The Lighter Side of FLAME

Do you know what happens when you fall asleep somewhere other than your room at FLAME?  This afternoon I ended up taking a little siesta in the lobby of the Tabor Building — which is where we worship, eat, and have some classes.  As you can tell, I was completely unaware of what was happening.

Live From “The Rock” – Day 1

What a great day today was at FLAME.  Where to begin?  We were up early, long before daylight.  Of course daylight doesn’t arrive till after 7:30.  The fellowship was great all day.  FLAME officially began with chapel this morning.  After a short orientation, we kicked off with a time of singing and worship.  Wow!  Over 100 people crammed into half of the Table Rock gym, accompanied by one acoustic guitar and electric bass and two voices, singing praise to the Almighty — it was very cool.  We have some great professors here and the food is top notch — as always.  One of the cool things is that we have 8 staff helping in the kitchen — many hands do make light work.  I’ve included a few pictures from today and yesterday.  Blessings.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Yesterday, my parents arrived to take care of our children while we are away at FLAME. It was good to spend some time with them.  Mom has transferred some our our old family videos to DVD, so we spent some time looking at those.  It was precious because it showed our children when they were small.  After that, we showed them a couple key locations around town and they took us out for dinner.

This morning started out cool weather wise.  The service this morning was great and there was a great spirit in the service.  Be sure to check out the sermon either in audio, video or text mode.  I will try to get those up later tomorrow.  (The text is already up.)  Let me emphasis a key point of the sermon.  How will history tell your story?  What kind of legacy will you leave?

Live from “The Rock”

This evening around 5:30 we arrived at Table Rock Wesleyan Camp in Pickens, SC.  The drive was uneventful and Pam and I enjoyed the couple hours together alone.  This is a beautiful location for education and worship.  It has been great to catch with our friends.  We set up for worship but had some technical difficulties with the sound and video.  Hopefully those are all worked out.  Be on the look out for more updates from The Rock.  Blessings.

Worship Recap

January 25, 2009
Third Sunday after Epiphany

Welcome
Call to WorshipThe Mission of the Church

Jesus said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth
From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth.

God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?
And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?
And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
And how can they preach unless they are sent?
As it is written,
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Sing to the Lord, all the earth,
Proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
His marvelous deeds among the peoples,
(Unison) For God so loved the world
That he gave his one and only Son,
That whoever believes in him shall not perish
But have eternal life.

Song of WorshipO For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (Wesley/Glaser)
Invocation
Songs of Worship
Our God Reigns (Smith)
Worship through Prayer
Worship Through Giving
Special Music
Songs of Worship
Wonderful Words of Life (Bliss)
Worship through God’s WordFollowing God’s Call [audio] [video]
Song of CommitmentGo! Light Your World (Rice)
Benediction

Following God’s Call

[video] [audio]

It seems like this week has been a week of reflection. As most of you know, I have been blogging for almost three years. What is a blog, you ask? A blog or weblog is a website that allows a person to share thoughts, pictures, videos, or other things. Some use it as a business tool. While others use it for personal thoughts and there are blogs everywhere in-between. My writings range from personal thoughts to devotional thoughts to updates about the ministry. This week of reflection started on Sunday night as I posted my thoughts about the day – which ranged from what happened at church, to the cold weekend, to the Eagles losing to the Cardinals. On Monday morning, I post a video from a song that has been speaking to me lately. The song I posted this week was Nichole Nordeman’s “Legacy.” The lyrics speak to what life really comes down to at the end.

I want to leave a legacy
How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough
To make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering
A child of mercy and grace who
blessed your name unapologetically
And leave that kind of legacy.

This week was a huge week in the life of our country. We inaugurated a new president on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we commemorated the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. There was the annual pro-life march in Washington. These events are now history. These events are now making our history. One of the things that we need to realize is that we are always making history.

During the election, Pam was very sick. When she finally felt a little better, she watched a program on the History Channel about our presidents. Throughout the course of our country’s history we have had notable presidents and presidents who after their presidency, faded into obscurity. What will be the legacy or our current president? It really remains to be seen. I encourage you to pray for him. He has a tough job – he has many critics – he will make unpopular decisions – he is not perfect – who of us is. There are already some decisions he has made that I do not support. As I pray for him and his team, I pray that the right thing will be done, not the right thing for the party or the country, but the right thing in the sight of God. Last week in Sunday School, the key verse was, “O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” That is my prayer for President Obama.

Here’s the point – only history will be able to tell the story or legacy if you will of this White House administration. Will it be a famous story or will it be an infamous story? Only history will tell.

