Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I've been a follower of Jesus for 34 years now. I've seen the church go from "Flakes formula" to the "growth spiral", from "Masterlife" to "Eat This Book", from the Roman Road through EE, CWT, NET, and FAITH, and from program driven to purpose driven and beyond.

I remember when "God of Earth and Outer Space" crept into the hymnal, and when "Pass It On" was considered a real contemporary song. My hearing was affected by Petra, my heart by Dallas Holm, Don Francisco, and especially Keith Green.

My faith walk began with the Baptist Hymnal and a Schofield KJV, moved through a turtle green Living Bible, the NIV, and NASB, and now I've arrived at music lyrics projected on a screen and the NLT 2.0. We've never had so many resources. Need youth materials on dating? Five choices off the top of my head. Marriage? Dozens. Discipleship? Do you want printed or downloadable?

And yet...

For the last few years, I've been fighting a creeping suspicion.

It ain't working.

By "It", I mean church as we have known it. We're not effective in making disciples. By disciples I mean people whose worldview is rooted and established in love of and fidelity to Jesus Christ. Is there growth in what we are doing? Sure. More people come to our worship. More people give to the ministry outreaches that we are doing more of than ever before. By all the numbers I should be a happy man. We've just baptized some new followers at the beach a few Sunday's ago and gave a testimony that the church is alive and active.

But I just don't see the steady progression in those I love and care for as a pastor. Not just those who haven't been Christians long, but even among some who have. They get distracted by the things of this world too often. Their children aren't growing deeper in relationship either, choosing the same fractional loyalties as their parents. They care about the wrong things. Their passions are aroused by trivialities.

Possibly it hasn't been working for a long time, I was just so busy working at it that I didn't notice.

So what to do?

I could do as some of my friends have done. I could leave the pastoral ministry in frustration. In just the past few years I have seen men with great talent and passion for God, trained at the best institutions leave the ministry and find secular employment. Why? Because they decided that if they couldn't change the church, they didn't want to be a part of failure. While I understand what they experienced, and believe that each had to do what they believed to be the right path, I cannot see that as valid for me. Just not who I am.

In the movie Tombstone, Val Kilmer plays Doc Holiday (a fellow Georgian). He greets a man who wants to get after the Earps by cutting him off and stepping in his way and saying, "I'll be your huckleberry."

I think it means "I'm ready for whatever you've got on your mind."

My love for Jesus is strong. My love for the people, and their stories who make up the rich fabric of congregational life has grown more and more in the last few years. I've been through the fire, I've gotten over the need for everyone to like me all the time. Life's too short and the stakes are too high. Push has come to shove. Change must come - again. It's time to reboot the church.

So if I was placed here for such a time as this...

yeah, I'll be your huckleberry.

Monday, September 28, 2009

How Much Do You Need?

I'm sitting in my office at church surrounded by a couple thousand of my closest friends - my books. Bunny walks in, looks around, and says "you need to sell a bunch of these."

She's right.

And I shouldn't stop there.

I can remember laughing at my mother and father for their depression-era driven fixation with stocks of food. If my mother could help it, we never got down to one of anything when it came to the staples. There was always two of everything. When I asked once, I was told that because there were so many times they had nothing or near nothing to eat, they had sworn it would never happen again.

Well, I don't do it with food, but I do have areas where what I possess makes no rational sense given that I could take the money I'd get for selling some stuff and change the world. Plus I'd love to see the stuff shrink whether by selling it, sharing it, or giving it away to the point where if God sent us a PCS notice, we could be gone quickly.

So I'm going to start tomorrow deciding what I can live without and start the process of converting it into opportunity. Micro-loans, water projects - there's a lot that could happen. Stay tuned and I'll try to give you an update each week of what I've shed.

Youth Group Expectations

We're looking at revamping what we do in a number of areas, and one of those is the way we approach youth discipleship. I think we are a bit fragmented and less effective at leading youth to take root and grow. So one of the areas I am looking at is our expectations. My hope is that by placing expectations out front we can use them as not just boundary markers but as tools to shape youth actions. Any ideas on things to include or leave out would be appreciated.

