The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs


As Aesop tells the story, once a Man and his Wife had the good fortune to possess a Goose which laid a Golden Egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it in order to secure the whole store of precious metal at once. But when they cut it open they found it was just like any other goose. Thus, they neither got rich all at once, as they had hoped, nor enjoyed any longer the daily addition to their wealth. The moral being: Much wants more and loses all.

But...

What if there was something more to the story? Is there more?

"Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?" "

We read these words from the Master and hear morals to the story too. So I ask,

Do you love the goose that lays the golden eggs or will you simply love the goose for being a goose?

A Christmas Cubmaster Minute - Silent Night

It is our annual Christmas Cub Scout Pack meeting tonight. Knowing that there are plenty of Cubmasters (and Scoutmasters) looking for something to say. I ran across this story and thought it gave a simple point appropriate for us all...

The story begins in 1818 in a church in the little Austrian town of Oberndorf. Shortly before Christmas Eve, a mouse ate a hole in the leather bellows of the church organ, effectively silencing it. The itinerant organ mender was not due in town for months, and music was needed for the Christmas Eve service. In three and one-half hours, Franz Gruber, the organist, composed music for a poem written by Josef Mohr, a priest. It began "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht" ("Silent Night, Holy Night"). On Christmas Eve, the two men sang their composition accompanied by a guitar and children's chorus. They were a great success.

The great traditions of this season often began as small, simple acts. Franz Gruber, did his best on that Christmas Eve night and created a simple musical number that has helped millions give honor to God on Christmas Eve ever since.

When you hear Silent Night or sing it this year, remember, you don't have to be the best at every thing you just have to do every thing with your best.

Muppet Moment - Bohemian Rhapsody



H/T to Rob Lester (awesome bass player @ Crossroads UMC)

HEY! Don't miss going over to FAO Schwarz to the Muppet Whatnot Workshop and design your own muppet! You can even order your own custom muppet - how cool is that.

Musical Interlude - God Sends Quails





This is my all time favorite album but tonight driving home, this song managed to catch my attention. The whole song speaks to a reality of the spiritual journey, ignored in "pop" Christianity - brokenness.

77s - Sticks and Stones - God Sends Quails

You fail
You try half-hearted and fail
One foot drags behind you
One foot tripping in front of you

You fail
You spit out manna, God sends quails
Dry bones pile up behind you
More wet mirages in front of you

You can't go back
You can't go back

You failed
You sunk like Jonah to the whale
Big mouths follow behind you
Still small voice swallowed up by you

You failed
You picked the right time to fail
Got your past behind you
Got your future in front of you

You can't go back
You can go on

You failed
You picked the right time to fail

Got your past behind you
Got your future in front of you

You can't go back
You can go on

You can't go back
You can go on

You can't go back
You can go on

At The Movies - Polar Express


(My recommendation - just watch the movie - then read the sermon ;)

Here is this great discussion on the roof of the Polar Express between the main character and this bum-like-character who is also ghost-like, maybe even Holy Ghost like. He says the words that express what we all feel at one time or another when it comes to religion or the idea of God in general. We don’t want to be bamboozled. We don’t want to be led down the primrose path. If we’re going to hang our hat on something, especially as something as important as religion which has underpinnings and roots in every part of our lives, well, we want to know as much as we can know that what we believe is real.

Because belief has become a bad word – a scary word – at times, even a weapon. Belief has come to mean a crutch to some. To believe, means to many, that we surrender our intelligence and thoughtfulness. Believing does not fit with our scientific method – though that has not always been the case nor do all accept that premise. Still for others, belief has been used in religion to isolate and coral people. It has led some to say, “I don't fit in there” and “I don't want to go to that church.”

Before we follow the light down the roof of the Polar Express, I want alert everyone in here to an important reality in this sacred place today: Not everyone here believes the same. This church was begun to be a different kind of church. We have sought to be a place not by catagories or litmus tests but to help all on their journey to feel welcomed to connect to God through the Holy Spirit and become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our journeys, like those of each kid on the Polar Express have been different and along that way, we've had our doubts. Maybe not about God but certainly about the Christian faith and the church. Some have given up and said so long to what they call, “organized religion.” You might be there or have been there. Look, I don't blame you. In your shoes or theirs, I might have found myself the same place.

Does that mean I've got some kind of evidence or iron clad proof to give you? No. Do I no longer have any doubts? No. Fact is as Pastor Chris Bryant noted - “With greater faith comes greater challenges to that faith.” Sounds kind of like Spiderman's Uncle Ben and the idea “with great power comes great responsibility.” I can't tell you how many conversations I have had with people who said they admired my faith – who talked about wishing they had the faith to step out and do something like start a new church. But the truth is, I don't see a great faith in me because surrounding me, day in and day out, are the doubts that have always haunted me. If my faith is somehow bigger than yours – you need to know, my doubts match the intensity.

READ Luke 1:5-20

I'm wondering why the angel give Zechariah such a hard time? I mean what did he do that was so bad that the angel says he can’t speak until the words that the angel said would come true? Well, maybe, in the same way the main character in the Polar Express can’t hear the bell, Zechariah can’t speak.

You see, both were presented with things their senses told them was real, but both had heart issues... and they struggled with believing in their heart and so struggled to move believing into having faith and so, acting. Maybe it doesn’t matter what God does or doesn’t do to some regard, because until we believe in our heart we’re deaf or blind or mute in some way to all that God is really up to.

THE POWER OF BELIEF… (Scene: boy at the North Pole, picks up the bell)
Belief can change everything… Belief affects everything. I do believe that belief is a doorway through which an entire new world is opened up to us. Can beliefs be wrong? Yes. Yes they can. If you saw my Facebook page this past week, quite a conversation began over a quote from a 17th century priest I posted. History tells us he made mistakes and was called on the carpet, suffered consequences, owned up to them and found the grace to live by faith.

That’s why I’m especially comfortable in a faith (Christian faith) and a particular strain within that faith (United Methodism) that encourages thinking and discussion and at times even debate. I’m willing to think and let think while I hang my hat on the essentials which is why the creeds of the church are so important.

Is your bell “muted” because of disbelief? May these bells be a reminder of a place where you can come, regardless of how much or how little belief you have and hopefully find welcome, find strength, find encouragement and maybe if you don’t have it now, someday also find belief.

(H/T to Pastor Chris Bryant at City On A Hill UMC for his work providing the foundation for this series.)

Polar Express Begins Journey @ Shelton Elementary Tonight!

Don't miss tonight as the Polar Express begins the holiday!

5-8pm at Shelton Elementary School on Cedarcrest Road. Don't miss it!

This Holiday Help Your Family...Believe


This Sunday at Crossroads UMC is going to be a blast!! I so can't wait! But to make the most of it, let me encourage your family to take advantage of the Polar Express Resources for Families at Home Word Ministries.

You'll not want to miss the 'special guest' who will be helping out for sure. ;)

A Season of Influence

It was the early 1930's and it was Christmas Eve. As late Christmas shoppers hurried along the street, a crippled newsboy stood on crutches offering papers to the passersby. He looked happy, and his crutches were decorated with evergreens.
One man greeted him with a cheerful smile, "My boy, you surely have the Christmas spirit." The boy replied "What's the use of looking and acting sad? Sure, I am poor and lame, but that's no reason for looking glum. I won't get presents like other boys at Christmas, but I can have fun, too. So I decorated my crutches just to make them seem special for Christmas."

