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.


I like how he puts a nice twist on our part in the resurrection. If Jesus conquered sin, evil and death in the resurrection and we are called to join him in bringing the kingdom of God to earth before he makes all things new, then it makes sense theologically that when we fail to do what God has called us to do (feed the hungry, serve the poor, take care of orphans and widows, stand up against injustice, etc.) then we do in a sense deny the resurrection.

I pray we would move towards having more moments of affirming the resurrection than we do of denying it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Proud Daddy

My oldest daughter just had her 7th birthday.  On birthdays we usually try to get something small for the daughter who is not having a birthday so she doesn't feel left out.  This year we bought each of them a Disney Fairy Doll. 

It turns out they would fight over who gets a certain doll.  So our oldest daughter took some of her birthday money and bought the doll her sister wanted so that they would not fight over the dolls.

I was so proud of her for being willing to buy her sister a doll she wanted instead of buying something for herself. 

It's so nice to see one of your children make a decision out of generosity and not out of selfishness. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Answer

I have dwelled and dwelled and dwelled and dwelled and dwelled (you the get the idea) on the perfect answer to the question I was asked from the Call and Disciplined Life Committee of the Board of Ordained Ministry earlier this year. 

The answer came as I was ironing on Saturday night. The question was: "How would you describe yourself in one word?" Obviously the answer I gave the first time around was not sufficient. So this time around I have the perfect answer.

But first, I want to give you some answers I've played with. When I got home that night I asked my wife how she would describe me in one word and she said "discerning." I thought that was a good answer, but I'm not always discerning so that doesn't define me in totality. Another answer I've played with is more humorous. I thought "tall" would be a good answer.

The final answer, however, the answer that I think is better than any other answer is this:

Loved.

I am loved by God. I am loved by my wife. I am loved by my children. I am loved by my parents. I am loved by my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and other family members. I am loved by my friends. I am loved by people in my congregation. It's an answer they couldn't argue with and that defines me in totality.

Loved.

A true definition for me and a true definition for anyone who understands the grace of God in Jesus Christ poured out by the Holy Spirit.

Loved.

It's also the title of a two part message series starting July 17th that you will not want to miss.

Loved.

It's all about God's love for us. You will be blessed. And if you miss it live, check back here at the bottom of the blog is a sermon player where the messages will be posted.

Loved. That's my final answer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Death is Life

This Sunday will conclude our Paradox series.  I think it has been one of the best at Catawba UMC.

The title for the last one is Sleep is Death is Life.  The paradox is that in the kingdom of God death always leads to life.  Lazarus's death led to life.  Jesus' death led to life.  When we "die" to ourselves we find life.  When loved ones pass away who knew Jesus they enter into eternal life.

Our text will be John 11:1-16 and we will discuss different types of deaths and how ultimately God is so powerful that each of them ultimatlely lead to life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom

Happy 4th of July!  As important it is for us to celebrate our country's independence day, I think it is even more important to celebrate our spiritual independence day. 

The 4th of July always reminds me that Jesus has freed us from being a slave to sin, evil and death. 

And while we are ridiculously blessed to live in the United States of America I believe we are even more blessed to have a God who loves us and offers us a way to live in freedom regardless of the circumstances of our lives.

So lets be thankful to God today for the blessing of living in this wonderful country and for the blessing of living in the freedom of Christ.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Don't Force It

Earlier this year I faced a personal situation that evoked some strong emotions.  I asked a few friends of mine whether or not I should turn the situation and emotions and my personal struggles into a sermon or two.  The advice I received was basically to seek the Spirit and to ask myself the qeustion "is this message that comes out of these emotions for me personally or for all of us corporately."

I decided at the time that it was God working on me.  I was not in a place that could share about the situation without feeling resentment and bitter anger.  So I decided not to force it.  I decided to stick with the messages that I had alread planned.

It wasn't until last Sunday that I shared a small part of the situation and I was surprised and how good it felt to share it.  It seemed natural and not forced.  People actually laughed about what had happened and when they laughed it really helped me see that I had made more of it than was really there.

I'm so glad I didn't force the issue and that I was able to share what happened to me naturally and with a sense of objectivity and not anger and resentment. 

Had I forced the issue earlier this year, I think I could've just added to my own anger and resentment.  I thank my friends for their advice and I'm so glad I reached out and that I actually listened this time. 

I guess that just goes to show the value of seeking wisdom from others.  Which reminds me of the proverb that says "plans fail for lack of counsel but with many advisers they succeed" (15:22) .

I just hope I will remember to seek counsel more often and not just try to force something when it's not the right time.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Proud of my Wife

My wife has been working with the women of the church to do something that is more global in nature.  One of her passions is fair trade products.  So, at the service yesterday she gave a presentation on a fundraiser the women will be doing.  The fundraiser is to sale fair trade products.  It's a win-win.  The church raises money for missions and the profit the company makes helps others around the world get out of a cycle of poverty.

