Sunday, December 24, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
These are the Communion Meditations from this Sunday's worship service.
If I did not believe in God, I should still want my doctor, my lawyer, and my banker to do so.
G. K. Chesterton
Speaking about his new movie, Attack of the Clones, Star Wars creator George Lucas described how the young Anakin Skywalker became the evil Darth Vader: He turns into Darth Vader because he gets attached to things. He can't let go of his mother; he can't let go of his girlfriend. He can't let go of things. It makes you greedy. And when you're greedy, you are on the path to the dark side, because you fear you're going to lose things, that you're not going to have the power you need.
The real essence of Christ's Passion consisted in the two things we least like to bear and suffer: fear and disgrace.
Hans Urs von Balthasar in The Grain of Wheat
[My constant sickness] made me study and preach things necessary, and a little stirred up my sluggish heart to speak to sinners with some compassion, as a dying man to dying men.
The Autobiography of Richard Baxter
When I was a child I was, like most children, afraid of things that go bump in the night. But I told myself (for no good reason) that monsters which lie under beds cannot break through blankets and sheets! By the time I was a teenager I wasn't afraid of what might live under my bed, but I was afraid of what my friends might have to say about the way I combed my hair. What do I fear now? I am afraid, to put it simply, of living a life that doesn't matter. I am afraid of leaving the world exactly as I found it, no different for my having been here. What are things which last forever? Justice, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and grace are a few. If I want my life to count, to be significant, then I will try to fill it as much as possible with these attitudes and actions.
Daniel Taylor, Letters to My Children
In reading the Scriptures I find a great moral power. Therein am I made aware of two great forces for good in human experience: the "fear" of God and the "grace" of God. Without the fear of God I should not stop at doing evil; the fear of God restrains from evil. Without the grace of God I should have no desire to approach positive goodness. The one is a deterrent from evil; the other an encouragement to good.
Jim Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Do you need to find the right fruitcake for Christmas? Then check out a blog dedicated to Fruitcake. There you will find reviews and ratings on various types of fruitcakes.
Do you like fruitcake during the Christmas season? Have you ever gotten a fruitcake as a gift (or a Chia-pet for that matter)?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Every Tuesday mornings (except for the first Tuesday of the month) our lead pastor and I meet with our elders at a Starbucks in Cumming. It is a time to do some equipping, encouragement and connecting. We meet at 6:30 am at a Starbucks that opens at 5:30am. When we arrived to the Starbucks, it was closed. Closed? I thought maybe they had some plumbing or electrical issue, but at 7am when a couple employees showed up, they told me that the people who were supposed to open up the store, couldn't make it. The store was closed for a hour and a half, during it's "prime-time"! During the time the elders waited around for each other to arrive, countless people drove up to the store for their morning coffee only to be turned away by a pair of locked doors. I can't imagine the amount of money lost that morning, and especially how many customers walked away disappointed and inconvenienced.
People matter to God: When we don't show up or show up late, we tell the visitor or even church member, that they don't matter, and God doesn't care. But the people that God is bringing to Big Creek do matter to God. People matter to God, and our time and commitment to serve them is a testimony to that truth.We matter to God and to others: Our commitments and serving opportunities are important. We are missed when we don't show up. Our absense won't go unnoticed. It makes a Big difference when we are not there- every person, and every responsibility is an important piece in the life of the church. (1 Cor. 12) And our service isn't meant just to please others, but ultimately we serve - the Lord! (Col. 3) It is Him we are serving and that truth should motivate us to serve with diligence and a cheerful heart.We need to replace ourselves: We must see it as our responsibility to make sure we are training and recruiting others for the responsibilities we have in the church. The question we need to ask ourselves, is there someone who knows what I do? Is there someone who could replace me, if I was unable to be there? Is there someone who could eventually take over my position, if God were to call me to something else .
Monday, December 11, 2006
This article from Mental Floss.com
Back in the day — the 16th and 17th centuries, that is — Christmas was less about goodwill towards men, and more about letting off steam. While there were certainly carols sung, gifts given and feasts consumed, there was also lots of drinking, gambling and promiscuity. Disapproving Puritans pointed to the traditional (and traditionally bawdy) pagan winter celebrations of Saturnalia and Yule, and accused modern revelers of carrying over pagan bad habits. (They also referred to the Christmas celebration as “the trappings of Popery” and “rags of the beast.”)
Such criticism led to the Catholic Church promoting Christmas in a more religiously-oriented way (rather than as an annual safety valve/opportunity for the oppressed underclasses to get their freak on), but that wasn’t enough for Protestants, who banned Christmas in 1647 when Puritan rulers succeeded King Charles I after the English Civil War. Subsequently, furious pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several English cities, including Canterbury, which was controlled by mobs for weeks. (Not as scary as it sounds, perhaps — they mostly just chanted royalist slogans and decorated things with holly.) The Restoration of 1660 ended Puritan rule and the English ban on Christmas.
Puritans in the New World brought their ban with them, so in heavily Puritan Boston Christmas wasn’t celebrated between 1659 and 1681 (though Virginians and New Yorkers kept the party going). After the American Revolution, Christmas was seen as an English tradition and fell out of favor in the states. Meanwhile in England, Christmas seemed to be fading out along with the religious and sectarian tensions that had shaped much of its history.
So what got Christmas going again? While we can’t give Charles Dickens all the credit, the immense popularity of A Christmas Carol had a lot to do with it — on both sides of the Atlantic. The book played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion over communal celebration and hedonistic excess. In the US, short stories by Washington Irving depicting the English celebration of Christmas helped re-popularize it (this from the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!) So this Christmas, raise a glass to Charles (a glass of decidedly non-bawdy, family-oriented drink) and thank him for the day.
