Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Daydreams, Bread, and Boats.

One of my favorite movies has a character reciting three words, and the other actor comes along and says, “I love this kind of riddle.” These three words may seem like a riddle to you today, but all riddles become clear with context.

Daydreams are often underrated. I wish I still had more time to daydream. Although I am sure my college and seminary professors were not always so happy that I was daydreaming. There was just something about daydreaming that allowed me to enter an alternate universe. I could envision my world; however, I wanted to think about what new thing God had in store for my life. The funny thing is, most of the detail of my daydreams never turned out the way I had anticipated. Never would I have expected to meet my wife through a blind date. Never would I have expected her mom to be in one of my seminary classes a few years earlier. Never would I have expected to have my son born a month before my first anniversary. Never would I have expected to be a youth pastor, and to be in ministry in St. Louis.

Daydreams are rarely true, but they also distract us from what is going on in our daily lives. But it is more than daydreams that our minds can be in so many places rather than being engaged with what is in front of us. One word in a conversation can trigger something else in our minds. It can bring about a worry, or something else that we are hoping will happen. All it takes is one phone call to remind us of something we forgot about, and distract us from our current thoughts.

The disciples were on a path to follow Jesus. The days were long and they were probably tired. Jesus sent them in a boat to get some rest. But then a storm developed, and they panicked! The Savior of the world just sent them on a boat to get some “R and R”, and they were panicking about the storm. Scripture says they were focused on the loaves and their hearts were hardened. They still couldn’t figure out how and why Jesus fed the five thousand.

These men, although walking with Jesus everyday, had hardened their hearts because of a miracle?

Before we are quick to judge, how many things distract us from what God will do in our lives? It is easy for us to look around and wonder why God gave this to that person, or why we are struggling with that. Often I have looked at friends who seemed to have no struggles and wonder, “Why me, God?” We can have that same mentality as a church.  We wonder why that church down the street has so many members, or why people can’t see who we really are.

This week in worship we will talk about eliminating “the loaves” that cause us to daydream and lose our focus on our Savior walking toward us. The devil can use all kinds of things to distract us from the focus Jesus wants us to have and we can miss the boat!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Can I Help You??

Becoming one in Christ!
 I love to cook.   It all started back in Chattanooga. My mom would tell you that growing up I absolutely had no interest in helping her cook. My mom made great things--from her cream tacos to her spaghetti sauce to her homemade bbq sauce.  I loved to eat them all, but I had no interest in helping her prepare them. Even with the wide variety of stuff she made, I found no real creativity to it. It was just putting things in a dish, and doing something that was a means to an end.

I lived in Chattanooga when I met Tex. Tex and Kim were true southern people. They may not have been from the south, but they definitely practiced southern hospitality, and would welcome you right into their home. I remember the day Tex called me. Kim was out of town, and he just wanted someone to hang with. I was on my internship and he knew I was poor. I was greeted at the door with his freshly brewed IPA. I really had no clue what this was, but soon fell in love with its hoppy flavor. He took me into the kitchen where he was marinating some wings. But these were not just wings in a generic hot sauce; they were wings with garlic, sesame seed sauce, beer, and so much more. I remember asking what was in the marinade; he said he wasn’t even sure. I asked, “How can you not know what is in the marinade?” He answered, “Will, cooking is just getting to know the ingredients and how to blend them.” I was baffled. Then he proceeded to head over and make some homemade bleu cheese. I watched with amazement, and soon I had fallen in love with cooking. Now it had become something creative, and I was interested!

When I cook I am transported into a different world. It is often my way to just free up my mind or relax for the time being. I begin to focus on making the best possible thing I can, and encourage my family to try different things. The problem is, sometimes I take on too much, or have a challenge sharing the kitchen. Recently, when some friends were in town, they mentioned that maybe next year we should do something different from having the meal at my house, because they missed spending time with me while I was cooking. That made me realize I can be a kitchen hog.

My boys often push chairs up to the counter to help me cook. This is one of my most challenging moments. I am doing something I love to do that allows me to chill out, and they are coming into my territory wanting to help. I mean, come on, it’s challenging to give the almost two and four year old little persons a job!

