Tuesday, September 19, 2017

No Hands But Yours...

A friend of mine, Kyle Roberson shared this on Facebook:

Teresa of Avila, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, wrote, "Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which God is to bless people now (from commonprayer.net)."

Did you catch that? It isn't that God needs us, but God designed the Kingdom of God to use human hands. God changed my life and most often that has been through the hands and feet of people. I think about the pastor who baptized me right after I was adopted; about Jim Gaither who put up with me in Sunday school; Rev. Travis Franklin who confirmed me; Marsha Ingle who was my youth pastor; my parents; Rev. Judy Shema who was my faith mom in college; Gary Moore who was my mentor in college; and Travis Burdett who was my closest friend in seminary. Each of these people changed my life and were the presence of God for me at one time or another. They say it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a village to raise a pastor!

Here is my point, friends: God is looking for you to step up and be the church. There are so many opportunities for you to help and to serve both inside and outside of the church. At Rockbridge, you can serve and help out with the pumpkin patch and with our fall festival and with our trunk or treat. These are a great way to connect with our community. Want to change a life? Be a literacy partner or a mentor for a student in one of the local school districts.

"Yours are the hands with which God is to bless people." Time to stop making excuses and get involved!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Handling Anger

I am struck by this passage in Matthew 5:21-24

"You have heard it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sisters, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First God and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."

In the sermon on the mount (this scripture is part of that teaching) Jesus is always escalating the teachings of the law. It is no longer enough to simply not murder another person but Jesus wants to make us truly human and that means we are not to harbor anger or hate and desire violence against someone. Our hearts must change and yet, anger is a real emotion. Jesus doesn't want us to suppress our emotions and Jesus doesn't want us to act out in anger but rather wants us to deal with it! He tells us that if we are giving a gift on the altar, to stop and are angry, we are to first deal with the problem, and then give our offering! That is pretty striking when you think that they did not have transportation and would have to walk miles to the Temple to give their offering! Doesn't matter, go and deal with your anger, face to face.

Jesus is brilliant because that is exactly how we should deal with conflict, going directly to the source before our anger overcomes us and we do an evil act. We probably wouldn't murder someone (right...?), however, how many of us have acted out in anger because we did not deal with the emotion by going to the sources and sharing our issue and pain. This has to be done in person, looking each other in the face. Stop trying to deal with difficult subjects over text message and snap chat and twitter (especially stop subtweeting people!) and go and find the person who has wronged you or that you have wronged and deal with the issue.

Last year at the Tarleton Wesley I had made some decisions for the praise band rather than working with their leadership. The students confronted me, and yes it was awkward, but it was a beautiful working of the kingdom. My hunch is that we don't deal with people and our issues with them face to face because we are afraid of confrontation. That is normal, but our fears cannot be what drives us! So go and deal with your anger by dealing with your problems as Jesus taught us to.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Harvey - How You Can Help

"Little children, let's not love with words or speech but with action and truth." 1 John 3:18.

As followers of Christ, we are called into action when there are people in need, and there are many people in need right here in Texas. We also need to remember that there will be plenty of work to do over the next few months. If you want to help, here are a few ways to do that:

Give food and supplies to help folks who need it right now


Supplies and money to help in the coming days.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

