Autograph Seekers Are Not the ONLY distractions

Yesterday, I was asked to offer ‘Sticky Faith’ (the children’s message) at St Paul’s UMC in Carolina Beach….here is my message:

On Friday I had the opportunity to go to Pinehurst NC to attend the Women’s US Open Golf Tournament. It was great to be able to see the best women golfers in the world! While there I got to see Lucy Li play. She’s a 11 year old phenom, which is someone (usually young) with extraordinary talent at something. There were huge crowds on hand to watch her at every hole. I am not sure how she was able to play with all that distraction.

When we arrived at the tournament, we were given a map that listed the tee or start times for every player.

Women's US Open PinehurstOn this paper there was a notice:

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“Spectators should keep in mind that the players’ first responsibility this week is to compete for the national championship.”

They didn’t want spectators to take pictures, or ask for autographs, or distract the players from their goal….trying to win the championship.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Paul tells us “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable prize, but we an imperishable prize.”

We are called to be the best Christians we can be. We are working toward the prize of eternal life. But just like in the golf tournament it is easy to become distracted from our goal by those around us. Our first responsibility is to behave as Christ.

We may not live a life where people clammer for our photo, or autograph. People may not follow us and cheer or jeer at what we do.  However, people can and do distract us!  It is easy to  get distracted by the praise or criticism of others. Friends or even family can distract us from mediation, from reading and studying, or from service to others.

We must keep our eye on the prize. Let’s work hard this week to not be distracted from our goal.

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Sermon of Lego Discipleship

I was asked to speak on May 4th 2014 at St Paul’s UMC in Carolina Beach. After considerable thought I decided to speak on Lego and our successful Lego Club ministry. I was pleased with this concept and set about to write my words. But the words were not coming. Then on a trip to Lake Junaluska (a 7 hour car trip with four middle school aged kids), Shawn, my minister, suggested, after hearing my story about how getting out of the pew changed my life, that “getting out of the pew” should be my topic. I wasn’t convinced and continued to struggle with Lego words and nothing seemed to fit together into a message.

With reluctance, on Friday (yes, the Friday just before May 4th)  I relented and started to combine the two ideas. The words came easy but allowed little time to tweak and make changes.   I was still changing text Sunday morning just before I got up to deliver the message…which is what made it uber scary when it came time to stand up and talk! Once I began speaking I settled in and just trusted God to make the words right.

I was pleased with how it turned out. Here’s the video and the text I spoke from, as well as video of my children’s message:

Jesus said we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Last year on the first Wednesday in February we here at St Paul’s began a Lego Club and I began my journey back into childhood. I was excited to be a part of what I thought was a great idea for reaching kids (a commodity I believe we can all agree that we’d like to have more of here at St Paul’s). Our first meeting netted 8 kids….I, and I think y’all too, were pleasantly surprised. In the past year, our little group has served over 50 elementary aged kids in our community. We are currently averaging 16-20 Lego builders each week!

Lego Club

Proud of the town we built

If you have several hours, I can regale you with stories…because I have stories! Stories that will delight you and stories that will break your heart.

I will say that I oft feel like the guy in the AT&T commercial …. you know the one, there is this guy sitting at a table with a group of kids and he asks questions then seriously replies to the crazy answers….that feels like my Wednesday nights.

When the call came to find someone interested in helping with a Lego Club, my thought was hey, this will be fun….and it has been! I can tell you that there has NEVER been a Wednesday night that I have left Lego Club with anything but a song in my heart! Sure, there are Wednesdays when I don’t want to come to Lego Club….the allure of my couch is far too great. But just one second of imagining the disappointed looks on “my kids” faces is enough to get me moving to be here. What I wasn’t prepared for when I agreed to take on Lego Club were all the ways MY LIFE would change! And I don’t just mean that I now own and play with my own Lego sets or the cool Lego things that get posted on my Facebook wall! It has reminded me of a book that was popular In the mid 80’s by Robert Fulgham titled “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten”. In the book the author extols the simple virtues we learned in kindergarten. Things like share, play fair, clean up your own mess,say you’re sorry and that when you go out into the world hold hands, watch for traffic and stick together.

