December 28, 2008

"Out with the Old..."

A sermon I gave this morning.
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I'm not sure if you've been to the new Indianapolis Airport but I’ve been there quite a bit over the past 2 weeks to drop off and pickup different family members. I have yet to actually go inside but from the outside it seems pretty nice. My sister and I were getting ready to leave my house to get her to the airport when she heads inside, grabs the bathroom scale and begins weighing her luggage in my driveway. There is a certain weight limit and if you go over it you have to pay extra and as I’m talking to her about her giant piece of luggage, which was as a matter of fact over the weight limit, she told me that most airlines are now charging for checked baggage. It’s hard to believe that you have to pay for even 1 checked bag and to check 2 cost even more. I guess the more baggage you have, the more it will cost you.

We find ourselves again at the end of another year. Christmas has passed, the visitors have all left the manger scene and we’re left cleaning up after all of the holiday parties. The beginning of a new year is such an interesting time to me because we hear so much about doing this or doing that. Maybe like me you find yourself saying things like, “This year I’m really gonna do it.” or “Things are going to be different this time around.” and yet we find ourselves lugging around baggage that we’re still paying for.

This morning I want to talk about a couple things that perhaps are weighing some of us down. Things that need to go. Baggage that you and I need to check at the feet of Jesus because it’s costing us way to much to keep carrying around. My hope is to challenge us to be thinking along the lines of “Out with the Old, In with the New”. Next week Rodney will be talking about “In with the New” and on this last Sunday of 2008 I’m going to spend some time talking about “Out with the Old”. There are a couple things that come to mind when I think about Scripture with this “Out with the Old” perspective that I hope will challenge you and I to think about the things we have been carrying around that need to go.

Names were a big deal in Bible times. They were more than just simply something to call someone, they were a person’s identity. A person’s name described their perceived purpose, calling or personality. A couple examples: (Gen. 17:4-6) Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of many), (Gen. 25:25-27) Jacob (he grasps the heel, figuratively he deceives) and Esau (may mean hairy but he was also called Edom which means red), (Matt.16:17-18) Peter (rock), the different names of Jesus….. Names were a means of finding identity, sometimes good and sometimes not so good. The key for us is this idea of identity. Is there baggage in your life that is keeping you from the identity that God desires for you? This baggage might be our own fault or the fault of someone else and yet everyday that goes by with us still holding onto it, we pay a price.

You might remember a story in the early Old Testament about this guy Moses who was out shepherding some sheep when he saw a burning bush. God tells him to get his brother Aaron and go tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. After a number of visits and signs Pharaoh is convinced to let them go. So over 600,000 people leave Egypt for the Promised Land but on the way some of the people start to have bad attitudes. They start to whine and grumble, cursing their leaders and doubting God. All of this even after God provides for their needs and guess what God says, “Out with the Old.” Numbers 14:26-35. Are we holding onto a resentful or bitter attitude that needs to go? Is a certain perspective costing us our ability to love and be loved? Do we need to take a second look at the perception of God we have been carrying around for some time now?

So much of what we hear about resolutions for the new year have to do with getting rid of baggage that we have been carrying around for way too long. I’m not talking so much about the baggage around our midsections, though almost half of the top resolutions deal with weight and health, but rather the baggage we carry around from past hurts, choices, attitudes, words said or not said, actions done or left undone. We have been carrying some of this old baggage around for long enough, isn't it time to let it go? That baggage might have to do with family, friends, a spouse, an ex-spouse, a co-worker, yourself or even God. What better time than now to get out with the old so that we can get in with the new?

December 26, 2008

Christmas Kaleidoscope

Welp, it's the day after Christmas, we are currently experiencing a thunderstorm(got to love midwest weather, they are saying it could be 65 tomorrow?!?) and it's been a long time since I last posted. Overall I would say I did a pretty decent job of keeping things simple throughout this holiday season and am hoping to continue this concept of simplicity right into the new year.

How did you manage? Did you find Christmas time this year to be especially meaningful or special? OR Did you find it particularly difficult to find the Christmas spirit this time around?

Tai and I had a great time visiting friends and family, volunteering with an inner city church that provided presents, clothes and food to over 100 families for Christmas, see people excited about gifts they recieved and experienced people being way too generous to us. Overall it has been a great past two weeks. Here are a couple random pics for no particular reason.


*Here's our Christmas tree. Y
ou could probably say it is "non-traditional" but that is the advantage of being married to an artist. In the picture on the right you'll also notice our new front door that was about 2yrs in the picking out/deciding/ordering/scheduling/having put in....


*Not only am I not good at picking out gifts for other people, unless of course you're my brother who likes everything I like which makes it really easy, I am also really bad at wrapping presents. I bet you can't guess which gifts Tai wrapped for me and which ones I wrapped for her. We had a hard time keeping the camera still and getting it to focus as you can see in the blurriness.

December 11, 2008

Keeping It Simple?

How have you been doing so far this holiday season? Have you been finding ways to slow down and keep it simple? I know I haven't posted in a while and I apologize for those that have been paying attention but I'm sure like me you are finding that it's not so simple to keep things simple.

I had the opportunity, as I do every year, to read the Christmas story to a group of kindergartners from one of our preschools yesterday. I always think it's going to be harder than it ever is. I worry that the little kids will think I'm boring or won't pay attention or even worse, start crying and yet, none of those ever happen.

I leave my time with these little kids always reminded of the simplicity of the season. It starts from the very beginning of my time with them when I ask them what Christmas is all about and some 5yr old shouts, "God sends us a present!" and another one follows with, "It's Jesus' birthday!!"...I'm not sure I could say it any better myself.

November 29, 2008

"Black Friday" Etiquette

No, I did not get up ridiculously early to go stand outside in the cold and wait in line only to walk away empty handed. Actually, I didn't go at all. I know my sister and her husband did, it seems as though they have made this a sort of tradition for themselves. He got up at 3:45am and headed to a popular electronics store after which he headed home to pick up my sister because she wanted to "sleep in" until 4:30am. The two of them proceeded to navigate their way through the maze of sleepy-eyed shoppers and deals galore (or so I've heard).

On our way to our relatives on Thanksgiving day we passed a popular electronics store where there was already a tent set up outside the front door and it was only 12:45pm. This got me thinking and led to some discussion later in the weekend about the proper etiquette for waiting in line during the wee hours of the morning on "Black Friday"(click to find out why it's called that if you're not sure)...

1. If you get there early and setup a tent, do you have to stay in the tent or are you free to leave it and come back when you want to?

2. Is it possible for some object or person to save your place in line?

3. Is it common for people to take shifts waiting in line? If so, are the other people in line cool with this?

4. What is the deal or what would the deal have to be in order to motivate an individual to forfeit an entire night of sleep to go wait outside in the cold only to go shopping?

5. Are there any sort of "deals" that are being made while in line? Trading/selling item coupons or tickets, place in line, coffee, etc.? Is that generally frowned upon?

6. Shouldn't the fact that a store worker in NY was trampled to death as the doors were opened early Friday morning make us question our priorities as a society?

If you know the answer to any of these questions or have experienced any of these different "Black Friday" scenarios, please tell. Or if you have a story or a great deal that you got because you decided to wake-up before the rest of the world did, let us know.

November 22, 2008

That Time of Year

I'm sitting here at my dining room table looking outside noticing that pretty much all of the leaves have fallen off the trees in my neighborhood, it's cold out, and the holiday season is upon us as Thanksgiving is now only days away. Before you know it, it will be 2009 and we'll all wonder where the last month of the year went. I don't know about you but it's at this point in the year for me when time seems to fly by. Between all of the hussle and bussle of the season, traveling to see family, Advent events at church, using vacation time before the end of the year, scrambling to figure out program budgets for 2009, end of year meetings, etc etc I start wondering if I'll be around for the holidays, let alone enjoy them.

