Spirit Filled Wiggle Room

There are several phrases used in church that I haven’t located in Scripture. It’s okay, they don’t have to be found in scripture to be used.

Here Are a Few of Them

  • Have the communion trays been filled?
  • Who has our opening prayer?
  • Who’s officiating the Lord’s Supper?
  • Are we singing old or new songs?
  • Do we have announcements?
  • Is it time for the children’s contribution?
  • Don’t you think his sermons are too long!

These and others can be heard in my church on any given Sunday.

That’s because on any given Sunday we sing, pray, observe the Lord’s Meal, have a sermon and take up an offering. Sometimes we have a baby blessing, or a blessing for a mission trip, or for donated items to the less fortunate. Often there is a video, a testimonial or a baptism. It’s all pretty good.

IT’S REASSURING

Frankly, I find it reassuring that the Holy Spirit left “the worship service,” fairly vague. If a global, all time Order of Worship (another phrase not found in scripture) was important to the Spirit then it makes sense the Spirit would have given one. But he didn’t.

Clearly the early church sang, prayed, heard the word, shared the bread and wine and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. Obviously they gave and they gave a lot.

Growing up in conservative churches our worship focus was about 40% on what we were doing and about 60% on doing it right. Doing it right was big in our church. Doing it right meant making sure we didn’t do it wrong. Doing it wrong might incur the wrath of God bringing judgment and condemnation on us and we sure didn’t want any of that.

IT’S DIFFERENT

It’s different today, or maybe I’m just different. The last few Sundays we took time to bless two groups of kids. The first were children about to start Kindergarten, a big change for them and their parents. We prayed over the parents during Bible Class and then over the kids in the worship assembly. The next week we did the same with kids, and their parents, entering the 7th grade. Both are important milestones. I’m glad we do that kind of thing. It’s important for the families and for the church family.

Children's Blessing 1
PRECIOUS LITTLE FIVE YEAR OLDS ABOUT TO START KINDERGARTEN 
SIXTH GRADE BLESSING
A BUNCH OF SWEET KIDS ABOUT TO START 7TH GRADE AND JOIN THE YOUGH GROUP!

IN CLOSING

I’m glad the Holy Spirit left us some wiggle room regarding what happens in worship.  The wiggling is some of the best stuff we do to encourage and bless others. I think the Spirit would be happy about it, but that’s just me.

Shalom

 

 

 

How Adorable Can You Get?

ON SUNDAY

Our church has a Family Ministry. It’s an 18 year curriculum for parents that’s organized by the milestones of a child’s life. The goal is for the church to partner with each family to support and equip them in their quest to raise Godly children.

One of the early milestones is a child transitioning from preschool to kindergarten. It’s a big deal for the child and can be a really big deal for moms and dads. This year, we have thirteen children entering Kindergarten.

Children's Blessing 1

On Sunday we recognized this milestone with our Family Ministry Team meeting with the parents to encourage them and pray over them. It was a beautiful thing. Then in our 2nd service we brought the kids on stage to give them a special blessing. It was sweet.

MORE THAN SWEET

But referring to it as sweet doesn’t capture all that it meant. It’s always precious to see young children in the spotlight but it’s so much more when we consider the significance those kids have and the special future God has planned.

  • Think about the amazing potential each one has
  • Consider the generations they will bring into the world
  • Imagine the impact they could have in their lifetimes
  • Embrace the endless possibilities that exist within a child’s heart
  • Rejoice that their young lives are being filled with Jesus Christ

children's blessing 2

PERSONALLY

I don’t remember kindergarten, I guess I went, but I don’t really remember. But one thing I know for sure, my church never brought me on stage or spoke words of blessing for a great future. They never prayed with my parents. I’m just grateful for those who have a better idea and are using their gifts and faith to help future generations.

TO CLOSE

They are adorable children, full of enthusiasm, unbridled energy, and souls as pure as new fallen snow. Jesus loves them. He loves all the little children. I think they are his favorite.

Have a great school year kids, you are loved and you are special!

A CASE For Camp

This is the week. It’s the last BIG event of our summer. We call it CASE Camp which stands for Creative Art and Science Exploration. Doesn’t that sound like fun! It’s for elementary kids and we have 192 of them coming.

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Not one of CASE camp’s  wonderful volunteers, but close, really very close. Actually, he’s the A/V guy for the week.

THIS IS COOL

The cool thing is that 71 of the kids are from our church and 121 are from the neighborhood. It’s the largest children’s event of our year that’s purposed at filling kids hearts with Jesus.

This week they will learn about:

  • God the Great I Am
  • Creation and creativity
  • Art and artistry
  • Jesus the Real Redeemer

It’s also four days of hanging with friends, making new friends, and having a sense of community. It’s four days of learning by exploration. It’s a massive camp to produce, the prep for materials is incredible and it daily requires 80 volunteers of adults and teens.

ME?

They didn’t have CASE camp when I was a kid. The closest I got to science was shaking a can of soda and spraying my friends. The closest I got to art involved a spray can of paint and a wall. Sorry mom, it’s true. 

THE GOAL?

Well, the goal is to instill belief, to deepen faith and to help them understand more about God and his Son. It’s a great thing and it starts this morning. 

TO CLOSE

I don’t know much about science and even less about art, so I’m not crucial to the success of the event. I’ll just write about it.