You Want to Grow

Jesus tells us he will MAKE us fishers of people...
It seems like people, when faced with what Jesus is calling them to do, treat it like a chore. The basic requirements of following Christ are to Love (God and neighbor), Grow (become like Jesus), and Go (go out and make disciples). You may look at that list and think, "I am so busy, I will have to give up so much to follow Jesus." Have you ever thought, however, that the most important thing of all that you do is to imitate Jesus and to be a disciple? Truly that is the life best lived (shout out to Donnie Cook who shared this idea with me). In Dallas Williard's wonderful treatise on the sermon on the mount, The Divine Conspiracy, Willard addresses this very issue. In it, he discusses two parables (among others): "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field." And "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it (Matthew 13:44-45 CEB)." Think about what Jesus is saying. The kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God (think of that as the life of Christ that we are individually and communally living into) is like a treasure or a fine pearl. In both cases, when found, the people sold everything and with great joy bought the pearl or the field. Of course, we would do that! If we found something of worth we would do everything possible to get that thing. What Jesus is saying is that following him is more valuable than one of those items. The other side of it is that following Jesus does take sacrifice, selling out to get the pearl/treasure. It means getting up early in the morning and devoting time with God in prayer and scripture. It means committing to worshiping God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each week in worship. It means finding a life group to be a part of and do life together. It means committing to be financially generous and share the blessings that we have been given to those in need and with the church so it can fulfill its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. It means finding your gift and serving in some way, making a difference. And it means that we must go into the world and be a witness to this incredible God. That means following Jesus and becoming like him will require sacrifice from us. There are things we are going to have to give up. This idea pervades all aspects of our life! Today I want to focus on growing in our faith because just like the pearl and the treasure we must crave it with the greatest desire in our hearts. The big sacrifice will be time. You will have to give up time and other aspects of your life to commit to spending time with God and others in the community so that you can grow. You will miss out on some stuff that others who follow Jesus get to do. But you know what? That is ok. Remember that Jesus says, "I came that they might have life and live it to the fullest (John 10:10)." The goal is to progress until Jesus is the center of our lives, we do that through daily scripture and prayer and by being in a life group that we can do life with and hold us accountable to the life we are called to live. This is what Williard says, "What this passage in Luke is about is clarity. It is not about misery or about some incredibly dreadful price that one must pay to be Jesus' apprentice. There is no such thing as a dreadful price for the 'pearl' in question. Suffering for him is actually something we rejoice to be counted worthy of (Acts 5:41; Phil 1:29). The point is simply that unless we clearly see the superiority of what we receive as his students over every other thing that might be valued, we cannot succeed in our discipleship to him. We will not be able to do the things required to learn his lessons and move ever deeper into a life that is his kingdom."

If you want the best life you can possibly live then it is time to seek Christ as a precious pearl or treasure. Then the life that comes from that relationship will so change all of your other relationships and existence that you will receive life to the fullest. 

At Rockbridge, this is a great week to recommit yourself to a life of growing in your faith, of becoming a disciple of Jesus. On Sunday each of our life groups will have a table for you to sign up. Check them out! If you don't know where you need to be, then join the Disciple's Path class which will be a great place to get your discipleship jump-started!

May you find the treasure of following Jesus Christ and, full of joy, seek it out with all that you have.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On Charlottesville and Listening

James 1:19 tells us, "Know this, my dear brothers and sisters:  everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry."

In Philippians, Paul tells the church to 'adopt the mindset that is in Christ Jesus' when we are dealing with conflict with one another. That means that we are called to serve one another and put the needs of the person we are talking to before our own. It does not mean to pretend we do not have a different opinion.

I have thought a lot about what to do in our current situation with the increased racial tensions. Here is my first step in being a community of Jesus whose first commandment is to love:

It is time to listen. To listen to people who disagree with you, with me. It is time to listen to people who are of a different race and culture than mine. It is time to seek out and listen to those who are the victims of racism on a regular basis and still feel their life does not matter to the rest of the nation. It is time to listen to republicans and democrats and what they think about the world. It is time to listen even to white supremacist and hear why they are so angry and what we can do to love them as well (if you question the importance of this listen to Megan Phelps-Roper's TED talk). It is time to listen to conservatives and liberals and everything in between. What does listening cost you? Little and less, and it might be the key to healing our nation, or at least the first step. Listen to other's stories and share your own.

Scripture says it: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.  Let us put that into practice. To me, it is self-evident statistically and personally that racism is still real, especially toward our minority brothers and sisters. If you disagree, let us start a conversation!  I want to be a part of the solution and I hope you do too. Comment on this blog, send me an email, let's start communicating with one another.

I invite you, as I will as well, to start diversifying your relationships. If every one of your friend group, church group, and family looks, thinks, talks, acts and believes like you, then its time to meet some people of different backgrounds and different viewpoints and be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bombs, Coffee and Cobalt

I was going to blog this week about drinking coffee; I just decided to be a coffee drinker because I am spending a ton of time in coffee shops because I don't have an office. I decided that I should drink coffee and so I am! I had a blog prepared to discuss how being empowered by the Holy Spirit relates to coffee. I will have to save that for another day because there is something else I feel like we should discuss.

