Who's Watching You? 
Monday, November 14, 2005, 06:06 PM
A quote that didn't get into the sermon yesterday was from the Aurora Greenway character played by Shirley MacLaine in “Terms of Endearment”:

Work like you don't need the money, love like your heart has never been broken, and dance like no one is watching.

The theory that problems come from other people is especially attractive to those who look to economic environment, cultural conventions, or family failures as the sources of an individual's unhappiness. Such thinking makes it tempting to shout “Amen” to Aurora's movie line. Yet for Christians it is incomplete. A similar idea is in Colossians 3:23:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...

It is not enough for Christians to free themselves of the fears of an empty wallet, a broken heart, or social embarrassment, although it might be a good step on the way to a more faithful life. But Christians cannot stop there; for then they would be living only for themselves…and a self-indulgent life can be more destructive than living for others.

Christians live for God. Our chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever according to our church's teachings. Thinking of God as our employer when we work, our model for our love and our partner when we dance can help us be free both of oppressive expectations of others and the excess of our own desires and passions.

Hoping you will save God a dance…

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The Fear of Working Out 
Monday, November 7, 2005, 05:55 PM
A small part of the message yesterday was a quote from Philippians 2:12 & 13,

...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

You may have considered that the free gift of salvation calls for some response and may have worried about the proper one. (A embossed thank you note with blue-black ink seems inadequate.)

Well I have good news, better, and best news! The good news is that fear and trembling of working out the meaning of salvation is part of God's plan! If you are unsure of your faith journey, finding your way through detours and delays, you are normal! So banish all those thoughts of spiritual inadequacy.

The better news is that you have been given another day's extension on the task of growing into the person God is calling you to be. Thanks be to God, who considers not where you've been, or even where you are, but where you are going. What's your workout plan today?

The best news is that you are not alone. For it is not you that is working on this lifetime workout program but God! Like a patient personal trainer, God meets you every day for your spiritual work out. Be attentive to the opportunities to exercise your faith, you and God are equal to any fearful task...including being faithful.

Hoping you and God have a good workout today!

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Halloween for Christians? 
Monday, October 31, 2005, 03:29 PM
While both heaven and hell are part of our theology, many of the traditional Halloween trappings don't fit well with the purpose of our church. We don't celebrate death, the underworld, or spirits other than the Holy One. Ours is a resurrection faith in Jesus Christ, not a descent into hell with ghosts, goblins, and ghouls.

So states an article in our Ideas church publication which goes on to discuss various alternatives to the ghouls and goodies theme of today.

As a father and a pastor, I've been asked about Christians and Halloween over the years. Here are some of my thoughts on this day.

Making fun of demons and scary things might be a good thing for Christians to do...Romans 8:38-39 tell us demons can not defeat the power of God's love.

It is the only neighborhood celebration we have any more. Folks come out and actually meet and talk to their neighbors. This might be example of God turning evil to good. Again we turn to Romans 8:28

There is medium (some translations add “witch” as a section heading) and talking to the dead in the Bible. Found in 1 Samuel 28 it seems to imply it is a lack of faith and trust in God and God's prophets that makes people turn to mediums.

Even though we know that Halloween is all in good fun, Christians should not confuse folks who are new to the faith. Our freedom shouldn't be the cause of another losing her or his way. Paul explains this in Corinthians 8.

Hoping you find God's good in everything that crosses your path….

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Yield for Spirit Work 
Monday, October 24, 2005, 03:27 PM
Working on my sermon about loving God, with all our heart, soul, and strength, I considered spiritual formation and an article about it in the Fall 2005 issue of Cornerstone, a magazine from the Presbyterian Foundation. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has an Office of Spiritual Formation to call for more attention to a holistic understanding of Christian life that included the heart as well as the head.

The world has child care, hospitals, educational opportunities, social services, fellowship and community groups, concerts and drama, (I even saw a funeral home with grief counselors, memorial services and support groups!) All these ministries the church has pioneered and traditionally provided, all to the glory of God and for the good of God's people.

What secular people lack now is a soul care center. A place for God in their lives and relationships. There is no where in the secular world one can go to find help in the spiritual disciplines that help us be more attuned to God's spirit working in our lives and in the world.

We live in a pleasure-seeking, results-oriented society. The idea of spending the time and effort spiritual discipline invite is alien to most. And so souls starve.

We have a precious gift to share with our friends and neighbors who are going fast to nowhere building massive houses that are not homes, spinning from one shallow relationship to another, seeking thrills of the moment instead of faith for eternity.

In our study groups, prayer groups, funeral dinners, retreats, weekly worship, prayer partners, we have something unique and needed by others...lets invite them to make God's house their soul's home for the holidays.

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Do You Hear What I Hear? 
Monday, October 17, 2005, 03:24 PM
Eastminster Presbytery came to install me as pastor yesterday. Elders and ministers gathered in worship to receive both the congregation's and my promises to the responsibilities of being pastor and people together in ministry.

I struggled with all the fuss around my installation service and reception. Good people gave up precious time to participate, some traveling hours to attend. Even my children were shocked to find out that the installation service was a complete additional Sunday service! Considering all this, I wondered if installations were really needed.

“The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said a angel has spoken to him” — John 12:29

I like the imagery of spirituality as notes in the bass cleft of life. The busy melody line gets all the attention. Just as many people believe that the melody is all that is needed for a song, non-spiritual people fit all of life into a single simple tune.

The spiritually minded hear more than the easily recognized melody. They listen for the fullness of the song. Spiritual folk find more complexity in life than what can be described by engineering blueprints or legal documents. They hear God's music in their life's soundtrack.

So, listening to the melody, the installation service is a familiar tune sung yet again. A person starting a new job is hardly a show stopper heard amidst the din of daily life. Yet, listening beyond the almost sing song recital of questions and answers...we can hear God's symphony swelling, adding purpose, depth and breath to the foreground notes of “I do” and “I will”.

Hoping to make God's beautiful music together…

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