Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where? Here.

When events like the tragedy in Connecticut happen people often question why, they wonder where God is in all of it.  The skeptics become more skeptical…the atheists become prouder simply because they feel that they have been proven right because if God existed then this event would never have happened…and the Christians, well the Christians…

It is at this point that Christians begin to say stupid stuff…God has a plan...He needed them with Him…or my personal favorite…it was just their time.  Every time someone says one of those idiotic phrases an angel loses their wings and a pastor gets a migraine headache.  You might believe that God has a plan for everything but do you really believe that God’s plan is for little children to die?  If you do then please stop reading now because nothing else I will say will hold any meaning for you.

Personally I cannot accept that it was in God’s plan for little children to die.  I will not accept that, I cannot accept that (pardon the double negative…but sometimes things are necessary for affect). 

What will I accept?  Free will and evil exist in the world and unfortunately they win out some times.  It is in these times that we must turn to God.  God does not leave us without any help – He is with us even in our darkest hours and if we could see as He sees we would know that He was there that day and he was weeping…and the battle was being fought not only in the real world but also in the spirit world – and yes there was death and yes there was pain…but no one was alone that day because he has promised to never leave us.  He will never forsake us. 

This third Sunday of Advent we light the pink candle…the Joy candle…and as many wonder where God was during this event we must remember – He was exactly where He needed to be – holding them in His arms and rocking them to sleep – as He carried them home.

Grace and Peace.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The #holiday black sheep....

Now that we have Halloween out of the way - we move right onto Christmas.  That seems to be the sentiment today.  Aren't we missing something?  Didn't we forget a holiday there?  What about Thanksgiving?  Are our lives that great that we don't have anything to be thankful for?  Shouldn't it be the opposite?  I think it might.

Thanks to our friends at the History Channel (here is the original article)...
"Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter." 
Originally called All Hallows Eve for the day before All Saints Day, which is today (Nov. 1st), where as a United Methodist I/we:

"It is a day to remember the saints, "saints" by the New Testament meaning of "all Christian people of every time and place." It is a day to celebrate the communion of saints as we remember those who have died, both in our local congregations and throughout the Church universal" (ministry matters article)

All Hallows Eve has since migrated toward a secular holiday - eventually becoming Halloween as we know it today.

All Saints day is a day of celebration - of thanksgiving.  Why do we forget Thanksgiving?  Why are we so quick to dismiss the holiday?

Do we not realize we are missing the opportunity to celebrate?

I encourage you to be thankful this month - God has given each of us gifts that are a blessing to us.  Remember them this month.

Amo Dei - j  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Philosophy of Ministry

“FIT” Together

Purpose:  Creating true disciples – who are FIT (fashioned, informed, and transformed) – by the grace of Jesus Christ


  •  by providing spiritual growth opportunities

o   youth group lessons
o   retreats
o   small group experiences

  • by example – each living lives pleasing to Jesus Christ


  • by providing inviting activities

o   game nights
o   retreats
o   lock-in(s)

  • through utilizing appropriate outlets for dissemination

o   facebook
o   twitter
o   pintrest
o   church website


  • through coaching others in their spiritual journeys

  • by encouraging others to grow in the grace of Jesus Christ

  •  by empowering others and developing leaders in the Body of Christ

Inter-generational Connection:  As we are “FIT” together in Christ we invite others to be transformed as we are inspired and challenged to:

  • Know and experience God through Jesus Christ,

  • Claim and live God’s promises, and

  • Grow and serve as Christian disciples.    

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do you feel #unloved?

What happens when you don't feel very loved?  You know what I'm talking about - when your world comes crashing down around you - and suddenly everything you held dear falls apart.  At first you are going to "pig it out" and wallow in the mud of self-pity for a week or so...won't you?  You know you will. 

But guess what?  Eventually you will pick yourself back up and move on right?  I know you will.  I'm reminded of Luke 15...