New Hope Baptist Youth Covenant

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers Gal. 6:10
Every person in our youth group is created by God and deserving of respect. Treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Phil 2:3 Do your best to help everyone do their best. Give only positive, constructive feedback.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2Tim. 2:15
Be good workers who are able to follow directions. The adult leadership has volunteered their time for your benefit and will not steer you wrong.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 TIMOTHY 4:12
The language we use must reflect who we are as believers.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices Col 3:9
Take care to be honorable at all times. Don’t give anyone a reason to find fault in anything you do.

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. James 4:17
The use of the church and everything in it, are the gift of our generous God who has used people to bless us. Please respect it by caring for it all very carefully. We want to return everything in the condition that we found it.

I, _____________________________, promise to abide by the covenant above. I have read over the rules for New Hope’s Youth Group and agree to abide by them. I understand that violating these rules will result in suspension from Youth Group activities.

Teen’s Signature______________________________________ Date _______

We _______________________________________, have reviewed this policy and the New Hope Youth Group rules with our teen and agree to uphold these rules. We understand that if our teen violates this policy our teen will be suspended from Youth Group activities until we meet with the Youth Group adult leadership.

Parent/Guardian Signature _________________________Date_______________

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Night Recap 09.27.09

- Wow, that was a fast sermon! I knew that without all the heavy contextual work it would be shorter than the past few weeks, but it was much shorter than it felt when I put it together.

- The Crazy Love Small Groups are going to be starting in October so make sure you sign up. Awesome book with potential for real life change.

- Worship music - The Heart of Worship - didn't Bethany and Kira do great to kick it off! We are blessed to have some young people with talent and hearts to match. "Holy Holy Holy" - every time I sing that song I know I will sing it better one day in heaven. "All the Earth Will Sing Your Praises" -so we put the jolt at the end this week. Great job by Sean on electric guitar to put the "blast" like Psalm 150 but present day. "My Jesus I Love Thee" is just a heart song.

- There were a couple of take-aways from what happened with Jesus, the paralytic, and his friends I want to mention again.

1. It was hard. Getting their friend from home to Jesus, fighting through the crowds outside, carrying him upon the roof, taking the roof apart and then lowering him down slowly and carefully. I'll bet they were worn out.
2. It was unorthodox. No one had EVER DONE THAT BEFORE. And it was exactly what needed to be done. Sometimes what the "church people" want us to do is contrary to what Jesus would have us do. I say - stick with Jesus.
3. It was costly - Time off work, money to repair the roof, loss of reputation with the religious leaders. None of it mattered though. If they could get their friend healed, they were willing to pay the price.

Are we?

Are we willing to push past the difficulties of trying to reach people in our culture and get out there with the good news of Jesus?
Are we willing to put aside our "old time religion" style and bring media,music, and message to the people in a way that it would speak to them?
Are we willing to pay the price for following Jesus as He reaches lost people?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Not Going To Party Like It's 1959

"The church which effectively reaches people is willing to sacrifice its preferences for God’s passion." - David Wilson

I'm going to open the rant valve just a little tonight.

Holding onto those preferences means that you are stuck in time as culture moves forward. Again, we are not talking about the Truth changing, but what we are talking about is the methods we use to communicate the gospel effectively. Music has changed, folks. Today's artists are bringing great songs to the church. Drop the "choruses" label please and give the writers of today their due. Will all of their songs stand the test of time? No, and neither did the Wesley's or Sankey's. We should appreciate the past but we cannot live there.

Do you want to reach people for Christ or not?

One of the biggest changes occurring right now in the culture is the shift from print media to electronic media. What began as an email trickle has become a virtual flood of information delivered both wirelessly and across the internet.

One example of that change would be the proliferation of the access of Bibles on smartphones. A person used to be identified as tech-saavy if they were using a PDA for Bible access, but more and more people are using their phones to work with Scripture. YouVersion, developed by Lifechurch.tv has 3 million users and is adding them at the rate of 300,000 a month. Add in BibleGateway, Bible.org, the Logos site, and all the others, and it's clear that millions are accessing the Scriptures in a way unheard of just 10 years ago.