For years the church put an age limit on who could help in the church. I am not so sure they intentionally thought teenagers were not good helpers at ushering, reading or other jobs. I just think we get territorial. We try and hold onto the service areas we love. Plus, it takes so much more energy to train someone else to do what we could do ourselves. God uniquely places people who have different gifts in a church so they can function together to love and care for the people of Christ in the best way possible. The problem is that sometimes our sinful, selfish sides intrude, and we want to do our own thing, or we don’t see how the church could use our gifts in a certain area.
VBS will soon be upon us. We will have about one hundred children on our campus. That means we could impact at least two hundred families next week. Every child on our campus will be connected to at least two families.  What could you do to help Mt. Calvary bless more families? If you are in the blog world, maybe you could send a child here. If you are already a member of Mt. Calvary how can you help? We have a couple who just signed up to be greeters on Monday and Tuesday.

The reason I love cooking is that when different ingredients are mixed together, they become an awesome dish. One dish I made lately was fresh green beans, with cashews, and bleu cheese. I have to admit the first time I ever saw that dish I was skeptical, but it is delicious! God uses unique personalities and creativity to make one wonderful congregation. I have seen many come to faith when they served Jesus with their unique gifts and saw how God works.

God has blessed you uniquely. What are your special gifts?   Warm personality, detail oriented, internet designer, child caregiver, usher ;)

This week we talk about the Body of Christ being one. The amazing thing about Jesus is that He takes the most strained relationships and heals us through Forgiveness and Love. I will share one of those stories this weekend. He has unique plans for you and can bless so many through your gifts. The question is what will you do?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It Will Change Your Life!

One of my favorite sayings is “It will change your life.” I am reminded of one of my friends, TVB, who used to say this all the time. This thought went along with things in life you couldn’t miss. I was always looking for new food, new music, or new ideas that I felt would change my life.

We have grown more skeptical as an economy because of the claims people make that do not come true. More than ever businesses have to prove that they can deliver what they say they will. And we expect to have lasting products that can do amazing things.

One of my favorite commercials right now is the one with a sales lady trying to sell a car with the extended, extended warranty. She is explaining to potential buyers that her car brand doesn’t need all the extra features that a competitor offered, because her brand had great warranties. Commercial after commercial shows how a particular company has a product that is guaranteed, whether the discussion is about mortgage rates, financial stability in retirement, or a cell phone plan that will not have any dropped calls. Can you believe that one phone company is really trying to attempt to promise that one hundred percent of their calls will not be dropped?

I remember the first time I got a popular new–type sketching toy.  In the TV commercials, I saw all the cool kids drawing various pictures and making them move. It was like an animated flip book. I opened it up one Christmas and was pumped until I started playing with it. I found that this did not make my artistic skills any better, and I wanted a refund that was guaranteed.

I love Costco and find myself learning how to buy things there. At first you can be so overwhelmed and start buying all these things that you think you will use, and discover later that there is no way you can use all of this stuff. But after you understand the system, it is great. I once bought a tub of bleu cheese that went bad. I was disappointed at that, thinking it shouldn’t spoil before the expiration date. But the other day I saw this huge tub of Parmesan and decided to buy it. I asked the guy if he thought it would spoil, he told me to bring it back if it does, and the store will give you a refund--guaranteed. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  He said, ”Nope.”  “Well, I thought, that rocks!”

We love guarantees that help stabilize our lives. Because we live in a world of sin we have way too much stuff that breaks, and stuff we need to fix. Yet few guarantees in life really hold their weight. Even as great as the Parm from Costco is, it will not make it forever. There is only one guarantee that lasts forever.

I‘ve got to tell you, watching those kids come to soccer camp was such a blessing. One little kid said, “I love soccer camp, it is like a church camp and sports camp combined.”

You see those kids who have dreams of becoming soccer players who will one day play in the Olympics, or at a professional level; unfortunately that guarantee is very low. Yet, the reality is that they develop some great soccer skills and meet some cool high schoolers.  But best of all, they learn of the gift of the guarantee that will last forever. You should have seen the characters that visited them everyday talking about their eternal guarantee. The kids come in with dreams of soccer and leave with our “wonderific” Jesus guarantee.

