Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Hope @ Worship 30 November 2008

We began the "Let It Be Christmas" series today. It was kind of a drag that we couldn't do the song "Across the Universe".

Whole World In His Hands
Better Is One Day

Come Just As You Are

My idea for the message was to put the Christmas Story in context. To bring people to it through the whole scope of Scripture. I used a video from the IBS as a lead in and began with Genesis 1, moved to Malachi and from there to Luke 1 and the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth as an example of how a "Nothing's Going To Change My World" attitude affected them.

I deliberately did not put any Scripture on the powerpoints. This was as close as I have ever gotten to a totally narrative sermon. I read all of Genesis 1, several verses in Malachi, and most of Luke 1. And of course, the equipment failed so no recording. Aaarrrggghhh!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Let It Be Christmas - "Nothing's Gonna Change My World"

It began so well.

God created it all, everything that there was, out of nothing. Everything was new - and it was good.

But then sin or rebellion if you prefer, crept in through the open door of selfishness. Mankind discovered that it could sin, and that they were good at it. So good they never even went to the trouble of rationalizing or making excuses. Nothing like we would do.

So the perfect couple, created in the image of God, created by Him, created in pure love, left the perfect world created for them and went into the hard places. Oh and they immediately began tearing it down.

It wasn't all that long then, when one brother, angry over God's refusal to accept his offering, killed his brother. For nothing, really.

From that point it just got increasingly worse - to the point that God decided a do over was the best for all concerned. We treat Noah and the Ark as a charming children's story - even doing our baby nurseries in the motif. But the fact is that the flood was needed to wipe out something that was going to consume the entire earth if it wasn't stopped.

Yet after a little while, it began again.

God, ever the faithful One, kept trying with a people no other God would have wanted. The Israelites would benefit from having God's Law, the Torah, and exhibitions of God's power - such exhibitions that the Jews still leave an empty chair when they celebrate the Passover - when God delivered them from slavery.

But they were a stubborn people, often refusing to obey.

Still God tried.

"Give us a King," they said, claiming God was just too complicated - too distant.

And their wish was granted, and that King, a man named Saul, succumbed to the siren call of sin too. He was followed by King David, a "man after God's own heart" who wrote beautiful songs of praise, and also committed adultery and murder.

It just kept getting worse.

God sent prophets - men who spoke for Him - to straighten out the Israelites. They killed some, ignored others. God used Israel's neighbors to punish them, sent the people into exile, scattered them - but to no avail.

So we pick up the story this morning in the last prophet's writings. A man named Malachi, who lived in the southern kingdom of Israel about 500-450 years before the birth of Jesus.

If you pick up the book and skim it, it resembles a pretty familiar occurance in most of our lives. Doesn't it seem to you like the conversation between an exasperated parent and immature teenager? The adult tries his best to get the teen to recognize the issue, and the teen refuses to admit there's any problem with him at all, and if one exists, it has to be with the adult.

- But you say
- But you ask
- But you say, "It's too hard..."

So God begins to close this chapter of His dealings with people. And notice, the final words contain an opportunity to be blessed, or the certainty of a curse.

5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.6 His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
Mal 4:5-6 (NLT)

And then, silence...............

450 years of silence.

No prophets came forth to speak the words of the Lord.
Neither did the God who freed them from slavery in Egypt remove the boot of Rome from off Israel's neck. The people were oppressed, they were taxed severely, and though a few remained faithful, the majority gave up on God.

Nothing was going to change their world.

We pick up the story again in a book written by a Greek convert to Judaism named Luke. He was a scientist of a sort, a physician, actually, and because this was a discipline still evolving, his main skills centered on observation and recording what he saw. Each case provided him with knowledge he could use again later. So his book opens the way you'd expect it to - with an introduction explaining his purpose and attesting to his trustworthiness.

Luke immediately introduces us to a couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth. In Malachi God referenced a list of His people who did right. These two would have been on any list like that. They were devout believers and faithful in all they did. Still, though they were universally appreciated, and even loved, people knew there must be some sort of curse in their past, or some hidden sin they were paying for - for you see they had no children.

Barrenness back then was thought to be a sign that a person was on the outs with God in some way. So though this older couple were as good as anyone they ever knew, the people who knew them quietly must have whispered their guesses about what their sin could be. It would have followed them everywhere. How many times did Elizabeth turn a corner and hear "there she comes, be quiet" or Zechariah find the men grow silent as he approached?