I remember distinctly the Christmas that I did not get “The Six Million Dollar Man.” It was the hot toy! The toy we all just HAD TO HAVE!!! I remember my parents look of disappointment in me and I remember I did not care. Today, I do not even have that action figure. It all seems so long ago and thankfully I have grown up a lot. My parents had a lot to do with that and so did all those around me.

Today, I am on the receiving end of those same cries of things that just have to be had. Hopefully that makes you feel better, knowing that pastor's kids are no different than other kids – after all they are kids! It is what we do as a community that shapes the attitudes and ideals that our children develop. Who is it that surrounds our kids? Not just their peers but who are the families? Above all, what is the message?

When I look at the stories of Jesus' life growing up, there is not much history given to us. The physician Luke, gives us the best glimpse of Jesus' formative years. In the first two chapters of that history, Jesus is surrounded by everyday people like shepherds. He lives in the company of family and even hangs out with the most educated men of his day.

Such were the influences that surrounded Jesus. Mary and Joseph did not appear to take for granted those who might have influenced God's Son.

In a time such as we live in today, we need to hear again Jesus' words, words to strengthen faith and bring hope, words of influence reminding us things are nothing compared to a connection to God, "Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? (Luke 12:27-28, NASB)”

If we seek joy, it will elude us. If we seek to share joy, as Jesus did, we will find it. This Christmas, whether you have little or much, it makes no difference. It will be what you share that counts.

Christmas At The Movies



Don't miss the start of our Christmas series beginning this week! If you do, you'll just have to pick it up on the mp3 but you'll be missing out on all the other great stuff!

It seemed appropriate to launch this with a reminder of how wonderful life is and talk about the hope that the Christmas Season promises.

Remember - Baptism


As the official rode along in his carriage, he was reading the prophet Isaiah out loud. The Spirit said to Philip, "Go to that carriage, and stay close to it." Philip ran to the carriage and could hear the official reading the prophet Isaiah out loud. Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you're reading?" The official answered, "How can I understand unless someone guides me?" So he invited Philip to sit with him in his carriage. This was the part of the Scriptures that the official was reading: "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was like a sheep that is silent when its wool is cut off. He didn't open his mouth. When he humbled himself, he was not judged fairly. Who from his generation will talk about his life on earth being cut short?" The official said to Philip, "I would like to know who the prophet is talking about. Is he talking about himself or someone else?" Then Philip spoke. Starting with that passage, Philip told the official the Good News about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water. The official said to Philip, "Look, there's some water. What can keep me from being baptized?" (OMITTED TEXT) The official ordered the carriage to stop. He and Philip stepped into the water, and Philip baptized him. (Act 8:28-38)

(Before beginning, I invite you to read “By Water and the Spirit” as it represents the primary source material for this sermon and the United Methodist Church's full statement on baptism)

Health care has been put front and center in our lives lately but have you picked up on the next “big thing?” It has been planned to come to your home and take your breath away – literally. As one part of the team says - “The breath is a window into the blood.” Yep, we'll be able to smell how you're doing by your breath. Breath-mints anyone?

Breath is more than 99% water, but roughly 3000 other compounds have been detected in human breath. An average sample contains at least 200 other components, including bits of DNA, proteins, bacteria and fats floating in the mist. We're a water people, but then the Biblical story has been clear we have always been wishy-washy.

From the beginning of the Biblical record, God gave us the opportunity to choose God or choose our own way. Ever since we chose our own way we've been wishy-washy. This is what makes the covenant of God so significant and the sacraments so important to remember.

In both the Old and New Testament, God enters into covenant relationship with
God’s people. A covenant involves promises and responsibilities of both parties; it is instituted through a special ceremony and expressed by a distinguishing sign. In the old covenant it was circumcision. (Genesis 17:1-14, Exodus 24:1-12). In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God fulfilled the prophecy of a new covenant and called forth the Church as a servant community (Jeremiah 31:31-34, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). For Christians, that sign would be baptism.

Baptism, like communion, is a sacrament. A sacrament is intended to help us a remember that God is the one doing the offering – it is he who is giving the gift. It differs in this way from a dedication where we make a gift of a life to God for God to accept. We believe that the sacrament of baptism is as much for the child or youth or adult – the parents – the grandparents and for you and me. We remember and proclaim what God has Done.

But some ask why should I be baptized?

1. IT FOLLOWS THE EXAMPLE OF JESUS.

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river. Mark 1:9

2. IT HONORS JESUS' TEACHING.

Jesus said, “Go then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and then teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20

3. IT DEMONSTRATES MY COMMITMENT JESUS.
We know that we have come to know Him, if we obey His commands. 1 Jn 2:3
Those who believed and accepted His message were baptized… Acts 2:41
But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12
One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, ...And after she was baptized, and her household as well, (Act 16:15)
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. (Act 18:8)

Of course the questions don't end there. Remembering the heritage is important to understanding the answers to some of those such as...

WHY DO YOU BAPTIZE INFANTS?
New Testament contains no explicit mandate, there is ample evidence for the baptism of infants in Scripture (Acts 2:38-41, 16:15,33) and in early Christian doctrine and practice. Polycarp (69-155 AD), a disciple of the Apostle John, was baptized as an infant. Justin Martyr (100-166 AD) of the next generation, about the year 150 AD, states in his Dialog with Trypho The Jew that Baptism is the circumcision of the New Testament." Irenaeus (130-200 AD) writes in Against Heresies II 22:4 that Jesus came to save all through means of Himself -- all, I say, who through Him are born again to God -- infants and children, boys and youth, and old men." (I don't agree with the theology but the research by Dr. Dennis Kastens is solid: Infant Baptism History)

Infant baptism is based on the understanding that God prepares the way of faith before we request or even know that we need help. This grace that goes before is often referred to as prevenient grace (UMC).

It is sometimes asked DO I NEED TO BE REBAPTIZED?

Nope, once is enough, no matter what denomination baptized you. Remember, this is God's work.

You're United Methodists so you sprinkle when you baptize, right?
No, our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Immersions tradition comes from John the baptist but sprinkling came from the Old Testament, Num. 19:18-19 and Psalm 51.7-12. I've jokingly said that we'll spray you down with a hose.

The amount of water that covers our bodies will never be sufficient to enact change in our souls. “Baptism,” Maxie Dunnam says, “doesn't explain, it proclaims.” Whether it is a baby baptized, a youth, or an adult, baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace – God's gift, a gift in Jesus Christ which has been offered to us all. This is what the man declared to Philip, not that he had done something but he believed GOD had offered Him grace. Baptism is a representation that GOD HAS MOVED, DOES MOVE AND WILL MOVE to bring us into connection with Himself.

How can I "remember [my] baptism and be thankful" when I was baptized as a baby?

What we are called to remember in reaffirmation is the gift of God's grace, not a particular event. Through this celebration, we can "remember" our baptism as much as we "remember" our own birthday each year.

Click here for the link to Crossroad's MP3 collection.

