Tuesday, May 29, 2012

sermon hecklers

sorry I didn't blog yesterday..hope everyone enjoyed a great Memorial Day and spent some time remembering. Sunday's second service presented a challenge right at the beginning of my sermon. When I began my sermon, I heard someone yell our my name (that's what I heard at least) and so I asked, "Did someone say something?" As I scanned the baptistery side of the congregation, I noticed an elderly gentleman in the lower balcony standing. He was nicely dressed in suit and tie and so I asked, "what was that?" He said something that was not inappropriate (though yelling out during the sermon is not normal by any stretch)..something like "Hear the voice of the Lord" or something like that. When I responded with an "amen brother" or something, I thought we might be done, but then he continued to ramble, and I couldn't really hear exactly what I was saying. Our security guys were moving in his direction, their communication channels buzzing and the young man next to him was tugging at his arm trying to get him to sit down. What passes through the preacher's mind in these split seconds? *Are the people I'm preaching to in danger? *Is this man dangerous? *Is the Holy Spirit trying to say something through him? *Where in my sermon am I at? *Are the security guys going to have to physically remove this man? *Is he troubled or in need? *Is this a visitor? *What would Jesus do? *Please don't allow anything stupid to come out of your mouth? All this is a matter of seconds...so I asked if the man would sit down so we could go on with the sermon. I could see he left...still muttering loud enough for me to hear and know that he wasn't happy. I tried to proceed with the sermon...my only regret is that I didn't stop and pray and just skip the introduction and get right to the text. I could tell the listeners were extremely uncomfortable...so I was trying to gather 1,500 people back into the sermon and away from the man. Come to find out, the grandson of this man led him out and the security guys met up with him in "the well". Unfortunately, the man had come to church drunk, but with a religious background was saying some "holy stuff". So, the family was totally embarrassed and I was hopeful that I had not said something stupid or offensive to their grandfather. Just goes to show you...never know what's going to happen. Not the first time I've been "heckled" during a sermon, but I hope it's the last one for a while.

Monday, May 21, 2012

presidential stance

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since President Obama stated that he was in favor of legal unions (marriage) for homosexual couples. I have hesitated commentary on it because I don't want to appear to be political. So let me give a few caveats before I comment. 1. I am not republican or democrat...I'm Christian. No matter what label I may wear, Lordship of Jesus Christ guides my every thought, move, and motive. 2. Neither democrats or republicans are more Christian than the other. In my lifetime there have been both democrats and republicans as presidents who profess to be Christians, but I have not seen any that have clearly led based on Bible and Jesus principles. 3. I don't think the politics of America will change the world. God is clearly the King of all Kings - so His Kingdom will prevail regardless of kings and kingdoms of this world. They are all subject to HIM. 4. My job scripturally is clear: as much as possible live at peace with all men...and pray for my leaders (even ones I don't agree with). With that said, I must disagree with President Obama and his stance concerning legal unions for homosexual couples. I could make many arguments here, but I will use one. God list homosexuality as a sin (and any theologian that is trying to make the Hebrew and Greek words for homosexuality mean something else are stretching their scholarship to match what they want to believe). This means that homosexuality (like all sins we commit) leads to death and destruction. There is no joy in sin. Sin will always be destructive in our lives. Again, this is God's Word,not mine though I can tell you that in 27 years of ministry I can't remember anyone's sin choices (mine included) turning out good! Sin is harmful and therefore homosexuality is harmful. This means that the most loving thing I can do is to be against homosexuality (like I'm against gossip, lying, murder, drunkeness, pre-marital sex, etc... If God says it is a sin, I'm against it as a God-follower). So how can I be against homosexuality and love people who say they are homosexual? 1. Treat them as you would any other person with general kindness and politeness. 2. Pray for them. 3. Dialogue with them if they are interested. Don't argue. 4. Serve them if you get an opportunity (again, ask God to open a door for this) 5. Tell them the truth when asked. Some useful phrases I've used over the years: "What if I told you God has a better love than you feel you find in a homosexual relationship?" OR "Since the Bible says, homosexuality is a sin, I don't believe He creates people that way, would you be open to conversation about why you think you are?" 6. As a church continue to hold high the standards held in scripture (for eg. we don't allow anyone to serve in our church who is willingly and obstinately pursuing a sinful lifestyle). It is inexcusable for churches to cave to political pressure instead of holding to God's truth. 7. Vote as the Spirit leads you. 8. Be confident that God is right. A time may come when this biblical stance is in the minority, but it will still be the right stance...because it is God's. Don't let polls or public pressure make you afraid. Sinful people have always opposed God.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

