Saturday, January 31, 2009

Now That's What We're Talking About

I'm so sick of hearing that we must choose a demographic group to "target" with the gospel in order to grow.

Nothing could be further from the desire of Jesus for the church.

When I look out over New Hope on Sunday, though there are differences in pigmentation, I see my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are my forever family.

It is harder to grow when you don't segregate (word chosen deliberately) at church along racial, wealth, even lines of military rank.

Oh but when you grow, you can catch a glimpse of that whole "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" - RIGHT NOW!

I'll be buying that book, and trying to keep pressing forward in including all God's children in the New Hope family.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thin Places, Beautiful Faces

We're in Macon's Medical center of Central Georgia as I write this. Bunny's by the bedside of the woman who carried her for nine months and who modeled faith, grace, kindness and compassion to her all her life.

It's been a week of amazing glimpses of just how God works, despite the mess a sin soaked world presents as "life." We've heard some heart-wrenching words, and some that were as joy filled as any I have ever had occasion to overhear. There's been devastation, and there's been hope. And now, there's the knowledge that we are as close as we can be, doing all we can.

The ancient Celts used to talk about "thin places." They thought that certain features of the landscape - ancient oaks. mountains, beautiful rivers or ocean vistas were sometimes places where one could feel the very presence of God.

Well, I sit in a chair on a tile floor. To my right - a sink with various means of scrubbing the germs off. In front of me is the dry erase board with the date and the names of the nurse and aide. Nothing remarkable there. Nothing to inspire, or even remind you of a present God. Instead of the roar of ocean waves or the gentle rustle of oak leaves, I hear the air mattress compressor and the sounds of a hospital.

There's nothing lovely here... except the faces of two of the women who have taught me so much about what it means to have real "God will provide", "Satan is that the best you can do", "O death where is your sting", "This is not the end," - FAITH.

In this room, God is present - available - tangible --- right now.

and I am simply in awe of Him

and grateful for these two precious gifts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interesting Article: The Vulnerable Power of Jesus

On Faith: Guest Voices: The Vulnerable Power of Jesus
When it comes right down to it, Jesus followed where compassion led him, and he bore the cost of what he found. Jesus asks us to follow where compassion leads, and bear the cost of what we find.

He calls us, as Nicholas Cage says in the movie Moonstruck, “to ruin our lives, to break our hearts, to love the wrong person and to die.” We are invited to ruin the old life of silence, to break our hearts with compassion over suffering, to love the wrong person–that would be Jesus–and to die. As a friend of mine said once, “ to get resurrected ya gotta get dead.” Because
we know, from Jesus’s example, and from our own lives, what lies on the other side of this death.

The other side of silence and distraction, of the deadly life of business as usual, is new life, resurrected life, born of
compassion -- awake and broken-hearted, and, yes, dangerous.

Quotes on Criticism

We looked at Nehemiah 4 last night at Bible study. Great insight there on how to handle critics. Here's a few quotes I ran across on the same subject.

“Don’t criticize what you don’t understand, son. You never walked in that man’s shoes.”
Elvis Presley

“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.”
Benjamin Franklin

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“The artist doesn’t have time to listen to the critics. The ones who want to be writers read the reviews, the ones who want to write don’t have the time to read reviews.”
William Faulkner

“I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.”
Charles Schwab

I've cleared a few hurdles on my reaction to criticism simply because Jesus has given me insight into my own shortcomings and compassion for those of others. I try to remember that He told us to "rejoice and be exceedingly glad" when we are singled out because of our faith. And I try to live in the Spirit that is reflected in this:

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the Stillness

Bunny's already in bed, Henley's asleep on the floor beside me.

I'm trying to unwind from a whirlwind Wednesday night - to stop and wait on God.

He was all around me today, working in the lives of the people I love.

My Mother In Love is getting the treatment she so needs.
My Father In Love is hopefully catching up on his rest.
Bunny and I rejoiced again about how the deep desires of our hearts are seemingly coming at us in a most amazing way.
Amy and John closed on a home today - their first. And my friend Ian is a happy boy.
Celeste showed up at church on her birthday with a bouquet of flowers, and if I had to pick which was more an expression of God's creative work - I'd choose her every time, even though the flowers were awesome.
I saw people serving each other with joy and laughter.
I participated in small group prayer with a group that spanned ages but were joined at the heart.
I got the chance to teach about how to handle criticism from God's Word.
And then I went and prayed with a man who is very dear to me and to New Hope that may be facing bone cancer.

