Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reflections on Worship

As I write this...I am thinking...tomorrow is the day. It will be Sunday. Not just any-old Sunday, but a one-and-only Sunday. It is a day that will never come around again. We can look back, remember, smile, frown, regret, or rejoice in the memory, but it will never be ours to experience again. Sunday!

Each day of our lives holds the same reality but this one is different. It is the Lord's day. It is a day of worship. It is a day when we will gather in the worship center, sing our praise, share the Scriptures, and pray for one another. It is a unique opportunity, a holy obligation, a day dedicated to God, we can not let it flow into the past without offering our best to God.

This is my prayer...Lord Jesus, help me to know you, worship you, experience your love, and serve you to the best of my ability. Guide us into the reality of your love. Help us to gather in peace and hope. Remind us that your creative image flows through our veins at this very moment. Let us be your people. Allow us the privilege of worshiping you fully and serving you with wisdom. Use our lives, Lord, to transform the world. Help us to make this 'Sunday' truly like no other. Use us, shape us, teach us, love us we pray. Amen

As always...I am looking forward to seeing you very soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Faith and Doubt

Here are some passages of Scripture that will help us think together about the nature of doubt in the context of faith. I would suggest that you take a few minutes to look up the passage in your Bible (maybe you can read it in two or three versions), read it slowly with deliberation, and then allow your heart and mind to consider the message from as many different perspectives as you can. Spend at least ten minutes each day with each passage.

You might want to look at (drop your courser over the blank to reveal) as a resource for various Bible translations. You can simply enter the reference for the verse you want to read, select a translation, and capture the message. I often copy and paste various translations so I can compare them side-by-side.

Day One
Judges chapter 6 - Focus on 6:17 as a sample
This is our old friend Gideon. Read the section and circle the number of times Gideon says 'if' in response to God. Have you ever wanted a 'sign' from God to confirm your doubt?

Day Two
John 20:25
We looked at this passage with Thomas on Sunday. Are you a 'touch and see' believer who (like Gideon) is always on the look out for evidence before you can put your faith in the hands of God?

Day Three
Luke 24

Here we find the two disciples walking with Jesus even though they did not realize who he was until he broke bread with them at the end of the day. Look at 24:25 where they are described by Jesus as being 'slow of heart' - are you a leading edge believer, a wait and see believer, a slow of heart believer, or a full speed ahead disciple?

Day Four
Matthew 14:22-36

Here is the famous passage where Jesus walks on water. But our focus is on Peter and his faith process. In verse 31, Jesus rescues him with a statement and a question ... "You of little faith" "Why did you doubt?" How does this apply to your experience today as you have moved through the various features and experiences of your life?

Day Five
Isaiah 43:1-2

The promise of God found here in Isaiah will help us cap off our five day sequence with a word of great hope. We have all passed through the rough waters of life. The hope comes when we realize that God promises (over and over) that we will not be alone on the journey. "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." says the Lord. That is a word for you today.

I pray blessings of peace upon you, your home, your family, and your continually growing faith. I join you in the journey!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Apostolic Congregation

With great thanks to Dr. George are some of the features that identify a congregation that is alive, vital and clearly looking toward the future with apostolic eyes!

By the way, George Hunter's new book called The Apostolic Congregation, Church Growth Reconceived For A New Generation is well worth the read. It is a wonderful summary of where we have been with a focus on a growing future!

An Apostolic Congregation

* Has congregational eyes, heart, and mind that are always focused outward toward the needs of pre-Christian people

* Organizes ministry around a staff leadership team that is responsible for motivating and training others for hands-on-ministry

* Intentionally shifts away from the 'chaplain' model of ministry into a multifaceted gifts-based congregational ministry team that includes paid and non-paid staff

* Has a strategy for providing excellence in teaching, worship, preaching, and prayer

* Understands that the 'harvest field' has changed

* Stands firmly on traditional faith with flexibility in how that faith is delivered and shared with the congregation

*Intentionally seeks to be aware of the current culture, climate and needs in the missional neighborhood