I was driving around town the other day and saw a bumper sticker that said, "Put Christ back in Christmas." I started thinking about that and two thoughts got stuck in my head:

  • Bummer for anyone that has already taken Him out of it.
  • Christmas is about Christ, it's that simple.
Our senior pastor just finished leading a class called 'Simplifying Christmas', which talked about practical ways to keep the holiday season simple. You know, things like don't buy an excessive amount of gifts for people, don't spend all of your time running around but enjoy the friends and family you're with or don't waste a lot of money on presents. I like this time of year and am not someone that gets stressed because of everything going on but I can get too busy and then I find myself missing the main points...a) be thankful and b) the coming of Christ. I am determined to keep this time of year slow and simple.

November 13, 2008

The Humility to Change

I have to admit that I have never really thought about the relationship between change and humility until 'dk', a now frequent commenter to this blog, brought up the question. (See his comment here.) The more I think about it, the more I see humility being a necessary component for change. And when I say change, I mean life transforming change that actually moves us from one point to another in our lives, not just changing something temporarily only to go right back to the beginning.

As I mentioned before, I think there is a certain amount of surrender that must take place in order to change and to do that, humility is required. To get to the point of realizing that you can't do it on your own and to give up control (though many times we realize we don't really control as much as we think) is a humbling experience because in a sense we are saying that this situation or needed change is beyond me. I have tried on my own to make this change and have failed and now I must give the power, control or whatever you want to call it to someone else. Humility allows me to admit that I can't do it on my own which then allows the process of change to begin.

Something else that was brought up was the idea of authenticity as a prerequisite to change, is it or isn't it? I think it is. Just as humility is needed to experience change, I think authenticity is needed to have humility. I've got to be real with myself in order to realize that I need to put my pride on the shelf so that I can be humble enough to experience change. It is so easy to convince myself that I am much better off than I really am, that the change that needs to take place in my life is really not that urgent or that I can get around to changing whenever I decide to. I almost think that humility and authenticity are so closely related it's hard to tell one from the other, because I wonder if you can truly be humble without being authentic. It is in my authenticity that I come to see that I am really nothing special, can't do much on my own and fail more often than I succeed and yet somehow through the mystery of Christ, it is then that change can begin.

November 8, 2008

Pocket Change

A sermon I gave on Nov. 9th.
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We have heard a lot about change over these past few months. And when you hear this word, a couple of things might come to mind: a change of clothes, political change, the coins you find under your car seat. Something I find funny about change is how each of us reacts differently to it. Some of us thrive on change, we need that sense of newness or spice to liven up the status quo. Others of us can’t stand change. We like things the way they are and don’t see any reason to mess things up.

Tai and I were eating breakfast earlier this week and I was complaining about my cereal and her comment was, “well maybe it’s time for grown-up cereal.” And I said, “but I like my Cocoa Krispies." Some things just don't change.

Some of us are paralyzed by the fear of change because we can’t always predict what the outcome will be or look like. We see this often in abusive relationships, where someone has become more comfortable with the emotional or physical abuse then the thought of the change that might come from leaving the relationship.

I want to talk about change but not change on a global, national, or local level; not any sort of change that has to do with politics or outfits or the coins you find between the cushions of your couch. I want to talk about change that can touch your heart. I want to talk about something that can change your life. I would encourage you to, even if just for a moment, forget about all of the other things that need to be changed in this world and focus on the things that need to change in your relationship with Jesus.

James writes in 1:17 and the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s you and I that need to change, not God. He has been and will continue to do His thing…being faithful, just, loving, forgiving, merciful, etc etc. All of the things that I am so often not.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:1-4 that we must change and so I’m wondering if there are any of us that have things in our lives that need to change. Things that are getting in the way of knowing Jesus better; things like pride, busyness and the excuse of “not having any time”, selfishness but not the kind of selfishness that says, “Gimme, that’s mine and I want it.” but more of a subtle selfishness that says things like, “I don’t really feel like serving, helping, fill in the blank…” or "I'm sure someone else will step up to help or volunteer." Many of us want to change and have been telling ourselves that we will change but here we sit, dealing with the very same lack of change in our relationship with Christ.

We’ve just finished a stewardship campaign that not only touched on financial stewardship but stewardship of our time and talents as well. This change that I’m talking about is not to try and get you to volunteer or give more because in my opinion, that’s not what it’s about. What I’m asking you is what is it that needs to change in order for you to be closer to Jesus. We see the change we want to make in our lives, we have every intention of making it but we just can’t seem to do it. And you know what, we can’t. It’s kind of like what Paul says in that sometimes confusing passage in Romans 7, the one with all of the “do’s” and “don’t do’s”. We can’t make life transforming change on our own…

To change is to let go. We have to hand over control, take our hands off the wheel and let someone else drive. The only way I have found to ever really change something in my life is to surrender it over to God. This was not something that happened overnight, it was a process and at times a difficult one. It involved a lot of prayer, discipline, accountability and support from others. It wasn’t until I realized that I couldn’t make the change on my own that I started to see change taking place.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18…verses 16 and 18 are good stuff and really could be separate sermons for another day but what I really want to focus on right now is verse 17. No doubt there are some of us here in this place that need to hear that, we have the power to change our lives, not because you and I are all that great but because Christ is. “If anyone is IN Christ…” To be found in Christ is what it means to be a Christian. No, it doesn’t mean you’re perfect or even close but it does mean that you trying to be like Him. If you call yourself a Christian, if you have a relationship with Jesus then this promise is yours to claim. I heard someone say, “Jesus loves you exactly where you are but He loves you way too much to leave you there.” I don’t know what change needs to take place in your life but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Holy Spirit has laid something on your heart as you’re sitting there that needs to change. Isn’t it time to make this life transforming change that comes through Christ more than just pocket change?

November 5, 2008

Day After

It is 72 degrees and sunny on November 5th in central Indiana. The day after our country has just elected the first ever African American as President of the United States. Surreal.

What lies ahead for us as a nation and especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create unity. No one likes to lose but we cannot let the color of our political party divide us, whether you're RED or BLUE. We have a beautiful opportunity as the Church to "reach across the aisle" and give our support, prayers and service to our fellow man being reminded that it's not about you or me, this political party or that one but rather it's about Christ who calls us to serve Him by serving each other. The words of Paul's letter to the Philippians should not only echo in our hearts but in the things we say or don't say, do or don't do...

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

October 30, 2008

And Your Vote Goes To....??


Election day is only days away and some of you may have already voted but I thought I would take a little poll of 'A Journeyman's Catalog' readers to see who you are voting for and why or if you are undecided at this point, which way are you leaning or why still undecided.

I recognize that some of you may not want to share this information and I respect that so for those individuals might I suggest leaving an anonymous comment with your choice. It is simply the curiosity of the politics of those that read this blog that make me ask this question, not to mention I think it could be kind of fun to see what kind of response we get and the conversations that might follow. Feel free to get it started or keep it going.

October 27, 2008

Common Decency

This post is a few weeks overdue but I have finally gotten to the point where I can't take it anymore. Have we lost all decency as a consumer society that the lines have become so badly blurred that I have not only seen Christmas things in various store windows but have even seen Christmas decorations on the houses and in the yards of private citizens weeks before Halloween?!?

I feel like I'm a pretty tolerable person. It doesn't bother me in the least to have your yard telling me which political candidate or party you support; heck, go ahead and turn it into a used car lot but when I see an inflatable "snow-globe" at the beginning of October then we might have some issues. They might be my issues or theirs but clearly there are some issues.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Christmas, especially when it's Christmastime but since I've recently made a personal commitment to Fall as my favorite season, I'd like to enjoy it without being blinded by Rudolph's nose.

October 22, 2008

A Delicious Slice of Mudpie

"He who slings mud generally loses ground."
-A.E. Stevenson
Election day is getting closer by the minute and the mud flying through the air between the two campaigns is getting heavier and more frequent.

We all know there are people out there that don't like you or me for whatever reason. They would like nothing more than to throw a juicy mudpie right in our face or maybe they already have. What happens when the mud doesn't stick? What if, not only our elected leaders but you and I lived in such a way that because of the things we say or don't say, do or don't do the mud can't stick? What if we stop trying to serve up a delicious slice of mudpie to someone we don't like, wouldn't that make it that much harder for the mud on our face to stick?