Here's the video we showed, I think it conveys the point well:


Right now it is impossible to support fairly traded products with 100% of our purchases, however, each of us can still do our part to make the lives of others better around the world.

I'm proud of my wife.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Paradox

We're in a message series called Paradox at the church where I'm a pastor.  A paradox is a phrase that seems contradictory but contains an element of truth to it.  "No one goes to that restaurant, it's too crowded" is a paradox.  "The only thing I can't resist is temptation" is a paradox.  Jesus often spoke in Paradoxes. 

He said things like "the greatest among you is servant of all" and "I came so that those who are blind can see and those who can see would be made blind."

These are the types of scriptures we have and will be diving into. 

This Sunday the Paradox is a little more subtle.  The scripture is Matthew 8:5-13.  A hint as to what the paradox is in these verses is found in the title which is Authority to Submit.

If you're curious about the first two messages, at the bottom of this blog is a sermon player so that you can listen to the last two messages if you missed them the first time around.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

My oldest daughter and wife made breakfast for me before church for Father's day.  My wife knows that I can tell a difference on Sunday mornings when I have had breakfast and when I haven't.  Obviously, I have more energy when I have eaten breakfast.  So it was a nice surprise to have a good breakfast before the services on Sunday.

I am a blessed man.  If you have a father who has been a good father, honor him today.  If you do not have an earthly father who has been good and loving towards you or who has been indifferent towards you, my prayer is that you know God's goodness and love towards you as He is your heavenly father.

I don't think there is a replacement for a good earthly father and I do not believe God desires to be a replacement for an earthly father.  However, God does promise to never leave us nor forsake us, He promises that we can approach Him with confidence to find help in times of need, He is good, He is loving and He wants us to trust Him as our heavenly father and that's a relationship we all have access to.

May you know God's goodness in your life this Father's day.  

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Annual Conference

I have been away the last few days at Lake Junaluska located in the mountains of North Carolina.  I was attending what is called Annual Conference.  It's the yearly gathering of United Methodist pastors and lay people from across Western North Carolina.  Annual Conference is the place where the business of the denomination in our area is conducted.

Petitions are brought to the floor, amendments are suggested, amendments to the amendments are requested, substitute amendments are submitted and so on and so forth.  It's quite a tedious endeavor.  And most of the time I'm thinking "I know this is supposed to be important, but why doesn't it feel important.  Whatever happened to just trying to bring people to Jesus and make disciples?"

I don't want to paint it all in the negative.  There were moments of spiritual vitality.  These moments were the worship services, bible studies and especially the ordination service.  I had several friends who were officially ordained as pastors.  I was happy for them. 

However, I must confess that I was also saying "I should be there with them" and I wasn't alone.  There were a couple of us in the same group who should have been getting ordained and were deferred by the Board of Ordained ministry.  Hopefully, we will be able to share the experience together next year.

To summarize, Annual Conference is a frustrating and joyful experience at the same time. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sacred Mission

This morning I preached the last message in our Sacred Marriage series.  The unique thing about this Sunday is that it was the 135th anniversary of the church and so we celebrated homecoming.  We had one service instead of two and a lunch to follow the service. 

When I was working on the preaching schedule, I saw that the last Sunday in the Sacred Marriage series would fall on homecoming and wondered what I was going to do. 

At some point God brought it all together in a powerful way.  The point of the message was this: Your mission in your marriage is your mission to the world.

We are called by God to have a servant's heart towards our spouse.  In much the same way, God calls all Christians to live life with the same attitude, mind and character he had (Philippians 2:1-11) which Paul defines in that passage as one of a servant.  So our mission in our marriage is to serve our spouse and our mission as Christians is to serve others.

It fit well for homecoming.  I reminded each of us of the purpose of the church which fit well for the 135th anniversary.  And I reminded spouses of their purpose in their marriage, which fit well for it being a marriage series.

Amazing how God brings things like that together.  Amazing.

It's not always easy, but it's what we are to strive towards. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sacred Sex

This last Sunday as part of the Sacred Marriage message series we talked about sex.  My hope is that we talked about it in an appropriate and biblical way.

I started the message by sharing how I was introduced to sex.  I was introduced to sex in shameful ways.  A boy brought an explicit magazine to school and I found myself curious, excited and confused all at the same time.  About that same year a family member had me look in a similar magazine.

All of this is just to say that many of us were introduced to sex in shameful ways.  No wonder we so easily pervert it. 

