Saturday, January 31- Not Everyone is an Ear!

BA3462-001     1Corinthians 12:12-21 says, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? Suppose the whole body were an eye — then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

I have always loved that passage. Well, to be entirely honest, when I first started being exposed to Scripture in general, I thought that one was a little…dumb…and more than a tad…obvious. But THEN, I actually began to better understand and appreciate Scripture! And so NOW…I love that passage!

I think what I like the most about it is the fact that it points to a radical sense of equality. It totally, and I mean TOTALLY, looks beyond things like the color of our skin, our gender, our age, our heritage, our economic status…whatever it is that separates us. Instead, it points to that radically equality that God offers.

Think about that for a moment- when we are out in the world, we are FAR from equal. We SHOULD be equal…but we’re not. All of those things I mentioned above, plus about 99,000 others, drive a HUGE wedge between us- one that is hard…if not impossible…to overcome by worldly approaches. But when we are in the presence of God, we are radically equal. Not just equal, but RADICALLY so.

Now you might thinking, “This whole thing SOUNDS good, Pastor, but I have BEEN to church. And those people can’t even get along with each other, let alone think anybody NEW is ‘radically equal”!” And to that I say, sadly, “Amen”. I too have been to churches where this concept is lip service at best, reviled at worst. But I have also been to churches that take seriously the notion that we are all…ALL…children of God. In fact, I serve just such  church now!

Don’t misunderstand- this church isn’t perfect. I mean…we ARE human, after all! But I am regularly amazed at how welcome these people are. It doesn’t matter who it is that walks in- I honestly see no snubbing, ignoring or avoiding going on. And that, my friend, is pretty rare and pretty awesome! We ARE radically equal in God’s eyes. And so we should treat each other that way.

Are you an ear? An eye? A finger? A toe? A spleen? A duodenum? (Google it!) Whatever part you are…you are welcome in God’s world, God’s house! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Bible Isn’t “One Size Fits All”

Friday, January 30- Angels Watching Over Me

angels-16667308-1024-768

In 1984, Christian singer Amy Grant recorded and released a song called Angels. The first verse is:

“Take this man to prison,” the man heard Herod say. And then four squads of soldiers came and carried him away. Chained up between two watchmen, Peter tried to sleep. But beyond the walls an endless prayer was lifting for his keep. Then a light cut through the darkness of a lonely prison cell and the chains that bound the man of God just opened up and fell. And running to his people before the break of day. There was only one thing on his mind, only one thing to say.”

And that “one thing” that he said is found in the chorus:

“Angels watching over me every move I make. Angels watching over me. Angels watching over me every step I take. Angels watching over me.”

The 2nd verse is:

“God only knows the times my life was threatened just today. A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way. Near misses all around me, accidents unknown. Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home. God, I know they’re all around me all day and through the night. When the enemy is closing in I know sometimes they fight to keep my feet from falling. I’ll never turn away. If you’re asking what’s protecting me then you’re gonna hear me say…” and then- back to the chorus!

What do you think about angels? If you believe a lot of art, they are either chubby, cute little children with doe eyes and wings OR they are beautiful young women with flowing hair and…wings. If you believe the cartoons I watched as a kid, as soon as Daffy Duck or Sylvester the Cat died in some ill-conceived plot they had hatched, they became transparent. And then, complete with robe and…wings…they floated to heaven. If you believe the sentimental American understanding, our loved ones become angels the moment they die, complete with…wings…and they watch over us. But if you believe what the Bible says about them, well…that’s a whole different story.

The Bible portrays angels with male names. Words like “archangel” are bandied about. And it seems clear from the various Biblical stories that they are heavenly beings, created by God to be His messengers.

One of the four separate Bible studies that I teach each week is currently focusing on this topic- angels. We are walking through both a study guide and Biblical accounts to see what we can find out about angels.

So many questions come up in this conversation: are they people who once walked the earth and now are heavenly messengers? Do our loved become angels when they die? When we lose someone, did God need “another angel”? Do we have a guardian angel? What IS the dealio?

I have found, both through this study and many other conversations I have had with folks on the subject, that most people have a relatively passionate belief about angels. What I don’t mean to imply by that is that I think everybody believes in them. I have had conversations with folks who basically said, “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! Angels? Pffft!” Likewise, I have talked to people who are sure their deceased mother or father is their guardian angel, watching over them, guiding them, protecting them.

What do YOU think? I’ve tossed out a LOT of possibilities. Which one(s) do you adhere to? What…or who…are angels?

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Not Everybody is an Ear!

Thursday, January 29- Last of the Big Spenders!

date night

My wife and I have…Date Night! We do it every week. 9 ½ out 10 times, we go into a city that is about 40 minutes away. We have dinner and then…party animals that we are…we get groceries! (I know what you are thinking- “Those people live such a wild and GLAMOROUS life!” Let me assure you, it’s not always as glamorous as my description of Date Night would make it seem!) It’s an important time for us. Our goal is NOT to have a unique, special…expensive time every week when we go out. Instead, our goal is much more simple than that- to spend some “alone time” together. (Is that an oxymoron- “alone time together”? On another note, I was called an oxymoron once. At least I THINK that’s what they said!!)

This week, other schedules precluded us from leaving town for Date Night. But that’s OK, since the goal is to spend some time together. We dropped our younger son off at a school event he had and then went out to dinner. It was my turn to pick the restaurant. My wife asked where we were going. I told her that A. I had picked a place and B. I wasn’t telling! She assured me that it didn’t matter where we went, as long as we got to be together. My reply? “Alright, Baby. Prepare to super-size your fries- McDonald’s it is!”

We actually went to another restaurant in town that has a “casual dining” part of the menu as well as a “more upscale dining” part. The waitress told us that the special was a burger of your choice, a side of your choice AND a drink…all for the low price of $4! That’s right, my friends- $4! An appetizer of fried dill pickle chips was also $4. (If you’ve never tried them, stop rolling your eyes and making that face. They may sound odd, but they are GREAT!) So, for $12 plus tax and a tip, we had a total of 2 REALLY good burgers, an order of hand-cut fries and an order of seasoned fries, about 47 cups of coffee AND an order of fried dill pickle chips with ranch dressing. As we walked out to the car, I said, “Wow! $4 per meal. That was even cheaper that the super-sized Value Meal I was going to get you at McDonald’s!” It’s a miracle the woman even married me in the first place!

The time that we spend “alone together” is very important. Between a son in High School and one in Chicago, two parents living with us and a demanding job, we are OFTEN, to quote that great theologian Barry Manilow, ships that pass in the night. If we don’t intentionally carve out time for each other, it’s SO easy to slowly…and unintentionally…drift apart.

What about you? Do you set aside time…intentional, regular time…for the important relationships in your life? WE tend to give EVERYONE our time…except the people that matter the most to us. We tend to think that they will understand. But I am convinced that’s why a decent amount of the marriages that break up do so. Couples spend less and less time together. They lose that intimate connection.

Look at your life. Name the relationships…THE relationships…that are the most important to you. I pray that God is Number One with a bullet on that list. That’s awesome AND how it should be. But who is Number Two? Number Three? Are you giving them the time and attention they need…and deserve? If not, why not? How can you correct that? They deserve it..and so do you!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Angels Watching Over Me

Wednesday, January 28- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse: Counsel

branch from the tree

A businessman was in a great deal of trouble. His business was failing, he had put everything he had into the business, he owed everybody it was so bad he was even contemplating suicide. As a last resort he went to a pastor and poured out his story of tears and woe. When he had finished, the pastor said, “Here’s what I want you to do, put a beach chair and your Bible in your car and drive down to the beach. Take the beach chair and the Bible to the water’s edge, sit down in the beach chair, and put the Bible in your lap. Open the Bible; the wind will rifle the pages, but finally the open Bible will come to rest on a page. Look down at the page and read the first thing you see. That will be your answer, that will tell you what to do.”
A year later the businessman went back to the pastor and brought his wife and children with him. The man was in a new custom- tailored suit, his wife in a mink coat, the children shining. The businessman pulled an envelope stuffed with money out of his pocket and gave it to the pastor as a donation in thanks for his advice. The pastor recognized the benefactor, and was curious. “You did as I suggested?” he asked. “Absolutely,” replied the businessman. “You went to the beach?” “Absolutely.” “You sat in a beach chair with the Bible in your lap?” “Absolutely.” “You let the pages rifle until they stopped?” “Absolutely.” “And what were the first words you saw?” “Chapter 11.”

Tonight, we continue our current Sunday night sermon series- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse, looking at 7 gifts God gives us, as found in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah 11:1-3, and the impact they can have on us…and those around us. Every week, we are walking through those gifts, unpacking them and seeing what they have to offer us. But first, a reminder about what “the tree of Jesse” means. Jesse was the father of King David. The Tree of Jesse is symbolic of his descendants and, more importantly, the ancestors of Jesus.

Romans 14:1 Accept those whose faith is weak. Don’t judge them where you have differences of opinion.

