Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why we do a Fall Festival

I have gotten some questions and even some grief over why we do a Fall Festival as a church.  This isn't so much an apology for it as a rationale.  I'll try to answer a couple of objections along the way too.

1.  I'm all for reclaiming holidays as Holy Days.  Christmas.  Easter.  Halloween (aka All Hallow's Eve, or the day before All Saints Day).  I don't buy that the Devil owns a holiday(s) any more than I buy the fact that "rhythm-driven rap is out of the voodoo tribes of Africa and is straight from the pit of hell" (something I was told recently at an event hosted by our church - but hey, the guy liked our hotdogs).  I don't particularly love the way the costumes have gone and think it's both degrading and fright-inducing, but that doesn't mean we can't work to reclaim All Hallow's Eve.

2.  This huge event for our church is a great opportunity to get people involved and help them have a sense of ownership in the ministry of our church.  And it involves a broad swath of our church - older folks, younger folks, etc.

3.  This huge event is a great opportunity for neighbors and the neighborhoods that surround us to know that we care about their well-being.  It's a goodwill event at the very least.

4.  We work hard and will continue to work hard to make it more than a goodwill event.  We have people posted and assigned to walk around and invite people to church or, even better, share the Gospel with them.

5.  I think it boosts our ministry momentum as we move into the holiday season.  We have a sense of "win" after we're done.

6.  Our people enjoy inviting their neighbors and friends to a safer place than their streets.  Hopefully that turns into ministry too.

7.  It gives me, as the pastor, more conversations with folks outside our church in a condensed time than I probably get throughout the rest of the year.  And I love that.

So if you're around tonight, come on out.  6-8pm at our place - www . heritage park . org

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Daniel - keeping his distance, making a difference

My Bible reading plan has me reading through Daniel right now.  I'm familiar enough with the stories but a particular theme has come up this time through that I mentioned in my sermon this past Sunday.

Daniel kept his distance but made a difference.

Two examples of the former will suffice.  He and his compatriots didn't eat the king's food because it was defiling (chapter 1).  He also didn't want the reward the king was offering for being an interpreter of dreams (5.17).  Both show that getting too cozy with the government is unwise.  They also provide a good example of keeping your distance in an appropriate way:  who is your provider?

But he stayed engaged in the government and made a difference in the world.  He gave good advice.  He answered when called upon.  He faithfully served God and those in authority over him.  He spoke the Truth to power.  He was excellent in his skills.  On and on we could go.  He made a difference.

How about you?  Where might you apply this?

Keep your distance (God is your provider).  And make a difference through your diligence and excellence.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bonhoeffer and The Plot

By all historical accounts, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, was involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Third Reich and megalomaniac extraordinaire.  Let's put that in the category of not-quite-a-pacifist.

He struggled with the decision.  Killing and murder are certainly two different things in the Bible, but it's still a serious and grievous thing to think about, plan for, and then ultimately take another person's life.  

Here's where it came down for him:  it was going to be more unloving to do nothing than to do this potentially sinful thing (thank you, Eric Metaxas, for this insight from Bonhoeffer's writings).  And that ruled the day for him.  Although the plot failed and ultimately cost him his life, it was the right thing to do.

And to all in leadership who might be paralyzed by a particular decision:  is it more loving to "do nothing" in hopes of getting it right or to go ahead and act on a thought-through plan?  Pastors in particular can get paralyzed by the "get-it-right" mentality.  Sometimes it's action that is needed most (assuming of course there has been clear-headed thinking and the path isn't sinful and all the other ethical caveats needed here).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's been a while!


It's been a while since I last blogged and a ton has gone on.  Among the happenings...

1.  I got sick.  So did most of my family.  I slept for most of one day.  Apparently my body needed that.

2.  We finished our dossier and now are paper-ready to adopt.  Now we just need (another) mountain to move and paperwork for the little one we're praying for (Maggie is the name) to get processed and over here.  You can absolutely join in praying for that.  For the record, when we last adopted, it was a 6-month paperwork process.  We did this one in just shy of 11 weeks.  Booyah.

3.  Peanut had surgery.  And she's doing great.  She was born with a congenital issue called arthrogryposis, a malformation of the hands and wrists.  She also had no bicep in either arm.  We were working to surgically help her be more functional.  We'll know the degree of success in a few weeks.

4.  A bunch of other stuff that either I can't tell you or you don't want to hear about.

It's been wild and woolly around here.  But I'm back to the blog.  And I hope to have something worthwhile to say in the days ahead.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 10.27.13

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon from Daniel 5-6 on how we as followers of Jesus should think about relating to the government in an increasingly hostile culture.  To get the sermon audio and these notes in PDF, please visit our website at  You can also get the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Let’s Talk about Government
Daniel 5-6

Governments are established by God and removed by God.

We make an idol of government when we trust it to deliver what God does not intend (5.17)
We make an idol of independence when we deny its legitimacy under God

This will require a clear moral compass (5.18-23)
This will require speaking truth to power (5.24-28)

Government needs bright, thoughtful, spiritual people in it
Government needs Spirit-led Christians to stay engaged

Faithfulness and integrity often speak for themselves (6.5)
Faithfulness amid legislation or other government action that often has unintended consequences (6.6-9)
Faithfulness in ongoing obedience

Expect persecution
Expect power

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 10.20.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 10.20.13, on 2 Corinthians 5.9-10.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also download the sermon audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Let’s Talk about Rewards 
2 Cor 5.9-10

Paul’s goal: to please God
  • We are not appeasing God – getting Him off our back or on our side
  • We are living to please God – to reflect the relationship we have with Him

    Every person will stand before Christ
  • For unbelievers, it’s a terrifying pronouncement of judgment
  • For believers, it’s a gracious announcement

