Monday, November 29, 2010

didn't learn this in Bible College

If you were in first service yesterday, I don't need to tell you how different the sermon turned out to be. If you came to second service you had no idea and this blog will be news to you. Before, I go any further, let me assure you that the man involved in this story is at home tonight recuperating and being monitored for blood pressure and other medical indications and is doing "fine". I'm not revealing his name because he is a new member at our church and I don't want to draw undo attention to him. He is "embarrassed and sorry for being a distraction". We assured him that aside from scaring us to death, we are just glad he is o.k. Which leads to what happened.

I was midway through my sermon kind of turned to the right side of the auditorium when I caught a woman motioning frantically in my peripheral to the left and in the front row! She was trying to be discreet, but was obviously panicked. One look at her husband beside her, let me know why! I have seen people pass out and I have seen seizures...this was neither. I saw a middle-aged man slump back in his seat, eyes roll back in his head, very pale coloration and a gasping for breath that can only be described as choking. My honest first thought was I think a man has just had a major stroke or heart attack in the front row. So I reverted to what they taught me to do in my Bible college training - then I remember they never said anything about this!

So, I stopped and said, we obviously have a medical emergency right now, any medical professionals or doctors who can help please come down here and help and someone call 911 for an ambulance. Mind you, a million things are swirling through my mind at this point in a split second: what was I just saying in my sermon, is this guy gonna be all right, do we have the equipment to shock this guy's heart, do we have an emergency plan for something like this, is everyone staring at me right now, what is the best thing I can do as a pastor. After a few seconds I suggested that we all start praying for this man...and I led the congregation in about a five minute prayer (maybe longer or shorter, I don't really know). Everyone was freaked, and the so was I and the only thing i knew to do was we did. I don't know if God did a miracle or not, but I think he did because when we were done praying, the man was talking to the gathering of 25 medical professionals, two of which were doctors (again I'm not sure about this) and there was a medical kit of somekind nearby. I asked the congregation to remain in prayer and in a matter of minutes the man was sitting up, in a wheel chair and out the back of the auditorium to the waiting ambulance. I learned later that we did have a medical emergency plan and that everyone involved acted exactly as they should have with professionalism and compassion. This all took about 12-15 minutes. And now 1300 people are looking at me and I realize that I need to lead us to what's next. There was about 25 minutes left in our service...again many thoughts swirled through my mind: have Matt come and lead some musical worship (but who felt like singing), finish the sermon, dismiss the service, lead into communion, talk about the uncertainty of life, etc... Finally, the Spirit led me to say, "I always pray for God to take out the parts of the sermon that he doesn't want me to say..apparently he didn't like the second half of my sermon." The laughter eased the tension.

I briefly summarized what I was going to say in my sermon and by that time everyone's heartbeats had gotten back to near normal. So we went on with the rest of our service as planned. It was pretty wild. The irony is that by the time people started arriving for our second service around 10:30, the ambulance was gone and the rest of the day went on "as usual". But most of us will not forget that first service for a long time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy Land recap

Numb is the only word I can use to describe how I feel right now. Sitting in JFK airport waiting our flight for Chicago and then home to B/N. I have slept about 3 1/2 hours since Midnight Sunday night (CST also could be midnight Monday morning). I have killed time by reading, writing my sermon for Sunday (got a good one going), and watching that little digital map thing that tracks your progress over the ocean on long flights. Anyway, after having some time to reflect, I'm ready to give my "holy land" awards (if you have never heard of them, don't be alarmed...I just made that up)

Most disappointing: Bethelehem. Sorry to say, but it's a dirty city and not very "o little town..."

Most inspiring: the water at the edge of the Sea of Galilee where tradition holds that Jesus reinstated Peter with the words, "do you love me?" and "feed my sheep?"

Best food: Dried dates are the best I've ever had. Also liked their bread.

Thing Israel could use: A starbucks (but you saw that coming) I'm just saying.

Wasn't expecting: an animal called a hyrex near the caves of En Gedi (mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:7) as unclean (also called "coney" or "rock badger").

Would like to see again: The ruins of Megiddo (King Solomon's stables and King Ahab's tunnel) were unexpected 3,000 year old finds. Masada and Caesarea are runners up.

Preacher Geek award: The museum of the Dead Sea scrolls

Weirdest experience: Floating on the Dead Sea...seriously the salt lifts you out of the water.

Most clarifying: View of the Kidron valley - I have read about it, studied it, preached it and drawn it on the white board, but now I have a mind's picture of what it looks like

Future digs: They are doing some major work on the city of David (original small corner of Jerusalem that David established).

Best thing: coming home to the people I love (this is true of every trip)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holy Land last full day

Today we rose to the typical breakfast (in most hotels breakfast comes with room) of olives, fish, granola, fresh fruits, great fresh bread, lame coffee, figs, dates, honey, egg stuff, cheese, etc... I'm ready for some good ol American cuisine. But that's not what i came for...