The sad part is that there is an entire industry hoping that we will be introduced to sex in this way and that we will give into to our natural desires for the rest of our lives so that the industry will continue to be profitable.  And profitable it is.  The porn industry is more profitable than Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, Ebay, Yahoo!, Netflix and Earthlink combined.  It's more than a 100 Billion dollar industry worldwide. 

What does this mean?  If you were introduced to sex in shameful ways, it was for someone else's profit.  If your children or grandchildren are introduced to sex in shameful ways, it will be to make someone else rich.  To me, that's sick.  It ticks me off.  I have two young daugthers.  I don't want them being introduced to sex in this way, nor do I want them buying into their idea of what sex is and isn't.

Before sex was perverted into a mult-billion dollar money making industry, it was a gift from God to be celebrated in the relationship of marriage.  Sex is supposed to be fun and enjoyable to keep a husband and wife connected and their marriage relationship strong.  Sex is just as much spiritual, emotional and relational as it is physical. 

If it was only physical it wouldn't do the kind of damage it does when it's practiced illicitly.

My point was that sex is a physical represenation of a spiritual reality.  Just as Baptism and Communion involve physical elements to convey spiritual truth, sex does the same thing in marriage.  Therefore, sex within marriage can be seen as a type of spirtiual discipline. 

As Gary Thomas says in his book Sacred Marriage "It might sound shocking, but it's true: God doesn't turn his eyes when a married couple goes to bed.  It only stands to reason that we shouldn't turn our eyes from God when we share intimate moments with our spouse."  In other words, when we think of sex biblically we are thinking of it as something physical, spiritual and emotional all at the same time. 

The money making sex industry wants to keep it just in the physical because that's where they make their most profit.  However, as most married couples know, sex is a whole lot better when it involves the physial, spiritual and emotional connection. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Submission

This past Sunday I preached from Ephesians 5:21-25.  A part of that text is the famous "wives submit to your husbands" passage that can and has been used to relegate the wife to the status of obedient servant of the husband.  That's not what Paul is communicating.

In verse 21, Paul says "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  Verse 21 does not contain the word "Submit" in the original greek.  The greek for verse 22 is "wives to your husbands as to the Lord."  When Paul wrote this, grammatically the two verses form a complete thought.  Husbands and wives, submit to one another, why, out of reverence for Christ.

As Andy Stanley so aptly puts it: Submission just means putting your spouses wishes, dreams and desires above your own.

So when Paul also tells husbands to "Love your wives as Christ loved the church," he's saying, just as Jesus was willing to put away his own desires and go to the cross out of love for us, you are to practice that same kind of submissive love to your wife.

Paul is saying the same thing to husbands as he is to wives and to wives as he is to husbands.

Marriage is about mutual submission.  Both spouses being willing to lay aside their own agendas, wishes, dreams, desires and for the sake of the other.

The reason God designed marriage that way is because it was his way to us.  Submission is God's way in marriage becuase it was God's way to us.  God in Christ willingly submitted himself to the pain, insult, mockery, shame and death of the cross to demonstrate his love for us.  He submitted himself to death for our sake.  Submission is God's way in marriage because it is his way to us.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Entitlement vs. Gratitude

Americans live in a culture that teaches the "unvalue" of entitlement.  We think the world owes us.  We think people owe us.  We think stores and restaurants owe us.  we think our spouse owes us.  We think our church owes.  We think God owes us.

The litmus test for an entitlement attiude is if we get angry, resentful or frustrated when we don't get our way.  When we don't get paid what we are owed.  When our expectations aren't met.

The truth is the world owes us nothing.  God owes us nothing.  People owe us nothing.  Our spouse owes us nothing.

What if we replaced the "entitlement" attidude with one of gratitude.  What if instead of thinking that the world and everyone in it owes us something, what if instead we functioned out of the truth that everything good that happens to us is a gift.  And sometimes, even bad things that happen to us are a gift (obviously there are major exceptions, but we often grow through difficult times). 

The gratitude attitude (rhyme unintentional) will free us from the anger, resentment and frustration when we live out of an entitlement attiude.   

Gratitude, thankfulness and recognizing all good things in our lives as gifts is the antidote to entitlement and I believe the antidote to freedom and life of fulfillment.

May you take the dose of gratitude everyday and be set free from entitlement tendencies.

(The thoughts from this blog mainly come from the article found here).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sacred Marriage

We are in a message series called Sacred Marriage at Catawba UMC.  It's a series based off the book of the same title written by Gary Thomas.  The question Gary Thomas explores in the book is this: What if God designed marriage to make us holy rather than to make us happy

What I appreciate about the book is that it is not one of those 5 Ways to a Happy Marriage or 7 Steps to a Perfect Marriage, it's actually more like a biblical theology of marriage.  It's a way to understand holiness within the context of marriage.

I've enjoyed re-reading the book and preaching the ideas from the book.  My hope is that it both strengthens our marriages and helps all of us (married or not) pursue a life of holiness.