My experience with Lego Club has been very similar all those basic life truths come to the forefront. yet this has also been a spiritual journey. Last fall pat Litzinger, the assistant district director gave me a book, titled the Lego Principle. This book took those basic truths of life, Lego and combined them into a spiritual awakening and that is what I am here to share with you today.

You see, last January when the call came for someone to help with a Lego Club I was a happy Christian….or so I thought – I had discovered this little slice of heaven here at St Paul’s. I was attending church almost weekly and as a life long church attendee, I was content and satisfied that “me and Jesus we had a good thing going…..me and Jesus we had it all worked out”. At about the same time the call for fun with Lego came, there also was a 10 week study called Simply Christian starting that had peeked my interest. Little did I know that those two things were fixin’ to change my whole life!

Luke 10:25-28 reads like this “and a lawyer stood up and put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?”  And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

 Every Lego brick is built to do two things – connect upward and connect with each other.  

In our scripture today that is exactly what Jesus tells the lawyer we should do to inherit eternal life. We must build up and create a relationship with God AND we must connect with each other and build relationships with each other.

 We must love our neighbor as ourselves.

In other words, we must learn to connect with each other. If you’ve spent any time playing with Lego you know that not every brick looks the same, not every brick connects the same, not every brick has the same purpose not every brick fits with other bricks in the same way, but there are no stand alone Lego bricks.

EVERY Lego brick is built to connect with other bricks.

Some have the capacity to connect with twelve or more other bricks while others can connect with only one other brick. The secret of Lego is not that every brick connects with the same number of other pieces but that each piece has the capacity to connect. Two 8-stud Lego bricks can be combined in 24 different ways. Three 8-stud bricks can be combined in one thousand and sixty ways. Six 8-stud bricks can be combined in one hundred and two million, nine hundred eighty one thousand five hundred ways. With eight 8-studded bricks the possibilities are virtually endless.

Just like Lego bricks, if we are using love to connect ourselves to our neighbors the ways of connection are virtually endless.  There are varieties of ways that love can be expressed and each expression of love gives us even more connections and even more relationships.

In 1974 the Lego Company started making people! These figures became wildly popular… and in 1978 they switched to the current mini-figure,or as more commonly known minfig. There are at least three thousand six hundred and fifty five different minifigs produced between 1975 and 2010….and each year they are adding more. I can tell you from my Wednesday Night experience that minfigs are THE most popular and most requested item in the Lego room. There is just never enough. By 2006, Lego had reportedly produced 4 billion minifigs. To give you a frame of reference in 2006 there were 6.5 billion people in the world.

Lego capitalized on a very important principle – people LOVE people!

After all what good is building a world without people?  The same is true of our church, the degree that we value and love people will be reflected in the way we engage our community. If we truly are “loving our neighbor as ourselves”, then we have to spend the time and effort to get to know one another. Not just the people that we like or the people that are in our same socioeconomic level or the people that look the most attractive to us or even speak our own language but all our neighbors…even Carolina fans.

I ask you this – if the early Church had the same attitude about sharing the gospel as we have today, would the Church have spread? Would we even have the The opportunity to be here today? Or would the Church have dwindled away to nothing?

When I began to come every Wednesday to Lego Club I also began to become a regular attendee at Wednesday at the Well. At first it was a convenience thing….what the heck, I’m already here. Soon it became a connectional thing, I was invested, I was connected to those who also attend Wednesday at the well.

I celebrate in their joys. I weep in their sorrows. I share in their concerns. And as a group we pray, we laugh, we love.

