Wednesday, October 19, 2005

An ongoing discussion

I've been having this ongoing discussion with a fellow Methodist about an issue that is dividing a community in which he participates. It is a type of church community. Apparently there is a woman in this community who has been "living with" a man to whom she is not married for some time. She was recently asked to serve in a position of leadership. This has created a rift in the community over whether she should be allowed to serve and what kind of witness her leadership presents to the secular world. Here's my most recent response:

OK, I'm beginning to see some of what's going on here. It's troubling when any church or para-church organization has to deal with sin and sinful behaviors. Just look at how our denomination continues to struggle with the homosexuality issue. While one side fights to have the behavior approved, the other side cannot acknowledge that God doesn't stratify sins like humanity does. Sin is sin is sin, period. Gossipping is no better than perversion is no better than murder. It's just that nobody wants to call a sin a sin anymore. We don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. And while there is certainly value to that, personal feelings are not the bottom line when it comes to living a Christian life.
I need to talk to you here about the idea of holiness and being holy. The word "holy" means that something or someone is "set apart" from everything else for a special purpose. Being that the Walk to Emmaus is a predominantly United Methodist run community, it might be good for some folks in the movement to go back and read some of John Wesley's writings. Wesley started out meeting at Oxford with several colleagues for prayer and accountability. People referred to his group as a holiness club. Wesley embraced the idea. In fact, it was something that became the core of his thinking and his preaching, Scriptural holiness. Wesley often asked people if they were "going on to perfection." Going on to perfection does not eliminate grace, in fact, it is the ultimate expression of God's grace to be perfected in love. As Christians, it is incumbent upon all of us to hold our Christian brothers and sisters accountable for their actions. The church body is the disciplinary body for the Christian life. Somewhere along the line we've lost that idea, even though it is completely Scriptural.
NIV Matthew 18:15-20 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
Without being intimately involved in the situation it is hard to comment further. It does seem evident to me that your community has little concept of Scriptural holiness. I wonder how they feel about the witness of the community in allowing Mary to be a part of the team. How would they answer that question in the light of this passage of Scripture? How is that community "set apart" from the rest of the world?

Just thought that folks might like to read some of the pastor's inner thoughts on a tough issue.
Grace and Peace.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Life of Passion 10/2/05

