Friday, July 31, 2009

500

Alright friends....it's my 500th post, and I dedicate it to my mom, my wife, and my other few readers. As part of that dedication, I wanna hear from you.

Have you ever been part of a "small group"?

If so....what was something you liked about it?

What was something you would have changed about it?

Why small groups?

Post your thoughts!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Illinois Marks the Wrong Ears?

Maybe you've heard of it, but maybe you haven't. Just recently, a $31 BILLION Capital Bill was signed by Governor Pat Quinn. But what sorts of things around the State could add up to warrant such a grand total? Follow the link above to read the actual, over 900 page, bill.

I recommend at least giving it a good skim (pages 50-100 are a good chunk). It's a bit ridiculous, and it's obvious that although some of the money is going to places and organizations that should receive it, a majority of these dollars are going to every greedy hand who sold it's right to claim a few bucks well.

The disappointing part? $11 Million of it is going towards religious facilities. Now, $11 Million doesn't seem like much, especially when compared to the $31 Billion grand total (only 1/3 of 1%, if I did the math right).

I can't account for the other religious groups/organizations that are involved in receiving funds from such a bill. But my question would be this: Should organizations that seek to honor Christ be among the greedy open hands demanding their portion of state moneys?

A small example: Our church does a food pantry once a week. We've served hundreds of families each week, largely through money people have donated and our church has set aside for this specific purpose. Because of how/where we get our food supplies, we do not require any sort of religious involvement, or even publicly pray with/for any of those who come through our line.

Because this type of thing occurs within our facility, shouldn't we make the case that state money should go towards re-vitalizing and making capital improvements to our facilities? We're putting a new roof over that section of the church very soon, which is a major expense. Shouldn't the state pay for that?

Nope. Not at all. Not only is it against how our government is set up, it also goes against the nature of what we see Christ speaking of throughout scripture.

Should we serve the poor and needy to the best of our ability? Yes.

Should we join the ranks of those who "work the system" in order to "get ours" when Government is handing out it's financial support? Probably not.

(Many thanks to Mr. Mehta, whose site I've not referenced so that more of my readers might read this post. :) )

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

not the anti-Wright. But good.....

In talks with an old professor this past week, I confessed my unhealthy love for NT Wright. I even told him of my attempt at reading something that disagreed with Wright (John Piper), only to end up with us both laughing at that tremendous "fail".

In the end, he pointed me in the direction of John Caputo's book "The Weakness of God - A Theology of the Event". I haven't read much Caputo, other than knowing of him for the famous "What Would Jesus Decontruct" a couple years back. (not that I even read that)

Not that Wright is completely wrong, or that Caputo is completely right, but that both might help balance each other in view of resurrection and "new creation" type things. I flipped open to the table of contents, and had planned on simply reading the recommended chapters on Resurrection/Kingdom; but I made the mistake of beginning to read the first chapter.

Wow. Not the Bible. But I like this. Not 100%, but enough of it to read on. He speaks of God as an "event", rather than a thing, or a name...

"A name can accumulate an army and institutional power, semantic prestige and cultural authority. But the event is not a natural thing, not a part of the natural language; it is more like a ghost, the specter of possibility...

..The name of God is the name of an event transpiring in being's restless heart, creating confusion in the house of being, forcing being into motion, mutation, transformation, reversal...

..the kingdom of God is a domain in which weakness "reigns", where speaking of a "kingdom" is always an irony that mocks sheer strength.

..a kingdom where the only power that is permitted is the power of powerlessness, where the very condition of power is that it be without power."

I'm hooked.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Justification...continued...

So I've finally read enough to be able to present a bit more of a summary of what NT Wright is bringing to the table. Focusing specifically on Paul's discussion of Justification in Galatians, we find it has a LOT to do with the differences (or lack thereof) between the Jews and Gentiles - in a newly inaugurated existence brought about by the life/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ.

It's tempting then, to write it off, as something important for the Jews to realize, and important for the Gentiles (both Greek and other) of their day, but of little importance for our "salvation". But Paul emphasizes these elements so much throughout his New Testament letters, it forces us to take a look at what he's actually saying beyond simply "removing an ethnic division".

So how do we recognize that when Paul mentions Justification, he probably isn't referring some sort of internal transformation or even "imputation of God's righteousness"...but at the same time is not simply referring to an ethnic broadening?

"It should be obvious that this is not merely a statement of what we now call "private religious experience"......The point is that what happens to the Jew who believes in Jesus the Messiah is a dying (to the old identity defined by the Torah, and thus separated from the Gentiles), and a rising into the new identity defined by the Messiah himself, whose faithfulness unto death has brought his people out of the "old age" and into the new. This event is an objective reality for all who believe in Jesus the Messiah and are baptized into him, whatever it "feels like" at the time."

