Category Archives: intentions

The FMC Advent Wreath

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This year, our congregation is following this order in lighting our Advent wreath…

  • first Sunday: the Candle of Expectation
  • second Sunday: the Candle of Preparation
  • third Sunday: the Candle of Celebration
  • fourth Sunday: the Candle of Incarnation

Each week during Advent, I’ll post the liturgies we use in lighting the Advent wreath.  Blessings!

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This Advent…

my intentions are to blog more regularly.  I’m intending to write posts that are:

  • encouraging
  • inspiring
  • edifying
  • challenging [We all need to be challenged.]

If this appeals to you, please join me in thought.  If this does not appeal to you, it probably should, so please join me in thought nonetheless.  Blessings.


Jesus > Religion?

Please let me, first, offer a simple explanation of my misplaced responses. It had just arrived at a youth meeting (Bible study, prayer, fellowship) when I noticed that things were getting “heated up”. As I waited for folks to show up, I decided to read some of the comments that were being posted and began commenting as I was reading. Consequently, I found myself unable to keep up as folks were chiming in; each time I posted, Facebook would then notify me of several other comments that had actually been posted prior to mine. Please bear with me as things certainly came across inappropriately and my comments seemed out of place and – perhaps – crass.

Please let me, second, make it clear that opposing viewpoints are certainly allowed and are even appreciated. It should be duly noted that I gave the guy on the video the benefit of doubt: suggesting that he is either a liar, a lunatic, or an idiot. My suspicions are that he is sincere and is not lying, is sane an not crazy, and mistaken and far too loose with his words, ideas, and the communication of both. Perhaps ‘idiot’ is too strong of a word for the faint at heart, but – to be sure – I was using the term etymologically… He seems oblivious of his relationship to the outside world and, thereby, proudly proclaims a Gospel lacking either biblical substance or theological coherence.

Please let me, third, clarify a few thoughts that have come to my mind regarding the contents of the video and the discussion that has ensued:

  1. As has been noted, he fails to define his terms, which is the first step of reasonable debate. He doesn’t seem to care to dialogue; he seems to simply care to make a cool video that can go viral. He seems to be confusing scriptural religion with false religion and should take note of James 1:26-27 among other passages which acknowledge true Christian faith to be indeed religious in character and expression. God gave religion to the Hebrew people as a means by which He would reveal Himself to the people with whom He graciously entered a covenantal relationship. The word of Scripture is that He instituted Hebrew religion, even establishing the rituals and festivals by which they would rightly worship Him and through which they would reliably know Him. Jesus was – perhaps – the most religious person who ever lived. He knew the Law and the Prophets and followed them faithfully. He even warned His followers that their “righteousness” must necessarily exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if they are to ever hope of knowing and loving Him and, thereby, having spiritual life.

  2. I’m sure some are wondering why we call can’t just call it quits and stop debating the doctrine within the Church. After all, what about the “friendly fire” of Christian theological conversation? We should heed the exhortations of Jude, Paul to the Galatians, and the epistles of John certainly among other writings in the Christian Scriptures. Who Christ indeed is and what Christ indeed instituted is of utmost importance. Many will say unto Him, “Lord, Lord!” Truth matters, for He who is the Truth is Himself and not another. It is incumbent upon us as His people to speak of Him and His Church in great care and with great passion.

  3. What we have done in the modern evangelical church of the West is amazing. We live in a largely post-Christian culture, one which – for the most part – has forgotten all Christian memory, and what have we done? We have addressed the problem, which is – in large part – biblically illiteracy and theologically ineptness with a pathetically anemic pop-Christian solution; namely, wholesale biblical ignorance and discount bumper sticker theology. And now, after decades of “cheap grace” and “keep it simple” sermonizing, how better off are we? How changed is the world? How wealthy are the poor? How incarnate is the Body?

  4. Those stepping up to the mic to call our folks and inflict wounds on the “Church” and “Christianity as a religion” would do wisely to choose their targets well and to, then, aim accurately. In slamming “religion”, he’s shooting at everyone! What’s with all of this “we” business? About whom is he talking? Most of the contemporary Christian music on the radio is guilty of the same fault: dogging out “us religious folks”. I find myself constantly wanting to yell back, “Who? What church? My church?! Yours?!” Meanwhile, we (i.e., we who have a “relationship” with Jesus and are proudly “non-religious”) drive along, nod our heads, raise a hand in agreement, and mutter, “Amen,” never doing a thing to change the world and – all the while – being convinced that it’s everybody else’s (i.e., those “religious” folks’) problem that the poor are poor and the world remains untouched by the Body of Christ.