Today we hit the shore of Galilee where a chapel commemorates the place where Jesus was reinstated Peter with breakfast of fish and bread on the shore. We prayed together there and it was very moving. Then to the town of Capernaum where Jesus stayed during his three year ministry in Galilee and healed Peter's mother-in-law in his home. We actually saw his first century home - where Jesus was for sure! Capernaum was a crazy cool place, great archeology finds. Then the highlight - we went out on a boat across the Sea of Galilee - more spiritual feelings than you can imagine...great stuff.

Well, tomorrow, we head home. We leave 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to fly 12 hours to arrive in New York at 6:00 a.m. and then we'll fly all day to get home by 9:00 p.m. Long day, then back to Normal

Saturday, November 20, 2010

on the shore of Galilee

I'm sitting on a patio with four pastor friends talking about my church and missing you all...OVERLOOKING THE SEA OF GALILEE! What a surreal experience...again. Today was my favorite day...away from the clutter of the religious clutter and lots of ancient artifacts and archeology. Went to Caesarea - place King Herod built. Where Peter preached to and converted Cornelius (first Gentile convert). Saw the theatre and hippodrome there..awesome. Stood on the floor of the governor's palace (think Pontius Pilate's residence when not in Jerusalem) where Felix (during the life of Paul) was governor and held a trial for Paul. Where Paul appealed to Caesar! Very cool to stand in this biblical place.

Then, we went to Meggido and saw the palace and stables of Solomon (I mean I touched a 1,000 BC horse trough cut out of stone) and his palace with a view to the Galilee mountains and Nazareth. Also went down into an underground tunnel made by king Ahab to access the spring of the city during sieges. Amazing stuff...really humbling.

Finally, we made it to nazareth and the place where Jesus was raised and where the angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus was going to be born! It has a cathedral over the top of mary's supposed house, which is over a crusade church (1100 ad). It may not be her house, but it was a small town (think 500 or less) and we saw remains from that period i may have seen at least a stone that was on the house where mary heard _ "you are highly favored...". That is amazing connections with my christian past.

tomorrow while the people I love are worshiping in normal, I'll be having a worship service on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. God bless.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 million and one tombs

Today we began with a very sobering trip to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There are many Holocaust museums throughout the world, but as you can imgine, they take it more seriously here thant anywhere else! It was unbelievably sad and a story that never gets easy to visualize (with pictures and footage). After this we went to the museum that holds the Dead Sea scrolls found in the 1940's that verified historically, the scriptures we have in our Bible. Very awesome - you know I'm a Bible/preaching geek and so this was incredible historical stuff, very cool to see actual scrolls from the 2nd century BC with my eyes. This is like seeing the Declaration of Indepence in Washington D.C. (which i have and it's cool), but times ten (2,100 plus years versus 250 years)!

The afternoon was hectic making a trip (mostly on foot) to Caiphas' house, a possible "upper room" and King David's tomb. Again, I tend to get excited about the stuff they say, "We are relatively sure" or "we know" as opposed to "this is a possible site..." Well, we ended in the Garden tomb area which is the one most of you have seen pictures of and what you think of as the real tomb of Jesus. Again, there are two of these and both of them are "maybes", but today's was amazingly touching and spiritual. We got to walk into the tomb (it is at least a first century tomb!) and then shared communion together. I reflected how 6,000,000 Jews died senselessly and brought great pain and one Jew died senselessly and brought life to the earth. How 6M Jews died because of the hatred of one man and how ONE MAN died because of the love of the ONE GOD. How 6 million Jews were viewed as worthless and therefore killed and how one Jew was worthy and therefore killed. 6 million died and lost their life. One man died and everyone lives!

This is what I'm pondering as we stay the night in a hotel on the southern end of the Dead Sea.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

14 hour day in Jerusalem

My brain is stuffed with all kinds of historical, biblical, and archelogical information. Started the morning off eating some sort of smoked fish (I'm talking the whole fish! - not something I'd usually do, but I'm in Jerusalem and it's fish Jesus style). We saw a lot of cool stuff (all on foot) starting at the mount of Olives and down through the Kidron valley (my favorite site of the day - just the perspective of a map I've drawn and seen maps of all my life). The pool of Bethesda and the western wall (herod's temple wall from time of Jesus) and the market places. Wasn't really impressed with garden of Gethsemene, church of the Holy Sepulchre (sight of Christ crucifixion) -too commercialized for me. Sang "amazing grace" in a 7th century cathedral as a group - very moving. Tomorrow to the Dead Sea.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Sitting in Jerusalem at a local cafe' with some pastor friends chillin with some coffee and great conversation. coming up on 10:00 p.m. here, but it feels like 3:00 in the afternoon to me and we're not tired. The plane flight was excruciating, very crowded and hard to sleep. Not a fan of EL AL, but I'm not complaining. We are staying in the King Solomon Hotel and Sara and I have a view to the Wall of Old Jerusalem. It's weird to stand and look into the place where King David and Jesus both roamed. And we haven't even walked the roads yet. Tomorrow will be a full day - so hopefully, I'll be right back here tomorrow posting about all I saw. Really do miss you guys and praying for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