So justification/righteousness as NT Wright is talking of it here involves three things:

1. Being given the judgment of "right" in regard to a "lawcourt" scenario. (as opposed to somehow seeing the concept as "morally good character", it is a status of a judge finding in ones favor, now extending to both Jew AND Gentile)

2. That involves God being faithful to covenant He has made with His people. (to reach all humanity and even all creation through them)

3. That covenant is pointing toward the ultimate "making right" of all things. (Eschatological Justice)

And all of this is finding it's home in the life/death/resurrection/spirit of Jesus Christ. The one who is, literally, the "seed" of Israel. Both a descendant of, but also - containing everything about God's covenant to God's people towards the New Creation that is to come.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

change without transformation...

When I was younger, I had our address memorized. It was rhythmic, almost. When an older person asked where I lived, or I had to help them fill out a form for me (camps, doctors, etc.), I could blurt it out almost second nature. It was a piece of cake. (not that we lived on a piece of cake, but it was easy to tell people my address.)

At one point, however....someone decided that should change. You may not be aware of this, but on most streets in the US, odd numbers are on one side, evens are on the other. "Duh", you may be thinking. Well, until this event occurred in my life, I had no clue. It helps a lot as a salesman going from business to business, trying to find a place, however....so I've used it a lot.

In any case, at one point someone determined our house was on the wrong side of the street to warrant an odd number. We were told we must change our address to an even numbered address. I remember thinking it was an odd thing to ask of us, but I was able to process it. I can't imagine the confusion it caused some of my younger siblings, or even more so their friends and teachers, etc. To have a new address, without having moved anywhere at all.

Nothing changed in all reality. Nothing was moved. Nothing looked different. The inside of the house remained the same, it even stayed in the same location. The only noticeable change were the numbers painted on the rock, labeled on the house itself, and on our mailbox.

It was a silly thing indeed. But I'm sure it helped us to be found in the mass of houses for whoever really needed us to be found.

And all of this, unfortunately, can serve as a pretty good metaphor sometimes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Anderson Cell Phone Video Updates

CAUTION: Watching too much at a time may break your smiler.











Thursday, July 23, 2009

salvation in a steering wheel.

Stolen from NT Wright, and worded imperfectly....

Suppose a man has never seen a car before. He observes you driving yours for a bit, notices you using the steering wheel to guide the car, and then returns to wherever he came from, with his tales and testimonies about his experiences.

He returns to his friends and family, who also have no knowledge of what a car is, what it does, or it's various components. He begins to talk to them about this amazing contraption called a "steering wheel", and how you can ride in a steering wheel to get from one location to another. He tells them amazing stories of all the steering wheel experiences he saw and heard about while with you.

They're amazed. They all want a steering wheel of their own!

This is a decent illustration of what we've done with our faith in many places. The theme of "salvation", or "justification", becomes so much of a priority; others begin to mistake it for "being" the car itself.

Imagine those friends and family, who run out and get steering wheels, all excited for the experiences they'd heard about. What happens after generation upon generation become disappointed in a steering wheel that does nothing near what their friend long ago explained? They'll lose interest in steering wheels, not knowing they'd missed the boat from the start!

May we seek with our lives, a better understanding of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. To proclaim this Truth by our lives, and in word to those who are wandering around with their steering wheels, wondering what all the fuss is about....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

pokin' the turkeys

When I was in high school, I worked summers at a camp called Youth Haven Ranch. For one entire summer, I was put in charge of taking care of/running the petting farm at the ranch. It was an interesting summer, for sure.

One thing I remember well, were our turkeys. We had a tom (appropriately named "Tom"), and two hens. Every other area of the petting barn had your normal variety large bars/doors that kids could climb on, reach through and pet the animals. Heck, they could and often did just climb on through to reach the animal they really wanted to pet.

But the poultry cage was different. It had the usual looking bars, but it was also covered from ceiling to floor with chicken wire. This was for obvious reasons...turkeys aren't generally cuddly animals.

It never failed, no matter the age group, there would be several kids who saw the chicken wire as an invitation for fingers. They would poke and prod, especially close to the turkeys when possible. It was usually accompanied by a yell of some sort. "Hey turkey turkey turkey!" "(turkey noises that neither sounded turkey-ish, or very healthy)", "come and get it turkey!!"

No matter how regularly these kids poked their fingers through at the turkeys yelling loudly, it would always come as a complete surprise and alarm when one of them pecked with lightning speed at whatever finger, or close standing person they could get.

