Special Church Welcome

Special Church Welcome

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts…and you!

Borrowed from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community!

Thoughts about Inauguration 2013

Inauguration_nightatcapitol

I am praying for the President of the United States…

Not because…

  • I think he will do a bad job
  • I do not agree with his viewpoints
  • He is outside of God’s will
  • I think 2016 will be better without him
  • He has made poor choices

But, because:

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.–1 Timothy 2:1-4 NLT

I ask everyone to make this about our country and our people, and not about your issues and yourself!

Soli Deo Gloria!

tripping over me

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name
but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
–Casting Crowns, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”

Question: Are we standing in the way of others getting closer to Jesus? Are we standing in the way of other coming to know Christ?

Our story today talks about two people in a relationship or friendship. The Word tells us they are brothers, maybe not in the “flesh and blood” sense, but in the body of Christ sense. These were people who knew each other. They werenot casual acquaintances.

hands

We are encouraged not to find fault with a brother until we deal with what we are dealing with. Jesus is trying to make a point by referring to the problem in “our own eye” as a plank while our brother has only a speck, or a flake. Is it possible that our own problem is larger because it is closer to us? Is it possible that our own problem is larger because it is also compounded, or added to, by the issue of us judging someone else? Or, is it larger because it is just larger? Who knows?

Are we standing in the way of others coming to know Christ?

There are two kinds of “judgment” referred to in the Bible. This reference means not to take God place as judge. People take this idea too far and say that we should not tell the difference between right and wrong. That is not the point here. In fact, vv. 15-23 of the same chapter talk about judging about the truth and the teaching of false disciples. We are not to put ourselves in a place of judging a person’s life. This is not my job. This is not your job. That one belongs to God. Only God can live up to a standard that only He could judge by!

Secondly, the passages referring to “judging” or “discerning” others are almost exclusively internally. How can we judge someone who does not know God by a standard that they do not know? It is like testing someone on material that you have not taught them or they do not know.

Have we forgotten where we came from?

We used to be in the same place…apart from God. If that is you this morning, then you are in good company because that is whom this church is for.

This is a real problem area for those who are on the “inside.” If we are not careful we can become more enthused, in love with, and passionate about our churches than we are about Jesus.-Doug Rea.

This explains how Jesus could eat with sinners and tax collectors and outsiders and Pharisees and disciples and… and… He was here to show them the Way, not to point out where they were always going wrong. In fact, the time when Jesus is recorded as becoming the most upset about the actions of others was inside a church!

I am personally glad that Jesus did not spend all of His time with just those who agreed with Him. If He never reached out of His inner circle, where would we be today? If Paul had never carried the word to the Gentiles, a word that in most contexts almost means outsider, where would we be today?

Sometimes it is not what we say, but how we say it.

The song we listened to today (“Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns) mentioned that there is a “world at the end of our pointing fingers.” There are families… There are people… There are situations that we don’t know anything about… There are God’s creations… at the end of our pointing fingers. Why make a situation worse by how we respond to it?

Don’t misunderstand me about this… You don’t have to act like someone else to love someone else. You don’t have to agree with someone else to love someone else. You don’t have to be like someone else to love someone else.

Spread too thin

brick wall
Courtesy of CreationSwap.com

For many months, and in some cases years, I have bemoaned and complained about my lack of focus and drive and productivity. I can feel the push to create and share but at times, it seems stifled. What is causing this blockage, this breakdown, in the flow of my mind and heart?

Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I thinking I am spreading myself too thin, because I am jumping from thing to thing to thing…looking for what I want, or in an extremely self-delusional way, what I think I need. I am going to spend this next year in a journey of self-discovery. I am not looking for what I want or need. I am going to look for what God wants and, without the added sense of ego what needs from me.

I have been called “according to His purpose” (emphasis and edit mine) and not my own. It should be about Him and not about me. It is my calling, but it is not my message. We confuse the fact that because the message is shared with us that we think we own it. It is simply not true. The message, the truth, the calling, the vision, the direction, they all belong to God and He through His grace shares it with us.

God, make me into what you want me to be!

Soli Deo Gloria!