The first week we considered “wisdom”. The 2nd week, the topic was “understanding”. Tonight, we look at “counsel”. So let’s start where I often start when talking about a specific word- the dictionary. When we were first married, we had a dictionary that would hurt a person…and probably KILL a small child…if it fell on them. It…was…mammoth! And frankly, in that time and place, it got used decent amount- enough that it began to wear out over the years of use and moving. And when i was time to “retire” it, we did NOT buy a new one…because they have this little called “the internet”! So what does dictionary.com have to say about “counsel”? Well, as it all turns out…a LOT!

“1. advice; opinion or instruction. 2. the advocate or advocates engaged in the direction of a cause. 3. to give advice to; advise. 4. to urge the adoption of, as a course of action. 5. to get or take counsel or advice.”

THAT is a mouthful! But the bottom line is that, as a noun, it is advice or instruction. It is also the PERSON who offers the advice or gives the direction. As a verb, it is to either give OR receive that advice. The act. The thing. The person. Keep that in mind as we look at the Scripture that accompanies this series.

 Isaiah 11:1-3- A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord– and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears.

It was snowing heavily and blowing to the point that visibility was almost zero when the young woman got off work. She made her way to her car and wondered how she was going to make it home. She sat in her car while it warmed up and thought about her situation. She finally remembered her dad’s advice that if she got caught in a blizzard she should wait for a snow plow to come by and follow it. That way she would not get stuck in the snow drift. This made her feel much better and sure enough in a little while a snow plow went by and she started to follow it.
As she followed the snow plow she was feeling very smug as they continued and she was not having any problem with the blizzard conditions. After quite some time had passed she was somewhat surprise when the snow plow stopped and the driver got out and came back to her car and signaled for her to roll down her window. The snow plow driver wanted to know if she was alright as she had been following him for a long time. She said that she was fine and told him of her dad’s advice to follow a snow plow when caught in a blizzard. The driver replied that it was OK with him if she continued to follow him…but he thought she ought to know that he had finished the WalMart parking lot and was getting ready to head over to K-Mart next!

So counsel can be you seeking advice from someone else. Or it can be someone else seeking it from you. You can be on the giving OR receiving end of it. Tonight, we are going to look at 4 steps that speak directly to the issue of counsel- regardless of on which end of the equation you find yourself.

1. Identify the need for counsel- Is this a simple problem that I can solve on my own? Are there trusted friends that I can turn to? Have I asked for God’s guidance? This step is impacted by our particular gifts and graces. If my car breaks, down I take it to a garage because I barely know where the GAS goes! You, however, may know more about cars and can handle some of the problems that come up. On the other hand, if you need a haircut or style, you go to a professional. Me? Not so much! If I have medical needs, I go to the doctor. If he or she says I need medicine, I go to the pharmacy. Those seem rather cut and dried.
But we are often less likely to look for counsel on spiritual issues, relational or emotional issues. When my career is not fulfilling, what do I do? If my marriage is in trouble, if my kids are having problems, if I’m in the midst of great emotional struggles…do I seek counsel? Our nation was built on what I call Bootstrap Theology- pull yourself up by them, that is. Spit on it. Rub dirt on it. Walk it off. Boys don’t cry. Buck up. We’ve all heard it before…and it tends to seep into our soul deeply enough that we fear we will be perceived as “broken” or “weak” if we need help. Don’t misunderstand- there is power and affirmation in a level of self-sufficiency. The danger is that, in the long run, a shortcut is not always a short cut.
God is always walking this discernment path with us…if we will seek Him wisdom AND pay attention to it. He doesn’t always guide us to someone else to help get through it. Sometimes He enrolls us in His own special “training program” by design. There is intentionally nobody around to hand the ball to- and He equips us to carry it into the end zone ourselves.
Insisting on doing it ourselves can become destructive if we’re doing it because we’re not willing to humble ourselves and ask for the counsel we need. There’s a point when being self-reliant turns into being self-absorbed- prideful. We all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Are you just recycling old solutions that don’t work? Is it time for a fresh perspective? Is there a problem you’ve struggled with for years without any resolution but instead just a recurring cycle of failure and defeat? That’s a sign that it’s time to seek counsel. Are you facing an important decision that seems to require more expertise than you have? That’s a sign that it’s time to seek counsel.

2. Identify the right source for counsel. Seeking counsel isn’t enough. You need the right kind of counsel if it’s going to make a difference. There is truly a passionate search for spiritual answers in our society. And that’s awesome. But the truth is that not every source of counsel is actually…you know…helpful. Some are seductive. Some are misleading. And some are downright destructive. And society and the media are more than willing to tell us what we should do. In both subtle and not so subtle ways, they recommend the “next best thing” through TV, movies, the internet and other media. I’m often amazed at the counsel some folks will seek as an answer to their problems. Their kids are giving them trouble, so they go to someone whose kids are totally messed up and ask them what to do. People having trouble with their marriage go to someone else whose marriage is in the dumper and ask them what to do. If you can’t grow a decent field of corn to save your soul, it’s probably not the best choice to go to you for counsel on farming. Many of my seminary professors had the same story, “I pastored a little, TINY church out in the middle of nowhere for three years…it didn’t go very well. Now…let me teach YOU how to pastor a church!” To quote that great theologian Pete from the movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?, “That don’t make no sense!” If you’re going to seek counsel, then find someone who’s had some success in the area. Seek counsel from somebody whose life reflects both godliness and competence.

3. Evaluate the counsel that’s given to you. Even though you have carefully selected someone’s counsel, you still have to take responsibility for your own decision. It doesn’t mean you should just do the part that you WANT to do. It doesn’t mean that you should approach the whole process with that attitude that you’re just wasting your time. You should approach it intending to hear the counsel…and be ready to act on it. But there ARE some yardsticks that any advice should be able to pass before you implement it. First, it has to be consistent with the nature and teaching of God. No matter how reasonable someone’s advice might seem, if it contradicts God’s Word then it can’t be right. The end does NOT justify the means. It needs to reflect God. And that’s why we should be in worship regularly. That’s why we should read the Bible regularly. That’s why we should be involved in Bible Study. Those things are not just things we just do to fulfill our religious obligation. They are preparation for wise decisions and Godly living.
Now, if you already know what God wants you to do…then be like Nike- just do it. It’s wrong-headed dangerous to seek someone else’s counsel when God has already given you a clear picture. If you already know God’s will about something, you don’t need to ask anybody else for advice. You might share it with others, seeking confirmation. But if God speaks…listen.

4. Implement the counsel you receive. You can navigate the first three steps to perfection. You can recognize your need for counsel. You can seek out godly, competent counselors. You can properly evaluate their counsel. But if you don’t actually do anything about it, then the whole exercise was for naught. Once God speaks, it’s our responsibility to obey. You can’t just consider what God is telling you- you have to act on it. Somebody’s opinion is one thing. It’s not always a BAD thing, but often an opinion and a dollar will buy you a Coke out of most machines in the country. It’s quite another thing to receive a God-breathed direction, either directly from Him or through someone else.

Proverbs 2:14-15 Many good things come from what a man says. And the work of his hands rewards him. The way of a foolish person seems right to him. But a wise person listens to advice.

Is there a decision or issue in your life that requires you to humble yourself and ask for counsel? You’ve tried all your solutions…over and over…and they simply have NOT worked? Recognize your need for counsel. Seek wise counsel. Evaluate the counsel you receive. Then…do it. And throughout, make God the foundation upon which you build your decisions…your life.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Last of the Big Spenders!

Tuesday, January 27- Thank You For Proving My Point

thank you     I have decided something about this ol’ world in which we live. And what I’ve decided is actually rather simple- you’d THINK I should have figured it out a while back. BUT…I am not always the sharpest tool in the shed!

Anywho, what I figured out is to not get too bent out of shape by people who continue to make bad choices and who love to try and build themselves up by tearing others down. You know the type of people about whom I speak- they are always right. They are always smarter than everybody else. They always want to tell you why you’re wrong and why, if you’d just listen to them, life would be SO much better. And what they are most committed to is to NOT let the “big picture” or “the facts” confuse them away from what they think.

I am always a bit…torn…when one of those kinds of folks says or does something that simply proves the point I am making today. The painfully human side of me…and BOY does that exist…wants to say, “Well THANK you for proving my point for me!” The Christian/Pastor side wants to close my eyes, shake my head and pray for them.

What about you? Do you HAVE to be right all the time? Are you convinced that everything would be all kittens and moonbeams if everybody else would just wise up and listen to you? If so…be careful. I had a wise boss tell me once, “If everybody around you seems to be a jerk…you may need to reconsider who the jerk is!” Ouch! But it’s true. Don’t worry about the speck in your brother’s eye until you have addressed the log in your own. Jesus said, “Love God…love neighbor.” But He NEVER said it would be easy!!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse: Counsel

Monday, January 26- Random Thoughts on Communion

The church I currently serve celebrates Communion on the first Sunday of every month on Sunday mornings and every week on Sunday evenings. I have people ask, “So, is that when Methodists take Communion?” And the answer is a decided…maybe! The reality is that there is no “set in stone” schedule for serving Communion by which individual United Methodist churches serve Communion- it is left up to the discretion of each congregation. Some serve it weekly, some serve it month, some serve it quarterly…I would hazard a guess that none serve it less frequently…but I don’t know that for sure!

