December 31, 2010


Happy New Year!!

What things are you looking forward to in 2011?

What do you plan on doing differently than 2010?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
~2 Corinthians 5:17

December 23, 2010

The Xmas Story Through a Social Media Lens

Thoughts? Love it? Hate it?

December 21, 2010

The Example of the Magi

"They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route."
~Matthew 2:11-12 (CEB)

The quest of the magi had finally brought them to the place where the newborn king lay with his mother Mary. They had come all this way and talked with handfuls of people to find him so they might honor him with gifts fit for a king. These men were different from the Jews in the area; they were Gentiles who possessed a completely different heritage and worldview…and yet, when they saw Jesus, they fell to their knees in worship.

|| Could it be that the birth of Christ might be a way to break through the barriers of class, race and religion and bring the outsider in? ||

Having seen the light from the star the magi had no choice but to respond to the divine initiative. Compelled to act, they gathered supplies for a potentially lengthy journey bringing with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Their response was one of generosity, humility and honor.

|| Does the birth of Christ compel you to respond? How? ||

|| What might become of Advent if we were to give ourselves as gifts of worship to the newborn king? ||

*I am humbled to have been asked to write this post as part of the 2010 Advent Blog Tour featuring the Common English Bible (read here to win a free copy). 25 bloggers over 25 days highlighting 25 passages from the CEB. This post is day 22.

December 18, 2010

Jesus: the man

I had put together an Advent sermon series that was going to talk about 5 different aspects of the person of Jesus...and then our son Theo decided to begin his arrival on the 1st weekend of Advent which forced me to rework by series a little as I missed the first 2 weeks of Advent. Over the next week or so you will see a condensed version highlighting 3 aspects of Jesus: his humanity, his divinity and him as a baby. Right now we'll focus on the humanity of Jesus.

You might recall a story from back in the day about a group of people called the Israelites who spent about 40yrs camping in the wilderness? It was during this time that God really wanted them to know that they were His people, He was their God and that His presence would be with them. So He told this guy named Moses to get the people to build a place where He could dwell among them and so they built Him a tabernacle. Fast forward hundreds of years later...

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us (John 1:14)
In "church" language we call this the Incarnation, the union of humanity with divinity in the person of Jesus. About this Carlo Carretto (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors) writes

The Incarnation brings the world his presence. It is a presence so complete that it overshadows every presence before it.
God is made human in Christ. God makes himself present to us with such a special presence, such an obvious presence, as to overthrow all the complicated calculations made about him in the past.
“The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ."

~From The God Who Comes by Carlo Carretto
As we continue on this Advent journey toward the manger I think it is important we keep in mind the significance of the humanity of Jesus. The idea that God came in real flesh and blood in the form of Jesus changed everything and we cannot afford to miss weight of this event in human history.

I find it meaningful that Jesus as a human...

...faced temptation. (40 days of fasting in the wilderness being tempted by the devil himself and still not giving in, as a human being)

...suffered. (The events surrounding His crucifixion are enough to turn anyone's stomach, all of which He endured and experienced as a human being. Can you even begin to imagine that pain?)

...experienced death. (He died as a human in order to conquer death as a human so that all of humanity might live. Hebrews 2:5-18)

...has empathy. (This is the Christmas story of hope, joy, peace, love because we know we serve a God who can empathize with us, who has been there and done that. Hebrews 4:14-16)

...understands. (I am reminded of how upset Jesus was at the death of His friend Lazarus. He understands what it is like to feel pain and hurt, to suffer loss as a human being. John 11:17-36)

...connects humanity with the Divine. (If Jesus was not truly human than this whole thing is pointless but as a human He gives humanity a chance. Romans 8:3)

December 17, 2010

CEB Giveaway

Right now, as you read this, there is an Advent Blog Tour taking place for the Common English Bible, which I have been asked to be a part of. Not only do I have the opportunity to write one of the 25 blog posts during Advent but the great people at Abingdon Press have given me 3 brand new copies of the Common English translation of the New Testament to give away FREE.

Here's how you can enter to win a copy:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@mattlipan) and link to this post. Be sure to mention me so I can keep track of your entry. This counts as 1 entry.

2. Comment on this post by talking about what the Christmas story means to you. This counts as 1 entry.

*the max # of entries is 2 if you do both of these.
**the winners will be selected at random.

December 2, 2010

A New Look at Advent

ad·vent: a coming into being

Advent is a season of anticipation, excitement and wonder. A time of year when patience is truly a virtue and waiting is something to be expected. I enjoy the season of Advent because it reminds us of our need to slow down as we hope for things to come. I believe hope is one of the key aspects of this season, all of which stems from the birth of a baby a long time ago named Jesus, who changed everything.

I gained a new perspective on this season we call Advent with the birth of my son just 2 days ago. Never have I waited for so long with so much anticipation, excitement and anxiety. After 2 years of trying, 9 months of growing and 21 hours of labor, it is hard to believe he has finally arrived. Now having a better understanding of how Mary & Joseph must have felt at the coming of Jesus has provided me with a new way of looking at Advent, not only as a parent but as a world that waits for hope to come into being. Much like a little baby.

December 1, 2010

24hrs of Fatherhood

Some of you might be aware that my son, Theodore James Lipan, was born yesterday (11/30) at exactly 5:56pm. He weighed 7lbs 11oz and was 19 3/4" long. He has been "out and about" for over 24hrs now and here's a couple things I've learned so far...

-A clean, dry diaper can make all the difference

-Eating, sleeping, and getting cleaned is not a bad way to spend 24hrs

-Sleep is a hot commodity

-The birthing process is truly a miracle

-The level of sensitivity to sounds increases 100 fold

-Breasts are well designed and quite utilitarian

-Swaddling a newborn is truly an art

-Despite their size, newborns can EAT A LOT

I'm looking forward to much more that Theo is going to teach me in the many days to come. What things have you learned from parenthood?

November 24, 2010

Thanks A Lot!

This time of year we hear a lot about all of the things we have to be thankful for but sometimes life has us saying, "Thanks for NOTHING!" We find ourselves in situations we never asked for or dealing with circumstances (sometimes through our own choices and sometimes not) that leave us feeling scared, anxious and doubtful. Is it possible to be thankful even when life doesn't make sense? I think it just might be.

Let's take a look at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and see if we can break it down into manageable parts.