If we want to clean things up, then we need to quit playing in the mud.

October 16, 2008

Angels Unaware

It was around lunchtime and I headed to the bank just down the road from my office at the church, literally less than a mile away. There happens to be a Speedway right across the street from my bank and so I thought I would zip in there really quick to fill-up then maybe grab something to eat before my 1:30pm meeting. It didn't quite play out that way for me. I was just about to get in my car after filling my tank when I noticed a lady walking toward me. I smiled politely and that's where the "adventure" began.

"Excuse me sir, I'm trying to get to a church a little further north from here and have walked quite a ways to make it this far. Is there any chance you could drop me off at the church?" Right or wrong I immediately started to size this lady up and wonder things like...could I take her in a fight if I needed to?...what if she has a gun?...I know exactly where the church is she's talking about and it really would be easy to drop her off...I have a meeting in less than an hour...weird that she is asking for a ride and not money. Those were thoughts that went through my head before I said, "Sure, hop in."

After introducing ourselves she proceeded to tell me how her grandma had just recently passed away in Orlando and she was trying to get help to pay for a bus ticket to get down there for the funeral. She shared how times have been tough for her as of late and that her disability check doesn't come until Nov. 3rd and that she was short the necessary funds right now. I asked her if the church knew she was coming and how they were planning to help her and that's where the story takes another "twist".

"Well the church didn't really say they could help but I was hoping to see if they could help come up with the remaining $77 I need for my bus ticket. I know that the church office is closed from 12:30-1:30pm for lunch so maybe you could find it in your heart to help me and we wouldn't even have to go to the church?" Of course all of this is taking place while we're driving north to this church and are over half way there. She goes on to ask if I would be able to drop her off around 42nd St. which is in the opposite direction we are currently traveling.

After turning around and promising she'll pay me back $100 I tell her that I don't have that much cash on me. She proved to be extremely flexible and courteous as she mentioned that she would not mind if I needed to stop by an ATM so that I would have enough cash to meet her request. At this point I'm thinking I need to end this "adventure" so that I can make sure I'm back in time for my meeting. I tell her that $100 is not going to happen but that I would give her $80 to cover the remaining cost of her bus ticket. So I get the cash, buy her a sandwich and drop her off at 42nd St. only to get back to the office to have the meeting be rescheduled.

I have no idea who this person was and I in no way condone or recommend letting strangers into your car. I have no idea if I got scammed. Is there a possibility that I did, of course but there is also a possibility that I didn't. I had a similar "adventure" a few years ago and I remember talking to our senior pastor about it and I'll never forget what he said to me, "If you're going to err, err on the side of generosity because ultimately it's between the individual and God." Was this inconvenient, yes. Was it awkward, yes. Was it the right thing to do, no idea. The only reason I was able to have the patience I needed to enjoy this "adventure" was because of Christ, it had little to do with me. I couldn't help but think of Jesus' words, "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me." and who knows, maybe the writer of Hebrews had a point when he said, "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

October 15, 2008

Racing To or Running From the Church

Certain crises require different responses than others obviously but what I find interesting is our response to the Church in the midst of these different crises. A natural disaster or catastrophic event typically garners the response of people racing to the Church. People are seeking comfort, reassurance, support that the Church usually does a good job of giving. I'm wondering if this economic crisis is causing people to run from the Church. I'm afraid that people have a perception that the Church is out for their money and when people don't have a lot of it, they avoid going to church so they don't feel guilty for not giving. It's not so much that the Church is making people feel guilty on purpose but I think the guilt comes from inside the individual because they know the offering plate is going to be passed each Sunday.

Now I know this might not make sense but I honestly think that the best response to this economic crisis is to give. Giving to God is not about the Church, your checkbook or the economy. It's about forcing us to get our priorities in order which will not only help each of us make it through this crisis but I would argue any others that might come our way; whether globally, nationally or personally. I hope you don't find yourself running from the Church in a time when we can all benefit from what, or rather who, it represents.

October 10, 2008

Evil Inside vs. Evil Outside

"Evil" is such an interesting word, when used it tends to evoke strong emotions or reactions in people. I'm guessing part of the reason is because it sounds so extreme, so final, so...well, evil. If you checkout the definition of the word it's pretty interesting and really would seem that a lot of different things could be considered evil by a lot of different people. Does that make "evil" relative? Oh man, well enough of this, though it's definitely something to think about but not even what I want to talk about.

Remember just over 7yrs ago when a group of men used 4 planes as weapons and thousands of innocent people died and remember how the word "evil" was associated with that act? The response of our country was profound. We were united against a common foe, an evil from outside our borders that was attempting to instill fear into our hearts but we would not have it. We stood together and we stood tall, and though some have strong feelings about our current stand today, we continue, especially our dedicated men and women who serve in the military.

Fast forward to now. Our country (and arguably the world) finds itself facing another crisis as a result of what some could consider evil but the difference this time is that this evil is coming from inside. Through the greed of our very own banks, lenders, financial institutions and a lack of leadership from our government (both parties are at fault and I would hope we could all agree on that) we have actually created this crisis ourselves, the evil is coming from the inside.

Notice the different reactions in the face of these two evils. One united us as a country by allowing us to point our national finger at an evil from the outside; where we saw people do extraordinary things for other people and where heroes who sacrificed everything were made. The current evil is breaking us apart, making the divide between those that have and those that don't have as much wider than it ever has been before. Our national mood swing of "I'm going to get mine" to "I'm going to protect mine" is causing us to do extraordinary things to other people. It's as though we'd rather cut our hand off then point the finger at ourselves but maybe that's just the loss of blood talking.

October 8, 2008

So Many Thoughts

With all that is happening around the world right now I am finding that I have so many thoughts running around in my head that I'm having a hard time keeping track of which ones are coming and which ones are going. So over the next couple days I'm going to try and share some of them starting with this one...

I don't know how many of you know or care (either of which is understandable) that I work for a church but I have been wondering how the current economic and political times will impact the Church (I use 'C' to mean the church around the world, not just my local church or even a specific denomination). Will uncertain economic times cause us to "turtle" and retreat into our shells with an attitude of having to "hunker down" and ride this out? I can't help but think that this mentality doesn't exactly match-up with that of Christ's. The reason I say this is because as times continue to get tougher for so many people, whether losing jobs or homes, it seems that with so much need all around us the worst thing we could do as followers of Christ is retreat...is "protect" ourselves. I hope that if we've learned anything from this whole economic debacle it's that the very idea of "protecting ourselves" has been blown out the window.

What an opportunity for those of us that have to help those of us that don't have as much. I can't help but think about when Jesus said that those who have been given much, much will be asked.

Some other thoughts I've had that I'll be sharing: evil inside vs. evil outside; racing to or running from the Church; a delicious slice of mudpie as well as responses to any of your thoughts or comments...

October 1, 2008

Autumn

I know that Fall "officially" began on September 22nd but it is actually starting to feel like Fall and that made me remember how much I like Fall. It is easily one of my favorite seasons and quite possibly my favorite overall. There are a few things that are very vivid in my mind when I think about this time of year...

...the smell of fresh grass on a cool, sunny afternoon...

...pumpkins (carving, making pumpkin pies from scratch, roasting pumpkin seeds)...

...growing up in Michigan playing backyard football with my brother and friends...

...Halloween...

...blisters on my hands from raking leaves, which I HATE doing by the way...

...always wondering how fun it would be to go deer hunting with my uncles and now that I'm a little older realizing that the idea of sitting in the woods being really quiet and potentially never seeing anything actually sounds kind of boring.

September 29, 2008

Asking the Right Questions

I know it's been a while since I've posted...my sincerest apologies. Here is a sermon I gave yesterday.

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We have just finished a sermon series over the past couple weeks entitled Faith 101 which talked about some of the basic elements that make-up Christianity: creation, faith, temptation, this guy named Jesus and a few others. I want to spend some time this morning talking about taking time to ask questions. Can you think of a time when you found yourself in a situation, (maybe at work or school) when you weren’t exactly sure what was going on or maybe were a little confused but for whatever reason didn’t take the time to ask any questions? You walked away feeling unsure of what was expected of you because you missed the opportunity to ask a question.