How heavy a load that must have been. And they carried it for 40, 50, maybe 60 years. People they grew up with had already had their kids - shoot, their kids had had kids, and maybe their kid's kids had too in that culture. But that couple, that old couple, never turned away from God, and never turned on each other.

Zechariah could have divorced her for cause. There's no doubt her barrenness hurt his career as a priest. Instead of the riches of Jerusalem, he was sentenced to the hard life of a small village priest.

You know, when you think about it, that whole "Nothing's gonna change my world" attitude - what they are really saying is that if anything is really going to be different - it is up to me - and that really, I'm not up to it. Right?

We are stuck in a rut and either unable, unwilling, or unmotivated to do whatever needs doing. What percentage of people do you think are living today right there? Right at that point in their life? Maybe 80%

We take a look at the problem and decide it has us licked. And so we just go on with putting one day in line after another. That's what seems to have happened with these two.

Because when Zechariah wins the lottery and gets to represent the nation in God's most Holy presence, he's surprised when God's messenger shows up, and down right insulting in his response to the greatest news he could have ever heard.

11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar.12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Luke 1:11-18 (NLT)

In other words, if I can't do it, it's impossible.

19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Luke 1:19-20 (NLT)

Maybe Zechariah needs time to sort out his thoughts. In silence.

Maybe we do too.

Thinking and praying

It's a quiet Saturday morning here. Bunny's watching a movie, Henley's asleep on the floor, and both boys are on the road with Sean taking Adam back home to Georgia. Tomorrow our "Let It Be Christmas" series begins and I've been working and reworking the message and media off and on this week. And I'm praying now. Praying for God to bless us with His presence and more.

My hope in doing a series so out of sync with the traditional way we have approached Christmas has been that our folks would invite their friends and neighbors. That we as a church would reach out into the vast pool of people who have no relationship with God and invite them to draw closer. I have always loved Advent, and the traditions that predate my SBC upbringing. They've helped me appreciate the lives of the millions of the who followed Jesus before I was born.

But we have to find ways to communicate the greatest story ever lived to new ears.

Oh what a story it is.

My plan tomorrow is to bring people up to date with what God is doing by looking back and briefly explaining how we got to the point where we needed Christmas - unpacking the Big Story. Outlining the events - fall, exile, kings, prophets - silence... until one priest heard an amazing message.

It's not over.

There is still hope.

God can change EVERYTHING.

It is something I believe at the very core of my being - this hope.

Many many times it is where I have run to, when there was no where else to go. It was a place given to me, but not without a terrible cost. The gift of not just God's notice, but God's care. Given to me through the sacrifice of God's only son.


No doubt. And yet cherished - clung to - relied on.

My heart's prayer is that someone else would receive that gift through Jesus' love tomorrow.

The Happiness Paradox - John Ortberg

The Gospel and the Happiness Paradox |
It struck me that the traditional expression of the gospel I heard growing up fell into a similar trap. There was not much serious thought about the true nature of heaven. (If you've been avoiding God all your life, would you want to be in heaven? It appears that God will be very hard to avoid there.)

Maybe the "if you were to die tonight" version of the gospel falls victim to the happiness paradox. If "heaven" is understood as "ultimate happiness," then I can seek to obtain it while remaining trapped in my self-centeredness. If "heaven" is understood as the eternal pleasure factory, then obtaining it has no intrinsic relationship to transformation, therefore no intrinsic relationship to discipleship.

But if the gospel really is the announcement of the availability, through Jesus, of the "with-God life," then things begin to fall into place. Grace is not just the forgiveness of sin, it is the power to live the with-God life from one moment to the next. Heaven is not a pleasure factory that an angry God chooses to shut some people out of because they don't pass a theology test; it is a community of servanthood that can only be enjoyed by a certain kind of character.

I think Ortberg is really on to something.

The classic exposition of the message has missed the point. It's not about the destination - it's about the journey with Jesus and becoming more like him. If you are not on the way with Jesus, you would not enjoy heaven at all. This life is used by a loving God to prepare us for better. But not better in a self-centered sense. Better in that we are becoming more like Jesus.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What should we be measuring? Forgiveness and Joy

If you really want your home or church to be attractive to people, two things need to be at the center of your community: forgiveness, and joy. People are attracted to forgiveness and joy. - Reggie Joiner

The Visitor

There's so much we don't know about other cultures. And we understand so little about how our own culture, and our own government... deals with those who come to our shores.

We were all immigrants.

