Thursday, April 24, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
My cell phone went off just as we were saying the closing prayer to our elders-minister meeting Sunday afternoon. I got a little flustered trying to find the mute switch, so we got almost a whole chorus of "Your are God Alone" by Phillips, Craig and Dean as part of our prayer. "You are God alone. From before time began, you are on your throne; you are God alone." Not a bad prayer theme when you think about it. What was really funny was listening to the elders trying hard not to laugh as I fumbled with the phone. And what was really funny is that while I finally muted the phone, I didn't hang it up. So Tressa (who had called me) listened to the rest of our closing prayer. I guess she thought she'd accidentally called "Dial-a-Prayer!" I'll probably check to make sure the thing is on mute next time.
I remember Rubel Shelly telling about his cell phone going off while he was preaching a funeral... twice. That is embarrassing, but the funeral director assured him that it was nothing compared to a funeral that they did sometime before. The deceased had left instructions for the song from the Wizard of Oz "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (her favorite song) to be played while people filed by the casket during the viewing. Whoever was in charge of hitting the play button forgot to the check the track info on the CD. Instead of Judy Garland, the song that played was the Munchkins singing, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."
Come to think of it, Rubel told that at Pepperdine one year. Did I mention that we're leaving Thursday?
Friday, April 18, 2008
Unfortunately, his ministry is not self-supporting. His wife has recently returned to work, and he is paid (as I understand it) to work with and counsel at risk kids by the state. Because he is paid for by tax-payer funds, there is a limit to what he can say and do. In fact, they have made him stop using the word “virtues.” That word “sounds too religious” and using it is too close to “proselytizing.” The term “Character Qualities” is OK, but “virtue” is definitely out. The reason that Duke came by to visit is that he is trying to raise funds so he can afford to refuse
state money with its constraints.
What a shame that the concept of “virtue” is considered too partisan or parochial to be used in a secular context. May God bless people like Duke and Duchess who
are making a difference in the lives of those who need God so desperately.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I think he makes some great points. We don't invite people to visit with us unless we really enjoy what is going on and want to share it. If we enjoy what is going on in church and think it is important, then the only reason we would not want to invite people to come with us is because we don't really care. Or haven't thought about it. So think about it. And care.
It’s even better if the majority of the guests aren’t church hopping and shopping. If all your guests are from other churches then it may be a sign that your church is judged to be safe by disgruntled Christians who are fleeing churches that are trying new things. Not exactly the kind of people with whom I want to fill a room. It could also mean that your church is doing some really great things and the word has gotten
out among the consumer Christians and they’ve come to check out your church just like they plan on checking out the new Bottomless Buffet restaurant that has just opened up in the shopping center across town. Again, not ideal, but it is a sign of vitality.
Even more important than the number of guests each is week is the number of guests who are there because someone from your church invited them come. This indicates a number of things. People from your church feel good enough about what’s going on there to talk about it with others and extend an invitation. It also means they’re spending time with people outside the church, hopefully with people who are chasing down the answers to some big questions.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of
. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Egypt the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they Israel
were no longer able to resist. (Judges 2:12-14)
This sets up a cycle in Judges of prosperity, rebellion, captivity, repentance and liberation that repeats itself over and over again in the book.
How's this for coincidence-- the Greek form of the Hebrew name "Joshua" is "Jesus." If we will keep looking to our Joshua and be careful not to turn to the left or the right, then we'll do better in our trek to the Promised Land.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Think about it. The bar is a place where people from all walks of life gather. Some come right from work, loosen their tie, and have a drink to relax. Others come to celebrate an event or watch a game with friends. Then there are those who come in deep despair. Whatever drives people to a bar, the bartender is the only person who interacts with all of them. The bartender is often the promise of acceptance and the hope of forgetfulness. What if the bartender were a Christian? How many times a day could he share his life with another person? How many open conversations would he have every day? How bight would his light shine in the darkness?What if a new family placed membership at our church and wrote on their family information sheet under employment, "Christian bartender?" Would Jesus spend time in a bar? Well, Jesus did have a negative reputation for hanging around the wrong places with the wrong people. His negative rep came from church folks (the Pharisees) who defined righteousness based on outward appearances and associations. Jesus went to parties with publicans in order to bring them into the kingdom of God. Maybe some who follow Jesus will indeed be led to do behind a bar?