On social media I witnessed a lot of anxiety about the world around us, there seems to be a very real concern about nuclear war. So I feel compelled to talk about something political, but first I am going to share my views on faith and politics (very briefly). As Christians, we have a strange balance with the government in that we are to both engage the government without indulging the temptation of trying to be the government. Quite simply, Jesus was tempted to take control of everything, yet his kingdom is not (yet) of this world (John 18:36). Yet we are called to act subversively to help build that kingdom while waiting on Jesus to fulfill it. Much of Mark is about Jesus warning the Jews that if they continue on their path of warfare with Rome, they would be destroyed. He was right, and they were destroyed.  We also respect the political authority as we are told to do in Romans 13, but we can't be afraid to critique it (or even oppose it if necessary) and we can't take it over and we can't run away from it. Whew! Another way to put it is that we are called to be political without being partisan, to focus on serving Jesus the King. This is not about being a Republican or a Democrat, but about being a follower of Jesus.

My political statement for the day:  I believe we are called to have a consistent pro-life ethic. This is incredibly important because much of what I see in the world and in the news is death and destruction. We are called to protect the unborn, we are called to protect children, we are called to oppose war except in extreme cases (although there has always been a non-violent stream of Christianity), we are called to not use the death penalty (United Methodist stand against the death penalty), we are called to help young pregnant women who are considering abortion and help them spiritually and financially so they will choose another path. If we are pro-life we also have to care about the stuff we buy and how it is made. For example (thank you Tambra for posting an article about this) search cobalt mines. Cobalt is used in lithium batteries and is mined in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo. This should be a boon to their economy and help people rise out of poverty. Unfortunately, the mines are using children as laborers and cobalt is very detrimental to people's health. We must send a message to the companies that we buy from that that is not ok! A pro-life ethic means we stand up to those who abuse children.

We also need to send a message that, as Christians, it is unacceptable to use or threaten to use our nuclear weapons. This article tells us that even a small nuclear war would make the world uninhabitable. So why does the US have 6800? Russia 7000? Nuclear war isn't even the last resort, it would be the last choice we ever make. Add to that the millions of innocent men, women, and children who would be killed in even a limited nuclear engagement. We need to stand up and let our politicians know that nuclear weapons are not even a negotiation tool. They are way too dangerous for that.

I believe that Christ is calling us to a clear, complete, pro-life ethic. Jesus tells us "I came so that they could have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10)." We need to stand on the side of life, because this life, every life, is precious to our Lord. And talking about that is much more important than talking about drinking coffee for the first time.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

This world IS our home and it DOES matter when we lose the battle...

You might be wondering what this blog is about today, or you might have already connected with the title with two popular Christian songs on the radio: Home by Chris Tomlin and Greater by Mercy Me. Both songs represent a theology that is an epidemic among popular Christianity today.

Many Christians believe that this world is not really our home, that it is just a temporary place that we are passing through and (hopefully if we found Christ!) we go TO heaven and not experience eternal conscious torment in hell. That allows us to say (as it says in the song Greater by Mercy Me) that if we lose the battle with doubt or sin, it doesn't matter because we have the grace of God and so we still get to go to heaven (side note: this isn't exactly what the song means, but it is what it says. The song seems to be saying that because we are redeemed we don't have to earn grace. That is true but it overstates the point).

The Christian world has focused on eternal salvation, however following Jesus is about so much more than simply getting saved so we can escape hell and end up in heaven. When we have that as our theology, we believe that our choices don't matter because ultimately all that matters is going to heaven! That is an awful way to live. I am going to unpack this a bit using an email that a friend forwarded me from Kurt Willems. Feel free to check him out at theologycurator.com. I would link the blog but I can't find it online and it may be emailed content.

The lyrics of Home say this, "This world is not what it was meant to be..." This statement is absolutely true. We believe that God designed and ordered, sin-free world but humans chose to walk away from God, causing sin to flood into our existence. The song loses me when it starts talking about wanting to go home to heaven to run away from the problems right here. Thankfully God did not run away from the problems in our world but rather sent Jesus, the son of God, to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1)! God's plan isn't to provide an escape ladder but rather to be a part of this world and show us how to live. Yes, Jesus died for our sins! Yes, Jesus saves us so that we can be with God! No, that isn't the sum total of what God is about. God wants nothing less than all of the creation to be reconciled to God through Jesus. Romans 8:18-23 tells us that creation itself is groaning in anticipation of the coming glory from God.