What should we do with those who come to our shores seeking the same chance our ancestors had?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oh Noooooooooooooooo!

The parade, the balloons, the Rick Roll.....

We Love Valparaiso

We Love Valparaiso Website

It began with an idea to provide a place for the nonprofits - churches, schools, clubs, etc. to promote their activities on the Internet even if they didn't have a web presence. I had read an article about "Community Web Portals" and thought it might be something we could use here.

When I mentioned it to one of our members, John Anderson, he said "we can do that."

Pretty cool, huh?

Our hope is that as we go along we'll get more and more people to check out Valparaiso through this portal. If you are involved in an organization or business that serves the people of Valparaiso Florida, we want to get to know you and help you help them.

Family Time

Yep, our first born son is down here with us for Thanksgiving. He ramps up our normally ridiculous household to just plain silly. When he and Sean are both at it, you will laugh until your sides hurt. Of course today our sides hurt for another reason.

It seems Adam might favor his Mom a bit. :)

Thanksgiving 2008

Yeah, it's a turkey dog.

We have a tendency in this country to do a couple of things with this day of the year. We either turn it into a time of thanks for family, football, and food, or we trivialize it altogether with silliness like the picture above.

Then I remember that Cole's Hill was the end of a dream for 80 out of the first 120 pilgrims that landed on the shores of Massachusetts.

The first Thanksgiving was born out of gratitude to God for preserving the rest.

My Father and Mother never forgot growing up during the Depression - a hard time to be a teenager. I suspect they were not even thinking about Christmas at this time of year, or sitting across a table anything like what most of us will (or are) today.

So all things considered, I thank God for the blessings my family enjoys today as we gather in peace, in abundance, and in love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New Hope @ Worship 23 Nov 2008

We dialed it back a bit in the musical part of worship this week, with a conscious decision to be more acoustic. The songs were chosen to fit the theme of the sermon.

O Worship the King (Tomlin)
Blessed Be Your Name

--Break for the Children's Sermon--

Thank You Lord
Your Grace Is Enough

--The Message--

My Jesus, I Love Thee

My goal here was to make people think through what (or really WHO) to be thankful for. To point them to God through Jesus. To challenge them to live out what they say they believe. To be there when God used the power of His Holy Spirit to move them.

Follow me as I follow Jesus

There will be no pastors, elders, or deacons in heaven; they are a temporary necessity but disciples will last forever. Disciples are both pastoral and missional; they “baptize” and teach” others (Matt 28:18-20). One day disciples will neither baptize nor teach others, but until then all Christians are called to be missional, pastoral leaders, to be priests and missionaries, to be disciples of Jesus.
From Church Planting Novice

Speak up

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;

ensure justice for those being crushed.
9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

and see that they get justice.
Prov 31:8-9 (NLT)

I'll post the worship and sermon from yesterday a little later, but I wanted to get to the heart of it right now. New Hope is a church that stands with the saints in history by declaring the truth that we are all deeply flawed and scarred by sin, that we are in desperate need of a Savior, that Jesus is that Savior, and that by confessing our sins (agreeing with God), and receiving God's forgiveness by surrendering our lives and placing our faith in Jesus, we can be made whole. So we believe that Jesus IS our message. So having done that, how then do we live?

In the past year, we've established relationships to help us live out our faith while loving our neighbors. We work with Valparaiso Elementary, the City, Valp Cable, the Heritage Museum, and more recently Sharing and Caring to reach out in love.

As lead pastor, I believe that the only way I can see the command of Jesus to "make disciples, teaching them to obey all that I've commanded..." is to get people out of their chairs and into ministry - not to the church, but to the neighborhood. So I'm constantly looking for ways to do that here, and around the world. So I'm posting some ideas here today of ways to do just that.

Tom Davis is an amazing servant of Jesus, and the group of people who work with him are showing the American Church that "Yes We Can!" I placed a badge on this blog out of a strong identification with their work.

Then several organizations such as Samaritan's Purse, and others provide gift catalogs with tangible ways your family can be involved in impacting the world for Jesus. Our family is going to choose a project this Christmas, and I'm very excited about that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Having loved..."

We just got back from another trip to see Bunny's Mom at the nursing home in Macon. We got there at 11:59 PM Thursday night Eastern Time, and returned here at 4:30 Central time today. While we were there, Bunny went with her Mom to an appointment Friday morning at the Wound Care Center downtown near the Med Center. I drove down with her dad and Bunny rode in the van with Dot.

