Just a Thought…

“I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.” -Hershel Greene, The Walking Dead

“For God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  -2 Corinthians 5:21

 

One of my favorite shows is The Walking Dead. I know, I know.  It’s not the most “family friendly” of shows. Some might even question why a pastor would watch such a graphic, and sometimes gory, show.

But what I love about The Walking Dead is how it captures the spirit of the human condition- how broken people seek to survive in a broken world.  How some are able to overcome their own foibles  and rise to become heroes, while others with upstanding character fall from grace.  Oh, and I enjoy the zombies, too!

That’s the way of life, actually, isn’t it? One reason I am Lutheran is because  of our understanding of sin, and how it permeates everything. We too, like the folks of The Walking Dead, are a broken people living in a broken world.  Although sometimes we may rise heroically, there will always be times when we fail miserably.

It’s like the Zombie virus. As Rick Grimes would say, “We are the Walking Dead!” There’s no escaping it, it will always catch up with the survivors in the show.  And that’s the same for us when it comes to sin.

It’s as Saint Paul says, “So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me… I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God for Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25).

Yes, thanks be to God for Jesus, who overcame death and the grave to bring life to the world. And in Christ, there is a kind of forgiveness that allows us to start over and begin again… and again… and again.

No, forgiveness doesn’t wipe away the evil we do, the brokenness of our lives. There will always be consequences that come with sin and evil.

However, Christ is able to take our brokenness and transform it, redeem it. Christ keeps sin and death from having the last word. And that is hope that can even overcome zombies!

Just a thought on this All Hallow’s Eve.

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants— men and women alike— and they will prophesy.’    Acts 2:17-18/Joel 2:28-29 (NLT)

 

Coming off of the celebration of our 6 year anniversary of the launch of Celebration, I can’t help but marvel at how the simple “What If” Dream of one man (Pastor Jim Hinkhouse) would unfold into a congregation deeply rooted in the Gospel of Christ, experimental while remaining faithful to our inherited Lutheran tradition, and invested in the life of this local community.  God is good all the time!

If you haven’t been around Celebration recently, you’ve missed the strange sensation that God is up to something among us. It started about a month ago, as we began an intentional period of dreaming, of prayer and scripture study, of asking God who God wants Celebration to become.

It always comes back to one thing:  We’re in the work of creating opportunities for people to encounter Christ.  Because encounters with Jesus change people.  And changed people change the world!

Some people tell me they don’t like when we do interactive worship, like Animate Summer and Faith Labs.  However, one of the goals of Animate Summer is to help households practice having faith conversations at home.

So, imagine how I felt as a pastor when a family in our congregation shared with me how their youngest child has made it a rule that no one can eat dinner until everyone goes around and shares “highlights and lowlights!”

People are being changed by the Gospel.  Families are being changed by the Gospel. Cypress is being changed by Celebration because people are encountering Christ.

And it all started with a Dream that God planted in one person.

What Dream is God planting in you these days?

It’s just a thought!

+pax et bonum  

pc

Just a Thought…

We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors.  We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.  2 Corinthians 6:8-10 NLT

 

bishop3
Bishop

 

So my dog died this week.  His name was Bishop.  He was 14 years old.  A beautiful cocker spaniel he was. I got him the first year of my first call as a pastor, while serving in Philadelphia.  He’s been with me through think-and-thin. He lived a very long and happy life, and he died in his sleep after spending lots of quality time with those who loved him.

It’s still sad, though, because I miss him. And it wasn’t the best week for him to die, as this is has been an extra-busy week. But that always seems to be the case. Tragedy is never convenient. But it comes nonetheless.

The week has also been filled with some great things- I had the chance to spend time with friends and colleagues at the first Youth and Family Ministry Network meeting of the Fall. I had the opportunity to see the awesome Broadway musical Book of Mormon and ran into some good friends while there. This weekend dream-leaders from Celebration will be meeting in retreat to dream together about our church’s future. And Saturday night is Lutherhill’s always-spectacular S’mores and Champagne Gala.  Sometimes, good things come, even when we don’t plan for them or expect them.

That’s the truth about life, isn’t it?  It can’t be all tragedy, all the time.  It can’t be all good stuff, all the time.  The bad helps give meaning to the good and the good helps makes the tragic bearable.

I would rather have not had to grieve the death of Bishop.  But I wouldn’t trade in the amazing 13 years we had together as companions.

As a church, we’ll have moments of joy together, and moments of sadness.  Sometimes we’ll agree and sometimes we’ll disagree.  And sometimes we’ll go through periods of excitement and periods of boredom.   But this all adds up to life.  Life in Christ.  A household of faith.  And I wouldn’t trade that in for anything, either.

So, here’s to life!

It’s just a thought.

 

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” -Colossian 2:6-7

I was recently reading some writings of a financial “guru” about being better at financial stewardship.  One of the things he said gets in the way of moving forward with debt reduction is that some people don’t even check their accounts regularly nor do they balance their checkbooks.  How can someone move towards financial health if she doesn’t even know her current financial situation or where she spends her money?

It’s the same with health.  If someone wants to become healthier, but has no clue how much he weighs, how many calories he eats, or how much he exercises, it makes it much more difficult for him to make a plan to move toward physical health.

