Thursday, May 28, 2009

To love at all...

Well, usually this is the picture you'd see about now with Henley sitting on one end of the love seat and me on the other.

But for the second night in a row, Henley's spending the night at the vet hospital where they are giving him IV antibiotics and fluids. His condition is improving - temp down from 105 to 102, he can now sit up where he was unable to yesterday. But the infection that had him flat on the floor is still keeping him away from home.

And we miss him terribly.

Those of you who are not dog people won't truly understand, and unless you've had a big dog like a Great Dane it's still going to be tough. By being such a large presence, Great Danes make you adjust a lot of things in your life to fit them. That can range from remembering not to put that meatball sandwich on the counter (if you want to see it again), to buying a vehicle (Honda Element) specifically to transport the dog.

And it's worth it.

But as C.S. Lewis pointed out, to love at all is to be vulnerable. So not having our big friend here, and worrying about him - well, we're hurting.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fishing and cutting bait

Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
James 2:17 (MSG)

Gotta love the way the Message cuts to the chase.

One of the expressions that my father passed along to me was this one "It's time to fish or cut bait." There were other expressions he passed along, but this isn't the time or place for those. :)

The idea behind it is simple - either get busy fishing,or stop fishing and do something that helps others fish.

Well, here at New Hope, we're going to fish and cut bait this summer.

Right now, on the other side of the sanctuary from where my office sits, our community garden is growing. Our hope is to be able to provide lots of fresh vegetables for people around here who are in need. We had the land, had the seeds and the time, and other than yours truly, had people who knew how to grow things. So it's a beginning that hopefully will enable us to help others and help others help others. Fish AND cut bait.

Then on the same Sunday our mission trip team leaves for Kentucky and a week spent serving in one of the poorest counties in Appalachia, our Souls4Soles "Barefoot Sunday" will have those of us in worship leaving our new or gently worn shoes behind. They'll be collected and sent overseas to people who have no shoes. Fish AND cut bait - again.

Then there's the upcoming "Worth the Sacrifice" challenge. Where we'll eat nothing but rice and beans for 5 days to try to get a glimpse into the life of orphans in Africa. Our hope is to involve other churches as well and appeal to people to "do something" to change the world. We'll gather that Friday night for a celebration and an offering of the money we saved during the week that we normally would have spent on food. Those monies will be sent to Amazima Ministries in Uganda, an amazing outreach of care and love for orphans. Just click on the link on the right of this blog to learn more about Amazima.

It's time friends. We cannot wait for the government to act. This is our time and our mission. Let's FISH AND CUT BAIT.

Reflections on Sunday 24 May 2009

We were challenged today in ways I don't think have ever happened in the ten years I have been here. I put slides in the announcement ppt of each child sponsored by New Hope family members. There were also slides with the stats on what Compassion and World Vision are doing around the world.

But that was just the beginning.

First the Soles4Souls skit laid out the timing for their "Barefoot" challenge. Basically it means people who participate leave the sanctuary barefoot on that Sunday, leaving their shoes to be shipped to people who need them more.

Then John Anderson got up and shared from his heart about what God has been doing in his life. He was brutally honest about where he was and what he thought before God laid a hold of his heart. And he laid out a clear challenge to us - eat only beans and rice for five days, and give the money you would have spent on food that week to Amazima Ministries for their work among the orphans and poor in Uganda.

We then worshipped using the same songs as last week with one exception. We added "God of This City", a powerful call to serve and see heaven rain down onto earth.

The message was from the parable of the talents, and I tried to help everyone see that we are here to play our part in God's Kingdom ministries. That we have no right to take what he has given and hoard it for our own selfish uses. That we need to take risks and follow Jesus.

I'll try to get the audio up later today.

That night we had a family meeting to share what we think God is telling us about where He is working and how we can join Him there. It was pretty cool to hear what God had been doing in the various small groups. We'll see what comes out of the discussion.

What I'm Reading - "The Reason For God"

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life
Halfway through the book, and I am impressed with Tim Keller's thoughtful and accessible way of tackling the most common objections to and doubts about the Christian faith. I can completely understand why in the midst of secular Manhattan, Redeemer Presbyterian is growing.

I'll write a comprehensive review when I finish, but I'll tell you that this book is worth reading and recommending.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What I'm Reading

Okay, I haven't finished Moby Dick yet. I HAD to take a break.

So I hit Amazon up for some books for me to read and pass along. I got a copy of Francis Chan's "Crazy Love" that immediately went to Amy, and two copies of "Do Hard Things" by the brothers Harris -one for John Anderson, and one for me.

I ordered it out of a Spirit-led conviction that we need to set higher standards for our boys at New Hope. Girls are on the way already, but we might get some help here too. What if our children and youth ministries were tightly focused on leading to Jesus and leading out into living Him out? Exciting stuff here.