Then the 8 year old boy, who seconds earlier was master over the turkeys, looks up at you and you can tell he's trying not to cry. He wants sympathy. He wants you to punish the bad mis-behaving turkey.

And all I could usually come up with was, "What did you expect?"

I'm pretty sure God has a bit more compassion on us when we finally look to him instead of whatever cage we've been poking at. But still - why do we so often seem entertained or interested in getting the attention of these things that we know have no desire but to peck our fingers off? :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update....youth remodeling....

So, if you're in youth ministry you may have a challenge: What to put on the walls?

Christian Music posters? Nope, too fickle. Often also supports an industry bulking with things not very associated with Jesus other than breaking commandment #3.

Cheesy Christian/Inspirational Quote Posters? Nope, too cheesy.

So what to do? Make your own. :) Grab some paint, and some canvasses, and be sure to prepare in advance via drop cloths and regulations to keep it semi-controlled. I told my teens to "create", and not to worry about making something with a cross or Jesus on it...but I wouldn't stop them from doing it either. Turns out we had creative teens in our group, and teens who enjoyed creating. :) Here are a few...






Come check out our youth room to see the rest, they're GRRRRREAT!

Monday, July 20, 2009

radical

Yesterday we were reminded of the radical nature in God's "chosen ones" becoming more than just the people of Israel. Pastor Gerry praught from Ephesians 2:11-22, the beginning of which reminds this group of people that at one point they were considered Gentiles.

Who were the Gentiles? Depending on which word is used (ethnos or Hellen), it refers to anyone from a nation other than Israel, or any Greek person. As Israel lost it's focus on the covenant God had made (they'd been chosen FOR THE PURPOSE of reaching all humanity), it moved further and further from loving these people. It came to the point where they were sometimes referred to commonly as "kyon", which would be similar to "dog", but in a slanderous way (like the way some would use the term for female dog these days).

So all of a sudden, these Gentiles are told they are on equal footing with the Jews before God. All of a sudden, the Jews are told they are no longer singled out for God's covenant and blessing, but that it is now offered to all humanity, even these Gentiles?

This wasn't just an emotional, tug-at-your-heart, kinda love God was pushing. This wasn't a buy-me-a-card-and-some-flowers and call it a day kind of relationship he was calling them to have transformed. This was an earth-shattering, world-view transforming, change the way you LIVE transformation. It didn't simply mean now you have to make eye contact, or treat them nice, or sit next to them in the cafeteria. It was a call to loving them like a brother/sister. The family of God was not just a cute illustration on how a Jesus-Santa brings us all gifts together. It was an actual relationship transformation that forced people with thousands of years of separation mindset to depend on the Holy Spirit to work a mighty change. I'm sure even the Gentiles needed reminders not to gloat over being invited to the party, after they'd been considered "outsiders" for so long, and knew many Jews were not happy with this new invitation.

As pointed out by Pastor Gerry, this was larger than the Berlin Wall coming down. This was larger than if North and South Korea came together. This was RADICAL, not for radical's sake, but for the sake of the Kingdom and by it's very nature breaking forth into our world.

May God and His Spirit be revealed in our lives in such ways. Not ways that are radical simply to be radical, but by the natural transforming that takes place when our values and loves are replaced by Kingdom Values and Loves. Look out creation...here comes the Church....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2 Chronicles 7:14

I've gotten this forward from about 4 different sources. If you are, or have friends that are, "churchy"; you've probably gotten a forward recently that invokes the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14:

"..if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (NRSV)

The forward invokes these words as a sort of patriotic call. These words were used to call people to vote for McCain back in 2008. They've been used as a rallying cry against abortion, and against same-sex unions, and against a bunch of different specific "bad stuff" here in the United States.

No matter how they've been misused, they still stand as relevant words. But no longer simply relevant to a nation, and especially not only relevant to the United States of America, even though many would like to believe we are some how a nation specifically "blessed by God" for one reason or another (probably cause our dollar bills give Him a shout out).

These are words directed to God's chosen people. In 2 Chronicles, it meant the people of Israel - God's chosen people to reach the world. But the story of God's chosen people doesn't stop with King David and Solomon rebuilding the temple. Through Jesus Christ's death/resurrection/pouring out His Spirit - we have all become God's people...worldwide. The covenant He made with Abraham has broken wider than Israel ever imagined. It's now about God's Kingdom, which is being proclaimed by it's citizens all throughout creation.

As I said earlier, these are still remarkably relevant words. No longer to one nation, but to all citizens of the Kingdom of God. It's not about us making sure the United States shines as a "sinless country". It's about the people of God found in the US, Canada, Ethiopia, India, and every other country turning from themselves, and turning towards God and His love for all.