Communion is a fascinating topic- it has been around for about 2,000 years, and subject to interpretation for about 2,009 of those years! Some folks serve only unleaven bread, some serve other types of bread. Some serve only wine, some serve only grape juice, some make both available. In some denominations anyone can serve Communion while in others only clergy can serve. Some faith traditions have guidelines about how old one has to be before they can take Communion…others do not. Some churches only allow members to take Communion, others allow all to partake.
Frankly, just about ANY derivation of the basic “bread and cup” format that you can imagine is being done somewhere. For some, that is a cause of stress. They worry that theirs is the only way to serve Communion and if it is not taken that way…then it is flawed. I have a different view, which is frankly one of the reasons I chose United Methodism.
I feel that the example of Communion given to us in the Gospels was, like Jesus’ baptism and other things, contextual…that is, it happened in a certain setting, a particular time and place. And because of that contextual nature, it was done the way it was done. In other words, I feel that the specifics of Communion are NOT found so much in the HOW as in the WHY. For me, it is a representational meal that is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ- when I serve or take Communion, I am stating publicly that I choose to be a follower of Jesus. Further, by having an “open Communion” (anyone is welcome), I am reinforcing Jesus’ Gospel message that His grace and salvation are for everyone!
How do YOU take Communion? What is YOUR understanding of what it is, what it means? Notice I said “I feel” and “I think” in this article. Your thoughts are just as valid as mine. So…what are they? How do you view this rather mysterious rite of the Church? I’m curious to know!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Thanks For Proving My Point

Sunday, January 25- The Bible Isn’t a Weapon

What the Bible Isnt Week 4

I grew up out in the country. My parents bought a bit over two acres on the corner of my grandpa’s 150+ acre farm, built a house on it and raised a family. I spent a LOT of my “growing up” years running around the countryside, including my grandpa’s farm. One summer night, two buddies and I decided to go camping back on my grandpa’s property. We had a few “select” spots where we liked to camp, and that particular night, we chose a spot on the “farm road” to ran along/around all of the fields on his property. We took our gear back there, including my friend’s Honda mini-bike, set up camp, and then went out walking. We were about halfway down my grandpa’s ¼-mile driveway…that cut straight through the woods…headed out to the “hard road” when a truck suddenly started coming down the drive! It was almost 9 o’clock at night and frankly, NOBODY came down my grandpa’s driveway that time of day, so we did what any self-respecting 12-year olds would do- we dove into the woods before the headlights caught us! From the safety of the brush, was watched the truck pass us and head toward my grandpa’s house. I knew that A. whoever it was, they didn’t belong there and B. our stuff was unguarded! So we started running back toward the house.
When we got to the edge of the first field and rounded the corner, we could see our campsite. And the truck was parked RIGHT there! They were stealing our stuff…including my friend’s mini-bike! I sprang into action! I ran to my grandpa’s house, slid open the pantry window (the door was locked!), climbed in and went to my grandpa’s bedroom. A widower by that time, he was in bed reading and was MORE than a little surprised to see me burst into his room! I was nearly beside myself! “Grandpa- somebody is stealing our stuff!” Stunned, he replied, “What?” “There’s a truck and they’re stealing our stuff!” Still trying to get his bearing in the presence of this babbling grandson, he replied, “What?” I could see I was getting nowhere…at breakneck speed! SO…I went straight to the meat of the conversation, “Where’s your gun?” Apparently choosing to stick with his current line of conversation, he replied, “What”?” “Your gun! Where is it?” My grandpa then made a HUGE tactical error- he actually TOLD me where it was! I mean, I was 12…AND babbling like a complete idiot (insert your joke here!)…and he actually TELLS me where the gun is! (Pointing) “In the closet. Why?” I didn’t have any more time for idle chit chat so I said not a word but went straight to my work! I got the gun, a rifle, out of the closet…and ran out of his bedroom!
When you left his bedroom, you were immediately in the dining room. Through the swinging door at one end of the dining room and you were in the kitchen. The pantry window that I climbed through was also in the kitchen. As I burst through the swinging door into the kitchen, I turned toward the window through which I had climbed…and there was a man climbing IN the window…after me! At that moment, I did what any self-respecting country kid would do in that circumstance…I squared off, pointed the rifle at his head and yelled, “Don’t move!” There was moment…that felt like a lifetime…and then, this guy put his arms up in front of his face and yelled, “Don’t shoot…it’s Uncle Jerry!” It was my mom’s brother, checking up on us! After he changed his shorts, we had a very uncomfortable laugh about the whole thing!
Proverbs 25:26 Sometimes a godly person gives in to those who are evil. Then he becomes like a muddy spring of water or a polluted well.
When we talk about what the Bible is, we seldom stop to consider what the Bible ISN’T. Today, we continue our current sermon series, looking at that very thing- What the Bible Isn’t, looking at 7 things the Bible isn’t. Today, we will look at the fact that the Bible isn’t a weapon. The jumping-off point is that the Bible, at its core, isn’t a club we use to gain political power or force others to obey our rules. I have shared that some of these “what the Bible isn’t” topics might be a little controversial. This is one of them. Why? Well, 2Corinthians 10:4 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” “That sounds like the Bible IS a weapon, Pastor! So why are you saying it ISN’T?!” Good question! Let’s look at that.
   Matthew 26:50-54 So Judas went to Jesus at once. He said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then the men stepped forward. They grabbed Jesus and arrested him. In that moment, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword. He pulled it out and struck the servant of the high priest with it. He cut off the servant’s ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him. “All who use the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I can’ t ask my Father for help? He would send an army of more than 70, 000 angels right away. But then how would the Scriptures come true? They say it must happen in this way.”
Two hunters from got a pilot to fly them out into the backwoods of Canada to hunt deer. Four days later, the pilot returned to find that they had bagged six big bucks. They started loading them into the plane, but the pilot stopped them. “The plane can only hold up to four deer.” The two hunters objected strongly. “Last year we shot six, and the pilot let us put them all on board; he had the same plane as yours.” Reluctantly, the pilot gave in and all six deer were loaded. However, even at full power, the little plane simply couldn’t handle the load and crashed just a few moments after take-off. Climbing out of the wreckage, one of the hunters asked the other, “Any idea where we are?” The other hunter thought for a moment, then said, “I’m not SURE…but I think we’re pretty close to where we crashed LAST year!”
So how is “the Bible as a weapon” a bad thing? Well, In the 1860s, Southern preachers defended slavery by taking the Bible literally. They used as their ammunition Ephesians 6:5, which says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” and Titus 2:9, which says, “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect”. God-fearing Christians who wanted to preserve slavery could find words in the Bible to back them up.
The preachers of the North had to be more creative, but they also found a way to argue that God was on their side, emphasizing that the Union had to be preserved so that the advance of liberty around the world wouldn’t be stopped. One Boston preacher preached, “If the Union is lost, the world is lost.” Some preached that God insisted that slavery be ended at all costs. The Battle Hymn of the Republic even points to that fact- “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me. As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.”
70 years earlier, George Washington had all but foreseen this reality and offered this warning, “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.” But maybe Abraham Lincoln offered the best perspective on religious warfare. “My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side.”
How else is the Bible used as a terrible weapon? Did you realize that, ironically, the Westboro Baptist Church is picketing a variety of churches in the Quad Cities right this very minute…as we speak about the Bible not being a weapon?
We all know they’ve been outspoken about their hatred of homosexuals. Did you know that they picketed the funeral of a young man named Matthew Shepard simply because he had the audacity to be beaten to death by men who didn’t agree with his orientation? Did you know that they have also attacked Catholics and Jews? Did you know that, at some of their “rallys”, they have stomped on the American flag? Did you know that they have also picketed at the funeral of American soldiers killed in the line of duty? They’re bullies.
Bullying is more and more being addressed and dealt with in the schools. And it should be. Anybody who chooses to pick on or harass someone else simply because…they can…is a coward. But it’s still a problem. Christian bullying is also still a problem. Using the Bible to try and bully others is NOT part of God’s plan. It’s GOOD to have your own, strong spiritual beliefs. But it’s NOT good to try to force others to have the same beliefs. If you are sure of your faith- that’s awesome! But it is NOT a reason to proof text the Bible in an effort to show others why they’re wrong.
In fact, making others feel bad, telling them they’re wrong- it’s probably the worst way to encourage them to have any interest in searching for God. Why would anybody seeking more and deeper meaning in their life be inspired to go to the church of a person who tries to scare or shame them? Aren’t we supposed to encourage others to look for God, instead of driving them away? Our role of is not to put others down, but to live a life of love, charity, humbleness and joy…so that others notice and want to know more about what we have.
We can’t use the Bible to proclaim God’s love and grace while at the same time use it to flaunt our righteousness and shame someone else. We can’t use the Bible to encourage people who mourn and also use it to tell them they’re doing it wrong. We can’t use the Bible to celebrate the diversity of all who bear the image of God and also use it to demand that everyone think exactly the same thing. We can’t use the Bible to exalt Jesus and also use it to shield ourselves from its truths. In fact, we can’t “use” the Bible at all! And that’s the problem. We try SO hard to USE the Bible to further our own agenda instead of simply letting it reveal the truth of God to us. We want to use it…like a tool. And that does NOTHING but cheapen it.
I have heard Christians, trying to “explain” to someone else why they’re wrong, say, “You just need the Bible!” Sometimes, people use the Bible to stop a conversation. Sometimes, people use the Bible to beat someone up. Sometimes, people use the Bible to prove that they’re “right”. If we’re not careful, the Bible becomes a tool that makes us feel good about ourselves. It justifies our opinions and our worldviews. It makes us feel…correct. If we’re not careful, the Bible stops being something that reveals our hearts and instead becomes a weapon designed to kill a conversation and diminish a threat.
Don’t get me wrong- basing our worldview on the Bible is absolutely what we should do. Having our beliefs formed by the God’s Word instead of our own opinions is the right approach. The Bible is indeed a weapon, but it’s a weapon in the kind of fight that a lot of us don’t even notice is going on- a spiritual fight. It’s no accident that God has revealed His written Word as a weapon of offense against the work and wiles of the devil. But when we simply use the Bible to justify ourselves by being more right than others, we’re abusing God’s Word. And we tend to do that when the Bible is too comfortable to us. The stories don’t shock us any more. The power of the Word no longer shines a light into the darkest recesses of our heart, no longer illuminates the brokenness of our hearts.
Instead of us serving God, we expect His Word to serve us. We read it and regurgitate it. And that’s an AWESOME approach is we are planning a trivia night or if you’re trying to win a debate. On the other hand, that approach stinks if you want to be truly transformed.
If we’re too comfortable with the Bible, too jaded by it, then it can’t adequately bother us. Instead, we use it to point out everybody else’s mistakes. We’re way too comfortable using the Bible to win an argument, but not NEARLY as comfortable letting it challenge us to look at life a new way. The Bible was never intended to be “used”. It was intended to be a living, breathing thing with which we interact.
     2Timothy 3:15-17 You have known the Holy Scriptures ever since you were a little child. They are able to teach you how to be saved by believing in Christ Jesus. God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.
The Bible does not…and cannot…save us. Because knowing the Bible doesn’t guarantee that we know Jesus. Instead, God’s Word points us toward Jesus- “the Word made flesh”- He is the only One Who can save us.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow-