The One Thing I Seek

Our church has daily Bible readings during Advent and today’s reading was Psalm 27:1-4. David shares about a very challenging time in his life. He speaks of the wicked advancing against him (v. 2) who wish to consume him. He tells of an army (v. 3) which surrounds and besieges him. He even refers to all-out war against him. Obviously, David was not having a good day, but he was!

via http://www.creationswap.com/jcdesign
via http://www.creationswap.com/jcdesign

He only asks God for one things during this time of testing, He says that there is only One Thing I Seek. He wants to dwell in God’s house, gaze on the beauty, and seek Him. He does not ask for defenders and revenge on his enemies. He does not even ask for deliverance from his trials. He asks to dwell, look, and seek. These are all very passive stances for a man of action, such as David, to take. Instead of rushing into battle, David wants to stay, look, and watch for God.

I am reminded of how quick I am to immediately ask for God to take things off of me. I am one of the first to cry “holy foul” when things do not go my way. Perhaps, my life could be fuller and more complete, if, during my toughest moments, I would stay, look, and watch for what God is doing in me and in my situation.

Just a thought…

Soli Deo Gloria!

The Clause of Christmas (Christmas at the Movies – The Santa Clause)

Title: The Clause of Christmas
Series: Christmas at the Movies – The Santa Clause
Scripture: Isaiah 8:19-9:7
Theme(s): belief, need, promise, future, provision, light, freedom

Scott Calvin is a man like most of us. He is too busy or too distracted. He is trying hard to make things work on his own, but he just keeps messing up.

There is a clause in his Christmas. There is a clause in our Christmas. Only one man can be our savior.

  1. There was a specific need – living in darkness.
  2. There were specific requirements – lifting burdens.
  3. There was (is) a specific answer – Jesus.
  4. There is a specific response from us – belief & faith.

ImageSpecific Need

Isaiah warns the people to not consult mediums and spiritists. They were turning to everyone but God. They were not coming to God first if at all. They were lost in a darkness, a darkness of confusion. They were asking the dead about life. They were essentially asking darkness about light.

What is the problem with asking the “mediums and spiritists and the dead” about life? It is simple. They do not have the right answer. They are not the right people with the right information. They do not fit the bill. They do not measure up. They do not meet the need.

From the way Scott Calvin was living, he had a specific need as well. He needed a “life change.” He needed a change of direction. Basically, he was lost in his own personal “darkness.” He was trying to fill his life with work and success. He needed a different outfit. He needed a big, red suit.

We find ourselves at times in that same situation. We are lost and looking for answers in all of the wrong places. We keep turning to those who do not have the answers. We turn to substances that enslave our hearts and minds. We try to fill the void with relationships that fail us. We try to fill the void with false beliefs and incomplete messages. We have a specific need that nothing else will fill.

Specific Requirement

Within their need, they had a very specific requirement. They were carrying a burden that was too much to bear. There was oppression that they could not deal with. It was too much for them. It was too big for them, too heavy for them. This oppression, this burden, was keeping the people in distress. They were depressed and living in a “fearful gloom,” a dimness of anguish. There was a “shadow of death” upon them.

What was oppressing them? What was keeping them down and in distress? It was the absence of a savior. By themselves, they were not enough. They had a need for something or someone bigger and stronger than they were. They needed someone to lift the burden from their shoulders.

Headed the way he was, Scott Calvin was not going anywhere, but down! He was allowing the things of life to take over his life. He needed a new direction and a more positive outlook. He needed something or someone to break him out of what become. On his own, he was stuck where he was. He needed something stronger than himself. He needed a power to break through to him.

Life has a way of pressing us into a mold that we were never meant to fit into. Often, this is not what is good for us or the way God intended for us to be. Unlike Scott Calvin, the “magic” of Christmas is not what we need. The belief in Santa Claus is what creates the special holiday magic. For us, the power was created through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not separate, but together. Jesus broke through the barrier of death through his resurrection. There is now nothing that should scare us when we are in Christ. Death has no sting! Amen! Jesus meets all of the requirements we need for a savior.

Specific Answer

Because of this darkness and heavy burden, there could only be one answer. There could only be one solution to this crisis. There could only be one way, one truth, and one life. There could only be one person who could meet the need.

Jesus was not sent to the earth because God wanted to. He was sent to the earth because God had tried everything else and He had sent everyone else and He had given every other opportunity. But, we as a people rejected everything and everyone and every opportunity that He sent our way. He sent His best, His only begotten, His one and only. He sent His First-born, His Right Hand, the Heir to the throne. He sent His best for our worst!

In our movie, when Santa Claus fell off the roof, Scott Calvin was left with a choice. He could have moved on but he chose to get involved. He eventually chooses to become part of the story, part of the solution, part of the happy ending.