Jesus said, “A certain man had two sons. The younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ Then the father divided his estate between them. Soon afterward, the younger son gathered everything together and took a trip to a land far away. There, he wasted his wealth through extravagant living.
“When he had used up his resources, a severe food shortage arose in that country and he began to be in need. He hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to eat his fill from what the pigs ate, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have more than enough food, but I’m starving to death! I will get up and go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Take me on as one of your hired hands.” ’ So he got up and went to his father.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion. His father ran to him, hugged him, and kissed him. Then his son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Fetch the fattened calf and slaughter it. We must celebrate with feasting because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in, but his father came out and begged him. He answered his father, ‘Look, I’ve served you all these years, and I never disobeyed your instruction. Yet you’ve never given me as much as a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returned, after gobbling up your estate on prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’ Then his father said, ‘Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive. He was lost and is found.’”  - Lk 15:11-32, CEB
 A couple weeks ago I lost my job with no warning.  I don't know that this was so much a financial crunch thing (because I'm sure finances were involved) but it was just the way it was handled (or not handled).  I was (and still am) hurt.  It was a phone call and - we would like you to stop working here effective immediately.  Talk about a crushing blow...there was so much I had planned to do - that's hard to gather.  It's hard for me to wrap my mind around.  But today as I was cleaning up my bedroom - I suddenly realized something - as I picked myself up out of my self-pity mud puddle - I don't want that job back.  Does that mean that I don't miss my co-workers or the relationships that will never really be the same?  No - because I will miss them dearly - possibly more than they or I  will ever realize. 

You see, I needed to recognize that God doesn't take steps backwards.  God is a progressive God (can I make theological statements like that here?  I hope so - so I don't lose my 2 followers).  God is, as pastor/author Mark Batterson puts it in his book In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day (I'm not going to post a page number because that would require me to go into my boxes in the garage labeled church office and find it - but you can buy the book here) "God is in the resume building business".  

God is progressive - he is into moving forward - he isn't "going to take something away" and not replace it with something better.  Is your God a progressive God?  Do you feel like God took something away from you?  What if he needs to make room for something better?  I know somethings are hard for us to grasp - and maybe things won't make sense this side of heaven.  Perhaps that break up or emotional hardship is helping you to make room for God.  Those good things in life pale in comparison to God.  Trust me, I know about young love, and I know about losing loved ones too.  And while nothing can ever really replace them here on Earth...the importance of finding Jesus Christ as Lord and something you will never get over. you feel unloved?  You're not.  I promise - no matter how alone we feel - God is always there.  He is waiting with his arms outstretched, camped out on the road, waiting for you to come home to the comfort of his arms.  You don't need to clean up to meet him - just run.

You. Are. Loved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Dream? #DreamUMC and #grace

A couple weeks ago found the conclusion of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, FL.  I was not there this year (but 4 years from out...I'm coming GC) however I followed it on Twitter and Facebook and watched the live stream a bit. June 7th starts the Indiana Annual Conference and about a week before is the 2nd installment of #DreamUMC - a group of United Methodists having a twitter chat on the future - on our dreams.

It begs the question - why dream?  That's how change is made.  Change doesn't come from sitting around and doing crossword puzzles.  Thomas Edison dreamed of a world without candles for light.  Henry Ford dreamed of a world where everyone owned a car.  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dreamed of a world where everyone owned a computer.  Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a world where all people were free.  Dreams are an important part of who we are - dreams change history.  I'm not saying that all of us have the same thoughts - but we have the same dream:  we want to see change.

Change.  That's a hard word to say - because sometimes that means things we don't want.  But Christ tells us that he did not come to bring peace:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, I have come instead to bring division.  - Luke 12:51, Common English Bible

Following Christ does not mean that we will be without hardship.  The Luke passage goes on to say that fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and sibling against sibling - will be divided.  That's hard to think about - isn't it?  But I see it even now - division over theological issues - division over psychological issues - division over sexual issues.

It makes me ask the question why dream?  Why dream of unity? Why dream of a place where we can come together under the umbrella of Christ?  Because that's heaven - I want to see it - here on earth - if only for a second.  

That's where grace comes in.  We need the grace of God to go before us - to intercede on our behalf. 

So, I'd like to ask a favor.  As we approach Pentecost and the 2nd installment of #DreamUMC - pray for the church - not just The United Methodist Church but all churches - every denomination.  Pray for unity - bind us together.