Saturday, January 24- No Two Days Are Alike!

calendar

If you love knowing what your day is going to be like- if you depend on the fact that things are going to happen the way you have them scheduled to happen- do NOT go into the ministry! In my line of work, no two days are alike!

I am a scrupulous “keeper of the calendar”. I schedule seemingly everything. “Let’s see, 6:40AM- shave, 6:50AM, get dressed, 7AM- take the dogs out…” OK, maybe my calendar isn’t THAT specific…but it’s close! And let me assure you- that was a REALLY challenging habit to develop for this frighteningly ADHD guy! For years, I was sure I could remember everything. And…I could…as long as I had almost nothing on my calendar. But as my life got more complicated, I was regularly crashing and burning in the “keeping a schedule” department!

But now, I have swung 180 degrees the other way. If someone says, “Are you going to be in the office tomorrow at 9?”, my FIRST response is to reach for my iPhone as I say, “Let me check my calendar”! I. Plan. To. The. Nth. Degree!

But the ironic thing is that, now that I have achieved “scheduling nirvana”, my job is such that, many days, the calendar is just a suggestion! And some days…it’s barely even that! I plan on a certain quantity of work getting done in a certain amount of time on a certain day. And then…the phone rings. Or I get a text. Or an email. Or a Facebook message. Or someone walks in the church. Or someone comes to the front door of my house. And then…the day takes a strong left turn!

I used to get pretty (and hopefully secretly) frustrated by that fact. “I have things to do. I have a schedule!” But over the years…the 18 years that I have had the title “Rev.” tacked to the front of my name….I have come to understand that the dynamic described above is part and parcel with being a minister. If you simply can’t deal with unexpected things coming up at inopportune times…parish ministry might not be a good fit for you!

Ministry is messy. It’s unpredictable. It’s emotional. It’s hard. And I can’t even IMAGINE doing anything else with my life!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Bible Isn’t a Weapon

Friday, January 23- The Old Rugged…Thou Art!

hymns-of-the-faith_wide_t (1)

In my 18 years in the ministry, there was a year when I officiated at 25 funerals…that’s a LOT. Likewise, there was a year when I officiated at only 5 funerals…that’s NOT a lot. That was my lowest number of funerals in a year. That is, until last year.

2014 saw the lowest number of funeral I have EVER done in one year- 2. I did one in January and one in mid-February. And then, for the rest of the year…none. And frankly, given

what last year was like for me, it was probably a gift from God that I only did two! This year, I have already done three funerals, and we’re not even through January yet. And it is one of those funerals that is the jumping-off point for today’s story.

A dear, sweet woman passed away after a life well-lived. We’ll call her Alice. Alice was loved by all who knew her and had a very strong faith. That combination, in case you are not sure, is AWESOME for the pastor who is officiating! It is the equivalent of pitching a huge softball to a major league batter!

As I prepared for the funeral, I found that the family had chosen 5 songs that they wanted incorporated in the service somehow. Those songs were: The Old Rugged Cross, How Great Thou Art, I Can Only Imagine, Turn, Turn, Turn (by The Byrds) and a marvelous instrumental version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame (she was a huge sports fan)!

After much thought and prayer, I decided to insinuate the music into the service this way- How Great Thou Art, Turn, Turn, Turn and I Can Only Imagine would be played as the last three songs prior to the start of the actual service. The Old Rugged Cross would be played about ⅓ of the way through the service. And the service would end with Take Me Out to the Ballgame. On the surface, it seemed like an odd choice, but the more I thought about who Alice was…it just felt right.

So the service started. And when we hit the ⅓ mark, I introduced the first of the two songs. “Alice was a strong woman of God who loved the classic hymns of the faith. So we are going to honor that as we listen to one of her favorites- The Old Rugged Cross.” I smiled pastorally and sat down behind the podium. There was a pause…and then the music started. As I listened to the intro, I thought, “That doesn’t sound like a logical intro to The Old Rugged Cross.” And then, about 4 seconds later, I realized why! “Oh, Lord, my God- when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.” It was How Great Thou Art! Through a simple bit of mixed communication, the song I intro’ed was NOT the song that was playing!

As the song played, I considered how I should handle the situation. I could simply ignore it, as if nothing unusual happened. But that didn’t seem like a good idea- the folks gathered there are smart folks…they KNOW the difference! I could have stood up and thrown the funeral home staff under the bus. But that wasn’t fair- it really wasn’t anybody’s fault…it just happened. So…what to do?

When the music stopped, I paused a moment, stood up, stepped up to the podium, laid my hands on either side of it, smiled at those gathered there, took a breath and said, “My sense tells me that, from her mansion in Heaven, Alice just called an audible and changed The Old Rugged Cross into How Great Thou Art!” I then looked skyward and added, “Well played, Alice!” Those gathered laughed, the tension was broken and what could have been awkward and embarrassing was instead a fun little moment in the midst of a difficult day!

I learned a LONG time ago that, if you want to survive in the ministry AND keep any semblance of your sanity, you have to expect the unexpected and be willing to simply go with the flow. If you are comfortable “on your feet” and “in your skin”, if you don’t take life…or yourself…too seriously, if you’re willing to laugh at yourself…things are going to be OK!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- No Two Days Are Alike

Thursday, January 22- The Church “Drive By”

drive-by

At my first church, I was the Associate Pastor. From the moment I stepped in the door until 7 years later when I left…that was my title. It never changed. My DUTIES, on the other hand, changed pretty dramatically during that time. At first, regardless of my title, I was “the youth and children” guy. That’s what I did! And that leads me to today’s story.

It was probably fall of 2000. It was a Friday night and I was leading a Senior High lock-in. I had learned the HARD way that if you don’t schedule things for the kids to do…they’ll FIND things to do (and that’s NOT always a good thing!), so I had planned several events that evening. The biggest of these events was a video scavenger hunt. I divided the youth group into 4 smaller groups and had an adult that was assigned to each group. We had a series of riddles that each team got. They had to solve the riddle by figuring out what geographic location in the area was being referenced, and then drive to that location and videotape it, preferably with the team out of the vehicle and in the video. Then, everybody came back and watched the videos…which were a hoot, by the way!
My group got the church van, a big old 15-passenger jobbie that was impossible to miss when it was on the road- the church name and logo where plastered all over it and it was just…big! One of the places we figured out we had to go was a tanning salon that was about 10 minutes from the church, on the other side of the interstate. We feared we were behind in the race to get back to church, so we didn’t get out at that stop- we simply pulled up in front, shot a little video of the place, and drove off. When we pulled up, they were closed (it was pretty late at night) but we could see an employee in the store…and he saw us. We videoed and left. Simple, right? Not so much, as it all turned out! We went down to the end of that particular strip mall, turned, drove over the interstate and onto a surface road on the other side, where we were pretty immediately stopped by a red light. As we sat at the light, this car comes SCREAMING up alongside of us ans screeches to a halt! The driver’s door FLIES open and the guy from the tanning salon hops out, absolutely frothing at the mouth! He was nearly apoplectic (Google it) as he screamed at us about videotaping his store while he stood there and counted money and what did we think we were doing and who did we think we were and he was going to call the cops! All the while he somehow seems to fail to notice that we are sitting in a CHURCH VAN! (I understand…that doesn’t guarantee anything, but it would AT LEAST have given me pause to reflect!)
Once I was able to talk him down off the ledge and inform him (in no uncertain terms) that he needed to STOP shouting profanities at these high school boys or he was going to find out that the Lord’s justice is swift…and comes from the right, I explained to him what we were doing. He stood there (remember…we’re in the middle of the road, at a dead stop, while all of this is going on!) for a second, then got all apologetic and embarrassed, shuffled his feet a bit, and drove off. Let me assure you- when we all got back to church, regardless of anybody’s video…we had the BEST story!
Perception is an interesting thing. What YOU perceive is NOT always going to be what I perceive. But at the end of the day, I am convinced that perception is reality- if you genuinely perceive something to be true, then it is…to you. And I fear we all too often lose sight of that fact. We forget that others don’t always see things the way we do, and so we are shocked, or surprised, or angered when they don’t agree with us. And that sometimes leads to consequences that are both unfortunate and avoidable. The next time someone sees something in a way that you do NOT… stop for a second, consider things from their perspective, and try to react accordingly. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, just be willing to consider their perception of things. Try it…you’ll be surprised!
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Old Rugged…Thou Art!

