Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Da-da-da-da! I love this logo, and in case you've lived in a cave for the last 40 plus years, it comes from the PR of the classic James Bond films. This years Bible Action musical is about a Bible story, but we are just telling it in a little different way than we have done one before. God's Agents are angels, and the theme of the play is that angels are the ones who carry out God's will. The story line covers a group of Senior angels teaching a class of "newbie" angels about what their job is. To illustrate to the newbies the many different things they end up doing in service to God, they transport the class, and hopefully the audience, to the events surrounding Elijah and the Prophets of Baal, from 1 Kings 17-19. Just read the story again and picture angels doing all the things God did to take care of Elijah.

We have some great songs that are my usual combination of praise songs, Broadway songs, and Oldies Rock & Roll songs. While the angels are the main characters and the narrators, the Prophets of Baal and Ahab & Jezebel have some really fun songs. It's always fun to be the bad guys (in a play - of course).

Applications are out, casting will be in late February, our first read-through will be Sunday, March 4th, and the rehearsals will begin that week. It "aint" easy to pull-off an hour and a half musical - but it is fun - most of the time. So if you've never seen one of our Bible story musicals live - please plan to be here one of the four nights. As mentioned we do four performances: Thursday - May 31st, Friday - June 1st, Saturday - June 2nd, all three at 7:00 PM, and then Sunday - June 3rd at 6:00. I'd offer room at our house, but we usually have a house full of family here to see Nana & Papa's play. (Yes, with grand kids, Nana's name always comes first - as it should.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sing it for me!

This coming Sunday, right after our assembly time, I will be sharing with all those interested what this year's Bible Action Musical will be. I'll be revealing this year's logo, which I am particularly excited about. This year we are back in the Old Testament doing a musical about a well known Bible character and how he/she carried out the work God gave them. While it is about a Bible story, the major theme of the play will actually be about a biblical subject that is all through the Bible, and the OT story will be told as an illustration. Lord willing, I will blog about it after my church family gets to hear about it first.

I finished the script in December and the music was all picked out back in the early Fall. The last thing I did was the rewriting of some lyrics in some of the songs. That's always one of my favorite things to do when I'm writing the play. Anyway, it was the putting together of the Cast Application form where I ask people to tell me how they fit into the SATB categories that made me think of cat picture above. I think I saved it from some pictures my brother sent me a while back. I love the look of devotion and drama on the face of the above cat.

To all my church family folks, you'll find out on Sunday, and for everyone else - click on to this blog Monday or Tuesday for a revealing of the logo and play plans. The dates are always the first full weekend in June, but this year, the first performance will actually be in May. The four performances will be May 31, June 1, 2, & 3. Put it on your calender - we'd love to have you see it. This will be our seventh musical presentation of a Bible story and we're averaging around twenty-two hundred attendees each year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Help For Men?

I wanted to share and elaborate something I used as a side point in Sunday's lesson. I was talking about what an "Extreme Privilege" it is for us to have Jesus, our "great high priest," representing us to God when they clearly have the best communication any relationship could possibly have. After making some comments about the importance of communication (you know: "There is no relationship without communication" and my all-time-favorite "If you don't communicate, you speculate."), I did point out that most men are not as good at communicating as we need to be. I offered what I call The Total Communication Package for Men. With tongue-in-cheek, here are the only three phrases any man needs to know to respond to any communication demand.
1. "Whatever": I know, we thought it could only be used by teenagers, but it works well for any ocassion when a man can or doesn't want to make a decision or commitment. Like when your wife asks for your opinion, but you know she's not going to pay any attention to it, or when you are reminded, while watching the football game, that the yard still hasn't been mowed. It is truly an amazing all-purpose response that will gradually lessen the need for communication in the future.
2. "It is what it is": The closest thing to saying nothing while still seeming to talk. It's the perfect explanation for world events, politics, empy checking accounts, and why you haven't shaved. If you can wrinkle your forehead and gently rub your chin as you say it, you can even come across as Confucius - or Archie Bunker.
3. "A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" : The ultimate explanation for anything and everything that one can't put into words. Just think of Vinnie Barbarino as a Jedi warrior - or Meathead using the "ter-let" and you can see its universal appeal. It's the language of Mars (where men are from - remember?) and the only quote you know fits John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Tom Selleck, George Clooney, and Frankenstein. It sings and has an element of drama, and it's a lot more colorful than saying "I have no idea!"
Yes, there's no need in complicating life by being open and honest with those you love. Being vulnerable is asking for trouble! It takes time! Time away from hunting, fishing, watching football with the guys, and eating hot wings. There is, however, one other response - but it's hard to write about due to the many variations there are of it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Finding what you're looking for!