Family Man Big Buck Contest

It is so time for Christian guys to be, well, guys! I'm not talking about being some kind of bizarre "superman" kind of thing. I'm so all over The Family Man Web's Big Buck Contest.

Okay, I admit it, this was the first thing I clicked on when I came over to check out this site...how awesome is that for a contest! Thanks to Lori at All You Have To Give who definitely has done great work in watching out for the women out there.

It just started, the rut is in full swing now down here in Georgia and I know it is other places. Fall turkey season is cranking in other states and waterfowl season is about to open down south. Get your sons and daughters out if you can too. Now is the time - get out and make some stories!

Remember - Communion

1 Corinthians 11:23-29
I remember the coupon. It was kindergarten and I had been awarded a yellow coupon – one free cheeseburger at McDonalds. I remember taking that coupon in hand with fear and trembling because I had never had a yellow coupon before. I was a plain white coupon kid – straight up hamburger kind of guy. No cheese had ever defaced my burger. So it was that a few days later, with my dad willing to sacrifice and eat the cheeseburger, that I Kenneth Lee Hagler, presented the yellow coupon to the cashier at the McDonalds in Starkville, Mississippi. With that first bite, a whole new world opened for me – cheese was a good thing – No – it was a GREAT thing on a burger!

On the night that he was betrayed, Jesus certainly did more than add cheese to hamburger. Jesus did more than just break bread and pour out juice. Jesus did more than interrupt the celebration of the Jewish Passover meal. He He gave us himself. In communion, this reality is what we remember.

The communion meal is a mystery. For centuries, there have been different thoughts among Christians on this meal. I have come to respect all of those that respect the meal. When Paul wrote to correct the Corinthians, he gave to us the first and most basic ritual of communion. And what he was saying to those who were gathered – remember the meaning – don't play with this – it is seriously GREAT!

The United Methodist has 43 page document titled, Holy Mystery
that outlines how the United Methodist Church understands all of communion. It is good reading but it isn't a sermon – it is more like a little homework – as I'm sure you don't want me to read off a paper!

Where it gets personal is this – Jesus took bread and wine – and he set them aside in a ritual. They became the essential tangible items through which Jesus connects to us. We remember what Christ did in the past, receive his presence in our lives today and place our hope in a future God has promised. The past, present and future connect with us.

But why should a person even take communion?

It follows Jesus' example.
Mark and Matthew's Gospels record the words that reflect that Jesus took part in the ritual. "Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:25)

It honors Jesus' teaching.
We understand that the communion meal was something Jesus taught to be done often...
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. (1Co 11:26 NASB)

It demonstrates my faith in Jesus.
The record in Acts records how the early church made communion a habit as did the early church as a whole.
Acts 2:46 "Day by day, attending the Temple together and breaking bread in their homes…"
Acts 20:11 "And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed."

What about the questions around communion?
Why do you let children take communion?
When children come forward we tell them the bread and juice remind them that Jesus loves them very much. After all, this is the truth we all need to hear! Jesus said we should not stop the little children from coming to him and if the bread and juice represent him, it is appropriate for children to come.

Why is grape juice used rather than wine?
It came about during the 19th century in response to prohibitions of alcohol and the growing problem of alcoholism and continues through to today.

Why do you use bread with yeast when Jesus didn't?
It has been in question for a number of years what meal it was exactly that Jesus celebrated in the upper room. The word used for bread in Greek could refer to any type of bread, with or without yeast. Of greater importance is our belief in an open table where all can come and receive.

What do you believe happens to the elements?
We believe that the elements are a tangible way through which God can work though the elements though they remain bread and juice. John Wesley wrote that this “This is the food of our souls: This gives strength to perform our duty, and leads us on to perfection” (“The Duty of Constant Communion,” I.3).

What do you do with the leftovers?
Traditionally, the elements are returned to creation or consumed by those who prepare and serve. The handling of the bread and juice should be handled and used with reverence.

Can anyone take communion @ Crossroads?
The answer is yes. We call our table an open one. You don't have to be a United Methodist or a member. You may not even feel worthy. You may not even be a Christian. We believe this simple meal with all its meaning, is God offering us grace.

This meal is a chance to remember that Jesus is all we need. We'll never experience God fully if we act like a diner who keeps interupting their meal to go eat at the restaurant next door, says author Larry Crabb. This is food for our soul.


Remember...begins this Sunday



I'm really excited about the next two weeks at Crossroads UMC as we look at the two practices Jesus told us we should remember to do - Communion and Baptism. This week, as we take a look at Communion, I want to recommend a little reading.

Check out This Holy Mystery. This is an explanation of the background, meaning and practice of Communion in the United Methodist Church.

Heroes & Villains - Part 2



Sometimes the Villain is the Hero...
There are a lot of negative outcomes surrounding discrimination. But maybe the worst thing about discrimination is how it contributes to disconnection. We build barriers and walls and push away those who might be the very ones who are meant to bring hope and joy into our world. But the unknown, the concealed parts of our lives including the potential for pain, make it nearly impossible to move forward.

The relationship between Bella and Edward in the Twilight series highlights this and this one scene captures the tension that exists throughout the series of novels. “What if, I am not the hero? What if I am the bad guy?” And in all that we've been taught, we know that Edward must be a monster for after all, Edward is a vampire.

But author Stephanie Meyers challenges us with the question, a tension that exists in Edward's own character – What if the villain is in fact the hero? It was on his death bed that Edward was turned into a vampire by one who was also a doctor. A doctor named Carlisle Cullen.

Carlisle was the son of minister in the 18th century when he was bitten and because of his convictions, fought to live a new way. Now stop and imagine this – a doctor with over 200 years of medical training. A doctor with a moral compass, a conviction not to survive off of humanity but to heal humanity. A vampire, surviving off of animals rather than humans.

Sometimes the villain is the hero.

This truth has been at the heart of the spiritual struggle that takes place behind the scenes in our world. The story of Elijah the prophet of God in the Old Testament illustrates the ongoing struggle of spiritual warfare. The Bible tells us that King Ahab and Queen Jezabel probably did more evil in the sight of God than any other King or Queen of God's people. In fact, they didn't even worship God but instead chose to worship Baal. In the face of this idolatry, Elijah stood firm and condemned the false worship. Ahab and Jezabel did all they could to dicredit and destroy Elijah. The nation wasn't sure who to believe. In the most powerful exchange in 1Ki 18:17-18 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Is this you, you troubler of Israel?" (18) [Elijah] said, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (NASB)

What happened to Elijah was a pattern that would continue and has continued for all who follow after God. To the religious leaders of the day, Jesus, was himself called the villain. Matthew records in chapter 12 the story of a man who was blind and couldn't speak, he

“(22)...was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. (23) All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?" (24) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons." (25) And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. (26) "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? (27) "If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. (28) "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Mat 12:22-28 NASB”
The Jewish religious leaders had already discovered that Jesus was out of their control. In their minds, he was not “their messiah.” He regularly did things they did not approve of, like spending time with prostitutes, fishermen, shepherds and tax collectors. He healed people on the Sabbath and even touched the most vile to heal even! Rather than try to control, they sought to destroy – to discredit and lie.