What we believe about death is a two stage event: when people die they get to be with God, we call that Heaven. That is temporary! We believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead (Paul says this is such an important belief that if there is not a resurrection of the dead, then don't bother believing Jesus was resurrected from the dead 1 Corinthians 15:12-13. You can find Paul discussing this in Acts 24:15, Philippians 3:10, and all of chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians. That is not all the discussion but it is everywhere). We expect to be resurrected as Jesus was because he is the first fruits of the resurrection and then we will come later. Revelation 21 describes a new heaven and a new earth where God is coming to live with the people here! Ancients did not see heaven as another location but rather an invisible interlocking sphere with our own. Yes, we go to heaven but that is also temporary. The goal is a reinvigorated creation with humans fulfilling their God given vocation as stewards and rulers, being ruled by Jesus.

What we do now matters because it matters to God. To say that because of graces our mistakes don't matter is simply cheap grace as described by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ. (Cost of Discipleship)." If we make mistakes, we will be forgiven, but those choices still have consequences. I am sure the guys at Mercy Me agree with this, we just have to be careful with what we say, especially when it will be sung in church. Bonhoeffer says, "Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is because Jesus says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.'" Bonhoeffer knows about cheap verses costly grace. He chose to go back to Germany to oppose Hitler and it led to his death. As a follower of Christ, he could not choose another path.

Escapism leads to cheap grace where we don't actually care about being a light into the darkness. That is simply not the good news that Jesus preached. Willems has an interesting point on our role as partners with God in what God is doing to restore all of creation. He discusses Tim Gedderts translation of Romans 8:28 where the Greek word sunergei denotes two parties working together rather than just God doing the work. God doesn't need us, but God chooses to partner with us. So perhaps 8:28 should be translated as "In all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good..." What we do now matters. What we do has an eternal impact on us, our neighbors and the world around us!  Rather than saying "This world is bad, I can't wait to get to my condo in the sky!" We should say, this world is my home and I have a responsibility to partner with God through the power of the Holy Spirit to clean up the sin, the death, the destruction, the exploitation. What we do matters because we say the Lord's prayer "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on EARTH as it is in Heaven..." As Christ followers, we have a choice. We can choose to act in God's will and we make earth more like heaven; or when we choose to sin, we can make hell on earth.

If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, are you ready to stop trying to run away from a broken world and be a part of the solution to reconcile it? If so, the church is the place for you. We don't always get it right, and eventually, it will take the act of God to fulfill the promise. Until then, I choose to serve God and work to shine the light of the Father into this world!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On Sports Camp and VBS and the Kissing of Pigs

I am happy that I will be kissing a pig this week.

Weird huh?  I agreed that if we would collect 400 items for Camacho that I would kiss a pig. So I am happy because we will be providing over 400 items to the back pack program at Camacho Elementary school to provide food for students who would not have a weekend meal otherwise.

I am happy that I am kissing a pig because it has brought incredible joy to the young people who have come up to me to say how excited they are to see their pastor kiss a pig. I do what I can to make people happy. Actually, that isn't true, I am not really in the happiness business, but I am in the discipleship business.

I think about Matthew 19:13-15 "Some people brought children to Jesus so that he would place his hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded them. 'Allow the children to come to me,' Jesus said. 'Don't forbid them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people like these children.' Then he blessed the children and went away from there."

If Jesus thought that it was important for the children to be a main part of this crazy group of people we call the church, then it should be a priority for us as well! I am their pastor as much as anyone else in the entire church. That is why I believe in events like Mega Sports Camp where the entire church works to help disciple the children (and youth for that matter)! That is why we need to make worship that connects with our youth and children; have a place in worship for youth and children to participate and even lead!

I encourage each of you to think about how you are helping disciple young people in your church. Are you committed to raising up a new generation of leaders? Or are you just concerned with making church conform to your preferences?