Most of you know the story of Jonah. Here was a prophet of Israel. God came to Jonah and told him to go to the people of Nineveh and tell them that God was bringing His judgment on them. Jonah decided to go the opposite direction. Let’s just say that there was no love lost between Israel and Nineveh. Niveveh was a journey over land. Jonah decided to get into a boat and head for Tarshish, which is somewhere in present day Spain. It wasn’t long before God had a plan to change Jonah’s mind. God sent a terrific storm that threatened to sink the ship. The short story is that Jonah was thrown overboard and the storm calmed. Not too long after that, Jonah was swallowed by a big fish. Jonah was in the belly of the big fish for three days, before crying out to the Lord to save him. When he did, God caused the big fish to vomit Jonah onto dry land. Jonah 3 tells us what happened next.

1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

God was pleased that the people reacted as they reacted and changed what was about to happen – he decided to let them live. Jonah 3:10 tells us:

10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.

Now, you would think that Jonah would be please with this. God had offered Jonah a second chance at life after disobeying a command. The Ninevites were being offered the same second chance. Jonah sat outside the city awaiting the destruction and the destruction never came. He even got mad at God for being a God of compassion. The story of Jonah ends abruptly – Jonah left outside the city after getting a reprimand from God. Jonah could have had a wonderful legacy. In fact, despite the fact that Jonah originally disobeyed God, he could have still turned it around. Unfortunately, Jonah was not able to extend the grace, mercy and compassion that was given to him by God to the people of Nineveh, so he just sulked and had a pity party. This is an example of leaving a legacy that wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Can we find a better example of leaving a legacy? One place that can be found is in Mark 1:14-20:

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

What was the legacy of Jesus? Jesus was preaching God’s Good News. What was that? It was that the time that God had promised was here – the Kingdom of God is near – repent of your sins and believe the Good News!

Jesus was obedient to the Father through the incarnation. Jesus came to give us life when we repent of our sins and we believe the Good News that Jesus came – Jesus died for our sins– Jesus rose to give us victory over our sins – Jesus ascended – and Jesus is coming back again for those who are living the life God has called us to live. It’s interesting – Jesus is the Good News. Jesus left an enduring legacy.

So what about the rest of this passage? Jesus starts calling his disciples. In the culture of the day, each teacher (Jesus was considered a Rabbi, which means teacher) had an inner group of disciples – those who lived, ate, and breathed with their teacher. Jesus is beginning to select men that he will spend the next three years investing, rebuking, and teaching. The purpose of selecting these disciples was so that Jesus’ legacy could be continued. On this particular day, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee. He sees Simon (whom we also know as Peter) and his brother Andrew. He calls out to them to follow. Peter and Andrew were fishermen. They were earthy men. They lived off the sea. They were uneducated men – probably learning the trade from their father. Fishermen probably weren’t high on up on the social ladder of the day – and yet Jesus picks two fishermen to be his disciples and to carry on His legacy. Not only that, but just a little bit down the shore, he picks out two more fishermen – James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Their nicknames were “The Sons of Thunder.” They were loud and boisterous men. They were prone to disagreement. These are the people in whom Jesus entrusted his legacy? The rest of his picks weren’t much better. If we were to look at the disciples one by one, we would see that they were ordinary people like you and me. Here’s the kicker – Jesus called them anyway. Here is where we can find a real contrast between Jonah’s story and his call and the call of the disciples. Jonah was a prophet – he was called by God to speak the word of the Lord. He had already been called and yet when God gave him a specific command he went in the opposite direction.

Then there are the disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, and John. These men were called by Jesus and at least as this scripture records it, they immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. Think about what that means. The only thing these four fishermen knew was fishing. But did you notice how Jesus called them. Jesus said come follow me and I will make you fishers of people. Jesus came down to their level and called them into ministry. Who knows the financial risks that the disciples took to follow Jesus and yet they did. Were the disciples perfect? No the Bible tells us they weren’t. It was only after they were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that God worked in mighty ways through them. They weren’t even perfect then, but these men were willing to be used by God. They were so willing to be used by God that all but two of the twelve disciples died a martyr’s death. Spending time with Jesus had radically transformed them.

Before Jesus left this earth, he gave his disciples some very specific instructions about the legacy they were to live. These instructions come to us this morning.  18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The legacy that Jesus wants us to leave is that of making disciples. It is not our job to simply go out and make converts and then baptize them. That does not end our responsibility – our responsibility continues – we are to teach them to obey (and that involves discipline) all the commands that were given to us by Jesus. The reason we can do that is that Jesus is with us through the power of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were radically transformed at Pentecost. God desires to radically transform our lives as well. We can see that history speaks well of the disciples. Several of them wrote parts of the New Testament and the Good News was shared throughout the Roman Empire. They had a sense of urgency in sharing the Good News. We don’t always share that urgency. I wonder what it was. Paul gives us an idea in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31:

29 But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. 30 Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions. 31 Those who use the things of the world should not become attached to them. For this world as we know it will soon pass away.