Philippians 3:4b-14
A Life of Passion
When you have it all, it’s hard to give it up. I recently heard about an estate auction where everything had to be sold. Not because of a death, but because of a divorce. Two million dollars plus was the bottom line. The owner rode his prize horse into the bidding ring while the bidders made their offers. The horse sold for an amazing sum of $102,000! Even though this was much more than expected, the owner dismounted and went into the house where he cried like a baby.
Now it’s one thing to be forced to give things up, but it’s quite another to part with something that has given you joy, consumed the attention of your life, and has made you proud.
All that the Apostle Paul had previously lived for, he willingly gave up to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It wasn’t because God wanted to rob him of his joy, but that God wanted to give him a greater joy. A joy built on the eternal instead of the temporal. And, when Paul understood the difference, he willingly gave up that which would not last for that which would never end.
Paul’s passionate love for Jesus forced him to focus on being everything that Jesus had called him to be. Paul’s life was a life of passion.
The question before us this morning is, is our life as passionate as Paul’s?
There are three things that we can learn from this passage this morning.
First, we must give up what stands between God and us.
Look at verses 4b through 7.
Paul says, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
This religious zealot, Paul, found that his zealous credentials, were blockades between himself and God. He’d been born to the right family. He’d spent a lifetime of discipline developing his reputation. Not only was his family proud of him, he was proud of himself. It would be unthinkable to give up all that he had worked for. It was the very center of his life. But what is the cost of giving yourself to something that is less than of the utmost importance?
In his book, The Passion Promise, John Avant relates this story from Desert Storm. The storm was blowing and Colonel William Post had a job to do. He was in charge of receiving all the incoming supplies for the ground forces. Among these supplies were the tons of food that came in every day to feed the troops. One day Colonel Post received a message from the Pentagon. This query asked that he account for forty cases of missing grape jelly. The colonel sent a soldier to investigate the mystery of the missing jelly. The soldier reported back that it could not be found. Colonel Post made his report and assumed that that would be the end of it. After all, it was just grape jelly. He assumed wrong. The Pentagon continued to press him. They pointed out that they needed to close the books on the month, and that jelly just could not vanish like that. Finally, they ordered him to find the jelly. The Colonel had had enough by then and sent back the following response: Sirs, you must decide. I can dispatch the entire army to find your jelly, or, I can kick Saddam out of Kuwait, but not both.” He got no reply.
Paul realized that he couldn’t have both. He gave up the things that were gain to him so that he might have Christ.
What is it that stands between you and a life of passionate love for Jesus? Whatever it is, it’s only grape jelly. Give it up.
But I said that there were three points, didn’t I? Well, look at verse 9.
I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
Paul is saying that what we gain in Christ is something that we cannot gain any other way. When the curtain falls on our lives here on earth, we’ll have to stand before our God. Paul didn’t want to stand before God clothed in his own deeds, but rather in the righteousness of Christ.
Once upon a time at a church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith. "I’m a millionaire," he said, "and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life." He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar and he went to a church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn’t make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy. When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to the pew and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, "I dare you to do it again." (Brett Blair,
As it has often been said, “You can’t take it with you when you go.” No matter what we’re worth, our achievements here mean nothing without Christ. Paul’s righteousness, indeed our righteousness comes from faith in the Christ of Calvary. Only in his righteousness will we experience acceptance with God. Not out of our deeds or our riches.
And one more thing, look at verses 12-14.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
That’s a great passage isn’t it? It really appeals to the competitive part of all of us. But Paul is using the race as a metaphor. To Paul, a passionate pursuit of Christ is the lifestyle of a grateful believer. You can’t read this passage without feeling the passion that Paul had for Jesus, can you?
I mean, we’re not talking about a philosophy of life here. We’re not addressing a code of conduct that can be mimicked to have a good life. We are hearing a testimony about radical transformation. We are hearing about someone who has moved from fanatical religious idealism to a passionate relationship with the Living Lord.
You know, last spring we read The Purpose Driven Life in Bible study. And while having a purpose is certainly important, I think that we have to understand life and have a passion first.
Cherie Carter-Scott wrote a short bit called The Rules for Being Human. They go a little something like this:
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called Life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant and stupid.
3. Most "mistakes" are merely "lessons". Growth is a process of trial and error: Experimentation. The "failed" experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately "work".
4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6. "There" is no better than "here". When your "there" has become a "here," you will simply obtain another "there" that will again look better than "here."
7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. You will forget all of this. (Community Messenger \webpage{, esaug95, esaug02.htm} Copyright, 1995 by Rick Janelle. Permission granted to use our articles in any manner, so long as the content is not changed and the name of the author is left on the article. Used By Permission)
Paul understood life. He knew that every moment was an opportunity to learn. He learned that the greatest opportunity was to be found in Jesus Christ. And his passion to take hold of Jesus was what drove him to become the saint of the faith that we all know.
This is the passion that is to be normal for every one of us, the children of God. But it is so hard to let loose of the temporal in order to gain the eternal. It is difficult to give up immediate self-gratification to hear that future “well-done” from our Lord. It’s not easy to die to self so that we might possess the abundant life of Christ.
And yet, the one thing that separates high achievers from also-rans is passion. The thing that propels one team ahead of another is more than talent. It’s passion.
And passion for all that God has planned for you in Jesus Christ will be the thing that propels you beyond a life of status quo and failed dreams and regrets.
It’s about passion.
Give up what stands between you and God.
Reach for all that God offers that you cannot have in the here and now.
And press forward toward the prize…with passion.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Unity in Christ

This message was written for a combined service for both of the churches that I serve and preached on Sunday September 25, 2005. I'm including the Scripture and referencing a movie clip in the text.