Then we spent the rest of the day Friday with her and some of the day today. Bunny helped her with her makeup, painted her nails... and encouraged her Mom. We even had NuWays for lunch yesterday. :)Now those are good for whatever ails you.

There's so much going on with so many decisions yet to be made concerning Dot's care. My father in law, Curtis Clinard, is one of the finest men I have ever known. He's there every day twice a day to sit with his bride. He talks at length about how much he wants her home - can tell you to the day how many days it has been since this whole sad period started. At a time in life where other men shrink in their commitments to their wives, if anything, his has grown.

Bunny is constantly thinking about her Mom, and while she is there is so focused on her that when we get back here she is drained for a day or two. Those of you that know Bunny know that she is all girl. Well, she is all that, and more. She's giving everything she has every time we go there to encourage, to help, and to serve her mom - in ways she has never done before.

When I look at those three people, I realize that so much of what I cherish is in that room. So many of the lessons of how to live the Christian life I've caught from just watching them.

Some of the translations open John 13 - the Passover meal with Jesus realizing that the disciples have either forgotten or are ignoring a pressing need to have their feet washed. It was a slave's job, really a slave third class. Jesus was there that night to share some important information with them, but He was also there to show His love.

Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end.
John 13:1 (MSG)

"Having loved"..."he continued to love them right to the end." That's Jesus - love

I know to the depths of my soul that Bunny will do just that for her Mom and Dad.

What a blessing God gave me when He gave me Curtis, Dot, and my treasure - Bunny.

What Matters?

Tomorrow is the Sunday before Thanksgiving. It's one of those times when you prepare in prayer by reminding yourself that numbers don't really matter. That being prepared to preach God's Word means being faithful in season and out of season. Most years, we lose more people to out of town trips than we gain coming in.

But I'm praying tonight that everyone who needs to hear God's Word will hear it - whether it's tomorrow or on down the road through the recording.

Thanksgiving sermons that I've preached and that I've heard over the years are basic appeals to do something your Mom probably tried to teach you: "Be thankful."

Preached a many of them. And they are needed I guess, or I wouldn't have been led to do that. But in the last few days and especially as I walked the halls of the nursing home these last few trips, I've been affected with the crushing losses some people must endure as they go there. They lose their home. Most essentially lose their family. All this after losing their abilities, their independence, and their freedom.

At a time of life when so many are trying to hold onto the past - whether possessions or people - it is as if God is prying their hands loose and asking - "Aren't I enough?"

It reminded me of this old hymn made famous by George Beverly Shea.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

Praying that God will use the words of my mouth tomorrow to lead people to His grace. And praying that when the time comes for me, that I will prove faithful to My Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Hope @ Worship 16 Nov 2008

Sorry for being so tardy with this, but Google Docs refused to bend to my will until I gave up and read the instructions again. Apparently 14mb is more than the 10mb limit in every situation, even mine! So I cut a couple of fill-in pictures and got the ppt uploaded.

The theme for this week as we continued in "We Hold These Truths" doctrinal series about God, was His unchanging nature.

In the music part of worship, we debuted a new song by Tim Hughes

"Whole World In His Hands"

We did it for the congregation to open worship and then had then join as we repeated it.

So the set looked like this:

"Whole World In His Hands"
- break for welcome -
"The Heart of Worship"
"A Shield About Me"
-break for children's sermon -
"Be Thou My Vision"
"Whole World In His Hands"
-break for message-
"Jesus Paid It All"

Really thought the worship fit together well.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No One Seems To Want To Teach It, But...

... learning how to deal with failure is one of the most crucial skills any pastor needs to acquire.

How do you acquire it?

By failing.

Now what?

If failing brings you to the realization that your capabilities, intelligence, likeability and everything else you count as yours - isn't enough, then you learn to depend on Jesus. That my friends, is what Peter had to learn. Not to depend on his leadership abilities, and it appears from what we read that Peter was a natural leader, even though he had never been to seminary - (sarcasm noted) But to depend on Jesus.

Just a couple of examples -

Everyone who comes to your church is not going to grow as a follower of Jesus. Some may even be pretending to be what they are not. If your expectations are that everyone who faithfully attends and participates will prove to be mature when the going gets tough, then you are fooling yourself. People will fail to follow when pressure is applied. They will act in ways that reveal the shallowness, or even complete lack, of faith.

So if they have circled your discipleship bases and you are counting them as home free, the sudden realization that your youth group super star has impregnated the homecoming queen, or your deacon has been caught messing around may shatter you.