Check out Luke 2:41-47. Jesus took the time to ask some questions, even as a 12yr old boy.

It can be the same way with our faith. If we don’t allow ourselves or others to ask questions and sometimes pretty tough questions, we fail to give faith a chance to grow. Typically, the point of asking a question is to get an answer, to gain some sort of knowledge or information. And when we ask questions about our faith, our faith is given the opportunity to grow because sooner or later we will ask a question we won’t be able to answer, at least not now. Paul says in I Corinthians 13:12 that there are some things we only know parts of now but we'll know fully then. It’s the lack of immediate answers that forces us to lean on our faith. I have no doubt there are some of us here that are questioning…asking why this or why that, how could this have happened, God how could You or why would You?

I was talking with a student the other day, just kind of catching up and I asked her how things were going and she mentioned that school was good, friends were good, family was good and then she said, "You know Matt, I’ve really been questioning my faith recently. I’m not sure I believe in God anymore." And I said, "Oh, cool. I would really love to hear about your questions." I believe that the God of Christianity isn’t scared by our questions or tries to ignore them but that He actually delights when we ask. When we take the time to ask questions, it shows that we are engaged, that we are thinking and paying attention to what is going on or what is being said.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:7 & 8 to ask and seek so we'll find. I went to a small Christian school in college where I heard a saying that has stuck with me, “All truth is God’s truth” and it’s one of the reasons why I love questions. I love asking them, I love hearing them asked and I love discussing possible answers. I get excited when people start to ask questions of God, I don’t get nervous that there is a question out there that if asked will disprove Christianity or God for that matter. I’m thankful that we serve a God that is much bigger than any question we could ever ask.

I want to wrap-up our Faith 101 series by giving you some encouragement. Don’t forget that though there are times when all of the things that have to do with faith, religion, the Bible or whatever can seem overwhelming, it ultimately all comes down to a relationship. You may be just starting your faith journey or maybe you’ve been on it for a while now or maybe you haven’t even left yet, wherever this journey may be for you don’t stop asking questions. One of the things that I find really attractive about Christianity and Jesus especially is that He will meet you on your level but love you too much to leave you there. Maybe you've heard Christianity described as a river, deep enough to swim in and shallow enough to get your toes wet, regardless of how deep or shallow you may be in this river of faith, know that Jesus is holding your hand the whole time.

September 19, 2008

Too Big To Fail

This is a phrase that I've heard a number of times this week and has really made me wonder about the attitude not only of our financial institutions but our country as a whole. Whether it's Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Washington Mutual, AIG, Lehman Brothers or some other giant financial institution there is no doubt you have heard about the crazy economic times we find ourselves in. Most of this is a result of questionable management of some of these very corporations and has to make you wonder "Why?". Are greed and arrogance really the driving forces that have pushed our economy to this point? Greed that drives people to get as much as they can by whatever means possible coupled with an arrogance that thinks we are too rich, big, smart to fail will only ever equal disaster at the worst and disappointment at the least.

I've been asking myself this week if this economic mess we find ourselves in is really proving to be a barometer for our overall attitude as a country. Is it possible that this is just one area in which this attitude of "Too Big" has caught up with us and other areas such as: our relationships with other countries, our military presence, educational standards, our response to natural disasters, or our cultural influence around the world (just to mention a few) are next in line? If nothing else, watching some of these different institutions fail has solidified my belief that there is a better way, not only a better way for millionaire CEOs to manage giant corporations or a government to run a nation but also for little old me to live my everyday, boring life.

September 15, 2008

Hide-N-Seek

There are things we would rather not be found. Things we hide away inside our thoughts and our hearts that we hope no one would ever be seeking, and if they do, we'll do just about anything we can to keep these things hidden. Does the phrase "skeletons in the closet" sound familiar? I wonder how many of us walk around so afraid that we are going to be "outed" that we end up being a different person entirely, sometimes unfamiliar to even ourselves.

I've been thinking about this today because one of the things I like to read in my devotional time is Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, and today's was talking about the things that can sneak-up in our lives and we attempt to hide them away. Chambers writes, "Maintain a continual watchfulness so that nothing of which you would be ashamed arises in your life." Wow. Ouch. Certainly not an easy thing to do.

It can be pretty easy to hide things from other people, even people that are close to you but then I'm reminded that regardless of who I'm able to hide things from I just can't seem to hide them well enough from Christ. When I stop for a second and think about it, I guess I don't really need to hide anything from God partly because I can't and partly because He doesn't care. It's not that He doesn't care but unlike people who may treat or think of us differently if they found what it was we were hiding, He will only treat us with grace and love. It's pretty incredible to think that though I try to hide this and that from Him, He continues to seek me. A game of hide-n-seek where I don't mind being found.

September 13, 2008

Righteous Kill

I just saw Righteous Kill starring Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Maybe I was unfair to the movie going into it because my expectations were pretty high as I really like both of these actors, which could have led to some of my disappointment as I walked out of the theater. Besides the fact that a movie cost $10 (which is another rambling for another day) I came out of the movie thinking it was so-so. It certainly wasn't amazing but it wasn't awful either. I think what really bummed me out was that Pacino and De Niro are great actors, and both did a nice job but it just felt like the story wasn't deep or developed or intense enough to really let them work their magic.

This movie is rated 'R' for a reason and so I would certainly not recommend anyone under 18 seeing it or anyone that is offended by very strong language or violence. Ya know what's funny, as I just wrote that last sentence I thought to myself, "Shouldn't we all be offended by strong language and violence?" I guess I kind of just nailed myself to the wall on this one too huh?!? Well anyways, overall I would give it a B/B- and tell you to save your $10 and rent it when it comes out on dvd (and this is coming from somebody who typically loves Pacino and/or De Niro movies).

September 11, 2008

Out of My Hands

There is such a fine line between frustration and disappointment. I'm having a hard time figuring out if my frustration is leading to my disappointment or if the disappointment is causing me to get frustrated. The equation gets much more tricky when the resulting frustration and/or disappointment involves other people. It's one thing when I am the one who is solely responsible or could have somehow made a difference in the outcome because then it is on me but when it involves others, there is only so much I can do and after that it's out of my control, which can sometimes be hard for me as I am forced to sit back and watch things unfold in front of me.

I guess when you think about it, frustration and/or disappointment can be a good or bad thing depending on what you do with each of them. If you dwell on them, never letting go to the point of not being able to move forward then they have clearly become a bad thing but on the other hand, if you can take a step back and find out what caused the frustration and/or disappointment they might be enough to motivate you to make a change so they don't happen again. Then it would almost seem like they could be good things or at least be used in a good way but even then they are still not fun to deal with.

September 9, 2008

Made From Scratch

One of the promises of Christianity that I really like is the ability to start over with a clean slate. Of course this doesn't mean that the consequences of decisions or choices we've made disappear but it does mean that we don't have to be defined by them any longer. It really comes down to the idea of identity. When I enter into a relationship with Christ I no longer have to be defined by the stupid things I have done or said, the hurts I've caused or failed attempts at being "good".

No doubt there are times in our lives when we wish we could just start over. Sometimes it's as though we get caught in this cycle of doubt, depression and despair (sometimes out of our own creation and sometimes the result of others) and we begin to find our identities in these things rather than who we really are. I love that Jesus desires to burst into our lives and give us a fresh start that is only possible in and through Him. How many of us need to hear that promise that the old has gone and something new has come or is coming? Think of all this promise could mean for you in your life; your relationships, your attitude, how you deal with struggles, your physical and spiritual health...sometimes 'scratch' isn't a bad place to start.

September 7, 2008

6 Years and Counting

Today is mine and my wife's wedding anniversary. The big number six. For our anniversary we (mostly Tai but I was cool with it) decided to take a roadtrip to IKEA in Cincinnati. Now, if you have never been to an IKEA store before it's kind of like an airport, museum, tourist attraction, mini-United Nations, and a more modern design of Target all rolled into one. I have to admit that I really didn't know what to expect other than it was supposedly one of the greatest places on earth according to my wife of 6yrs and as soon as I walked in the door, I was blown away. It's HUGE and there seriously TONS of people. It was crazy!

