Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Ride: Week Three: Going Home

Here's the final video in "The Ride" series. The audio can be heard @ www.lansingfaith.com/messages Thanks again

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Worship Wars...or

How I Unintentionally Became a Contemporary Worshiper

I was raised in a very traditional church. I cut my teeth on the Praise and Worship hymnal. "What A Friend We Have In Jesus" is on page 63 - I don’t have to look it up - we sang it every Wednesday night. My dad loved the Chuck Wagon Gang - had all their albums. I remember going to an early Gaither concert (with Hank and Hazel Slaughter) and coming away thinking it was the best worship service I had ever experienced. I stayed awake through several "All Night Sings" at the Flint IMA auditorium. Thrilled to the tenor reaches of Jake Hess and chilled by the deep, deep bass of J. D. Sumner. I even sang in a traveling Southern Gospel group - a career of exactly one Sunday. I said all that to say this...(classic, traditional preacher line) ... I have deep roots in traditional the (revivalist 1940 to 1965) worship style.
Somewhere along the line, I left the traditional worship camp and became a contemporary worshiper. I didn’t set out to do it. There was no plan. Nor was I taken hostage by Stryper or Petra and forced to listen to drums and guitar in the 110 db + range until I succumbed and let go of my polyester suit jacket and Wildroot hair tonic.
I can, however, point to one watershed moment at our denominational general conference in 2000. Each plenary session included a time of worship in varying styles. One featured our current District Superintendent, Mark Gorveatte on the piano doing a traditional, but very entertaining set. Later there was a group from Australia that was (for its day) very contemporary. I didn’t know the tune. I couldn’t keep up with the words. I didn’t identify with the style. Therefore, I couldn’t worship.
Or, could I? A few rows up and half a section over was a small group of teens and twenties having the time of their lives. Clapping, singing, swaying, hands raised and faces radiant. I worshiped watching them worship.
I’ve shared that story several times over the last seven years as an example of how we can worship even if it isn’t "our style" or more correctly, the way we connect with and experience God. Some discussions this past week have given me an opportunity to ponder that moment and the subsequent changes in my heart and worship once again. And I have made a few new discoveries.
I realized that....
I had to appreciate a different kind of worshiper

Before I could appreciate another kind of worship.

Once I came to love them, I came to love their means of worship.

What is dividing our church is not the style of worship,

But our refusal to love those whose means of encountering Christ
is different than ours.

The Ride: Week Two - The Wall

Here's the Video for Week two of my series of teachings on "The Ride". Enjoy and listen to the message @ www.lansingfaith.org

Monday, October 22, 2007

Scary Moments - Present Peace

October is the month for scary moments. Halloween is next week and that means there should be a Friday the 13th marathon on AMC or TNT coming up. I enjoy a good scare most of the time. One of my favorite stories of our early marriage is how Marcia scared the liver out of me one night when I came home from work. We lived in a trailer at the time - laid out with the master bedroom at the back and a second bedroom and a bath off a long, narrow hallway. As I walked back, thinking Marcia was in the back bedroom, she jumped out of the darkened bath and "booed" me. I fell with my back against the wall and just melted down to the floor. It was a good scare.

Many of you know that we just passed through another scare and this one wasn't so good. Just before Memorial Day, Marcia ended up in ER with an inflamed ankle. They were pretty sure it was cellulitis. Further tests ensued including a CAT scan of her kidneys. The kidneys were clear but they found some cloudiness in her left lung.

More tests.

As we continued pursuing what was going on, it got a bit scary. The doctors were pretty sure it was something called sarcoidosis but they needed to eliminate lung cancer as a possibility. To do so meant doing a lung biopsy which would mean being in the hospital for several days and off work for up to 6 weeks. That right there raised our levels of concern and when they started pushing things ahead very quickly, we got even more concerned.

Marcia had the procedure last Wednesday (which is why there has been a significant hole in my blogosphere). The preliminary diagnosis is that we are in the clear on the cancer issue and it is 99% sure sarcoidosis. It is treatable and, since she is currently symptom free, bears watching and that is all. She is home and recovering fairly well. Her pain is fairly well managed and she is getting stronger everyday.

Through all of this we have experienced what other people of faith often express - there is a wonderful peace - even in the midst of scary times. Two Sundays ago I was scheduled to speak on the place of suffering in the believer’s life. That message was planned long before we knew that three days later, Marcia would be undergoing major surgery. It gave a whole different perspective on the words I spoke, and while some of them were delivered in faith, I believed every one of them. We also sang the Chris Redman song, "Blessed be the Name" which contains the lyric: "Every blessing you pour out, I turn back to praise. When the darkness closes in, Lord, Still I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord"

Thankfully, we will never know how we would have responded had the outcome been different. What we do know is that in the midst of uncertainty, we experience present peace. And still do ... What an amazing gift.