But even more our Wednesday nights reaches out! We’ve reached out with Wednesday night meals. We reach out to kids with Lego. We reach out to the parents of Lego kids with the ‘mom’s group’ that has formed (they are now planning their own outings, supporting one another even to the point of providing child care for each other in times of need). As a church St. Paul’s reaches out…through Martha’s kitchen, the prison ministry, and the agape inn.

Lego bricks are built for connection multi-generationally. That means that an original brick made in the 1950’s will connect just as well with a brick made today in 2014. We Christians are just like Lego bricks in that

we come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, ages and shapes.

Lego bricks come from different sets and boxes just as many Christians come from different backgrounds and faith experiences. Yet, in relationship, we can all connect. Some connect in a wide variety of ways. Some connect in fewer ways but we all connect. Just like there are no stand alone Lego bricks there are no stand alone Christians! Like Lego that connects brick by brick, so do we disciples connect to each other and the world around us one person at a time as we engage, equip and empower people around us.

The first Lego brick was invented in 1949. And although this great invention was just as great then as it is today it wasn’t until 1953 with the introduction of the Lego mat that things began to change. You see without the appropriate foundation Lego bricks just couldn’t build anything worth building. In 1955 the Lego company launched the very first “Lego System of Play: The Town Plan” From that point on Lego bricks could build just about anything.  The same is true of our discipleship relationships.

We must have a strong foundation in order to build disciples.

That foundation is our relationship with God. If you were in attendance for the weeks of lent, and listened to Shawn’s sermons, you received very practical ‘how to’ information about building a strong foundational relationship with God. I won’t recap that sermon series for you – although I have no doubt if you see Shawn after the service he can hook you up 🙂

We build our relationship with God by connecting with God through things like daily prayer, meditation, fasting and bible study. Remember when I mentioned that 10-week bible study?  Well that 10 week study has become a string of studies, lead by a variety of people. It has become a group of dedicated people who meet each Sunday for study, who pray together, and who have fun together – just last week we went out to a movie together and then to dinner. It is individuals who are actively growing and maturing together as disciples.

In his book the Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonheoffer, (if you remember Bonheoffer was a minister in Germany when the nazis and hitler came to power – he bravely stood against them) in his book Bonheoffer says

“The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves”.

When the confirmands, who we confirmed last week, embarked on the way of the cross journey they were told that this commitment superseded all other commitments. I am very proud of them that they readily complied. Make no mistake these are busy people…they at the time were in rehearsal for sussical the musical. But I wonder if the same constraints were put on we adults in our journey of faith if we would reach the finish? Or would the call of fish, golf, or relaxing by the ocean win? Would we be stuck at the office or busy with friends? Remember when I said I was a happy christian sitting In a pew? I wasn’t a happy christian  sitting in a pew…I was just a Christian SITTING in a pew.

I wasn’t a useful disciple. It wasn’t until I got out of the pew and into an active relationship with God that my life changed.

God calls us to be active disciples and to be in a relationship with him everyday and not just Sunday and we are called to go into the world and make other disciples.

One of the times when I believe we are closest to God is during communion. It is during this time of quiet reflection that my call of discipleship is renewed. 1 Corinthians 11: 26-29 says “for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup; you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.”

Communion is a time of remembrance for the sacrifice given for us. It is a time of celebration for the grace under which we are forgiven. It is a time of reflection on how and what we can and should change in our life to be the best disciple we can be.

The invitation to be a part for me is akin to being with Jesus just before he laid down his life for me. To being with him as he willing took the burden to extend grace to me. Here in this church we celebrate with an open table for all who wish to come and commune with God.

We invite you now to come and be a part as we share in the Lord’s Table and as you do so I hope you consider your discipleship.