    Every Christian will give an account to Christ
  • Bema seat – the place of judgment, settling accounts
  • The accounting of what is due is based on our obedience
  • There will not be punishment but there might be loss
  • Two losses: what you brought with you and the opportunity cost
  • That which is worthless will not remain – what is worthwhile will be purified

    Every Christian will receive rewards
  • Don’t worry about essence but intent, not material but meaning
  • The rewards will bestow recognition (Crowns)
  • The rewards will bestow responsibility (Luke 19 Parable)

    2 Pastoral Pleas
  1. Stop disobeying, delaying, being distracted
  2. Don’t skip obedience in the small things 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 10.13.13

Here are the sermon notes from Sunday, 10.13.13.  This was the last sermon in the series Together.  You can get these notes in PDF and the sermon audio on our website at  You can also get the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 4 – One from Many 
John 17.20-24

Three Foundational Statements
  1. We were not meant to be alone
  2. We do not have to be alone
  3. We become more together than we do alone
Christian Community: our mutual commitment to pursue ultimate joy through radical love in the power of the spirit

Christian Community transforms
  • Christians
  • Church
  • Churches in a Community

    Christian Community testifies
  • Unified Christians and churches make the world takes notice
  • Unified churches do the things the NT commands

    Christian Community invites
  • Transformed people invite people into the process of transformation
  • Jesus prays for those invited
  • We are the people who were invited
  • He sends us to extend His ministry of invitation 

Monday, October 7, 2013

One of the reasons people avoid church

I'm not saying this is true for everyone.  That caveat aside, I think there's a powerful reason people avoid or shun church.  Even if they're "present," they're not connected in a meaningful sense.  Ready for the reason?

The Idolatry of Hurt.

Hurt is real.  Let me say that.  Churches that hurt people are shameful representations of the true church, the Body of Christ, the family of God.  It comes from every kind of place and relationship, with some of the wounds being faith-crippling.

It's real.

But here's what's also real.  Some of us fall in love with our hurt.  We don't have an identity apart from the hurt.  It becomes the idol of our heart.  We don't know how to live without it.  We feel angry when someone wants to take it away.  Any of that ring a bell?

Idolatry of Hurt.

It keeps people from connecting in an environment that truly heals.  Even though the environment may be imperfect, it can still be healing.  No perfect church, but healing churches are real and more plentiful than people may think.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sermon Notes from Sunday, 10.6.13

Here are the sermon notes from today's sermon on Romans 1.11-12 in the series Together.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio at  You can also download the audio via our podcast on iTunes.

Part 3 – Who Needs Church?
Romans 1.11-12

Three Foundational Truths:
  • We were not created to be alone
  • We do not have to be alone
  • We can become more together than we can alone

Everyone needs to belong
  • If it’s true for an Apostle, it’s true for all of us too
  • No one experiences Christianity alone
  • Individualism is the same as individual responsibility
  • Having hurts is okay – hiding behind them is not

Everyone needs to give and receive 
  •  Nourishment
  • Encouragement
  • Practical Help

Friday, October 4, 2013

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Voice of the Lord

I can't improve on this.  So here's a Psalm for Thursday...

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.  He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shake the wilderness; the LORD shake the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in His temple all cry, "Glory!"

If you want to hear His voice, listen for something like that.

[From Psalm 29]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Isolation: It's Demonic

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment (Prov. 18.1).

I said in yesterday's blog post that isolation is demonic.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not talking about occasional solitude which, in our crazy world, would do the soul good.  I'm talking about the kind of isolation that happens when we get to thinking that (a) we don't need others or (b) we don't want others.

In my experience, not needing others comes from failing (or being failed) so many times that my pride prevents the pain.

Not wanting others comes when we know we're in the wrong but we don't want to be confronted about it.

Both are Satanic.  Demonic.  Bad.  Evil.  Wrong.

Those who isolate themselves don't think straight - they "break out against all sound judgment" because they don't have the kind of interaction that helps remind us of Reality.  It leaves us to "seek our own desire" and keep running down a path of destruction.

And it spirals.  Destruction breeds pain and probably shame.  Pain/Shame breeds hiding.  Hiding breeds more isolation.  Isolation breeds destruction.  And on the spiral goes, down and down and down until the brutal conclusion of a life in shambles.

Not exactly a happy thought.  But we should be warned by the wisdom of the Proverbs.  

One last parting shot:  just because you're connected to people (via technology for instance) doesn't mean you're connected to them.  Isolation is a relational dynamic, not an accessibility issue.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hanging on until Heaven?

One of the great lies perpetuated by Satan, I think, is that when Jesus saves us we just have to hang on until heaven.  It won't ever get better.  There's not much we can do.  No need to expect too much.  Just hang on until heaven.

It's certainly not the only lie, but it's a big one, in my pastoral opinion.

And it is a lie.

There is no need to hang on until heaven.  Jesus put His Spirit within us and promises to transform us.  He gives us His Word by which our minds are renewed and transformation comes.  He roots us in a church where people of various shapes, sizes, and stories rub against us in a way that helps us become something we're not.  And He give us a life-shaping purpose.

All of those strike at the heart of Satan's strategies and schemes.

Christ's Spirit within us gifts us and calls us to holiness, as He is holy.

Christ's Word reveals Reality - the way things really are - to us instead of the concocted and cockamamie faux world the Enemy wants us to believe.

Christ's Church reminds us that we're never alone and that isolation is demonic.

Christ's Purpose for us helps us impact the world with "love and good works" (Heb. 10.24-25).

In other words, we are called to be transformed by Jesus and then participate in His renovation project of the world.  That's us.  That's our role.  And that doesn't sound a bit like "hanging on until heaven."

But that's just me thinking thoughts...