Does this inspire prayer for leaders/action towards changing laws? Yup. Does this inspire prayer for troops? Definitely. But not simply our leaders, or laws that impact our country, and not simply prayer for "our" troops. This is a global, Kingdom thing.

God calls us to repent, and promises/is already bringing forgiveness, and has already begun His ultimate act of Healing all of creation. May we join Him in that work, and recognize our Kingdom citizenship above all others...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ephesians 2:10

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV)

Most of us have heard this verse before. Most of us have heard this verse translated this way. Most of us have heard the message that goes with it.

Something to the effect of spending our days searching for that thing - tomorrow, next week, sometime this year, or perhaps a career or path in our life. Some specific "work" that God has prepared in advance for us to do. We can get very emotional sometimes, either being anxious about finding that moment, or about giving God credit for a circumstance that "just happens" to come together at the right moment - even if that moments happens to slap most involved in the face.

Does God sometimes orchestrate moments, and call us to specific paths - both on a daily basis and on a grand "life direction" basis? Sure He does. I believe it. But is that what Paul was talking about in this verse? Nope.

It's more obviously seen in the NRSV translation: "For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before-hand to be our way of life."

It's about a daily existence resourced in the Spirit of God, which leads to a life full of that Spirit bearing fruit in and through us. Good things will happen. "Works" will be accomplished. (no matter what type of "works" we believe Paul was talking about here)

Literally in the Greek it says "en autois peripatesomen" , or IN THEM WE SHOULD WALK. It doesn't say "TO them we should walk", as if these works are some sort of destination we should be aiming for. They are merely a way of walking, a way of living towards God and towards His Kingdom being announced/proclaimed/brought about here on earth.

May we naturally be involved in the works of God in creation, simply (and not so simply) because we seek to be sourced in and transformed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ...both as individuals, and as HIS Church...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Second-Temple Judaism

So I've been reading NT Wrights' "Justification" slowly on purpose. There is much to sink yourself into, especially if you read the texts he brings into play as they come.

In Chapter 3, he writes one of the best summaries of why second-temple Judaism is so important to an understanding of the New Testament I've ever read. Everywhere from simply understood statements such as:

"most Jews of the time were not sitting around discussing how to go to heaven, and swapping views on the finer points of synergism and sanctification."

All the way to more complicated, but helpful to understanding Paul:

"the "dikaiosyne theou" (righteousness of God), is an outward-looking characteristic of God...that of God's creative, healing, restorative love."(speaking of God's covenant to His people FOR THE SAKE OF creation) "Indeed, it is because God will be true to that outward-facing generous, creative love that he must also curse those ways of life, particularly those ways of life within his covenant people, which embody and express the opposite."

Sure, there are points where he defends himself against specific accusations by John Piper in his own book on Justification; but always in a way that reveals/embraces scripture, rather than only a traditional understanding of one group/line of people.

This is all groundwork/foundational discussion for the exciting parts that are to come; namely, his brief exegesis on a few major works of Paul. All of this definitely makes me want to get a copy of the New Interpreter's Commentary......even if only a digital copy on cd of some sort. Maybe I splurge and put my office/professional budget towards better use than random reads....but that might be a couple year's worth. Someday...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Response to Nothing

Or perhaps "zero" specifically. How do we as people in ministry (not just pastors/youth pastors, but EVERYONE who has been transformed towards Christ, and because of that your very nature desires that others hear the good news) respond to "zero" being the answer to the question: How many people have stumbled over Jesus and been drawn to him due to your existence this past year?

Taken from Bishop David Kendall's blog:

"1. Determine: not here, not now, not us! The one who created the world out of nothing and who raised Jesus from the dead is on your side when you say this!

2. Pray your determination. Pray for opportunities to get into the action, for people you know, for people to meet, for opportunities to come.

3. Use the good senses God gave when he created you and the Spirit now wants to fine tune within you. Use your eyes—open them widely. Look intently and ask, “What’s really happening?” Use your ears and listen. What are you hearing? What impresses you? What might God be saying to you in that situation or to that person?

4. Do something. There are so many options. Where is someone hurting? Where do you see a need? What could be done? Do it! Do it and know you’re probably doing more than you know. Beyond or beneath the need something else is going on. God will open a door.

5. These are things you can do as individuals. Think what you might do in partnership with others, as church, even a small church. Think what could happen if the church was totally at the disposal of God in its community. There’s just no way a whole year could pass without at least one new follower!"