However, if you see your part of the work of the church as working with God - not in place of Him - then you'll be equipped to handle whatever comes.

I am not advocating a lowering of our desire to see everyone saved, nor am I saying we should stop working with all we have to see God glorified. What I am saying is to remember that we are all sinners.

We will fail.

It is then Who we call on, and Whose strength and wisdom we turn to when that happens that will determine whether failure makes us a more complete follower of Christ, or a disappointed and discouraged disciple.

To Love At All

“To love at all is to become vulnerable.

Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

- C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves

We just had a fright when Henley slipped on the kitchen tile floor and was unable to get enough traction to get up. So we worked to get him onto the rug under the kitchen table, and after a few minutes, he got up.

So far, he seems fine, but it got both of us to thinking - again - about just how much of our hearts are held captive by our friend Henley the Great Dane.

Choose Life

One of the real reasons I cast my vote for the person I did in the recent election was because of my convictions about life. I remain convinced that we are commanded to value life as a gift from God, not a choice or an option to be exercised at our whims. Dr. Bob is a doctor and a blogger who lives out his faith in Jesus and regularly makes connections that others might miss. Today was no exception. Here's an excerpt from a post you need to read and reflect on.

It is late, nearly 9 P.M., seeing a final consult at the end of a punishing call day, in the ICU. The patient, chronologically young yet physiologically Methuselan, lies in his bed, oxygen mask affixed to his face by heavy straps, bleeding, as he has for months, from a tumor in his kidney. He would not survive surgery, nor even radiological intervention to stem the hemorrhage by strangling its arterial lifeline. He is, furthermore, in the parlance of modern medicine, “non-compliant”: refusing treatments and diagnostic studies; rude and abusive to nurses and physicians alike; demanding to go home though unlikely to survive there for any significant length of time.

The nurse — young, competent, smart, hard-working, the very best of the modern nursing profession — apprises me of his situation, closing with this knockout punch: “You know, we just passed that initiative — you know, the suicide one. He’d be an excellent candidate.”

She wasn’t joking.

Taken a bit off guard, I responded that it is most unwise to give physicians the power to kill you, for we will become very good at it, and impossible to stop once we are

Read it all

Monday, November 17, 2008

This Is Why We Go To Macon

I go to see those two smile. :)

Light up a room - yes they do. Always have, always will.

Religion? Sorry, We're Out of That

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Russian Knights Airshow

These guys are no Thunderbirds or Blue Angels, but they still are pretty darn good, and those are some sweet looking jets.

We now return to our regularly scheduled posts. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Let It Be Christmas" Update

Hi guys, I wanted to go back and unpack for you what this series of messages and accompanying music by the Beatles is designed and purposed to do.

1. Lift high the name of Jesus.
2. Energize His children to tell people of His grace and invite them to worship with us.
3. Cause outsiders to consider drawing near to hear the Big Story of God's reaching out for them

I have pasted below the four week message themes and accompanying music. The idea of using secular music is not to worship using it. It's to provide a backdrop for the Light of Jesus Christ.

This will be a series of services where we will be taking on some of the questions that have been on the hearts and minds of people forever. For the last 40 years people (and really before that) have been asking themselves questions that the Beatles put to music. They are common questions, but they are important ones because they reflect the fears, worries, and helplessness so many people carry in this world. Christ can fill those needs and bring new life!

So we are going to begin a journey together looking at what God has to say about those themes that the Beatles raised in their music. And we'll show how the Incarnation - the coming of Jesus, can change everything!

So here are the messages and the music we'll use to set the tone and get people thinking.

* Week one - Nothin's Gonna Change My World (Music - Across the Universe)
* Week two - All The Lonely People (Music - Eleanor Rigby)
* Week three - I Believe In Yesterday (Music - Yesterday)
* Week four - You Say You Want A Revolution (Music - Revolution)

and Christmas Eve's theme? - Let It Be

Now, I want you to read this next sentence several times and commit it to heart.

If we let what we use overshadow what we'll be saying about the coming of the Christ child, and what that means to everyone - whether a Christ follower or someone far from God - we'll have failed.

It has to be about Jesus.

Think of this as the musical equivalent of Jesus pointing to the flowers and saying "consider the lilies of the field..." the everyday pointing to what ONLY God can do - give us peace.

If we can bring outsiders closer to people (Us) who are seeking to worship God and love their neighbors, and testify to them with words and expressions of love - and see the Holy Spirit draw them to Him... HE WINS!!! Glory to God in the Highest!