Couple of other books I got.

"Why does God allow suffering in the world?

How could a loving God send people to Hell?

Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive?

How can one religion be “right” and the others “wrong”?

Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God?

These are just a few of the questions and doubts even ardent believers wrestle with today. As the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Timothy Keller has compiled a list of the most frequently voiced “doubts” skeptics bring to his church as well as the most important reasons for faith. And in The Reason for God, he addresses each doubt and explains each reason.

Keller uses literature, philosophy, real-life conversations, and reasoning to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief, held by thoughtful people of intellectual integrity with a deep compassion for those who truly want to know the truth."


"Too often we see people react to what they don’t like about the church. In "From Eternity to Here," Frank Viola offers up the doctrine that causes him to act on behalf of the church. Make no doubt about it, Frank is a provocateur and an artist—and both come through in this book. Frank continues to challenge the church-at-large with a powerful mind, an impassioned voice, and a love for the bride of Christ. You need to get this book and wrestle with Frank through the biblical passages regarding our identity in Christ as His body and the mission our God has entrusted to us."
-Ed Stetzer, author of Breaking the Missional Code

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sunday Reflections On Monday :)

You never know what a Sunday gathering is going to be like until you are in it. :)

In this case though, I had a pretty good idea in one area, since I knew that Bunny was sick and wouldn't be there to provide the foundation for the praise team's effort. Then when Craig Bryan, who we count on for his strong and confident voice, took sick, well, I thought there'd be some challenges - and there were.

But we finished each song together. So that's something. :)

This is one of those areas I have to keep reminding myself that while we should do everything we can to do the technical aspects of worship well, it's the offering of our hearts and the pull of the Holy Spirit that really matter.

In fact, our closing verse of "Jesus Paid It All" without instruments might have been the moments when I felt a part of the Body in worship the most.

The Music - "O Praise Him" - Crowder; "O Worship the King" - Tomlin; and the invitation I mentioned above.

Random thought -
There was a point within the time we were gathered that I thought just how blessed we are at New Hope by God's evident moving among us and working through us. So many ministries are accelerating and more opportunities to grow are just over the horizon.

Yesterday's Message -

My goal was to provide a backdrop to a series of sermons opening up the "Big Story" to everyone. I hoped to be far more interactive than normal - to challenge people to think along with me and through what we were exploring in a way we might not do normally.

Along with the backdrop, I wanted to start unpacking how the Bible reveals its author. And most importantly - to invite people to come and be a part of the story of God's redemptive love as it unfolds. I hope some of that came across.

Aside - that new "clicker" with the 150ft range is the BOMB! No more frustration or hesitation. It just works.

Here's the ppt from yesterday.

I can pass along some of the resources I used to develop the message if you'd like to delve further into the background and thrust of the "Big Story." Just shoot me an email.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Sometimes, War Is Inconvienent

No, this isn't the special Afghanistan ACU you have been waiting for. But sometimes war shows up at the most inconvenient times,and you don't have time to waste. Really illustrates one of my favorite maxims - If you wait until everything is perfect to act, you'll never act.

Lincoln would have called it the McClellan syndrome.

I'd rather New Hope showed up every day for ministry with the heart of Jesus even if some of our facilities and programs needed a little work. The battle is right here, right now. If we spend too much time in getting ready, we'll miss it.

It may leave you on the front line in pink boxers, but did you notice?

The GI had his helmet, body armor, and weapon.

Now, the hoots about it after the fight was over... I am sure were awesome. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Call Me Bored

I'm trying. Lord knows I am trying. But Moby Dick is KILLING me.

The idea was to reacquaint myself with great literature in the hopes of said reading affecting my own attempts to write. But Herman Melville spends so much time in the minutia of sailing, sailors, and whales that I am 391 pages into this bloated tome and I am begging for relief.

The central plot is of Captain Ahab and the great white whale. It is their relationship for lack of a better word, that should drive this story. But like a bad Sunday School lesson "what did that mean to you?", Melville throws an early encylopedia of footnotes at the reader. Have nothing to do with the central plot - just knew the info and wanted us to know he knew.

Say - did Melville ever teach at a seminary?

I think I recognize this MO.

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's Growing!

- Our community garden is growing and the excitement about what we'll be able to do with the vegetables is too. Still time to get involved.
- The amount collected for the orphans in the Ukraine is rising too.
- Possible neighborhood movie night coming up Memorial Day weekend - stay tuned!
- Another child sponsored by a Bible Study class!
- Couple of other missions initiatives I'm not ready to tell you about but one of them is going to knock your socks off! The other will grab your heart and expand the Kingdom of God in a way we've never seen at New Hope.
- Mission trip to KY is 3 weeks away

New Hope - ever expanding its reach and impact for the gospel.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers and the Boys Who Love Them

1Three days later there was a wedding in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there. 2Jesus and his disciples were guests also. 3When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus' mother told him, "They're just about out of wine."