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Derek Webb - Stockholm Syndrome

I was avoiding it, but I suppose it makes more sense now than down the road. Last week, for $9.99, I paid for Derek Webb's newest album, Stockholm Syndrome (immediately download, and 2 copies arrive in the mail near September - not a bad deal). I posted a few thoughts way back when I heard some of the controversy surrounding it.

Now that I've listened to it, I have a few thoughts.

1. Finally, an album that sounds different. Seriously. I like Webb's stuff, but most of what he's done solo has sounded like something a single college guy would sing around girls he likes to prove both that he can sing, and he's into "hip" things. His voice is still a bit whiny at times, but at least the music mixes things up a bit. Even hip-hop-ish...at times. Numbers 2 and 3 my fav. for sound at least. A few of the songs go a bit too far into the techno/voice distortion/etc....but I still like it for sounding different from anything before this.

2. I like the price/options. I wish more artists would recognize their ability to be more involved in how/how much their album is purchased for.

3. Content. Aside from all the hype/promotion focusing on the controversial nature of the language/topics found on this album. It's Derek Webb. Very hip-hop in content/message. But this album especially leaves me hungry for Christ. Maybe he did that on purpose, and will deliver in his next album, or was hoping to lead us simply to the hunger so that we pursue it on our own. In any regard, it would be very easy for this, and books/cds/blogs like it to simpy be an anti-church catalyst for those who are riding the slam the church gravy train. That's not a train Jesus is aboard...so let's be careful how long/why we ride it.


4. Edited version available. Thank you Derek Webb. No matter how much you hurt inside for sacrificing artistic integrity, thanks. I think it should still be possible to convey the message of church being held captive by our culture, and finding we are drawn into relationship with our captors all too easily....and still be properly offensive - without using offensive language. That being said, I can understand his desire to use many of the words he does in many places.

Altogether, I think it's worth getting. Get together with a couple hippy friends who don't mind a few risque words and buy it for $9.99. They can have the foul-mouthed versions, and you can get the Wal-mart appropriate version when it's mailed out around September.

Worth a listen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

60 bucks.

Yesterday a man came into the office, we'll call him Jim. (not his real name, but in order to protect anything he may want to protect) I was the only one in the offices at the time, and he asked if he could sit down with me. I'm not particular in who I sit with, and love people in general, so of course I agreed.

He wouldn't look me in the eye, unless it was with intensity in his story. He began to tell me about how he's cleaned up his life. To some of us, this might mean being sober, getting a place to live, and having a job of some sort. To Jim, this simply meant living in his own low income housing, and collecting unemployment. The problem was, he let someone he trusted borrow his unemployment debit card, and they took his money. He would get more next week, but rent of about sixty bucks was due tomorrow.

This wasn't the first time we've seen Jim.

He comes in, usually asking for anywhere between ten and a hundred bucks. Always with an inspirational story, and always with a guarantee to pay us back next week.

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, I never have any money. It's an easy decision for me, although I usually do offer him a ride to somewhere else in town, knowing he doesn't have a car. But I know he's gotten some from other sources here at the church. He asked me if I could call around, and gather the money up somehow?

I always talk to Jim about visiting the church, inviting him to join us, about being a part of a supportive community, etc. I've prayed with him. I never know what to say.

Would Christ go out of his way, make fund raising phone calls, or sacrifice his own childs' diapers to give a stranger $60 for rent - knowing the story might be slanted, and it may lead to this man and many more coming by for cash as well? Probably.

Did I? Nope.

Guess this post is more of a confessional of confusion than inspiring.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Selve-Ation"

Last night we traveled down to Cowden Family camp to hear our new Senior Pastor, Gerry Coates. He's preaching down there all of this week; something that was most likely decided well before anyone knew he would be joining us as pastor.....which is kinda cool.

His message was based in Colossians 1:15-23. A message about Christ being the center of everything. Not because we really really desire passionately for him to be there. Not because it'll make everything come up daisies. Not even because that's "Christianity". But because it IS.

We were reminded of the irony that comes when a human being, formed from the dust of the earth - turns to the Creator and Lord over all things and says "I accept you."

Christianity, and American Christianity especially, have in many places become more fans of selfish idolatry of Jesus; over actual biblical and historical faith in Christ. It's seen in much of the language used (especially at certain booths at the Decatur Celebration...:) ) "If you died tonight, do YOU know where YOU would go?" These scare tactics (along with the line of thought that says "I want my BEST LIFE NOW", a.k.a. special blessing and empowerment for success from God...whatever that means) may jump start a relationship with Christ", but it's not the direction of Jesus. "You never saw Jesus dangling Heaven in front of people." (quotes from Coates)

Is Christ the center of our faith? Or are WE the center? Why do we do what we do, in regards to our spiritual lives? In regards to our "secular" (but non-separateable) lives?