What do they say? They say Jesus is of the devil! Of all things they could say they try to discredit Jesus by saying he is of the devil. And it is here that Jesus gives the famous - “house divided” teaching. In these lines Jesus again highlights this core value of evil that I spoke last week - '"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (Joh 8:42-44, NASB)

Paul points out what should be evident, is the character of Jesus. Imitated by evil of course, this is what we have to be careful about. But Paul wrote to the Galatian church that the “...fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 (NASB))”

I can best describe it this way. The pastor that had the biggest impact on my life wasn't the best preacher or the best chaplain. No, Malloy Owens showed it to me because of a life that was simply being a Christian – a word that means literally: “little Christ.” Malloy wasn't boisterous but was simply the kind of guy you liked to hang out with. He wasn't my pastor for more than two years but it was enough. Even within the face of opposition, Malloy showed in his life, the character of Christ – the fruit of the Spirit.

It wasn't a character that Malloy created in himself but what Jesus did in and through him. It is this change that puts God and others first that shows through our lives – it is the loving acts done one at a time that mark the hero from the villain. The devil is in the details – the fine print – the words – Satan is a liar. But Jesus came not to change words and details but to make a difference in our lives – heroes are always found in actions – one loving act at a time.

Heroes & Villains - Part 1



Throughout the story of Harry Potter, there is a denial of any possibility that the great evil wizard, Lord Voldemort could still be alive after his disapperance. Over and over, Voldemort's followers are able to manipulate and infiltrate the ranks of authority and power. The turning point finally coming when Voldemort replaces one of the most powerful wizards with a look alike. As the tension builds and the wizarding world is overthrown by the dark lord, One of Harry Potter's professors makes this simple statement, “Voldemort is playing a very clever game. Declaring himself might have provoked open rebellion: Remaining masked has created confusion, uncertainty, and fear.” (pg 208, The Deathly Hallows)

The parallels throughout history are unmistakable. Adolf Hitler brought hope to a nation and then led Germany down a path of complete darkness and oppression. King Henry the VIII pride and selfishness led England into a downward spiral. One of the United States earliest and greatest generals was Benedict Arnold. Because of his early successes against Great Britain, some even desired to replace General Washington with Arnold. Yet, this hero was found to be a wolf in sheep's clothing and his name became forever associated with his traitorous deeds.

Real life and fictitious stories often parallel one another. Stories such as Harry Potter, Twilight, Batman and Star Wars, have brought to light a rather challenging and at the same time, disturbing reality – what if the hero is the villain?

It is a reality we face most specifically when we begin to deal with the spiritual realm. So many things sound good and make us feel good. Even in the Church universal we have in the last few decades decided that to talk about...Satan, is taboo. When Paul wrote the Corinthian church, it was this reality he was writing about. There is opposition we face in following Jesus Christ and you may never realize it because Satan is a master of disguise.

Disguising and Lying
It was Paul who highlighted that Satan comes disguised as heroes, even as pastors and clergy, but it was Jesus himself who pointed out where it comes from. It is a core value of evil to lie. In confronting the religious leaders of the Jewish people, Jesus said, '"Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (Joh 8:42-44)

Like those surrounding Harry Potter, so many wanted their world comfortable. Like our day, we don't want to believe there might be true evil. You may not even want to hear me talk about the possibility that there is a true evil one at work in our world in opposition to God. But I've had plenty of things that have over and over again confirmed Satan's work. I have seen it in relationships with friends and marriages. I have seen it in the corporate world and in ministry. But it has been in starting a new church that I have most seen the work of Satan. Whether in people or some in businesses, there have been those who have tried to take advantage and undermine the mission of Crossroads.

Satan does not want people connected to God, following Jesus or becoming his disciples. And as Carlester pointed out to us last week from his experience playing professional football – even within the Church, there are times and people where circumstances appear and people who appear as men of peace.

Ultimately, within society and today, among Christians the evidence is present that we have come to believe that our “self-interest is a virtue.” This may be the greatest lie that Satan, has been able to infiltrate among believers. It sounds good – it makes us feel good but as Dorothy Sayers so distinctly expresses it – “hell is the enjoyment of our own way forever.”

Sometimes the hero is the villain.
If any one of Jesus' followers knew this truth, it would have been Peter. He tried rebuke Jesus. Failed at following Jesus. He even denied knowing Jesus. But this follower, this saint, would also come to die for his belief in Jesus Christ.

He wrote from his own experiences that we should, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (5:8)” In other words, be humble, keep in check your self-interest - Methodist pastor Adam Clarke wrote centuries ago that Peter was saying - “be not overcharged with the concerns of the world.”

Satan doesn't care for you at all. Why does sin never satisfy us? We are never satisfied with our awards are we? Our toys? Our salaries? Because we never satisfy the devil. You and I are only snacks. Satan is into snacking – he is always looking out for his own self-interest. Just as he is never satisfied – sin will never satisfy no matter how good it looks.

But Peter said there is a way to resist the Devil – the villain in a heroes clothing - But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1Pe 5:8-10)

It isn't in your strength, or your wisdom or your spiritual abilities – but in your faith. Peter doesn't back away from saying it will be hard – our self interest after all isn't a virtue in God's eyes. We find our faith strengthened in knowing we are journeying with others – our bretheren – the Saints – after the way of Jesus.

GAME TIME

You have waited. Kick off finally came. So how goes it with your team? Is a perfect season in your grasp or are 'your' boys already out of the hunt? Hanging on to a shred of hope or are you looking to support your conference? Funny thing about that oblong piece of pigskin, you just can never tell which way the ball will bounce. But any given weekend, there is always the possibility of a game changer or even a season changer.

“Football Is an honest game. It's true to life. It's a game about sharing. Football is a team game. So is life.” Those rather philosophical words were not spoken by a sage like Don Shula or Tom Landry but rather by Joe Namath. “Broadway Joe,” the showboating quarterback of the '70's that lead the New York Jets to the Superbowl, was known more for his glitz and glamor than for his philosophical outlook. Yet he understood how important a team is to football and to life.

How many times in a loss have the fingers been pointed at the quarterback or one missed play or a fumble? If Joe was right, then we have been looking at things all wrong – both on the field and off.

I spent two seasons on the sidelines of a new high school's football team as their chaplain. In two years they won just one game – the first one they played. The team learned that it was never just one person's fault – the blame never fell on one set of shoulders. And in the third season, when they began to win and went to the playoffs – (and game changers appeared) everyone held their heads high.

Let me ask you this – who is winning in your family? Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has said, “If everyone in the family isn't winning, then someone is losing.” How about your business? Are all the employees on the team or just a few? If the company is 'winning', is everyone? Are you waiting for a game changer?

In life, you can wait, point fingers and manipulate all you want but I can tell you that there is already a game changer on the field. A true game changing player does not desire to take all the credit, because they know they cannot. “The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7, GNB).

I suggest where ever you are – get off the bench and go after Jesus – every day has the potential to be a game changer. It is GAME TIME!

Why Are Cleaning Buckets Important? Take a look...

Why are cleaning buckets so important? Because more than homes are needing to be healed - the lives of our neighbors need to be shown we care.





Today, I saw first hand the power of community coming together. Through UMCOR and the North Georgia Conference, 216 flood Cleaning Buckets were delivered to Westridge Church, unloaded by a variety of volunteers from Crossroads UMC and Samaritan's Purse to be distributed to families and work teams around our neighboring counties.