  5. In regards to Jesus’ statement that the Kingdom is “within you”, Jesus’ intent is, in fact, lost in translation in most instances. The Greek phrase, ἰδοὺ γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ ἐντὸς ὑμῶν ἐστιν, should be translated, “For, behold, the Kingdom of God is in your midst [or, among you].” Yes, the Jesus taught a present Kingdom, one established among His disciples here and now at this time and in this space, but He was not teaching them to search for pseudo-gnostic spiritism that they can find in themselves if they would just look diligently. He was declaring Himself to them, incarnate, and proclaimed – elsewhere – them to be His presence in the world likewise.

  6. The message of the New Testament is that of the Old. What the Old “majors” on, the New “minors” on; meanwhile, what the Old “minors” on, the New “majors” on. What’s more: we as the people of God should take note and boldly proclaim the message of both the Old and New Testaments, both concerning unequivocally the salvation of the world, the grace of God, and love for God and neighbor leading to faithful obedience to God and self-giving service to one’s neighbor. No one in the Old was ever saved by adherence to the law, just as no one in the New or since has ever been saved while neglecting it. In regards to the intent of the commands… They were, in many cases, object lessons, given to teach God’s people about who He is, who they are, and how they are to approach Him and relate to one another. They were, in – perhaps – all cases, teaching simple obedience. If God commands, we must obey. Hence, the old covenant (i.e., external law on stone) was made obsolete by the new (i.e., internal law of flesh) and the subsequent indwelling presence of God the Father and Christ the Son by means of the Holy Spirit.

  7. As far as “the message of Christ”… Where do you find it other than in the reliable testimony of the Scriptures and in the remembering life of the Church?

  8. The Gospel is – indeed and by its very nature – subversive, but it is not only subversive to political loyalties and “God in the dock” ritualism but is also – on the same token – subversive to heavenly escapism and “nothing is sacred”, iconoclastic pop-evangelicalism.

What the world needs is the presence of Christ. What the Church offers is the presence of Christ in its faithful, incarnate, gracious, sacramental life as it embraces the Lord and His world, uniting heaven and earth in its worship to God and self-giving to His world.

If the guy in the video hasn’t found this kind of “church” or “religion”, he should keep looking… After all, for such Christ died and to such Christ has given Himself.


>Okay. Really this time…

>My life is -as is yours, I’m sure- quite busy. I won’t bore you with the details, but just know this… I’m no longer teaching at Praise Academy, so all of my energies will be aimed toward my family and church. Several have mentioned blogging as being an appropriate component of a pastor’s ministry. That being said, I plan to begin keeping up with this guy a bit more.


>I’m back!

>Well, for the moment I am. Hopefully, I will keep this up.


>Camp Devotions…

>
Lindsey and I were charged with planning and putting together this year’s camp for the southeast region of our denomination.

So, in addition to all of the laborious work involved in preparing for a youth camp, the wife and I took it upon ourselves to write daily devotions for the adults attending camp this past week. We thought it would be helpful to give them a daily framework from which they might share some devotional thoughts with the youth in their cabins each day. The idea was to give the counselors a passage of scripture, help them to quickly flesh it out in their minds, have them read the passage with those in their cabins, have them possibly make a couple of comments, and finally have them close in prayer. This was to take place each morning so as to accomplish a couple of things:

-first, to begin the day well;

-second, to instill into their youth the reality that beginning the day well is actually possible when it, of course, is intentional.

Now, you are prepared for what will follow… [those devotions]


>Sad, I Know

>My confession:

I am a terrible member of the blog-o-sphere. In fact, I am so terrible that my membership status probably should have rightfully been revoked long ago. It’s so bad that, since this time last year (i.e., when the family and I went to New Orleans, Lousiana), I have updated so few times that they probably even all show up on a single page. [To be totally honest, I don’t really know that, I’m just assuming. I’ll check once I post this post. {“post this post”? Sorry, I’m limited.}]

My excuse:

I’m busy. [lame, I know – but true]

Update:

I was wrong – but only by a month.