After spending 2hrs there and only getting lost once we were able to find the checkouts and leave with a couple of things we're both pretty excited about. By this time it was about 6pm and we were pretty hungry. We wanted to do something somewhat special for the occasion so I suggested Skyline Chili but that was quickly vetoed, not to worry as we quickly decided to wait until we got back to Indy to hit up Naked Tchopstix in Broadripple for quite possibly the best sushi we have ever had. Though I was pretty hungry when we left IKEA, it was well worth the almost 2hr drive.

Well, I think I'm going to call it a great day and see if I can get some sleep while my wife works on putting a dresser together....

September 6, 2008

A Great Day for a Parade

When was the last time you marched in a parade? For me, it was this morning. I am the JV coach of a girls volleyball team for a high school in the area, an area which happened to be having their annual "Fall Fest" this weekend. Apparently, part of the festivities is having a parade through the middle of town and some how, some way the high school volleyball program got "invited" to be in the parade today. Fortunately for everyone involved it ended up being a beautiful day.

Believe it or not, this is not the first parade I have ever been in. See, when you grow up in Holland, MI you experience this thing every year called "Tulip Time" which lasts just about an entire week and has 3 separate parades on 3 different days. So needless to say there are plenty of opportunities to march in a parade one way or another. I wish I had a pic or two of me all decked out in my Dutch costume but I can't seem to find one, if I do I'll be sure to let you know. I was able to take a couple pics with my iPhone from the parade today...

*the names have been blurred to protect the innocent

September 4, 2008

A Decision for the Ages

Research suggests that something like 80% of Christians make a decision to follow Christ before the age of 18 and after that, the percentage drops significantly of people that decide to follow Christ. I was talking with a couple guys a day or so ago and one of them mentioned how they knew a guy that had decided to be a dentist when he was 18 and now in his 40's, has come to the conclusion that dentistry is not for him.

This led us to start talking about what the implications might be for someone who chooses to become a Christian at an early age, say sometime before they turn 18. Does the immaturity of the individual at the time of "conversion" make a difference in the significance of the decision? Or does the idea that choosing to follow Christ is more a relationship that grows and matures with the individual mean that it doesn't matter how young someone might be when they decide to follow Christ?

I think there is a difference between choosing a career-path at a young age and choosing to have a relationship with someone at a young age, especially if that relationship is with Jesus. It seems like a career "is-what-it-is" whereas a relationship is always able to change, grow, and adapt as the individuals involved change, grow and adapt to life around them but maybe I'm biased since I started my walk with Christ when I was 11.

September 2, 2008

None of Your Business??

With the Democratic National Convention behind us and the Republican National Convention underway it has been an interesting week or so in American politics. Obama gave a nice speech, lots of stuff he's said already and McCain picked a running mate that not many people could have guessed, Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.

Now, I'm not going to spend any time talking about whether or not she's qualified or has the experience or what reasons McCain might have used to giver her the nod as his VP selection (but you are certainly welcome to and I look forward to hearing your thoughts) but I will take this opportunity to say something about the recent "scandal" involving her pregnant daughter.

I think Obama said it best when he said that "family is off-limits in presidential politics, especially children." It seems unfair to judge the competency of a candidate because one of his or her kids makes an unfortunate decision as a 17yr old. Sure you could try to make an argument about "what kind of parent" he or she might be if his or her daughter gets pregnant but that argument seems to fall to the wayside when we all realize that we have all made stupid choices at one point or another and weren't able to blame our parents for it anymore. I'm impressed that the candidates have no desire to even discuss this issue, showing a level of privacy and respect that seems somewhat uncommon in our more recent political campaigns and yet the media insists on pushing this so called "scandal".

What I've found interesting today is hearing how both sides, Republican and Democratic supporters respectively, are using this issue to make the point that she clearly is or isn't the appropriate choice as the potential VP. You say to-ma-to, I say to-ma-to...

September 1, 2008

The Wheels of Justification Go Round and Round

It's amazing to me how often we find ourselves giving in to temptations that we would have never imagined ourselves giving in to. I'm sure we all know someone that after doing this or saying that has found themselves in a situation they would have never thought possible. Maybe it's just me but I find it scary how easy it is to justify just about anything to myself. I wouldn't say that I am a masterful debater by any means but when it comes to convincing myself of why I should or shouldn't do something, I can make a strong case.

I'm finding that how I deal with temptation and the justification process that starts to take place in my puny little brain go hand-in-hand. I start telling myself things like: "I need this", "I like this", "I will gain something from this", "I've earned this", "I am the only one that will be impacted by this," and so on and so on.

I am guessing we all face different temptations on a daily basis, I know I do and ya know, sometimes I win and sometimes the temptation wins. The difference between who or what wins I've realized has to do with my focus. Obviously as someone who is trying to be like Jesus, my focus must first be on Christ and then on everyone else and when I find that I am out of focus, I become much more susceptible to giving in to temptation, even temptations that seem like they would never be a temptation for me. It's a slippery-slope when our focus becomes all about "me", its then that we find ourselves looking up from the bottom of the ditch wondering how we got there.

August 28, 2008

On A Crowded Street

Isn’t it great to walk in somewhere, regardless of the size of the room or the number of people, and feel like you belong there? For some reason I've been thinking about this lately and it made me think of a story that describes a radical act of hospitality by Jesus (Mark 5:24-34). I read this story and am blown away by Jesus’ willingness to be hospitable in an almost impossible situation. There were two things that really struck me about how Jesus was able to create an intimate setting for hospitality on an overcrowded street...

The first is that Jesus noticed the individuals around Him, regardless of how busy or how large the crowd got. What a great remedy for the “large church” syndrome of feeling disconnected or feeling as though you're lost in the crowd. Even while He was on His way to somewhere else, He was present with the people around Him.

The second is that Jesus sought people out. Not only did Jesus take the time to notice people but He went a step further and sought them out to make them feel welcome. Even, or maybe better said especially, in a large crowd Jesus looks for a way to practice radical hospitality by connecting with others on an individual level.

Jesus recognized that it wasn’t simply about being hospitable but rather about touching someone’s life. Radical hospitality touches individuals’ lives in way that makes them feel not only welcome but like one of the family. Imagine the impact this kind of radical hospitality could have on the life of your church family, the individuals you notice and seek out around you, not to mention yourself. Now, I’m not suggesting that if you and I practice this kind of radical hospitality like Jesus did some sort of healing will take place…or maybe I am?

August 24, 2008

A Different Kind of Judgment

A lot of people struggle with judging others, deciding whether or not it is the right thing to do or if it depends on the situation and circumstances. It seems that a lot of Christians are confused by this whole passing judgment thing and often times are too quick to do so. I think there are definitely times when we have a responsibility to other brothers and sisters in Christ to make them aware of things in their life that may be in conflict with the way Christ calls us to live.

The more I've been thinking about this the more I've started wondering if maybe we're missing the things we should be passing judgment on. I don't think it is anyone's place to judge the state or eternal destination of someone's soul but maybe instead we should be "judging" when someone is hurting or lonely and instead of responding by passing judgment, responding with and because of, the love of Christ. I wonder how much hurt could be avoided in people's lives if we "judged" with an attitude of service and love as opposed to an attitude of arrogance.

August 19, 2008

Weekend In Review

I hope it's not too late in the week to do a "Weekend In Review" but that should give you an idea of how crazy the last couple days have been for me. Not that anyone really cares about what my weekend consisted of but I'll share some thoughts anyways...

Friday - I had a wedding rehearsal that Tai came with me to because the couple invited us both to the dinner afterwards. It went pretty smoothly and dinner was quite enjoyable. Both the bride and groom's families were extremely nice and welcoming, so that was cool.