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Not from your Bellybutton or Dryer….Lent

I had never in my life considered giving up something for lent. I actually have thought for most of my life (okay, until last week) that it was a silly practice that some weird religions practiced. And lets be honest – the people who always talk about ‘giving up something for lent’ rarely seem like the embodiment of Christ. It is usually some raging alcoholic (or close enough no one knows the difference) who gives up the drink for Lent then spends 40 days whining over Facebook (or twitter). Or your buddy who gives up Facebook (or twitter) but is dying to know ‘what’s happening’ from you always (so much so you want to just give them a ‘like’ sign).

However, recently I began to ask myself “self, what should lent look like?” How could this practice bring about a richer and more personal walk with God? Last night I even asked the question on my Facebook page.

 

I loved the answers I received. They were thoughtful and thought provoking. Still I waffled.

Do I really want to give up something for Lent?

The answer came back to me with a resounding YES! I do want to give up something for lent. But it had to mean something; I couldn’t just deprive myself of something for 40 days just to restart at the end without there being a deeper meaning. The question remained –

WHAT?

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The answer came in something we’ve been trying to curtail for over a year – eating out. It is the expenditure we have been unable to tame – The ease, the convenience, the lack of mess. Having someone else cook and clean up is, well, just greatly enjoyable! I used to go just for the sheer joy of having someone continuously fill my sweet tea – since giving up sugar the never ending water service isn’t nearly as appealing (but I digress).

How, you say, can not eating out have meaning? 

One, as one of my friends pointed out on my Facebook, after 21 days something is a habit. The habit of eating at home – of having a plan, of prepping in advance for those overly tempting occasions – is a habit I wish to develop. Lent seems like a perfect time to stretch those habit forming muscles.

Two, there’s the money that will be saved. Eating out is expensive! Although we have been amazed at the savings of drinking water versus soft drinks or tea.

Here’s the plan.

Anytime in the next 40 days that my household struggles with wanting to eat out, we will:

  • Decide where we would have gone
  • Determine how much that would have cost
  • And donate that amount to a worth cause

As I sit here writing this, knowing that we’re broke, it seems impossible to consider donating. But to use Jenn’s new favorite quote “It’s the hard that makes it great”

What about you? Are you giving up something for Lent? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

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The Burning Bush

EXODUS 3:1-5

New International Version (NIV)

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

 

Last year advertisers spent $6.8 billion to get your attention via the television!

That’s roughly $225 per person (ages 2 and up), and $144 per person to reach each online user.

This year advertisers are projected to spend 3.5% more to reach you.

For a total of $503 billion spent globally on advertising.

I told you at the beginning that I am a small business owner….and in one of my businesses, marketing that’s what I do. I work with small businesses to help them to maximize their advertising dollar via social media.

If you’ve picked up a newspaper or watched the news in the last few years no doubt you are familiar with the term social media.

Social media encompasses all the social ways we share and communicate with each other in our modern world. Things like Facebook, twitter, Google+, Pinterest, instagram, email marketing and a whole host of other applications.

These applications are fun. Which is what make them appealing. It allows us to reconnect with high school or college friends. To communicate with our kids or grandkids. Or maybe even our parents and extended family. It connects us over the miles or across the generational gap.

These applications are also a golden opportunity for businesses to market directly to a customer (often through their friends).

Think back to the last movie you saw. What influenced you to see that movie? Was the trailer you saw on TV?

What about the last book you read? I know I have purchased many book recently because of recommendations from friends over Facebook or twitter.

Then there is the concept of product placement. This is where hit movies and TV shows have defrayed the cost of their productions by selling ad space.  Companies spend an outrageous amount of money – almost 5 billion last year to make you think your favorite actor (or character) drinks a certain beverage or eats a certain food or maybe even drives a certain car.

This is nothing new – The James Bond films are well known for their product placements to the point that, in 1996, there was so much in one a particular movie that everybody made fun of it.

In response, the James Bond franchise now limits product placement to only six per film, and because of that exclusivity they ask more per product placement.

There is a whole segment of society that follows very closely who is the vodka dealer, watchmaker or automobile manufacturer in the newest Bond hit.