It makes it hard for people like this preacher who can't tell whether they just discovered a great truth in Genesis 3, hit 10,000 in Farkle, or got word that their girlfriend or boyfriend is free for lunch. Compelling and interactive teaching has to come to the forefront if we are to compete in the agora of today. We can do it, but the same old same old will not get it done.

The church of today has more tools than ever. And it needs them all to reach existing and emergent generations for Christ. So please don't ask me to pastor the church as it exists in your memory. 1959 wasn't all that.

Remember those old Chevy Belairs? Built like a tank, right? Can't find cars built like that today, right?


Crazy Love

Small Groups start soon.

Some quotes from the first chapter of the book.

"We are a culture that relies on technology over community ..."
"God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him."
"Isn't it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?"
"Can you worship a God who isn't obligated to explain His actions to you?"
"God hates and must punish sin. And He is totally just and fair in doing so."
"He (God) cannot be contained in this world, explained by our vocabulary, or grasped by our understanding."

It's going to be great.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Couldn't Wait Until Thursday

Wednesday is a push day for Bunny and me, and is kind of a blur from daybreak to evening, but after finishing Tom Davis' novel "Scared" yesterday, I could not wait to tell you about it.

Tom knows Africa and its problems well, having immersed himself in trying to bring hope to the people there through Children's Hope Chest. He has written a work of fiction that is done so skillfully in context that you forget it isn't a true story. Tom calls it "fiction with a conscience", and I know it caused me to really examine what I should do in light of the pressing needs of the least of these.

Strong character development and a real flair for the flow of action make this book a real page turner and difficult to put down. The rawness of life on the edge of civilization is presented so well that your mind starts to paint the scenes and you begin to "see" the people. The realities of the present day from media whims to sham "helping hands" organizations are also part of what becomes a cogent and coherent story that you put down at last having been pulled, pressed, stretched and touched.

It is a deeply moving book.

Buy it. Read it. Share it.

I'm trusting that the Spirit will use Tom's work not just in this book, but through Hope Chest to make a difference.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are You Ready To Rumble?

10 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. 11 So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. 12 This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13 Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet.
Eph 6:10-13 (MSG)

C.S. Lewis pointed out famously that this earth and everything in it was a battleground. That there wasn't one scrap of cloth that the devil didn't claim as "Mine!"

So it makes perfect sense that if the armies of heaven advance, that at some point a counterattack by the devil and his angels will occur. It can be in expected areas among people who you know have issues, or it can occur among best friends. But it's coming. So what to do?

14 Truth, righteousness, 15 peace, 16 faith, 17 and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. 18 In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.
Eph 6:14-18 (MSG)

It's been a great year among the people of New Hope. We've reached across oceans and brought New Hope to people in Uganda, Haiti, Guatemala, and the Ukraine. We've sent help to Kentucky and Arizona. We've delivered comfort to friends and neighbors - just today 36 new blankets to the Waterfront Rescue Mission. We've served others and baptized many into the Kingdom. Don't think Satan hasn't noticed.

Now as we look forward to the "Crazy Love" small groups, a youth worship night each month, a deacon ordination and a Christmas focus called "The Advent Conspiracy", he'd love to see us take our eyes off Jesus. Don't let it happen.

Pray. Pray for each other. Let God's love show you just how your prayers can affect YOUR heart as God's will plays out in all our lives. Encourage each other. Find something to praise them for. Do not allow Satan to blind you to what God has His servants doing. It might not be what you are called to do, but pray for the Holy Spirit to use them exactly as He sees fit.

Grace and peace to you all - David

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blessed To Be A Blessing

Diane Weech pumps up the crowd, Scott Marston and John Anderson on the ice production, and Ryan Marston and JoAnn Smith on flavors. Production Supervisor Larry Smith not shown.

Oh there he is.

Imagine sitting at church one afternoon and getting a call from a local school pleading for your church to come to an event. It happened to me just a few weeks ago when the organizers of the Relay For Life at Lewis Middle School rang New Hope up. Want to know the secret?


Well, Sno-cones and great people who love serving others.

We had a blast this morning serving over 300 sno-cones. Hey! They told me there were only 150 runners. Hmmm...