Saturday - Volleyball practice in the morning. Came home and got cleaned up to do the wedding in the afternoon. The wedding went well, at least I thought so but maybe I'm a little biased. I learned something about myself from doing this wedding...I might be a freak. I say this because I was a sweaty mess up there. What is utterly confusing to me is that I really, truly, honestly was not nervous and yet it must have seemed to anyone that might have seen the sweat beads rolling down my face that I was scared to death. So after I got down drying myself off, I headed home to pick-up Tai for an outreach event our church had with the IU Cru band leading worship. The band sounded great though I'm not sure people were expecting a worship concert. From there we headed downtown to hear one of our friends play as well as one of my wife's favorite bands, Faun Fables. If you have ever heard their music, it is fairly theatrical to say the least. They really were pretty good at telling some interesting stories.

Sunday - I get excited when I get a chance to meet new people at church, not in a stalker sort of way, just in a it's-cool-to-meet-new-people way. We had an outreach lunch after our late service and had it catered by the Kolache Factory. It was ok, not great, not awful. My softball team made it to the championship game of our janky league with only 4 teams in it but hey, a trophy is a trophy and really more importantly, a tshirt is a tshirt. There's no better feeling than wearing a tshirt that you actually "earned" as opposed to picking it out at the Goodwill because you thought it looked sweet. After the big win I promptly headed home to get cleaned-up because my boy Rob, through his sweet hook-up was able to hook me up again with VIP tickets to see Chris Cornell at VWMC. I have to admit that I was pretty excited to see Cornell perform especially with the fact that I didn't have to listen to any other crappy bands, in and out. It was that easy. Unfortunately, Cornell didn't really sound that great and I kind of thought his new stuff was so-so. His band however "outshined" him.

I really enjoy live music so overall I would say a pretty good weekend...and tomorrow is Wednesday.

August 13, 2008

Did You Hear Something?

I'm not sure we're very good at listening. I know I struggle with it at times as there are so many things going on around me that I fail to really listen because I get distracted by this or that. And then I know there are other times when, because of one thing or another, I don't really want to listen because I might not like what I hear or because it doesn't quite fit into what I'm thinking or want to believe.

We like to hear things that make us feel good or prove our point or show that we were in the right and someone else was clearly in the wrong. I think there are times when we get so upset or have been so badly hurt that we only hear what we want to, regardless of what is actually being said. If only we would stop and really listen to what is being said or not said. I find it almost humorous at how badly our ability to listen becomes when we have already determined what we want to hear because of pain or anger. When I stop and think about it, I wonder how many things I have missed that have been said to me (if I'm honest, probably things I needed to hear) because I had decided I would only hear what I wanted to. I guess James really knows what he's talking about when he says that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Who would have thought that really listening to what someone says might actually make a difference?

August 11, 2008

Game On

Like many of you I have been watching the Beijing Olympics and am finding myself completely engrossed in every single event. It could be women's handball, beach volleyball, men's gymnastics or watching Michael Phelps...it doesn't matter in the least, I love watching them all. I haven't watched this much TV in a really long time, maybe about 4yrs or so.

From the opening ceremony, which by the way was incredible, to each and every event so far in the first 3 days of the games the thing that has stood out to me the most is how beautiful the different people of the world are. I was blown away watching the Parade of Nations during the opening ceremonies at how incredibly beautiful each person from each country was. It was a perfect reminder of God's beautiful creativity.

Needless to say I'm pumped there's still 13 days of games to go...

August 9, 2008

UPDATE: A Close Call

Having had a chance to talk with one of the guys last night that was in the accident a few days ago, I wanted to pass along a quick update to say that they are all back home now and doing well. Here are a couple pics from the whole ordeal...

Michael, the one shown in the pic, was thrown from the car and did not suffer a single broken bone. I'm not sure I would call it a miracle but to be honest, I'm not sure I wouldn't...especially after seeing these pics.

August 6, 2008

A Close Call

I had just walked out of a coffee shop a few blocks away from my office when I got a call that 5 of the guys that were in my youth group and are now in my college group had just been in a car accident on their way out to Colorado for a camping trip. The details at the time were sketchy but it was not sounding good. Immediately one of the parents had put a call out for prayers for these 5 guys as family and friends waited to hear what had happened and how each of them was doing.

I remember thinking about what a tragedy it would be to lose 5 such great guys, young guys that all had promising futures ahead of them. There was another thought I remember that quickly followed that God was not done with any of these guys yet, all of this was followed by a sense of peace that is hard to understand or explain. I obviously had no idea how this would play out and yet I knew that one way or another God was doing His thing.

I am relieved to say that at this point all 5 of them survived their car rolling at least once and possibly twice causing 1 of the guys to be thrown from the car. Aside from bumps and bruises and one concussion none of them suffered any broken bones. If I stop and think about that too long, it blows my mind. The guy that was thrown from the car is, last I heard, in stable condition with bruised lungs, one of them partially collapsed, and plenty of scrapes, bumps, and bruises. He is staying in the ICU to monitor his lungs as well as make sure there was no major internal organ damage. I can't help but think that somehow God was directly involved in this outcome.

Please know that I am not naive enough to think that if you pray, things will always work out like you want or think they should. I believe with all my heart that God wants good things for His creation but I must also admit that my definition or idea of "good" is so limited in its scope or understanding. I must trust that God who is the very form of "good" has a better grasp of what good actually looks like for His creation than you or I ever will. I know we lose loved ones and it hurts, I don't understand why or claim to but I do believe that there is a Savior who's love, mercy and compassion are greater than all of the hurt, doubt and confusion the world may ever know.

August 4, 2008

Radiohead @VWMC

I have to start by giving 'props' to my boy Rob for using his hook-up to hook me up with a free VIP ticket to see Radiohead at the Verizon Wireless Music Center last night. VWMC is an open-air venue which worked out great because last night was a perfect night to see a show under the stars.

I was not expecting to go to this show, let alone get hooked-up with being on the VIP list. I have to admit, it felt pretty sweet to roll up to the venue and be able to say that our names were on "the list". I kind of felt like a big deal. By the time we got there, the concert was well underway and Radiohead had already played 2 songs and so we pulled right in to the VIP parking lot, got out and walked right in to the show. We were able to find a place to stand about 15 "rows" up on the lawn in the center section with a great view of the stage.


I mean I'm a Radiohead fan, not a huge fan but I like some of their stuff and I heard they put on an incredible show and fortunately for Rob and I, they did not disappoint. We were both surprised to see how many people were at the show and not to mention the wide variety of people. Everything from Euros, hippies, yuppies and everything in between, including Rob and I. I am not sure I have seen or smelled so many interesting things that could be smoked but needless to say it looked like everyone was having a good time. Remember though, smoking is bad for you.

Radiohead's setlist was impressive and as unpredictable as the band itself. Their light show combined with the pulsing of their music made for a very sweet effect. I am embarrassed to say that I only recognized about 3 songs but despite that, I was impressed by the show. If you are any sort of fan of Radiohead, then I highly recommend getting to one of their shows because you will definitely not regret it. I know I didn't regret enjoying a great show, hanging out with my friend Rob and all of the other tens of thousands of Radiohead fans that made a trip to the cornfields of Indiana to witness quite a performance.

August 1, 2008

Where Did The Summer Go??

Today, as you are probably well aware it is the 1st day of August. We're already in August, that's crazy! I'm having a hard time remembering where the summer went...between 4 weeks of classes, work and a couple projects around the house it seems like summer just started and yet here we are in August.

Though it flew by, I feel like it has been a fairly productive summer and there's still a couple weeks left. I think the thing I'm most excited about getting done this summer was being able to knock out 6 on-campus graduate credit hours in 2 weeks. It was intense but it was definitely worth it.

I have no doubt that many of you have had an exciting and productive summer and I'd love to hear about it, if you're willing to share, even if it's anonymous...

July 29, 2008

Poor In Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit..."
I have read this beatitude so many times and yet I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood what it means to be “poor in spirit.” Having read Oswald Chambers’ thoughts on this has given me a new perspective on this passage…Christ’s kingdom is about poverty, not possession. It's as if I'm standing at the gate of the city as a beggar and Christ comes there to meet me, stretches out His hand and invites me to join Him in the inheritance of the Kingdom. Christ doesn't want me to be without yet I must realize that I am a poor being, unable to live up to the standards of Christ and in that poverty allow Christ to begin His work in and through me.