Later, I joined a Samaritan's Purse team that worked on the street and in the homes pictured above, right here in Paulding County. On the same street, was a UMVIM team made up of local churches. I met ladies from Marietta, a couple from New Mexico and a father and son from Pittsburg, PA. We were hidden behind masks and gloves, working in the midst of mold and mildew with homeowners trying to help them take one more step back toward a normalcy.

To all of you that have done something - thank you. To all of you that are sacrificing every day - we *heart* you!! ;) If you have yet to do something, then the this is the call. The 216 flood Cleaning Buckets were part of a shipment of 1500 that came in because someone, somewhere in the U.S.A. cared enough to make them. What happens when they are used up and none are there to take their place?

When Paulding County comes together, we can make a difference! Now is our time to love our neighbors!

Confessions of Selfishness

There is a sobering reality as I realized today that Paulding Flood Relief is and will likely be just as much about Paulding helping it's own people as it will be about Paulding helping our fellow neighboring counties. As I look at pictures coming from by fellow pastors in Austell and Douglasville, as rain pours again, and as I look at my muddy boots in my dry garage; I realize just how much we still don't get it.

I mean that even personally not just corporately. I confess, I am still struggling with my own selfishness that my schedule has been interrupted. My plans for the weeks and months ahead must change. Why?

Something just came along and robbed my neighbor. Can we blame the storm? Sure and so we could blame God too right? I mean, that is the easy way out. But it wasn't Jesus' way.

Jesus replied: As a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, robbers attacked him and grabbed everything he had. They beat him up and ran off, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road. But when he saw the man, he walked by on the other side. Later a temple helper came to the same place. But when he saw the man who had been beaten up, he also went by on the other side. A man from Samaria then came traveling along that road. When he saw the man, he felt sorry for him and went over to him. He treated his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next morning he gave the innkeeper two silver coins and said, "Please take care of the man. If you spend more than this on him, I will pay you when I return." Then Jesus asked, "Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?" The teacher answered, "The one who showed pity." Jesus said, "Go and do the same!" (Luke 10:30-37)

I noticed today that Jesus didn't blame the robbers at all, they're a side note to the story. Who Jesus condemns are those who walked by. Jesus doesn't indicate how long the man from Samaria may have thought over the need in front of him. The man even realized he could only do so much - he couldn't do all that was necessary to help the needy.

Sure, one more reason to blame God. One more reason God isn't fair. You and I can't do it all either BUT you can do something and Jesus says that is what matters - not our opinions of God.


Just What Are We Facing In Paulding and Surrounding Areas?

Today I spent my time working and communicating with some of the incredible businesses in Paulding County who are collect Cleaning Buckets. For more information on how to build a bucket, where to give online, and what businesses are partnering to help, go to www.pauldingfloodrelief.com.

After that I took time to see what we're facing here in Paulding County. I spent the afternoon at Sheri and Al's home in Hiram. Their home sits below a dam that had a hole in it about 18' tall and 30' feet wide. The flood of water left dead fish, debris and trees in it's wake. All before crashing into their home.



(Thanks Kerstin!!! You're doing an awesome job on the documentary!)

Tonight, because of community response, this family has moved out what they could and moved in with other relatives. But what then? Like most, they don't have flood insurance and are having to make do with what they have and figure out what steps to take next. As disaster survey teams arrive from various groups, assessments will be made and opportunities for hands on response will grow. Already, assessments are indicating there are growing needs in other counties nearby.

This is not the time to sit by but to be proactive! Check out www.pauldingfloodrelief.com and get involved!


The Days, Weeks and Months Ahead.

This week has been a little deja vu for me. One of my fraternity brothers called up asking how he could give to help the folks here in Paulding County, GA. As we talked, he reminded me that it was 10 years ago that Hurricane Floyd devastated Eastern North Carolina and my home town of Greenville.

While the disaster here is not on the scale of the flooding of Floyd or Katrina, it is vitally important that the correct response is taken and a long haul approach is taken. The response will be measured in months not weeks when you consider some of these homes lost family memories, pets, vehicles, etc.

We all want to help but doing the right things at this time are better than just doing anything. With the regional impact of this flood being felt not just in Paulding, but also Cobb, Douglas and other metro counties - more will need to be done than we can imagine. As I understand it, there will be a conference call today taking place between a number of the disaster relief teams coming in to help. It is hard to wait.

So what can you do?

1. Make a flood Cleaning Bucket and get it to the drop off sites provided around Paulding and the surrounding communities.

2. Check out Paul Richardson's blog at West Ridge Church for where to drop donations of water and blankets.

3. Check your calendar and clear your time to be ready to volunteer when the call goes out.

4. Pray for those most effected by this disaster and the first responders, power companies, DOT, water company, etc. who have been working round the clock.

5. Consider giving financially to help through UMCOR (United Methodist Council on Relief). One of the most trusted disaster response organizations, guaranteeing that 100% of your gift will go directly to the disaster.

This is what it means to RETHINK CHURCH - it is time to put hands and feet to Jesus' words.

How to Build Your Cleaning Bucket to Help Flood Relief!

You want to help with flood relief but how? The best way right now is by building a Cleaning Bucket - here is how!

1. Download a list of the supplies and go buy the stuff on the list This will give your kids something to do and get them involved (especially if they are out of school)! Remember, while it may be tempting DO NOT ADD to the list!

2. Lay out all your stuff:


Wonder aloud - "How will it all fit?"

Hint: Start by putting in the bleach and liquid detergent first.

3. Be amazed at your end result:



If you drop them at any of the Paulding County locations set-up, there is no need to mail your buckets!

Stay tuned for more details on how you can help!

North Paulding Flood Response

How do you get involved?

Here is how - Flood Cleaning Buckets

These supplies enable people to begin the overwhelming job of cleaning up after a flood or hurricane. Buckets can be done via donations online OR by families/groups building them and donating them.

List for supplies can be found here:
http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/getconnected/supplies/flood-bucket/

TO DROP OFF IN NORTH PAULDING:
Colonial Bank/BB&T @ Seven Hills has agreed to be our drop-off location.

TO DROP OFF IN SOUTH PAULDING (Dallas, Hiram & Powder Springs):
Alpha Omega Stor-All (all sites)


Don't just give STUFF - Please give what is needed! These supplies are what The Red Cross-FEMA-GEMA and UMCOR have designated are what is NEEDED for recovery to be successful.

Also, I'm including a list of places for clothing & food donations if it will help.

Clothing & Furniture
Classy Thrift Shoppe
702 W. Memorial Drive
Dallas, GA 30132
678.363.6702
M-Sat: 10a-5p

The Been
551 Hardee Street
Dallas, GA 30132
770.443.7490
M-Sat: 9a-1p

The Thrift Store
740 Paulding Plaza
Dallas, GA 30132
770.505.7707
Located near Medicine Shoppe & Dallas Billiards
Warehouse of Hope
100 Hunter Rd
Powder Springs, GA 30127
(770) 489-0509

Food & Financial
Helping Hands of Paulding County
240 Professional Court
Dallas, GA 30132
770.443.1230
M-Fri: 10a-2p



Stay Tuned for more info to come! PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO Scout Troops, PTA's, HOA's, Business Groups - anyone you know who truly wants

Confessions of Sunday School Drop Out: Church Words – what are they talking about?