I believe it's why so many people can abstain from church so easily, and still consider themselves a Christian.

I also believe it's why so many people can attend church services regularly, and because of that consider themselves a Christian.

What if we truly did what we do, and are who we are, and become what we are becoming......soley because of, out of, based in, sourced in, directed towards, moving with, empowered by, etc....Jesus Christ and His Spirit? The firstborn from among the living. The firstborn from among the dead. Lord over ALL.

Look out creation.... :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

walls

Over 3 years ago, I moved into my office at Moundford Free Methodist Church.

I'm not a decorator. I re-arranged the furniture in the office my first week, and it's been the same ever since. A couch along one wall, a few chairs, and a desk facing the wall so I can turn to be with a small group if I want, as opposed to facing them over my official-ness.

Over the years, I've collected a few small tokens of love from teens and children. Pictures/doodles that were drawn (probably when they should have been listening to someone :) ), etc. Some I've stored, some I've filed, and some randomly selected - I taped on the wall by my desk.

This past week, momentously, I put nails in a few spots on my office walls. I said "no more" to taping things college dorm style. I took down things dated from June 2006 that were clear taped to the wall. My office now looks (almost) like an office. I still have one opening. It's for something....no clue what yet.

The items that are hung? My ordination certificate. A picture of the ordination moment. My college diploma. A giant painting done by Linda Harmon (local friend/artist/neighbor) that was simply sitting in her garage that she's allowed me to hang cause I think it demands to be seen. Finally, a framed color print of the former "Lambs Club" on 44th Street, New York City. A few months after 9/11, some of us from BURPO were able to minister to the city based out of the "Lambs Club Church of the Nazarene".

That trip would have to be one of the most impactful trips of my life. For the time spent with the brothers....the ministry done in such a wounded city/time....the cultures met and all too obvious need for God's Spirit/Love.....and a church that embraced artistic endeavors as a means of bringing/revealing God to His people.

Unfortunately, apparently through "eminent domain" - the building was more valuable to the city redeveloped. Nevermind the incredible history of artists who were members when it was the Lambs Club. Nevermind the incredible location/ability to minister to the heart of Times Square.

Slated to open later this year, after a long period of greedy wallets waiting....The Chatwal New York. Luxory hotel. Although they did name the giant ridiculously overpriced restaurant on top of it "The Lambs Club". I'm sure someone believes they should get a pat on the back for historical integrity there.

On a positive note, the Lambs Church is still going strong in a new location, and offering new ways of proclaiming His Kingdom still today.

When in NYC, a large part of our work was re-painting and repairing many of the walls - inside and out - of the Lambs Club.

I still believe the Kingdom work we did during the time spent there was eternal.

So may we call continue to decorate/change/paint/repair the walls around us. Even if they appear to be torn down soon after. The Kingdom is, is coming, and is to come...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

could vs. called - 2

The second area? Vocation. Job. What you do for a living, whatever you wanna call it. Has God called some to do some jobs? Yes. I have to be honest with that, because as someone who has submitted to ordination, I have confessed publicly that I believe God has called me to ministry, and in Decatur. This is a call felt by myself, and witnessed/attested to by others. It does happen. When it does, you cannot miss it. Consider Jonah and his call - he wasn't ignorant and accidentally missed it, he actively ran away - and STILL - God routed him back on track.

But does God call every person to a specific vocation/place of service? I believe He enables us for many things in life, and often leads us in a direction that contains many choices. We each have passions, gifts, talents, and weak areas. These elements funnel us in certain directions, and we have to choose out of the available ways to make a living usually. I encourage my teens, and will encourage my girls as well - choose something you and God can enjoy doing together.

That's tough, in a world with increasing amounts of jobs no one might seem to enjoy. So I always pair those words with the Truth that what we do is NOT who we are...or even the sum of our ability to be used for the Kingdom. But I do believe that ANY vocation we may find ourselves pursuing God in, can be used by God. (Having spent over a year in radio advertising, and selling mail machines with Pitney Bowes in my past, I believe God used me during those days as well.)

Overall - I think my point here is that God takes joy in our discovery. Discovering new things, discovering relationships, and choosing things that bring us joy as well as our creator. As we move towards God, we are open to his direct call, but also choosing from the entire garden He has given us to live in....anticipating that day when we will be able to choose "work" more wholly/freely in a world completely made new.