Lots of interesting flavors must have pulled them in.In addition to the normal flavors, new additions like "Tiger's Blood" (supposedly strawberry and coconut, and BTW no tigers were harmed to produce this) and "Suicide" (a mix of all of it) made it fun.

In other news, after a survey of what runners were listening to as they ran,it appears that anything with a beat would do. "Green Day", "Depeche Mode", "Lynard Skynard" all were mentioned. No "Eye of the Tiger"? No "Rocky Theme"? No organ music?

No sermons??????????????????????? :)

Having fun blessing people. New Hope.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Better Times

I think this was taken about 5 years ago when we were up in Macon.

He'd have turned 89 today.

The last couple of years were really tough ones. I try to remember the man I knew before.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Job Chapter 2 recap

1 One day the sons of God came again to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before the Lord. 2 The Lord asked Satan, “Where have you come from?”

“From roaming through the earth,” Satan answered Him, “and walking around on it.”

Again, a gathering in which Satan is present among the angels before God's throne.

3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him, to destroy him without just cause.”

God is presented as aware of the earlier trial, and its results.

4 “Skin for skin!” Satan answered the Lord. “A man will give up everything he owns in exchange for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.”

Then Satan makes his revised argument. Since his earlier scheme didn't work, this was his new one. The idea behind it is a simple one - people will act to preserve themselves at the expense of anything or anyone else.

“In Job’s ancient culture, ‘skin for skin’ was a bartering term meaning to trade one skin for another. The Devil is accusing Job of being willing to risk the skin of his children and livestock in order to protect his own skin.” (Lawson)

"When it came down to it, Abraham betrayed his wife to save his life. David forsook his sanity to save his life. Peter denied Jesus to save his own life. There is certainly some truth to the statement, all that a man has he will give for his life." (Guzik)

6 “Very well,” the Lord told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life.” 7 So Satan left the Lord’s presence and infected Job with terrible boils from the sole of his foot to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery to scrape himself while he sat among the ashes.

Notice that God is in control here, and Satan again can only work within the boundaries that God sets for him. This is not meaningless suffering, but the opposite. The idea that God will be glorified and Satan defeated as a believer trusts God even though everything is going wrong is on display.

There are so many skin diseases that could have fit this description. Guzik develops the diagnosis from other passages in Job.

"• Intense pain (My bones are pierced in me at night, and my gnawing pains take no rest; Job 30:17)
• Peeling and darkened skin (My skin grows black and falls from me; Job 30:30a)
• Pus-filled, erupting sores (My flesh is caked with worms and dust, my skin is cracked and breaks out afresh; Job 7:5b)
• Anorexia, emaciation (My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh; Job 19:20)
• Fever (My bones burn with fever; Job 30:30b)
• Depression (I loathe my life; I would not live forever; Job 7:16 and My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; Job 30:27-28)
• Weeping (My face is flushed with weeping; Job 16:16a)
• Sleeplessness (When I lie down, I say, ‘When shall I arise, and the night be ended?’ Job 7:4)
• Nightmares (Then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions; Job 7:14)
• Putrid breath (My breath is offensive to my wife; Job 19:17)
• Difficulty breathing (He will not allow me to catch my breath; Job 19:18)
• Failing vision (On my eyelids is the shadow of death; Job 16:16b)
• Rotting teeth (I have escaped by the skin of my teeth; Job 19:20)
• Haggard looks (When they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him; Job 2:12)
• Painful swollen sores all over his body (painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head; Job 2:7)
• Intense itching (to scrape himself; Job 2:8)
• This condition lasted for months (Oh, that I were as in months past; Job 29:2 and I have been allotted months of futility; Job 7:3)"

As anyone who has had a chronic disease knows, the physical disability also brings with it a psychological cost. Satan knows this of course, and his intent is to attack the whole man, not just his physical self. People who stay hopeful have a much better chance to fight off illnesses and recover. If Satan can get Job to lose faith in God then Job will lose his hope. In that case, Satan will win.