Matthew 6:1-8

I'm just not that complicated. Really. And I don't think life was intended to be that way either. I think there is a lot of good stuff in the Bible that backs that up too. I've always been more the Tim “the toolman” kind of guy. Grunting and pointing seems to me to be an easier way of going through life. I've got to confess again, just look at one of my favorite hobbies – I go out in the woods and make animal sounds! Like I said, I'm just not that complicated.

And that has always made church a hard place – there always were big words floating around – words that never seemed to come up in every day language but always in the church. When God called me to ministry, I had no idea how many new words that really just seemed to be made up for the sake of causing my ears to burn and turn red when in casual conversation with my more 'learned' religious colleagues.

I have heard and part of conversations that make the HUGE assumption the people know all these words churches use. And I've been in conversations where the idea is put forward that it is EVERYONE ELSES FAULT that they don't know these words or ideas. I don't know any other way to say it – that is wrong and this is my confession.

In some ways, this sermon is a carry over from last week – that we find Jesus addressing the issue of hypocrisy. This time it isn't in adding laws and requirements on those who really want to connect with God. No, this time it is all about the show – on being out front – showing off one's flawless life – about blowing one's horn. Being a Showing off and know-it-all, is NOT a spiritual gift.

So today I'd like to clear the air and pull the curtain back on some of the church words that have made it harder and not easier, more confusing and not clearer, and created more disconnect than connection.

We are a United Methodist Church and we are a Christian church - it is what we call a denomination. A denomination indicates a Christian faith group with a set of common beliefs. Baptists, Lutherans,Roman Catholic, even non-denominational – are all designations of denominations. The Apostle's Creed expresses the basic beliefs of Christianity. Any religious group that doesn't support the Apostle's Creed – would be considered another religion or a cult.

Starting with what is in front of you, your worship guide, I invite you to look at the Apostle's Creed. It is an ancient and I mean ancient document written between 300-400 A.D. Before there were any divisions in the church. It's purpose is to express in the simplest language possible the basic beliefs about the Christian faith.

But in there, are a few things that also have some confusion. First, “suffered under Pontius Pilate” does not relate to a torture device but a person – Pilate was the Roman governor of Jerusalem and oversaw the crucifixion of Jesus. As noted, the term holy catholic church doesn't refer to the Roman Catholic Church but to the universal church – all followers of Jesus. Likewise, the 'communion of saints' refers to all of Jesus' followers. Anyone who faithfully follows Jesus Christ, is considered a saint.

Some churches sing hymns but truth is, a hymn is any poetic composition in honor of God or suitable for use in a church service. In other words, a hymn is a song for God. I confess, I've been around church enough that I mix up words like pews – long benches used in traditional churches with chairs. Some of you may have wondered where the 'Narthex' is in a more traditional church but most of us call it a lobby. Acolytes are never set on fire but traditionally they carry in a flame to light the candle. The role of acolytes are to assist the pastor in worship – I need all the help I can get after all!

In the south, we get lazy with our words. As a kid, I always wondered why it was when the pastor asked for ties and offerings no one ever took their ties off. I was always willing to give my clip-ons away! Traditionally, a tithe is the giving of 10% of ones salary to God through the church. It isn't given without accountability for even at Crossroads we do an audit and have an advisory group that oversees how we continue our mission.

Probably most awkward are the words dealing with Theology, a big word that means the study of God. In this way, it is similar to Biology and there are classes upon classes in college and graduate school that go into depth on the study of God. But at its heart, everything WE do regarding SEEKING God is part of the STUDY of GOD – life is theology.

And now we enter into a whole category of words that get used in church. Words like sin, which is the word to describe the things we do that mess up what God is trying to do in us. Justification refers to how Jesus' death and rising from death to life makes us right with God. Words like Sanctification and Holiness – describe how Jesus makes us more like himself. They are good words – important words.

But Jesus was a master of simplicity He used things like mustard seeds and farmers. He said we are like a woman looking for lost change or like a son who has left home. Even Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament and used a lot of the bigger words said himself in his letter to the church in Corinth and the church here at Crossroads “...the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power (1 Cor 4:20 NASB).”

And when it came to talking about how to tell the story of the never ending promise of God to come into the life of anyone who asks – Jesus took juice and bread. Whether you are used to calling it the Mass, the Eucharist, or Communion – we use it to tell the incredible story of a God who opened the door to heaven and said to us – you don't have to understand it all you just have to believe my son Jesus is who he says he says he is.

It's Complicated - The problem of 'church' words

Do you remember Duplo bricks? Those big huge Lego bricks? I have a vague recollection of those. Today, my son is now into Lego Mindstorm: AKA: Legos on Steroids! The basic idea never changed, there are still bricks put on top of bricks it is just that now a robot brain has been added. Oh, and lots more 'little' parts.

That kind of puts things in a nutshell when it comes to how I think of 'church' words. There are some great words used in religious studies and in the faith. Some are just plain fun to say. I dare you say to the next girl or guy who gives a presentation - "Hey, that is a great pericope you've got there." See what happens (for the record it means "a set of verses that form a coherent thought or idea.") But that is just one of many, many words.

Unfortunately, many of those words only add to the confusion and awkwardness many people feel (myself included) even in church and I'm a pastor! Scott Ginsberg nails it in his blog on simplicity: "Simplicity is hard. It requires more energy, more brainpower and more courage than complexity"

It is why I like to read from Mark and James in the New Testament - they went for simple. But then that was Jesus' plan too. This week at Crossroads UMC, we're going to be talking about CHURCH WORDS and I want to invite you to help with the sermon.

Here is the ASK:
Think of some of the church words you've wondered about. What do they mean and why would we use them?

Here is the DO:

Send them to me! Post here - post on Facebook - send me a Tweet.

Confessions: The Church is full of Hypocrites



Matthew 23:1-12

It seems this week was like most in the games in Washington and it has nothing to do with the Huskies in Washington or the Redskins in D.C. To make matters worse the news media feeds on it. Not only do they feed on it, they feed it, hoping for a national scandal to make themselves appear relevant. Whether it's Afghanistan, speeches to children, health care, Obama, Joe Wilson, Van Jones, Rush I thought these political events a fitting context for our scriptural text about hypocrisy.

“Listen to what Jesus says about these politicians (in his day they were called Pharisees): "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Now what did Jesus mean? Simply this: The Pharisees made laws. They demanded that the common person follow those laws. But they themselves found ways to get around those laws. Get it? They were not willing to carry the heavy loads they demanded everyone else carry. In a word: Hypocrisy.(Sermon: “Confronting Hypocrisy with Humility” by Brett Blair)”

THE EXPERIENCE
When I was growing up there were expectations set up for us in school and in Sunday School – sometimes the two even overlapped. You got A's for knowing it all in school and if you memorized the right verses you got a gold star on the chart in Sunday School. It went down hill for me starting in first grade. You see, our church had a community TV station and services were shown especially when the kids choir sang. Sure enough, my escapades got broadcast across the town and I heard about it Monday morning = again and again.