Yes, God was at work there too.

I joke about this job sometimes. Call it "herding cats."

But you know what, when you step away, and find a place to be still and listen...

well, David Crowder called it "the sound of angel's ahs" as they marveled at what God has done. Yeah, that's about right.

Thank you God.

The Picture I Didn't Use Sunday

The message Sunday was called "Crux" and the idea was that Jesus called us all to recognize our lack of anything that would make us worthy to God. It was the very first line of the Sermon on the Mount, and the absolute essential that each of us had to embrace as truth before we can follow Jesus as Lord.

Obviously, this picture would communicate a lack - of nourishment.

And it broke my heart.

I mentioned two weeks ago in a message that I had connected the use of corn for ethanol with rising prices for fuel, and how I personally would rather pay more for gasoline than to negatively affect those in need.

Well, here's the effect of higher food prices.

Still want $1.00 per gallon gasoline?

What I'm Reading Right Now

Steve Sjogren and Dave Ping have written a book to help people take the desire of wanting to serve others in Jesus' name from concept to practice. Designed to be used as a small group aid, I'm enjoying learning about how to help myself and others do more.

Great quote -

"Life was a story about me...In fact, I was the only one in every scene. I was everywhere I went. If somebody walked into my scene, it would frustrate me because they were disrupting the general theme of the play, namely my comfort or glory."
- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

I have to do more and encourage others to do more, to live out of and minister through the love of Jesus. I'm hoping Outflow helps me do this.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfect Theology Book

I love to think about God-how He works, what He's done, what He will do. But I learned a long time ago that while I give everything I have to Him and learn all I can about Him, some of what I believe is wrong.

Not intentionally, mind you, but as a result of how finite my mind is and how infinite He is.

It's a condition for which there is only one cure. Death. I'm good with waiting a while to know all the answers.:)

Until then, I'll love God fiercely and work to become more like Jesus in my heart, thoughts, and every action. I'll try to love everyone I meet with the love that Jesus gave to me, and pray that as my capacity to understand grows, God will share more of His wisdom with me.

Book Review: Same Kind of Different As Me

One of the greatest legacies my Mother left to me was a love of books and reading. It has served me well down through the years in every pursuit. As a pastor, I read a lot for understanding of the Bible text. But as part of my education - my human education, I read all sorts of books - deliberately.

My love, my wife also shares my love for books and sometimes passes hers along. "Same Kind of Difference As Me" is one of those.

If you are wondering if the love of Christ can make a difference - read this true story of how that love - expressed through a courageous woman, her art dealer millionaire husband, and an illiterate sharecropper changes everyone it touches and affects a city.

One of the best books I have read in a long time. Read it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

And now, the New Hope puppet team presents

I expect no less from our puppet team than this. ;)

B.B. King ain't the only one in Bluesville

"How do you know what to preach about?"

Had a few people ask me that down through the years.

Some sermons are driven by the calendar - Christmas, Easter, etc.

But most (for me) come out of prayer. I'm praying that God would show me a need, or direct me to a particular book, passage, or topic that will be what He wants spoken. Granted, as Philip Brooks so eloquently said "preaching is truth through personality." So I'm a part of God's work and my experiences and context enter into what's said. But at the end of the day, I am only satisfied if two criteria are met:

First, was I faithful to the idea/topic/passage's meaning and to God's direction?

Second, did I prepare and execute it as well as I could for that day?

Notice I did not say "And people responded like crazy."Or "and revival broke out."

That is God's work. I'm (as Mother Teresa pointed out) a pencil in God's hands. When He decides to write a masterpiece or when He's preparing cliffnotes for later - that's up to him.

After two weeks of walking around with the message this morning and believing it was exactly what God wanted said, I will go back and listen to it later and see if I spoke clearly - if I carried the message through development to the point of decision.

And I'll pray for God to use what I said to draw people closer.

You just get so "expectant", as you pray through the process that at times it takes a debriefing like this to reset your heart's calibration.

So move along, nothing to see here. It may be Sunday, but Monday's coming. :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009


"I Curtis, take you Dot, to be my wedded wife. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part. And hereto I pledge you my faithfulness."

