Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wednesday Night Update

We had a little boost for our Wednesday evening worship this past week.  We had a big push for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner and invited everyone to follow that with worship.  We opted for the sanctuary instead of the loft and that worked out very well.  Instead of our average of 75, we had 247.  Since it was a special occasion, we extended out time to a full hour and John Tidmore and Karen Andrews helped with the music.

I am hoping this will give us some momentum for the Advent series.  We will be staying in the sanctuary for Advent but we will be returning to our half-hour service, 6:15-6:45.  I am hoping that the attendance will justify staying in the sanctuary after Christmas.  I will be taking a break from preaching through Mark.  I will pick up that series in the new year.  Here is the series for December:

December 3rd  Just Can’t Wait for Christmas – Week 1
Mark 13:24-37  “What Are We Waiting For?”     
December 10th  Just Can’t Wait for Christmas – Week 2 
James 5:7-10   “Patience!”     
December 17th Just Can’t Wait for Christmas – Week 3 
Isaiah 61:1-2 “C is For?”



Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Sermon

This morning's sermon as rendered by IBM's Many Eyes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Shack Revisited

I love a little controversy.  It gets people talking.  The Shack is raising a little controversy around the church.  Someone quoted me an unfavorable review the other day, so I thought I would post a number of reviews on the weblog so those who have not read the book can make an informed decision about reading it.

WESLEYAN WISDOM: 'The Shack'—A great take on Wesleyan theology!  - United Methodist Reporter's Donald W. Haynes is critical of some aspects of the book but applauds much of its theology especially in the area of grace.

'Shack' opens doors, but critics call book 'scripturally incorrect'  - Cathy Lynn Grossman from USA Today attempts a balanced piece with quotes from critics and fans of the book.

Fiction for the Faith-Starved - Cindy Crosby at Christianity Today takes a look. Christianity Today is a mainline evangelical magazine.  They tend to be moderately conservative in their views and they have some positive things to say about the book.

Reading in Good Faith - Derek R. Keefe Christianity Today's assistant editor gives some guidance on how to approach the book.

Hank Speaks Out On The Shack - It would be unfair to leave out the one that was quoted to me.  Hank Hanegraaff is "The Bible Answer Man" and clearly would rather you not read the book.

If you have read the book and have thoughts and comments, feel free to post a comment.  If you have not read it, I still recommend it.  Frankly, I think it corrects more incorrect theology than it offers.  If you have not read it and you are concerned about my recommendation, please come and speak to me.



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buffalo Bills Theology

I didn't grow up as a practicing Christian but I am pretty sure being from Buffalo prepared me.  Growing up in the Buffalo area requires an awful lot of hope.  Living in a thriving city like San Antonio makes being hopeful pretty easy.  Home values go up, jobs come to town, the sun shines and the Spurs win.  Buffalo, on the other hand, still reels from the painful death of its major industrial base, Bethlehem Steel.  The scar of that great loss still marks the shore of Lake Erie and still haunts families who never recovered emotionally or financially.    It continues to trickle down economically making every bit of growth hard earned.  It continues to trickle down emotionally laying a dim fog of despair on the hearts of so many.  And no matter how long you live in it or love it, the long winters of cold and dark can really drain the hope from your soul.  And most people who have lived in Buffalo long enough can tell you that the words "wide right" actually produce a physical reaction sort of like nausea but more painful.  Many Buffalonians can remember where they sat in January of 91, 92, 93 and 94 as their hopes of Superbowl victory were dashed once again.

As I sat last night watching my Bills try with all their might to scratch out a win against a team from another city that has faced some rough times, Cleveland, as I watched those Bills fans stand in below freezing weather until the bitter end, I realized that these are people of hope.  It is easy to be hopeful when victory surrounds you, but it is something else when the entire universe tells you to give up.

This is the type of hope we are called to as Christians.  Not hope in the face of victory but hope knowing that, even in the midst of despair our victory has already been won.  The apostle Paul loved to write about this hope.  In the 10th chapter of 2 Corinthians he writes,

Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our consolation. We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again.  