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Unity in Christ
- Unity in Christ! Sounds nice doesn’t it? Everybody all together, believing the same thing, planning for the same thing, hoping the same thing. Almost sounds like utopia doesn’t it?
Question is, is it realistic and how do we make it happen?
You may remember a few years ago when Snoopy, the lovable beagle in the Peanuts cartoon, had his left leg broken. Hundreds of people wrote letters to Snoopy or sent sympathy cards. Snoopy himself philosophized about his plight one day while perched on top of his doghouse and looking at the huge white cast on his leg. "My body blames my foot for not being able to go places. My foot says it was my head’s fault, and my head blamed my eyes.... My eyes say my feet are clumsy, and my right foot says not to blame him for what my left foot did...." Snoopy looks out at his audience and confesses, "I don’t say anything because I don’t want to get involved."
Corinth was an ideal place for a congregation: its lanes were heavily lined with merchandizing booths. In fact, it was like one big mall. It was an old city made new (Rome had destroyed and rebuilt it), it was centrally located, considered a commercial haven by people from every nation of the Roman Empire. It was a big, busy city. In our society, it might be seen as the ideal place for a church.
BUT... the church at Corinth was not living up to its potential. In fact, it had some distinct, troublesome problems.
Ever hear the saying, "Beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone?"
The Church of Jesus Christ in Corinth was an ugly place - ugly clean to the bone.
I Corinthians 3:1-4 tells us about jealousy and division in the church. I Corinthians 4:18 talks about arrogant men in the church. And I Corinthians 5:1-2 speaks of the sin of pride being held up in the church. But there’s more! I Corinthians 9:1-6 tells of the church’s tendency to be backbiters of Paul’s ministry. I Corinthians 11:17-22 tells of potluck suppers that turned into spiritual food fights. Chapter 12 talks about the conflict between those who had the gift of tongues vs. those with other gifts. Then of course, there was chapters 15 & 16. These talked about a bad doctrine concerning the resurrection that had leaked into the congregation.
I don’t know about you folks, but if I had lived in Corinth, I’d go to another church. I’d walk several miles to go to another church. Corinth was a congregation on a downhill slide and someone had greased the chute. Frankly, this church didn’t measure up.
So how come Paul didn’t give up on Corinth? He wrote two letters to them: I & II Corinthians.
That’s a total of 21 pages in my Bible. The only other church to receive that many letters was Thessalonica and those two letters only get 5 pages in my Bible. I & II Timothy = 7 pages. I & II Peter = 7 pages. I, II & III John = 6 pages. In other words, Paul went to great lengths to reach out to this fractured, disobedient church.
And, not only had Paul not given up on Corinth, God hadn’t either. They still had their gifts.
If I had been God Corinth would have experienced something like a bad Christmas. The kid’s been a brat... load up his presents, put them in the trunk and slam the lid shut! But, God is in the business of mending broken things.
Why didn’t Paul and God give up on Corinth? Because the church had the potential to change.One example of this is found in II Corinthians 2:5ff. Paul had rebuked the church for looking the other way when one of their members had been sleeping with his father’s wife. But by the 2nd letter, the church’s discipline of the sinner seemed to be working. The man was apparently showing signs of repentance, and Paul was telling them to now let him back in.
God is merciful, but He expects us to fix what is broken and yield to Him in obedience. He expects us to realize that this is Christ’s body - not ours.
Now when I’m talking about Christ’s body, I’m talking about this church. Not the building. Because the building could be obliterated from the planet tomorrow and the church would go on.
I’m talking about the people. And not just the people of one church. We’ve got two churches here this morning worshiping together. That is a true demonstration of the unity to be found in the body of Christ.
Has anyone here, the adults now, seen the movie “Ice Age?” It’s a prehistoric animated film about some animals who come across a human baby and what they do with him. After some discussion about leaving him to die and about eating him, they decide that he should be returned to his tribe, or as they say, his herd. Now this eclectic little group consists of a wooly mammoth named Manny, a sloth named Sid, and a saber-toothed tiger named Diego.
Now Diego is with the group on a ruse. He’s not really there to help, he’s trying to find the humans’ camp so the other tigers can hunt them.
Now, our heroes go through the standard variety of perils and hijinx, but this one clip is one that you need to see.
(Play clip starting with scene 14 on the DVD and ending when Sid say “weirdest herd I’ve ever seen.”)
“We are the weirdest herd I’ve ever seen.” Take a look around. Were truer words ever spoken? We are one weird herd.
But don’t forget what Manny said here. When Diego asked why Manny put his own life in peril to rescue him, Manny said, “Because that’s what you do when you’re part of a herd. You look out for each other.”
We may be a weird herd, but we are a herd. One herd, part of an even bigger herd.
We’re a family. The family of God. We take care of each other and we look out for each other. At least that’s what we’re supposed to do.
The question is, are we doing a very good job of it? Are we really taking care of each other, or are we fostering infighting and back-biting and gossip? Because if we can’t even take care of each other, and all of us are Christians, how in God’s name will we ever turn our concern outwards to the rest of the world?
So for the sake of the unity of the Body of Jesus Christ, let’s lay aside our differences and our jealousies and our indignations. And let’s live like that weird herd we saw on the screen this morning, traveling together, one purpose, taking care of each other on this great, mysterious journey that we call the walk of faith.
Maybe we can find utopia.
We certainly can’t go wrong by trying.

