The Order matters

As the Israelites came into the promised land, Moses began telling them their history.  A whole generation had passed away while in the desert, so it was important for them to have everything straight before they crossed the Jordan.

In Deuteronomy chapter 7, the warnings come from Moses about the importance of Israel staying away from the gods of other cultures.  Just so they know who they are, just so they don't forget where they came from, Moses reminds them.

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.  "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh …

The Forgotten Part of Prayer

It’s no surprise that the Apostle Paul talks about prayer a lot.  Living on the road, sharing the gospel, or being shipwrecked, beaten, or jailed are things that would drive anyone to pray.  In his books in the New Testament Paul mentions prayer (prayers, prayer reports, prayer requests, exhortations to pray), 41 times.  One of those times you might be familiar with in Philippians instructs us to pray, but also reminds us about the most forgotten part of prayer, and it’s benefits.  Philippians 4:6-7 is a pretty well known passage, and for good reason.  
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7
Many, many sermons have been preached on these verses. They are full of deep theological truths that have brought comfort and peace to multitudes.  But the little phrase tucked in the mid…

Social Media Discipleship

I had a conversation with another pastor about two church members of my church that were fighting on Facebook.  He lectured me a little about the need to be careful with Facebook.  He’s 30 years or so older than me and told me “that is why he’s not friend with young people on Facebook.  They just don’t know how to control themselves.”  The advice he gave was sound, but the problem is that a 75 year old was fighting with an 85 year old online!
The world of social media is a new one for most everyone to navigate.  By that I don’t mean about figuring out how to get an account or follow somebody.  I mean figuring out how to deal with conflict, differing opinions, and even threats on social media.  There are many, many, many ways that a person can get in trouble online, and social media can just make it all worse.   And there are many ways that it is used to hurt, harm, and spread gossip rather than inform and unite.  There is one way, though, that you can use social media can be a blessing…

When did you start to die?

June 28, 1914.  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary,  was assassinated by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in in Sarajevo.  

Sometimes it's easy to look back and see the beginning, how something started,and what events led to the place you're at today. The Great Recession can be traced to Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.  World War 2 began with September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.  Even in your own life you might note when you first met your spouse, your first date, or your wedding day.  The death of a loved might also mark change in your life, easily traced back to the day of their first signs of illness or diagnosis.

Other times, it's not so easy to see the beginning.  It's harder to pinpoint when you begin to get old, when a marriage begins to fall apart, or when a church begins to die.

I recently saw two churches, within one mile of each other. They  actually had the same name, (NW Baptist vs NW Christian) Bo…

The true meaning of Revitalization.

Four times a year the Oxford English Dictionary updates its entries, adding hundreds of words each year.  Long the gold standard of the dictionary world, the OED has to update quarterly because of the massive influx of words today.   Words or phrases that 20 years ago would be nonsense are now part of every day language, even used in newspapers and on the nightly news.  This past December 2016, words such as Brexit, fulled, hakbut of crochet, Fulfulde (n. and adj.), glam-ma, YouTuber, and upstander were added to the list.  (No I don’t know what all those mean)
Every so often in the Christian subculture there are new words and phrases that catch on and become buzzwords.  You might remember when words like missional, emergent, emerging, church planting, or more first began to be circulated.  Often due to influential books, authors, or preachers, these words help put a point on something that need to be expressed in the current moment. 
In the last few years the phrase “church revitalizati…

What's left when a church closes

Some skills are God-given. Some are acquired through hard work.  Through years of practice and hard work, I have learned to spot a garage sale sign at great distances.  Driving through the city recently my eye caught a big one.   Not only was it a going out of business sign, it was at a church.

I drove to a big old church building that backed up to a high school in one of the older parts of the city.  It was a mainline protestant church, and as I entered the old gym, the sights and smells were familiar.  It looked and felt like almost every older church I have been in.  Like my church, even.  I wandered around the building some, and it had all the problems older buildings have. Dated decor, lots of stairs, and it was probably difficult to direct people in the maze of hallways.  One table in the back had a picture of the congregation taken a few years back. The church shared little demographically with the high school you could see out the window.  I talked to a few of the ladies work…

He Passed me the plate

It was something that had happened to me hundreds of times before.  I stood in front of the church leading in the Lord's Supper.  Taking the plates, leading in prayer, and doing it all in remembrance of the work and sacrifice of Jesus.

I had prepared and prayed and was ready to lead.  As the music started and I walked out I was reminded again of how grateful I was to be able to lead the church in this remembrance.  I think this is one the great privileiges I have as a pastor, and I have tried to never take it for granted.

Our human mind though, often forgets, even when it needs to remember.  My desk that is littered with post-it notes is a testament to that.  It is because God knows that we are prone to forget that we are told to "do this in remembrance of me."  Every time  your church partakes in this remembrance, it helps to remind us, so that we don't forget the sacrifice of Christ for us, His body broken and his blood shed.

The deacons who had served the bread…

2 gods or One God

We all have a choice.

At the end of his life Joshua stood before the people he had led into the Promised Land.  He reminds of all that God has done for them.  After coming from Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb had the faith that God would deliver the nations of Canaan into their hands. Their faith was rewarded, and after wandering through the desert Joshua was picked by God as the successor to Moses.  Joshua led them against Jericho, and then in a systematic march through the land.  God delivered Israel, just as Joshua said he would.  Now at the end of his life, Joshua reminds the nation of all that God has done.  He doesn't leave it there, though, and in Joshua 24 he recounts the whole history of Israel, starting with Abraham.  God's faithfulness is show through Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers.

The list of nations was impressive.  Pharoah and Egypt, Balak and Moab, Jericho, the Amorites, the Preizzites, the Canaanite's and the Hittite's, the Girgashite's, the Hivite…