So pray with me.


Just A Reminder

He works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, he works on us through each other. Men are mirrors, or carriers of Christ to other men. Usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important.

It is so easy to think that the church has a lot of different objects - education, buildings, missions, holding services … the Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men to Christ, to make them little Christs.

If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose.

It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any
other purpose. - C.S. Lewis

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What we have here, is a failure to communicate

Don't you love that comic strip? She really didn't get it, did she?

I had one of those hard conversations today.

You guys know the ones I'm talking about.

The ones where someone points out a flaw in your perfection. :)

There aren't many areas I would have claimed to have a handle on, but communication, especially the written kind, I thought was my little corner of the world. So much so that I seldom if ever run anything I write by someone else so I can gauge if what I meant to have conveyed actually, well... got there.

It's a pride thing.

And it's wrong, it's sinful, and it can hurt me in my passionate desire to follow Jesus and call others along on the journey.

My bride helped me see that today.

She must love me, and love Jesus, an awful lot.

Advent Conspiracy

This is one of those great ideas that is gaining attention and a voice. Churches who covenant with each other to seek to do everything they can to make a difference around the world in Jesus' name at Christmas.

New Hope has adopted five families locally and will be supplying food and some gifts during the holiday season. Our hope is that we can show the love of Jesus to people who may not know Him, and that by doing so, that love will grow in us.

I am convinced that one of the best things anyone can do to grow spiritually is to serve others in Jesus' name. So we are serving and will continue to look for ways to do more, and partner with other organizations to extend our arms toward others.

Small church with a big heart for God and for their neighbors = New Hope

But I Waaaaaaaaant it.


While I have never been the shopaholic, I do love gadgets. For the most part I can fight off the urge to get the bright shiny toy, and try really hard to make do with less, I still have far too much of that desire to have in me.

All around us are people who are struggling not with wants, but with needs. We were able to help a mom and her kids this week who was living out of her car. New Hope got her a motel room, Bunny washed their clothes, we reached out to organizations that actually knew something about how to get help, and we hope that they are in housing tonight. We don't know because the woman had no phone. Things we take for granted - many people only dream of.

Lord, help me live simply. Help me to see the things you allow me to use as tools to do the work you'd have me do. And help me to help others.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

From Outsiders To Insiders

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:10-14 (NLT)

Christmas is coming again.

The Greatest Story ever told will go largely unheard or unremembered as Americans focus on buying things they don't need with money they don't have and giving gifts to people they don;t even like. How can we get our story noticed among the cacophony of sounds and competing stories? Is it enough just to retell of Messiah's coming, or do we need more?

How can we be most effective - like the angels that first Christmas - at bringing outsiders like the shepherds - inside?

We're going to try something very different.

Let It Be Christmas - A story told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The idea is to take people from the secular - those experiences, feelings, and preferences we all have and share in common - to the Sacred - to the wonder, the mystery, and the grace-filled gift that is the Incarnation. To get them close enough to hear more this Christmas than Radio Shack jingles. To introduce them again to just what the Advent of Christ means.

Each week we would use a Beatles song prior to worship to set the tone and the message would follow a specific theme suggested by that song.

* Week one - Nothin's Gonna Change My World
* Week two - All The Lonely People
* Week three - I Believe In Yesterday
* Week four - You Say You Want A Revolution

Let me say upfront that there will be a clear explanation of the gospel every week and a call to come to Christ just as we always do. We won't water anything down. I think the effect of using the secular to highlight the sacred will do just the opposite.

And if we will invite our friends, if our youth will invite their friends, maybe people who have never really heard the true meaning of Christmas might draw near to Christ.

Outsiders to insiders. That's good news.


"All types of churches should be simply missional. What we are advocating is for church leaders to distill their ideology of what church is to the irreducible minimum that defines a church as God’s gathered people, sent to a particular community as His redemptive gift to that community.

We need all types of missional churches–big, small, traditional, contemporary, with country music (did we say that?), hip-hop, some with guitars, some with organs. We need churches in homes and churches in well-marked buildings.

The container is not the issue. The issue is not staying contained."
Ed Stetzer

Here's the money part of that quote.

A church is - God’s gathered people, sent to a particular community as His redemptive gift to that community.

New Hope Baptist Church is not buildings, a corporation, or an address.

It is a gift of grace to Valparaiso and its surroundings to serve as a beacon of hope and hands of love to the people we live and work with.