Let me put it this way, Paul was encouraging the Corinthians church to focus as much as they could on making disciples, because the time was short. If time was short in the 1st Century, how much shorter is it today? Each believer has been commanded to follow the Great Commission. We are called to be a light to the world that is in the midst of the darkness. We are not called to curse the darkness, but to light a candle. For those of you who are called by God, how will history write your story? Will history be kind to you? Or will history forget about you?

Our challenge today is to go make disciples – go light our world.

Heading to FLAME

In just a little over 24 hours — after our services tomorrow morning, Pam and I will be leaving for Pickens, SC. The home of Table Rock Wesleyan Camp. The camp is located next to beautiful Table Rock State Park. It is arguably one of the most beautiful locations of any of our Wesleyan camps.

In case you are new to Reflections from the Southside, FLAME stands for Fellowship of Leaders Acquiring Ministerial Education. It is sponsored by the Department of Education and the Ministry of The Wesleyan Church. For those who were called into ministry after the traditional college years, it is a great track toward ordination in The Wesleyan Church. Most of my ordination classes were taken through FLAME and now what classes Pam has left will be taken through FLAME.

FLAME has a three guiding principles:

  1. A renewed and refreshed spiritual walk. At FLAME you will experience worship, testimonies, prayer groups and conversations about the call to ministry and your spiritual life.
  2. Making new friends and establishing ministry networks. At FLAME you will meet many new people and will find that you have made some new friends. You will also find that you will learn a great deal from one another about ministry, accountability and life by networking together during and after FLAME.
  3. Top notch practical ministerial preparation.

Pam will be taking classes and I will be leading the music portion of our worship times during our morning chapel.  This is part of investing back into FLAME.  It was a significant part of my ordination journey and I want to make it part of other’s journeys.  There is always work to be done.  With that said,  I am looking forward to seeing all my friends; Wayne, Dave and MaryLou, and others, as well as making many new friends.

I will be taking a break from regular blogging during this next week.  After I write this, I will be prepublishing several regular feature posts.  I love that you can do that.  Other than that, look for “Live from the Rock Updates” beginning tomorrow night.

Weekly Lectionary Reading

heqi_017-mediumThird Sunday after the Epiphany

January 25, 2009

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 62:5-12; I Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.[a] 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” 5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow… 10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.

Here we find Jonah — washed up on the shore — he probably smelled really bad after being in that fish for three days — and God speaks to him again, telling Jonah to go to Nineveh.  God had already told Jonah to go once, but Jonah disobeyed and ran in the opposite direction.  Jonah didn’t want to go, because he disliked the people of Nineveh.  Apparently there was some tension (to put it mildly) between the people of Israel and Nineveh.  What is interesting is that this is one of the few times where a prophet is sent to speak to a foreign people.  Jonah could really be considered the first missionary.  He speaks to the people and the people of Nineveh almost immediately repent — hoping that somehow they will be saved from God’s destruction.

The ironic part of this story is that even though Jonah is a man of God, he despises the fact that the end result was exactly what God intended.  God wanted to see the people of Nineveh turn back to Him.

The gospel writer Mark records these words:

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Here we have Jesus himself preaching the Good News.  Jesus was only one person, so He started calling men to help him.  He calls upon some simple fishermen to help with the task.  What is really interesting here is that Jesus uses their language.  He doesn’t talk over their heads.  He tells them, “Follow me and I will teach you how to fish for people.”  It doesn’t appear that they questioned what Jesus meant by that.  They simply followed.  There is great contrast between Jonah — the reluctant prophet and James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  James and John did not need a storm to follow the call.  They weren’t swallowed by a big fish.  No, they followed right away.

I really believe that when Jesus called James and John, they didn’t understand completely, but they were compelled by Jesus to follow.  They weren’t being called to just get people into the salvation boat, but they were called to follow Jesus and to teach others to follow Jesus.  Being a fisher of people is so much more than getting them saved and dunked (baptism) — it is a life time of training and teaching — teaching that allows us to become like the one who called us in the first place.

God is calling each one of us to be fishers of people — not just bringing them into the boat, because bringing them into the boat is the easy part.  Being a fisher of people means discipling them — teaching them the commandments Jesus taught us.  Can you follow the call of Jesus to be a fisher of people?