There might have been a "plight thee my troth" when Curtis gave his word that he would remain faithful to his beautiful bride over 60 years ago, but whatever the words that were used that day, the man has lived out that commitment.

This picture was taken just last weekend, when Bunny and I were thrilled to see how well Dot was looking. This week has been another trial for her. She may be on her way back to the hospital tomorrow. Curtis has given of himself these past few days -spent himself - in fighting to get her cared for by the nursing home - in staying there with her sometimes over 12 hours.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Love is action.

Pray for Dot Clinard and Curtis Clinard if you would. They mean so much to us and are having such a hard time just now.


I read
In a book
That a man called
Went about doing good.
It is very disconcerting to me
That I am so easily
With just
Going about.

- Toyohiko Kagawa

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Where In the World Is God At Work?

If you look to the right, (if you can tear your eyes away from Canaan's picture) you'll see a badge for the "Red Letters Campaign." They are doing some awesome work in reaching "the least of these" with the love of Jesus. I received an email about a week ago from them about some new initiatives and opportunities for smaller faith communities like ours. So I wrote for more information and am praying that God might use us too- to love Canaan and his brothers and sisters.

As I've said before, I believe that compassion is learned by doing compassionate acts, and serving is learned through service. "Book Learning" isn't nearly enough.

So pray that God will reveal whether we're about to join Him in another adventure. :)

And here are ten things you can do right now to help them in their work from their website.

Go over there!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Symphony of Prayer

I'm in our time of prayer tonight before Bible study. We gather around the tables after the meal and one by one we pray - either silently our out loud, for the requests we have shared with one another. Tonight there were maybe 5 tables of people praying. Not a large group, but we're not a large church.

I had shared what is going on with Bunny's Mom and Dad, and how we were exploring how to get them here and care for them if that turns out to be their decision. It's been a whirlwind day of trying to get a handle on home health care, Medicare, equipment, and everything that comes with the care they would need. Frankly, it is overwhelming to go from very little knowledge of all these things to enough to make decisions that would affect people you dearly love and want to honor.

We will trust in God and depend on Him.

And tonight, as everyone was praying, I heard in the cacophony at regular intervals snippets like "and Oh Lord, give Bunny's Mom and Dad strength", "Father, be with Bunny and David and guide them..." and the like.

My heart swelled in my chest, knowing that God had heard our name, knew our needs, and had blessed us by surrounding us by people who loved Him, and us.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We (Now) Hold These Truths...

"What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see."

When our founders wrote those documents that encapsulated what this new nation would be, they did so as flawed human beings. Many of them owned slaves. As time went by, the disconnect between what they wrote and what they lived became so great that a war between brothers was fought and at a terrible price.

But once again, once the bullets stopped, the divisions along lines of race reemerged, because battles might be fought in the field, but all real changes must occur in the heart.

The picture above - I've seen in many places during my childhood growing up in Macon Georgia.

Even in our elementary school, separate water fountains existed. If you went downtown to the resturants, people of color either came to the window that opened to the street, or were forced around back.

Were they to decide to leave for a greater opportunity, they would depart by entering the "Colored Entrance" - the words chiseled in stone - of Macon's Terminal Station.

The biggest park in the area, and the only zoo between Albany and Atlanta, was located in Baconsfield Park, given to the citizens of Macon with one proviso - that it be used for white people only.

The church that occupied the corner of Mercer University's campus, a Baptist institution raising men and women to bring the good news of Jesus to people worldwide, refused to allow one of those who had heard that good news and responded - an African man of color - to worship with them.

That was then.

This is now.

May we continue to change - to grow - to live out our destiny.

I thank God for all those followers of Jesus and others who never gave up, who kept on believing, kept on hoping, kept on praying.

And I am so thankful that I lived to see this day.

Does it solve everything? LOL - hardly. But as a parent I can tell you that you need to celebrate every time your child lives up to what you know is right - what you know he can and should do.

This young country just experienced a growth spurt. :)

Just Finished - "The Blue Parakeet"

Scot McKnight has given us another important book in his latest "The Blue Parakeet." He has called the Church to remembrance that the Bible is more. That the "Greatest Story" was revealed to us through men and women of faith who saw themselves as participants in that story.

There is a lot here to agree with for me, and some overreaching (IMO)to consider as well.

Still, I would recommend this book to anyone who truly wants to grapple with how we should read the Bible today.