This week we will talk about this guy named John the Baptist. He got the job of preceding and proclaiming the Savior of the world. One would think a guy like that would be guaranteed a protected life. Not the case.  John the Baptist faced all kinds of challenges. This week we will discuss the guarantees in which we put our trust, and talk about the story of a man who was unusual enough, according to world standards, to do the opposite.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


This week I end my wedding season with my sister’s wedding. This is the third week in a row I have done weddings. I pray this is where Mt. Calvary heads in the future with lots of weddings for young adults. Regardless, I have been thinking about weddings a lot.

My time in ministry has allowed me to experience a lot of weddings. My first church was known for its beautiful architecture; therefore we saw a lot of weddings performed in our facility. Every time a new couple came to my door it was a new story and a unique blend of two lives. I love to ask how they got engaged. Some are proud of the story and some have a hard time admitting how they proposed.  I follow up by asking about their favorite date. At this point, the stories are all over the board and truly show who the couple is.

Maranda is my youngest sister, I have watched her grow up. I have seen her mature into the woman she is today. She met a wonderful man who is going to bless her life. My sister is full of joy and excitement and can’t wait for this wonderful day. Everything is paid for, guests are coming, her brother and step-dad are tag teaming the ceremony, her tribe of nephews are ring bearers, and her dress is perfect. They just bought a new house and have been figuring out the details for that. 

There is very little to worry about except maybe my son, Jacob, thinking he is actually a real Bear. He asked Mindy if he got to roar at Maranda. Negating that all is good!   A remote chance of  uncertainty still exists:  that her bridesmaids will make it to the ceremony on time with their kids; as well as her brother, who lives in St. Louis, with his three kids. So, there still is some stress.

One reason I love to draw the couple back to where they started is because it was the natural feeling of love that drew them together—the dates, the talking, the hanging out, and the engagements—all promoting that mushy, gushy, lovey, dovey feeling. But when they leave that altar, life begins to tug them back into selfish behaviors, and at times, away from one another. It is so easy when life is difficult, to forget those beginning moments that made them treasure one another.

Christ compares himself to the groom and the Church as His bride. At first this analogy can seem odd, but in the middle of wedding season I remember why it is so real. When you first experience the love of Jesus, who died for you, it is unreal. Even if you have known it your whole life, there are times the feeling just overwhelms you. Yet, it is never easy.

Last week in worship I reminded you of the home and hope we have in Jesus, and to keep that hope and home the central focus. I talked about how it should be our security, yet even two days later we are probably finding how we are so reliant on earthly things.

In my small group Bible study we are reading the Screwtape Letters.  It is a reminder of how the devil uses the distractions of life to pull us away from our daily drive with Jesus. The book suggests how demons are doing the simplest of things to distract us from anything faith building or edifying in our relationship with Jesus our Bridegroom.

I love talking to Christian couples who have been married for over twenty-five years. So often they light up--still talking about one another. But it’s not anything they used to think was great about one another, like dates, proposals, kisses or so on. No, they light up talking about things that probably used to make them upset or frustrated. Now they appreciate their spouse’s uniqueness.

In Chattanooga they have a wonderful tradition:  men call their wives “My bride.”  It is like they never want to forget the moment the bride embraced their relationship and told the groom they want to be in love forever.

I can imagine this is how Jesus feels about us. He will never forget the moment you became a part of His family. The moment we quit fighting it and just let Him love us, day in and day out. The fight to trust His love can be so challenging, but what a beautiful picture of Jesus still calling us His bride.

I love when brides say they are all good with the marriage vows in the Bible, except that whole submission thing. I always say, “Hmmm, well can I ask you something?” They usually oblige. And then I tell them this, “What if you came home one day and you found your husband on his knees praying for your kids, praying for your home, and then praying that God would allow him to love his wife with all of his heart. That he may never waiver and pour his life into her? Would you submit to that kind of man?”

I pray that in this wedding season you turn to Jesus who loves you so much that He is not just on his knees praying for you, but that He died and rose again for you.

Ephesians 5:22-33
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.