To hear either of the first two messages you can scroll down to the bottom of this blog and download or play it from the Sermon player.  Or you can go here and click the Messages tab.

Here's the video of the song I played at the beginning of the message yesterday:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unmet Expectations



I heard somebody say recently that most (maybe all) conflict comes because of unmet expectations.

In a marriage unmet expectations cause conflict.

At work unmet expectations cause conflict.

With my children unmet expectations lead to conflict.

With every single relationship in my life I can say that unmet expectations have led to conflict.

We can either meet people's expectations, change their expectations or refuse to do either and live in loneliness and isolation.

Especially in a marriage, it is important to communicate reasonable expectations and get agreement from your spouse that those expectations are fair and doable.  Otherwise, bitterness over unmet expectations will creep in and cause each spouse to be frustrated and withhold affection and affirmation, which just creates more distance in the relationship.

I guess that can be true with any relationship, not just marriage.

So, if there is tension or a conflict in a relationship in your life, maybe resolution starts with you communicating your expectations and listening to the other person's expectations and figuring out a way to either change them if they are unfair or meet them if they are reasonable and doable.

If there is tension in your relationship with God.  Maybe you are expecting something from Him that He just isn't going to do?  Maybe you have a view of God that is too selfish?

A good way to keep your relationships with people and God in check is to figure out what expectations aren't being met and why.

Have fun...no really, this can be freeing stuff and freedom is fun.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Writing Exercises


I've been doing writing exercises lately.  Actually, they're typing exercises.

I sit down and write for 15 minutes straight and write...without thinking too much about grammar or spelling or content or flow of thought.  I just write.  I have one topic I write on.  I think if I do this enough I will have a book on that topic.  Or at least that's the hope. 

There's been several different inspirations for this but the biggest one is my two daughters.

My biological father died before I was born so I never knew him.  I would've loved for him to write a book that was for his children, for me.

That's the kind of book I want to write. One that is for my children.  I want it to be publishable quality, but if it doesn't get published, I will not care. 

It will be about what I consider one of the most important things when it comes to living a Christian life.

Sort of a spiritual theology of living practically.

Anyway, I've only done these writing exercises three times so far and they seem to go well.  I don't know that I have the discipline to do it daily, but three or for times a week is definitely possible.

I can't wait to see where this goes.  Hopefully they will turn into a book my daughters can keep with them long after I have left this world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama Bin Laden

My friend and colleague in ministry James-Michael Smith did such a great job writing about how a Christian should respond to Osama Bin Laden's death that I thought I would just link to his post instead of trying to write something myself:

http://jmsmith.org/blog/bin-ladens-death-and-biblical-balance/

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Baptism

My six year old daughter (who has not yet been baptized) asked me about baptism the other day.  I did my best to explain it to her and let her know that I would be glad to baptize her whenever she is ready.

A couple of days later my wife was giving her a bath and she asked my wife if she would baptize her in the bathtub.

Either I did not explain it well or she was not listening well.

I can live with it becase I can think of three things that are more important for her to realize:
1. God loves her
2. Jesus died for her and was resurrected to set her free and give her victory
3. The Holy Spirit is always with her

To me, in her spiritual life those three things are more important than baptism. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Not our Future

The youth are not our future.  Paul didn't write that we are the body of Christ once we graduate high school. 

To say that our youth are only the future is to take away their purpose now.  They are not just our future.  The church needs our youth now.  Here's a few things they offer that I believe the church today is in desperate need of:

- authenticity
- energy
- passion
- new ideas
- technological savvy
- emotional spirituality
(yes this can be a detriment too, but balanced with Biblical truth it is desperately needed in our churches)
- stories of hope and victory
- curiosity

Let us never limit our youth to only being useful for the kingdom of God in our future.  They can be used now.  God has a purpose for each of us, no matter how old or young we are.

This is why I'm excited about our youth leading our services this Sunday.  I think they are going to create an experience that draws us closer to God's purpose for each of our lives.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter

It's been a busy week.  I'm worn out and I know I'm going to sleep well tonight.  And even though I'm worn out, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.  Here's what my last four days consisted of:

The ecumenical Wednesday night Bible study over the past three weeks has been excellent.

The Maundy Thursday service our youth led is on Thursday evening was meaningful.

The Good Friday service at Mt. Sinai Baptist was energetic.
The Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday was fun and served as an excellent outreach opportunity.

The son-rise service early this morning with Derek Jones from Catawba Baptist preaching and a delicious breakfast to follow.

All topped off by an Easter service that reminded us that Jesus' resurrection means that we will attend Death's funeral.

In the middle of all these services I was working with our web designer on the content for our website.  It's finally up!  Check it out at www.catawbaumc.org!