* Desires to involve as many people as possible in direct hands-on ministry

* Looks to mission ministry as a primary training ground where all people are mission senders or mission goers...but always seeking to reach the local neighborhood

* Is constantly learning how to create growth and discipleship opportunities for people in the areas of personal faith, relationship building, leadership, and life skills

* Sees the future as a positive and passionate possibility that is filled with hope...they are 'horizon' people who are always looking for the next opportunity

* Is lead by leaders who are flexible, spiritually alive, and constantly learning

* Allows for and welcomes change, adjustment, and new opportunities that will bring hope to others

* Understands how social networks and key relationships help bring people to faith

* Realize that commitment to Christ is not the end goal, it is the beginning

* Has a model for ministry that includes solid Biblical stewardship teaching

* Looks to the establishment of new congregations and fresh ministries as a primary goal

* Understands the power of excellence, the motivation of innovation, and the potential that arises from anticipation, preparation, and holy unrest

* Has a solid theological understanding of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now is the time...Haiti

In ministry...timing is everything. A relationship either moves forward or stalls based on timing. A plan or vision moves strongly into the future or is is significantly delayed based on timing. Now is the time.

If you have been challenged by the news footage of the Haiti earthquake and the resulting is the time.

You can worry about how the funds will be received and distributed or you can trust that by faith your gift will go to meet a specific need and not be derailed to something that is insignificant.

The bottom line is ... do it now. The need is now and the need will continue into the future. Do it now and do it later as well. Don't let your reservations and all the "what if's" stop you from doing what your Christian faith tells you to do. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Let me suggest United Methodist Committee on Relief ( UMCOR) as your favorite and most effective agency. I would be happy to help you discover a way to give, to be Christian, and to trust that faith will prevail.

Join us Sunday for more details. Let's look forward with hope!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Forgivness in Scripture

Here are a few passages from Scripture that help us understand the full impact of forgiveness.

Try reading and meditating on one passage each day this week. See what God teaches you. Take at least ten minutes to read, reread, and ponder each passage. Meditate on it through the day to allow God to impact your spirit.

Day One Theme:
God does not like separates people from God...we all stand in need of forgiveness

Isaiah 59:1-2

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.

2 But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.

Day Two Theme:

Forgiveness only happens in relationship ... relationship with God ... relationship with others

Matthew 6:9-15

9"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread.
12Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.a]">[a]' 14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Day Three Theme: Confession activates God's gift of forgiveness

I John 1:9

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Day Four Theme: Joy and freedom are marks of forgiveness

Psalm 32:1-2

Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is put out of sight!
2 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Day Five Theme: Forgiveness is a part of Christian character

Colossians 3:12-14

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

In the end, forgiveness is at the heart of God's grace. Mutual forgiveness is the key to the Gospel of Christ. Here's the problem, forgiven people must always be forgiving! Put another way, only the forgiving can be forgiven. An unforgiving spirit becomes a barrier to knowing God and receiving the full blessing of living in the joy of the Lord. How many times must we forgive...only 70 times 7!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Texas vs Alabama

The big game is tonight! By the time you read will be a done deal. Either Texas or Alabama will be declared the 2010 National Champions of college football. The number one and number two teams will meet to do battle. It should be a great game. But football fans know that these "should be a great game" events sometimes fall flat. The outcome could be less than spectacular.

I don't have any particular connection to either team. I have friends in Texas. Many of them would not be Longhorn fans. They proudly fly the A&M colors and participate in all of the ritual that goes along with being an Aggie.

I also have friends in Alabama. However, most of them would not be caught dead wearing a "roll tide" t-shirt. They are football fans to the extreme and I can hear their "War Eagle" cry all the way across the country.

Bottom line, the national championship is interesting. It will be fun. It's not the Super Bowl, but it will be fun. In the end, when it comes down to eternity (or even next year) will it really matter? Some one will be able to fly the banner and be authorized to point back to the "year when we had it all" so they can recruit a new crop of players.