Wednesday, January 21- The Lost Art of Leadership

leadership

I have been thinking a lot lately about leadership. And the more I think about it, the more I realize the amazing leadership vacuum that seems to be happening in this country. At EVERY level of leadership, in EVERY conceivable setting and scenario, there seems to be a crucial shortage of good leaders.

Now, you may be saying, “I don’t know what HE’S talking about…my boss/preacher/congressman/whoever is a GREAT leader! What does HE know?” (And the answer would be…NOT much!) But to clarify, notice I didn’t say “absence of leadership”…I said “crucial shortage”. If you are still having trouble seeing it, look at it this way. Consider your workplace. Consider your kid’s school district. Consider your church, both locally and beyond. Consider the stores and restaurants you frequent. Consider the companies you do business with. If your experience is like mine, then good customer service is the exception…NOT the rule. For my wife and I, when we receive GOOD customer service, it stands out SO much that we almost always find the manager on duty and tell them…and sadly…we don’t have to do that very often.
Now, don’t perceive this as a veiled critique of my kid’s school, or of the hierarchy of the United Methodist Church. Not the case. My kid’s school is run by VERY competent, able folks who care about my kid…and all the other ones there. And my bishop is a great leader and motivator. I consider myself fortunate. But across the board, good leaders seem to be a hard to come by as lukewarm Cubs fans! You might be asking yourself, “So what? My life is OK like it is…why would I care if other people are good leaders or not?” Here’s my answer. Basically everything I learned about leadership I learned from some who led ME- a boss, a teacher, a minister…whatever. They were good, solid folks who were good solid leaders, and they passed their wisdom on to me. However, if all we have (or if the majority of what we have) is poor leaders, then what kind of role models do we have to follow? What kind of leaders are being produced? What impact does this all have on our kids…and their kids?
The Bible says, “Where there is no leadership the people fall, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14) Think about that- without leadership…the people fall. Seems like there’s a WHOLE lot of falling going on right now. BUT…an abundance of counselors provide safety. And in that statement, I hear the inherent “QUALITY counselors”. So what then are we to say about these things? It seems to me, the approach is two-fold: 1. identify and praise the good leaders, and 2. put those good leaders into some kind of mentoring/training program so that they can replicate their good leadership traits in other emerging leaders. It would take intentionality and planning, as well as a willingness on the part of those leaders, but it would pay off with massive dividends. New leaders would be molded in such a way that they would lead with integrity, courage, intelligence and vision. (Doesn’t sound like too many of the leaders I currently know…how about you?) Imagine the impact that would have on our families, our communities, our nation, our world. Godly leaders committed to leading with integrity could/would literally change the world!
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day!! Please make sure and come by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tuesday, January 20- A Bright, Happy Guitar

guitar_477101105

It can’t be any surprise to any body who A. knows me, B. read this blog or C. BOTH that I am a massive fan of classic rock music! I was practically weaned on Iron Butterfly, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. (Now THAT’S an eclectic mix!) And all along the way (OR The Watchtower!), I have always loved the electric guitar. Now, don’t misunderstand- I am  drummer, through and through. Always have been, always will be. But I DO love to listen to a good guitar. (And, all partiality aside, my older son is one AMAZING guitar player!)

I shared in this space that we hosted a two-night revival this past Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night, our “house band”, Connection played. And that was fun, because…I’m a member! We played some great music and had a great time doing it. (Although, when I really start to get into playing a song, I begin to look like I’m having some sort of seizure. There’s a lot of rocking back and forth and head-bobbing! Just sayin’!)

Then, on Sunday night, we had a band from “outside “ come and join us. This is a group of 6- 2 guitars, bass, drums and two vocalists. They are heavy-duty into a more Gospel/Blues/Rock approach to some of the more well-known “old-timey” songs of the faith. And they are lightning in a bottle!

They have been to the church I currently serve several times- about 3-4 times since I’ve been here. And one of the best compliments I can give them is…I let them use my drumset! If that doesn’t really mean anything to you OR it sounds like I don’t like to share, I’m guessing you don’t own a musical instrument. The drumset I own is a nice drumset. AND…it is the first…and if I’m a betting man ONLY…NEW drumset I have ever…and will ever…own. And I treat it almost as if it was another of my kids! In fact, when we moved here, I brought it over in May, in the car, to avoid cramming it in an already full car or moving van on moving day! So I am pretty particular about who gets to play on my set. And their drummer is ALWAYS welcome!

The night they were here, they were just finishing a set and we were going to move into Communion. The second they were done, I jumped up to stop them from taking off the guitars and coming down. “Would you be willing to grace us with some background music for Communion?” So I blessed the elements and then served them first. Then, as we got started, they got started. And BOY was it good! Here I am, serving Communion, trying to be all serious and pastoral and I simply CANNOT keep from bobbing and weaving with the music! (See the “seizure” comment above!)

And then, to close out the night, they played one more song. And for the last ⅓ to ¼ of the song, the rest of the group just pulled back and kept the beat going while the lead guitar…let loose! Oh, it was good! I just shut my eyes, tipped my head back and basked in the glory of his gift!

I have a great affinity for musicians and singers. And I am so excited when they use their God-given gifts to glorify the One Who gifted them in the first place! Music is a powerful medium that speaks to me as few other things can. I can so clearly feel God in the music. Thank you, God, for that marvelous gift!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse: Counsel

Monday, January 19- A Day in the Life

day in the life sheet music

Are you familiar with the Beatles song A Day in the Life? (And, yes, everything DOES remind me of a song…thanks for asking!) It’s a good song that, in it’s own way, looks at exactly what the title suggests- a day in the life. The lyrics include, “Woke up, fell out of bed,

dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up I noticed I was late.”

That song has been playing through my mind all weekend. NOT because I “dragged a comb across my head”. I don’t even OWN a comb! But several times over the weekend, I “fell” out of bed, found my way downstairs and drank a cup…or two…or 37!

Here is what my days were like from 4PM Friday until 8:30PM Sunday:

Friday

4PM- go to church to set up for the 24-Hour Prayer Vigil

5PM- run home to eat dinner

6PM- lead Hour Two of the Prayer Vigil

7PM- lead Hour Three of the Prayer Vigil

8PM- go home, write funeral for Saturday

10PM- go to bed

11:35PM- get up, go to church

Saturday

12AM- participate in Hour Eight of the Prayer Vigil

1AM- lead Hour Nine of the Prayer Vigil

2AM- go home, go to bed

3:40AM- get up, go to church

4AM- lead Hour 12 of the Prayer Vigil

5PM- go home, go to bed

6:40AM- get up, go to church

7AM- lead Hour 15 of the Prayer Vigil

8AM- go home, go to bed

9:30AM- get up, get dressed, go to funeral home

10AM- visit with family and friends during Visitation

11AM- lead funeral service

12PM- pray over and participate in funeral luncheon

1PM- lead Hour 21 of the Prayer Vigil

2PM- go home, go to bed

4PM- get up, work on sermon, get dressed

5PM- go to church, prepare for Revival, Night 1

6PM-8PM- participate in Revival, Night 1

8:30PM- go home, work on sermon

10:30PM- go to bed because I simply can’t stay awake another second

Sunday

5AM- get up, shave, get dressed, start the coffee, take the dogs out, feed the dogs, pour the coffee, go to church

5:25AM- get to church, open the building, finish up the things I simply was too tired to do Saturday night

7AM- practice the day’s music with the band

8AM- lead the Contemporary Worship service

9:15AM- participate in Sunday School class

10:15AM- lead the Blended Worship service

12PM- get home, have lunch

1PM- meet with family for another funeral on Monday

2PM- go home, go to bed

3:30PM- get up, get dressed go to the store

4:30PM- eat dinner

5PM go to church, prepare for Revival, Night 2

6PM-8PM- participate in Revival, Night 2

8:30PM- go home, write tomorrow’s (this) blog

10PM- go to bed

Throughout the whole time, I drank WAY too much coffee and got WAY too little sleep!