Jesus is the right answer! Jesus is the reason for the season! He should be first in our lives! There may be many other options in front of us, but Christ is the only correct answer! In the KJV, it says “the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” He is going to rule it all. He is the right answer! The only, specific answer to our need!

Specific Response

Christ is the answer, the only answer. He is what can fill the void in our lives and lift the heavy burdens. He can set us free and give us our sight! But, we have to accept Him into our lives! We need to respond. We need to recognize our need and invite him to make a difference and “life change” in us. Jesus, Emmanuel, is here with us but we have to accept it.

The problem is belief. There is not a much belief and faith anymore. We have become disheartened and unfeeling. We have become calloused to the miraculous around us. We have lost the ability to see the power behind the veil. We have lost the appreciation for the mystery of the power of God. We have to see it to believe it. We have to reach out and touch it to accept it. We are the ultimate “doubting Thomases.” We are surrounded by the grace and power of the living Christ but we have to feel for ourselves.

The Santa Claus at its’ root story is very similar to many Christmas stories. No one believes in anything anymore. No one believed that he was actually becoming Santa Claus. They could not accept it because they did not understand it. They could not quantify it. They could not measure it. They could not comprehend it.

The “Clause of Christmas” is that we need to believe in the power of God to meet our needs. Not just during Christmas, but He meets our needs all year long! Charlie said to Neil, “Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” I am saying the same thing to you, brothers and sisters. Just because you can’t see God and how He is working, it doesn’t mean that He doesn’t exist. He is sufficient to meet our every need, no matter how big or small. He fulfills all of the requirements that we need in a savior. He is the true answer to our situations. He is all the Jesus that we need!

All Natural

It is another beautiful day here at Camp Grandview! I have to confess: I am not a person who spends a lot of time in nature. But, when I am, I am reminded of the meticulous nature of God. When you see the design of a tree or the bend of a hill, it is impossible not to see the beauty that God has made for ME, and for the rest of you!

“All nature sings, and round me rings | The music of the spheres”

Soli Deo Gloria!

Saying Goodbye

Courtesy of Ministry Toolkit (www.tsamtk.org)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

My family has recently gone through a process that is familiar is some church traditions and completely alien in others. My wife and I were transferred from one appointment in a city to a new assignment in a completely different city. Fortunately, during this most recent transfer, we did stay in the same state, but it is not unheard of for officer (ministers in The Salvation Army) to be moved to another state during a transfer. While some traditions involve a similar move process, other traditions only have change in leadership through people requesting to move, leaders being removed from service, or retirement for faithful leaders. As a minister and leader in The Salvation Army, this is what we “signed up” for when we were commissioned. We know that any assignment begins a countdown of unknown length when we arrive. Our last appointment or assignment lasted 5 years with a 4 year appointment before this move. But, there are other leaders who experience lengths of stay as short as 6 months to a year depending on the individual situation. Moves are important to the life of The Salvation Army and our local corps (churches). The Army truly believes in the gifting of the Spirit in its’ officers and leaders. Every officer has been gifted in various areas of management, leadership, pastoral skills, teaching, program development, community relations, and the list goes on! Assigning officers to the right location must  be done very carefully through much prayer. Fortunately, I have not been asked to make those decisions, because honestly, I would be lost!

While these transitions can be difficult for the leaders and their families, they are equally as challenging for the local congregations. The local congregations say farewell to officers who have been with them for a certain period of time and the next Sunday, they say welcome to complete strangers. To the credit of most Salvation Army congregations and other congregations like them, they are very warm and friendly. They are very patient and understanding. God has graced our tradition through this process. But, I always wonder when I am going through a situation, “What would the Bible say about this?”

The apostle Paul said goodbye to congregations all over Asia many times. During his travels, he would start a new congregation and then leave to start the work in another place. Paul’s closing words to the Church in Colosse all centered around one idea, TOGETHERNESS. From reconciliation to encouragement to oneness of mind, Paul challenges the church to bind together in love, friendship, and discipleship. We have been blessed during this last transition to welcomed with open arms by our new congregation, community, and employee team. We have been encouraged by the way they have taken us into their collective embrace and made us family.

Saying goodbye is never easy! But, God’s grace is a source of encouragement and support!

Soli Deo Gloria!

On a personal note: Storm and I deeply miss and love our friends and congregation in Albany. They allowed us to grow and learn for the last 5 years. They waited patiently as we made mistake after mistake while we grew into the leaders that we needed to be (of course, we are still learning). While we love those we have moved away from, we have also fallen for our new place of ministry. We are excited by the opportunities for service that Rome has to offer!