Monday, July 06, 2009

called vs. could - 1

"I just want to know what God's will is." - follower of God

"...be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is..." - Romans 12:2

There are two main areas where I see this paralyzing, over-enthusing, and otherwise impacting people on a regular basis. The first is in the area of "significant other". I've seen teenagers, young adults, and grown men and women who fall into the romanticized trap of God "having one person for me", or even having "chosen this person for me", etc.

Does God sometimes "choose", or otherwise orchestrate things so that two people will more easily become one? Probably. But perhaps it's more the exception than the rule. And definitely not something we need to be afraid of somehow "accidentally" finding the wrong person, or the one that God "didn't choose".

It paralyzes some that are dating to the point where they may never marry, for fear of "falling out" of God's will by choosing the wrong person (i.e. any of a million reasons a girl may find to break up with a guy, must be God saying he's not the right one). It over-enthuses others who have all the "holy inklings" of God being so stinkin' behind this relationship, that it must be his will...and who says we need to save our purity for "marriage", if God is with us? Who cares about the major issues we will face if we commit to life together? It'll all work out because God has "brought us together". :)

I love my wife. I believe God is pleased with us becoming and living as one. Maybe He was involved in orchestrating some of the events that led our lives to each other. Looking back, it's kinda cool to think about. I thank him for everything that led us to each other. But Sarah could have chosen some other guy, and had a completely different life, but been just as happy/complete as she is today (I would selfishly add - "not really"). We offered God our dating relationship, our engagement, our marriage, and our family for His blessing. When we said "I do" (or "I will"), we became "the one" for each other. We continue to work out our relationship with Him, and with each other - committed through whatever may come...

At the same time, you only get one life. Hopefully you choose the right person to spend it with. Marriage is a huge deal. You should probably freak out about that sufficiently. :) hehe

Whew....probably over-blogged that one. I'll over-blog the second area tomorrow...

ps. I know I got family/friends at various stages of relationships. Know that I didn't write this in response to any of ya'. It was more inspired by the teens I've worked with than anything.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Different.

This year may be different.

After the NHL Lockout a few years back, they installed a salary cap for NHL. Everyone believed this would "level the playing field" between newer, less talented, and less popular teams, and teams like the Detroit Redwings.

For several years now, it seems as if the cap had no effect on the Wings. Their talent has remained. Their big names have remained. Their ability to humble their opponent has increased, even.

But in the past few days, some things have changed. Hoping that in regard to the categories above, all we've lost are some names. But these are big names to have lost, unfortunately.

Names like Hossa, Kopecky, Sammuelson, Chelios, Conklin, and perhaps a few more before the dust settles.

My opinion? What we've lost in names, we make up for in the names and new meat that remains. We have a coaching and scouting staff that exceeds the abilities of most to select players that match the legacy of Detroit. This will definitely be an interesting year. As we say goodbye to this many great players for the first time since the beginning of a salary cap, I believe we've finally entered into a new era for the Wings.

But an era we can win a cup in, for sure.

(though I wish Hossa and Kopecky had gone to a less talented team. Hawks - looking forward to see if you can touch the cup next year.)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Questions - with a few edits

From Gateway Conference Leadership Summit, distributed by Bishop David Kendall. These are important questions for our churches, and the Church to be praying over....

Does the community know we are there? Would they miss us if we suddenly weren't? How long before they noticed?

What kind of press has church had AS church lately?

Are we known for joy and hope, even and especially in hard times?

Are we known for God's standards of morality & righteousnses? Do WE take them seriously, insist on them, hold ourselves accountable to them, and restore our own when they violate them? (or are we just telling everyone else how to live?)

Does the church engage in finding people - lost but cherished missing so far as God the Father is concerned?

Is the essential flow outward toward people in need of what only their God provides?

When people visit, do they detect God, something they can't explain which though weird still intrigues and draws them? (Do WE sense this when we're together?)

Do we make a place that convinces we are not alone? That God is real, present, and taking us somewhere?

When we work on budget, or make hard decisions, is the atmosphere sweet or tense?

Can we be REAL here?

Is it OK not to be perfect, and not OK to be unforgiving?

Can we laugh AND cry together? Laughing at ourselves, and anguishing over what Jesus cried over?

Are we praying for the Church's sanctification with Paul? (1 Thess. 5:23)

Does our work trace back to the presence and power of the God who created all things out of nothing and resurrects the dead?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Supernaturally Natural

Something Bishop Kendall said last week caught my attention. He was speaking on the topic of the health of a church. It was surprisingly simple, as far as phrases go. But it struck a chord in me.

It's probably obvious by the title of this post, the two-word phrase he used was "Supernaturally Natural".