That slowly ate at me. Later as I sat around those who earned their gold stars every week – the same ones looking down on others for not measuring up – I got sick of it – church is full of hypocrites I said to myself – so I dropped out of Sunday School.

Jesus always has a way of spotlighting the key point: we must practice what we preach. Just having the right doctrine, teaching the right stuff or knowing all there is to know isn't enough. Leaders and Christians must live by the advice they give. You can't love the sinner and the sinner either if you don't show acts of love. “If you tell people to build a home on a solid foundation but then use cheap nails in the construction of your own home, then you are a hypocrite.(Brett Blair)”

Even in the earliest days of the church, the ugly head of hypocrisy crept into the life of Peter, one of Jesus' best friends. It is Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, who calls Peter out for his act of discrimination toward other Christians (Galatians 2:11-14). In chapter 2 of James' letter, he cautions the church of treating rich people better than poor – being hypocrites in their actions. I confess – the church is full of hypocrites...but then Todd Layton shared with me something Pastor Med Roach is fond of saying: “There isn't a better place for hypocrites than church.”

THE TRUTH
Robert Redford was walking one day through a hotel lobby. A woman saw him and followed him to the elevator. "Are you the real Robert Redford?" she asked him with great excitement. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, "Only when I am alone!”

The reality of things we fail to grasp (or we choose to ignore) is this truth – we're all hypocrites in some form or other. The saying there are no atheisists in fox holes expresses one side of this as does the Christian who does not see Jesus in the needy around them. Jesus said, we'd say, “ 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn't help you?' "He will answer them, 'I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.' (Matthew 25:44-45, GW)

THE ANSWER
Jesus didn't back down from passing judgement or saying the hard things along the way. Jesus called the Church to do the same but he did give one stipulation and it is this that should set the church apart for it is the answer to the issue of hypocrisy...it is humility. The person who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored. (Mat 23:11-12)

These actions alone do not put us right with God though – faith in Jesus is what puts things right. Paul made that clear when he wrote to the Galatian church and the church at Crossroads: “we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires.” (Galatians 2:16)

But a follower of Jesus Christ – A church that acts with humility – that humbles themselves – that serves the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the stranger – these actions – doing what Jesus did - will give people the reason to rethink church. Jesus leveled the playing field for the world – greatest should be the servant. The leader is to lead by serving. Jesus' answer then for the Jewish leaders – stands today for the leaders of the Christian church – or for that matter, any Christian – you must be servant.

Jesus gives no condition that this would be merely for a time or a season. I've always said the pastor that had the biggest influence on me was Malloy Owens. He was only my pastor for one year but he influenced me by what he did not merely what he said. I confess – the church IS full of hypocrites but there is no better place for us hypocrites – for it is here we can come clean with one who not only KNOWS THAT BUT who promises to CHANGE THAT.

Yesterday I was amazed by the people who were amazed that a church would buy down gas. For that matter, people are amazed we'd sponsor a Boy Scout troop or do all we do for Murphy-Harpst like when our youth gave birthday cake mixes. This is what it means to RETHINK CHURCH – it means to really believe what Jesus said and do what Jesus did!

I confess – I haven't always done it and the church hasn't either BUT may I ask – how about you? And may I suggest – today is the perfect day join the rest of us hypocrites in trying to follow after Jesus.

Confessions of a Sunday School Dropout: Church = Boring?



Psalm 150

One of my favorite ads of all time was one that I read coming back from Atlanta one day. I stopped at a gas station and one of the ads there read like this:

“People don't like to chat at gas stations. There seems to be an uspoken rule of silence. This isnt' a church, an elevator or a public restroom. It's a place to fill up your wheels. So let's give a hearty “hi” to our fellow filler-uppers.” - signed Mini Cooper. I laughed.

Someone at Mini cooper nailed it on the head and knew a bunch of us would get it and some of us would be offended. For me, a Sunday School drop-out, it nailed it right on the head – church was an uncomfortable place – an awkward place – a boring place. I need to confess here – I had a lot of great naps in church.

But I don't hear anything like that in what the writer of the psalm 150 said though! The description that we have is in keeping with how worship often took place in the Old Testament as we'll see in a minute. Not only was singing and music part of the experience but so was dancing. I doubt many ever fell asleep listening to cymbals clashing together. In his letters to the Ephesian church and Colossian church, Paul wrote that “... psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,...”(Eph 5:19/Col 3.16)

So what happened? I confess – I don't know exactly. Somehow, the church grew comfortable with the pattern of boring – And so I ask your forgiveness. I'm convinced that wasn't the way God intended it to be – no one should be able to say, as I did, the reason they dropped out was over boring worship. I can tell you that the idea of boring irritated John and Charles Wesley! In the song book of the UMC, Wesley's words about it are written plainly: “Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.”

THOUGHTFUL = RENEWAL
Wesley said we ought to, “have an eye to God in every word you sing.” I can tell you that as we prepare for worship every week, Brandon and I have an eye for every song that is chosen. More often than not you are likely singing words directly from the Bible itself. Sometimes, the songs will help you feel lighter and other times the same song – will cause you to be more thoughtful. God works in all times and in all emotions not just in warm fuzzies on your shoulder. Renewal comes often in song and worship.

RESPECTFUL = JOYFUL
In Acts 20:8-12 there is the story of , “a young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window, and as Paul kept on talking, Eutychus got sleepier and sleepier, until he finally went sound asleep and fell from the third story to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead.” As we keep reading, we find that Eutychus is brought back from the dead which is a great thing. In a rather tongue in check way, there is a lesson there for preachers, for there is a call to be respectful of those who come to hear. Through the years, there is a phrase often repeated that goes something like this, “it is a sin to bore a child with the Gospel.” The Gospel isn't intended to be boring - it is Good News! I confess, at times we preachers have done just that. While there isn't a scripture to back it up – I think that story comes close and the next point certainly takes it one more step.

ALL AGES = GROWING SAGES
It might be an individual church grows in number without children crying out and disrupting services but the UNIVERSAL CHURCH is, I think, being robbed of its sages.

The hardest thing I do every week is find someway to communicate the core of this message so the children understand it. Jesus said "Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Jim Griffith who has coached many new church pastors, including me, says, children learn more about faith in a new church start – imagine how many teachers can come out of Crossroads in the years ahead!

CELEBRATION = INVIGORATION
Worship, what we often call church, is a time of celebration and with any celebration comes invigoration – a renewed joy for life and for God. One of the toughest guys in the Old Testament was King David but even thought a king, David knew his place was below God and he needed to worship God. 2 Samuel 6:14 tells that on one occasion of celebration, David laid aside his kingly garments and crown and put on a simple linen garment worn by the priests and got jiggy with it before God. But he didn't do it inside – David took it to the streets.

And that is where we come to the point – the life changing -exciting power of God isn't meant for a building. That maybe the biggest sin the church has committed. There is more to church than what happens in here. Two books that have renewed my thoughts and vision for Crossroads this year are Irresistable Revolution by Shane Claibourne and Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris.

We are called here to be RENEWED – to be JOYFUL – to grow SAGES – but also to be INVIGORATED – to take it to the streets which we're going to do literally this Saturday as part of our gas buy down. Church should never be boring because it should be never ending!