Tell me, at your last super bowl party – which was more popular – the football game or the commercials?

WE ARE BOMBARDED!

We are bombarded every day with messages, with calls to action, with things we need or want or things that would make our lives easier.

After all why use a mop with you can get a swiffer (and buy the replacement cartridges on a monthly basis) and don’t get me started on the TMI –  too much information – given on bathroom tissue or pharmaceuticals!

In our society we are so accustomed to this information we hardly notice it.

We’re not only bombarded with advertising. We have the 24 hour news reel. I remember when I was a kid – supper needed to be finished by 6 so my dad could watch the news. Today we have news any time we want it!

Or sports – if you want it, and you’re willing to pay for it – you can truly never miss an event. I’m an avid baseball fan and I have an app on my phone that will let me watch any game, anywhere any time.

And speaking of phones…how many people here do not have a phone in their pocket, purse or someplace tucked away?

A few days ago, I was selling a car, I’d met the buyer at the bank to notarize the title and as we sat there waiting for the next available person to help – I pulled my dead phone from my pocket no less that 10 times in 10 minutes……it’s a habit. Experts now say it has reached the level of addiction.

In all this bombardment of information – We are so overwhelmed with all the various means of connection that we have lost much of our ability to hear.

We miss a lot of messages, with each other, with our kids or spouses – with our parents or siblings or with our neighbors or fellow Church members.

BUT THE WORST CASE OF MISSED MESSAGES WE HAVE – MISSED MESSAGES FROM GOD.

Our hero in today’s scripture is Moses.

Moses was not an uneducated man. Moses had lived among the pharoses. In case you have forgotten Moses was a baby the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed. His mother hid him in a basket among the bulrushes and he was found and adopted by the Egyptian royal family.

As their adopted son he had all the rights and privileges of being a part of the ruling family! However, he never lost his true self (thanks to his birth mother, who came to be is nursemaid or nanny).

Perhaps you remember that as a young adult he killed an Egyptian slave master, for mistreating a Hebrew slave. Fearing for his life – Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian.

When we encounter Moses in our scripture today he was a man living a simple life. He was, by the accounts that I’ve read, about 80 years old and he was tending his father-in-laws sheep.

Now recently we’ve all heard many accounts of 50 being he new 30 or 70 being the new 50….but really, EIGHTY and tending sheep for his FATHER-IN-LAW?

It’s easy to think of tending sheep as a young mans job. Chasing wayward lambs, walking miles, being out in the weather – I dare say not one of us here has this as our dream for what we will be doing at 80.

Moses wasn’t a young man. But Moses was God’s man. He was who God came to. He was who God chose.

What does this mean for us?

For me it means that as I near the end of my 50th year and God said – Go to Carver’s Creek on Sunday! I was compelled to say yes.

While this is as terrifying as anything I have ever done (and I jumped from an airplane at 10,000 feet), it means that God isn’t through with me just yet.

And you know what? God isn’t through with you either!

Next we find that Moses had gone to ‘to the far side of the wilderness’. Now I grew up in the country – up near Winston-Salem. Surrounded by tobacco farms. We couldn’t really see our neighbors.

I live now in a neighborhood in Wilmington. I can hear my neighbors talking, hear and see their comings and goings. I know they can hear me too!

I often long for a quite place to live and I think Moses may have been a man who enjoyed solitude which is why he took the sheep to the far side; or perhaps he went to the far side of the wilderness so his sheep could find the best grass. What we do know for certain is that Moses was a man going about his business on the day he encountered the burning bush.

George Whitfield one of the founders of Methodism as a part of the ‘Holy Club’ at Oxford University with the Wesley bothers John and Charles.

In his sermon, “The Burning Bush” says of Moses “he shows how persons ought to methodize their time; the devotion and business of Methodist go hand in hand; I will assure you, Moses was a Methodist, a very fine one, a very strong one too.”