Rejoice always…
-The idea of being joyful always sounds like a fantasy world
-It's important to recognize there is a difference between joy and happiness
-Happiness is fleeting; joy is deep
-True joy comes from a consistent relationship with Christ which helps us maintain consistency despite life's crushing lows or deceptive highs
-Psalm 31:7
-These ups and downs are meant to be shared within a community (1 Corinthians 12:25-27), if you don't have one, find one

Pray without ceasing…
-For some of us, we think of praying as the thing that happens when our heads are bowed, eyes are closed and hands are folded and only then
-Prayer is attitude over posture
-What if prayer is simply keeping God in mind?
-The early disciples were devoted to prayer
-Do not underestimate the power of prayer (James 5:14-16)
-We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties. When a man is at his wits' end it is not a cowardly thing to pray, it is the only way he can get in touch with Reality. ~Oswald Chambers
-I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. ~Abraham Lincoln

Give thanks in all circumstances…
-You're kidding right Paul?? This seems absolutely impossible
-Everyone knows hard times will come
-We have the hope that God can create something out of nothing; turn dead ends into open doors
-In my opinion this is easily one of the most difficult aspects of discipleship, giving thanks when it doesn’t make sense or even when it hurts
-I think this is part of the reason Jesus said the gate is small and the road narrow
-The ability to give thanks despite the circumstances comes down to a trust issue, believing that God is truly in control

...this is God's will for you through Christ.
-This is God's desire for you and you don't have to do it alone...because you can't.

November 23, 2010

A Thankful Perspective

When I present you with a spiritual gift, remember that it still belongs to Me. When I take something away from you, I take nothing that really belongs to you, because I own every good and perfect gift. If I send you suffering, if I send you any kind of a cross at all, refuse to complain, refuse to lose courage. I can come quickly to your rescue; I can translate your heavy heart to a light heart. Remember this when I deal with you like this.
~Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

November 15, 2010

Something Different

The holidays are right around the corner and if we’re not careful we’ll find ourselves buried beneath all of the hustle and bustle before too long. If you’re anything like me, whenever this time of year rolls around you begin to wonder if this year could be something different. Between the lists, parties, traffic, bills, exchanges…we end up spending so much of our time doing things we’d really rather not do. Then our holidays become nothing more than a frenzied attempt of managing an already stressful and busy work, family and social schedule.

What happened to the whole peace, love, and joy thing? Since when did the Christmas season become a season of stress, debt and exhaustion? As I think about the Christmas story as told in the Gospels, I realize that for many of us, the holiday season needs to become something different. I’m not suggesting we throw out our family traditions or stop buy gifts altogether but perhaps one less gift or maybe think about how and where we spend our time.

So the following are just a few suggestions I’m throwing out there, take what you want and send the others right back…

1. Consider how others (and yourself) deal with change.
-Some people thrive on change, while others avoid it like the plague. Be sensitive to each when suggesting a change in your or your family’s holiday routine.
-When it comes to traditions, change can be a tricky thing so be careful.

2. Start small.
-Don’t stop buying gifts altogether but instead maybe buy/spend less.
-Take some time to think about which gifts you are going to ask for and why. Could you do with 1 (…or 2, 3, 8, 12…) less gift?
-Come up with creative ways to stay small because remember it’s not about the amount of money the gifts cost.

3. Think about the way you spend.
-This is more than just about spending $, but asking ourselves how we spend our time. Time is such a precious thing isn’t it? And it seems like we have less and less of it during the Christmas season. Is that how it should be?
-What if you spent more time with loved ones and less time in traffic? What if you spent more time with family and less $ on gifts for them?

Christmas gives us a beautiful story to tell, one that talks about things like peace, joy and hope…NOT stress, credit card bills or being exhausted. Perhaps this Christmas season could be something different. The way we “celebrate” the holidays tells a story, we just have to decide which one we’ll choose to tell.

October 13, 2010

False Alarms

The past couple nights have been perfect weather for sleeping with the windows open. In with the cool breeze comes the sounds of the neighborhood, which is typically quite quiet. Shortly after 6am this morning I was awakened by the sound of a car alarm going off a few blocks away. Like most of us, I'm guessing, I rolled over and ignored it waiting for my "real" alarm to start the day.

This got me thinking on my drive into the office...

How many times a day do we hear a car alarm going off somewhere? How many times have we gone to check on that alarm? I'll be honest, I have never gone to investigate the reason for a car alarm going off. I have always made the assumption that someone accidentally set it off or simply couldn't remember where he or she parked. This is somewhat odd isn't it? It seems as though the point of an alarm is to draw attention to itself, hence the reason we are told to hit the 'panic' button when we find ourselves in a scary situation so we might receive help.

I wonder how often we miss (or maybe just ignore) the "alarms" going off in people's lives around us. Do we see or hear the warning signs but choose to look the other way or assume it's nothing more than a false alarm? I pray that you and I might become more aware of the cries for help all around us.

October 12, 2010

Up To Speed

Obviously you have noticed by now that I have been a little slow in updating my blog on a regular basis, sorry about that. I wanted to catch you up to speed on what's been happening in my life recently...

-This Thursday will be the beginning of week 33 of our pregnancy. We have been fortunate (and I understand we both have been) that my wife has been feeling quite well throughout. As we get closer to the Dec. 2nd due date, her back and feet are starting to get sore but we hear that comes with the territory. We are currently working on names for our son, feel free to offer suggestions but don't be hurt if we think they're lame...j/, but seriously.

-I am continuing to chip away at my 96 credit hour Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. This semester is particularly brutal as I am taking a Greek class and an inductive Bible study class through the Minor Prophets. Perhaps needless to say, the workload is decent.

-I continue to be involved with the launching of our Saturday Evening Contemporary service called Renovate. You can read about some of the history of this service here. If you have come by to check it out, we would love to hear your feedback. You can visit Renovate's Facebook page and click the feedback tab to share your thoughts. If you haven't stopped by on Saturday nights @6pm in the Castleton UMC sanctuary, maybe you should?

-Over the past month and a half I have been serving as the lead pastor for our Sunrise Campus located at 75th & Oaklandon. This congregation truly has the feel of family and is excited to continue to look for ways to reach into its surrounding community. With a few changes we have in the works and the support of the Sunrise congregation I am excited with them to see how God might use us in the Geist and Oaklandon areas of Indianapolis. We currently run 2 services on Sunday mornings on this campus, a 9am traditional and 10:30 contemporary. We have a combined service at 10am planned for Nov. 7th to celebrate Communion with a pitch-in meal to follow the service. No doubt it will be a good time with some good food.

Of course, there are other things going on but these will bring you up to speed. My goal is to get back to blogging fairly regularly but to be honest, that has been my goal all along so we'll see how that goes. I would enjoy the chance to connect with you if we haven't already, Facebook or Twitter will probably be the best bet to start. Thanks for being here, for reading and for supporting this blog. Look for more to come.