Sorry for the delay

It's been a really hectic month getting started up for the ministry year. I haven't posted sermons in a few weeks because I've just been so busy. Anyway, I probably won't catch up but will just follow this post with this past Sunday's message. Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Things happen

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks or months when you feel like the whole world is caving in on you? Right now I'm dealing with some emotional baggage from 26 years ago. It shouldn't be as painful as it is, but wounds without closure just fester. I have gotten some closure on this particular issue, but unfortunately other people have been hurt in the process. I never meant for anyone to be hurt or to stir up bad old feelings, but I thought that we had all moved far enough from it to be able to discuss it civilly. I was wrong. If any of those folks happen to read this blog, I'm truly sorry. If I had know how this would go I never would have brought it up. I'm not sure if there's enough asprin in the world to take care of my headache right now.

Monday, August 08, 2005

August 7 message

This message is based on the lectionary texts from Genesis and Matthew for August 7, 2005 - Joseph's experience of being sold into slavery by his brothers and the story of Jesus walking on the water and calling Peter out to him.

A FedEx from God
So there I was, in a job that I hated, and it was a total dead end. There was absolutely no chance of advancement without changing careers, and I worked with people that I was, well, I wasn’t going to be on their party guest lists any time soon, or were they likely to be on mine. The pay was decent, but I worked five 11PM to 7AM shifts a week and had little time with my wife and daughter. I was not happy there and it showed in my attitude. What’s worse, I was a Christian at the time and people that I worked with knew I was going into the ministry. Not only was I miserable, but I was a poor witness because of my attitude.
Trapped – that’s how I felt, trapped. Have you ever been there? Been in a place where you felt like you had no way out? Been in a situation where you felt trapped?
Problem – Sometimes we find ourselves in places that we do not want to be.
You see, that’s a problem that we can probably all relate to. We’ve probably all felt a little trapped in a situation at one time or another. We may not have been stuck in a boat with eleven other people in a storm. We may not have been thrown into a well by our brothers. But we’ve all been there. Maybe it was a job like mine that was a dead end. Maybe it was a relationship where you felt smothered. Maybe it was a commitment that you made and then regretted afterward. Whatever it was, it was not fun and it was not interesting and you wanted out.
The disciples probably felt pretty trapped in that boat when the wind came up and Jesus wasn’t with them. They probably understood feeling trapped and isolated and without direction. You know who else understands how you felt, besides the disciples and me? Joseph understands. Joseph knew what it felt like to be trapped, Because Joseph really was trapped.
His brothers didn’t like that he was the favorite child. His brothers didn’t want to hear anymore about Joseph’s dreams. They just wanted him dead or something like dead anyway. So what did they do? At first, they were going to kill him. They planned to shred his coat of many colors and cover it with blood, And then tell their father that a wild beast had killed him. But Reuben at least convinced them to not kill him right away.
Instead, they threw him in a dry well. While he was in there, an Ishmaelite caravan came by and the brothers decided to sell Joseph into slavery.
Now slavery, that’s trapped. Joseph knew what it meant to be trapped for sure.
CS Lewis puts it this way, “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters. (C.S. Lewis in "Equality" from Present Concerns, quoted in Christianity Today, February 3, 1989, p. 31.)
Good News – The reality is that God wants us to be exactly where we are at all times.
But you know what, if you think about it, I’d be willing to bet that in whatever situation you felt yourself trapped, Something good came out of it. It necessarily didn’t have to be a good result,
when I left that miserable job, I went to school and I worked as a part time substitute teacher. There were times when I felt like I had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. But I left on good terms with my fellow employees. I had at one point decided that I was there for a reason, And I began starting my nights off with a visit to the chapel for prayer. I prayed for self-control and joy, and I prayed for my coworkers and I to get along. It didn’t work right away; it was no miracle in that sense. But, it did work.