One of these days I"m going to have to go into my blog bio and change or add something to my "Favorite Movie" list. I really enjoy The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and have watched it multiple times. At least a couple times a year I will watch all three over a slow weekend, and I am always amazed that I like it more each time. The truth is, it took about three viewings for me to fully understand all the names, places, and plot twists. I'm not good at remembering all the names in movies or books with a lot of characters. The Lord of the Rings is classic, and for me, it's up there in my top five all time favorite movies.
Did you know that there is a huge amount of information out there just about the mistakes in all three movies? If you Google search Lord of the Rings movie mistakes, you can read and watch more material than would be in a fourth movie. According to those who researched it, and care, in The Fellowship of the Rings there are 263 mistakes, in The Two Towers there are 257 mistakes, and in the Return of the King there are 225 mistakes. Most of them have to do with inconsistencies of small things as the movie changed scenes or camera angles, and many of them are extremely picky and insignificant. The one thing they all have in common is that if you didn't know to look for them - you'd never see them.
When I think about that, I can't help but wonder if we'd see the things in the Word of God differently if we didn't know what to look for. I have mentioned several times that the first casualty of biblical interpretation is objectivity, because we carry everything we've been taught into our interpretation of scripture. We don't have open hearts and minds when we read it, because we've already been told what we should learn from it.
If we could erase all the preconceived conclusions, doctrinal divisiveness, and proof-texting of verses, and somehow turn our hearts to blank slates again - would we understand it differently? Would we read about church leaders as simply spiritual shepherds and servants, who are mature enough in the Lord to mentor others, in stead of seeing Church Office holders in an organizational chart of Elders - then Deacons - then just members? If we didn't know that Matthew 28:19 & 20 was The Great Commission, which it is never called by anyone in the Bible, would we continue to infer that Jesus was talking to every Christian rather than his apostles? If we didn't know that Eph.5:19 and Col.3:16 were proof-texts for singing without instrumental music, would we just be encouraged by verses that give us a tool for lifting one another up, and has nothing to do with a "formal worship service"? If we hadn't been taught about, and had so many battles about baptism, and if it hadn't been transliterated from Greek to English by the Church of England scholars who feared "rocking the doctrinal boat", as opposed to really being translated as "immersion" or "burial," would we still think of it as only a physical act we perform to receive the forgiveness of sins? It might not change our conclusions, but it might change our understanding of "taking up our cross" to think of being "immersed in Christ". It's not just a ritual, but a description of totality. We're in all the way!
These are just a few examples of things that we need to look at with fresh - more objective - eyes if we care about really understanding God's plan. Again, it's not about changing conclusions, though we shouldn't be afraid of that either, but about being honest, open, and humble enough to learn and grow.
And just for the record, I haven't found any mistakes in it - only interpreter errors.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Grumbling & Grace