September 17, 2010

On Pascha

O mystifying murder! O mystifying injustice!
The master is obscured by his body exposed,
and is not held worthy of a veil to shield him from view.
For this reason the great lights turned away,
And the day was turned to darkness;
To hide the one denuded on the tree,
Obscuring not the body of the Lord but human eyes.
For when the people did not tremble, the earth shook.
When the people did not fear, the heavens were afraid.
When the people did not rend their garments, the angel rent his own.
When the people did not lament, the Lord thundered from heaven,
And the most high gave voice ...
The Lord clothed himself with humanity,
And with suffering on behalf of the suffering one,
And bound on behalf of the one constrained,
And judged on behalf of the one convicted,
And buried on behalf of the one entombed,
Rose from the dead and cried out aloud:
"Who takes issue with me? Let him stand before me.
I set free the condemned.
I gave life to the dead.
I raise up the entombed.
Who will contradict me?"
"It is I," says the Christ,
"I am he who destroys death,
and triumphs over the enemy,
and crushed Hades,
and binds the strong man,
and bears humanity off of the heavenly lights."
"It is I," says the Christ.
"So come all families of people,
adulterated with sin,
and receive forgiveness of sins.
For I am your freedom.
I am the Passover of Salvation,
I am the lamb slaughtered for you,
I am your ransom,
I am your life,
I am your light,
I am your salvation,
I am your resurrection,
I am your King.
I shall raise you up by my right hand,
I will lead you to the heights of heaven,
There shall I show you the everlasting Father."

~St. Melito of Sardis, On Pascha

September 15, 2010

#ChurchWORDS - Worship

We started a new sermon series at Renovate (our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service you can read about here) entitled #ChurchWORDS (which you can read about here) a couple weeks ago. Here is my sermon outline from the fourth sermon in this series from 9/11.

#ChurchWORDS - Worship
Psalm 95:5-7

The Hebrew word for worship describes it in these ways...

(fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully

serve by carrying out religious duties

religious service, worship (of God)

"When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without
heart." ~Lamar Boschman

God must be the object of our worship
-God alone is worthy of worship
-Deuteronomy 6:13 says to “serve him only”
-The 1st of 10 commandments is to have no other gods
-"It is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence to men." ~C.S. Lewis
-Worship is humbly recognizing it is not about me, which allows us to worship on a day like 9/11 or when life doesn’t make sense
-Keeping God as the focus of our worship keeps us from worshiping our traditions

Worship begins in our hearts
-Worship must be sincere
-Isaiah 29:13
-2 Kings 17:40-41

Our life is the action of our worship
-Romans 12:1
-This means worship can happen anywhere at anytime
-Worship is serving, and as Jesus said, “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me”
-"As worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. Holy obedience saves worship from becoming an opiate, an escape from the pressing needs of modern life." ~Richard Foster

#ChurchWORDS - Sin

We started a new sermon series at Renovate (our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service you can read about here) entitled #ChurchWORDS (which you can read about here) a couple weeks ago. Here is my sermon outline from the third sermon in this series from 9/4.

#ChurchWORDS - Sin
Romans 7:14-20
Romans 5:12, 15, 20-21

“…every sin is the distortion of an energy breathed into us – an energy which, if not thus distorted, would have blossomed into one of those holy acts whereof “God did it” and “I did it” are both true descriptions. Killing a melody He would play with us as the instrument.” ~CS Lewis

“Any disposition contrary to the mind which was in Christ.” ~John Wesley

James 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.”

We ask that question all the time don’t we? We ask it in a different way these days. We talk about “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” but rarely use the word ‘sin’. Why is that? Is it dated? Has it become trivial or silly?

There are times when Paul views ‘sin’ as an invading power…so I thought I would say a little more about it.

Sin is anything that interferes with our relationship with God
-Relationships, jobs, church...these things aren’t bad.
-Loving my wife is a good thing but not if I love her more than God.

We need to stop thinking about sin in terms of bad vs good or right vs wrong.
-This leads us to think that anything that is good is not sin.
-Who decides what is good or not? Typically you and I do, right? So that means that anything that I think seems good or feels good is obviously not sin.

Have thoughts on SIN? Share away...

September 6, 2010

#ChurchWORDS - Church

We started a new sermon series at Renovate (our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service you can read about here) entitled #ChurchWORDS (which you can read about here) a couple weeks ago. Here is my sermon outline from the second sermon in this series from 8/28.

#ChurchWORDS - Church

Let's start with a question: What comes to mind when you hear the word 'church'?

A specific time on a specific day?

Ephesians 4:1-6
Here Paul speaks of the unity of the Church (notice the capital 'C' which signifies the universal Christian church) that is found in the Oneness of the Triune God...Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Sometimes, however, people mistake Jesus for the Church, which can lead to hurt and frustration because Jesus is perfect and well, since the Church is made up of you and me, it is not perfect. We saw this mistake most recently with author Anne Rice who declared that she had "quit Christianity" because of her struggles with the Church.

This leads me to point out a couple things the Church IS and IS NOT.
Acts 2:42-47

1. Church IS NOT a building
Church IS where the lives of individuals intersect
*In order to be the Church, we must be intentional about coming together to worship, study and pray
*I like to think of it as living the life of a disciple of Jesus together

2. Church IS NOT a place to consume
Church IS a place of shared passion and purpose
*This leads to a willingness and desire to serve others
*In a culture that reminds us on a daily basis we are the consumer, this mindset can slip into the way we live out the Church
*Church has to be more than a social club, something must made us different

3. Church IS NOT about the individual
Church IS a family
*“Where 2 or 3 are gathered” (Matthew 18:20)
*You cannot be the Church in isolation, or a Christian for that matter
*I believe Jesus intends his Church to be a place of support, encouragement and community; a place where one can share the highs and the lows of life knowing there is love to be found in this family

September 2, 2010

A Prayer of Doctor Johnson

Almighty and most merciful Father, whose clemency I now presume to implore, after a long life of carelessness and wickedness, have mercy upon me. I have committed many trespasses; I have neglected many duties. I have done what Thou hast forbidden, and left undone what Thou hast commanded. Forgive, merciful Lord, my sins, negligences, and ignorances, and enable me, by the Holy Spirit, to amend my life according to thy Holy Word, for Jesus Christ's sake.

~From Doctor Johnson's Prayers edited by Elton Trueblood

August 29, 2010

#ChurchWORDS - Salvation

We started a new sermon series at Renovate (our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service you can read about here) entitled #ChurchWORDS (which you can read about here) a couple weeks ago. Here is my sermon outline from the first sermon in this series from 8/21.

#ChurchWORDS - Salvation

Webster's dictionary defines salvation as: “preservation from destruction or failure b : deliverance from danger or difficulty”

I want to highlight a few passages of scripture that speak to who can be saved, what we're being saved from, how salvation is possible and what salvation is for.

Who can be saved: Joel 2:32; 1 Timothy 2:3-6

What we need salvation from: Romans 3:23, 5:8-10

How is salvation made possible: 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Acts 4:8-12, 15:10-11; Romans 10:8-13; Titus 3:3-7

What salvation is for: to produce good fruit; to find pasture, freedom (John 10:9); Ephesians 2:1-10;

Isaiah talks about joyfully drawing from the well of salvation (12:3)
Work out your salvation with "fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)
Grow up in your salvation (1 Peter 2:2)

August 25, 2010

The Launch of 'Renovate'

We officially launched our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service under the name of Renovate. It took us a while to come up with a name but I'm glad it did because we are liking the one we've got. We received lots of different ideas and suggestions, which we are very grateful for but eventually decided on this one. On August 14th we launched (still with little to no outside marketing at this point due to trying to nail down a logo) our service with a free concert from 1000 Generations to follow. Numbers were OK for the service, 150 showed up so that's not awful. Here is a little of my sermon from that evening.

faith :: community :: culture

The word renovate means:
1 : to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding)
2 : to restore to life, vigor, or activity : revive, renew

This process of renovation is just that, a process. Similar to how our faith is a process. Constantly being restored and renewed and maybe even revived when it feels like its been dead for a while. Like the writer of Hebrews talks about "running the race with perseverance" (Heb. 12:1-3).