I would do it all again but at the same time I'm glad it's over.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Website


Our church has a new website! 

The site is www.catawbaumc.org 

While the general form and function will be the same, there's still a few things to add to it: a facebook link, the monthly Newsletter, staff pictures, a few more ministries and possibly the current sermon series.

It sure is nice to have another web presence (besides Facebook).

Let me know what you think of the site in the comments section.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pressure at Easter

The week leading up to Easter is a busy time for Pastors.  There are usually extra services/events to attend or lead (Bible studies, Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Easter sunrise service).  Also, it is normal for Pastor's feel pressure to offer something of significance in every sermon they preach.  At Easter, that pressure is amped up. 


I meet with a group of other younger pastors periodically and most of them have more experience preaching than I do. 

Recently, several of them confessed that they used to think Easter Sunday was a time to push themselves to create a worship service and a sermon that would "top" everything else they had done.  After feeling that way for several years, they concluded that the pressure and anxiety wasn't worth it.  And this year most of them have made a concerted effort not to put that kind of pressure on themselves.

It's one of those things that's easier said than done.  I'm trying to make a concerted effort not to put anymore pressure on myself this Easter Sunday than I normally do.  At the same time, this is my first Easter Sunday as a lead pastor and it is my first Easter sermon.   

I want to enjoy Easter and not put pressure on myself to "perform."  Since this is my first time leading the Easter Sunday service I can see that it might be difficult for me to do that.  I just hope I can take the wisdom of those who have been there and apply it my situation instead of learning the hard way.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ecumenical Bible Study

For the three Wednesday evenings leading up to Easter our church has been a part of an ecumenical Bible study with two other churches.

Mt. Sinai Baptist hosted last Wednesday with their pastor Donald Gray leading the study. 

Catawba UMC hosted last night with me leading the study.

Next Wednesday Catawba Baptist will host and their pastor Derek Jones will lead the study.

It's been an excellent way to promote unity among beleivers of different churches around Easter time.

Also, we are having a joint Good Friday service at Mt. Sinai Baptist and pastor Derek Jones is preaching the sunrise service at Catawba UMC. 

If there's ever a time when churches can unite around something, it's Easter.  Because we can all agree that through the death and resurrection of Christ sins are forgiven, freedom is available and the victory over sin, evil and death is won.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Serve

We had our first First Serve ministry this past Saturday.  We estimate that about seventy people showed up to serve the church or community in some way.  

We fed homeless people by preparing, delivering and handing out bag lunches to people at the Corner Table in Newton.  We met our Adopt-a-Street obligation and picked up trash on the side of the road.  We made repairs and upgrades to our playground (specifically for the Easter Egg Hunt coming up).  And we prepared and delivered flowers to a nursing home and brighted up the day for some of the residents there.

It was a good Saturday morning topped off by a visit for the rest of the day with friends we haven't seen in a while.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A New Favorite

I have a new favorite blog.  Okay, so it isn't my absolutely favorite blog, but it is definitely among my favorites, so much so that I have added to the "Blogs I Like" link to the left of this.

It's Greg Boyd's blog and you can find it here.  I love his theology and his heart.  He's first and foremost a pastor, yet, has the skills of a theologian that can hold his own with the best of them.

Of particular interest to me was his recent review of Rob Bell's book Love Wins.  I haven't read the book yet, I'm still getting through Bonhoeffer's biography.  I've almost finished it and would highly recommend it and I'm excited to say that Love Wins is next on my list. 

Another thing I like about Greg Boyd is his Christus Victor theology of the atonement (i.e. what Christ accomplished on the cross).  It's been especially on my mind this time of year (Easter).  For his explanation, click here.  I agree with him that on the cross, more than anything else and along side other theories (especially substitutionary atonement), Jesus was victorious over sin, evil and death (and everything that entails, i.e. sickness, addictions, greed, lust, etc.) so that those of us who are "in Christ" can have that victory as well, not because of anything we've done, but because of what Christ (through the Father's will and through the Holy Spirit's power) has done.

It's good stuff!

Anyway, check out Greg Boyd's writing and reviews...I think you will be blessed if you do.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sermon Player Added

I just figured out how to add the sermon player from the website I use to post my sermons on this blog.  You will now find the sermon player at the bottom of this blog. 

WooHoo!

Going Missional



At Catawba UMC we have been in a series called Going Missional.  It's been all about serving others and seeing church not just as what happens within the walls of a building on Sunday morning, but who we are as a community of people led by the Spirit of God. 

This Sunday the title of the message is More than Words.  I'm excited to share the message and a powerful video that I think brings home the point.

The culmination of the series is the beginning of a new chapter of service in the life of Catawba UMC.  We are starting a ministry called First Serve Staurday.  On Saturday April 9th the people of Catawba will gather together for a brief time of prayer then be sent out to serve the community at four different venues.