These are the Communion Meditations from last Sunday
As soon as you are really alone, you are with God.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
The life of thankfulness-biblically speaking-is lived in view of the hard things of existence. As the life of thanksgiving deepens, we discover that the more mature prayers of thanksgiving are not those offered for the obvious blessings, but those spoken in gratitude for obstacles overcome, for insights gained, for lessons learned, for increased humility, for help received in time of need, for strength to persevere, for opportunities to serve others.
Fleming Rutledge, The Bible and The New York Times
Those people who pray know what most around them either don't know or choose to ignore: centering life in the insatiable demands of the ego is the sure path to doom?.They know that life confined to the self is a prison, a joy-killing, neurosis-producing, disease-fomenting prison.
Eugene Peterson, Earth and Altar: The Community of Prayer in a Self-Bound Society
When Jesus prayed to the one who could save him from death, he did not get that salvation; he got instead the salvation of the world.
You think it is spiritually important to have free time to be alone with God; but I tell you, you will really get closer to him by embracing the Cross in your life, and not always seeking to experience tender moments in the presence of God. When the torrential floods of daily business sweep you away, just let yourself be carried off with no regret. Don't you know you will find God in this torrent, too?
Fenelon, The Seeking Heart
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Here are some interesting parodies that illustrate that point (although these are funny and clever they do tend to reinforce certain stereotypes)
If you want to purchase these video in high quality video formats, you can go to the church website that produced them.
Videos: inspiring, funny, and relevant
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
This was written by a blogger, Becoming Missional, original post found here"I drove by a church parking lot tonite. The sign said First Church Parking Lot - Church Parking Only! In light of God working in me in a missional way, this floored me. Here's a parking lot, off the beaten path, owned by a church for use only for church events.
I am so proud of our church. One the exciting things to see every week are groups from the community have access to our facilities. God has blessed us with some cool digs, and how we came upon is such a big God story - it was all him. There is no excuse to hold the resources that God has entrusted to us, entirely to ourselves. Doing so evokes a country club mentality. Rather our resources should be used to serve and reach out to the community. This isn't always easy. With a lot of different groups coming in, stuff happens. The church gets dirtier quickly. The sound board is never in the same condition when we left it. The worship stage gets disheveled. Some guest doesn't flush the toilet. Stuff happens, it isn't always convenient - but if we are called to be Christ to our community we are going to have to die to convenience.This heart and vision isn't because we lease a building and because we are renters we don't care as much. This same vision bleeds into the heart of the new building we are building. We are not just building a building, we want our new church building to serve the community and to be a staging area for Big Creekers to be equipped and launched out into the community.
Contrast this with Wal-Marts parking rules: overnighters welcome, truckers welcome! So Wal-Mart welcomes while the church turns a need away. I'm certain its this kind of exclusive attitude that has turned not just potential parkers, but many others away from the church. Being missional can be something as simple as making your parking lot available for some in need."
Monday, December 04, 2006
Listen to this quote:"The deepest ache of the soul is the spiritual longing for connection and belonging. No one was created for isolation. 'Nothing in creation is ever totally at home in itself' says John O' Donohue. 'No thing is ultimately at one with itself.' We seek bridges from our isolation through people, possessions and accomplishment. But none of these are ever quite capable of satisfying the restlessness of the human heart. to be human is to have been designed for intimate relationship with Divine. This is why the yearning for connection is spiritual. Our needs for love, connection and surrender form the spiritual core of our personhood."
We can beat the drum all day and night at Big Creek and challenge people to Get Connected! Get Connected! But fundamentally connectedness is a spiritual issue. And as men and women get more connected to their sweet Savior, the more satisfied they will be in their relationships with others. Too often we suggest that if people just get into a small group, for example, that will be the answer. Well, it is "a" answer, it isn't "the" answer. Small Groups are a good step. It can and should be an environment that cultivates intimacy with God. But as Benner says, "intimate relationship with Divine" is what fundamentally we all are longing for, need and will satisfy.
I am seeing, and the leadership at Big Creek would agree, God moving in a special way in people hearts and lives. People are doing business with God. People are on the cusp of becoming followers of Christ, followers of Christ are deepening in a commitment to prayer, worship seems sweeter and more alive, people are experiencing the work of conviction and people are stepping up and serving in new ways. And as God does His work in our lives, and as we allow Him to do so, not only are we growing in our intimacy with our Abba, Daddy, but also with each other.I believe Benner is correct, when he says our connectedness, first starts with God. People at Big Creek will "feel" connected, when they are truly and fundamentally connected with Savior.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. At our home we celebrate Advent by lighting one of the candles, reading some Scripture, singing a hymn and prayer. Also the girls get to open up a small gift at the end. (sometimes you need to use the carrot so that the kids will be engaged during that time).
Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and remember. It is easy for Christmas to become another day that slips by. Advent excites our heart and stirs up reflection. It remembers that for thousands of years, Israel anticipated the coming of a Messiah. Although we now can look in our rearview mirror and know that He has indeed come, we still are called to anticipate. We anticipate a day when He will come again!
Here are a couple of select verses to meditate on for the first week of Advent.
“Time’s coming”—GOD’s Decree—
“when I’ll establish a truly righteous David
A ruler who knows how to rule justly.
He’ll make sure of justice and keep people
In his time Judah will be secure again
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name they’ll give him:
A Child Will Be Born to Us
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
light! Sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence!
The joy of a great celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religions fiction and spine tingling films.
A. W. Tozer; The Incredible Christian
Missionary Oswald Chambers said:
It is the most natural thing in the world to be scared, and the clearest evidence that God's grace is at work in our hearts is when we do not get into panics?.The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.
6 "Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God."
The Voice of God is a friendly Voice. No one need fear to listen to it unless he has already made up his mind to resist it.
A. W. Tozer; The Pursuit of God
Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.