This is what we're hoping for through this service, that the process of renovation might either begin or be encouraged to continue on to completion (Philippians 1:6). To the point where it begins to impact not only one's faith, but community and culture as well. Like the wise man who built his house on rock (Matthew 7:24-27), we hope that Renovate is just one way in which individuals might build a solid foundation of faith as they find additional ways to connect with the community of Castleton UMC. It's more than simply attending a service, it's about allowing the Spirit to work in you and through you to bring about renewal. If you haven't already, this might be something worth checking out.

August 9, 2010

"Dealing with Temptation: Part 2"

Sermon outline from part 2 of a 2 part series talking about temptation. You can find part 1 here.

"Dealing with Temptation: Part 2"
Practical Ways to Deal with Temptation

• Refocus your attention on something else

*2 Timothy 2:22
*Philippians 4:8
*The battle for sin is won or lost in your mind, whatever gets your attention will get you
*Spiritually, your mind is your most vulnerable organ, to reduce temptation, keep your mind occupied with good things

• Avoid it

*1 Peter 5:8-9
*Don’t try to argue with the hungry lion
*Without Christ we are defenseless against the Devil
*It’s easier to stay out of temptation than it is to get out of it

• Recognize your vulnerability

*Mark 14:38
*1 Timothy 6:9
*Given the right circumstances, any of us are capable of any sin

• Be in community

*1 Corinthians 10:12-13
*You are only as sick as your secrets
*Satan wants you to think that your sin and temptation are unique so you keep them a secret
*Separating yourself from the community makes you much more vulnerable to attack

"Dealing with Temptation: Part 1"

Sermon outline from part 1 of a 2 part series talking about temptation. Thoughts, questions and comments welcome.

"Dealing with Temptation: Part 1"
James 1:2-16

1. The difference between Trials & Temptations

*Trials lead to testing and come from outside the individual or community…sickness, natural disasters, persecution, etc
*Temptations comes from within…a collaboration of our selfish desires and evil

2. The development of perseverance is communal

*James is not talking about individual competition
*Endurance is not about the individual’s character but the community’s commitment to God as its source of identity
*This is what makes finding joy in trials possible and prayer fundamental
*In prayer we understand reality as being soaked in the grace of God
*Being “double minded” in prayer is knowing that reality but wanting to live as we choose

3. vs. 9-12

*The little I will say about these verses is that having little and having much are both a test

4. How Temptation Works

Step 1 --> An evil desire is identified inside us
*In this case desire is understood as a misguided or disordered passion

Step 2 --> Lures us away
*We begin to ask questions like "Is it really that bad?"
*We think since it doesn’t impact/involve/hurt anyone else it shouldn't be an issue

Step 3 --> Deceives us
*Satan offers a lie to replace God’s truth
*We start playing the justification game

Step 4 --> Creates a pattern of disobedience
*This leads to “full grown” sin and eventually death
*There is strong imagery of conception, birth, and death...see this as allowing sin to grow as you might a child

August 4, 2010

Control: In or Under?

There are lots of things that happen in life that we don't understand or can't explain. As Christians we typically find ourselves saying something like "God is in control" when we can't answer the 'hows' and the 'whys'. My struggle with this is the implication that because "God is in control" He caused such things to happen, which I'm not sure is the case.

I believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present but I don't believe He controls everything, despite His ability to do so. He allows things to happen but doesn't force them to. Maybe it's semantics but I like to think of this as God having things under control, which leaves control in His hands but doesn't make Him the cause of divorce, the death of a loved one, a friend's illness or a natural disaster. Instead, seeing God as having things under control gives me the hope and faith to believe He can provide reason when there doesn't seem to be any or to pull good out of an otherwise painful experience. Our world is chaotic. God does not cause the chaos, He does however have it under control.

What do you think, any difference between God being in control or having things under control?

July 30, 2010

Confusing Christ with the Church

I have never really heard of author Anne Rice (@AnneRiceAuthor) before this week and must admit that I have never read any of her writings but I have talked to plenty of people who feel the same way she does. On Wednesday she wrote on her Facebook fan page that as a Roman Catholic she was "quitting Christianity" because she was troubled by the scandals that have plagued the Church and its response to such abuse, as well as issues of being anti-birth control and anti-feminism (CBS News article here).

A blog post from friend Andrew Schleincher (@AJSchlei) about Anne's decision got me thinking...Is it possible that people confuse Christ with the Church?

Here's what I mean, people think that the Church and Jesus are the same thing and as a result, wrongly associate things like hypocrisy, being judgmental and hate-filled with Christ. The Church, which is made up of imperfect humans like you and me, is striving to be like the perfect person of Jesus and unfortunately falls short on a regular basis. This fact does not negate the love of Christ or the significance of being a Christian, it does however, remind us that only He is perfect and we are merely trying to be and because of this, the Church is not perfect and won't be until in Him all things are made complete. I hope and pray that people can and will find the perfect Christ through and despite of, the imperfect Church and realize that when the one fails miserably, He never does.

Do I think we, as the Church, unfairly give Jesus a bad rap sometimes...Yes.
Do I think that regardless, He not only loves but uses the Church...Yes.
Do I think this adds a weight of responsibility to the Church today and that we must continue to strive to become more like Jesus...Yes.

July 27, 2010

A Few Thoughts on War

I was working on this essay and honestly had no intention of posting it here but thanks to the encouragement of @jackodile and @nickestelle I decided otherwise. It's a little long for a blog post so I apologize.

****** ****** ****** ****** ******

Throughout history the Church has encountered war on a number of different levels and has responded in a number of different ways, though primarily through the responses of crusade, just war, and pacifism. Each one is unique in its understanding of the use of violence and the teachings of Jesus, which impacts the way in which one reads and understands Paul’s writing in Romans 12:17-13:7. A brief explanation of these three responses to war is important before moving forward.