That may sound like a stretch. But I hope that if someone does see their ministry in that way, being part of our church would be for them a place of being uplifted and encouraged... and not a source of criticism and condemnation.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
There was a Senate Commerce Committee meeting yesterday that allowed Senators the chance to bluster about concerns for constituents. Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas was concerned that people who don't type the "exact right" Web address for the coupon program may not be able to find it (unless they've heard of Google, I guess). Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska was worried that all the "TV public service announcements" that will take place (and already are) over the next year announcing the changeover and coupon program may not not succeed in getting the word out. He worries about "those people in rural areas who rely on the (TV) system but don't pay attention to it." They rely on TV for information (so they need it) but don't really pay attention to it (so they won't get the word)? Does that make sense?
I wonder if that says something about the church and the Bible. Just think about how important the Bible is to our "official" church meetings. Sunday morning begins with 45 minutes of Bible classes, and the biggest part of the worship service is a sermon from the Bible. Small groups on Sunday (and other) nights center around Bible discussion. While the kids are doing their WOW Bible classes on Wednesday night, the adults are studying through the Old Testament as a support to our daily Bible reading program. So that is a lot of emphasis on the Bible, right? We really do rely on it.
But do we pay attention to it? Do we change our behavior based on all the "public service announcements" that we come across each week in the Bible? Are our lives continually changed and challenged by all the time we spend studying the Bible? Or is the Bible something we rely on but just don't pay any attention to? Does that make sense?
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
One of the questions they ask is "Do I Have to Go to Church?" Their answer surprised me. They didn't exactly answer "No," but they did suggest that "going to church" for many today not a very effective way to do whatever it was that going to church was to do for people in the first century. They suggest that church should "motivate me on my spiritual journey, to give me an opportunity to worship God, to serve the world, to develop strong relationships with other Christians, to be able to ask questions that really bother me, to greet others with the same love with which Jesus greeted the crowd that came to him." Going to church was never supposed to be about an organized institution, slickly produced worship program or comfortable all-occasion building.
Personally, I think the authors do a pretty good job pointing to some of our assumptions that need to be rethought. But they also never really get around to answering, "Do I really need to go to church?" I thought it was interesting that they use the mystery and liturgy of Orthodox worship as an example of recapturing an emphasis on awe in the presence of God. But Orthodox worship doesn't really emphasize interaction and sharing with other worshipers... which the authors stress earlier in the chapter. But that being said, I think we do need to understand that sometimes our ways of doing church may not be as helpful as they could be.
So, do I have to go to church? Phil Ware has an excellent article in Heartlight that does a good job answering that question. Spend some time reading it. Are there better ways the church can address the needs of people to connect with God and one another in worship, fellowship and service? I suspect that there are! I also suspect that no one way of doing church will ever meet those needs for everyone in all places at all times.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Something else comes April 1-- It is now THIS month! According to the countdown timer on my Google Gadgets sidebar, there are 22 days, 14 hours and 52 minutes until we leave for our annual trip to the Pepperdine Lectures (we’re spending the 3 days before the lectures in Palm Springs this year instead of our usual Pismo Beach). Another indication that it is getting close to time for the trip is the increasing difficulty I have getting on my computer at home. The closer we get to Pepperdine, the longer Lynn is on the computer reading the lecture schedule, researching the trip, and trying to decide what the weather is going to be so that she’ll know what to pack. Of course, she usually ends up taking everything regardless of the weather. It’s not that we look forward to the trip. Well, OK, maybe just a little.
Quote for the day. This comes from Al Maxey, who has come to be one of my heroes. We writes a weakly email treatise called “Reflections.” Al has a great way of exploring and explaining issues in great detail. So here’s the quote—
I doubt there are many disciples of Christ who can truthfully say they are in 100% agreement with every other disciple in their congregation. I'm not sure there are even any two disciples who are in total agreement on everything taught in Scripture. Yet, we are ready to fight and/or flee over just about anything. This is truly a great tragedy. Our unity in Christ ought to be more enduring than that; it shouldn't crumble whenever two people/groups differ. But, it does ... and when it does, Satan wins yet another battle, and the Body of Christ is weakened just that much more.