4Jesus said, "Is that any of our business, Mother--yours or mine? This isn't my time. Don't push me."

5She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, "Whatever he tells you, do it."

6Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus ordered the servants, "Fill the pots with water." And they filled them to the brim.

8"Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host," Jesus said, and they did.

9When the host tasted the water that had become wine (he didn't know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, 10"Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you've saved the best till now!"

11This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. John 2:1-11 (The Message)

It's been many years now since my Mother went home to be with Her Lord. But it hasn't gone away.

There are days when it's easier, when you remember silly little things, like the way she used to fix the boys instant cheese grits with torn up bits of sliced processed cheese, and they treated it like manna. "No one else could make grits the way Grandmother did," they'll say. Bunny and I would shake our head and laugh. Some days are laughing days.

Certain songs bring her memory closer. Old show tunes, big band numbers, and any song where someone yodeled. Yes, her first brush with fame was singing with "Uncle Ned" on the radio, and yodeling. A strong voice would come in handy later on when two boys competed for how far away from where they ought to be they could get. Oh and anytime the Star Spangled Banner is sung, I think I hear her too. Some days her memory is like a picture in my wallet. She'd be thrilled that we live down here, next to two things she loved a lot - the U.S. Air Force, and the ocean.

Certain seasons too. No one ever was a bigger kid, or got more of a thrill out of Christmas than my Mother. Every year, no matter how old we got, under the tree we'd always find a couple of gifts from "Santa" or if she was pressed for time "SC." I'll probably never know how far in debt she went some years to get my brother and me what we wanted for Christmas, or for our birthdays. Of course as soon as our two boys were born, our benefits were cut in favor of the grandsons.

Seemed reasonable to me.

After a somewhat rocky start, ("You're going to what?") my Mother and my wife got along pretty well. The fact that they both had two boys, and both loved them fiercely, helped a lot I'm sure. There's something about the way a mother loves a boy. Girls most often grow up with mothers, boys grow away toward their fathers. But that love from their mother never leaves.

So when I read the passage above, particularly in the emotionally charged paraphrase by Eugene Peterson, I see a real mother and son relationship and out of that, the Son is recognized for what He really is - Messiah.

No one but Mary could have "pushed" Jesus and assumed He'd agree to be moved to action. No one except His mother. Mothers know their sons for who they really are, and mothers see what they can become. As they raise them to maturity, they may fade into the background, but they never leave.

Women are unique in all of God's creation inherently. But a Mother takes that unique gifting and gives it away - willingly, gladly, joyfully.

As one who continues to benefit from that gift, and who is grateful to be married to someone who continues to give, my prayer is that God will bless each Mother who reads this with a glimpse of just what you've given and it's lasting effect on your children.

Lincoln was right - no one is poor who has a godly Mother.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sunday Night Reflections

Great Sunday at New Hope!

- Lots of jazzed people who came in knowing they had made a difference for God this weekend.
- Visitors came in and immediately felt at home. Heard great things about how welcoming we were.
- Bethany did AWESOME on the solo that kicked off my new favorite song "I Will Rise"
- Praise team didn't mess up! Just kidding guys.
- Pastor believed in the message and I think brought it.
- The after-glow with people hanging around was incredible. People were swarming over the community garden plot, hanging with the visitors, talking in the parking lot. Signs of a healthy church.
- Heard that one of our classes voted to sponsor a child in Africa. Way to go guys!

First, the video I didn't show this morning because of time constraints that shows pretty graphically how fast change is occurring across the world. It might give you a little bit of perspective and offer some understanding of just why we are looking for new ways to tell the Bog Story of how God's plan is unfolding.

The message relied heavily on James Choung's concept of presenting the gospel in a fresh way. Got some great feedback after so I hope it resonates some more during the week. Great resources are out there, and I'm going to use whatever I can to help all of New Hope be as effective as we can be.

If you'd like to know more about the method used in the message this morning, much more information is available at James Choung's website - Tell It Slant including an explanation of the method in booklet form.

You may have the opportunity this week to take a napkin and a pen and show a friend just how God's Big Story can help them live lives with purpose in harmony with God.

How cool is that!


Telling the Story

James Choung came up with a napkin presentation of the good news that works well IMO to explain how the "Big Story" speaks to God's love overcoming man's sin. The video above is the "Southern version", adapted to the "Bible belt" culture we find ourselves in. There's a lot of words here that I might not use, but overall it really speaks to me. I plan to use this method tomorrow as the basis for the message. I think I'll ask the people to draw with me to try and get some interaction going.

The powerpoint was done by another and I've adapted it personally to be far more visual that when I found it. Images have power and my hope is that the Holy Spirit will use this to bring people into the kingdom and into God's service tomorrow.