For me the real National Championship (excuse me...the World Championship - Kingdom Championship!) happened in Luke chapter four. That's located just on the edge of Pasadena about one atmosphere above the Rose Bowl.

It was hand-to-hand and heart-to-heart combat. One-on-one and face-to-face between Jesus and the author of evil. This is the place where it is all on the line. It really matters. It is winner take all. No golden trophy for the case with this one. It is all or nothing. It makes eternal difference!

Guess who wins!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year thoughts

I've been thinking. My family would say 'that is dangerous' but I know that is only true if the thoughts were original or dealt with a new theory of relativity. Mine seldom are..and I promise I won't.

By the way, if you haven't seen the book Introducing the Missional Church by Alan Roxburgh and Scott need to get your hands on it. Enough said.


I started a fire in the fireplace for a New Year celebration. It actually was because I was really cold but let's say it was to recognize, celebrate, and invite 2010.

The fire caught hold, began to burn nicely...but it really wasn't nearly big enough (a guy thing). So I went outside grabbed a very large handful of pine needles from the ground and jammed them under the grate. They caught fire rapidly and the flame began to crackle and spread with a brilliant yellow orange. Soon the flame was very large and the pine needles were being quickly consumed. But the unburned wood on the top just gave off a bit of smoke and brushed aside the pine flame. It was almost as if the wood knew the pine needles didn't have a long enough life span to really make a difference. So the wood just smiled and said 'no thank you' to the urgent flame. Within seconds, the pine needles were just glowing embers that maintained their shape but did no damage.

Before long, the fire place finally became a place of warmth. I could stand in the front and feel the heat on the back of my jeans. It was good. But how 'good' is good. So I stoked the fire with the biggest chunk of split pine I had at my disposal. It was twice the diameter of the previous logs and a good ten inches longer than the iron grate that now held the coals of history.

The longer log just sat there. In fact, it actually started to snuff out the fire. This is not good. The beautiful yellow - red - blue flame was changing to gray smoke. Thank God the chimney was doing it's thing!

I got the handy poker (the kind that shows up in dime-store murder mysteries) and stirred the fire to fight back the growing cloud of smoke. Then (as if on cue from Clint Eastwood as the director of this drama) the log burst into flame on one end. It was glorious!

But the flame was only on one end. The other end just stuck out beyond the grate, hung out into space, and dangled over some long forgotten coals. It just sat there.

That is, it sat there until the forgotten coals did their thing. They did what they were created to do. They gave off heat...lots of it. Until the bare end of the large log began to send off little swirling puffs of smoke. Little by little the smoke started to grow. First in little singular swirls with lines that could be traced against the darkened bricks of the fire box. And them with potent puffs that would bring a hopeful gleam to the eye of any good Boy Scout.

It happened right before my eyes! The dry, extended, unburnt, end of the log was finally captured by flame. First in a small way through the cracks and misshaped angles of the edge. Then the whole split edge was aflame and sending tongues of fire to the upper limits of the log.

Will it go? Suddenly, Yes! It burst into flame and became the most beautiful part of the whole experience. It was wonderful. All because a little pile of red embers remained faithful to their task. There was nothing but constant, faithful, committed heat that created the possibility for the fullness of flame.

Is there a moral to the story. Of course. I hope you already see it clearly and that you are warmed by the possibilities for your own life. Here's how I see it for my journey...

The church (faithful believers) must remain faithful to the task. Stay hot, stay alive, hold on to the call of Christ....always seeking the purpose for which you originally caught fire. The purpose is to allow the flame of the Holy Spirit to burn brightly through your life and to fill the air with the radiant gold-yellow-orange-blue flame that will ultimately burn white hot. Not like the pine needles that are quickly consumed and have little effect. But like the coals that glow and search for fulfillment.

It is the refiners fire the purifies everything within it's reach. It is the flame of Pentecost that expands the mystery and motivates new ministries. It is the gift we have been given and the task that is always at hand...burn strong! But above all...burn!

As always, I am looking forward to sharing the warmth of the flame in 2010 and beyond!