Working today on a series that strips as much as possible of the layers of tradition away from the radical calls of Jesus on His followers. It will come from Matthew's gospel, which originally was used to help converts understand what was required of them. I'll also be sourcing from the "Didache", an early church manual for disciples of Jesus, and some of Dallas Willard's work on discipleship.

My working title is "Crux"

Maybe you'd like to begin reading the gospel of Matthew again(and again) in preparation for what God is prepared to do within our hearts during the coming weeks.

I am so excited that we have some baptisms scheduled for the first Sunday in February and that we will be beginning our small group study of "Experiencing God" the week after that. There's a movement of God approaching and I can feel it in my bones.

So read. Pray. Prepare.

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Hope @ Worship 18 January 2009

Bunny and I got back from Macon about 8PM and she went straight to bed - exhausted from the weekend. I had been working on the sermon all week,and even got some notes in at the nursing home. But some of the experiences we had this weekend drove the message as much as anything else.

It was "Sanctity of Life" Sunday all across the SBC yesterday, and normally that guarantees a lot of pastors preaching against abortion. Thing is, that just reinforces our image as people who live their lives standing in judgment of others rather than kneeling to serve them.

So I was determined to bring a message about the worth of life being determined by God, not by man and challenge people to not just focus on abortion but on the whole list of life related causes - including the aged.

Satan must have not liked that plan, because I had a horrible time with the power point to support the message. In fact I never got the presentation I had crafted to work and had to copy and paste from my background notes during the 45 minutes immediately preceding the worship.

I used a visual prop of an old worn out file that used to belong to my father. He left it at my house once when he came over to look at my lawnmower years ago. I can still picture him sitting on the concrete sharpening the mower blade by hand with that file. It has a wooden handle he carved himself. The usefulness of that file is gone now, but it's worth will never diminish to me, because it was crafted by my father and held in his hands.

We are made by God in His image. Though we are weak and helpless as infants, or worn out and feeble in old age, our worth to God is still such that He calls us His masterpiece. To allow any society to cheapen the worth of a human is then to rebel against God. We as followers of Jesus cannot be silent.

Babies die from lack of medicine, food,or water when we have all the money in the world.
Old people are warehoused in nursing homes and want for basic human kindness and we are just too busy to care.

It has to stop. First within the church and then through our example and influence in society.

More later. But here's what we did in worship this Sunday.

O Worship the King - LOVE THAT SONG
Your Grace Is Enough - Likewise

Jesus Paid It All

We only did two songs because we just didn't have a good practice Wednesday on the others so I decided to only do what we could do well. God deserves our best.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Macon GA

Well, we arrived in Macon a few minutes ago and one of us is trying to sleep and the other drank so much coffee on the way up he might as well pull an all nighter. We'll be helping out with Dot and Curtis for the next couple of days.

So talk among yourselves until I can get back.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Precious to us


Are these girls and those who lovingly share Jesus with them every Wednesday night.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"You just have to give them the look."

A grandmotherly lady was in the middle of her conversation with the Michael's cashier when I walked up. The cashier was giving her a look, but it didn't look like one that agreed with her customer.

"You know, when they are doing something that they shouldn't, just give them the look that says 'I mean it'."

"That doesn't work anymore," said the cashier.

"Then you must not be doing it right," replied the grandmother without missing a beat.

It took everything I had not to laugh out loud.

But I'm wondering today as I read the gospels, what must it have felt like to get a "look" from Jesus?
Matthew 19:25-27 (The Message)

25The disciples were staggered. "Then who has any chance at all?"

26Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."

Okay, so we have here an example of a "look" and not just a glance but a "hard look" from Jesus. How did it work?

27Then Peter chimed in, "We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?"


You'd have to admit that Peter's statement may be one of the dumbest, most clueless ones of all time. :)

And it came after they received Jesus' "look". The "hard" one.

Parents, it's not your "look" that will produce change in your children. It's your LOVE.

Check the gospels. Jesus gave every ounce of love He had to those who followed Him. And though their progress was slow - and even frustrating at times - eventually they became the people who changed the world.

Grace and peace,


The Look

"You just have to give them the look."

A grandmotherly lady was in the middle of her conversation with the Michael's cashier when I walked up. The cashier was giving her a look, but it didn't look like one that agreed with her customer.

"You know, when they are doing something that they shouldn't, just give them the look that says 'I mean it'."