I'm scared and excited at the same time.  Questions arise: Will we have enough people?  Will we have too many people?  Will the leaders be prepared?  Have I communicated clearly and effectively?  Will this be something that we can keep going?  

These are all questions based on fear.  They're real and raw and honest and while I deal with them, I am not guided by them.  I am guided by the truth that when the church strives to truly be who God calls her to be, He will bless her and guide her in a way that makes these fears nothing more than my own insecurities.

I am excited about what God is doing and about what God is going to do. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Favorite Comment

A fellow colleague of mine posted my favorite comment yet.  I had blogged on how I did not pass the Board of Ordained ministry to complete the process of ordination (you can read the blog here and it just means I will have to wait until next year to try again).

Here was his comment:

I am so sorry to hear this, and I've been away from blogs I follow for a while so I'm sorry I'm late to comment, but I'll do it anyway.

I did not pass on my first time through the commissioning process. I didn't pass the Call and Discipline life part. I had to go back to seminary, with all my friends who just went through their processes and tell them I did not pass. I passed what I was suppose to know (theology). I passed what I was suppose to do (preaching). But I didn't pass who I was. It hurt and it cut deep.


People always wanted to say, "it is just a year, don't worry it will go by quickly and it will only be a blip on the screen." "God has a plan, don't worry." Both of those things, and more, I did not want to hear. It sucked. It $*!@#(^) sucked! And I was comforted more by the people who let it suck.


My prayer for you is that as it sucks people will name that and just let it be. All the other stuff is true and now, 10 years later it does feel like a blip, but even now it still sucks.


I stand with you in this time, not to wash it away or to try to make you feel better. I stand with you in the midst of the sucking because that is where Christ is as well.


Peace be with you.

It's my favorite comment thus far because it is the essence of what pastoral ministry is all about.  Pastoral ministry is first and foremost incarnational.  It's presence.  It's not about having the right words.  It's not about offering glib platitudes.  It's not about saying something cliche just to say something because you don't know what else to say.  It's not about trying to fix someone.  It's about letting a person be where they are and letting them know that you are with them.

Thanks for the comment Jim Parsons...and as a thank you I would ask you to check out his blog found here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Anthony Robles

I would like to introduce you to Anthony Robles.  I do not know him personally, but his story is amazing.

He recently won the NCAA national wrestling championship in the 125lb weight class.  His record for the season was 36-0.

While that is quite an accomplishment, what makes it even more special is that he only has one leg.

So next time you think you can't do something because you have a handicap or a weakness, just remember Anthony Robles. 

Oh, and you can remember 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 as well:

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unexpected

I led my first Ash Wednesday service yesterday evening.  To be honest, I did not look forward to doing it.

I'm not sure why. 

It could've been the fear of the unknown.  I had never done the imposition of the ashes.  

It could've been the more liturgical nature of the service.  I probably go too far on the side of "non liturgical" than I do "too liturgical."

It could've been the theological implications of self-examination and confession.  Who likes to do that?  It's absolutely necessary, but often scary and painful.

Whatever reason for not wanting to do it, it ended being a very powerful experience for me and I think for those who attended.

I am so thankful that God is a master at turning something we often don't want to do into an experience that draws us closer to Him.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Love Wins

It's not often that I get excited about a new book.  I have three favorite authors and when one of them drops a new title it goes straight to the top of my reading list.

The three authors are Donald Miller, Yann Martel and Rob Bell.

Rob Bell has a new book coming out called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of every Person who ever Lived.  The book and it's promo video (which you can watch here) has already stirred quite a bit of discussion and controversy. 

The reason it has gotten so much attention (besides Rob Bell's popularity) is the subject of the book.  Some people have prematurely labelled Rob Bell as a universalist (the idea that everyone is saved regardless of whether or not they recognize Christ as Lord and Savior). 

At this point it's an unfair label.  The book has not even released yet. 

However, even if Rob Bell does turn out to be a universalist that's his perogative.   It doesn't change the fact that God has used him in my life and in the life of thousands of other people to bring us closer to God.

For a fair blog post that says more about universalism and Rob Bell, check out Scot Mcknight's post here.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

From Knowing to Experience

I completed the Master of Divinity program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 2004.  Most seminaries do not require the extensive work in Greek and Hebrew for the general M.Div. like Gordon-Conwell does. 

At GC 1/3rd of your classes will be working with the Greek and Hebrew languages if you pursue an M.Div.  You are required to take two classes to learn Greek, then one to learn how to use it, then two more classes to show you can actually put what you have learned to work (called exegesis).  That's five classes just in Greek.  Then you have to take two classes to learn Hebrew and two more to show that you know how to use it.  That's four classes in Hebrew. 