That "Love God, Love People, Serve All" - deal? Yeah, that's what I'm pushing because that's what God expects from us.

Hi there neighbor!

Just been praying through some community needs and outreach possibilities.

One of the ideas that keeps coming back around to me is using some of the land here at New Hope to offer community garden plots to our neighbors.

We don't have a lot of land that's not used, but I'd suspect we have 3/4 of an acre. If we partnered with the area extension agent and got some help from the local gardeners, maybe we could help some budgets stretch farther and have the opportunity to meet some of our neighbors on a regular basis.

If we tied it in with "Veggie Tales" activities for kids and their parents, who knows how much impact we could have.


Monday, November 10, 2008

World of Warcraft Archive

I am not the gamer in this house, Sean is. At one time in the distant past I played some online games, and also played some shooters. But I stink at them and have very little patience for anything I don't do well. But lots of younger folks I know are into RPGs and so in my never ending quest to know, I picked up Sean's copy of the backstory to WOW and began reading.

This is a THICK book. Like GWTW thick.

The stories are standard science fiction/ distant past/ legends of yore fare. Strong characters are developed, and whole worlds are set into place. But I can't say that I was compelled by it to read more.

It isn't Harry Potter. There's no magic here.

Let the flames begin.

New Hope @ Worship 09 November 2008

With our youth and leaders away on a retreat today, it was trending a bit older than normal on the platform. But at least I was there to help demographically. :)

Our God Saves -great song that we did again after two weeks - lots of energy
Arise - praises Jesus, and helps us see Him as He is
Your Name - focus on the attributes of God
Forever - God is faithful
Amazing Grace - God is merciful. We sang every stanza

This was the fourth of a series called "We Hold These Truths" on the power of God.There were so many great scriptures and so many ways to approach it that I read, thought about and walked around with during the week, I wound up hitting several and nailing none. Note to self - preach A text, not all the texts.

God is able
He is exceedingly able
We is exceedingly abundantly able
To do
To do more
To do more than we can ask
To do more than we can ask or imagine

Would have been one way to approach it.

Well, to God be the glory and may His Spirit take my offering and use it to further His Kingdom advance.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Test

If you can figure out what the heck is going on in this picture, then perhaps you stood a better chance than most at grasping some of my train of thoughts in the sermon this morning.


Never bothered me that much to go 0 for 4 in baseball. It's just a game.

But to waste the time that God had set aside for people to hear of His plan, His purposes, and His offer to them - aarrgghhh!!!

Mea culpa

Friday, November 07, 2008

If Dogs could talk

You can try all you want to convince me otherwise, but when we come home from even one night away from home, Henley's reaction tells me this is exactly how dogs feel.

We really don't deserve a love like that. And dogs know that too, and love us anyway.

We can learn a lot from dogs.

BTW - met a new dog friend named Chloe. She's a Boston Terrier that belongs to one of the neighborhood kids. We invited Chloe and him to New Hope. :)

The Power of Story

Have you ever had a thought that really gripped you, but you got pulled aside into other things and promptly forgot about it?

I have, but I picked up the trail again yesterday.

LOTR, Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars,Harry Potter, Twilight, WOW

See anything there?

What do they have in common?

The power of Story.

If I call, tweet, IM, or email several people I know and ask an arcane question about any of those, I will get an answer to the question and probably far more than that.


The power of story. NOT the power of facts.

Now another list.

Creation. Fall. Exodus. Exile. Incarnation. Redemption. Resurrection. Mission. Return.

Why can't we communicate with more power the greatest story of all?

It is haunting me - driving me -forcing me to look at everything I do and everyone I lead in a different way. How can I help people hear and experience the Big Story in such a way that they are drawn in and compelled by the experience? How can we - through that - place the foundational facts into people - not just in their heads, but in their HEARTS?

When I began in ministry, an older pastor told me this, and not in a kind way.

"You are really good at telling stories and getting people to listen. I'm just waiting to see what you do when the stories run out."

He was referring to the illustrations I used to use so frequently within the sermons to try and get the message across. At the time I really thought that through doing that people would be drawn to the text and to God's story. Over the years though I think I have learned that more often they are going to remember that good illustration over what I had hoped they would remember from the text.

Now I really believe the Spirit is driving me to discover and to USE new ways of communication that everyone in the congregation can use to find their place in the Story and be captivated by God.

Pray for me in this quest.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Does Make You Think, Doesn't It?