The crusade response to war is most commonly understood as being represented during the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries by what took place in the Middle East. The thought behind this approach is one that believes war is appropriate and even necessary for the advance or protection of a particular religion or belief. This typically results in a zealous sort of violence that goes beyond what is “necessary” to advance or defend the perceived cause. John Howard Yoder describes the Crusades as going “far beyond the old Roman just war categories to make the Middle East adventures a specifically religious cause.”[1]

The most common response to war throughout Christian history is known as Just War. This belief holds that war should be avoided but at times may be necessary in order to protect and defend a weaker nation. Kennedy explains the just war response well when he says, “sometimes the use of violence by nations is morally permissible, perhaps even required.”[2] He goes on to write, “there are moral rules or criteria which must be satisfied before a war can be considered morally justified.”[3] There are a number of criteria which help to determine whether a war is justified, some of these include: last resort, proportionality, right intention, and reasonable hope of success at accomplishing your ends in fighting.[4]

The third response to war mentioned above is pacifism, which is the belief that war is never the appropriate action and should be avoided at all costs based upon moral or religious grounds.[5] Kathleen De Sutter Jordan speaks to Dorothy Day’s commitment to and example of pacifism when she writes, “For Dorothy it was precisely the love of God and the grace to “see Christ in people” that inspired her radical Christian pacifism and life of nonviolence.”[6] Jordan notes that much of pacifism’s response to war is “based on Christ’s revolutionary commandment (not merely a counsel, or recommendation, Dorothy pointed out) that his followers “Love one another as I have loved you.”[7]

Depending upon whether one sees himself or herself as a crusader, a just war advocate or a pacifist will impact the way one understands and explains Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-13:7.[8] This passage begins by addressing the issue of vengeance or seeking revenge and notes that peace is preferable, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (vs. 12:18). The seeking of justice in one’s own favor is not only inappropriate but not a moral reason to resort to violence or war. Paul gives the challenge to “overcome evil with good” (vs. 12:21) and allow God to be the administrator of justice and revenge by treating enemies kindly because it is the appropriate action of a disciple but may also have the effect of turning one’s heart. This begins first with submission to God, trusting in His promise, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (vs. 12:19) and secondly submission to the authorities that He has put in place to carry out His justice. Paul goes on to write, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (vs. 13:1) and explains that this is expected of Christ’s followers (vs. 13:5, 7).

Attempting to answer the question of when, if ever, it is appropriate to support a war based upon this passage of Paul’s writing may be difficult. The majority of Christians find themselves responding to war with a form of the Just War argument, believing that there may be times when war is the necessary action. While Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-13:7 do not speak specifically to the issue of war, he does address revenge, how peace is preferable and the need for Christians to submit to governing authorities.

As I read this, I understand it to mean that peace is always preferred, should be pursued but is not always possible. It then becomes a matter of trust and faith. Trusting that God, in His sovereignty has put the authorities in place as Paul notes in vs. 13:1. This trust then allows one to have faith in God’s promise that justice will be His and He will use whatever means necessary to see His justice come to fruition. Having said all of this, it seems to me that it becomes appropriate to support a war when peace has been pursued but to no avail and the basic tenets of humanity (opportunities for peace, security, basic necessities) are being withheld or denied from a weaker neighbor or people group. One can also see that support for war based solely upon vengeance or selfish gain is never appropriate. Keeping in mind the broader message found in Romans of God’s justice, freedom and peace over against those of the institutions of humankind will serve as faithful guides in determining one’s response to the issue of war.

1 Yoder, John H. "The Authority of Tradition." From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics. By Wayne G. Boulton, et. al. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994. 98.
2 Kennedy, Thomas. “Can War Be Just?” From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics. By Wayne G. Boulton, et. al. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994. 437.
3 Ibid. 437.
4 Ibid. 440.
5 Webster Dictionary: The New American. New York: New American Library, 1958.
6 Jordan, Kathleen De Sutter. “The Nonviolence of Dorothy Day.” From Christ to the World: Introductory Readings in Christian Ethics. By Wayne G. Boulton, et. al. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1994. 442.
7 Ibid. 443-444.
8 Romans 12:17-13:7. The Holy Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

July 23, 2010


Have you ever been sitting in church or small group and heard a word or phrase you've heard before but have never really understood? You know, those words you feel like you should know but aren't quite sure about, do you have any of those?

I'm working on a sermon series for this Fall entitled "#ChurchWORDS". The point of this series is to alleviate the uneasiness or confusion surrounding some words we use and hear in different church settings. Whether it is a Bible study, small group or worship service, what are those #ChurchWORDS that leave you wondering exactly what they mean? I would love to hear from you those words that you aren't quite sure about. My hope is to use your input in putting together this sermon series so please feel free to contact me by dropping a comment here (anonymously if you prefer) or email me: I look forward to hearing your #ChurchWORDS.

July 22, 2010

The Launch of a Saturday Evening Contemporary Service Part III

It's been almost 9 weeks since the "soft" launch of our Saturday Evening Contemporary Service here at Castleton UMC and so far, so good. The worship band continues to get better as the weeks go by, especially in regards to transitions. They have been introducing new worship songs for our congregation and they seem to enjoy most of them.

The inconsistency of our schedule has certainly hurt us a little over the past few weeks. Due to a previously scheduled wedding, the service started an hour later that weekend at 7pm. We have another late start coming up on the 31st due to another wedding that has been on the books for awhile. There is no Saturday Service this Saturday due to the "Celebrate Our Church" service happening at 10am Sunday. We are combining all 6 of our weekend services from 2 campuses into this 1 service on Sunday morning. I am looking forward to the consistency the Fall calendar will provide in a few weeks.

As we prepare for a consistent Fall schedule, we are working on a marketing strategy for the "hard" launch set for August 14th. Part of this marketing plan involves developing a name for the service, which is proving harder than I had anticipated (any suggestions let me know). Once we settle on a name, we will begin designing a logo and tagline. This will be followed with targeted mailers, online advertising, radio spots, visiting local college campuses, and large banners in front of the church. I'm anticipating the initial marketing cost being roughly $3k-$5k.

One other aspect I have been working on is our online presence via live streaming of the service and podcasts. Neither are great right now but I don't think we're too far from making these happen on a consistent, quality basis.

After meeting for 8 weeks we are averaging 68 in attendance.

July 21, 2010

Forgive & Forget



I'm not talking about forgiving someone else. I'm wondering if you need to forgive yourself....and then FORGET?

Paul was a guy who had a lot of things in his past, both good and bad, that he needed to forget about so he could move on. There may be good things you have done in the past that you hold onto, like a badge declaring worth or perhaps a couple bad things that serve as perpetual reminders of how awful a person you are. Whether good or bad, these things keep you from pressing forward. They chain you to the past making it easy to miss how God wants to meet you in the present. Part of what allows you to move on, to press forward, is to stop focusing on the past and strain toward what is ahead, as Paul writes in Philippians 3:12-14.

So, if God have forgiven you and moved on, why haven't you?

July 12, 2010

"More Than Enough"

Sermon outline from 7/10. As always questions, comments and thoughts are welcome. Be on the lookout for the audio here.