That's 9 classes that you will be working with either the Greek or Hebrew languages at Gordon-Conwell.  If you pursue an M.Div. full time at GC most semesters you will be working with Greek or Hebrew.

I did not enjoy those classes.  They were hard and I did not have either a natural like of them nor a natural gift of them.  I'm proud to say that I got a C- in Greek 2 which was a blessing (because if you get a D at GC you have to take the class over).

Even though I didn't like the work, I knew doing it was important.  I knew that learning those languages was an essential skill to studying and understanding the Bible in a way that was faithful to God and to the original authors.   

Here's where what I knew turned into practical experience. 

I was recently reading a book that said a Hebrew word is used in Genesis 2:7.  I was carefully excited.  I was excited because what the author was saying would've fit my sermon for this Sunday perfectly. 

However, when I looked it up in several different resources I found that the author is absolutely 100% wrong.  It is not a subjective wrong either, the word he said that was used in the original Hebrew language is not the word in that text.  I even e-mailed a friend to confirm because I couldn't believe this author would make such a big mistake.

I am no scholar with the Greek or the Hebrew languages.  In fact, I would say my ability with each of them at this point is elementary.  However, because of the language requirements as part of the M.Div. at Gordon-Conwell I know enough to be able to maintain language integrity and it kept me from sharing something from the pulpit that would not be biblically accurate.

I am so thankful for when knowing becomes experience.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Learning Experience

So in my last post I talked about the "funk" I was in after being deferred for ordination in the United Methodist Church. 

So far, there is some clarity around two things that I have learned from the experience.

1. I have learned that sometimes my comments can carry a "shock value." 

If a person receving my comment does not know me they might read more into it than was intended.  This is what happened in one of my interviews.  I answered some questions in a way that was shocking for a group of people that do not know me at all.  My answers raised some red flags.  Next year, I will use better filters and be careful with the way I present myself.

2. I have learned that I have colleagues in ministry that are more than just emotionally and strategically supportive of me. 

One colleague has offered financial support for me to meet one of the requirements given to me by the Board.  Others have been there for me to vent and without judgement because of my anger.  Another colleague was extremely ticked off becuase he feels I am called and talented and thinks the Board made a mistake.  I may not have learned how invested some poeple are in my life and ministry had I passed. 

I''m sure there are more lessons to come but for now I'm soaking these in and moving out of the internal head games that had slowed me down.  Thank you God!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In a Funk

Blessed and in a funk.
I've been in a funk lately.  Most likely it's because of something that happened last week.  You can read about it in a post here.

I'm good at covering it up.  But internally there's a lot going on. 

I've been reminded of what Rob Bell (for more on him, go here) said at a conference I attended last October.  He talked about how you can have 99 positive things said about you and 1 critical comment and it's the critical comment that you remember. 


The church I serve has grown in the 7 months I've been there.

I have been very encouraged by the poeple at the church I serve.

I have been supported by my DS on the district level.

I feel honored to be a part of a forum on leadership led by the Bishop of the conference.

Other pastors in the area have been supportive and encouraging and recognze gifts for ministry in me.

So why is it that I can't shake some of the comments made by a group of people that don't know me yet have power over me because they represent the religous institution in which I'm a part of?

Rob Bell said it's not so much that one critical comment that gets him.  It's the head games that that one critical comments creates internally.

It's easy to start wondering if I should believe that critical comment.  And if it's something true, then what does that mean?

The head games go something like this: If I resent the person that said the critical comment and have trouble forgiving that person, is that a sign of immature faith?  If so, should I even be a pastor?  If I can't forgive how can I teach forgiveness.

Then there's the issue of what other people think about me.  If I couldn't even pass the Board of Ordained ministry, obviously others think I'm a failure.  If others think I'm a failure, will they follow my leadership?

These head games lead to all sorts of places. 

Some of those places are good.  Self reflection is good and can lead to some hard truths that need to be known and dealt with. 

However, the head games can also lead to dark places.  And it's important to guard against the evil one who would use that one critical comment to bring me bitterness, fear, anxiety and depression.

I know this funk will not last.  And I know my God will get me through it.  I know I must persevere and press on and realize that this set back is temporary.

One thing this situation has done is given me a refreshing view of my family.  My wife doesn't love me any less because I didn't pass.  My daughters don't care at their age.  They wouldn't have cared if I passed (even though we would've celebrated, which they would've enjoyed).  They don't care about the size of the church I serve.  All they care about is spending time with me and giving and receiving love.

I am blessed. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Logo

The church I serve has a new logo, it looks like this. 


We used a website to host a logo design contest to get it.

Some people initially see a heart.  Some people initially see a path to the cross.  Some people initially see two persons (either facing in or facing out).  Some people do not see the two persons but see two sliver random dots (which is what I saw the first time I viewed the logo).