I hope we aren't like this at New Hope. Learning how to tell your story to people while making initial contact - in a way that is respectful and winsome - difficult balance.

I'm going to think through what we do. If you guys have any ideas, shoot them to me.

What now?

Now come on, that's just funny. :)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

This Kind of War

"The function of soldiers is to fight, and if need be, to die" - this is the lesson, beautifully and humanly described here, of Korea, the American Army's heart-breaking introduction to the brush-fire war.

I was casting about for something to read after I finished "Lee, the Last Years", and found this book sitting on Sean's shelf. If there is a better military history writer from the point of view of a layman and casual history buff, I don't know him.

This really is a very special book with all the insight as well as the pathos of war. There are so many lessons unlearned, or should I say - learned at the beginning of every war - that are shown here. The humanity of the American solider is front and center as well, and the futility that so often marks his use.

Highly, highly recommended.

My Father In WW2

We found this picture in the piles of trash inside my father's house Monday. Looters probably didn't even notice it, and wouldn't have valued it if they had. But it's a priceless glimpse into the distant past for me. It's in poor shape, but clearly shows my father as he was then. On the back, there's a very faint stamp saying that the picture had passed US Army inspectors.

Pretty cool.

It's who we are

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

To all our friends, a reminder. This is who we are, it's not just what happened last night. The genius of the American system is the capacity for real change with civil and orderly transfer of power. We can err, tragically err. I'm very familiar with one of our errors - slavery - as my ancestors owned slaves, even though they came to America as indentured servants themselves.

In my lifetime I have drunk water from whites only fountains, gone to segregated schools, and been taught childhood rhymes that demeaned whole peoples. I've seen fights break out over race, and had riots occur in my home town. Affirmative action has slammed doors in my face and opened them for people of color. We struggled. We fought. We wrestled with this because who we tried to be was in conflict with why we were.

So even though I supported his rival, and bitterly disagree with him on many issues, Barack Hussein Obama will be my president. I will pray for him, while also praying for some of his stated goals to fail. But I will thank God that I lived long enough to see America reach this point.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Help me Obamawan, you're my only hope

CNN is using holographic technology tonight in their election coverage (which I'm not watching BTW) and it reminded me of better times watching the first Star Wars with my oldest son Adam (who is an Obama supporter now as well as a Bulldog fan - where did I go wrong?)

Love Is the Best Answer

“Yet, without true Christians loving one another, Christ says the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. For years the orthodox, evangelical church has done this very poorly. So it is well to spend time learning to answer the questions of men who are about us. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.” Francis Schaffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, pgs. 164-165

Monday, November 03, 2008

Take A Breath

We got back home tonight after a punishing trip to Macon to encourage Bunny's Mom. Both of us are worn out.

We've got stuff waiting to do though, so we'll get back after it tomorrow.

Spend your time voting or something. :)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Back in Macon GA

Well, we're back.

We'll get a chance to visit with family tonight and tomorrow and then back to Valparaiso. Bunny's mom looked good when we went by the nursing home - well as good as anyone who just sat through watching the movie "Titanic" could look. Man that was a LONG movie.

There are so many memories attached to this place, and some yet to come. I'm looking forward to spending some time with our oldest son Adam tomorrow and yes, having some NuWays.

Maybe I'll have time to go by Daddy's house and see whether anything else has happened to it. Between looters, vandals, squatters and a tornado it is a miracle anything is left. His Ford pickup is still there. Someone tried to steal it and messed up the ignition switch and broke out a window. I need to see about getting it running and decide whether to bring it back to FL. My brother Bruce is handling getting appraisals and estimates so we'll know what to do - eventually.

But it's really just a house now since all the people that made it a home, and a place of adventure and love for our two little boys - are gone.

So yeah, every trip up here carries some weight home.

Keep praying for Bunny's mom to get better and come home. Then maybe we can come up for a visit, not a mission.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cool Tools

I was looking for a way to cut the number of powerpoint slides in the message tomorrow and still give the information some impact. Then I remembered Wordle. I was pretty happy with the results.

Movie Madness on Halloween

Take a group of people who are committed to Love God, Love People - and serve both.

Add some technology, some food, and some goodies.

Mix well and you get "Movie Madness."

We now have all the pieces in place to be able to take our show on the road into neighborhoods and parks all over Valparaiso. Our hope is that we'll meet people we'd have never met, serve them a heaping helping of New Hope joy born in the love of Jesus, and see some come to walk with us on the journey.

So stay tuned, there's a lot more to come.