July 26, 2008

The Dark Knight


I saw the new Batman movie today and am going to share some of my honest thoughts and opinions. If you have seen the movie, I would be curious to hear your thoughts and if you haven't, you may not want to read much further as I share some things from the movie and would certainly not want to wreck it for you.

I have read reviews and heard plenty of hype about this movie and also the performance of Heath Ledger as the "Joker" and so unfortunately for me, I went in with fairly high expectations. I am not going to try and write this as a "formal" movie review but instead just share some thoughts in more of a list form...

1. The first thing I noticed before I even got to the theater was that the movie was 2hrs and 40mins long. That is a long movie.

2. There are waayyyy toooo many plot lines going on in this movie. You've got Batman vs. Joker; Batman vs. himself; the love triangle between Rachel, Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent; the moral dilemma Batman faces with whether or not to use cell phones to spy on people for their safety; the story of Harvey Dent as he becomes "Two Face". I believe this is most of them or at least the ones I could somewhat keep track of.

3. Not enough Batman. For a movie that is 160mins long you don't see much of the hero. It is unfortunate that we were not given the opportunity to see Christian Bale play the arguably best Batman character in more dynamic scenes, or just more scenes period. I think he looks the part, acts the part and even sounds the part but I know that more from Batman Begins than its sequel.

4. I know that Heath Ledger has passed away since the release of this movie and of course I am sad to hear of someone's passing but I don't think his performance is Oscar-worthy. Personally, I did not find him to be particularly scary and thought that Jack Nicholson played a much better, more convincing Joker. Maybe there is something major I am missing about this flick but I could almost swear that this movie was centered around the Joker and had little to do with anyone else. I can see why critics have talked about Heath Ledger's performance so highly because his performance is the one we spend the most time with.

5. The "new" Rachel Dawes played by Maggie Gyllenhaal is TONS better than the previous one in Batman Begins.

I left the movie not really sure what just happened or what the movie was about. There were so many things going on in the movie that it simply became too much to try carry through for almost 3hrs. Overall I would give it a 'B' and would say wait to rent it unless you can catch it at an IMAX theater, that would certainly add to the entertainment factor if for no other reason than those theaters are cool.

July 22, 2008

Self Pruning

Jesus talks about coming not to bring peace but a sword. Could it be possible that the sword that Jesus is talking about has more to do with the battle that we must fight inside ourselves rather than against those who would discount Christianity? Maybe the sword looks more like a pair of pruning shears. The battle that happens inside each of us begins when we determine to strip ourselves down to simply ourselves…getting rid of all the things our friends think of us, of all the things we think of ourselves and hand our naked selves over to God. I think the sword that Jesus talks about is used to divide ourselves, not each other.

July 20, 2008

In Debt

I realize that I have not posted in a while and I apologize. I just finished week 1 of 2 of Local Pastor's School and let's just say it hasn't been quite what I was expecting...needless to say I'll try to take some time this last week of "pastor's camp" to post more regularly. Here is a quick thought I had earlier in the week...

Who am I indebted to in my life? Of course I am indebted to Christ but I realize that Christ has worked through others in my life that have invested in me one way or another. Paul talks about his obligation to both the wise and unwise, I must do the same regardless of one’s status or position. Oswald Chambers says “I am a debtor to everyone on the face of the earth because of the Gospel of Jesus; I am free to be an absolute slave only.” I am indebted to all and so I must serve all, I have no choice but to serve both the wise and unwise, those I like and don’t like because I am wholly and completely indebted to Christ.

July 14, 2008

Martha, Martha

An outline of my sermon from yesterday...

*******************************************************
“Martha, Martha”

Luke 10:38-42
-Take note of the cultural background of this short story
-We are reminded that Martha had very clear cultural expectations for her
-Martha is trying to serve Jesus and the disciples by providing hospitality
-Jesus doesn’t say that what Martha is doing is wrong or bad, just not what is most important, she is divided

John 13:12-17
-Jesus was clearly on a higher level as the ‘master’ and ‘teacher’
-To refuse to serve others regardless of your position is to put yourself above Jesus
-We manifest God’s grace not only in our lives but in the lives of others when we serve them

Mark 10:42-45

-Jesus Himself came to serve
-The formula for greatness that Jesus commands us to follow is greatness = serving others
-Notice that Jesus ‘gave’ the ‘ransom’, He served mankind through the giving of His life

A couple things to point out about serving:
It is important for us to be aware of people’s needs
-James 2:14-17 talks about “living out your faith, that when you see someone hungry, give them food”
-Serving is “scratching where people itch, scratching where they don’t is an irritation to them”
-We need to go throughout our day with the mindset of a servant, looking for ways to serve others

We need to ask ourselves why we serve

-We need to see people’s inherit worth and treat them accordingly
-We are never serving as a means to gain something but simply out of love for Christ and neighbor
-This is not an example of “playing the game” or “office politics”
-When we are willing to serve others with the love of Christ, people are more likely to trust and follow us

This is the very nature of what it means to be a Christian

-This is ‘who we are’
-The symbol of Christ is not a $, diploma, popularity or whatever…it is the cross
-This is not an option, we don’t have the luxury to choose whether or not to serve others, Christ makes that very clear
-Jesus tells us that to be first, we must be last…may you and I have the humility and courage to be last

July 12, 2008

1 Down, 2 To Go...

I finished a week of class working toward my MA and now have 2 weeks at what is called the Local Pastor's School (I prefer to call it "Pastor's Camp") which will allow me to get my license as a local pastor in the United Methodist Church. I'm not looking forward to being away from home for 2 weeks after just getting back from being away last week but man will I be glad once these 3 weeks are done. I'll actually feel like my summer has been quite productive once I end up on the other side of these remaining 2 weeks of "school" stuff.

My wife and I went to a wedding today and there were two things that I thought were really cool about it...1) it started at 11am which was sweet because we had the rest of our day once the wedding was done and 2) this was the first couple from my youth group to get married, they started dating their senior year in high school during which I had the honor of being their youth pastor. It was pretty special for me to see them both up the together, along with a couple other people from the youth group back in the day standing in their wedding party.

After the wedding we went to an architectural salvage place here in Indy, which ended up being way cooler than I thought it would be. We are trying to find some cool old doors for our house because we want to replace the ugly ones we have currently. We found some we really liked but will have to see if we can get them to work.

Needless to say it's been a long week with two more to go and I preach tomorrow.....

July 8, 2008

Story Time

I am currently in Wilmore, KY taking another summer intensive class at Asbury Theological Seminary for this entire week. The name of the class is Narrative Pastoral Counseling, the basic idea behind this style of narrative counseling deals with the individual's story. As the counselor practicing this form of counseling my goal is to help a person build their story by asking questions that will fill in the details. By being interested in hearing a person's story and asking the right questions I am guiding the individual to solve their own problems rather than being the problem solver. Narrative counseling also seeks to focus on a solution, highlighting the things that are working in an attempt to create open communication and continuous renewal as opposed to focusing on the problem.

I really like the idea that each of us has a narrative (or story) to share and that we each have the opportunity to impact the story of people we meet, regardless of how small that impact might be. Think about your own story, isn't it amazing to think about some of the things you have been through and where you are right now and yet, your story isn't finished. Remember that Christ wants to help you write your story if you'll let Him.

"Be careful of the stories you tell (even of yourself) because you will find that you will live by them." ~Dr. Dinkins

July 7, 2008

To Be Served

Notes from a sermon I gave this past Sunday...