"More Than Enough"

Exodus 35:4-5, 20-21, 29; 36:3-7

*Understood the Purpose
-Exodus 35:20-21, 29
-The purpose of the Church & all Christians is to make disciples who love God, love one another and serve the world

*Shared the Passion
-Exodus 35:21
-Everyone who was “willing”
-God desires willingness not obligation…2 Cor 9:6-8

*More than Enough
-Exodus 36:3-7
-This came from what they already had, there was no need to go get more
-Where do you and I find ‘enough’?
-Lyrics from “Ill With Want” by The Avett Brothers

“The more I have, the more I think
I’m almost where I need to be
if only I could get a little more”

-1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-18
-“love of money” = excessive or insatiable desire for wealth or gain
-Money as security is always a moving target because we never have enough
-Ecclesiastes 5:10: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.”
-Paul talks about God’s grace as being sufficient, or enough (2 Cor 12:9)
-Where are you searching for 'enough'? My guess is if it’s anywhere other than God, you haven’t found it yet.

July 6, 2010

"Meant to be Free"

Sermon outline from our Saturday evening service of July 4th weekend.

"Meant to be Free"
Galatians 5:1-6, 13-15

-Christ has freed us to be free
-This is something that has already been done, we must choose to live in that freedom (4:4-5)
-Stand firm in this freedom (Philippians 1:27)
-“Yoke” is typically used in the positive sense, as a set of guidelines (Matthew 11:29-30)
-Because we have been set free, we should never tolerate being enslaved again (4:8-9)
-This is not about individualism or inner liberty but about the freedom of Christ coming alive in the forming of community
-It is not “autonomy” which literally means “self-law”, meaning we are at the mercy of ourselves but instead this is a freedom that says “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (2:20).
-This is freedom for life in community, for mutual service in love embodied through the corporate life of the church
-This freedom is a gift, not an achievement which leaves room for genuine diversity
-We are free to interact with those who disagree with us, to love those who are difficult to love
-Freedom in Christ points us to something new

"Caring for God's House"

Sermon outline from Saturday 6/26 which happens to be the first part of a two part series on stewardship as our church prepares to launch a new capital campaign.

"Caring for God's House"

Haggai 1:1-11
-First day of the 6th month in the 2nd year of King Darius I…which tells us:
-Darius I had plenty of time to get things settled
-the 1st day of the month was set aside for sacrifices but w/no altar the sacrifices could not be made
-The project began 18yrs earlier (Ez 1:2-11; 3:1-7; 5:16) and still wasn’t finished
-The houses of the people were finished while God’s remained unfinished
-“sown much but harvested little”
-Speaks to the need for focus, literally “set the heart”
-Before the temple is even finished God declares it acceptable
-God takes pleasure in our process
-Maybe 6% is 100% of what you can give right now
-This doesn’t necessarily mean God will bless you with more money but will help you appreciate what you have
-God will be honored, one way or another
-Is your relationship with God dry? What is your stewardship like?
-Our behavior matters to God
-Drought as a powerful symbol of the brokenness of creation and the need for divine healing and restoration
-It is important for the Church to care for God’s house so we can care for others

Luke 16:10-15
-Wealth is not the issue, it’s what we do w/it
-The question is not whether you will have a master but who or what it is

June 28, 2010

"...Or Nothing At All?"

Here is the outline from my sermon on Saturday 6/19 at our new Contemporary Service, this is the second part of a two part series. As always, questions or comments are welcome. You can go here for the podcast.

"...Or Nothing At All?"
Galatians 2:15-21

Doesn't it seem as though exclusion and keeping others out was the story of the Jews and how they treated the Gentiles? Doesn't it also seem that we as the Church have been doing the same thing to those outside the Church? When we realize there is nothing at all we can do to earn God's grace, we quickly come to the conclusion that we all started on the outside looking in...

Vs. 15-16:
-God and God alone is the one who makes things right
-This is about acknowledging what Christ has done for us “who gave himself to deliver us from the present evil age” (1:4); it is the story of “the faithfulness of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (2:20).
-Rom 5:8
-Rom 3:21-24
-Phil 3:8-9

Vs. 17-18:
-Eph 2:14-16

Vs. 19-21:
-This is more than just having sins forgiven, it is about being transformed for service, becoming the instrument of Christ’s reconciling love
-A reminder that through Christ’s faithful death, we have been set free from the things that hold us captive and that he has torn down the old and made a new creation
-Completed past action that continues into the present, impacting it
-Rom 6:1-11

June 16, 2010

"All or Nothing..."

Here is the outline from my sermon this past Saturday (6/12) at our new Contemporary Service. This is the first part of a two part series which concludes this Saturday (6/19). As always, questions or comments are welcome. You can go here for the podcast.

"All or Nothing..."
Luke 18:18-30

The ruler’s question “what must I do” is the same question a lawyer asks in 10:25-28.

Jews were split on the issue of the afterlife. The Pharisees believed in the hope of eternal life/afterlife (Daniel 12:2) while the Sadducees did not.

The ruler called Jesus “good” because he recognized Jesus’ virtue and holiness and that he had the authority and ability to speak to his question.

Jesus redirects the focus to God’s sovereignty and the importance of his covenant with his people. This is not something new but rather an extension and completion of what God has already been doing in human history.

You still lack one thing”…what haunting words. Have you ever gone through some sort of long, involved process, organized all of the paperwork, got to the end and been told you were missing something? It’s like showing up to the BMV and missing that second piece of mail with your address on it.

Is being a Christian an all or nothing sort of thing? Jesus says earlier in Luke 14:25-33

It is important to remember what has taken place right before Jesus has this conversation with the young ruler…the persistent widow, the prayer of the tax collector and the Pharisee, little children brought to Jesus…it’s interesting how we don't see ourselves in these parables…not as the unmerciful judge or the super spiritual Pharisee but more than likely not as the little children either.

Sell…give…come…follow me (vs. 22)

Sell: in the Greek it means to exchange. Exchange anything that gives you security outside of Christ, not simply wealth or stuff (reputation, fame, degrees)

Give: serve others, fight for justice

Come: in the imperative form, which means we must recognize our need now; we come humbly as “little children” confessing our need

Follow: the picture of walking alongside Jesus, which means he is walking alongside us

What emotions well up inside you when you think about giving up everything to follow Christ?

Matthew’s (19:16-30) account tells us that the ruler & Jesus were sad. They both recognize the meaning of his response and that Jesus cannot overcome it. The cost of free will is that God cannot force the free to make the right decisions. The ruler knows the right decision but there is nothing more Jesus can do for him. The response of the ruler reminds us of the seed that is choked by the weeds.

If the powerful ones who have access to resources can’t be saved, who can? The question of “who can be saved” is a question based upon the actions of the individual, not God.

The cost of following Christ can make a difference in your life now, in the present and in the future as the promise of eternal life.

So, is Christianity all or nothing (Rev 3:14-16)? Does it cost us everything? Yes, but we have everything and more to gain.

June 5, 2010

Let's Talk Appointments Part III

I believe the implications of changing shall to may as it relates to "guaranteed appointments" will have a lot to with the way in which "good standing" is defined/measured and the relationship it has with effective ministry. John Meunier mentions on his blog that there has been conversation lately on using numbers as a way to measure clergy effectiveness. Some like it, some don't. I can almost guarantee that ineffective clergy do not like the idea of attendance, new members, confessions of faith, and baptisms as measuring sticks.

