Month: August 2012

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People

When Bad Christians Happen to Good People: Where we have failed each other and how to reverse the damage
by Dave Burchett

This title strikes a deep, hollow, minor chord in me. As a pastor, I find those people that are most resistant to Jesus are those who have been injured by those who bear Christ’s name. The deepest wounds come from those we trust, and we are supposed to be able to trust our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a need for a book like this: a book for surviving hurts that have been given by those who are supposed to love their neighbors as they love themselves. The concept of the book is right there in the title and sub-title. Does it deliver?

Burchett delivers up some very fine points. The first chapter points out that bad Christians are just that: bad Christians, not non-Christians. We are still sinners, and sin gets in the way. He does not jump on the holiness rollercoaster that says the person who hurt you is not a Christian if he or she hurt you in such a way; the person who caused the hurt is a Christian who sinned. (more…)

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Use What You’ve Got!

Ephesians 5:15-20 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Use what you’ve got!

  1. What do I have?
  2. How do I use it?

(more…)

A Tale of Two Sinners

Last week I met two sinners.

One was a young woman who has been caught in the consequences of sin. She’s been avoiding me quite a bit, but she needed some paperwork for something else she’s involved in. She stopped by to pick up that paperwork, and as she was there, I asked her, “When can we get together? We need to talk, but I’m not going to do that now. I’m not going to ambush you, and I know you have other plans right now. When can we talk?”

She looked at me blankly. “What do we need to talk about?”

As she had a friend there that I didn’t want to involve in this discussion, I simply answered, “I think you know.”

Again, she answered, “What do we need to talk about?”

After weighing my answer just a moment, I responded, “Sin and grace.”

“I don’t think we need to talk about that.”

She walked away. (more…)

You’re Already Amazing

You’re Already Amazing
by Holley Gerth

You don’t have to do more, be more, have more. You’re a daughter of God, a holy princess, a woman created with strengths you’ve yet to fully grasp and a story that’s still being written by the divine Author himself. … [in Christ] you’re not only amazing. You’re enough. You’re beautiful. You’re wanted. You’re chosen. You’re called.

You’re Already Amazing presents an amazing truth: in Christ, you are enough. In Christ, you are everything you need to be and more… because Jesus is enough and everything you need to be. You have his record. So stop trying to be someone you’re not… because Jesus has made you exactly who he wants you to be. (more…)

Back to Basics

Hebrews 5:11-6:3   We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

6    Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

 

Back to the Basics

  1. Without the basics, you can’t get anywhere.
  2. God expects you to master the basics so you can get somewhere.

(more…)

Sunday morning, and not present in the body

Early on in my ministry here, I threw a softball to my council to see how they would react to a little responsibility. I knew that a large chunk of my council were very concerned that I take care of the shut-ins (those members who for health reasons are unable to attend normal Sunday morning worship). I knew that I should be able to visit them in their homes on a monthly basis, barring emergencies (and I have indeed kept that schedule). However, as I presented this to the council, I told them, “They have the desire to worship with other Christians more often than once a month. We can serve them better. What are some options? Bring me some ideas.”

It felt like this: They knew they were other people, but they only worshiped alone. We can do better for them!

Now, my intention was to get a group of elders started – some men to visit each shut-in once a month on weeks that I wasn’t making my visits. However, I wanted them to come up with whatever idea they came up with so they could own it. Well, I didn’t get my wish of an elder. I got something… unique.

An early idea that they proposed was to simply record the worship service and deliver the recordings. A fantastic idea many congregations implement, but it wasn’t really practical for us. Our shut-ins have a wide gamut of technology; over here is a couple that still haven’t made it to the VCR level, while over here is another shut-in who Skypes with her great-grandchildren. We considered by mp3 players for each shut-in and training them how to use them.

Despite the stereotype, there are plenty of old geezers who can geeze on the internet breezily!

Then one of the councilmen had an ingenious idea: no matter what level of technology they were at, every single person had a phone of one type or another. Why not have them call a phone number and listen to Sunday morning worship live?

As I considered, I found a lot to like with this plan. When watching television or any recorded media, we tend to be docile. We’re not interacting with what we see; we’re merely sponging it in. But a telephone – now here’s something different! We’re used to interacting! And it’s live – it’s not merely a recording, but something that’s happening right then. A person doesn’t prepare for watching a recording; a person might prepare if they have to get up in the morning to listen in.

