Archive | November, 2014

Who was the most intelligent person who ever lived?

28 Nov

Who would you say was the most intelligent person who ever lived?

einstein-geniusGoogle it and Einstein and Stephen Hawking’s pictures are prevalent.  There’s also Marilyn vos Savant from Parade magazine.  I remember reading her column each week really impressed with how she always figured out reader’s questions.  There were also a few other people I didn’t recognize.  The answer to the question of who is the most intelligent person who ever lived is one we’ll likely never get to.  We all could have our personal opinion.  I thought someone pretty obvious was missing in the Google results.

There was no picture of Jesus.  What do you think?  Should he have been on the list?

I think so.  Here’s why, and it has to do with what we’re going to experience at Faith Church on Sunday.

Advent begins on Sunday!  Advent is a four week period of preparation for Christmas.  We prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate the birth of the King.  And this Advent we’re going to start a series through the Gospel of Luke, which perhaps is the most famous account of the Nativity.  I’m excited about Advent this year because so many people from Faith Church are going to be participating in worship.  Each week one person is going to create a piece of original artwork to illustrate that week’s teaching from Luke.  We’ll also have a different family reading the Advent liturgy and lighting the candles on the Advent Wreath.  Finally on Christmas Eve, we’ll have seven other people each sharing the Nativity story from the viewpoint of one of its main characters.  I’m especially excited to start studying Luke’s Gospel together.

In particular, may this study help you know Jesus better. Luke was writing to Christians. They already knew Jesus, but he wanted them to know Jesus better. Perhaps that describes you too.  Or maybe you’re not a Christian but Jesus interests you. You are welcome to join us in this study!

As we walk through the Gospel of Luke, we are going to hear a lot of Jesus’ words. Tons of his teachings. Sermons, parables, conversations. Luke allows us to hear Jesus, and what you hear will be amazing. Jesus was a genius. The most intelligent man who ever lived, right? We will listen closely to his words. Learn from them. Allow them to change us.

But we will also read about many of works. We will see the miracles, the healings, and of course, most of all, his miraculous birth, death and resurrection. We will not only learn from his words, but we will learn from his works.   Being the most intelligent man who ever lived, he often taught his disciples through his works.

And we won’t stop there. There was more to Jesus than just his words and his works. There was also his way. His way is the pattern of his life. The way he lived. The choices he made. What he did when no one was looking. You have to read between the lines a bit to learn the way of Jesus. You have to think about why he did what he did. He made disciples, for example, but how? What did he do? What was his relationship with God the Father like?  There are so many questions we could ask of him, and we will try to ask as many as possible.

We often think about Jesus as a calm, meek, peaceful guy. We can even get the idea that if he were here today it might be very awkward, or even that we wouldn’t like him.

But if you think that, think again. Remember that the crowds flocked to him by the thousands. It was like Black Friday crowds frenzied to get the best deal at Target, crashing through doors, jumping over people to be first. Except those crowds 2000 years ago weren’t looking for a new TV, they wanted to be close to the guy that everyone was talking about. They wanted to hear the words he said. And when they did, he blew their minds.

He had the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, the genius of Einstein, the vision of Steve Jobs, the humor of Robin Williams, and the love and power of the Holy Spirit running through his veins. That’s the guy we’re going to study. And I can’t wait.

But today, the first day of Advent, we don’t meet Jesus at all. Luke introduces us to another guy.

To prepare read Luke 1:1-25.

Clock, Retreat folder, Envelope – Monday Messy Office Report – 11/24/2014

24 Nov

My office is tidy Friday, mysteriously messy on Monday. Here’s what I found today:

office wall1. A Clock hanging on my wall, with the correct time, ticking.  I didn’t notice it right away.  A clock on the wall is very normal thing, and I suppose it just seemed to be a normal part of the decor.  I unloaded the stuff I brought into the office, put my lunch in the fridge in the kitchen, talked for a few minutes with our secretary, and then got to work.  Once I opened my laptop and waited for it to load, there was silence in my office.  Then surprisingly, a tick-tock, tick-tock.  The ticking of the clock actually surprised me.  I had a clock in my office years ago, but when it died, I never replaced it.  With my phone and my laptop, there is no need. So why is there a clock in my office?  I wonder if someone is trying to send me a message!  I guess I’ll leave it there, unless another room in the church needs a clock.  Let me know!

