Chili Cook-off

The fact that it turned cold today was a blessing considering that we had a great chili cook-off this evening (pictures) This is an annual event for our church.  There are usually close to 8 contestants each year.  This was a great year in that there was some serious competition.  What a great time of fellowship we had, including a little spur of the moment jam session.  I played both my bass and my guitar (not at the same time — I’m not that talented.  I’m lucky I can play and sing at the same time.)  Congratulations to the winners.

As we speak, we are under a Winter Storm Watch for tomorrow afternoon through Monday morning.  Should be interesting.  They are calling for 3 to 5 inches.  If so, it will be the biggest snow since we have moved here.  Stay tuned for more details.

February Holiness Quote

“All of are aware of the importance of personal holiness which impacts our lifestyle. We are perhaps somewhat less aware of what John Wesley labeled “social holiness”, that is , the impact of the chruch on contemporary holiness: when a church-in solidarity-shares a common sense of elevated righteousness.”             Jim Garlow

New Glasses

Yesterday I got a call that my new glasses were in.  Because I’m getting older, I now need bi-focals.  It was really interesting.  We were at Wal-mart and I began looking around seeing what I’ve been missing, like really small print.  It’s nice to look at the computer without squinting.

However, bi-focals take some getting use to.  If you have them, you know what I mean.  I talked with others and they said the same thing.  I just need to be careful until I get used to them.

I continue to ask for your prayers as I head for eye surgery on Tuesday.  Being that my vision cleared up that much with new glasses, I really can’t wait now to have that cataract removed and my vision get back to normal.  Blessings…

Weekly Lectionary Reading

cross-trainingFirst Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2009

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22;    Mark 1:9-15

I normally don’t have a theme or series for these weekly devotionals.  The theme for the next several weeks, during the season of Lent is Cross Training. It was inspired by a sign I saw as Pam and I were taking students home last year.  The sign read, “Lent is Spring Training for Christians.”  If it already hasn’t happened, it soon will.  Baseball players will be making their way to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training.  Why spring training?  They have to get their bodies back in shape for a full season of baseball.  It’s been almost five months for most players since they last played, so they take the month of March to condition their bodies to play baseball.

If training is needed for our physcial bodies, how much more is it needed for our spiritual souls.  Paul writes:

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

Training is important and so for the weeks of Lent, we will take a look at training our spiritual lives to run the race that Jesus has called us to.

I’ll be expanding these thoughts for Sunday morning’s message as we prepare to take communion.  Several weeks ago, we studied Noah and we discovered that Noah was a righteous man.  He was the only one found righteous.  God commanded Noah to build a boat with his three sons.  The boat was 450 feet long, 150 feet high and 75 feet wide.  That’s a big boat! Especially considering that there were only four builders.  When the boat was finished, they gathered the animals God sent them and put them in the ark.  Then God released the boundaries that were set in place at creation.  The flood was literally an uncreation.  God destroyed everything except what was safe in the ark.  While it rained for 40 days and nights, the actual time they spent on the boat with the animals was a little over a year.  Can you imagine being in a big barn and taking care of all those animals for a year with only eight people?  Finally the floods receded and Noah and his family emerged out of the ark.

God made a covenant with Noah that he would never destroy the earth like that again and place a rainbow in the sky to seal that covenant.  David writes:

1 O Lord, I give my life to you.
2 I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
3 No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

4 Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
6 Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
which you have shown from long ages past.
7 Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
for you are merciful, O Lord.

8 The Lord is good and does what is right;
he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

This is the thought that I want to leave with you this morning.  As we begin our journey to the cross, we remember that God leads those who obey his commands and keep his commands with faithfulness.  One of the ways that we do this is through communion.  Our fellowship will be receiving communion this Sunday and it is a great reminder that we are to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

What is True Worship? — Part 2

The next step in worship is seeing God for who He really is —  we realize that we are sinners and need a change in our lives. Isaiah 6: 5-7

Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

During worship, we see a reflection of who God is, and because of that we who we really are (sinners in need of cleansing). None of us are perfect and we need to be transformed and to deepen our relationship with God.  Isaiah was confronted with this standing in the throne room the Almighty.  When Isaiah saw God’s holiness reflected on his life, he realized that he was a sinner and so were those people he served.  When he saw that he realized that without God’s cleansing, he was doomed.  He also realized the need of the people to be cleansed.

It is hard to think of ourselves as being sinners.  It is hard to think of our own mortality.  It is also hard to think about our need for change.  Yesterday, we commemorated Ash Wednesday.  During Mosaic last night, we touched on the topic of our sinfulness.  At the end of the service, Dale asked the students who would like to be forgiven of their sins.  Several raised their hands.  It was a powerful moment.  When Isaiah’s lips were cleansed in the temple – it was a powerful moment – it was the beginning of a change.  When we are worshiping in spirit and in truth, change happens.

Wednesday Night Mosaic Update

Spring is Back

Today the warm weather returned to the Southside, even if it is only for a few days.  It was nice to walk around without a jacket.  Sooner or later it will be hotter than we can stand.