There came a time when those people that had been my biggest adversaries at work Became my closest friends. What life and fate had meant for my downfall, God had meant for my edification.
Think about the disciples in the boat. Think about how they felt with that storm raging around them. They probably believed that the wind and the waves had conspired against them. I’m sure that they believed that evil was working against them. But what was meant for evil God turned to good. For instead of a tragedy, the disciples witnessed a miracle that strengthened their faith.
And, what Joseph’s brothers had meant for evil, God had meant for good. Joseph ended up first as the house attendant for the captain of the Guard, Potiphar, Then as the second in command of all of Egypt. Eventually, Joseph is able to save the Hebrew people because of his position.
Now, could Joseph have done this if his brothers had not sold him into slavery? Of course not!
Could the disciples have witnessed Jesus walking across the stormy sea without the storm?Obviously not!
You see folks, the good news out of these passages is that God is in the process. God does not abandon us to the wiles of this world. God works through the events and the people of this world to God’s own ends. And God’s ends are always good.
There’s a story about the famous preacher C. H. Spurgeon that goes something like this. One day Spurgeon was walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the preacher noticed a barn with a weathervane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: “GOD IS LOVE.” Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he though that this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. “Weather vanes are changeable,” he said, “but God’s love is constant.” “I don’t agree with you about those words, Charles,” replied his friend. “You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.” (Stories Illustrations and Quotes, Robert J. Morgan, 2000)
And for us, regardless of where the world takes us, God is in that process. God is in that place and we’re there for a reason.
Response – Go with the flow because God is in the process somewhere.
So what do we need to do? As Christian people, as people receiving this FedEx from God, what should our response be to the fact that God is in control?
Well, look back at the Genesis passage. Joseph didn’t fight his brothers when they stripped him and threw him into a well. At least we’re not told that he did.
Consider Paul and Silas in prison. They didn’t try to escape when they had the opportunity.
Even the disciples in the boat settled down when they realized that the “ghost” was Jesus.
What’s God saying? Go with the flow. God is telling all of us that only God is sovereign and only God is in control. Even if life in this world leads us into slavery, God is still in control.
There’s a song I obtained recently by a band called “Casting Crowns” called The Voice of Truth.
The lyric goes something like this:

Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in onto the crashing waves.
To step out of my comfort zone, into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is. And he’s holding out his hand
But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed.
The waves they keep on telling’ me, time and time again “Boy, you’ll never win. You’ll never win!“
But the voice of truth tell me a different story. The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.”
Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

The voice of truth, the voice of God says, “Do not be afraid." God says, “Whatever you’re going through is for my glory.” So go with the flow. Relax and know that the God of all creation is directing the flow of your life experience. And know that God’s intentions are always for your good.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I'm Baaaaaack!

Got back Thursday from my stint out at camp. Good week there by very hot and no AC. Two nights of VBS and still working on this week's message. That plus dealing with other family and extended family issues has me feeling like I'm chasing my tail a little bit. But, there are two things that came up recently that I need to talk about here.

First - last night at VBS we had a big event planned. The theme of the week was a circus motif. For Friday night we had rented a popcorn macine, a snowcone machine, and a moon bounce. It was looking like it was going to be a good time for the kids. But, as 6PM was approaching, so were the storm clouds and the lightning. The kids were meeting inside for a lesson first and Melissa, the VBS leader asked me to pray with the kids that the rain would hold off for us. We prayed and by 8PM when it was time to go home we had had one brief (literally 30 second) shower. The night was a great success and we all got a powerful lesson in the power of prayer.

