Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Timely Word...

"Also do not take to heart everything you hear people say..." Ecclesiastes 7:21

This word was timely in that earlier this week, I discovered that someone was harshly criticizing me without my knowledge. I understand that these things are going to happen and I should expect them to happen. I simply wonder what it is that possesses Christian men and women, or at least men and women who claim to be Christians, to talk about another brother or sister behind their backs and share intimate concerns about relationships without the accused's knowledge.

This bugs me on several levels; it goes against the grain of Christian love. If you truly love someone as Christ teaches that you ought to love, then it stands to reason that you would care enough that IF you have a concern about someone you will share it with that person and not trumpet your concerns to everyone BUT that person.

It also goes against the grain of Christian character. We should be bold enough with our brethren that if we have a trouble, then we should have the resolve to share it with them. Christians are not cowards--we have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that leads, guides, and directs our intentions, and He can make known when an accusation is brought in Christlike love and compassion.

It also goes against the grain of Christian friendship and brotherhood. As Christians we are bound together by a strong cord of mutual faith in Jesus that should lead us to respect one another despite differences, regardless of how strong they may be.

As I was reading this morning, this verse struck me as a word from the Lord. I know I should give the accuser the benefit of the doubt. I did receive the accusation from a third party, a party that I do not know that I can altogether trust. However, when such accusations come, and because of my persona, I generally have a very hard time dealing with them, and I tend to take things to heart (hence the significance of the above verse). I let them affect my mood, my work, my walk, and ultimately my family.

Lord, give me the grace to overcome these pressures, and to extend grace to those who are unfair toward me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cast Your Burden, or not?

"Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you..." Psalm 55:22

It makes for really good preaching and sounds good when it is yelled from the pulpit, but I simply cannot believe that "God will not put more on you than you can bear." Practical experience and empirical evidence mitigate otherwise; God does put more on you than you can bear, and He is quite pleased to do so.

There are times in life when God places such a burden upon you so as to do a thing in your life; it is up to you to determine what that thing is and then accept it and live in it. That burden then becomes such a thing that God intends not to lift it from you so as to teach you that thing and further, to drive you to Him--to fall out of fellowship with Him because of the burden is a failure of an egregious sort and will only make the burden that much heavier to bear.

So to roll the responsibility upon God and allow Him to shoulder the heaviest portion of the burden is not only biblical but sound--it makes sense. The burdens we bear were never meant to be borne alone, yet what a celebration ensues when we do bear it alone! "I did this! I accomplished this thing!" But was any real lesson learned in faith? None whatsoever.

Can one be crushed under a heavy load? Quite possibly; but not if one end of the load has been deliberately given over to Him to shoulder.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reopening the Blog

I have been away from blogging for too long, and with the advent of a new year, I will reopen the blog. There has been a lot on my mind lately and hopefully the blog will once again serve its purpose as I originally intended. I want to explore some new things the Lord has opened up for my family, particularly where stewardship, prayer, nutrition, spina bifida, and other things are concerned. Hope you'll join me. And oh yes, lousy church signs will be thrown in the mix, too. :-)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

One More LCS

I found this one on the way to drop off food for the annual food roundup for the Broyhill Children's Home. Make sure your side doesn't split on this one...
God Wants Full Custody
Not Just A
Weekend Visit
I see the point, but I think it could be expressed a tad more tactfully.

Monday, May 04, 2009

More LCS...

If it was not for lousy church signs, lately I would have nothing to post, so here is the latest edition.
Unholy Compromises
Please join us!
I would imagine that the average unbeliever (or for that matter, the average Christian) probably knows not that Pergamos was an actual church and is the topic of that service's sermon. It seems they might only correlate the last two lines. So, come on in! Join us in those unholy compromises! And the second,
God's Greeting Card to Us
And what is summer? A love letter? Sigh...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And what is it we need?

Found on a bumper sticker:

Fountain of youth?
We have enough youth,
what we need
is a fountain of smart...

Great point.
H/T Henry

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Lousy Church Signs...

...courtesy of my mother-in-law.

This one I have seen before. It is tried and hackneyed, but it still surprises me that some churches post it.
God is like GE.
He brings good things to life.
Take-offs on commercial jingles are a bit old. Like a good neighbor, God is there, ya know? And you're in good hands with...God!

