Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When You Sing

On your feet now-applaud GOD!
2 Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.
Psalm 100 The Message

When the church meets to worship God - to applaud His glory and celebrate His grace - we sing. Some sing as if by rote, participating in a ritual. Others lean into it, smiling, raising a hand, even closing their eyes as if to close the gap within a private moment with the Almighty.

As I've watched this happen for years now, I'm amazed at how it has nothing to do with age. Octogenarians lift their voices, singing as if God was near. Little ones add to the chorus voices sweet and pure. Surely God must smile to hear His children.

After the worship service ends, sometimes people stop to talk. They speak words of encouragement to each other, or say their goodbyes until next time.

Carmen and Lily want to sing.

They're maybe five feet tall placed end to end, inquisitive, expressive, and irrepressible. I've watched them strain to see the screen during worship and seen them sing. Their voices may not carry two rows, but they reach heaven.

And after the service, they make a bee-line for the stage and the microphones. They just want to sing. This past Sunday, when I joined them at the front, Carmen was downcast. The microphones were off. "Sing Carmen. Sing me a song," I said to her. "No one will hear me", she replied. So I went and turned the power back on, and asked Carmen (who would stay there all day if she could) to sing me one song. Then I sat on the front row and listened. She had a song to sing.

I wonder. Is there a song within you? Something that you just have to sing? Something that people have to hear?

Or something that so moves you to think of God's glory, of His grace, that words are not enough alone? "He who sings, prays twice," St. Augustine said. When you sing praises to God, you can slip into His presence whether you are in a congregation or your car.

Take time to give voice to your heart and praise to our God.



Thursday, August 17, 2006

Laughter In the Walls

After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is our proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy. 1 Thess. 2:19-20

One of the great joys of my life has been being a friend and pastor to the people of New Hope. Over the last seven years, we've experienced a lot of life together. We've shared times of great joy and great sadness together, and through them learned a lot about our shared love for Jesus, and built a love for one another.

A group of us were exploring Exodus last night, learning about the Tabernacle God designed as a place for him to live. It was to be of the finest materials, constructed by the most skilled craftsmen. Nothing ever before or since has rivaled this. In the midst of thousands of tents that the Jewish people lived in, the Tabernacle stood out. It was different. It was purposefully made to reflect the character of God.

In trying to help that idea stick last night, I asked everyone to think about the ways that our homes reflected our character, whether intentional or not. We all laughed thinking about how the things we accumulated told stories about us. I then explained that since we moved recently, we had to shed an awful lot of things, and Bunny has taken the opportunity to try to reduce our natural tendency to over clutter. Our home is sparsely furnished compared to before, so much so that I sometimes referred to it as a "condo". Then I told them that I was having trouble with the change because (as the chief clutter architect) I cannot find any of my character represented here in the decorations. "You know", I said, laughing, "no pictures of Robert E Lee, no model cars, not even an animatronic bass hanging over the fireplace." Everyone shared some laughter at my expense, and then we moved on.

Well, this morning, when I went out to get the paper, it was on top of the hood of my car, along with.... "Big Mouth Billy Bass", a fine representative of robot fishdom.

These people are nuts! And my neighbors now think I am, because I was laughing my head off in my yard at 6:30 this morning.

But being in the company of people who love so extravagantly, and who can fill the church with laughter as well as pray with tears, is a real honor and joy.

Oh, and Big Mouth Billy Bass can be seen at any time you come to our garage. LOL




Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I was reading a website just now that reviews churches. A friend's church was just rated last week, so I was curious to read what was written about it - and him. To say that his church is different is to say that Jerry Falwell might be a wee bit strong on the fundamentals. Their mission is to reach the unchurched just as they are, and to love them through the door to faith and walk with them along the journey. So they are "out there", and seeing literally hundreds come to faith in Christ. Over 70% of those who are members were hopelessly lost before coming to faith there. Here's a quote from the review about my friend.

The (edgy) pastor spoke frankly and, on occasion, used words like "crap" and "dang", which you don't hear out of traditional pastors. Probably the main reason he's reaching people with his messages is because he isn't pretending to be someone he isn't. He doesn't look like a catalog model and he doesn't talk real proper.


Normally I don't like labels, but you know, that's a label that another guy might have welcomed a little earlier on. Guy's name was Paul, and he was writing to his friend in the ministry named Timothy.

Here's a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. I'm proof—Public Sinner Number One—of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy. And now he shows me off—evidence of his endless patience—to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.

