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Category Archives: service

Inspiration in Weird Places

Recently a new show began on Fox and my wife and I have begun to watch it and follow it pretty closely. It’s called Terra Nova, and although I’m not huge on sci-fi or futuristic stuff this show is pretty cool. The show begins in the year 2149 with an earth so polluted that the sun cannot be seen and the air outside cannot be breathed. Somehow these future people have discovered and created a portal to an earth millions of years prior.

So (this is the big sci-fi leap) they send people back into the past to create a new society, to hopefully help correct the mistakes of the future. Terra Nova is full of dinosaurs and other animals that like to prey on the new tasty humans who have taken up residence in Terra Nova. Now I have to also admit that the special effects and explosions on this show also excite that young boy who is still inside of me.

The colony at Terra Nova is led by Captain Nathaniel Taylor, who was the first man to go through the portal, who survived 118 days in this jungle by himself, which we see was an incredible accomplishment. When the new recruits who are the 10th pilgrimage (notice the religious tinged language) he walks out on the front of his command center hutch.

Captain Taylor introduces himself and tells these people that they have come to a new place and have been entrusted with a second chance to create a new society. The world they came from had fallen victim to the “baser” natures of greed, pollution, and the degradation wrought by human mistreatment of the world.

This speech got my mind rolling from the moment I heard it, and I have since watched it several times again. But I was struck by the idea of grace that is woven throughout the speech. Even the family that the show focuses on, that broke population control laws in 2149, are given a second chance in Terra Nova. The father of the family was an escapee from a maximum security prison, and also brought their third (breaking the strict population control of two children per family) daughter to Terra Nova with them.

The idea of second chances is something that I think we often miss. We get the second chances, but we are not lining up to give them to others. God is constantly giving us opportunities to live out our faith in substantive ways, and we are constantly failing. I hope that today I will be more willing to give the second chances to all of those around me. I pray that God will help me to be the person he has called me to be. What are you praying that you might get a second chance at today?

 

 

Control

This Sunday morning as I sat in the sanctuary here at Mulberry and listened to our Senior Pastor speak my mind latched on to something he said. Now this was particularly the point of his sermon, but this is what God had me hear. My mind began to turn over and over the idea of control.

We (myself included here) all like to be in control of our situation. We like to feel like we are on top of the situations in our lives. I don’t know many, if any, people who like to feel out of control of their situations or their lives. But is this what we are called to? Are we told to live neat, well managed lives?

I think Jesus finds the illusion we have of being in some sort of control as laughable. We only have the illusion of being in control of ourselves and the world around us. I have been listening to a worship song that I was introduced to a while back called “We are the Free” By Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin.

The chorus for this song is, “We are the free, the freedom generation/ singing of mercy/ You are the One who set us all in motion.” I love this because it speaks of us being free from the world around us, but it does not forget that God is the one who put us all in motion. It talks about how we need to relinquish our control so that we can follow as God intends.

We all have an illusion of control, but we need to get past that misguided view of the world around us. We need to truly see our surrender as freedom to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We need to stop thinking of ourselves in control and fully abandon ourselves to the pursuit of God.

 

Getting Your Gait

So this is my second week in a row inserting a video into my post, but this song has played several times in my office in the last week and I just had to post it.

Those of you who know me well, know that I am a huge fan of the Dave Matthews Band. I have been a fan since high school where I think I watched “Listener Supported” at least 1000 times from the couch in my family’s couch. Then I remember sitting in my room for hours learning to play anything I could get tabs for from Dave, and even had some roommates in college that loved (possibly hated) my rendition of “Long Black Veil.”

This song is off of Dave Matthews Band 2004 release “Stand Up” and quickly made it in to my top 5 of all time favorite songs. The lyrics are so simple yet profound. “To change the world/ you start with one step/ however small/ first step is hardest of all.” This is the first verse from the song and I keep coming back to these words.

The more times I listen to this song the more sense it truly makes to me. We spend much of our lives dreaming up what we could do, what would be possible, if only this or only that. What we truly need to do is to just start walking. I am the king of this, I sit in my office dreaming, scheming or planning, but the follow through on these plans is lacking.

I also think about this song in light of all the bad things I see in the world around me. Maybe if we stop sitting and discussing these issues and actually put ourselves out there things will begin to change. “Once you get your gait/ You will walk in tall” we have to start getting our gait. We have to start working instead of bemoaning the world.

God is calling us to action through this unlikely source. We have to stop worrying if we’ll die trying, and begin to think about the fact that if we succeed things will be so much better.

 

 

A Systematic Nature

Recently it seems like I have been writing a lot about the attempt at living a devotional life. Posts about living life in a way that becomes a devotion to God. And about living our lives as prayers and hearing the pregnant pause that we often live in. This week I am going to write living our lives in a systematic kind of way.

Now any of my seminary friends may have gone into full brain lock-down at seeing anything with a title of Systematic, but please do not worry. Moltmann will not be quoted, neither will Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. But the idea of how to do Systematic Theology is near and dear to this post. The idea being that you start with the most basic building blocks, and then moving towards greater things.

When I took Systematic Theology in seminary it was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The thick and dry tomes of Theology are just not really my thing, although reading and at least minimally understanding these books was an incredible stretching experience.

Maybe what I’m getting at in this post is that maybe we need to live our lives in a way that is recognizable to the methodology of Systematic Theology. We need to begin in a place where we live the life of a Christian in small things, and that we can move forward from those places.

We have begun our new small group schedule here at the church and we are using Life Journals (put out by http://www.lifejournal.cc) and this morning my verse from this morning was this. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” Jeremiah 24:7.