So I am happy that I am kissing a pig. I am glad that my church, Rockbridge, is reaching out to help young people who are hungry. I am also happy because we are reaching out to fill their spiritual hunger too. I'll kiss a pig any day for that!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Sad Story of Solomon

The title of this blog may give you pause, and you might ask some questions like:
'Wait isn't he the wisest human who ever lived?' or 'Didn't he build the temple?' The answer is yes! By the time of his death, however, he had fallen so far away from God that the Lord took away 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel from the line of David! How did he fall so far, a man with untold potential, to a King who was punished by God? He was the third king of Israel following his father David. He was the child of David and Bathsheba (yes the Bathsheba that David fell in love with and had her husband, Uriah, murdered. Big time failures were definitely a family legacy) and was not the oldest son but he was the one whom God chose to rule after David. Early on things were great! He was following God and God was so joyous that he offered to give Solomon anything he wanted as a reward. Solomon asks for wisdom (a discerning mind 1 Kings 3:9) and God is so pleased that he didn't ask for wealth or victory or any number of other things, God gives him wisdom but basically everything else too. This is why Solomon is considered the wisest man who ever lived and why many believe he wrote the book in the Bible called Proverbs. Everything is great right?

Well, Solomon eventually got full of himself and got to love his wealth, his women and even other gods! If you are familiar with the Ten Command you know that the first three are:  I am the Lord Your God; You shall have no other God before me; You shall make no graven images or likeness. Solomon failed, and God was not happy with him.

You can read all about Solomon's fall in 1 Kings 11. He put having literally thousands of women, money and other gods before his mission of leading the kingdom of Israel in their everyday lives and being the example of what it means to serve God. So, of course, there were bad consequences for his choices, unfortunately for Solomon, it affected more than just him. That is a truth of how we live our lives. We are so interconnected that what we do, deeply affects others. Our choices can bring heaven on earth: when we share the love of God with neighbors and God is present, so is heaven! Or, if we choose to be selfish, to focus on what we desire over what God wants, then we bring hell on earth. If you live on planet earth you have experienced this. Maybe it was a parent or spouse who made bad choices and was abusive. A friend who betrayed you. A politician who put their own power before the needs of the people. We see it where we see hunger and there is food but the local warlords have prevented those who need the food from getting it. We have seen it with individual and corporate greed. And I am sure you have seen it within yourself and you have witnessed how your choices can give life or destroy it. 

Philippians 2:13 tells us that "God is the one is able to make you want and actually live out his good purposes." Once we receive God's love and accept the free gift of Salvation, God expects the church, just like he expected Solomon, to live out his good purposes so that God's "will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven (Matthew 6:10)." God is not the type of parent to ask us to do things just for God's own enjoyment but because of our choices, how we live our lives, affect everyone else around us! What happened to Solomon is that the temptations of the world and his riches got to him, so much so, that it is said of Solomon in 1 Kings 11:9 that his heart turned away from God. Solomon! This great hero of the faith fell away from Gods own heart because he was distracted by the glitz and the glam of the world around him. Rather than transforming the world, he allowed the world to transform him. We must keep God at the center of our lives, to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength! When we stop doing that we begin to worship other gods: greed, unforgiveness, lust, hate, and envy. Those things consume us until one day we look back and cannot even imagine how we got to the place we are currently at. So if you have not yet done so, take some time and fall in love with your savior all over again. Just think, the creator of the universe wants to spend time with, and that's pretty awesome. May you fall more in love with our God every single day, every time you meet. May you always center your life around the one who gives true life and gives it abundantly. And may you make better choices than Solomon, so through you those around you get to experience heaven on earth.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Time to Grow Up

This morning I lost my wallet. Well lost is probably not the correct word, I temporarily misplaced it. Whenever I lose something, especially something important, I get anxious, even frantic. Most people have outgrown the problem of losing their keys or their wallet by having specific places to put it. I struggle with this (I often give the excuse that it's because it is how my brain works, while true it's an excuse) because I have not taken the time and effort to develop a pattern of where to put my important stuff. I am a very forgetful person, my dad used to say I would forget my head if it was not attached, but with the proper effort and training, I could learn to change my ways.