2. Retreat folder – I know I mentioned retreat stuff last week, but since the actual retreat took place this past weekend, I thought I would mention it again.  I brought a folder of retreat admin docs, notes, and payment info back with me, and I had to close the books on the retreat today.  It was an incredible weekend.  Not only did we have awesome weather, delicious food, and the great facilities and staff of Twin Pines, but we went hiking, played sports, airsoft, a high stakes game of croquet, and a couple rounds of Pirate’s Cove.  Most of all we got to strengthen our bonds as men, and we got to learn more about and practice growing as mighty men of prayer.  There was loads of laughter, intense discussions, even a few tears.  If you know one of the men who went on this powerful weekend, pull them aside and ask about the retreat.  How about you?  When is the last time your learned about prayer?  Read about book about prayer?  We learned much about prayer including hindrances to prayer.  Yes, there are things that can hinder our prayers!  Ask one of the guys to tell you what they are!

3. Envelope from Ethiopian Church – I’ve written about them before, but by my quick research I’ve never written about them. I’m excited that the people that are Faith Church are the kind of people that are much more caring about the Kingdom of God than they are about their church building. In my office was a rent check from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church that worships here on Saturdays mornings.  The Ethiopian Church is the third church that has rented shared space from us in the 12 years that I have been there.  We are glad to partner with them.  They are an Orthodox church which means they have a very liturgical style of worship, including the use of icons, holy items and a large temporary fabric screen that covers the entire front of our worship space.  They use incense in worship, and they often cook food.  Though they meet on Saturday mornings, the smells of their worship linger into Sunday when we arrive.  When I heard a couple weeks ago that they purchased a warehouse nearby and are hoping to convert it to worship space, it was bittersweet news.  Sweet in that it will be wonderful for them to have their own space.  But bitter in that while it is definitely easier for us and them to not have to share, we lose something by not having guests from a different culture regularly in our building.  They many differences in the way they live and worship have at times been an adjustment for us.  Adjustments are sometimes difficult.  But those adjustments, looking back on them, are good. We grow by having to be flexible.  We become deeper people by having our sensibilities tested.  We learn that we are not the center of the universe, that our way of worship is not the only way, nor the best way.  I was so encouraged when people of Faith Church came forward to help the Ethiopian Church with aspects of their new building.  Perhaps we can help more!  And when they move on, we’ll miss them.  We’ll also be looking for ways to partner with other people!

Well…I guess it is time for me to clean up this mess. 

That time I accidentally said “fart” in my State of Faith Church sermon…and some other things as well

20 Nov

As I mentioned last week, this past Sunday I gave my State of the Church address.  As you’ll read below I talked about discipleship and simplicity, but also farts.  Yeah, you read that title right.  Farts.  But I didn’t talk about it on purpose.  Fast forward to minute 19:00, and listen in from there.  Right in the middle of a discussion of discipleship, I let it slip…  Let the hilarity ensue. If only you could have seen how many people were snickering, smiling from ear to ear, red-faced and shaking. It was crazy! Oops

And now back to the State of the Church.  I did say “fart” and a bunch of other things too!

I started by mentioning our church mission statement: Loving God, Loving People, and how we express that four ways: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship and Outreach.

Notice the logical flow in them? Most people make their point of first contact with the family of Faith Church through worship on Sunday morning. Doesn’t have to be that way, but it usually is. And we would be remiss if all people did was enter our doors, sit in a pew and worship. Instead we desire them to go deeper, to become a part of the family. That requires the next step, Fellowship.   We want to see people build loving relationships in the church. That will happen primarily through Care Groups. But Jesus calls us to go deeper yet, to answer the call to discipleship. That means studying the Bible and learning how to implement it in all parts of our lives. When the Discipleship Commission asks “what does it mean to be a disciple-making church” we’re talking about this. Finally, disciples will want to serve, to reach out, to make more disciples.

Where are you on the four steps? We want to see you progress, grow, mature, moving from a worshipper to a disciple who is reaching out.

I also talked about a couple of our Core Values that we need to focus on: intentional simplicity and passionate spirituality. We need to be a church that practices “less is more” philosophy.  In our society “more is more”.  But maybe there is a scary downside to “more is more” philosophy.  What do you think?  Could it be better to focus on doing a few things well?

What should it look like for Faith Church to simplify?  Feel free to share your thoughts!