And - thanks to all who have been praying for/with us...it has made all the difference.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Cup of Cold Water

This article was just published in "the Tidings" our district newsletter. (OK, it's not the NY Times - or not even the Lansing State Journal - but it's something). We had several contacts immediately after the event, but not since. I expect it will take doing this a few times to get traction and begin to make a difference.

Faith Church has a reputation around Lansing (Michigan) as being the church that shows the love of Christ in practical ways. Its C.I.A. (Christ In Action) ministry is in the community on a monthly basis doing some random act of kindness. At a recent fireworks display where Faith Church provided 2000 snacks and glowsticks to the kids and six portajohns for the spectators, one man said, “Oh. You’re that church”. These responses have become commonplace as the CIA ministry, begun seven years ago, matures. Started under the leadership of then Community Life Pastor, Jess Allen, CIA seeks to break down artificial barriers between the church and people who, for various reasons, have no interest in what Christ has to offer. In Faith Church’s view, many of those barriers have been constructed by the Church itself. Well intentioned defense of Biblical values has devolved into judgmentalism and bigotry. Rather than creating pathways for persons to find their way to Christ, we have often built defense works to keep out any who would dare question our beliefs and particularly our standards.

Faith Church is committed to breaking down artificial barriers to the Gospel and reaching out to those who reject the Church. So it was, on June 30, 2007 fourteen “C.I.A. operatives” went to the Michigan Pride March at the state capitol. This event drew over 2,000 gays, lesbians and their supporters from around the state of Michigan and the region. It also drew protestors. Several religious groups were there, holding pacards and shouting through bullhorns. One sign proclaimed: “Lies Satan tells us….God loves everyone”.

Then there was Faith Church. Four teams of three following Jesus’ invitation to give “cups of cold water in (his) name”. In this case it was 1,500 bottles of iced water. A few refused our offer when they realized it was a church, but most were extremely grateful and several significant discussions ensued. Many assumed Faith Church to be a gay affirming church because of our approach. Whenever possible, we tried to make clear that we would have some very different views on the issues, but that we realized the other approach wasn’t working. We were there to start a conversation rather than a confrontation. We were able to show the love of Christ and on several occasions express our desire to open a dialoge about the issues facing homosexuals without compromising our stand.
Since the event we have received three phone calls and one letter of appreciation from parade participants; a much higher percentage than usual. I am proud to be part of a church that is willing to get beyond our walls and the artificial barriers that have been built between us and a world who needs to know Jesus.

This is the transcript of one of the phone messages we received....

My name is _____ _______. I’m living in ________________. I was at the rally in Lansing on Saturday…the gay rally. I was so moved by that simple act of you guys giving out water, that last night it just about brought tears to my eyes. I thought, “you know, those are the actions that say more than words.” I really appreciated what you guys did. You’re doing the right thing. You’re doing a great job.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm On Your I-Pod

Or, at least I could be.....Scott, our media tech extraordinaire has hooked us up to be able to pod-cast our sunday teachings. So, go to www.lansingfaith.org/messages and click on the podcast link. There you will find last week's teaching that goes along the the video on the previous post.

Now you can take me along in your pocket....

Maybe not the imagery we want....

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Ride: Training for Life Video

Here's the first video for "the ride" teaching series that begins this Sunday @ FaithChurch. The audio of the teaching will be on www.faithchurch.org sometime next week.

Thanks again to Don Williams for doing a great job pulling this all together.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

solvitur ambulando

"The thing will solve itself as you go on". I love this concept, I just didn’t know it had a fancy Latin name. So often, things that seem to loom as huge problems work themselves out as you go along.

I ran across the Latin for it while reading Wm. Barclay’s commentary on II Timothy 2:14 as part of my spiritual discipline regimen. The verse says, "Remind your people of these things; and charge them before the Lord not to engage in battles of words--a thing of no use at all, and a thing which can only result in the undoing of those who listen to it".

In this morning’s staff meeting we were talking about how we do church and the fact that we do a lot of talking in church. But how much actually gets done? We discuss great principles and ideals, but then ignore them as soon as we walk out the door. One person once related to it by wondering if there wasn’t a large "anti-life-change magnet" installed above the exit doors that took away all the good intentions they had during the church service.

We talk and talk about what is wrong with our world and the other people in it (it is rarely our fault) but do little to change things. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the church was the church outside these walls. If we got out and walked around in the world and see how some of the problems of this world might resolve themselves.

Well, I would love to ramble on more about this, but I have to get this Sunday’s message started and then go to some meetings to discuss policy and then have coffee with friends to talk about some other people in the church.

Or....maybe I’ll take a walk.