In the first letter of Peter we read,

But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)

This is not to say that all Buffalo Bills fans place their hope in the right place.  I pray that their eternal hope is placed in something more reliable than our beloved Bills.  But, as Christians, perhaps observing them can teach us something.  Can we learn to hold on to hope even when the facts the world offers us tell us not to?  In a world filled with extreme poverty, disease, corruption and violence; in a nation facing huge economic uncertainty and certain change can we have hope, true hope, not in ourselves but in the God who tells us that our victory has already been won?

Go Bills!



Saturday, November 15, 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable

I posted this on my facebook page and got some great feedback.  Take a look.



Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday Night Continued...

Last night we talked about Mark 6:7-13 and had a great post-worship discussion on our personal call to share the gospel.  This morning's devotional from the Upper Room continues that conversation.

If you happened to be with us last night this really reinforces what we talked about.  If not, it is a great devotion all in its own.  If the Upper Room is not currently part of your prayer and devotional life, this may also be an invitation.



Monday, November 10, 2008

Fractured Communication

I post a little less on the weblog than I used to because of some of the other new ways I have found to communicate my thoughts and activities.  I used to often post really short updates about where I was or where I was going.  Twitter is now my venue for that random sort of stuff.  If you don’t follow twitter, you can still see those by scrolling down a bit on the blog and looking at my twitter updates.  (And if you still don’t “get” twitter, The U’s Matt Redman has a great article about it here: On Social Networking, by Matt Redman) I also used to post a lot more links to articles and other websites.  Those are now a lot easier to post on my facebook account and actually tend to inspire more comments and feedback there.  (For more information on facebook, you can read this article from Wikipedia.)

I want to admit that this is all still a grand experiment for me.  There is part of me that still thinks this might all be a bad idea.  In response to a comment on an earlier post about twitter on this blog, I referenced Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart, where, in his section on silence, he quotes Chuang Tzu, "The purpose of a fish trap is to catch a fish and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten. The purpose of rabbit trap is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten. The purpose of the word is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to." [From Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tsu (New York: New Directions, 1965), p. 154]

Our modern communications and relationships have become more and more fractured.  We used to only communicate face to face, then by letters, then by telegram, then by phone, then by email and cell phone and text message and instant message.  Throughout the whole evolution the level of interactivity has been constantly changing.  Face to face is quite interactive, letters and telegram are but without the instant gratification (though, in case you missed it, Western Union has ceased telegraph service.)  Email is interactive but text messaging has overtaken it because it tends to be more instantaneous.  Then came blogs and social networking sites like facebook and twitter which add a whole other twist of optional interactivity, meaning you can use them passively as one way communication or actively as two way communication.

The rate at which we add means of communication seems to be accelerating but there is always the risk that we are communicating less.  But in this evolving and accelerating communication universe is that what is happening?  Is all this communication causing us to communicate less?  And how does this all relate to our call to Christian community?  In our increasingly fractured society where the idea of community and family has so been so drastically changed as we have moved from small towns and inner cities to suburbs and gated communities and from living in the same town as a our parents and siblings to living in different states and countries are all these new means of communication part of the solution or part of the problem?  We will see.



Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jesus has been messing with me my whole life

I am writing sermons today and it occurred to me that Jesus was really messing with me before I was a Christian. The longer I am at this the more I find these things that are tucked into my brain that I can now clearly see as giant, fully lit billboards that said, “Hello William, God is real and wants to get to know you.”

It sort of feels like I somehow scratched, clawed and struggled my way through the wilderness with just my wits- no map, no compass, trees so thick I couldn’t see the sun or stars, getting lost over and over and then finally came out of the woods and realized there were forest rangers with maps, global positioning satellite receivers, compasses, snacks and water standing every 10 feet.

The forest rangers are people, events, situations and other things that, with some perspective appeared to be clearly pointing me in the right direction. At the time, I didn’t see them at all or choose to ignore them.

It is even more amazing that God has allowed me to tuck these things into the back of my brain and they tend to come tumbling out when I am trying to explain something in a sermon or while teaching. They are wonderful little gifts of remembrance.



Monday, November 3, 2008

I hope you are reading the comments...

My latest post on the election and emails has gotten the most comment traffic I have had in a while. Take a look at the comments on the post below and feel free to add yours.