Preparation Day

I spend most of the day in preparation for tonight and for Sunday.  It was tough because I was looking to make tonight’s student ministry meaningful (especially in light of Ash Wednesday) and yet I knew our group sometimes has difficulty with these kinds of events.  We moved Mosaic upstairs (sound and video).

Good Problems

We also had to solve some transportation problems because Mosaic is growing again.  Tonight we had 21 and 9 staff for a total of 30.  The behavoir problems were non-existent.  We had a great service.  A great combination of music and worship, videos, scripture reading, along with teaching.  Our theme this year is Spring Training — where we spend time conditioning our spiritual lives. I was really excited because several students made some faith decisions (turning away from sin.)  which made the night special.

Surgery Update/Prayer Request

Next Tuesday, I go for surgery to remove a cataract from my right eye.  I had a cataract removed already from my left eye while we lived in New York.  Like I mentioned last week, I busted up my glasses and Pam has had to drive me around.  I get my new glasses this weekend.  🙂  Be praying that all goes well.

Seize the Day!!!

Ash Wednesday


Lectionary Reading

Ash Wednesday

February 25, 2009

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;  2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21

Today tends to be a solemn day on the church calendar — as it should be, because we turn our eyes to the cross.  Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the 40 day journey to the cross.  Many know this season as Lent — Lent is simply the latin word for spring.  I’ll share a little more on that in the days to come for today is Ash Wednesday.  It is a day when we remember our sinful condition.  It is day when we face our own mortality.  It is a day when we face death.  My good friend Mark, blogged on their Ash Wednesday observance this afternoon. He reminded me that the ashes of today come from the palms that we wave on Palm Sunday.

The propet Joel issues a stern warning to the people.

12 That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before. 15 Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem!
Announce a time of fasting;
call the people together
for a solemn meeting.
16 Gather all the people—
the elders, the children, and even the babies.
Call the bridegroom from his quarters
and the bride from her private room.
17 Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence,
stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.
Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord!
Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery.
Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say,
‘Has the God of Israel left them?’

Ash Wednesday is a time of repentance — a time when we remember the sin from whence we came.  The Psalmist David cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God.”  Today is a turning point day.  It’s a day to turn our eyes toward the cross.  It’s a day to turn our eyes toward our salvation.

What Is Ash Wednesday?

Tomorrow begins a new church season.  The 40 days of preparation  for the season of Easter (or Lent – Latin for Spring) begin tomorrow with a day known as Ash Wednesday.

Mark D. Roberts, whose blog I’ve linked to before has a great article on the whole idea of Ash Wednesday.  As I read it, I identified with much of what he was saying and I almost thought he was telling my story.  I encourage you to read it in preparation for tomorrow.

What Is Ash Wednesday?

What is True Worship? Part 1

Over the last few decades most of us have heard about the “worship wars” that have happened in churches.  The term is really a misnomer because if there is warring going on in the church the worship isn’t happening.  What usually happens is that we have our human preferences about worship is and then transfer them to what we think God’s preferences are.  Worship is not what kind or style of music we use – it is not traditional or contemporary – it is not free worship or liturgical – it is not in what version of the Bible we use.  [Dale: there are so many things that we use to define what worship is – I like to think that worship is everything that we do to glorify God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.] Worship has everything to do with our hearts and our attitudes as we worship.

A good place to start is Isaiah 6.  Isaiah is in the temple doing his priestly duties — one of them may be worshiping God and the leading of others in worship.  Let’s take a look at Isaiah 6:1-4:

1 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

Sometimes I think we forget why we are going to church and who we are worshipping.  I grew up in a tradition where you entered the sanctuary and began to prepare your heart for the service.  Part of what has happened is that as our culture has grown more casual, so has our worship and our approach to worship.  While I don’t see a problem with making people feel comfortable, we also need to remember that the sanctuary is a special place – a place where we meet a holy God.  It is a special place set apart (therefore holy) where we worship God.  I write this to remind each one of us, including myself that as we enter the place of worship, let’s remember that we are preparing to worship the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the God of Gods.

The first thing that happens in worship is preparing our hearts to worship God.  We must remember how Holy God is – that he is much more than our friend. He is worthy of more than we could ever give.

Monday Night Bowling

Tonight was the last night of the regular season.  Next week we have something called a roll-off.  The top four teams compete for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for the season.  The remaining 12 teams are all pitted against each other – each rolling on a different pair of lanes.  It’s wierd because the team you are bowling against really doesn’t matter, because you are rolling against 11 other teams.

We started the night in 10th place.  We will not be rolling for any of the top positions next week 😦  We did bowl very well tonight, taking all 7 points.  We had 42 wins and 42 losses, so now we have 49 wins and 42 losses.

On a personal note I bowled a 172, 114, 145 for a 431 series, which is above my average.  I will finish the season at a 139 average, which is 11 pins higher than last year 🙂  It has been a good year.  One more week to go.  Take care.