I like that it creates conversation.  That's a good thing.
I asked a couple of friends of mine that have graphic design backgrounds to pick which one they thought was the best from the website.  They picked the one you see.

I asked two people in the church that have artistic skills and good artistic eyes to tell me which one they thought were the best.  They picked the one you see.

We also had a church vote through facebook and in person (even though only two people showed up).  The majority vote was the one you see.
I like that we can pull the image aside if we want to use just it and not the wording.  I like that it's modern but still keeps the traditional symbol of the United Methodist Church (which is the cross and flame).

The next step is to get a website for the church to put this on.  It's already budgeted for and I hope to get a team started on it soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Failure

On Tuesday evening I went through what is known in Methodist circles as the "Great Tribulation."  I went before the Board of Ordained Ministry to complete the ordination process. 

I was a failure.  There are three committees you interview with and you have to pass all three to complete the ordination process.

I passed one out of the three.

Which means I have to go before the other two committees again next year if I want to pursue ordination.

I'm angry.  I'm sad.  I'm hurt.  I didn't sleep well that night (but I did sleep well last night!)

Anyway, last night I spoke at a youth rally in our area.  At the youth rally I talked about how our feelings don't define us, God does.

Worry doesn't define us.

Resentment doesn't define us.

Fear doesn't define us.

Rejection doesn't define us.

These are all real emotions, but ultimately they don't define us.  As I spoke, I wondered if I was speaking more to them or to myself.

I'm just glad I'm defined by so much more than the temporary rejection I feel after failing two out of three committees for a religious institutional system.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Little Help

Proverbs 15:22 says: Plans fail for lack of council, but with many advisers they succeed.

This past Sunday the message was about how it is wise to ask for help from others.

Especially when a decision we are faced with is an emotional decision.

We can so easily make a decision based our emotions instead of based on wisdom.

And those decisions based on our emotions often lead to to our greatest regrets.

May you seek the wisdom of others for the most important decisions you will make in your life.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Redeeming the Time

"Be careful how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity."  These words were written by Paul to the Christians in Ephesus.

The phrase "making the most of every opportunity" is a correct translation of a greek euphemism that literally says "redeeming the time." 

I love that phrase: "redeeming the time."

When we think of redemption we often think of it as something God did and God does and God is doing.  We think of redemption as God's work, not ours.  

But Paul writes that we are capable of "redeeming the time."  This is not just something God does, this is something we are called to do and capable of doing.

How?  By living wisely.  By asking the question "What is the wise thing to do with my time?"

John Wesley (the father of Methodism) wrote these rules for living:

1. Do no harm
2. Do good
3. Practice spiritual disciplines

We like the first one.  We like the idea of staying out of trouble.  Many Christians live like doing no harm is what following Jesus is all about.  That having a strong faith is about what you don't do.  

However, when I look at what Jesus taught and the example he lived I wonder how Christians have ever gotten that idea in their head.  Jesus was all about engaging people with a message of truth and love.  He was all about doing good and taking time to talk to God.  He was about action and involvement, not sitting back and patting himself on the back for staying out of trouble.

So what can you do to "redeem the time."  How can you move from a life of "doing not harm" to a life of actually "doing good?"

If you want to hear more about this, you can listen to or download the sermon from last week here.

May you "redeem the time" since God has redeemed you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Best Question Ever

The current series at the church I'm serving is called The Best Question Ever.  I stole it from Andy Stanley.

The best question we can ask is: What is the wise thing to do?

This is better than any other question. 



We can ask: "What is the right thing to do?" 

But some decisions aren't about right and wrong, some decisions are morally neutral.  Also, so many decisions are not necessarily between what is right and what is wrong, but what is good and what is better.  The decision between going out with church friends to have fellowship and staying home to spend quality time with the family is a decision between a good thing and a better thing.


We can ask: "What does the Bible say?" 

But it is silent in so many areas.  Also, the Bible is not an instruction manual so it will not tell us what to buy, what to eat, what career to pursue and many other decisions.  This is not to devalue the Bible, I just think Christians use it in the wrong way sometimes.  The Bible is the amazing story of God creating the world, incarnating into the world and rescuring humanity within and beyond the world. 

We can ask: "What would Jesus do?" 

Sounds great.  But again, we don't actually know what Jesus would drive if he came into the world today.  We don't actually know if Jesus would care about the theme for this Summer's VBS at our church.  Another problem with "What would Jesus do?" is that it assumes that Jesus exists in the past tense.  I like "What is Jesus doing?" better.  The question, what is the wise thing to do looks to God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit as the source of that wisdom.

So may you ask instead: What is the wise thing to do and find that God uses it to keep you in the freedom He already has for you.

(Want to hear the messages?  Click here.)