going biblical

Well, Sara and I are packed and ready to go to Israel. We will be flying most of the day - first to New York and then to Tel Aviv. Should arrive there tomorrow (evening their time - they are 8 hours ahead of us) morning.

Yesterday, was an incredible resurrection Sunday at church as we came to the empty tomb in our journey through Luke. Celebrated 12 baptisms in both a word "awesome"! Now I get to go to the place where it all began. I get to walk the map that I've drawn so many times on the white board..take a dip in the Dead Sea, walk on the shores of Galilee, view Jersusalem from the Mt. of Olives, and travel up the Jordan valley. It will be a very spiritually rewarding time.

Many have said they will pray for our safety and I'm grateful for that. Also pray that God gives me some real "Holy Spirit" moments together with my wife and pastor friends! He is always at work and I'm looking for him this week - in the Holy Land. I pray you will look for Him this week wherever you are. I'll try to update daily if I can...should have internet access everywhere we go.

Next time you hear from me, I'll be in the land of the Bible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

festival of Trees

Well, this is the week. I usually keep these things kinda low key, because I don't wanna abuse my pastoral role (i.e. I wanna influence people for Jesus and not some event in the community). However, this Thursday night at the gala opening dinner of the annual Festival of Trees I will be the emcee for the evening AND be doing a 7-8 minute comedy routine! Yes, in spite of my sermons, some people think I'm funny! This really cool annual event raises money for an organization called The Baby Fold. They do some really cool work for some kids in tough situations. I know several people who have worked there or still work there and they are very grace-filled and lovingly special people. I'm glad to contribute to that any way that I can.

I hope to be a pastor that is half-way normal and represents Jesus well. I also am pretty comfortable with a microphone being silly in front of a bunch of people :-) I have had a great weekend: great worship on Sunday, cool and diverse people at the cross and step one on Sunday night, and a really great 30 year wedding vow renewal where the family love was absolutely spiritual! Also, next Monday Sara and I are flying to Israel (you'll recall - if you pay attention to these blogs - that I won this free trip in February). Can't wait to walk where Jesus walked and take it all in and be moved in my soul - I'm going to try to blog every day while I'm if you're bored, you can read about my journey. Meanwhile..I'm going to try and be funny on Thursday and inspirational on Sunday!

Here's my tentative set list (you'll have to guess the punch line!)
- Words are my profession: "dough mass", "Moses relieved himself", "...but dust", "cuantos anos tiene"
- questions: "Is is o.k. to have sex and listen to worship music at the same time?" "Will you come and pray for our deceased dog?"
- Texting while driving (eating while driving, spanking your kids while driving)
- Nursery rhymes
- Questions you shouldn't answer: (from parents - Do you think I'm stupid?, from wife - do you think this dress makes me look fat?, etc..)
- If there's time I'll do my "song of solomon" routine about just how beatiful this girl really was!

Monday, November 1, 2010

hour 25

You know the old expression..."there's only 24 hours in a day" is normally quite true. Unless it's the first weekend of November and the annual daylight savings time is taking place. That's's that wonderful time of year when we get to move our clocks back one hour (you're actually supposed to do it at like 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, but I usually set them all back around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, just so I can say, "Hey it's only 6:30") and actually have a 25 hour day!

So this got me thinking. We busy humans are wishing we had more time and this is our yearly big chance. We can do something that we usually wouldn't have time to do, but now we do with the extra hour and all. This may seem like a stupid line of reasoning to you, but since we are supposed to be good stewards of everything God gives us (including our time) we should take this extra hour thing seriously and worshipfully. What to do with this extra hour?
*Extra hour in prayer this week (don' t say you don't have the time)
*Read my Bible for an hour this week (for all those who say they just don't have time)
*Excercise (this is a chance to burn off more calories :-)
*Spend an extra hour with your spouse or kids (family time is always at a premium).
*Serve someone for an hour
*Do a project that you've been putting off
*Stay out later on Friday night with can make it up on Saturday night
*Take an hour walk on the constitution trail and take in the crisp fall air, leaves and scurrying squirrels
*Go to church on Sunday (in a way the service is only fifteen minutes)
*Take an hour nap (we could all use more sleep)

Well, there's a start. Think about extra hour...spend it wisely.