9 His wife said to him, “Do you still retain your integrity? Curse God and die!”

This is an interesting verse for a lot of reasons. The fact that Satan took everything from except his wife is always a point of derision as men often comment on how perfect that strategy is to cause Job more misery. I tend to think that if Satan could have taken her from Job he would have. That whole "bone of my bone,flesh of my flesh" deal? Might apply here.

The Septuagent, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures adds some verses that our modern translations don't. And she talks in King James English! :)

"How long wilt thou hold out, and say, “Behold I wait yet a little while, expecting the hope of my deliverance?” For, behold, thy memorial is cut off from the earth – [even thy] sons and thy daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb, which I bore in vain, with sorrows; and though thyself sittest down to spend the nights in the open air among the corruption of worms, and I am a wanderer, and a servant from place to place, and house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labours and my pains, which now beset me. Now curse God and die." (Cited in Bullinger)

We aren't served well though even by the verse as popularly translated. The "Curse God" quote? It literally should be translated sarcastically as "Well 'Bless God'!" The idea is that Job hasn't given up but his wife has and is now gone so far as to ridicule her husband.

10 “You speak as a foolish woman speaks,” he told her. “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” Throughout all this Job did not sin in what he said.

And yet Job treats his wife very kindly. Notice he doesn't say she IS a foolish woman, he says she is "acting like" one of them.

Still, her actions must have really hurt him. Ray Steadman writes:

"I do not know if women fully understand how much their husbands depend on them. I think husbands often draw emotional strength from their wives far more than either they or their wives realize. Here was a severe attack addressed to the very soul of Job, in which he felt his wife abandoning him, advocating that he turn from his faith and renounce his God."

Satan must have really thought he had Job.

Job’s Three Friends Enter the Picture -

11 Now when Job’s three friends—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite—heard about all this adversity that had happened to him, each of them came from his home. They met together to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they looked from a distance, they could ⌊barely⌋ recognize him. They wept aloud, and each man tore his robe and threw dust into the air and on his head. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him seven days and nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very intense. Job 2:1-13 (HCSB)

We'll have plenty of time to crack on Job's friends in later chapters, but I think there's a moment here where we can appreciate what they have done.

They came to Job. They didn't have to come, and knowing what they believed about what had happened and why, they still cared enough about their friend to come.
They wept for and with Job. It's easy to do the minimum and get out. These guys came and suffered with Job.
They sat in silence with Job for seven days. I'm sure there was a lot they wanted to say to Job, but they sat in silence until Job spoke.
They intended all the best for Job, and were persistent in wanting and doing what they thought was best for Job.
They spoke their opinion about Job and his condition to Job himself, instead of speaking about him to others. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say "some people have said..." or the like, Bunny and I could have a nice meal out. Job's friends were mistaken about what was behind this event, but they were men enough to tell Job instead of hinting around about it or gossiping with someone else.

Suffering is one of the wedges that Satan uses to tear believers away from God and to keep people from coming to faith in God. So any treatment of this human condition that can help us understand how to live through it is essential. Ray Steadman wraps it up by writing:

"But let us never forget what we have been shown at the beginning of this book: it is God who is doing this, ultimately, and he has an aim in view. And because he does not tell us at this point what it is, we, too, must suffer through this with Job. We must feel to some degree with him what he is feeling, and sense the protest, the anguish, the emptiness of his life. Nevertheless, we must remember that there is an answer, God does have a reason, and it will be made clear as the book unfolds."

Stay tuned..

When Things Don't Go Right

Ah, irony.

We finished looking at the second chapter of Job tonight in Bible study. Job was having a pretty mean string of bad things happening and yet he kept his focus on God. I'll post some of the notes tomorrow for those of you who couldn't be there.

So then I came home, and a series of little things just destroyed my mood. Nothing major - any of them - and I really didn't have to deal with any hardship at all. But one after another a glitch would occur or a program would freeze, and I got progressively more aggravated to the point I had to put out the "Crabby" banner, which if you know me is a double red flag kind of warning.

And none of them amounted to what my father in law would call "a hill of beans."

So it's off to bed after needless aggravation.