Kenya, Men’s Retreat, Congregational Meeting – Monday Messy Office Report – 11/17/14

17 Nov

My office is tidy Friday, mysteriously messy Monday.  Here’s why:

Kijabe-Kenya11. Kenya trip stuff – I am super excited about this.  A group from Faith Church is planning on to take a 10-day trip in July/August 2015 to visit our Faith Church family members, Lamar, Janice & Donovan Stoltzfus, serving at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya!  Yesterday, after the events of the day which I’ll talk about below, we had a Skype info meeting with them, and it was great.  In my office I have the cables and camera we use to facilitate the call.  I also have a few leftover applications, which are due by January 1st, with a $250 deposit.  I want to thank Verna Miller at MTS Travel for all her assistance with reserving our air passage.  Most of all I want to thank Alyssa Stoltzfus who took a break from college to spend the afternoon with us and help answer questions, and I want to thank Lamar & Janice for a great call.  We love you guys!  And from what they shared, we are going to have a wonderful trip.  There is opportunity to serve at a displaced persons camp, at a church in the camp, certainly on the campus of RVA, and lots more.

2. Men’s Retreat registrations – I am also excited about our fourth annual men’s retreat going on at Twin Pines Camp this coming weekend.  We have a great group going along, and we’re excited to have Sandy Good of Live 10:27 Ministries as our speaker.  He is hilarious and has deep teachings.  The theme is Mighty Men of Prayer.  I can’t believe I’m saying all this nice stuff…he’s also my father-in-law.  There’s still room if anyone would like to join us!  Contact me, and I’ll send you a brochure.  We’re going to have a blast.  And Twin Pines is such an amazing place. We’ll have great food, lots of outdoor fun, sports, and great discussions.

3. Congregational Meeting stuff – We had our annual congregational meeting yesterday, and it was great!  We had an election of our very first Leadership Team.  Faith Church has been working on a governance change for years, and earlier this year we voted it in place.  A six-month transition took place, and on January 1, 2015, the new governance system, including the Leadership Team, will begin.  Basically we sought out biblical principles to guide us in creating a governance structure.  The Bible is wisely very flexible in that regard, but one clear principle emerged as it relates to who should be a leader.  That principle is that the most spiritually mature should lead the church.  So we implemented a process to select leaders by virtue of spiritual maturity, and God provided!  Congrats to all who were selected.  I’m excited about working with you, excited to see what God will do in and through Faith Church!

Now to clean up this mess!

The State of Faith Church

14 Nov

state of the church 2014This coming Sunday I give my next State of the Church sermon.  I am excited about 2014, and equally so about 2015!

2014 has been a wonderful year. We have seen attendance increase and giving keep pace with the budget, but numbers don’t always tell us about health. A church might actually get healthier by becoming smaller. And a church might actually grow larger while becoming less healthy. Bigger does not always equal better.

What I love is that Faith Church is getting healthier and healthier. This Sunday I want to look at ways that we have gotten healthier and ways we can get healthier yet!

Areas of health are often hard to see. I think that’s why we love numbers. Numbers are easy to see. Year over year we can talk very specifically about how many people are coming, or how our giving is doing. But what does a healthy church look like?  Bigger is better?

Last week our conference minister Gordy Lewis was with us, and after worship he and I were talking. He made the comment that it was very evident to him that Faith Church is reaching out. He went on to describe how an unhealthy church looks inward, while a healthy church looks outward.

So are we a healthy church? I think we’re getting healthier and healthier! What is healthy? A healthy church focuses, like Gordy said, outwardly on the mission of God.

Our desires for Faith Church should be that Faith Church is a church that is on the Mission of God. Jesus talked about that mission in a couple ways. One way was when he was asked what the greatest commandment of God is. Remember what he said? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and he also mentioned the second. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the foundation on which Faith Church based on Our Mission: Loving God, Loving People and we accomplish that mission through four main areas. I want to look at each one. Each are incredibly important.

Join us Sunday morning to learn more!

Crumbs, Lists, Notes, and more – Monday Messy Office Report 11/10/14

10 Nov

My Friday tidy office is mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. Crumbs and other telltale signs that people were here.  Brownie crumbs on the counter, leftover from the brownies served during coffee break yesterday.  A scribble page (which we keep in our sanctuary pews for kids) with lots of scribble on it.  You know the kind of scribbles you make when a pen is not working and you’re trying to get the ink flowing again?  There was also something missing from my office.  When I walked into my office to gather up my laptop and coat on the way out the door after worship and classes yesterday, my phone was gone.  It wasn’t the first time that has happened, so while it is initially startling to see that it is gone, I remembered the previous occurrences and wasn’t worried.  All these pieces of evidence, the crumbs, scribbles, and missing phone, all point to one group of people.  My kids.  I’m glad that my office becomes their hangout after church, and I’m even glad to clean up after them, though it would be nice for them to learn to take care of that themselves!  That will be a talk for another day.

