9.09.2006

moving

I'm moving to a new site, if you're interested. It's still in transtion, but I won't be using this one anymore. Goodbye Blogger. You've been a big help, but it's time to move.

7.07.2006

signpost

I'm not certain, but I think last night was a turning point for me and for a few others. We've just begun the most intentional attempt yet at starting small groups in our church. The initial group has only met three times. And last night we got real. We prayed for one another, we shared our struggles and we began to become a true small group, as opposed to a group learning what it means to begin a small group ministry. Thank God.

I have spent too much time in the desert in the last year or so. Too much time. I've found a couple of oases here and there, true. But I'm ready and praying for God to bring me out to the Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. Others in the group are as well.

Call this post mile marker 01 on the road out of the desert. Amen.

5.02.2006

nailed it...

I know it's been a long time since I last posted, but let's get things going again. If you get the chance, you gotta take a look at this video clip from "King of the Hill." It is frighteningly funny and all too real. Does it grab you? Make you think? Make you cry or just make you laugh? I'd love to know.

3.22.2006

the post that isn't meant to be

I could write something here. I've tried four or five times already. But every time it just comes out whiny and pathetic. Every feel that way? Like there are several things you'd like to say, but you know you will hurt someone or be misunderstood or just come off looking like a loser? That's the way I feel write now, so I'll stop. If I stop now we'll all be better off. Best turn these things into prayer, huh?

3.18.2006

if it wasn't this...

I have led a life that would be considered by most to be a "charmed" life. So few crises, so few real challenges. I've had a few lately, but I am always able to look around and see others who deal with greater challenges than I do. I am at once grateful and sad. Glad to find the grace to deal with the little we are handed. Sad that others struggle as much as they do.

I finally watched "Elizabethtown" the other day. It wasn't a GREAT movie, but I enjoyed it. There were touches of greatness and grace in it. In the film Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) loses his father. His father was visting family in Kentucky (Elizabethtown, of course) when he died. Baylor must go to pick up his father's body and bring it back to Oregon. On his way to the airport his mother and sister remark about something his father used to say all the time (which they are all able to recite together): "If it wasn't this, it would be something else." What a philosophy for life. If it wasn't this, it would be something else. How true. There is no way to escape the challenges of life. Some challenges may be "easier" than others, but there will always be something else.

The other element of the story which resonated with me was the theme of failure and risk. I am too often afraid of failure and so find it hard to take too many big risks. This is especially true of my calling as pastor. "Elizabethtown" encourages me to risk a bit more, to realize that it takes real courage to risk, fail and stick around. Oh that I could go through life -- all of life -- chanting the mantra, "If it wasn't this, it would be something else."

3.04.2006

core values 3

We value a growing understanding of what the Apostle Paul calls, “the rule of love”, what Jesus calls the “Greatest Commandment”…

In this Greatest Commandment we are commanded to do two things: love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. I have been influenced, first by my own reflection and then by the reflections of others that this “rule of love” rises above absolutely anything else we might say about what it means to follow Jesus. As Jesus himself said of this commandment: “all the law and the prophets hang on these two” or elsewhere, “there is no commandment greater than these.”

The one half of this commandment is all about our relationship with God, a relationship that is all consuming (in the best possible sense). In other words, we love God with our whole being, spiritual and physical. We give ourselves to God in worship and devotion. We pursue God in the belief that there is simply nothing else that could or should rival his place in our lives. This includes private and corporate worship, of course, but it also includes our growth as people of the Book. Scripture is where we come to learn what it means to love God in such a way. Jesus said that those of us who truly love God do so by keeping his commandments. Obedience is our primary act of love. Obedience requires that we regularly, purposefully and prayerfully encounter and interact with God in Scripture.

Loving God in such way also requires our intentional worship of him. This worship is both private (devotional and daily) and public (corporately as the gathered people of God). This worship is Christ-centered, Christ-exalting and Christ-magnifying. There should be no doubt in the minds of any and all who join us for worship that we are, first and foremost, followers of Jesus.

The second half of this Greatest Commandment is about how we related to others. We are to love our neighbors. Who are our neighbors? Quite simply, when Jesus was asked that question he answered with what we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable the “good neighbor” turns out to be the enemy, the one looked down upon and despised. The implication (if not the outright intention) of the parable is to show us that we are to be a neighbor to absolutely anyone in need, friend or foe. Jesus makes this even clearer when he tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are to love our enemies, not just those who are like us.

Love is not emotion in this commandment. Love is action. Love is verb that calls for action even when we feel nothing but the most intense feelings of hatred. It is choosing to do the loving thing when that is least what we wish to do.

2.22.2006

core values 2

We value a growing understanding of what it means to be a true community of faith…

Community is not an easy thing to define, but it clearly has to do with healthy, interdependent relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ, centered around common purposes, interests or goals.

If God’s ultimate purpose is that “earth and heaven be one” then so should ours be. If God’s purpose is that we more and more resemble the shalom people of God, then so should ours be. If the value mentioned above is true for us, then the present and growing Kingdom of God is one of the key goals around which we are to center this community of faith. This means that we as the gathered and dispersed people of God live our lives, approve our budgets, make our plans, adapt our ways of doing things (and preserve our ways of doing things) as they contribute to the building of the Kingdom of God in our midst, our geographical community and our world. If what we are doing or planning to do does not build and nourish that Kingdom, then we dare not do it. This requires prayer, humility, self-sacrifice and honesty with ourselves and with one another.

If we truly value community we not only center our lives around common goals and purposes, but we do so in authentic Christ-honoring relationships with one another. This means we hold one another accountable in our individual walks with Christ. It means caring for one another in practical, authentic ways. It means dealing with one another in loving ways, forsaking all forms of behavior that damage relationships, destroy unity and therefore corrupt our worship and our witness in the world. And, when we fail in these relationships, valuing community means making those relationships right. It means reconciliation with those who have wronged us or those whom we have wronged. It means confessing our sins to one another and confronting one another in love and truth when we feel that we have been “sinned against.” It means asking for forgiveness when we sin and granting forgiveness to those who sin against us. It means refusing to gossip or backbit or slander others. It means speaking out when such behaviors are going on around us.

Community is about purpose and mission and it is about relationships with one another. Jesus himself prayed for us in John 17 that we be one so that the world would know that God the Father sent him. Our witness suffers when our unity suffers. Our unity suffers when we do not value and nourish community.