And the second just made me guffaw.
God is good.
You can be too.
And if you try reeeeeal hard, God will give you a stick of candy. Until next time, this has been another edition of LCS!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seven Pounds: A Brief Review

I have done a few movie reviews on the blog, but all of them have been explicitly Christian films. I don't know why I write on this particular film other than needing a catharsis for a lot of pent-up anxiety the film produced. The movie stars Will Smith, and having been a fan of his for over a decade, I ordered the movie from Netflix to watch without even knowing what the film was really about. However, that is the selling point of the film; you don't know what the film is about until the end. That aspect of the film grew really tired on me after all the inexplicable scenes and not knowing whether they were flashbacks or real time, why he was acting like such a jerk in some scenes, and the continual look of pain and hardened sorrow on his face.

You are filled in bit by bit, as a fisherman allows line for a caught fish he does not want to lose. Smith is dealing with profound grief. Overcome by an accident he caused and the loss of many lives, Smith puts an elaborate plan in motion to essentially "redeem" himself for all the pain he has caused so many people. The main premise being unoriginal, I have come to expect a lot better from Smith in his tenured acting career.

Seven Pounds does portray grief in its rawest form and though Smith takes measures that in the world's mind probably seem quite noble, I have a hard time stomaching the carrying out of his plan. It was inevitable halfway through the movie what he was doing, and by the end, though I could imagine there were several tearful eyes in the theaters, I was just glad it was over.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lousy Church Signs

Its been a long time since the last installment of lousy church signs, but I found a couple today that warrant posting--stupid, senseless, and a waste of good church sign space.
God's Stimulus Plan
The Rapture
Makes no sense at all whatsoever. Unless you mean the cottage industry that has made millions off the rapture, then we might be getting somewhere.
Does your tongue
need healing?
What? Perhaps if this was on a Pentecostal or charismatic church sign, I might understand, but it was on a Baptist one. Some signs need an asterisk at the bottom to fill us ignoramuses in on what in the world the sign means.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

An Irritation

I just got off the phone.

I talked with some young lady from "Such and Such Exciting and Fantastic Terrifically Great and Awesome Youth Ministry" from out in Texas. She asked me with a cheerleader-esque bounce in her voice, "Do you have a youth ministry?" (My initial thought was, "No, but the Lord does...")

I answered in the affirmative and then she proceeded to ask, "How many do you have?" (I wanted to say "How many youth ministries?" or "How many young people attend?") I answered that we typically have about four or five teenagers.

Insert sigh of resignation..."Oh, well, thank you sir."

And then she hung up! The call lasted less than thirty seconds. No explanation for her call. No reason why she called this little church in western North Carolina from the BIG state of Texas. Was she conducting a stupid survey? Does she work for George Gallup? What?

Evidently churches who minister in the diminutive do not count in their economy.


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Sinner or Saint?

I was just thinking earlier today about the dichotomy between sinner and saint. I was talking with a widower today and his decision to get remarried. He was afraid there was some sin in it and that he would not be honoring his departed wife. The lady to whom he is engaged is a widow, just to clarify.

What concerned me was that he was trying to find some sin in the relationship. However, it led me to a conclusion about something that I have been pondering for a time. It often rattles me how often Christian teachers, preachers, bloggers, writers, and so on take much time to remind us that we are sinners but rarely to ever remind us that we are saints. Instead of looking for the good in something, we automatically look for the bad.

We are sinners. Absolutely. However, we are no longer citizens of this world, but we have been translated to another kingdom, a kingdom not of this world and we have an alien righteousness bestowed upon us by a loving Creator through the death of His only-begotten. My friend had nearly resigned himself to further despair because he seemed to want me to find some sin in his decision to become engaged.

I think a lot of resignation, despair, depression, and hopelessness is generated by those pastors and teachers who fail to instruct their people that Christ and His righteousness is theirs now and not just later.

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Prayer for Our Congregations...

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wow, are boys different!

Having four girls right in a row makes you think you are the perfect parent. You think you are ready for anything, and then you get thrown an errant curve ball. Boys are incredibly different. My son just likes to take things apart for no good reason. It isn't uncommon for him to tear something up without blinking an eye. He can get into the most unusual predicaments. To find him sitting on the kitchen table is commonplace. What is it about boys that make them want to flush the toilet? Over and over? Henry seems to be having the same problem, and he linked a great cartoon that explains it really well.