Maybe I'm way off on this but aren't those the signs of effective clergy and ministry? Numbers aren't everything but they certainly aren't nothing. I think numbers can be one of the easiest and most obvious signals of ministry impact and to disregard them with the mindset of "quality over quantity" is simply misguided. It seems difficult to me to read through the New Testament and not see how life changing discipleship is not related to the spread of the Gospel which in turn adds to the numbers.

If at least one of the measuring sticks for effective clergy is not tangible and there are not conferences/districts willing to address ineffective clergy then getting rid of "guaranteed appointments" is going to upset a lot of people for no reason.

And so I'm left wondering...Do "good standing" and effective mean the same thing?

June 4, 2010

"Lest We Forget"

This is an outline of my sermon from Memorial Day weekend's launch of our new Saturday Evening Contemporary Service. Thoughts, comments, questions are welcome.

"Lest We Forget"

The city of Indianapolis is 2nd only to Washington DC in acreage & number of monuments dedicated to veterans. It is also the national and state headquarters of the American Legion.

Between my wife & I, we have: 5 uncles, 4 grandpas and her dad who were willing to serve in the military. It is important on this weekend that we remember those who were willing to serve and the sacrifice that they, as well as their families, paid for the price of our freedom. The thought of memorials got me thinking about what they might look like in relationship to God...

Memorials as reminders of God’s presence and faithfulness.
• We see this over and over again throughout Scripture: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, etc.
Luke 9:28-36
• They were open to seeing God move.
• They expected God to show up in some way.
• They were aware of God’s presence.
• They made themselves available.

Memorials can serve as windows into the past.
• Help remind us where we’ve been (Ephesians 2:11-13)

Memorials can serve as mirrors.
• Help remind us who we are (James 1:22-25)

In what ways are you remembering God throughout your week?
• Are you aware of God’s presence?
• Are you open to seeing God move?
• Are you looking for and expecting God to show up throughout your week?

The Launch of a Saturday Evening Contemporary Service Part II

It's been almost a week since the launch of our new Saturday Evening Contemporary Service, with tomorrow night being week two. The feedback I received from the launch has been overwhelmingly positive, especially in regards to the music and band.

I know for some of you, the thought of launching a new service on Memorial Day weekend sounds absurd but let me give you a little context. Castleton UMC is located in Indianapolis, IN which happens to be the home of the Indianapolis 500. The race takes place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which draws tens of thousands of people, including people from our congregation. So every year, on this weekend, we have held a Saturday night worship service as an option for racegoers but this year, we used that time as the launching point for our new Saturday service that will continue throughout the year. For us, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend made sense and the numbers spoke to this. We had 130 in attendance for our first Saturday Evening Contemporary Service, which ended up being more than our 8:30 & 11am services the following Sunday morning. This is the impact of the Indy 500.

Overall, I was really happy with the launch as I had no idea what to expect. I believe weeks 2, 3 and 4 will be telling but regardless of how many attend or what happens, we are excited to see how God will use this service on Saturday nights.

I will be posting my sermons here on my blog, podcasts are available here and the services will be streamed live online here on Saturday evenings at 6pm. All sorts of different ways to check it out and connect.

May 30, 2010

A Not-So-Friendly Stroll

We are watching a neighbors dog for the next couple days and so my wife and I decided to take it for a walk earlier tonight. The neighborhood we live in is older where the garages are behind the houses accessible through narrow alleys. So for our walk tonight we decided to step out the back door and stroll down the alley.

I'm not sure why it hit me so hard but an interaction we had with a guy down the block left me speechless.

Tomorrow is trash day. Everyone sets their trash bins out in the alley to be emptied in the morning. As we were walking, an older guy was putting trash in his bin. There was a clear moment of eye-contact, and inside that moment my wife and I both said "hello". The guy simply stood there, looked at us, said nothing, turned and walked back into his fenced yard. We kept walking despite being completely dumbfounded.

I'm not sure I've ever had such a blatant display of rudeness. Or maybe I have but for whatever reason this one got to me. I couldn't help but start to wonder what has happened or is happening in this guy's life that would cause him to be so mean. I say this because this is not the first time I have had an encounter like this with the same guy but this one was the most blatant.

The other thing I started to think about...what do my interactions with strangers tell them about me, my life or more importantly my faith? What about yours?

May 29, 2010

Let's Talk Appointments: Part II

One thing I find interesting about "guaranteed appointments" is that the United Methodist Church would choose to enter into a lifetime "contractual" (or covenant if you prefer) relationship with an individual. When an elder is ordained, the UMC commits to a relationship that will last the individual's lifetime. Guaranteed. I'm not sure I can think of any other profession where this is the case. It almost seems as though this effectively ties the hands of the denomination when dealing with elders that are less than good but remain in "good standing".

I have been working on staff at the same church for 8yrs and to think about the changes that have taken place in my understanding and thoughts on theology, ministry, leadership, etc. in that short time is significant. I have a hard time trying to imagine what some of those thoughts will be in the next 5yrs let alone 35yrs. I wonder if "guaranteed appointments" is the best practice for the UMC as it tries to maintain a standard both theologically and doctrinally, as well as on social issues across the denomination and its clergy. What happens when a pastor's theology changes over the years? Or his/her views on various social issues (i.e. homosexuality) becomes different than the denominational position on said issues? It seems like shall suggests that the denomination has to figure out a way to keep him/her around while struggling to figure out in which role. May seems to suggest that the denomination has another option, a sort of no-appointment probation or even a very nice goodbye letter.

As the conversation continues, feel free to jump in and share your thoughts. Be on the lookout for Part III.

May 26, 2010

Let's Talk Appointments: Part I

There has been a lot of talk over the past few weeks about the topic of "guaranteed appointments" within the United Methodist Church as the result of a recent commission group study. You can read two of the articles here and here. You can also see a couple blog posts from: Mark Beeson, John Meunier, Bandits No More, Overstatement.

The main issue revolves around the understanding that while "All elders who are in good standing and continue to fulfill their professional responsibilities (¶340) shall be continued under appointment unless they are on leave and are assured equitable compensation for their ministry (¶342)" (online source), this commission is recommending the word shall be changed to may. What this does in effect, is remove the "guarantee" of an appointment for an ordained elder in good standing.

The main argument against this change seems to be around the idea that if an individual is willing to go through the lengthy (and I would suggest convoluted) ordination process, be willing to be itinerant (which is a model I still struggle with for today) and remain in good standing, the denomination should take care of the individual by always providing an appointment.

One of the problems I see with this is how "good standing" is defined. Is this measured by the number of baptisms or confessions of faith? The reach of a pastor's discipling ministry? Or the fact that s/he didn't steal any money or failed to run worship attendance down to zero? If we have a hard time understanding what "good standing" really means, then changing one word might not make that much of a difference.

Being a 31yr old full-time licensed local pastor and certified candidate I can only begin to understand the impact of may on an individual yet I am also beginning to see the impact shall has had on the Church. I am certainly not naive enough to think that job security is not important or cannot provide a sense of security for one's family but I also wonder how it impacts the ministries of the Church, and the UMC in particular when ineffectiveness is simply moved from one appointment to another.