"That doesn't work anymore," said the cashier.

"Then you must not be doing it right," replied the grandmother without missing a beat.

It took everything I had not to laugh out loud.

But I'm wondering today as I read the gospels, what must it have felt like to get a "look" from Jesus?
Matthew 19:25-27 (The Message)

25The disciples were staggered. "Then who has any chance at all?"

26Jesus looked hard at them and said, "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it."

Okay, so we have here an example of a "look" and not just a glance but a "hard look" from Jesus. How did it work?

27Then Peter chimed in, "We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?"


You'd have to admit that Peter's statement may be one of the dumbest, most clueless ones of all time. :)

And it came after they received Jesus' "look". The "hard" one.

Parents, it's not your "look" that will produce change in your children. It's your LOVE.

Check the gospels. Jesus gave every ounce of love He had to those who followed Him. And though their progress was slow - and even frustrating at times - eventually they became the people who changed the world.

Grace and peace,


New Hope @ Worship 11 Jan 2009

We're finally fully into the New Year and getting some of the folks who scattered for the holidays back into the flow. Continuing to examine what it means to follow Jesus.

Better Is One Day

Give Me Jesus - Emily and Sean

Come Just As You Are

I took a look at the parable of the treasure in the field and expanded to look farther out at just what Jesus was asking His followers to do.

Still resonating in my heart, and I hope the hearts of others.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Bible and Today - How do we read it?

Interesting book from Scot McKnight, one of the more accessible of today's theologians. McKnight has a way of approaching thorny subjects with such grace that though you may hold to different opinions, you leave thinking "what a great guy."

McKnight's task here is to give us a new lens to see the Bible through. So far, I agree and disagree. More later.

Just What We Need :)

from the Sacred Sandwich

Funny, funny site.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Uh, no - not me,but...

Just had a great conversation with one of our members who was calling me about our idea of doing a community garden plot this spring. She was coming up with one good thought after another on who we needed to talk to, where we could get some expertise, and what it would mean to connect with people outside the church with this.

So I am thrilled to tell you that no, I am not the pastor who would do anything to get you to come to church. But I'm blessed to serve with a group of people who are always looking for ways to build bridges from where you are to the grace and love of Jesus.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday night stream of unconciousness....

- Great to have the media guru back
- Should we ever plan on starting an early service we will need MASSIVE AMOUNTS of coffee
- Sean and I have decided that some songs we do... don't need keyboard and some don't need guitar, now all we need to do is actually stop playing on them :)
- Preached with a sense of urgency and passion born out of a tough week with God
- Honestly, I'm fed up with boring Christians making a mockery of what we are called to do
- Had a visitor rededicate her life to God and fling herself on His mercy
- Had a young girl publicly step out and identify with Jesus
- Had two visitors that I met at the back door after - two women who said "Darrell Eldridge said to say 'hello'." Dr Eldridge is the president of Rockbridge. He is their son and brother respectively. How cool is that!!
- We need more adventure
- We need to take more risks
- We need to do things that will only succeed if God empowers them
- We need to create in all the folks that make up New Hope a sense of anticipation - a sort of "what's next, papa?" outlook to every day with God.

- and Bunny and I need to be involved in some hands on ministry outside New Hope that we are passionate about

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just saying


There are times when I think, "maybe I am there - maybe I have it down." Just when I think I'm making progress in following Jesus with my whole life, I trip over the reality that I am still not where I think I should be.

I thought the second picture described just how hard it is for me to put aside David and all his wants and desires and follow Jesus. No program is going to overcome my innate selfishness. I may go along for a while, but though I want to change, at some point I WILL rebel.

BTW, how do you think that whole "dog adoption" thing is going for the guy who took this picture?

Friday, January 09, 2009

What It Was...

Andy Griffith wasn't always Sheriff Taylor. He had a comedy career before Mayberry, and this is just one of the routines he did.

I thought of it tonight because earlier our neighbors across the street exited their house in whoops and hollers of joy - the Gators had won the NCAA Football Championship. Young men were shouting out loud in the middle of the road.

What it was... was football.

I don't get it.

Play it,sure. Enjoy watching it even. But I don't know, I reserve that sort of emotion for things like when I saw Bunny start to walk down the aisle on our wedding day, or when our sons were born...

Or when I hear, as I did Wednesday night, that someone has been reborn into new life.