Deep honor and bright glory
to the King of All Time—
One God, Immortal, Invisible,
ever and always. Oh, yes!
I'm passing this work on to you, my son Timothy. The prophetic word that was directed to you prepared us for this. All those prayers are coming together now so you will do this well, fearless in your struggle, keeping a firm grip on your faith and on yourself. After all, this is a fight we're in. 1 Timothy 1:15-19 (The Message)

If there are people out there in the cold, on the edge of trusting Jesus forever, isn't that where the church (all of us who follow Christ together), and her pastors should be? Isn't that where we all should be? Think about what Paul wrote to Timothy again.

Here's a word you can take to heart and depend on: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.... After all, this is a fight we're in.

When you "get" that - when you take that into your heart as a mission from God, with God, and for God, then you don't shrink back from the "edge", you run there.

"Edgy pastor"... wonder if that will fit on my name tag? Dang sure hope so. :)



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Monday, August 14, 2006

Houston, we have a problem

So we do our New Hope Outside the Walls today. Guys go down and stake out a pavilion in the park right next to the bay. Really nice spot, best there.

They put the sign up "New Hope Outside The Walls". So far, so good. At 7:30 AM, another guy shows up. He explains that his family has been planning an outing for a while, and really wanted that spot, would we mind swapping pavilions? No, says our guy.

Now there are no bad places there, we just have the best spot.

9 AM, guy rolls up, walks over, offers a sizeable donation to the church if we'll swap. Says the outing is for his son who is leaving tomorrow for the Navy.

We say no, again.

And people wonder why pastors of traditional or transitioning churches die early.

We should have moved. Refused any money. Offered to help them set up.


Tonight, we learned that the guy who turned down the request really didn't understand what he was doing and how it impacted our purpose for being there. He wanted the best place for his church and friends.

Well, before we start loving our neighbors as ourselves, we might have to work on just being nice to them.

Friday, August 11, 2006


32And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, "Sit here while I go and pray." 33He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. 34He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me."

35He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36"Abba,[ g] Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine."

37Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. "Simon!" he said to Peter. "Are you asleep? Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 38Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak."

39Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. 40Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn't keep their eyes open. And they didn't know what to say.

This week I've been reading and rereading this passage. I've studied it in every context, in the original language, through the hearts of many commentators and preachers. What they've taught me, I understand.

But... oh!

I don't know what to say... either.

How do we come to grips with the fact that the only person who ever lived on this planet without offending God, was the only one who could pay the penalty for the rest of us?
How do we - or can we - understand what taking on the sin of the world meant to Jesus - how He instinctively must have been sick in His spirit?
How can we make sense of His beloved disciples actions?

There are times in this life that people you love go through hardship. You'd love to be able to make it right - to come in and fix everything. But you can't. You slide into the grips of depression, feeling powerless and weak. The tendency then for some is just to give up and do nothing, despite their love for the one in need.

Jesus knows that about us. And it doesn't change His love for us one bit. Note what he says to the disciples. "For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak." So what are we to do?

Keep trying to make a difference in our loved one's lives. Keep letting them know of our love. Keep praying for them.

To Peter and the disciples, it must have seemed as if being with Jesus and praying for Him was like doing nothing. But to Jesus, it would have meant a great deal. Sometimes things we think are small, when done with great love, make a huge difference.

Friend, it's okay if you don't know what to say. Jesus understands our weaknesses and the Holy Spirit is ready to use us through them if we will not give up. Remember His power is made perfect (or complete) in our weakness.

Watch and pray.



Sunday, August 06, 2006


He's a prodigal, trying to find home. Raised in a family by parents that knew salvation from sin, he didn't turn away from it himself, even though he had their examples to learn from. Tattooed, pierced, shaved head, but here.

Came up to me and showed me a rock, polished to a gleaming shine - swirl laid upon swirl of color. "It has water in it that's 2.5 million years old" he told me. "Well that's interesting," I said. "better not drink it, it's probably pretty stale." I tool it from him and looked it over, and handed it back with a "that's pretty neat." And he was off to show someone else.

Later he showed someone else. "How do you know that it's that old?", they said. "Carbon dating only goes back so far, so that might not be very old at all."

Someone else stepped up and said "It really is pretty."

"I like rocks", he said.

Tell me why people - Christians in particular - feel the need to point out other people's flaws and faults. What was served by challenging the young man on this? Will that help him find Christ? Will it help him hang around the church long enough to make it his home?

He was reaching out, trying to make connections. But someone needed to be right more than they needed him to find Jesus.