I share this NOT because I am looking for sympathy. Some of the things on this schedule…I had control of- many…I did not. Instead, I share this with you because many have the idea that pastoring is easy or that pastors only work one day a week. (That’s what my son thought when I entered the ministry!) You pastor, whether it’s me or someone else, works hard. They have to be flexible. They have to be ready to shift gears on a moment’s notice. They have to be willing to simply chuck “days off” (for me, the very same Friday and Saturday you just read about!) out the window.

If I am your pastor, then please know that I feel your love and your support. If I am NOT your pastor, please take some time this week to thank you pastor. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Tell them you know they have a hard job. Tell them you are glad that God placed them in your church.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Bright, Happy Guitar

Sunday, January 18- The Bible Isn’t Definitive History

What the Bible Isnt Week 3

Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Napoleon Bonaparte said, “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”
Strange facts from history- in the 1400’s, Pope Gregory IX decided that cats were somehow associated with devil worship. As a result, cats throughout Europe were exterminated in droves. This sudden lack of cats led to a rapid increase in the rat population. That increase in the rat population rapidly increased the spread of disease. The most devastating of these diseases was the Bubonic Plague, which killed 100 million people, all because the Pope said bad things about cats.
     Ecclesiastes 7:8-10 The end of a matter is better than its beginning. So it’s better to be patient than proud. Don’t become angry quickly. Anger lives in the hearts of foolish people. Don’t say, “Why were things better in the good old days?” It isn’t wise to ask that kind of question.
When we talk about what the Bible is, we seldom stop to consider what the Bible ISN’T. Today, we continue our current sermon series, looking at that very thing- What the Bible Isn’t, looking at 7 things the Bible isn’t. As I said last week, some of them might be a bit controversial- they might make you squirm a bit. Today, we will look at the fact that the Bible isn’t

“Objective History”. The jumping-off point is that the Bible, at its core, is about SO much more than mere empirical dates and events. It CONTAINS them, but it doesn’t revolve around them. The Bible doesn’t simply objectively record history- it interprets it.
The biblical writers weren’t focused on getting history “right” in the same sense that an author of an academic textbook is. Instead, they interpreted the events of their place and time for their own communities in an effort to answer their own questions about faith. That’s why the Bible contains two versions of the creation story in the Book of Genesis, two very different histories of Israel in the Old Testament and four somewhat different accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospels.
Perhaps the best example of that fact that the Bible isn’t just objective history is found in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is getting ready to send out the disciples. As He is giving them instructions, He completely turns the common, historic understanding of family and relationships on its head.
     Matthew 10:34-36 Do not think that I came to bring peace to the earth. I didn’t come to bring peace. I came to bring a sword. I have come to turn sons against their fathers. Daughters will refuse to obey their mothers. Daughters- in- law will be against their mothers- in- law. A man’s enemies will be the members of his own family.
More strange facts from history- in the 19th century a popular medicine for kids, called “Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup,” included morphine among its ingredients. Also in the 19th Century, so many people were unintentionally buried alive because they were thought to be dead that inventors patented safety coffins that would give the “dead” the ability to alert those above ground if they were still alive. Also, in more recent news…Saddam Hussein was once given the key to the city of Detroit.
I once saw a map of the history of the world- a BIG map of the history of the world! And it was not an intentionally Christian map. It was published by National Geographic. And on this map, the history of the world was laid out, for all to see. And that history was divided into two halves. And the dividing line, the hinge that split time in two, was the birth of Jesus Christ.
When I was in seminary….SEMINARY, mind you…we weren’t allowed to use the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini- in the year of our Lord). They weren’t seen as “historically accurate”. Instead, we had to use BCE- before the Common Era and CE- Common Era. The word “Common” in both instances refers to the date employed by the most commonly used calendar system- the Gregorian Calendar. So we were not allowed to use BC and AD because they referred to Jesus’ birth, which or may not have actually happened on year Zero. And, for that matter, may or may not have happened…at all! The ironic thing about the politically correct BCE and CE is that they…ready?…refer to the EXACT SAME EVENT as BC and AD! Now I’m sorry but you can put a dress on a pig all you want- it’s STILL a pig! And you can call the birth of Jesus anything you want, but it is STILL the singular event that split time in behalf! BCE- give me a break!
So what are we to make of this? What do we do with the fact that it’s not “politically correct” to point to the single most important event in the history of the planet? Well, let’s see- 40 years after the Resurrection, there were about a 1,000 Christians living under Nero’s reign in the Roman Empire. And they were so despised that it’s reported that they were regularly tied to posts, soaked in tar and set on fire so that they would light the night sky like torches. And yet, just 350 years later, there were 34 million Christians, or roughly 17% of the world’s population!
Naysayers and non-believers want to point to what they call inconsistencies in the Bible as their “proof” that it’s all just a poorly written book of bedtime stories- fables. And one place they often go to are the four Gospel accounts I mentioned earlier. The first three Gospels- Matthew Mark and Luke- are collectively referred to as The Synoptic Gospels because they include many of the same stories, often in a similar sequence and in similar wording. John’s Gospel, meanwhile, is very different from the other three. The Synoptic Gospels reads much more like a biography, while John’s Gospel focuses much more on the message than the man.
Each Gospel had its own intended audience. Matthew’s Gospel spoke to the Jews and their love of Scripture and prophecy. Mark’s Gospel spoke to the Romans, who knew nothing about Scriptures but everything of power. Leadership impressed them. Luke was a Greek speaking to other Greeks. The Greeks loved culture, beauty and ideas. Happiness could be found in the pursuit of truth. So Luke fills his Gospel with insights, interviews, songs, and details intended to fascinate the inquiring mind. John wrote to everybody, because he felt everybody needed to meet God and that could only happen through Jesus.
Likewise, every Gospel focused on a different aspect of the nature of Jesus. For Matthew, Jesus is the long-awaited fulfillment of Jewish expectation- the Rabbi. Mark’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus the rebel- a failed revolutionary whose mission mysteriously succeeds. For Luke, Jesus is a heroic, compassionate social revolutionary who confidently and mercifully dies on behalf of all humanity. John’s gospel is an interpretation of the mystic divinity of Jesus told in powerful poetic language. To Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah. To Mark, He is a Servant. To Luke, He is the Son of Man. And to John, He is the Son of God.
People want to argue about whether or not 2 million people actually crossed through the parted Red Sea during the Exodus. They want to argue whether or not the universe and all that is in it was actually created in seven days. They argue about whether the world is 6 billion years old or only 6,000 years old. They argue that Jesus turning the water to wine is merely a magic trick. They argue that Jonah couldn’t have lived three days in the belly of “the great fish”. They argue that David didn’t write the Psalms, Moses didn’t write the first five books of the Old Testament and there’s NO way Mark wrote a Gospel! They argue…they argue…they argue!
But here’s my take- I once made an Old Testament professor so mad he could spit. He was the one who went ON and ON and ON about the “fact” that there couldn’t POSSIBLY have been 2 million people who crossed the Red Sea during the Exodus. First off- why not? But more importantly…does it really matter? Is the story made any less impactful if we somehow found out that, instead of 2 million people, there were “only” 50,000? Apparently for my seminary professor, the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” But for me, that’s not what the story is about anyway. That’s not what the Bible is about. That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works!
Romans 15:4-6 Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us. The Scriptures give us strength to go on. They cheer us up and give us hope. Our God is a God who strengthens you and cheers you up. May he help you agree with each other as you follow Christ Jesus. Then you can give glory to God with one heart and voice. He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
More strange facts from history- President Andrew Jackson had a foul-mouthed parrot. By the time he died in 1845, Jackson had become a quiet and deeply religious man, which is why mourners at his funeral were so surprised when his pet grey parrot, Poll, began blurting out offensive swear words. It seemed the bird had picked up some of Jackson’s saltier language and had chosen the worst possible moment to showcase it.
President John Quincy Adams had a pet alligator. The Marquis de Lafayette, on a tour of the United States, was given a live alligator as a gift. He immediately re-gifted the alligator to the current president, John Quincy Adams. The president apparently took great delight in keeping the alligator in the East Room bathtub, where he used it to scare unsuspecting guests.
The Bible, ultimately, isn’t about history- at least not the way we usually think of the word. Instead, it’s about perspective. Instead, it’s about relationship. Instead , it’s about how God has moved through time and space. It’s about us…and our relationship with Him. The Bible is a sweeping epic that spans the depth and breadth of human existence, of Creation itself. It tells us where we came from…and where we are going. Does it contain every historical fact that occured…ever? Of course not. But that’s OK, because that’s not what the Bible is all about anyway.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” George Washington Carver said, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” And Mahatma Gandhi said, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” We are dreaming of the future. We strive to do the common things in an uncommon, and Godly, way. And we ARE that small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in our mission, which is to connect people to Jesus Christ. Therefore, we have the ability, with God’s help and God’s guidance, to alter the course…of history.
So IS the Bible a definitive history book? No. Frankly, I would argue that most HISTORY books aren’t definitive history books. It was Winston S. Churchill who said, “History is written by the victors.” And, in that sense, the Bible IS a history book…because I’ve cheated and read the last page. I couldn’t wait- I jumped ahead to see how the book finishes. And you know what I found? God’s people win in the end!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow,m and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Weekend in the Life

Saturday, January 17- The Revival

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Tonight and tomorrow night at the church I currently serve, we are going to go all “old-timey”!  (By the way, spellcheck does NOT care for “old-timey”!) We are hosting a two-night revival. A retired minister from the area, beloved by many, is going to be the preacher. Our in-house praise band Connection is going to provide the music tonight, while a somewhat local gospel band is going to “bring it” tomorrow night. My thought is that the music will loosen the doors in the hinges each night and the preacher will blow them the rest of the way off!