The Lord be with us, Henry!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Deserves to be read

I have not linked one of my favorite Internet authors in a good while, so here goes. I wrote some similar thoughts when I used to contribute for sbcImpact nearly a year ago. This is some dangerous thinking and Dan carries the ball a lot farther than I did when I wrote this post.

Why I Don't Understand Church Planting
by Dan Edelen

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Heresy at a funeral?

I had the blessed privilege of officiating a church member's funeral this past Friday afternoon. I worked alongside of a Methodist minister from the deceased's past. In my experience, I have always been a bit leery of preaching funerals with men whom I have never met. It always proves to be an interesting experience.

Not the first time it has happened to me, but the minister made a pointedly unorthodox statement in the course of his message. He said, "God is neither male nor female; He is simply Spirit." The statement quite literally came out of nowhere, with very little context. Talking about the comfort of God, appropriate at a funeral service, he went from there to make that statement, and the only additional explanation was that "God is just as much a mother as He is Father."

I would hazard to say it is something he must believe, else he would not have made the statement. Perhaps he felt comfortable making such a statement at a funeral, when people tend to have their guards down. I don't know. I had considered talking with each of the folks who are members of the church I serve to correct his statement, but then with funerals, people tend to have short memories anyway.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You a Peacemaker?

In Genesis 21:22-34, we see a much different Abraham. We see an Abraham that is confident in his faith, an Abraham who no longer deceives to achieve the ends God would have for him, and an Abraham who would rather make peace than go to war. And why shouldn't he be that way? Isaac, the child of promise, has been born. There is no longer any lingering doubt or uncertainty wrapped up in how the promises of God are going to come about. The threats to the promises have been removed, painful as it was. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away.

Given an opportunity to reclaim his reputation, Abraham is offered a treaty of peace from neighboring Abimelech. This is the same Abimelech from chapter twenty, the Abimelech Abraham deceived. It is interesting to note that the two key things Abimemelch knows about Abraham is that "God is with him" and that Abraham has dealt falsely in the past.

However, after the oaths are taken, Abraham discovers that Abimelech has dealt falsely with him. The army of Abimelech has seized control of Abraham's wells. Even today, water is a precious commodity in the ancient near east. This is a justifiable offense in that Abraham ought to go to war; he should go to war. However, Abraham, having met this Everlasting God (verse thirty-three), rather makes peace with Abimelech instead of going to war.

When you are offended by someone, is it your custom to go to war rather than make peace? Abraham had a formidable army; chapter fourteen showed us that. Abraham probably could have overwhelmed Abimelech's army (it is telling that the commander of Abimelech's army attended the ratification of their peace agreement in verse twenty-two). Abraham reflects the character of God in that when he was justified in making war, he chose to make peace instead.

(Taken from my sermon, A Good Neighbor, preached this past Sunday night)

Friday, March 13, 2009

More Americans giving up on religion

A church member pointed me to this article in the Asheville newspaper. There are some interesting statistics about mainline denominations and the obvious decline of organized religion. The quote that caught my attention was:
The current survey, being released today, found traditional organized religion playing less of a role in many lives.
Being part of "organized religion" this strikes pretty close to home. Nobody likes being told they are irrelevant, but that seems to be more and more the case. Don't get me wrong, I love pastoring and I love the work of the ministry. In the future, though, it looks like the role of the traditional minister will look a lot different than what it does now, if the role continues to exist.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Book Quote

I just finished a wonderful little book by Phillip Gulley entitled Home to Harmony. This is one of my favorite quotes from the book (p. 177), which aptly sums up so much of church life, pastor and church member alike.
When I became pastor, it was Dale Hinshaw who called to say it would be my job to shovel the walk and spread the salt. I told him I hadn't gone to seminary so I could shovel snow. That was when he quoted from the book of James that faith without works is dead. Dale Hinshaw knew just enough Scripture to be annoying but not enough to be transformed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Evangelists on the Playground

This evening we took the children to the awesomely cool "rec park" in Waynesville. Playing tag with my second daughter, I wiped out trying to clear the tongue of a slide. It was quite a sight to behold as the preacher went down into the mulch, skinning his elbow. One fellow near me, though he didn't offer to help me up, did offer a word of consolation; "At least you're enjoying it." Heh. Yeah, I guess.