There's a lesson in this somewhere. :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beach Baptism Pics

You Don't Have To Be My Twin To Be My Brother

Yesterday I wrote about how even though we have seen God work in awesome ways this summer, that there are areas of "needs improvement" at New Hope that have to change, and practices we have grown accustomed to that need to end in order for us to accelerate our effectiveness and impact.

Of course that assumes the church realizes it's not about them.

One of the hardest, most challenging, and draining parts of a pastor's job is dealing with the member's reaction to changes. The temptation for some is always there to break out of the group over certain preferences in style. Dave Browning is a pastor, author, and visionary leader, and he wrote this week on preferences in style and change.

Citing Thomas Jefferson's quip "In matters of style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock." Browning goes on to write some of the best advice I have ever read concerning this. I have excerpted some, but you should read it all at Dave's blog.

I have found that many believers have a wrong notion about Christian unity. They confuse unity with uniformity. Christian unity is not uniformity. Uniformity is the natural man's way of seeking unity and involves:

(1) looking for little things he has in common with others, then

(2) finding differences between his group and others, and finally

(3) increasingly insisting that those who are with him be like him.

That is not Christian unity.

That is worldly uniformity.

And, frankly, anyone can do it, which is why everyone is doing it.

Christian unity is embracing diversity within the will of God (see 1 Corinthians 12). Did you catch the difference? Christian unity actually embraces diversity. Within God's will, there is grace for differences in personality and presentation.

Can you appreciate a sermon that is preached in a different style than you prefer? Can you worship with a song that isn't your favorite? Can you "talk up" a denomination that isn't yours? If not, you may need to take some of the grace that you have for sin, and apply some of it to style.
Dave Browning

The number one request I get as pastor of New Hope isn't (sadly) "Can we do ministry to..." or even "Could I work with..." Instead it usually has to do with some part of worship we don't do enough or we do too much. Everything we do is prayed over and dedicated to the worship of Almighty God. And yet...

We can disagree on the things of style and still be brothers and sisters in Christ if we both acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit working through and guiding us.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday Wrap-Up

Some Sundays I cannot wait to get home and tell everyone what happened. Others, not so much. Add to that the anxieties caused by Larry Smith's hospitalization after lunch yesterday, and I'm just now approaching the review.

FYI - There are changes ahead for New Hope. No doubt in my heart that we have some areas of "needs improvement", and some areas where present practices need to end if we are to become more effective. We've had an awesome year so far praise God, but that's exactly why we need to look at what we do with a critical eye and see what else we can do to be more engaging, more effective, more in love with Jesus. So I'll be looking through our normal practices this week and seeking feedback from you all on how we can achieve Christ's vision of what New Hope can be.

One area that I am very interested in improving is our communication both outside our worship gatherings and especially in them. We definitely try to over communicate what is happening with an eye toward education of what we are about, but it can get out of sync with the purpose of worship. When we print a worship guide, run ppt slides before the service, then make personal announcements too, it can consume a good deal of resources. The worship guide contains our communication card, so it is multipurpose, but I wonder if something we did in house might be better. Ideas?

Back to Sunday - music was...

O Worship the King (the chorus always gets me)
Better Is One Day (GREAT job praise team!)
God of This City (awesome)
Come Home Running (I LOVE this)

We're going to work harder as a praise team, and get the media folks more integrated into what we do. Sound levels are hard in our building, but we can do better.

The message-

Well, we are almost at the end of the series looking at the churches of Revelation, and everyone's favorite whipping boy - Laodecia is next. But before we move on, a look back at what we saw in the church at Philadelphia. Maybe a better summation that yesterday.

- Weakness is opportunity - when we realize that it has to be God working through us and not our (strength, wisdom, skill, whatever)then we can fully work with Him
- Opportunity is Mission - God has opened doors and regardless of what we see with our vision, they are there for us to walk through
- Mission leads to "well done!" - the reward of being a faithful steward of what God has given is His continued protection and His blessings both now and later

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Can't See the Forest OR the Trees

"What did you learn today via the sermon?"

"That there's still a bishop of the church in Philadelphia."


Friday, September 11, 2009

Updated: Yes! Jesus Loves Me!