What does this mean for us? It means that we do not need to sit and wait for God. It means that as we go about our daily tasks God will find us and use us. Moses wasn’t idle waiting to hear his calling. He was busy with his work tending sheep.

Now, the burning bush represents the specific, personal instruction from God to his servant, Moses. There is no doubt in this story that God is speaking to Moses.

burning-bush

I can only speak for myself but I have yet to encounter a real burning bush! I have waited for God to burn a bush or reach down with the Gibb’s slap (of NCIS fame) from heaven and tell me what to do. I’ve even listened for the booming voice from heaven in Redd Foxx form saying “do this you big dummy”. But none of this things have I experienced.

And yet, here I am standing before you. Believing God called me to be here.

God called but it wasn’t a burning bush. It wasn’t a lightening bolt. It was a simple call on my cell phone.

Sure, there were events that lead to that call.

The biggest was the approximately 10 minutes I spent hover my pen over the check box at the end of a lay servant class that said something to the effect of Would you be willing to go if called YES or NO.

Eventually I decided that if I was having such a hard time saying no I really just should check yes.

However, I walked from that room having checked yes with the full assurance that THEY would never would they ever call ME! That God would never call me to do this.

When I compare my life to Moses, I see many similarities. Moses grew up in the Egyptian courts and was trained to be a leader.  He had the skills and ability to be a great man in Egyptian politics. But here he was on the backside of the desert, not fulfilling his potential as a man or as a servant of God.

Perhaps you, like me, look back over your life and see all the potential. All the wrong turns you’ve made. All the ways God tried to use you but you turned away. Just as I suspect Moses may have looked at his life.

I imagine Moses walking with is sheep in the far side of the wilderness thinking how did I end up here? I was raised among kings – my mother taught me of my people.

HOW DID I END UP HERE!

But God was working in the life of Moses. God was still with Moses even while Moses was off in the wilderness. Even as Moses was questioning where his life path….God was there, with Moses! And the best news God is still with us. He’s still working in our lives.

It had been 40 years since Moses had left the pharoses court. It seems as if Moses had just been wasting his life. He wasn’t heeding the call. It would seem as if Moses could have been doing something in those 40 years. But it wasn’t time for God to enact his plan.

It may seem as if you or I are far away from God. It may even seem as if God isn’t working in our lives. But God never ceases to work out His will in His people no matter where they find themselves. And you have to be open to God….even in those things where you are sure God will NEVER use you.

And that leads us to the part of this story that I find most fascinating. This was an experience that Moses consciously CHOSE.

The scripture doesn’t say God called Moses over. It doesn’t say God demanded Moses attention. Just that God put the bush in Moses path. It was Moses choice to approach the bush.

Now by nature, I am pretty curious and adventuresome. I think that if I saw a burning bush, I think I’d grab a stick and head over to poke the fire.

But when the bush started talking…I’m not so sure I’d have hung around! But not Moses, he kicked off his shoes and stayed.

I believe that we can fail to recognize when God is speaking to us.  We should never think lightly of handling the Word of God, whether in hearing, delivering it, or the study of it.

From time to time, God will speak in a definite and real way to his people through the preaching, teaching, or study of the scripture.  He will gently guide us when we get off track, or he may sternly warn us if we walk unworthy of His calling.

If we aren’t hearing God, I offer to you that God isn’t the problem!

My dad was a railroad man. He spent 30 years working for the Norfolk and Western now Norfolk Southern Railway. It was before the time that the railroad required ear protection and by the time he retired hearing was not daddy’s strong suit. It was not uncommon to get a strange answer to questions put to him….because he simply could not hear what we said.

Unfortunately, we as Christian often suffer from the same syndrome. We can’t hear God. We can’t hear him over the television. We can’t hear him over our twitter account. We can’t hear him because our minds are occupied with Facebook games or grocery lists.

We can’t hear God not because God isn’t talking but because we are not listening!