Every time I read the story of the Exodus, I am astonished by the tendency of the Hebrew people to continue to grumble in spite of what God does for them. And it's not little stuff that He does! We're talking miraculously saving them from Pharaoh's army with a pillar of fire; the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground with walls of water on either side of them; the destruction of aforementioned army; and the providing of water, Manna, and quail - just to name a few. Still, over and over again, they grumble to and about Moses. What happened to being impressed with the goodness of God? What happened to the spirit of gratitude that should have dominated their hearts as they enjoyed real freedom for the first time in their lives? What happened to the concept of trusting God?
I think we all read that story and can't imagine that we would ever act that way. Unfortunately, grumbling is more a signature identifier of the church than the love that Jesus wanted us to have and be known for. We grumble constantly - mostly about what we want, don't like, and prefer in our Sunday morning assembly. How did we ever allow a tool for edification to become the focal point of what it means to be "simply and only New Testament Christians"? How did the pep rally become the game? Grumbling robs us of focus, giving to others, gratitude, sharing, shepherding, unity, and love - just to name a few.
Here is a premise that I shared in my lesson Sunday. I believe it explains why every church and every child of God struggles with the ability to truly "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice." Think about this:
Whatever negative feelings we have about our beliefs, our commitment, and our church family, all come from our failure to recognize what an extreme privilege it is to have Jesus as our Lord.
Even if the grumbling is true and justified, it's not the attitude of a heart that has been changed by grace. That IS Paul's argument in Romans 6 when Christians thought that grace was permission to sin! When you understand grace - what it means and does for us - you don't want to have anything to do with sin! Grace produces gratitude not grumbling!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Last Sunday's lesson actually came from a question a friend asked me to deal with. Since it caught me at a good time - between sermon series, I decided to put my thoughts together and share with the whole family. The question was: How do you want the members of your church to view outsiders?
It was intriguing on a couple of levels. First, how do we define insiders and outsiders? And secondly, as children of God, do we or should we treat one different than the other? The first challenge I saw was the problem of our biblical mandate to draw closer together in a loving, intimate family support group. That is what the church (local and gathered) exists to do. The nature of a family is that some are in it an some aren't. We are part of our physical family by birth, by choice, and/or by invitation. Our spiritual family is the same. God invited us, He chose us and we chose Him, and we were added to His family at our new birth. BUT - more than anything else - we are family by the grace of God! If we are insiders - it's about His grace not our worthiness. That means that others/outsiders are not "less important" or "worthless"! That must never be the way we think of them. The bottom line is that we must think of outsiders the way Jesus would think of outsiders.
How did Jesus view outsiders? A quick look at the Prodigal son (Lk.15), the parable of the feast (Lk.14), and remembering His encounter with the woman at the well (Jn.4) gives us a very clear picture. It's a picture of loving, longing for, and reaching out to everyone. In fact, these examples from the Gospels teach us that many who saw themselves as insiders really weren't!
There are a least three things that we should consider when we ask ourselves how we should look at outsiders:
1. We must look at them as people who need compassion not judgment!
2. We must look at them as people who need a witness not an arm twisting!
3. We must look at them as people who need to see Jesus not religion!
The word "outsider" only appears three times in the New Testament NIV and they all deal with being a good influence on them and representing God appropriately. Remember, Jesus was the ultimate insider and the religious world declared him and outsider!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Sick Blog

I have so rarely been sick in my life that I almost feel guilty about even writing about it. I'm just recovering from some kind of bug that had my body competing against itself to see which part could expel the most. Not a nice mental picture - I know, but then it wasn't nice to experience it first hand. I am so thankful for the great health God has given me for sixty years. Yes, today I just had another botox shot for my spasmodic dysphonia, and yes, my stomach is gurgling a little with the Arby's Roast Beef Sub I had for lunch, my knee aches, but hey, you can't be around this many years and not have something fall apart.
Here are some random, and not-so-profound, thoughts I've had about being sick over the weekend. (Not for the faint of heart!)