>a covenantal mark

>Aidan has been circumcised. Although these words might be a bit awkward to read, they really aren’t that big of a deal, right? Well…

While most boys are now circumcised on the day following their birth – or possibly the day after that – Aidan had to stay a few days in the NICU and was, therefore, not circumcised until he was nine days old. Yikes! While seriously noting and sincerely understanding the concerns that one might have of a little boy having that done to him after so many days in such a state, I still insisted that he be circumcised. Why? Please, let me explain…

Though I certainly agree with the council at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15, I still wanted my boy to be circumcised. As proclaimed in the Spirit by the early Church, I do acknowledge that circumcision is not necessary for salvation; however, this truth does not negate the truth expressed in the sacred sign of circumcision.

That’s right: above all else, I understand circumcision to be a sign. It is God’s mark. More pointedly, it is His mark eternally placed upon the most private and intimate part of the male anatomy. And not only is this member of the body the most private and intimate; it also represents the greatest power and ability of Man. When a man is said to be sterile, he is essentially said to be unable – unable to produce another and, hence, unable to reproduce himself.

Notice where the giving of this sacred mark is recorded in salvation history: Genesis 17. Years before, God had given Abram the promise that he would be the father of many nations and that, through him, the entire world would be blessed. Now, the first problem was that Abram was childless, and the second was that he was very old. Things weren’t looking very likely for the fulfillment of such a radical promise. Some time passed, and – as would be quite typical and even likely expected – Abram decided to take things into his own hands. God had given the promise, but He clearly needed Abram to take care of the earthly matters, right? Wrong! [NOTE: This is how we often view reality – “God takes care of the spiritual, and I am left to take care of the physical.”]

Some thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael, God visited Abram with a word of renewal concerning His still faithful promise. [He is always faithful, and we can always take Him on His word.] Abram’s name would be changed to Abraham; he would indeed receive – as gift of God’s goodness – a child through the power of God (i.e., not his own); and he and his descendants would forever be marked. Every male child born into Abraham’s covenant community would be circumcised – even the servants, including the foreign ones! Why? ” ‘Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant.’ ” (Genesis 17:13b NLT)

My son has been circumcised – not that he might be saved but that he might forever be marked. He will be taught from an early age that HE IS GOD’S – a member of God’s covenental community, a beneficiary of God’s might acts to save, and a possession of God’s own lovingkindness. In the context of the human body, Paul declared, “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19b-20 NLT) My body is not my own; no, it belongs to God and has been, therefore, given to Lindsey. Likewise, my son’s body is not his own. In fact, it has been marked for all of eternity. He will forever be reminded that, ultimately, the flesh profits nothing. God is his owner and he now bears the mark of ownership – a reminder of where his real strength and ability lie.


>an admission

>So, yesterday I came to a realization:

I really enjoy sarcasm. Just days ago, a friend and I were talking about this – in my opinion – gift beautiful gift to language and expression, but yesterday I realized that I seem to actually love it, to some extent. Here’s essentially what I mean – when someone storms out of their corner with their gloves lying on the floor, my weapon of choice is almost always sarcasm of some sort – well, at least a bit of sassy flare.

A fatal flaw? Possibly. I do understand that sarcasm often kills communication.

If you will read or have already read my last post, you will see a bit of sass in my choice of words, tone, and pace. If you knew the context, though, you would hopefully understand why I so quickly pulled out both six shooters. [I must note that I did get a rousing response – basically… “You think you know it all, huh?!”]

I never want to come across as someone who thinks he knows it all, has it all together, can’t be found wrong, or any of the such (a post coming soon).

* Coinherence? Before I get there completely, I think it is responsible to lay some foundation. [Trust me. The house itself is coming. (Quite frankly, I’m just itching to build.)]


>please be undestanding

>After much deliberation, I have decided to do what I am now doing – create a blog. So, here goes…

My desire is to not leave hanging anyone who checks this blog. I hate un-up-to-date blogs and would, therefore, hate to find myself as the culprit.

Nevertheless, please understand that I am currently the husband of a wonderful woman (with whom I should spend more time), the father of a beautiful little lady (who is looking forward to playing with a new brother or sister in a mere matter of weeks – possibly days), the pastor of a church in a small town (a group that is small yet not insignificant to the Kingdom), and a student among many of a great seminary (one known as Wesley Biblical, whose impact is felt throughout the world – West and East).

So, thank you for your kind understanding, and please feel beyond welcome to join me in thoughtful consideration as I try to hold together – to some finite extend – the world I call home…