This picture is of a child named Sarah in Uganda who has received a New Testament and is reading Matthew 6:25-34 aloud.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life ?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matt 6:25-34 (NIV)

Look at the joy on her face. It made me weep. We are so blessed and so unaware of just what a treasure we have in Jesus. But SHE knows!

Go and check out the work of Children's Hope Chest and the pictures they are putting up on Flicker.

Go to Tom Davis' blog and read the story behind what they are doing and about Sarah.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Job Chapter 1

Well, we began our study of the book of Job last night. I'll be posting a recap every week of what we observed as a group in the text for those who might have missed the study.

1 There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil.
Job 1:1 (NLT)

The NLT begins the verse almost sounding like a children's story. It reflects an interesting phrasing in the Hebrew that serves to put the story in place as a stand alone work, and not a continuation of another.

The land of UZ - Abraham's hood, Uz "lying somewhere to the Northeast of Palestine. Tradition supports such a site. Josephus says "Uz founded Trachonitis and Damascus" (Ant., I, vi, 4). Arabian tradition places the scene of Job s sufferings in the Hauran at Deir Eiyūb (Job's monastery) near Nawa.—International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

"blameless" - does not means sinless. The word's use means "complete" and the sense is that he was a man of integrity - well balanced - aware of his nature and active in living out his devotion to Yahweh. That's also reiterated with the next clause and the follow-on sentence.

Then cue the ominous music... kind of a foreshadowing scene appears next.

2 He had seven sons and three daughters.3 He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and he employed many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.
Job 1:2-3 (NLT)

Knowing what we know already, we're thinking about just how much Job is about to lose, and yet I get the feeling that when Job saw this he simply saw God's blessings - His undeserved grace. He probably would have been surprised to know that he was the richest person in his area.

4 Job’s sons would take turns preparing feasts in their homes, and they would also invite their three sisters to celebrate with them.5 When these celebrations ended—sometimes after several days—Job would purify his children. He would get up early in the morning and offer a burnt offering for each of them. For Job said to himself, “Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular practice.
Job 1:4-5 (NLT)

So this is an extended family that is still very close. And their patriarch father is still very active in their lives - their spiritual lives. It was mentioned that Job was "a priest to his family", and that's exactly what Job is acting as. However I have to mention that there is no provision for someone making a sin offering for another person in the OT. But this dad was concerned that in all the celebration, his kids might have forgotten the God that made it all possible. "Cursed" seems to me to be too strong.

The same Hebrew word means to "curse," and to "bless"; GESENIUS says, the original sense is to "kneel," and thus it came to mean bending the knee in order to invoke either a blessing or a curse. Cursing is a perversion of blessing, as all sin is of goodness. Sin is a degeneracy, not a generation. It is not, however, likely that Job should fear the possibility of his sons cursing God. The sense "bid farewell to," derived from the blessing customary at parting, seems sufficient (Ge 47:10). Thus UMBREIT translates "may have dismissed God from their hearts"; namely, amid the intoxication of pleasure (Pr 20:1). This act illustrates Job's "fear of God" (Job 1:1).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

6 One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them.
Job 1:6 (NLT)

Oh would I love to see this scene. How does this work? Is it like a King's court with the thrones at the end of a great hall, and assorted court functionaries (in this case angels) and uh... Satan. In the Hebrew there is a definite article in front of the word "The Satan."

In the Book of Job, Satan is first designated by name: "Satan," Hebrew, "one who lies in wait"; an "adversary" in a court of justice (1Ch 21:1 Ps 109:6 Zec 3:1); "accuser" (Rev. 12:10).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

“Where have you come from?” the Lord asked Satan.

Satan answered the Lord, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”
Job 1:7 (NLT)

So with that scene in mind, and thousand upon thousand upon thousand of angels in front of Almighty God, God spots Satan. The pastor in me understands how easy it is to spot some one who is obviously at odds with what you are saying. You can be reading 1 Corinthians 13 and someone there might be upset with the songs we just sing, or with the Bible version you read and they look like they just bit down on a sour pickle.

I let it go.

God on the other hand.. spots the miscreant and singles him out. He asks what Satan has been doing and Satan gives him an update.