Go God! Beat Satan!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tools and Fools

I'm what they call a "gadget freak", "techie", or whatever they are using nowadays to signify a person who gets distracted by the newest bright and shiny new toys. That's the newest - just came out today - Palm Pre. Oh yeah, I could use one of those.

But at what price?

Bunny and I made some choices a long time ago that still remain true for us today.

God comes first.
Family comes next.
People matter.
Stuff? Not so much.

So we're here, serving God, trying our level best to be all our family needs us to be, trying to love and care for those around us. And trying to strike the right balance on "wants" versus "needs."

Now that does not mean we are martyrs. Not by any means. We are blessed to be renting a nice house, to be driving a great vehicle for our needs, and to have more than probably 95% of the world's population does.

But the choices we make are usually to do more with less, to buy used rather than new when it makes sense, and to stay a couple years back on technology to normalize the prices of "shiny things."

Chasing the latest and greatest technology won't help me love God more. It won't help me love my wife, my sons, my family more. It won't keep me connected in a closer fashion to those I care for.

So while I applaud Palm for FINALLY getting it right (I've used Palm devices since 1998), I'll see the Pre when the world has moved to the next new toy and I can pick one up on the cheap.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Is That What Comes To Mind?

So I'm reading a newsletter today online and happen to glance at an ad in the right frame of the webpage. It's for the website of a magazine that I actually used to subscribe to - "Preaching Today."

Is that what comes to your mind when you think of preaching today?

Lord help us if it is.

New Hope @ Worship Jan 4 2009

The first Sunday of the New Year is always a challenge. Who will show up? What sort of mood will everyone be in? I knew going in that we'd be missing some of our regulars, and that it would be felt in the praise team again. So we didn't try to pull off anything we thought would be a stretch.

Lord I Lift Your Name On High - normally a real "feel good" interactive song, but the first Sunday of the New Year? Not so much.

Whole World In His Hands - fit perfectly with the message theme

Still - again, chosen to fit the theme

It Is Well With My Soul - to close

Looking into the New Year, there will be challenges. What choices will we make? How will we make them? Alone? Or Together as a Body?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Of Books I Got for Christmas

Just began reading the first two of 2009. I wish I could say how many I read last year, but I don't really read for records. I love books. So I'll read pretty much anything that might interest me along with books that might help me grow.

The first is this book about someone I was raised to hate with a passion - and not just about him, but about what he did to my native state that still had people growling when I was a little boy. I once preached in a church where the people were still upset that Sherman's men quartered their horses in the sanctuary and fed their horses from their pews.

The second book, The Blue Parakeet, is by Scot McKnight. I really enjoyed his earlier book "The Jesus Creed" and so I am expecting great things from this one as well. Scot's a fine scholar with a badly needed irenic outlook on things that divide the Church.

Bunny teaches piano up here at church 4 days a week. All of her students right now are children and youth, though she has taught a couple of adults. The adults didn't stick with it. Learning to play an instrument - really play one, not hit the right buttons on a pretend piece of plastic - takes a dedication that looks past what you are doing today to the rewards of tomorrow.

For example, when I'm up here and Bunny is teaching, I hear an awful lot of awful. Not really as much awful playing, because Bunny is very good at what she does and the kids respond (most of the time). But a LOT of awful music - at least from the point of view of someone who listens to music with more than one note being played at once time.

I have no idea what the names of the pieces they are playing are. Most of them I have never heard before. But each piece of music is selected because it helps a student progress in their abilities. They may sound odd at times, but by playing them, students advance to the more complex pieces. There's really no other way.

Just now Emily came in and started playing a song by Coldplay.

I have no idea how many lessons Emily has had,or how many hours she has practiced. But I hear music - music I know and love - coming from the sanctuary - and I know that she has practiced.

Let me ask a simple question.

How much effort are you putting into the practice of your faith - of your walk with Jesus?

He simply said, "Come, follow me."

When you do, it's difficult. There are some spiritual disciplines like prayer and reading the Bible that might seem tedious, even boring every now and then.

Oh, but when you begin hearing the music of God's approval - as your heart changes - as you begin taking on more and more of the character of Jesus - it is awesome! It's as if you were naturally left handed but were forced to use your "wrong" hand all your life. But now, you've discovered just how you were to live all along.

Make the decision to follow Jesus with all your heart. Stay close to Him. Practice.

Grace and peace,