I try to stay close by the children as they make friends; call me overprotective. My two oldest daughters had made two little friends and had been playing pretty hard with them. As my oldest was resting on some of the equipment chatting with her new friend, she began to talk about faith in Christ.

My second oldest was playing on the balance beam with another little girl and she asked the little girl where she attends church. She then asked her to join us at our church.

We either make evangelism too hard or we have turned it into something it ought not be. Out of the course of natural relationships, my little girls started conversations about Jesus and His church. They didn't use a conversation guide, a canned presentation, or a formal approach. Perhaps this is the element we are missing in our evangelism methodology; the personal touch.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sending Ishmael Away

I just preached this evening on, at least to me, a very difficult passage, Genesis 21:8-21. This is the narrative about Abraham's and Sarah's sending Hagar and Ishmael away after the birth of Isaac. I don't pretend to know all there is to know about any given Scripture, and preaching is a very humbling experience for me. This passage pushed me to really understand it; reconciling the incongruence of the necessity of sending Ishmael away and how hard this must have been for Abraham with the necessity of safeguarding the promises of God and Sarah's callousness toward the boy overwhelmed me with emotion and anxiety.

I spent a great deal of time struggling through this passage trying to get it "right" and preached it in fear of "overspiritualizing." I simply could not produce an outline to my satisfaction. Eventually I gave way and preached it the same way Paul applied it in Galatians 4, teaching that there are terrible spiritual consequences for the believer who doesn't "send Ishmael away." I almost felt like I was somewhat unfaithful to the entire text of Genesis 21:8-21, not really dealing with the entire passage and focusing on verses nine and ten.

However, I concluded with a challenge; Amy Carmichael who was a missionary to India, is quoted as saying, "Oh, that Ishmael might die within me!" We all have our "Ishmaels" that trouble us from day to day, and just as Abraham and Sarah tried to procure God's promises through the flesh, so we try to accomplish the will of God devoid of the Spirit of God. That Ishmael might die within me is a worthy endeavor.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Calvin on Ritalin

I just read this post at Dan Edelen's blog and I can't believe it hasn't generated more discussion. Click through to see a most likely unoriginal Calvin and Hobbes comic strip of Calvin on some psychotropic drug. The strip is sad yet spot-on. I left Dan this comment:


I have always felt like Calvin was the poster boy for homeschooling. We love C & H at our house (we homeschool three) and I know several other homeschooling families that love the strip.

Calvin has nothing but utter contempt for school as multiple strips show him daydreaming and doodling while he is in school. I would hazard to say that all the strips where Calvin is at school he is bored, unhappy, anxious, disgusted, hopeless, or aggravated. The only times he is happy is at lunch when he is grossing Susie Derkins out or at recess (that is when Moe the bully isn’t after him). His teacher is named Miss Wormwood after the apprentice devil in Lewis’ classic Screwtape Letters. That isn’t a joke the average reader of the strip likely will get. I just wonder what Watterson was trying to say about the institution?

I’m not trying to make an ugly connection between psychotropic drugs and public school, but I don’t know of any homeschooled kids that are on them. If you’re looking for a broader societal application, I missed it. :)

Why would anyone want to rob their child of imagination just for a book report?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Back in the Blogging Business

I'm opening the RP back up for business. It has been quite some time since I last posted here. I devoted a good bit of blogging energy to the blog I just recently deleted, the RP2, and though I learned a lot and appreciated the community that I cultivated over there, it was necessary to let it go. It was a lot of fun and I value all the friendships I developed there. I doubt much of that crowd will comment over here because the nature of the posts are so radically different.

Why did I delete the other blog? Well, for one primary reason; to preserve relationships. Tension seemed to run really high over there and though I thrive in that kind of blogging environment, it began to upset some relationships that are very important to me.

I have been meaning to get back over here for a long time but just have not. I want this blog to still follow the topics in the header; "rambling thoughts about theology and ministry," but more just to maintain connection with some online friendships and to keep in touch. I also want a place to connect with some other bloggers I have wanted to get to know.

So, if you still have me in your reader, I hope to hear from you. I doubt many folks stop by here much anymore if at all, so perhaps the community will evolve once again.