Cue that spooky music again.

8 Then the Lord asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”
Job 1:8 (NLT)

So God knows Job personally. Kind of heart warming. God is proud of His servant. Maybe Max Lucado is onto something when he writes that "your picture is on God's refrigerator."

And Satan knows Job well too.

9 Satan replied to the Lord, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God.10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”
Job 1:9-11 (NLT)

Satan knows human nature, and he's betting that nothing will in the end trump the human bent toward selfishness. Basically his premise is that Job is good because it's rewarding for him. That as long as his life is good, Job will be good. But when things change for the worse, Job will go back to normal human default behavior. "What's in it for me?"

So what we can gather from this interaction is that both God and Satan are very aware of what people do and what people ARE. Also that Satan has access to the very throne room of God. But more important - God and Satan are NOT equals. Satan only speaks when spoken to, and his actions are limited to what God will allow. Satan had evaluated Job's situation and saw that God's hand was on him and that he was untouchable unless God allowed tests and trials by Satan.


12 “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence.
Job 1:12 (NLT)

God sets the boundaries of the test. And Satan immediately goes to work. The results are devastating. Reread what God said to Satan. The limits of what Satan could have done included a range of options. Satan could have begun with small tests and worked his way up. He could have spread a series of sharp trials over a period of time. Instead one after another the reports of devastation come in, culminating with the loss of Job's family (with one notable exception).

13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house,14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news: “Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them,15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home.19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
Job 1:13-19 (NLT)

Now some of these occurances were things that happened normally in that area of the world. Tribes were always warring with each other, and bandits were always out to steal. But two of them were clearly what we would call "acts of God." "The fire of God" could have been volcanic activity, and the Scirocco winds of the area sometimes fierce. But it appears that Satan's license included use of whatever he chose to use.

My immediate reaction to this was a memory of the outcry after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans after some pastors suggested the possibility that God had caused it to happen. When you read this passage, you cannot say that God caused these calamities, but it is very clear that they would not have happened without his permission.

20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship.21 He said,

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,

and I will be naked when I leave.

The Lord gave me what I had,

and the Lord has taken it away.

Praise the name of the Lord!”

22 In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
Job 1:20-22 (NLT)

So after a series of devastating blows that took everything Job had the day before away including the family he loved so passionately - blows that occurred so close together there was no time to catch his breath - Job reacts by reminding himself and all of us of just where the blessings he had lost came from. He was devastated in grief and his actions showed it. I suspect you would have heard his weeping for miles.

But for all the pain and the heartbreak - Job collapses before his God.

Would we?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Beginning A Bible Study of Job Tonight

The Biblical truths in this book would rock many Christian's worlds if they were to seriously sit down and study it with an eye toward who we really are and Who God really is.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Recap 090609

Actually had a lot of fun with the graphics but they carried a deep truth about Christians who should be full of life and yet are living dead.

Ok, overall look at Sunday - lots of visitors and lots of home folks out of town or just out. Still, good crowd. After last weekend's highlight of the beach baptism and cookout I had selected songs that really focused on praising God, even though they didn't really mesh with the message. I just had to celebrate and thought that the rest of New Hope would want to as well.

"How can I Keep From Singing?" - Tomlin
"O Praise Him" - Crowder
"Hosanna" - Baloche

"Come Just As You Are"

My hope for the message was to set it in context then and bridge to today. Sardis was rich and totally free of the trials that the other churches were experiencing because they had religion but not a living relationship. It happens. I spent some time on what the "requirements of my God" meant for today, and how that would play out in the life of a believer today.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Live Churches

“Live churches are constantly changing. Dead churches don’t have to.
Live churches have lots of noisy kids. Dead churches are fairly quiet.

Live churches move out in faith. Dead churches operate totally by human sight.
Live churches focus on people. Dead churches focus on programs.

Live churches are filled with tithers. Dead churches are filled with tippers.
Live churches don’t have ‘can’t’ in their dictionary. Dead churches have nothing but.

Live churches strategize about vital kingdom issues. Dead churches focus on the mundane.
Live churches evangelize. Dead churches fossilize.”