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...

“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)...

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.

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.