That our churches, that our conference, our denomination, but even more so that the Church would become a place, and a people, where things once considered "Supernatural" become regular, but still not common. He may have even said that, I'm not sure.

I may have latched onto it, simply because of the sermon I was going to preach that Sunday, about us being "awe-full people". But it's something I've thought about a lot lately, especially in regards to what is missing in much of the work of the Church. And it is not necessarily about blind people seeing, or lame people walking. It's about existing from, loving towards, and allowing the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to bring resurrection Life to our moment by moment existence.

The interactions we have with our friends, or family, strangers, and even our enemies - can be sourced in, and flow from and towards, Jesus Christ. Our response/reaction in any given situation can be influenced greatly, and wholly in supernatural ways - if we have invited the Spirit of God to be our source.

When is the last time you or I were involved in something that could only be explained to others by something to the effect of, "The Spirit of God/Love of God/Grace of God/Holiness of God compelled me to do it."?

Because there are certainly other people out there making these claims. We've seen enough abortion clinics bombed, enough (teen moms, divorced Christians, unfaithful spouses, homosexuals, smokers, untucked shirt wearers, smelly people, etc.) made to feel unwelcome to attend or serve a church, enough people killed, enough publicity stunts and political moves made - all in the name of God's love.

How about some of us actually love people, in the name of God's Love?

Reminding these who would claim God as their motivation, that it's not about simply "not making sense to the world". It's about making sense to the Kingdom of God.

So much that the Supernatural, becomes Natural? :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

1 to 10

There was a moment during Leadership Summit (previously called "Annual Conference"), which is similar to "District Assembly" for you Nazarenes out there, when one of our Missions spokespeople came forward. He began to share about our activities in various places.

Many of us know that the roots of Free Methodism, and the heart of Holiness Churches in General, usually involves a great deal of ministry to the poor and disenfranchised. The widow. The orphan. Those without a voice. We believe the gospel gives that emphasis, and we see it embodied in Jesus Christ.

For a long time, "those without a voice", etc. referred to inner cities. The poor. The ones who lived on the streets. The homeless. The hungry. These remain still, as the "least of these" we find a call to solidarity with. But as the world has become more and more connected, with information and travel itself becoming more and more available worldwide, we see that the best parts of some other countries - are still worse than our darkest hidden inner cities.

It is with that in mind, that I was very encouraged by what our missions guy was saying about our denomination. Denominations world-wide generally are all involved in overseas mission work. Most of these have rations of 1 to 2, or 1 to 3...sometimes 1 to 4. That means for every "one" person here in the US, there are 2 or 3 or 4 members overseas.

The ratio for members in the Free Methodist Church is 1 to 10. Now, I realize this is no guarantee we're in these "least of these" areas overseas. But it does feel good to be a part of a denomination that recognizes where large amounts of effort should go towards caring for the sick, the broken, those without a voice, etc...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

good.

Okay, so if you read my blog every other day or so, you've probably grown weary of my patting myself on the back for ordination. I'm done for now.

It happened only as a small part of a larger coming together of the Gateway Conference of the Free Methodist Church. We celebrated the work that has been done towards the Kingdom, and mourned people/things that we have let go of over the past year. It was also a time to encourage and inspire God's calling to another year of serving together in our various capacities.

There were many things throughout the conference that were inspiring. Three things specifically I plan on sharing with you over the next few days: 1 to 10, Supernatural, and Questions. I suppose you'll have to return to hear more.

But overall it was a great time, and reminder of the work God has been doing, and has called us to join Him in towards His Kingdom. There was a great reminder from Bishop Kendall, which he has also blogged about lately. We realize especially in recent years, Christianity is so much more than simply "salvation" or even the focus on "saving souls", etc. But it is definitely NOTHING LESS. A very disappointing number of churches solely within our own denomination reported NO new followers of Christ over the past year. As churches with a Wesleyan heritage, but even greater - as churches with a heritage of following CHRIST, this is unexcused.

Especially with a greater understanding of salvation as being beyond simply "asking Jesus into my heart, and signing a paper that I did it", one would think it would be easier to find people stumbling over, and being attracted to, the love and transforming life found in following Christ. Perhaps, and hopefully, it is attributable largely to a language (labeling) problem, and too many "hip" pastors not wanting to conform to some sort of "number reporting" system.

But let's get past our reservations, and recognize that being able to say "____ people stumbled over, and began moving towards Christ through the work God is doing here" is probably a good thing. Even if our number is a bit off in one direction or another. (cause it won't be a problem of whether we had 1, 2, or 0.....it will be a problem of whether we had 10, 13, or 100, right?) :)