So, we pursued the options. Ideally, we’d find a way to patch our microphone system directly into the phone line for the hour-or-so every Sunday morning. No dice; at least not in any inexpensive way. We did find an inexpensive service for conference calls, though. It would mean I’d have to wear a Bluetooth during the service. That would take some getting used to and necessitate I use the lapel mic instead of the one that hung off my ear, but I could handle that. The system was easy to use for both our tech staff to set up as well as the shut-ins at home. Let’s give it a go!

I don’t look nearly so dynamic as this guy. Nor as well-groomed. Nor as cheesy, I hope.

Yesterday was the third week straight of this new program. Our tech staff (generally confirmands and recent confirmands) have gotten the hang of it; the hardest part is them talking on the phone to welcome the callers. I’ve heard from our shut-ins that they’re loving the program. They’re feeling like they’re part of the congregation again! They not be present in the body, but they are listening and participating!

I’ve made a big deal since getting here that we’re family. Here we simply see one of the ways that plays out: even if you can’t be here in body, you’re still a member of the family. The congregation has accepted the Bluetooth; I’ve not heard a single negative about it in a congregation that can get pretty darn vocal about change. I’ve heard nothing but positive from the shut-ins.

There’s one unexpected side-effect from all this; not only are the shut-ins able to join us for worship, but they’re fellowshipping! I’ve encouraged them to call in at least ten minutes before the service starts so we can sort out any bugs if they pop up. During the time before the service starts, they’re talking to each other on the phone. They’re sharing each other’s’ lives – granted, it’s not in a deep way, but it’s more than they’re used to! They’re encouraging each other and enjoying being part of the family – not in a mental or spiritual way, but now also in a way they can experience firsthand.

The system isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. Because I wear the Bluetooth, when it comes to singing, the shut-ins only hear me and not the rest of the congregation. That’s… disconcerting. I wouldn’t want to hear me singing solos for all the music! We need to find a way to fix it, but this is an inconvenience and certainly not a deal breaker!

And the neat thing about all this? I simply made a need known. I said, “Hey, let’s see if we can serve this one portion of the congregation better.” And the men took this and ran with it. They thought of the solution. They compared ways to reach the solution. They made sure it happened. I made a problem known and released the men to fix it.

They succeeded.

I need to do this more often. I need to simply let the men go on a mission they believe in. I plan to practice that with some events coming up, but this success shows me that it can be done in this congregation with these people.

And the result is that even more of the congregation is blessed. Awesome!

Good job church council!

They’re Only Stories!

1 Corinthians 10:1-5, 11-13 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 

“They’re only stories!”

  1. Written as history
  2. Written as warnings
  3. Written as examples

(more…)

The End of the Week

It was a long week. We’re talking fourteen-hour days of ministry that usually ended with me not only physically exhausted but also emotionally exhausted. My youngest child decided now would be an awesome time to stop sleeping through the night. My day off was very far from restful. I didn’t get done what I wanted to get done. Oh, and this was supposed to be the lightest week of the month. Grand.

I’m working on the sermon. Really.

So you might understand that I was looking at the weekend with some trepidation. I saw a men’s Bible breakfast our church had been invited to; our men are not a group known for their exuberance for Bible study. We had an extended council meeting planned; council meetings may be the regularly-scheduled item that raises my blood pressure the highest. We had Sunday worship and Bible study, which is uplifting yet exhausting. Sunday afternoon our congregation hosted a Christian singer-songwriter, and I had no clue what turnout for that would be. After a long week, what would happen on this weekend?

Holy crap God knows how to make a guy smile. (more…)

Want More Generosity?

2 Corinthians 9:8-11 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever.”

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

 

Want more generosity?

  1. Know the Generous One
  2. Be a generous one (more…)

Am I like Jesus?

Hiding… refusing to make eye contact…

Am I like Jesus?

Last week I went to a basketball game in which some of the teens were playing. I had a great time, sitting in the bleachers with the parents and cheering and groaning. And a chunk of the way into the game, something whacks me from above.

I turn and discover a mostly-empty Gatorade bottle. Above, in the balcony, one of the younger teen girls laughing. She thinks it’s funny, but it’s also greatly disrespectful. I motion her. “Come down here,” I say. Blank face. I turn and watch the game, waiting for her to come.

My only goal is for her to come down and apologize. Then, I plan on forgiving her. Done and done.

Doesn’t happen.

Another girl comes up to me. “She’s leaving,” she says, her voice quivering. “She’s scared.” (more…)