I'm anticipating this will be an ongoing conversation, feel free to join in. Look for Part II of the discussion in the next few days.

May 25, 2010

The Launch of a Saturday Evening Contemporary Service Part I

The church that I am currently appointed to, Castleton UMC, is getting ready to launch a contemporary worship service that will take place on Saturday nights at 6pm in the sanctuary on our Castleton campus. I have been given the opportunity to be the lead pastor for this service which I have been working toward making happen for over 3yrs now. With plenty of prayer and dreaming, I got the word to launch on Saturday, May 29th about 5 weeks ago.

A little background info on our church...We have 2 campuses with a total average Sunday morning attendance of around 750. We have 3 services (8:30 & 9:40 traditional, 11 blended/contemporary) on the Castleton campus and 2 services (9 traditional, 10:30 contemporary) on the Sunrise campus. We have not had a consistent evening service option and as a result, it will be interesting to see the response to a Saturday evening service that happens each week.

I've received plenty of support along the way from fellow staff, members of the congregation and especially Joe Garrison (@JoeGGarrison). In the past 5 weeks, here's what we've done so far:

*Solely through social media we were able to find a solid worship leader (@matthewedilley), drummer (@jdcogswell) and strong female vocalist (@zanbone) to accompany 3 of our own musicians.

*The only promotion of this service has been through in-house publications (church bulletin, newsletter, e-bulletin, website), word of mouth and social media.

*We have most of our volunteer positions filled (greeters, welcome center, ushers) but have a few A/V spots (sound, lights, video, slides) that are still open.

*I decided on Saturdays at 6pm because I believe this time will lend itself to reaching a wide range of individuals for various reasons. I also believe it will provide countless opportunities for fellowship (and eventually study & small groups) to take place after the service.

*We will be podcasting & video archiving the sermons and live streaming the entire service online (find that stuff here) each week.

Needless to say this is going to be a work-in-progress as we move forward but should be fun to witness how it all comes together, as so much of it has already. I look forward to hearing any questions or thoughts you have about launching a new service and sharing this experience with you.

May 24, 2010

Rodrigo y Gabriela at The Vogue

I had the chance to see Rodrigo y Gabriela for the first time at The Vogue here in Indianapolis with my concert-going-partner-in-crime @bhsmith1 on May 13th. To be honest, I had never heard of this acoustic rocking duo before he had mentioned them to me so I was pretty curious to see what they would be like at a live show. Let me just say that overall, I was impressed.

I like The Vogue as a venue, not a bad place to see a show but for whatever reason that night it was blazing hot in there. I'm not sure if they were trying to cut costs by skimping out on the A/C or what but it was hot!

It didn't get any cooler once @rodgab took stage because they were en fuego (how cheesy am I? ...or clever and witty?). I have never witnessed guitar playing with such grace and speed. It truly was a performance that simply listening to an album could not do justice. Being able to see them live also helped as I found songs began to run together in their 1.5hr long set but nevertheless, I had a good time and was thoroughly impressed by their passion and obvious talent. If you haven't spent any time listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela, you really are missing out on some incredibly gifted musicians. Their newest album "11:11" is out now.

May 23, 2010

The End of an Era

The funeral service for my wife's grandpa was exactly a week ago today. Needless to say it was a difficult few weeks watching him lose his battle with COPD as a result of emphysema. Traveling back and forth from hospital to nursing home, Indianapolis to Richmond, began to take its toll. Emotional and physical exhaustion had set in and yet spiritually, there was not only peace but strength.

Richard Bell Luellen was 87yrs old when he died and had quite a life. He experienced serving in the Navy; starting Luellen Brothers Inc, a family business with his older brother (who just turned 90yrs old and is still getting around on his own); and raising a strong family down to his great-grandchildren. And of all the great things grandpa had done the thing that proved to be the most meaningful, especially during these past few months, was his faith.

I was moved by the number of people that came to his memorial and the support this small farming community gave to his family. I was moved to see how much and how many people respected this man but what I found most meaningful was the impact the family's faith had throughout this entire ordeal. Were there tears? Of course. Sadness? Obviously. Yet within that there was an assurance that granted "peace that transcends all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) because of faith in the God who has conquered death through Christ. My heart breaks for those who must suffer through the pain of losing a loved one without this faith and the knowledge of the promise Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 4:13-18,

It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

May 12, 2010

A Fragile Humility

Blinking lights.
Flashing numbers.
Electronic charts.
Mechanical sounds.

The clock reads 12:47am as I sit in a hospital room watching my wife whisper to her grandpa as she rubs his arm while he struggles to breathe. I am reminded of how fragile life is and I am humbled.

I am humbled to be here in this place;
to witness the vulnerability of a strong man and his family.

I am humbled by the tireless care that is given, both by family and by professional. The nurse mentions a breathing treatment at 3am with a smile as if she meant 3pm. All the while a family member remains by his bedside, night or day.

I am reminded of how fragile it is to be human and am humbled that God would choose to become one of us.

Life is fragile.
Love is strong.
God is Love.
I am humbled.

May 11, 2010

Pearl Jam at Verizon Wireless Music Center

My brother (@JLipan) and I had the chance to see Pearl Jam this past Friday at Verizon Wireless Music Center in Noblesville, IN. Not only was this the 7th time I've seen PJ live, it is the 2nd time I've seen them in my own backyard (the 1st in 6/03 as my wife & I have lived in Noblesville for almost 8yrs now). Of the 7 times I've seen them, this show sneaks in to my top 2 despite some weather issues and a lengthy delay. I got our tickets through the 10 Club and was hoping that they would have been closer but I guess I can't complain about upper pavilion with a sold out show.

Band of Horses as the opening band sounded great despite missing the first part of their set. I had never heard of them before this show and am excited to get some of their stuff. Easily the best opener I have heard for any of my PJ shows so far.

Despite an hour delay due to weather and the band making sure that everyone was in the venue and safe, they played a 29 song set, which included 2 encores, for a total of 2.5hrs. They opened with a vengeance going from "Release" into "Last Exit" around 9:30pm and ended the show with the trifecta of "Alive", "Baba O'Riley", and "Yellow Ledbetter" at 12am. Everything in between was solid as well. Of course there were crowd favorites like "Even Flow", "Elderly Woman", "Wishlist" and "Betterman" with a few fan favorites like "Down", "Force of Nature", "Off He Goes" and "Whipping". The new stuff from Backspacer sounded great, the older stuff sounded great and it appeared as though the band was having a great time. Mike McCready was doing his thing all around the stage, Eddie interacted with the crowd quite a bit and showed he hasn't lost any energy by roaming around and jumping off monitors.

Overall, a great show! Tons of energy coming from the band and the crowd, despite a wet start to the night and a cold breeze throughout. If you are a Pearl Jam fan and haven't seen them live yet, I suggest you check them out, I trust you won't be disappointed.