I have a special connection to this particular preacher- one I believe I shared in this space before. Several years ago, when I was serving a different church in a different part of the state, it was Confirmation Sunday- the day that year’s Confirmation class gets…well…confirmed! And on Confirmation Sunday, it is pretty typical to have guests in church- people you don’t recognize. Between grandparents, siblings, aunt and uncles and what  not, there are usually a decent handful of folks who are not “regulars”. And because of that fact, you don’t think anything different with any new face that week.

That particular year, after the service, after I had baptized two kids, confirmed the whole group and brought them in as full members of the church, after I had preached a special sermon (“Aren’t they ALL special, Pastor?!”) aimed at them, I was talking to folks in the sanctuary. In the midst of that, a gentleman walked up with tears in his eyes and told me how impactful the service was. He talked at length and embarrassed me a bit with all the kind things he was saying. At that point, my wife walked up and he prayed over both of us- a VERY heart-felt prayer!

When he left, I realized that, in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the noise and the crowd, I didn’t get his name. I knew he was a minister traveling through who happened to stop at that church, but didn’t know anything else.

Fast-forward about 3 years. I am at our United Methodist Annual Conference, which is held in Peoria, IL. As I waded through the mass of people at one point, I come face to face with this minister from Confirmation Sunday! He calls me by the name of the town I was serving and asks if I remember him. I assure him that I do. He share a pleasantry or two…and go our separate ways. And it dawns on me- I STILL don’t know his name!

Fast forward about another 5 years. I have been serving the church I am currently serving about 2 years at that point. I have been hearing about this local pastor and how awesome he is. Several people have told me how much he had impacted their lives. But I never got a chance to meet him. And then, as we were planning this revival, his name came up. He was invited to come by the church so we could begin to plan the event. At the allotted time, I was standing in the main church office, talking to my Office Administrator and waiting for him, when who should walk in the door but the minister from Confirmation Sunday! And my first thought was, “Oh. My. Gosh! What’s HE doing HERE?” Then, it dawned on me! (I AM a little dense, after all!) The man who I met on Confirmation Sunday and this awesome retired minister who was coming to preach our revival…were one and the same! Two words- mind…blown!

So tonight and tomorrow night- revival. I have been reading about 5 things that will cease to exist in the church over the next 10 years. One of them, according to that particular author, is the revival. His point is that, to have a revival, there has to be something to…revive. And his argument is that we are quickly moving to a time on the history of American Christianity where, for many, there simply won’t be anything to revive and therefore…the “old-timey” revival will become a thing of the past. And I have two thoughts on that- 1. he’s probably right and 2. it’s NOT 10 years from now yet! So…let’s get to revivin’!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Bible Isn’t Objective History

Friday, January 16- Prayer Vigil

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Tonight, a really cool thing happens. The church I currently serve is hosting our 3rd Annual 24-Hour Prayer Vigil. From 5PM tonight through 5PM tomorrow night, there will be folks in the church…constantly. Every hour, a new prayer group comes in to pray for an hour. Each group has a leader. Some groups have 6-10 people joining the leader. Some groups have…the leader! The interesting thing about that is that the “middle of the night” hours are always easier to fill that Saturday during the day!

The way it works is this- we alternate every hour between our chapel and our sanctuary. For example: is 1AM is in the chapel, then 2AM is in the sanctuary, and so on. The idea behind that approach is that if the 1AM group is not quite done at the end of their hour, the 2AM group can go ahead and get set up and start. Communion will be set up and available each hour.

I know that, by the time 5PM Saturday comes, regardless of anything else, 4 things will be true: 1. I will have been a part of about 8 hours of prayer, 2. I will have also preached a funeral (Saturday morning), 3. I will be exhausted and 4. it will have been an AWESOME 24 hours!

There is something powerful about a 24-hour prayer vigil. There is the fact that it goes on…and on…and on! There is the fact that a wide variety of people will lead hours. There is the fact that a wide variety of people will attend hours. Communion is involved. Late nights. Early mornings. Lack of sleep. And the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is a presence of the Holy Spirit that is unique to odd hours of the day and night. I LOVE being in a prayer group at 3 in the morning. People tend to be a bit more open to the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Some of the best prayer time I have ever had was in that setting. Good stuff!

Have you ever participated in such a thing? If you have, I pray you have had the positive experience that I have every year. If you haven’t…try it. You’ll like it!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Revival

Thursday, January 15- You’ve Gotta Have Heart…and Tongue!

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I am a fairly adventurous when it comes to trying new things. I have willingly…gleefully gone whitewater rafting. I have done parasailing. I have done ziplines. I can be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. And that adventuresome spirit translates to food, as well.

I’m the one who is willing to try the calamari at the Asian restaurant. (Didn’t care much for it- was sort of like chewing on a hunk of a diver’s wetsuit!) I am willing to try the rattlesnake (I’d MUCH rather eat them than confront them!), the alligator (actually DOES taste a bit like chicken!), the buffalo (I LIKE it!), the rabbit, the squirrel and the quail.

My mom was even more adventuresome than me. (She claimed it had less to do with being adventuresome and more to do with the fact that she grew up poor and they had to eat whatever came along!) There was NOT a part of the cow or the pig that she wouldn’t eat. She even loved the pickled pig’s feet! (My OCD-fueled disdain for feet would NEVER allow that!)

This past Monday at our monthly United Methodist Men’s dinner, I had a chance to put that adventuresome spirit to the test! Different guys take turns cooking the meal every month. But pretty much every month regardless, it is genuine, certified “guy food”! And this month was NO different. In fact, I was reminded of the Bill Murray movie Meatballs. He plays a summer camp counselor. And one of his duties is to do the daily announcements over the camp loudspeaker. And one day, during the announcements, he says, “Attention. Here’s an update on tonight’s dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal. The winner of tonight’s mystery meat contest is Jeffrey Corbin who guessed ‘some kind of beef.’ Congratulations, Jeffery. You’ve just won a brand new Chrysler Cordoba and you can pick it up at Morty’s office!”

This past Monday, we had “some kind of beef” for dinner. And it was…really good! We had beef tongue and beef heart. Yep, you read that right! In fact, one of the guys who comes is a doctor. He pointed out that we had a SMOOTH muscle- the heart- and a striated muscle- the tongue!

The tongue was peeled, cooked, sliced and served with french bread, cheese and your choice of sauce. My mom cooked a decent amount of beef tongue when I was a kid and I liked it. This tasted JUST like I remember it!

On the other hand, I had never tried beef heart before. He cooked it, sliced it thin with a meat slicer, chopped it up from there and mixed it with chopped pickles, cream cheese and mayo. The finished product was spread on a Triscuit cracker. It was QUITE good!

Would I have fixed that on my own? Nope. Am I glad someone ELSE fixed it and included me in the eating of it? You bet! Life is simply too short to be unwilling to try new things!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Prayer Vigil

branch from the tree

The children were lined up in the cafeteria for lunch at the Christian elementary school. At the head of the table was a large tray of apples. A teacher had lettered a note and posted it on the apple tray: “Take only ONE. God is watching.” Moving along the lunch line, at the other end was a large tray of chocolate chip cookies. A girl wrote a note, which she put next to the tray of cookies, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”

Proverbs 14:29-30a Anyone who is patient has great understanding. But anyone who gets angry quickly shows how foolish he is. A peaceful heart gives life to the body.

Tonight, we continue our current Sunday night sermon series- A Branch From the Tree of Jesse. This series looks at 7 gifts God gives us, as found in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah 11:1-3, and the impact they can have on us…and those around us. Every week, we’ll walk through those gifts, unpack them and see what they have to offer us. But first, a reminder about what “the tree of Jesse” means.
Jesse was the son of Obed, the grandson of Ruth and of Boaz. He lived in Bethlehem and was of the Tribe of Judah. He was a farmer and a prominent resident of Bethlehem. And…he was the father of King David. The Tree of Jesse is symbolic of his descendants and, more importantly, the ancestors of Jesus. The Tree of Jesse is where the concept of a family tree comes from.

Isaiah 11:1-3- A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord– and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears.

A Sunday school teacher was dismissing her young students from class. Just before she let them leave, knowing that they were heading into a worship service, she asked them, “Why is it important to be quiet as you go into church?” One little girl raised her hand. “Yes, Annie?” Annie replied, “Well, I’m not sure. But based on what I’ve seen, it’s because people are sleeping!”