And God doesn’t seem to be burning any bushes these days! So, How do we listen for God?

I start my day; perhaps you do as well with the Upper Room devotions. I have it emailed to me and each morning with my first cup of coffee I read the devotion for the day. It’s a great way to start your day – And if you choose not to use the Upper Room I encourage you to start your day with a few words of scripture and prayer. (Not that I’d advocating that this be the only time you spend with God – but it’s a start). It WILL change your life!

A few weeks ago, God spoke to me via one such devotion.

In this devotion the writer was sharing her concern that she might miss a message from God. She wanted to do God’s will in her life but she was concerned she wouldn’t hear what God wanted her to do. Then she remembered Moses and the burning bush. Her conclusion was that if God wanted to reach her he had many options – up to and including burning a bush.

This devotional made me start to consider the messages from God I might be missing.

At first it gave me great comfort – if God wants me – He can always burn a bush ;)

Then the calculation of probability of having burning bush brought me back to reality. I began to wonder “What would a burning bush look like to me?”

I have been pondering this for weeks.

I began to look for my burning bush. I began to be more open to what, when and how God might be calling me. For me, it has caused me to get out of my comfort zone. It has caused me to stretch, to listen and to grow. And it caused me to say yes to being with you here today.

I realized that sometimes our burning bush appears to us in the form of other believers. It comes in the encouragement. It comes in the phone calls. It comes in the emails. Or even via Facebook, twitter, or other avenues. But more often our burning bush appears as we read and study – as we pray and meditate – As we shut out others and the world and spend quality time with God.

For me this burning bush was indeed burning.

It inhabited my mind. It consumed my thoughts.

It burned!

I believed that once I said yes to be here that I was answering God and that the idea of the burning bush would be extinguished for me. God called I answered – and said yes.

I tried to develop other topics for today. But God wouldn’t let me leave the burning bush.

It was then that I knew that this burning bush wasn’t just for me. It is for you.

Only you and God know what you are being called to do.

I pray that when you encounter your burning bush no matter where or via whom it may come to you, like Moses, will be willing to kick off your shoes and accept what is God plan for you and your life.

As Christians, our only real satisfaction comes from an intimate relationship with our God.  Some of the most exhilarating experiences of life come from the knowledge that God has spoken to you personally through His word, or through his people.

God is speaking to you today.

God has a use for you!

As you leave here today – I pray that each of you will encounter God’s burning bush in your life.

I pray that when you do you will kick off your shoes and answer YES! to the call.

sermon presented November 10, 2013 at Carvers Creek UMC

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I Am the Sheep and I Need to be Fed

I recently saw a graphic about ‘The Church’ and the role of that entity for feeding its parishioners. This is the graphic which was posted to facebook:

Fed by a consumer church

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I understand the graphic. I’m not even sure I disagree with the sentiment it really expresses. However, there is something about it that just didn’t quite sit right with me. Then this past Friday it all became clear to me.

On Friday I woke up grumpy! My grumpy quickly escalated to down right mean. I was so irritated even I was having trouble being around me. Eventually Jenn says ‘you need protein’ – Then that little light bulb over my head went off! I NEEDED protein.

You see, I started a new diet and exercise program on Monday. I was stuffing my self with salads and smoothies and other delicious goodies but not a lot of protein. My body can survive on without a lot of protein but I become less productive and eventually so irritable I am of no use to myself or others.

Several years ago while visiting family in California I discovered this need my body has for protein. It’s just something I had always naturally taken care of in my diet. But while visiting for a week with people who eat very little protein, I discovered just how irritable I become when my dietary needs aren’t met (We now  make sure to eat appropriately when traveling – even if it means Jenn forcing me to eat something when we sneaking away to hit a drive thru).

I think the same is true for my spiritual life. I need to be fed!