Maybe the most basic place we can begin from is our hearts, maybe we can start by at least attempting to put our hearts in the right place. Placing our hearts in the right place will if not immediately, then eventually mean that the rest of us will follow suit. So let us try living systematically and putting our hearts in the place where it can be used by God.

 

What is Ministry?

So this question has plagued me for a long time. Being Seminary educated I was lulled into believing that ministry is a full time, paid position in a church. Even though we read resources that talked much ideas that were very contrary, I had been put into a kind of dream idea about what ministry is.

I don’t have a witty or academic definition for what ministry, but let me tell you a few ideas about what ministry actually is now that I have been in the ministry full time for almost a year.  Here is the most basic idea of ministry it is something that is done for God or for the church, hopefully with other members of the body of Christ.

Luther had an idea about ministry also, it was the Priesthood of All Believers, where all members of the body are to be in ministry in some way.  This obviously doesn’t mean full time paid ministry, it might mean being a part of a ministry group, writing cards to visitors, or helping restock the pews on a random Thursday. There are lots of types of ministries, some of which do not take place within the four walls of the church (GASP…)

Ministry can take place anywhere and at any time, it doesn’t have to be planned, it does not even have to be organized or recognized by the church.  Talking to the person on the street, listening to your friends problems, or doing random acts of kindness are all ministry.  There are no formal committees, no boards to report to, and no budgets to worry about.

In short our lives are to be much more about how we live and love the people around us.  We are in ministry when we truly strive to live like Jesus lived, when we try to love our neighbors as ourselves. The time I take to talk with and pay attention to the lonely older widower who lives on my street, that is ministry.

When I give the quick gift of a smile to someone around me who may feel like the world is crashing down around them, I am in ministry.  There is no one way or style of ministry, there is certainly no set place that ministry has to happen. The thing we have to remember when we try to outsource our ministry to those paid people in the church, is that ministry is not just theirs, it’s all the people of the church. How can we live into ministry in a greater way in the coming days? How can I (and you) truly see our entire lives as a ministry when we give it over to God, and tell Him “do with it what You will?”

 

What is at the core of the human race?

This week’s post in Fearless: The Courage to Question talks about human nature. The topic is birth and the story of Jesus and Nicodemus and their conversation in John 3. So I am going to go all dime store philosophy on you this week. The title of the post is “What is at the core of the human race?”

Now philosophers, and I am greatly generalizing here, fall into basically two camps. Humans are either inherently good or inherently evil.  Now I am not really going to argue the pro’s and con’s of these two position, I am woefully unqualified for that. But I will tell you what I believe through the lens of my faith and my understanding of faith.

Now I believe that we were created in the image of God, and that means if we affirm an all good (God is Love) God then we are inherently good.  But as the saying goes “we are only human,” this meaning that our basic goodness is corrupted.  Now this corruption is not necessarily evil or malevolent, more commonly our corruption is apathy to the world around us.

I believe that we are all struggling, moving on towards perfection as John Wesley phrased it. Now we fail, and fail miserably a good portion of the time, especially myself.  But I think that we all truly want to be better people and better followers of Christ.  The things that wants us to believe that we are inherently evil and therefore should not spend our energies on benevolence is the great tempter.

Uh Oh! I said it, I said that I believe, truly believe that there is a devil who is working behind the scenes to convince us we can do no good.  If he can’t get us to believe that then he attempts to lull into a sense of complacency. The question is how do we work towards something greater? It is a daily struggle to truly do good in the world around us, and I am always working towards what that looks like for me.

So this week I have a challenge and that is to try to see where and how we can truly do good in the world around us. God has created in His good image, how do we show that we are His children and love the world around us.  It is hard and things will trip us up, but the striving toward something is what actually fosters transformation in ourselves.

 

United

So I recently met with another Youth Pastor friend for lunch to look at planning some cooperative events and thought about something that kind of stopped me in my tracks. Now I have been a Methodist for a long time, most of my formative experiences of faith came through the church or its ministries.

The name of our church is interesting because we have the word “United” in the title of our churches.  We are local and unique expressions of a national and international church, yet how do most United Methodists participate in ministry.  With very few exceptions we do not actively participate as a “United” church, we all fly the flag and seem to combine under one umbrella, but we often are as divided as churches on different ends of the spectrum.

I do not think that this is truly on purpose, but we do not make as concerted an effort at unification.  It is interesting to me to see the over arching de-unification of our society over politics, religion, and any number of other million issues.  Now each church (read local congregation) has significant differences from any other congregation, but how do we truly state our similarities. Our culture has become obsessed with dividing ourselves, just look at the hyper-partisan tone of politics and the political “dialogue” (of which I believe there is none.)

I was recently reading a book on vegetable gardening on my e-reader and there was a discussion about the “Victory Gardens” planted during World War II, and it struck as how unifying just something that small would be for a community. How much more do we have something to rally around in the church, in the cause of Christ than any political party or vegetable garden.

Now I realize that unification takes much more than empty words on some website, it takes the gritty, difficulty, and often trying times in cooperative ministry with others. I know that our ways of measuring health and growth in the church do not really cooperate with this vision and idea of ministry with our accounting focused on numbers both in money and attendance. But I would much rather measure my ministry not by strict numbers, but in the lives that truly become transformed by God’s presence in their lives.

How can we truly live united lives not just with our denomination, or with fellow Christians, but in learning to truly giving ourselves to our neighbors and partners in Christ’s work. How do we practice the truly “dying to oneself” that Paul talks about. How do we not just live or live well, but truly live sacrificially with our neighbors (read other humans.) It is time that our unification as followers in Christ can speak not just to each other, but to the world. As the old song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love…”