For the mp3, Click Here!

(note: these are not a verbatim of my sermon but the working notes along the way. Getting into the mind of a pastor...I confess - I'm far from perfect!)

I Need To Confess.

An old Scottish proverb says that confessed faults are half mended. If so, let me get started with the first half.

I need to confess – I am not the pastor I ought to be. I am not the husband I should be or the dad I could be. I get lazy some days and I procrastinate to do some things along the way. I get angry and jealous and some days even bitter. I do not always take criticism well. Sometimes I do not say the right things and more times, I say the wrong thing. When I watch Jerry Springer or Judge Judy, I feel better about myself because I know I am not THAT bad.

I need to confess something else – I am a Sunday School drop-out. For real – I dropped out because I got sick and tired of all kinds of stuff that happens in churches. From the boring stuff, to the hypocritical nature of people and the church words – it all became too much. I quit – I gave up.

Yet today, here I am a pastor – confessing all these ways I fall short of being the pastor I should be and certainly all the ways you may think I ought to be. Would you forgive me?

I also want to confess to you that as churches, we have not lived up to all we should be and all we could be. Would you forgive us?

But then, according to the Scots, we have only gone half way. The next step, I think, is found in the words of another writer: If someone listens to God's word but doesn't do what it says, he is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, goes away, and immediately forgets what he looks like. (James 1:23-24 GW)

Confession is only the beginning. For new life to begin, new actions have to take the place of the old. If we are quick to judge or find fault, then we need to be patient and ask more questions. If we find ourselves trapped in habits behind closed doors (or on the computer), then confession alone will not end it – action must be taken afterwards to develop new habits.

In my family’s history is an alcoholic and he passed down to us his Alcoholics Anonymous book, one of the first editions. AA helped to save his life. If you have never read those steps, you should because it is a reminder to us all of the power of not just confession but the steps to follow.

Beginning September 6 at Crossroads UMC, I’m going to open some of those doors in my own life and in the history of the Church and offer the CONFESSIONS of a Sunday School drop-out.

But that is me. What about you? Need to confess?

Spiritual Fitness Check 017

This week, be in prayer for your local government officials.  Maybe you agree with their policies or maybe you don't but they are still working for your community.  Late into the evenings and on early mornings, they are sacrificing time away from their families and making decisions effecting yours - sometimes for no pay at all.

UNITED BY GOD’S LOVE



John 17:20-26

Each week we say in the Apostle’s Creed “…the holy catholic church…” many of you wonder why we do it, some don't say it. Others mumble it. Some may even wondered if I send reports to the Pope (the answer is no). I hope though, to clear up confusion about this little word that does cause some confusion

In the creed, of course, the word "catholic" is not capitalized. Meaning that it is not part of the proper name "Roman Catholic." Rather, it is an adjective (drawn from the Greek word katholikos) meaning "general" or "universal." The word "catholic" (small "c") appeared when the creed appeared in 390 A.D. in France. While the name "Roman Catholic" (large "C") was never formally applied to the Church of Rome until sometime in the 15th century (about the time of the Protestant Reformation).

So when we say the holy catholic church, we’re getting at the heart of this United series and the prayer Jesus was praying. When Jesus prayed that his desire was for us to be one as the Father and Son are one, I think there was something different in mind than having us worry about denominations. Jesus wasn’t interested in perfect institutions but in personal unity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE but they are each unique. Professor Merrill Tenney noted there is a parallel between the unity Jesus spoke of here and Paul’s idea in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 that the church is a body made of many parts.

The thing that keeps us from being united has less to do with denominations and everything to do with a three letter word called sin. More specifically it happens when we love the WAY WE DO CHURCH more than we love people.

It seems to me that when the CHURCH is focused on loving people it is more likely to lead change. The symbols of the church and stain glass windows were part of the earliest multimedia images – they were a slide show used to tell stories and relay the truths of the Bible. The same thing has been true for all of our rituals and traditions. But the methods must always be open to change. This is the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees over and over again.

Similarly, it was a love for the people that brought Martin Luther to odds with the Pope. It was a love for people that brought John Wesley to odds with the Church of England. Sometimes, these changes in method bring renewal and other times they bring splits. What is consistent – must be consistent is the MESSAGE must remain the same –
GROWING IN UNITY and SHARING THE MESSAGE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST.

But it doesn’t stop with the Church as whole – it filters through to the core of who we are and the cancer that is sin. As a cancer survivor, I don’t say that lightly. At its simplest – cancer is a cell which begins to focus on itself rather than the whole. In the same way, when we fall in love with our WAY OF LIFE more than loving others – we cooperate in the sin of disunity.

Have you ever been betrayed? Ever had a friend you trusted in turn on you? Then you have some idea of what Jesus went through when not only did Judas turn him to the Pharisees, but all others abandoned him. While we can’t know exactly what they were thinking – we do have some ideas. One of those that is most prominent is that at the end, the disciples were still holding on to the idea that Jesus was going to call all the angels down from heaven and take care of business on the Romans – then they would be in charge!

They we missing out on what Jesus said about ‘taking up your cross,’ and what he said to rich young man to ‘go sell all you have, give to the poor and follow me.’ That were about to learn the most important lesson of the Church – we are called to LOVE PEOPLE more than any WAY OF LIFE – even the religious kind.

You know, I’ve discovered that I most often fail at being united when I fail to serve? It is when I fail to ask God – God what is keeping me from you? And then I don’t stop to listen. While I was getting ready for this series, I got a hint God wanted me to do something – to put my sermon writing down – put aside my planning – and let him interrupt my routine. I really wish sometimes God wouldn’t do that. But he did. So a couple of weeks ago, I shut down my laptop, pushed it to the side and drove down to The Helping Hands of Paulding County – our local mission center helping people get assistance to live. It was just a fact finding mission right?

Until Joe came in right at closing time. I spent the next hour helping Joe fill out paperwork to get him assistance so his wife, 2 children and one unborn child, might continue to survive on less the $1,200. I was more inclined to cry but Joe kept laughing – he kept talking about how it was going to turn around – he was going to keep looking for more work – he never stopped smiling or laughing. Do we love people or our way of life?

To get to unity, Jesus, points to two things in his prayer and it starts with INVESTING in your relationship with God. “May they also be IN US so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21 (NIV) If you and I work on developing our relationship with God, unity would be the natural result. Get in an internet forum and go to the spiritual section like I did. It didn’t take long to discover those who were more focused on RIGHT RELIGION rather than RIGHT RELATIONSHIP. You don’t have to force it or vote on it. We get unity by getting closer to the One we’re unified with – Jesus.

And yes there is more – we must begin to love others with the same love God has shown to you and me. Jesus prayed: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:26 (NIV) Remember: God loves me as much as He loves His Son Jesus.

Now I have to ask you to be a little thoughtful today – to take this time to consider: Do you love your way of life more than people? What is God asking you to give up? What is God asking you to pick up?


(This is the rough draft of the sermon preached. It reflects a collaboration of ideas from other pastors in the 15 churches taking part in this series so not all thoughts and phrases are original to me - I'm thankful to journey with some great people!) NOTE: Do to technical difficulties, no mp3 is available for this sermon.

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