And not just any  thing. I can spiritually survive in a situation where I am not being fed, but I become depleted, I become weak and my soul yearns for substance. Eventually, if my needs aren’t being met I become so depleted I am unable to even see the problems or participate in gaining the substance I need. I need the gathering of Christians I attend on Sunday mornings to  notice and help feed me the substance I need.

Does this mean that I believe every service every Sunday will meet my every need? No

Does this mean that my spiritual feeding is the responsibility of someone one beside me? No

Does this relieve me of the responsibility to use my time and talents to help feed others? No

Jesus said to “feed his sheep” and I believe we are all called to feed Jesus’ sheep (i.e. feed each other). We are all called to be ministers of the gospel and use our talents. But just as my physical body needs to be refueled and fed appropriately to complete the tasks and goals I have set; so must my soul be fed to allow me to continue my task and goal of “feeding other  sheep”.

For me, my soul is fed by music and hymns. Because I can not depend on the gathering of Christians I attend on Sunday mornings to feed this need, I, in essence, hit the drive thru before I attend – which means I have hymns on my iPod and I sing along with them as I prepare for service.

I also need to be challenged intellectually. I have recently found this in my Sunday School Class. In this small group the answers are rarely as important as the discussion. Often the unanswered questions raised are the pinnacle of growth for me – as I spend hours or maybe even days wrestling with my thoughts and conclusions. It is those unanswered questions that spur me to engage in research and readings. But I am intellectually challenged to grow.

Additionally, I need to be inspired. I need to hear the word of God. When I get up on Sundays and head out to the gathering of Christians I attend on Sunday mornings I am expectant. I am expecting to be inspired for the coming week; Inspired to want to walk closer with Jesus; Inspired to want to live a more Christian life. And Yes, I do look to the gathering of Christians I attend on Sunday mornings to feed my soul. Because drive thru Christianity is no more nourishing than drive thru supper – You can survive but it’s neither healthy nor nutritious.

What about you? what feeds your soul? What do you need to be spiritually enriched? And most importantly, What are you doing to be assured your needs spiritual needs are being met?

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God, Enoch and Me

…and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. Genesis 5:23-24

Yesterday, I attended the first of a 10-week study on the book Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by Tom Wright (affiliate link). One of the questions posed in the study guide (as an aside I detest study guides, unless they are only used if the discussion gets stuck or no one is participating) was “What stories in the Bible make you think of what it’s like to have a relationship with God?”  (Maybe that really wasn’t exactly the question, but as I learned from Dr. Dibble at Milligan College – If you don’t know the answer to the question asked, answer a similar question where you do know the answer). Immediately I thought of the above passage, ‘Enoch walked with God’.

I’ve always thought that was the Ultimate Relationship to have with God!

I remember when I was a child playing with a friend in the woods near our home. Often we would be having so much fun that when one of us was called to come home, we would ask to bring our friend because we were having so much fun we wanted it to continue. I just imagine this as the relationship Enoch had with God!

You may know that I am walking a 50k this month as a part of my 50k at 50. I’ve found that walking with someone makes the experience so much more enjoyable! The minutes click by the miles seem easy and before you know it, you’re done! I imagine this is what Enoch and God felt as they walked together.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of an over powering, all knowing, ogre of a God.

But that is not what is reflected in this passage between God and Enoch. The God depicted with Enoch appears to be a friend, a buddy! The person you call just to chat. The one who comes to your rescue when you’re stranded on the road or who offers to loan you the money for your dog’s emergency surgery. The relationship shown between God and Enoch is that God would be the first to arrive at your party (to make sure you were ready) and the last to leave (‘cos he was helping you clean up)! And even the guy who ‘calls you out’ when you’re wrong! Who lovingly points out changes you need to make.

When I think about the relationship I want to have with God, I think about Enoch. I think about being out on a walk with God and when it is time for our walk to be over God saying “I’m not ready for the fun to be over, why don’t you come over to my place and hang out?”

What about you? What do you think?


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