San Diego

Sorry I'm just getting to this blog for my faithful readers! It's hard to believe the whirlwind that has been the last couple of days...as soon as church was done Sunday (9 more baptisms by the way) we headed to Baxter's for Mother's Day brunch with my two favorite moms (my wife and my mom)with the boys (their gift to Sara was their presence:-) and then to the airport to head to San Diego for a retreat with our pastoral leadership team. We arrived at around 1:30 a.m. B?N time so we were tired, but we hit it early Monday to begin our annual look and listening to the Spirit concerning the vision statement at Eastview: Fearless Church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresistible. We have had some great prayer time and time in the Word along with sharpening and challenging each other with many thoughts and impressions from Scripture and culture on how to carry out this vision that God has entrusted to Eastview...it has been amazing...it has been overwhelming...it has been inspiring...it has been humbling...What might God do if we faithfully live out the truth of His Word and inspire, invite, and lead others to come along!? Only God knows. Yesterday afternoon, we had a rare opportunity to travel to Northcoast church where Larry Osbourne pastors a church of 8,500. He is understands church leadership at a very high level (author of Sticky Teams - check it out). He graciously gave us 3 hours of his Monday afternoon to talk ministry, church, preaching, outreach, etc... with him. I was moved by his accesibility and sacrifice of time. Why do we regularly take retreats as leaders of the church? Well, it goes back to the illustration I used Sunday. Retreats are the mountain top views of ministry that help us solidify our spiritual bearings. I shared how in many survivor shows as they are navigating the terrain, the adventurers always take advantage of a high place so that they can make out the entire landscape. This view gives them an idea of where to go and where not to go. Their future steps are determined from this height. Leadership retreats are the same way...as leaders we try to catch a glimpse of what the entire Kingdom of God and how the Holy Spirit is leading Eastview as a part of that. Our vision at this level allows us to plan ministry for the upcoming year. Very important stuff and I'm privileged to be a part of it. Pray for God to speak to us as only He can in a variety of ways.

Monday, May 7, 2012

smell of death

Sometimes as a pastor is running around back stage he has a completely different spiritual experience than the congregation. I think, some of this is due to the fact that God is working in the pastor's heart in a different way...moving his spirit by the HOly Spirit...a heightened spiritual awareness. This was my experience yesterday as my day was centered on two main events. Smell number one was due to baptism Sunday. We experienced 49 baptisms in three services after we preached from Genesis and God making "living breathing" beings and how Jesus breaths new life into us spiritually by His Spirit. After a while, as baptisms mount, the baptism ready area gets a distinctly wet smell. There are wet baptismal clothes, wet towels, water all over the floor, my shirt is wet...I'm sure I'm not describing it well, but there is a distinct smell of wetness - and for me this is the smell of death. Baptism is a picture of dying...to our self, to sin, to this world - and yesterday I could smell it. Praise God that since we are buried with Him in baptism, we also raise to new life in Him. Smell number two was due to the flowers on the other side of the stage. You see, the other ministry opportunity for me on Sunday was to conduct a funeral for Richard Gilmore. The visitation was in our auditorium Saturday from 3-7 (aren't you amazed at how our staff gets stuff cleaned up and ready for church on Sunday) and the flowers were stored behind the stage area in the dock (cross side). When I walked back there after baptizing several people, the smell of flowers overwhelmed me. Now, I know the flowers smell good, but when there are so many...it smells like death to me, because this smell only happens at funerals. In fact, it was another distinct smell. Praise God, Richard was a follower of Jesus and is enjoying resurrection today. These two came together yesterday to remind that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" Galatians 2:20 That's the sermon I smelled yesterday and am still catching it's fragrance this morning.