Friends, the same is true with our faith. We must choose to put effort and energy into growing in mature followers of Jesus. Check out Hebrews 6:1-9:

So let’s press on to maturity, by moving on from the basics about Christ’s word. Let’s not lay a foundation of turning away from dead works, of faith in God, of teaching about ritual ways to wash with water, laying on of hands, the resurrection from the dead, and eternal judgment—all over again. We’re going to press on, if God allows it.Because it’s impossible to restore people to changed hearts and lives who turn away once they have seen the light, tasted the heavenly gift, become partners with the Holy Spirit, and tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age. They are crucifying God’s Son all over again and exposing him to public shame. The ground receives a blessing from God when it drinks up the rain that regularly comes and falls on it and yields a useful crop for those people for whom it is being farmed. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it’s useless and close to being cursed. It ends up being burned.
Imagine if we decided to stop learning as soon as we learned about our ABCs or basic arithmetic. It would seriously stunt our growth. This scripture in verse 4 and 5 lay out a great description of becoming a Christian. First you 'see the light' and are able to recognize the desperate need for a relationship with God through Christ and see the truth of the world around you. From there you taste the heavenly gift: which is to experience new life through Jesus (not just waiting for eternal life to begin with death, but a renewed life today!). Then you are given the Holy Spirit and a taste of the good word. Experiencing Jesus and scripture is like a refreshing jump into a pool on a hot summers day! Finally, we get a taste of what is to come in the new age, of the heaven on earth through the faith and the Christian community. That gives us a longing for what is to come. He also (in verse 1 and 2) describes the basics of the faith: repentance from dead works, faith towards God, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and the judgment of the coming age.

So what is all this about 'impossible to restore people to changed hearts and lives (repentance)' once they have followed Jesus and then chosen to actively oppose what God is doing in this world and reject him? This seems to directly oppose what Paul is saying in Romans 5-8, that nothing can separate us from the love of God! Perhaps the author is using one of Jesus' techniques, hyperbole. If we believe nothing is impossible for God and then there is no place that Jesus cannot reach us. I think the main point the author is making is the deep importance to press on toward maturity in faith. That if we do not continue to grow in our faith, that we might end up rejecting it and it is incredibly difficult to come back to where you were before. So many young people are in this place today. Where once they believed, they fell away from the church and now that they are in a place of comfortable complacency, they may never return to following Jesus. We must 'drink up the rain regularly' so that we can continue to progress toward the goal of a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus and being his disciples who work with God toward the transformation of the world.

Have you settled for 'the basics' of the faith rather than pushing forward toward maturity? If so I invite you to dive deep. Find a life group to help you walk into the deeper waters. Find a mentor who is a little wiser, a little more experienced. Find a way to use your gifts for God and see where that takes you. Spend time with our Lord in prayer and scripture, deepening your relationship. Because if we stick to the basics, we are in danger of walking away from God, from the church. And when we do, it is much more difficult to come back. So I invite you to press on to maturity!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

New Beginnings

He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:3

It is a season of new beginning for me, as of July 2, I am the Pastor of Rockbridge Church. When change happens we are full of a lot of emotions and many of them are painful: fear, anxiety, loss, insecurity and even depression. I believe, however, we serve a God of change, a God who designed a dynamic world that is given the ability to create and reproduce: "God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.’ (Genesis 1:22)."

For me this change is of God and yet I have definitely felt many of these emotions. What has reassured me is the sure and certain knowledge that this change is part of God's plan. I shared a story in worship this week about a moment I had when I was still the pastor of the Tarleton Wesley. I was sitting, listening to my intern, Hanna Newcomer, preach about one of the signs in John. I was already overwhelmed by the growth of our worship team and now here was one of our interns preaching a sermon so deep and mature that I was in awe that it originated from a college student. That moment I received a message from the Holy Spirit and it was this warm reassurance from the Father that everything would be okay if I left. At this point I had not even considered leaving, nor did I want to. And all of this is BEFORE I even knew that Rockbridge was going through a pastoral change! Often we struggle because we have such a narrow view of our lives, and yet God can see the whole picture. 

I truly believe "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)." This does not mean that God is some micro-manager controlling every action. What I believe is that God allows our free will and yet is constantly remaking a plan that will set us on track to be the people that God has made us to be. One of my personal mantras is from Philippians 1:27, "Live in a manner worthy of the gospel you have received."
Are you going through a change right now? I want you to know that God is deeply in the midst of that change, not that God caused it but that God is working with you to make good come of it. It is up to us to not let our lives be overcome by fear, anxiety, stress and insecurity. Those are natural responses, but God gives us the strength to carry on in the face of the greatest challenges.
I'll leave you with the words from a great worship song by Elevation Worship, O Come to the Altar:

"Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there's no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling
O come to the altar
The Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ"

May you know that God is the peace in the midst of the storm, that God is always writing a new song for you and that darkness is never the final word.