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“To Be Served”
Luke 10:38-42
-Take note of the cultural background of this short story
-Mary chooses to be served by the words & teachings of Jesus

John 13:5-9
-Peter was confused by this act of Jesus
-He couldn’t understand why the Master would be washing his feet
-Peter initially wouldn’t allow Jesus to serve him but realized that he needed to give Jesus the opportunity to serve
-Sometimes we ask for assistance or service and other times it asks us

Mark 14:3-9
-Jesus allowed a woman to serve him by anointing him w/expensive perfume
-He saw that this was an opportunity for this woman to show her love for him through her devotion, sacrifice and service

A couple things to point out about being served:

It requires humility to allow someone else to serve us
-We shouldn’t be too arrogant to think that we can’t be served or that we don’t need help

It is important for us to recognize people’s need and desire to serve
-Just as we have a desire to help and serve others
-Who am I to take someone’s opportunity to serve away from them, even if that means the person they serve is me?
-Think of the times when you have let someone help or serve you knowing that you could do whatever it was yourself
-There is not an expectation of service that thinks or acts as if service is deserved or somehow we are “worthy” of being served

We are reminded as we take communion that we need to allow ourselves to be served by Christ
-We need to be served by Christ, not because we deserve it but because without it we are hopeless
-It is a choice you and I have to make to allow Christ to serve us through His sacrifice

July 5, 2008

A Patriotic Smorgasbord

Yesterday we celebrated our nation's birthday and these random "patriotic" thoughts are a result of the past 24hrs (and though some might question the patriotism of the word 'smorgasbord' I simply say that this word has been nothing but kind to the American people)...

Fireworks
We watched the fireworks in downtown Indianapolis last night from Victory Field, the home of the Indianapolis Indians Triple A baseball team, after they finished losing to the Louisville Bats 2-4. On Friday nights the Indians put on a firework show of their own and so last night, we got 2 shows for the price of 1 and honestly, I think the Indians show was better than the city of Indianapolis'.

We ended up having to park in the zoo parking lot, which isn't too far away but trying to get out of there last night was like walking the fine line between hilarity and insanity. There had to have been hundreds of cars in this parking lot with no visible signs of any sort of organization, consideration or courtesy. I bet I sat there for at least an hour waiting for someone to let me in "the line" while other cars would come from other aisles to cut in front of me as if I didn't actually exist or even worse, had no desire to ever leave that parking lot. And so I turned it into a little experiment to see if someone would actually let me in or if I would eventually have to weasel my way into the line. Needless to say I eventually got out of the parking lot as countless people looked right at me as they rode the bumper of the car in front of them making sure I couldn't somehow sneak in front of them when they weren't paying attention. It made me so proud to be an American...

"I call them 'Little Rascals'"
This is the name my wife gave to the fireworks that when shot up in the air, start spinning around all crazy while they make the zipping noise as they spin. This is the name I just gave to the kid walking around my neighborhood, by himself, lighting firecrackers and throwing them in the street as if attempting to spread the holiday cheer evenly throughout the neighborhood. Even now I can hear him blocks away spreading his cheer throughout the land. What a patriotic little rascal.

Phone
I've been sitting on my porch all day so far and noticed a neighbor of mine come walking out of her house on the phone, proceed to walk around her yard/house as she talked. Then I realized that I had just taken a call not too much earlier and paced almost the entire square footage of my house. Why is it that so many of us feel this need or urge to walk around while we talk on the phone, to the point that some of us will answer the phone while sitting on our couch in the living room and end the conversation standing on a street corner blocks away from our house? Maybe walking or pacing while we talk on the phone helps us stay focused or maybe we have become so accustomed to multi-tasking that simply sitting down talking on the phone is boring or not being efficient with our time when I could also be doing dishes, walking the dog, hanging drywall, playing video games, etc.

July 2, 2008

Couples x3

I've had the opportunity over the past couple weeks to do a number of pre-marital counseling sessions with 3 different couples whose weddings I'm doing in Aug., Sept., and Nov. respectively and have to say that I've really enjoyed leading these counseling sessions up to this point. I'm not sure how much "counseling" actually takes place because it ends up being more like a discussion/Bible study rather than a "typical counseling session". The thing I've enjoyed the most about my time with these 3 different couples is seeing how different and unique their personalities and relationships are and yet they also have a number of things in common simply because of their upcoming 'big days'. I have been honored by being able to play a small part in this significant event in these couples' lives.

The other thing that has been fun about doing pre-marital counseling is that it reminds me of when my wife and I reached that point in our relationship almost six years ago now and all of the excitement and stress that came with it. It has been good to see how much we've grown as a couple and as individuals up to this point, but of course there is always plenty of room to keep growing.

June 28, 2008

Brand Loyalty

Here's a 'sneak-peek' of the sermon I'm preaching tomorrow. Maybe some of you will see it in person and if you're not in the Indianapolis area and you want to watch/listen to it online or podcast it, you can check it out on the church's website here.

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And now, to be honest with you, I’ve started wondering and asking myself in the last couple months if we as Christians have become more loyal to the brand or label “Christian” than to the person and message of Christ. In becoming a little uncomfortable with the “Christian” brand I have found myself now adding a description like “a follower of Christ” or “someone trying to be like Jesus” in an attempt to clear up any confusion around what a Christian is really all about. Many of you probably read or saw the article in the Indianapolis Star talking about the survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey found some pretty interesting statistics but needless to say, one thing was clear from their research, there are a lot of people that have either gotten the wrong message of what a Christian is or have no idea what that really means or looks like. I would imagine that a number of us at one time or another have been burned by another Christian that someone else has met in the past because the brand of Christianity they got from that person was not the Christianity of Christ.

The sermon series over the past two weeks has been on becoming a contagious Christian and we heard Mac talk about the story and how we are to be the story tellers. How timely as we hear more and more about a brand of Christianity that seems to be spreading a disease of fear, hopelessness and division rather than being the remedy of those ills.

C.S. Lewis said that every Christian is to become a “little Christ” (kind of like we take ourselves off, our desires, wants, attitudes and put on those of Christ) this “putting on of Christ”…is not one among many jobs a Christian has to do; and it is not a sort of special exercise for the top class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all.

And so this morning I would like to take a look at Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus and pull out a couple things that speak to what a Christian or “little Christ” is. Ephesus was a thriving city with tens of thousands of people traveling through the city annually. It was an important city in Paul’s missionary journeys and the churches in the area were experiencing significant growth in their congregations. Paul is writing this letter to these churches to encourage them in the faith but also to explain the purpose of the church and how a Christian should live. Read Ephesians 4:1-6

Christians are humble.

-We don’t have it all figured out, we’re not perfect and shouldn’t pretend to be

-We remember how we have been humbled by life and how Jesus stepped in to show us His grace in those moments humility

-But most importantly because Jesus was humble…read Philippians 2:5-8

Christians are gentle.

- Vs. 2 gentle = humility, courtesy, of being considerate

-When I think about the character of Jesus, I can’t help but think about how gentle He was

-I’m reminded of the story in John 8:1-11 when a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus…

-He still challenges her, calls her to something better but does so in a gentle, loving way, there was a gentle accountability

-If we are to be Christians, then we must be gentle

-We are gentle because “God works through all”

Christians are patient.

-Again this speaks to humility, an understanding that Christ has been and continues to be patient with us and so we must be the same with others

-Vs. 2 bearing with = “to put up with”, to exercise self-restraint & tolerance, endure patiently

-Think of the countless times Jesus shows patience with His disciples, or with the crowds of people that were constantly following Him around, or even the social outcast that was a cultural taboo to even interact with

-There are times when we have to “put up with” people because it is the Christ-like thing to do and if we’re honest, there are probably more times when others have to “put up with” us

-We are patient because Christ is patient

Christians are united.

-And when Christians strive to be humble, gentle and patient with one another then we are able to be united in a way that cannot be broken through a bond of peace

-Just as Jesus was united to the Father and us as believers to Christ, so too you and I with one another

-this is not a unity of “us vs. them” but rather an “us for all”

-Paul is emphasizing a “Oneness” with other believers, he is not saying that all religions are one in the same but that Christians are to be united with each other in Christ

-When Christians fail to be united w/one another, we fail to be like Christ

-This forces us to ask the question of why anyone would want to be part of faith that is divisive

Humility, gentleness, patience and unity are four characteristics of what a Christian is but don’t forget that you have to know the story in order to tell it. To be a “little Christ” you need to spend time in the Word, in prayer and in community to get to know THE Christ.