So, what’s the hardest thing you struggle with in faith these days?  Do you struggle with just getting to worship on a regular basis?  Participating in small group life with other believers?  Entering intentional prayer or scripture reading on a daily basis? Practicing the biblical tithe (giving 10% of your income to the work of God)?

What’s the biggest obstacle you face these days in your spiritual growth and development?

The reason why this is an important question is because we can’t grow if we don’t know in which ways we need to grow.  So maybe take some time to reflect on where you’d like to grow spiritually, and then begin working to grow in that particular part of your spiritual life.  You’ll be glad you did.

It’s just a thought!

+ pax et bonum

Just a Thought…

But then some of the believers stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the assembly, after a long discussion, Peter stood up and addressed the others… Then everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them… When they had finished, James stood up and spoke…

Then the apostles and elders together with the whole church in Jerusalem chose delegates…   Acts 15

 

For the past three weeks I’ve spent a lot of time at assemblies and conferences…  Two weeks ago was our own Synod Assembly where in a landslide, we re-elected our Bishop Mike Rinehart to a six-year term.  Last week, I was in Downtown Houston for the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  This week I’ve spent with Methodists meeting in Annual Conference in Amarillo.

It’s funny how similar we Christians of different denominations really are.  In our larger gatherings, there are resolutions and budgets, elections, worship and fellowship.  We pray and argue, and stand in the hallways and gossip.  But the one thing that unites us all is Jesus Christ.

I used to think assemblies and conferences were a waste of money, time and missional energy.  But these past few weeks have shown me the importance of pastors and laity and churches gathering to deliberate on just what it means to be the Church in this day and time.

And it’s not that much different than the early church, which had multiple conferences and convocations, councils and meetings to pray, worship, debate, and make decisions. And these meetings shaped the future generations of the Church, just as our conferences and assemblies do today.

They may be  occasionally tedious, boring and contentious, but I have been touched by what the Holy Spirit does when we gather together beyond our little corners of the Church to witness to God’s loving action through Jesus Christ  today.

So, pray for the Church- not just for Celebration, but for all Christians, in all the various ways we gather. Celebrate the work we do when we work together as the Body of Christ.

It’s just a thought!

+pax et bonum

Just a Thought…

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:1-3

I’ve never ran a marathon, but I know it takes a lot of work (just ask Mary Lee!). Marathoners take months, even years, to train their bodies. That’s A LOT OF PRACTICE!  If you’ve never run long distances, if you’ve never walked, or biked, or jogged or swam athletically, if you’re overweight, sedentary, and can’t even walk up a flight a stairs without becoming breathless, then you aren’t ready to run a marathon.

But even the most out-of-shape people can move towards health. You might not be able to run out of your door and immediately complete the 26+ miles of a marathon, but you can start somewhere.  It takes getting up and doing something instead of sitting there and doing nothing.

That’s kind of like life, isn’t it? Sometimes when life is filled with difficulties, it’s easier to do nothing than to do something.  But this isn’t the healthiest of ways to respond. If I know I have poor eating habits, or that I come home after work and crash on the couch and yet do nothing to change the situation, then I will not move towards health.  And I definitely won’t run a marathon!  And if I’m spending beyond my financial means, or if my relationship with my spouse has been rocky, and yet do nothing to change the situation, then I will not move towards the abundant life Jesus desires for each of us.

Faith is the same.  Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. We as baptized followers of Jesus are being trained for the long-haul.  It won’t always be easy.  In fact, if following Jesus comes easy to you, you’re probably not doing it right! It should sometimes feel like a marathoner experiencing the muscle pain as she pushes her body to be ready for the race.  Following Jesus should be like spiritual sweating… and sacrificing… and pushing yourself… and refocusing, so that you’re prepared to cross that finish line.

So how is your faith life?  What is getting in the way of your “running the race?”

Just a thought!

+pax et bonum

pc

Just a Thought…

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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

I remember one time when I was a redevelopment pastor in New Orleans, dreaming with some folks about God’s Vision for the church. Someone had a huge idea—one that would require a significant amount of time, resources, volunteers, advertising, support from local businesses, etc. And as she shared her idea, others began to shake their heads and murmur among themselves… “It’ll never work…,” “It’s too big an endeavor…,” “It’ll be too hard…,” etc.

And I remember getting frustrated by the limitations these folks were placing on us and on God’s church.  It made me wonder:  Do these people tell their children, “Learning to play baseball is too hard.  You will have to learn and practice and play games, and be yelled at by the coach.  You’ll make mistakes.  So, just don’t even try…”?   Do these people tell themselves, “College is too hard.  It’s too expensive, I’ll probably fail, and I won’t find a good job after I graduate.  So, I’m just not going to go”?

Of course not!  In fact, just the opposite.  Good parents teach their children that playing sports (or learning a musical instrument, or learning how to write or color or draw) can be fun and rewarding, but it won’t always be easy.  College will prepare you for adulthood and vocation, but chances are it will not be an easy experience.

I think it’s a copout for churches and church leaders to say that something is too hard, and that’s why we shouldn’t do it.  Difficulty should be measured, but it should not be the determining factor for whether we do the work that God is calling us to do.

So let’s not let the fear of something being hard keep us from daring to following Jesus, wherever he might lead us!

Just a thought!

+pax et bonum
pastor chris