We’re going to see our newest grandson, Oliver James Boliba, who was born Monday, April 19. Notice the cheeks. We understand that little Oliver is not sleeping for very long at a time, or at the right time — meaning, at night. So, we may be a bit tired when we return from visiting our daughter, Amy; son-in-law Randy; and, Oliver’s older brother, Wesley. I’ll be checking in here, but will not be preaching this Sunday. I’ll be playing with Oliver and Wesley. And hopefully sleeping some. I’ll let you know.
I’m looking for great Christmas outreach ideas, and if your church has one I would like to hear about it. The only criteria is that the idea has to have worked in a “small” congregation of less than 300 in worship. Leave a comment here, with a brief sketch of your idea — what you did, why you did it, and what results were produced during your Christmas outreach. Leave a link or email address for me to get back in touch with you.
If your idea is chosen, your church’s story might get told in my “Small Church, Big Idea” column in Outreach magazine. Merry Christmas in April!
This is the meditation I am giving at the Community Prayer Breakfast sponsored by our local hospital, Danville Regional Medical Center.
A Story of Prayer and Community
We have gathered here this morning because we believe in two things — the power of prayer and our responsibility to our community. So we have come together to pray for our community, that we can find new ways to deal with old problems, that the promise of Jesus is true when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” — Matthew 5:9
In a day when violence seems unrelenting, and neighborliness is a quaint sentiment, let me tell you a story in which we might find some hope.
Not far from here, just across the North Carolina line, lies the little community of Cedar Grove, North Carolina. Cedar Grove is like many of the small rural communities around here. A changing economy and hard times have reduced the once-thriving crossroads to a couple of churches and a post office.
But Bill King and his wife, Emma, had high hopes for the little bait-and-tackle shop they opened just down the road from the Cedar Grove United Methodist Church. The Kings had to run the drug dealers out of the cinderblock building they bought. But gradually business picked up, and families even brought their kids to the little country store for ice cream on hot summer days.
One hot June day in 2004, an intruder walked into Bill’s store and shot him in the back of the head. Bill died from the gunshot wound, and any sense of security and innocence Cedar Grove might have had disappeared that day.
Outraged, the neighbors demanded that something be done. One suggested to Grace Hackney, pastor at Cedar Grove United Methodist Church, that they offer a reward for the arrest and conviction of the killer. But Grace had a better idea. She suggested they gather in front of Bill and Emma’s store in a prayer vigil for their community. Continue reading “Becoming Peacemakers In An Age of Chaos”
Heaven is going to be filled with people from every nation, tribe, race, and language — shouldn’t we get to know each other now?
What Are All These People Doing In Heaven?
9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” 11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,12saying:
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.
17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Heaven is a Big Place
A man arrived at the gates of Heaven.
St. Peter asked, “Religion?”
The man said, “Methodist.”
St. Peter looked down his list and said,” Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”
Mother’s Day will be here before you know it — May 9, to be exact. I’ve got the perfect gift for you to give away at church, or for that special mother in your own life. My author friend, Joan Wester Anderson, has written a delightful little book about the joys and challenges of motherhood, Moms Go Where Angels Fear to Tread: Adventures in Motherhood.
Joan has written over a dozen books about angels, which is how I got to know her. Earlier this year, I preached a series of sermons on angels, and Joan’s books are just chock full of great, true angel stories. But her book, Moms Go Where Angels Fear To Tread, reflects her own real life experiences as a mother and wife. These funny short stories, and there are 40 of them, cover everything from having a sick husband (men revert to less than children when sick), to taking a class in how to get organized (it didn’t help), to things she wished she’d never said (there’s a list for her husband and kids, too).
Mostly, Joan communicates the joys, minor irritations, and major rewards of being a mom. The mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and even a dad or two in your congregation will get a laugh out of these everyday stories filled with warmth, good humor, and grace. Guideposts is the publisher, and you still have time to order one (or a carton) to give away this Mother’s Day. You can find out more about Joan Wester Anderson at her website, joanwanderson.com, or friend her on Facebook. Happy reading this Mother’s Day!
We often talk about spiritual decisions being either decisions of the heart or of the head, meaning those decisions are either based on feeling or thinking. But when it comes to the decision to follow Jesus, what we’re really talking about is a decision of the feet.
Matthew 4:18-22 is the account of Jesus calling the first disciples — Peter and Andrew, and James and John — two sets of brothers, two families of fishermen. Matthew records the action this way —
“As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” — Matthew 4:18-20 NRSV
The same scene repeats itself with James and John, the Sons of Thunder. “Immediately they left their boat and their father, and followed him.”
Decisions of the heart and head may be internal and individual. But decisions of the feet are public, obvious, and practical. When the Bible says, “They followed him” it literally means they not only felt and thought that Jesus was someone special, but their feet decided to go where Jesus went, and they followed him quickly, immediately, and irrevocably. Decisions of the feet might be what we need more of today.
Feeding the Sheep and Following the Shepherd
Feeding Jesus’ sheep means following Jesus as his disciples. We cannot do one without the other.
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3″I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Continue reading “Sermon: Feeding the Sheep and Following the Shepherd”
Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird’s new book, Viral Churches: Helping Church Planters Become Movement Makers, packs a punch like no other church planting book I’ve read. Stetzer and Bird, both experienced church planters turned missional researchers, deliver compelling examples of real churches engaged in church multiplication strategies. These networks of church planters are reshaping the theology, philosophy, and execution of sustainable church planting in ways not seen since the Baptists and Methodists struck out across America in the 1800’s planting congregations.
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, and Warren Bird, director of the research division of Leadership Network, teamed up to study over 200 church-planting churches, 100-leaders, 45 church planting networks, 84 organic church leaders, 12 church planting experts, 53 colleges and seminaries, 54 doctoral dissertations, 41-journal articles, and 100+ church planting books and manuals — all with the goal of understanding this new surge of church planting multiplication that is sweeping America. Continue reading “Two words about Stetzer and Bird’s new book, Viral Churches: Get It!”
I’m glad Tiger Woods didn’t win the Masters this year. It would have been a great sports headline: “Disgraced Tiger Redeems Himself in Golf’s Classic Tourney.” Actually, the golf commentators had already begun that line of thought. They were treating Tiger’s Masters appearance as if a good showing, or even winning, would redeem Tiger’s reputation.
So I’m glad Tiger didn’t win this year. Normally I’m a Tiger fan, and I did track the Masters and felt a twinge of disappointment especially on Sunday when Tiger played so poorly. But Tiger is never going to redeem himself on the golf course because his golf game was not the problem. His character was. And while we saw a “kinder, gentler” Tiger at the beginning of Masters week, we also saw the frustrated Tiger spew some of his verbal venom when things went wrong again.
Tiger has a long way to go. I for one wish him well. I hope his marriage survives and his family is reunited. But if that happens it won’t be because of what happens on the golf course. It will be because of what happens in his heart. After all, redemption doesn’t come at the Masters; it only comes from the Master. What do you think?
After the resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples, gives them the “peace of God” and sends them on the mission of God.
Beyond The World of Fires
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”