Second - After that I went to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" with my wife and daughter. I mentioned early on in this blog that I would probably talk about connecting movies with the Gospel. Here's one of those times. The film wasn't bad, especially as a cautionary tale for kids. In that respect it was very much like the original film with Gene Wilder. But near the end, Wonka offers the factory to Charlie and Charlie asks if he can bring his whole family to live there with him. Wonka replies, "Of course you can't!" Charlie explains to Wllie Wonka that he wouldn't trade his family for any amount of chocolate. My first thought was, "That'll preach!" I reminded me of the scripture from Ephesians 2:19. As Paul is talking about all people, Jews and Gentiles being one in Christ he says, "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family." Is there anything more important than family? And since we are all one in Christ, is there anything more important than the family of God? How often we sell each other out for so much less than a chocolate factory. What a shame that we all aren't a bit more like Charlie Bucket.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No message for 7/24

There is no sermon message for July 24. Not because I didn't write one. Simply because the one that I wrote was for a youth retreat where I was the Spiritual Advisor, and it's not typed yet. Thanks go out to Howard Cassaday for filling in for me at my churches this past weekend. I spent the weekend running around in the woods with 22 teenagers in high Point State Park. I'm sore! Obviously, I'm still too out of shape to be running around in the woods. If I get the time this week I'll try to type up the message from the weekend and post it here for anyone to peruse. In the mean time, I've got VBS this week and I'll be teaching at Delanco Camp next week. With what's on my schedule right now, if I'm still posting here by the second week of August it means that I'm still alive and that I survived the most hectic part of my summer. Keep watching.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Full Plate

Was just thinking about all that I've got on my plate for this Summer and it's got me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Some folks think that pastors just take off from June to September like schoolkids. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aside from the fact that we still have church every Sunday and those sermons don't write themselves, Vacation Bible School at two churches, visitation, and preparation for starting up regular programs and Bible Studies in the Fall fill this pastor's summer schedule. Plus, this year I've been asked to be the Spiritual Advisor for a youth retreat held annually by my home church, and I'm teaching a study on The Gospel According to the Simpsons at a Jr. High camp this summer. But, as the kids are know to say, it's all good. I wouldn't do those extra things if I didn't really want to. Even though I'm the "Senior Pastor" now, my roots are in youth ministry and I still love the opportunities to relate the Gospel to youth and children. There's no greater joy than seeing a kid that you've been working with suddenly light up when they "get it." Yeah, I might have a full plate, but it's all good food and it won't put any more weight on me either. So it's all good!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

What if...

The other day I was in that half-asleep-not-yet-quite-awake state when I had an interesting thought/epiphany. I wondered what I would say to myself if I could go back in time to when I was 14. I thought about how my life now would be different based on what I told my younger self. Would I still be a pastor? Would I have been a pastor sooner? Would I have gone whole-hog into the medical field? I came to realize, in my half-aware state, that I really am content with where I am now and how I got to be here. No, I haven't done everything right. In fact, I've messed up a lot! But the mistakes that I've made have made me who I am now, and that's a good thing that I'm not willing to muck with. I think the only thing I would tell my younger self is to avoid a relationship with Sue, the girl from grade school that's going to come back around when you're 18. She's nothing but trouble that you just don't need. That, and lay off the fast food, it's going to make you fat!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Post Independence Day Blahs

Just getting over my first day back from a long weekend spent with family and friends. I always feel so run down and wiped out after spending time with the family. Why is it that family wears us out more than any other relationship? Is it because they know us best and can push our buttons better than anyone else? I don't know, but I'm beat.

Been thinking as well that this might be a good place to post my sermons for folks that miss a Sunday to read them. Maybe I'll start this in another post.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Start up

OK, so this is my first post to my first blog. By way of introduction, I am Don. I'm just over 40 years old, and I'm the pastor of two small churches in rural America (It's not where you might think!). If you want to know my interests, go read my profile. The only thing that I really didn't put in there is how much I like movies. I like movies a lot. I especially like finding a nugget, a scene in a movie that I can use to illustrate the Gospel when I preach. That is something that I will probably comment on a lot I suppose.

I've started this blog as a way for me to think out loud and get some feedback on my thoughts. Be as blunt or critical as you like. I'm a big boy, I can take it. Well, that's all for now. I'll be back soon.