Tonight, we look at understanding. And I want to make some things clear right up front. “Understanding” and “I understand” do NOT mean the same thing. I will probably offend a few with this, but one of the worst things you can say to someone who is in the middle of some painful, tragic, horrific event is, “I understand” or “I know how you feel”. The bottom line is- no you don’t! You couldn’t possibly fully understand or completely know how they feel. Regardless of what your circumstance was, it is NOT exactly the same as theirs. And you are not exactly the same person they are. Therefore, you can’t know how they feel. You can’t understand.
“Then what SHOULD I say, Pastor Smartypants?” Sometimes, I say, “I can only imagine how you must feel.” Often, I say, “I CAN’T imagine how you must feel.” That’s where “I understand” gets tossed out the window and understanding comes more fully into play. If you are trying to comfort someone who has just lost their mother, it’s perfectly OK to say, “I lost my mom a few years ago and I know how hard that has been for me. I’m so sorry. Can I pray with you?” Ultimately, communication and community lead to true understanding.

Are you familiar with the Greek word “koinonia”? The common English definition of the word is “fellowship”. I recently read a story about the awful conditions that exist is some orphanages in Romania. There are so many orphans that there simply isn’t enough food, medical supplies or staff to adequately take care of them. Therefore, the kids, often past toddler age, are kept in diapers and put in cribs because there’s simply no other way to take care of them. They’re taken out of the cribs to be fed and, all too infrequently, have their diapers changed. Then, they’re put back in the crib…and left there. There is so little real physical contact with other humans, especially any of the cuddling and holding that babies need to develop normally, that they often end up in a semi-catatonic state. Ultimately, they die from lack of human contact. The condition is called “failure to thrive syndrome.”
And as tragic as that is, the truth is that “failure to thrive syndrome” can happen in our spiritual lives, as well. But the good news is that it can be avoided AND it can be cured. The key to avoiding this spiritual disease is through koinonia. But, that “Christian fellowship” means so much more than we tend to think it does. The common understanding of Christian fellowship revolves around potluck dinners and ice cream socials. And those things are GREAT, to be sure! But true Christian fellowship goes WAY beyond that. It ventures deep into the realm of understanding.
The true understanding of the Greek word “koinonia” is to be a sharer, a companion, one who is a participant in the communion of the saints. In the Ancient Near Eastern world, signs and wonders were part and parcel of being a follower of Jesus Christ. We look at that, sigh and think, “Why can’t I have that NOW?!” The truth is that there’s no reason why we can’t still experience this kind of koinonia, this kind of understanding, today. We can still experience signs and wonders, awe-inspiring things in our lives today, if we commit ourselves to true koinonia, true understanding.

We have true understanding when we demonstrate genuine caring for each other and meet each other’s needs. Understanding is a way of saying, “I care about you.” Understanding means we must take action when action is warranted.
If the body of Christ is to experience true understanding, we have to be of one mind. And that’s a hard one to wrap your head around. Being of one mind DOESN’T mean that we agree about everything. It doesn’t mean that we are lockstep. It DOES means that we share a singular focus about serving God and serving each other. It means that, ultimately, we have no other motive in being here than to serve God.

1Corinthians 13:11-12 When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see only a dim likeness of things. It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror. But someday we will see clearly. We will see face to face. What I know now is not complete. But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.

We share our lives, we share our joys and our pains, our struggles and our triumphs. We help bear each other’s burdens; celebrate with each other and cry with each other. We can only pray for each other if we share with each other.
It’s true that you can become a Christian without a church. But a true, effective Christian life isn’t meant to be lived alone. A Christian who lives a life away from other Christians simply can’t mature and persevere in their faith without Christian understanding. A “Lone Ranger” Christian can easily develop spiritual “failure to thrive syndrome”.

I want to ask you two questions tonight.

1. What do you expect out of your church?
On the surface, it’s a simple question. But dig a bit deeper, and it becomes pretty complex. There are LOTS of things you COULD want from your church. But what DO you want from your church?

2. What should your church expect from you? Now THERE’S a loaded question. What should your church expect…from you? Again, there are a LOT of potential answers to that question. But, for you, what is the RIGHT answer?

Ultimately, we are being called to be a church filled with fire. We are called to be a church filled with enthusiasm. We are called to be a church filled with love. And we are called to be a church filled with a healthy dose of Christian understanding.

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- You Gotta Have Heart…and Tongue!

Tuesday, January 13- How Great Thou Art

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I rarely…did I mention RARELY?…use this space to direct you to OTHER spots out there in the cyber-world. (I have a hard enough time getting people to COME to this spot. Why would I invite them to LEAVE this spot?) But I saw a video recently that blew my socks off! (Literally! I was watching the video in my stocking feet when suddenly…BLAMMO!…my socks BLEW off my feet, flew across the room and hit the dog! OK…maybe not. but you GET the idea!)

Although I am a Classic Rock through and through, and although my taste in worship leans more heavily toward the Contemporary Christian stuff, I DO love the classic hymns of the faith. I love singing them. I love hearing them. And I am especially captivated when I hear a powerful, spirit-filled, unique approach to one of the classics. And that is EXACTLY what I found in this video.

The song is How Great Thou Art. Now, let’s be honest- if we’re talking “classic hymns of the faith”, you simply aren’t going to get much more classic than How Great Thou Art. It is the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln of classic hymns- one of the tue “heavy hitters”. If it was a major league baseball player, it would absolutely be in the Hall of Fame- first ballot, no less!

Frankly, pretty much ANY version of How Great Thou Art is going to light my fire. But this version didn’t just light it…it set it fully ablaze! It was done by a church and, after watching it, this is NOT some little neighborhood church. This is NOT a church that sits tucked in a neighborhood, unnoticed by all except those who attend. This is clear a church of the mega- variety.

I know lots of folks, clergy and laity alike, who bemoan the rise of the “mega church”. They complain that they are simply all about entertainment and production values. They state that “those” churches are simply all about the money- selling books and CD’s, building multi-million dollar edifices. And for some of the “mega churches”…that is absolutely true. But it is NOT true of all of them. A church can be large AND still be committed to connecting people to Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And I know NOTHING about the church that produces this video…except that they absolutely knocked the LIGHTS out on this particular occasion!

Perhaps one of the reasons I am so drawn to this version of the song is that it SO heavily features percussion. (I am, after all, a shaved-headed, earring-wearing, ROCK-DRUMMING United Methodist minister.)

One last comment before I include the link (because let’s be honest, as soon as I give you the link…you’re gone!)- I pray I haven’t built this video up SO much that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. Let me know what you think!

 

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=00BMMJNU

 

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Understanding

Monday, January 12- Manna From Heaven

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In the 16th chapter of the Old Testament Book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, who have been freed from slavery in Egypt, are wandering the desert. They begin to grumble (as they seem often willing to do) about not having enough food to eat. In response, God provides them with quail to eat. He also supplies them with a bread/cracker-like food that appears as a ground cover overnight. It turns out this food is called manna…from heaven. I have mentioned in this space before…and I feel compelled to mention again…that manna from heaven has taken on a new and more significant meaning in the church I currently serve!

There is a grocery store chain that is relatively prevalent in the area in which I live. They have several locations. And as a full-service grocery store, they have an extensive bakery area in each location. They have to prepare a certain amount of baked goods every day to meet their demand. And because of that, they end up with a decent amount of those baked goods that are “left over” and need to be disposed of.

Fortunately for us, they are willing to make arrangements for groups to get their “overflow”, as opposed to simply feeding the local dumpster. Now, before you say it, I’m not naive enough to think that they do it SOLELY out of the goodness of their hearts. They DO get, I’m sure, tax credit for the donation to a not-for-profit. But that’s OK- if they can bless us AND get some benefit for themselves…more power to them!

So every other Saturday, a gentleman backs his van up to the lobby doors of our church. In it, there is a treasure trove of baked goods. While you never know exactly what will come, there is some odd combination of rolls, buns, french bread, sliced bread, bagels, cupcakes, cookies, pies, doughnuts, sheet cakes, cinnamon rolls…you name it, we probably get it!

We use it in a variety of ways. If we have a special event coming up (as we often do), we save whatever we can use from the delivery for that event. We also regularly save things for our Fellowship Cafe, which is open on Sunday mornings. We save things for our Wednesday Night Fellowship dinners. We save things for our youth groups. We add things from the delivery to our ongoing food ministry. I also save bread to be used in serving Communion. And once we have saved enough for all of the special or ongoing ministries of the church, we put the rest of it out on Sunday mornings for the congregation. They are encouraged to take whatever they need. They are also encouraged to take anything they think someone else can use. Then, the rest goes to the local food pantry.

So we are blessed every two weeks with this marvelous manna from heaven. But lately, we have been doubly blessed! Due to an unusual series of circumstances, we have received 7 deliveries in the past 7 weeks, and have at least 2 more straight weeks of those deliveries before we go back to our “regular” schedule. It is a truly amazing ministry that has blessed not only the church I currently serve but so many other people along the way. We are grateful to the grocery store chain for providing this manna. We are grateful to the gentleman who brings it. We are grateful to those folks from the church who come and “process” this food every time. And we are especially grateful for God, Who continues to supply manna from heaven!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- How Great Thou Art