Almighty God,
to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hidden.
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(The Opening Prayer, A Service of Word and Table, The UM Book of Worship pg 33)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

  All go to the same place:
   all are from the dust;
   all return to the dust.
- Ecclesiastes 3.20, CEB

Today is Ash Wednesday.  The beginning of the Lenten season.  As this season of repentance begins I am reminded:

“How terrible it will be for you, Chorazin! How terrible it will be for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done among you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have changed their hearts and lives and put on funeral clothes and ashes a long time ago. - Matthew 11:21, CEB

When I was trying to figure out if I was even going towrite for the Common English Bible Lenten blog tour (wanna join me?  Click here to find out more) I was having a hard time realizing what to write about.  Then it hit me...this is the Christian New Year.  We have an opportunity to start over.

I am often meeting with people who question their purpose in life.  Have you ever wanted to start over?  Guess what?  Today is that day - the day to take off our old self and put on the person of Christ.  

This Lenten season we can draw closer to God and in doing so - we will change who we are.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crying out in the darkness...

But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.- Galatians 4:4-7, CEB

Today is the last day of the CEB blog tour and I had every intention of letting it slip by and post nothing.  For several months now I have been in a bit of turmoil and recently it has come to a head - so I had to let somethings, like my blog, sit to the side for the time being until things had calmed down.  But, writing is therapeutic for me - it's good for my soul - but I haven't been writing and I've just been giving and giving and I'm drained.  I dreaded waking up in the morning - knowing that the day held no relief.  Then today happened.

When they came to Emmaus, he acted as if he was going on ahead. But they urged him, saying, “Stay with us. It’s nearly evening, and the day is almost over.” So, he went in to stay with them. After he took his seat at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he disappeared from their sight.  - Luke 24:28-31, CEB

These past few weeks I have often felt that I have only seen Christ in passing.  Similar to these verses that recount the journey on the Road to Emmaus.  The disciples feel so lost and alone that they do not see Christ at first.  By the time they recognize him he has gone.  This was me - especially recently - I've been missing Christ - right when I needed him the most.  Being in ministry this next sentence is a hard one to type.  I picked up a Bible today for the first time in 3 weeks - and flipped it open - I read Galatians 4:6 and was suddenly reminded of the word Abba.

Abba is Aramaic term of endearment for father probably more akin to Daddy than anything else.  Since the word is Aramaic word – you would think one would find it in the Old Testament (as part of the Old Testament is written in Aramaic).  But it is not found, at all – the word is too personal. But, Christ uses it as a cry to God:
He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible. Take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.” - Mark 14:36, CEB
In Mark 14 we find Christ at his most vulnerable – he is pleading to his dad to reconsider sending him to the cross.  In spite of Christ’s humanity – he still appeals to his daddy – showing a personal relationship even in the midst of their separation.  Following the use by Christ, Paul uses it twice in his letters - in the Galatians passage and here:


You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.”- Romans 8:15, CEB

As is usually the case when reading Romans I draw parallels with John Wesley and am often "strangely warmed".  Today, I needed to read this; to be reminded.  I did not need it as a pastor, but as a son crying out to his father.  As I recount these verses - I'm drawn to the closing of a Father's Day sermon - I preached this last year.  I finished it like this:
When I was younger I used to think that the job of parents was to teach you how to live life.  Now that I have a kid of my own – I wonder if children aren’t placed here to remind the grown-ups how to live.  A few weeks back I was sitting at home trying to scratch out how to finish this sermon – and our son comes up to me and puts his hand on my arm and says “Hey Daddy, um I have to tell you a question.”  That means that he wants to talk.  He says “Daddy – I don’t belong here.”  To which I immediately respond “What?  Of course you do.”  “No Daddy,” he says…. “I belong to my Jesus and you and Mommy do too.”  He always always says “my Jesus” he doesn’t just say Jesus – he says MY Jesus.  He is my Jesus – he is your Jesus.

Did you know that?  I needed to be reminded of that - I'm not alone on this journey - I'm only alone if I choose to be.  You aren't alone either...

Be blessed.