* It feels good to feel good. Duh - but Donna says that after every headache, and it's true.
* I wonder how much of "being hungry" is all mental. My stomach was totally empty, yet every commercial about food on TV made me gag. Usually I want it - even if I'm not hungry.
* You don't appreciate really clean commodes until you see them up close and personal.
* Toilet paper can't be TOO soft when you are using it every fifteen minutes.
* Chicken Noodle Soup - I've decided it must have been Manna.
* A stomach virus doesn't need a medical name. Yuck works just fine.
* Classy is leaving the church office, jumping in the car to get home quickly, and just as I pulled onto the main street I had to pull over in front of the church building - throw open the door and projectile vomit in view of every car on New Halls Ferry Road. At least it wasn't the church van. (And... I didn't quite get the car door open in time.)
* While it may be a fact of life that you know you're getting old when you spend more time talking about a good BM rather than a good GM, it's also a fact that you're a true lover of puns when you can talk about going to the bathroom and refer to the results as, "Man that's solid!"
* The up side of my "yuck" is that I've lost the weight I gained over the holidays, and I've got three weeks to get my appetite completely back before we leave on our two week Caribbean cruise vacation. Boy, wouldn't that be a terrible time to have a stomach virus. I don't EVEN want to go there with a mental picture.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The Holy Spirit: Unseen but active

I meant to write a blog on Thursday or Friday, but a stomach bug changed my plans dramatically. I'm still a little groggy and light-headed, but some might think that was normal. At our monthly ministers meeting on Thursday morning (pre-bug), we had a presentation and discussion about the work of the Holy Spirit in evangelism. It's a heavy subject for any group to talk about, but put a bunch of preachers together and you get all kinds of ideas - mostly good. Personally, I think the Holy Spirit is active in helping people find Jesus, but only if that person is first seeking Jesus. That help is not some kind of miraculous sign or whispers in the dark, but providing opportunities to hear and learn about God's will. For those seeking to share the gospel, I also believe the Holy Spirit is active, as God's agent to carry out His will, in giving us opportunities to talk to others. The key is our being sensitive enough to see the opportunity when the Holy Spirit gives it to us.
One of the guys in our group asked a question as we were finishing up that we didn't have a chance to discuss. He asked why the Holy Spirit has always been such a controversial subject in the church of Christ? I have always believed that there are two reasons for that. First, is the simple fact that our heritage is based on a rational approach to interpreting and understanding scripture, and trying to fit the work of the Holy Spirit into a rationally explainable category is impossible. There is a reason why God didn't give us all the facts and information about how the Holy Spirit works, but we still seek to package it into a logical - and usually limiting - comfortable doctrine. The other reason it has always been a controversial subject for us is our fear of emotionalism, which is just another way of looking at the first reason. We have always had a fear of Pentecostalism that, like many doctrines, causes us to go to the other extreme and, in my opinion, "quench the Holy Spirit".
One of the things that my study of Galatians has taught me, is that the Holy Spirit will only work in us to the extent that we allow the fruit of the Spirit to be a natural part of our life. The more we exemplify the fruit of the Spirit, the more we are freeing the Spirit to work in us. It's not frightening, illogical, or out of control. It's simply the same thing as "For me to live is Christ." They're not interested in who gets the attention!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Growing God's Fruit

I try not to re-preach my Sunday morning lesson on my blog the week after I share it with my church family, but last week I offered some suggestions for deepening our relationship with God in the coming year. Of course, it is only useful if having a deeper relationship with God is something we really want. That is why I specifically pointed out that these are not about New Year's Resolutions but all about New Year honesty.

Every growing relationship will only continue to grow if it includes increased communication, thoughtfulness, and acts of devotion. The same is true for our relationship with God. So, here are my suggestions:

1. Communication = prayer (talking w/ God) Phil.4:4-7

Suggestion: Begin each day with a prayer that includes:

a. Thank you for today

b. Give me people to talk to (so I can be Your witness)

c. Help me to glorify you today

2. Thoughtfulness = Study & Equipping 1 Peter 3:15-16

Suggestion: Read the New Testament three times this year

a. Average person can read it in 14 hours

b. 3 times 14 = 42 hours x 60 min. = 2520 divided by 365

c. Just under 7 minutes a day listening to God

3. Acts of Devotion = Service in God's Name Gal.6:2 & 10

a. Help a ministry of this church family

b. Help w/ the special Service Day

c. Help someone else grow

If we are honestly seeking a closer walk with God, can we enter another new year with no plans to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"?