2. Notes and things.  All manner of notes were in my office today.  One is from a faithful volunteer who was giving me a record of the visits that made the previous month.  I am super-thankful for the people in our congregation who visit others, especially the hospitalized and homebound.  Faith Church is medium-size, and though not large, it is not sustainable to think that I, the pastor, could visit all our people on a regular basis.  There was also in my office a check, paying to reimburse the church for a book that one of our classes is studying. This is one of two months throughout the year that we pause our regular classes and offer month-long electives.  One of the those electives is studying a book on marriage, another a book on being a mentor-leader, and a third is a class about relationships.  The classes have been wonderful!  I also found a recommendation form for one of our congregation who is going back to school.  You might not realize it but pastors are often called up to make recommendations.  I have done so for high school students doing class projects, getting their Eagle scouts, for people applying for jobs, for school and for other organizations.  It is a pleasure to support our people that way!

lists3. Lists.  I knew these were here, but I thought I would tell you about them anyway.  One is a list of leaders from the church who have responded to say they are coming to a leader’s drop-in that we’re having next month.  The next is a list of ministerium members who are coming to next month’s ministerium meeting at a local restaurant (who needs a count).  There is also a list of men coming on our Men’s Retreat at Twin Pines in a couple weeks.  And finally some Advent lists, as the joyous Season of Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  This year we not only have a list of people that lighting the Advent Wreath each Sunday, but we also have a list of people that are creating original art for each week using our art panels.  Then we also have a list of people that are speaking at our Christmas Eve service.  For years we did this on Good Friday, often using the Seven Last Sayings of Christ on the Cross.  But since we have started participating in the ministerium’s Community Good Friday service, we were missing the opportunity of hearing from our own people.  Christmas Eve became the perfect spot for this, and on that night each speaker will give a mini-sermon from the vantage point of one of the main characters of the Nativity Story.  I can’t wait!

And for those of you who are list-makers, I thought this article was helpful.

Well, now it’s time to clean up this mess!

How to submit to leaders and not hate it – 1st Corinthians 16:5-24, Part Two

5 Nov

In this final section of 1st Corinthians, Paul mentions a bunch of leaders that were familiar to the church in the city of Corinth.  At one point, he urges the church to submit to it’s leaders.  Submit is such an ugly word.  It has definitely been abused by many leaders.  As a leader in a church I can hardly stomach hearing those words on my lips.  “Submit, you peons!”  It’s so brutal.  obey

I know that it is much easy to submit to leaders who are awesome leaders.  Paul describes the leaders that way. They were mature, faithful, caring leaders, and as such, the people should submit.  I don’t know that good leaders will make it easy to submit for all followers.  Some of us just have a hard time submitting to anyone.  I think Paul is saying that it is possible to submit to leaders and not hate it.

What does it look like to submit to leaders?  Here are some thoughts.

Pray for them! Regularly. Make it a part of your daily practice to pray for the leaders in your church. Pray that they will be able to depend on the Spirit’s power to serve as leaders, that they will have wisdom and guidance.

Submit to their decisions, even when you disagree. It is possible to disagree with leadership and still humbly submit and follow their lead.

Talk with them about your concerns. It is possible to present ourselves when we are concerned and disagree with leaders, in a loving way.

What do we do when we disagree and are concerned about a decision that our voted on leadership has decided on?

First, we need to ask ourselves humbly and honestly (and we need to get wise mature people to evaluate us in this as well): Are we being influenced by consumer culture? Consumer culture is the water we swim in. We get to consume, we get to have choices about what we consume. We don’t like one brand, we go with one of the 15 other brands. We do that for everything. We have learned a sense of entitlement that has us thinking that we deserve choices. And it is our right, and what is best for us, when we don’t like what we get, that we can make another choice. The same goes for churches

But what about learning to submit to leaders, and allowing them to fulfill their God-given role of leading? Even when we don’t like how they are leading? Even when we disagree? Yes, it is possible!  Maybe we just need to try.