Thanks to our Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for their constant effort to serve God by serving those to whom the Kingdom is given.

HAVE FUN!

 

Moments On High Places

WHAT HAPPENED?

My heart is full this morning, or at least at near capacity. Last night, Wednesday night, we had an evening or praise. It was glorious.

To start, one of our worship leaders, with an eight person praise team, led us in songs of great meaning and of great praise. We also had two people share their testimony about the power and blessing of the camp last week.

The celebration was all the better because many  who attended the camp were there last night. Their worship at camp was incredible because the campers were challenged to worship without boundaries, to let the walls come down and their self-consciousness to melt. They did and were able to give wholehearted praise to God.

Our worship center was lit up with energy and excitement, the people attending were of all ages and backgrounds but for an hour last night, we were one voice.

AND THEN?

Afterwards, one of our Dad’s baptized his teenage son. Probably 200 people stayed to share in the moment. While standing in the water together, he shared his son’s faith journey and then shared a little of his own. They hugged each other and the tears were flowing. Finally, after a few minutes, he immersed him into Jesus. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I know, mountain top experiences aren’t meant for every day, that’s why they’re called  mountain top, and most of us don’t live on mountains. But I wouldn’t mind having some of that as often as I can get it.

As far as I know, today will be a normal day. I’ll be in my office at the church. I’ll put the finishing touches on the lesson for Sunday. I’ll check with staff members and review whatever needs reviewing. It’ll be a regular day, but my soul will be on fire and my heart filled with joy.

THANKS

Thank you God for your Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling us. Thanks you Jesus for sending the Spirit so we could experience moments like last night.

Shalom

 

A Very Cool Thing

There are things that warm my heart and fill my soul. Here are a few of them:

  • playful puppies
  • the love of a young child
  • an unexpected gift at an unexpected time
  • the hugs after baptisms

 FIRST: SOME JESUS CONTEXT

One day a wealthy man asked what he needed for salvation. He was told that because his wealth controlled him he needed to give it to the poor and make Jesus his one true master. He wouldn’t, and he left sad.

A woman was caught having sex with a man not her husband. The religious police brought her to Jesus trying to discredit him before the people, they failed and left defeated. Jesus didn’t condemn, but forgave, and encouraged her to live for God.

One night, an influential man approached Jesus saying that he must be a teacher from God due to his miraculous signs. Rather than discuss his credentials, Jesus taught him to be born again, that to enter the coming kingdom he would need to be born of the Spirit.

Three Key Thoughts:

  1. Make Jesus the Lord and master of your life.
  2. Look to Jesus for forgiveness and righteousness.
  3. Regardless of race or heritage, we all need to be born of the Spirit

Those three thoughts come together when a person confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior and is immersed into his name, and raised a new creation, fully cleansed, filled with the Spirit, and dedicated to holiness. Some call it baptism.

I saw a pic on Facebook of a Pastor, who is a dear friend, who was about to baptize some people, probably in the Conejos River, water temperature at snow melt levels!

A week ago I baptized a woman who happened to be deaf. Thankfully, our church has a member who interprets for the deaf and was a huge help. Being deaf had nothing to do with being baptized; it wasn’t about her hearing, but about her believing.

Below is a 20 second video clip of a dad baptizing his teenage son in a river very likely warmer than the Conejos. Watch the hug, its one of the things that warms my heart and fills my soul!

The 92

Kids go to camp. Many go to more than one.

Yesterday at church I called for all the kids who were going to Camp Bandina to come on stage. There were 92 of them. I offered a prayer of blessing and then moms and dads got their kids and their stuff on two huge, beautiful busses and off to camp they went.

I saw a few parents with a few tears and a few parents running to their cars in freedom.

With 350 total campers and 80 adults to serve them there will be an outpouring of love and faith; an amazing experience of friendship and fellowship.

Here are nine thoughts about the “9” in “92”

  • nine are first time campers
  • nine will miss home and want to call mom or dad
  • nine will develop a crush on someone
  • nine will make friends with kids from other places
  • nine will deepen friendships within our group of 92
  • nine will have life-affecting conversations with their counselor
  • nine will come home thinking about their futures for the first time
  • nine will make some kind a decision about who they are with God
  • nine will return a bit sad because it’s their last year at Camp Bandina

We have excellent people at the camp this week. People who will guide the campers well, who will model Christ for them, share their lives with them and be available at all hours of the day and night.

Camp is for having fun and the campers will have a blast. But camp is also for disconnecting from their tech, from gaming systems, cell phones and tablets. It’s a week of discovery about themselves, others and God. It’s a week of personal connection. A time when their hearts and minds will be open, available and receptive to healthy influence.

May God bless them all.

I loved camp.

The Following Is a True Story

Have you ever imagined winning the lottery? That one day all the magic numbers line up and you are an instant millionaire. Or even more!

lottery tickets
Not the lotto tickets my wife bought, but close, really very close.

Have you ever wondered if somewhere out there was a distant relative you didn’t know about? Then one day a lawyer calls requesting your presence for the reading of the will and you inherit millions of dollars!

pile-of-cash
The reading of the will, a pile of cash! 

WELL, IT HAPPENED TO ME

Yep, it’s true. I was contacted by a law firm in Alberta, Canada informing me that a relative had passed away. The relative had a life insurance policy but the benefit hasn’t been paid because the deceased didn’t leave a will or stipulate a beneficiary. The firm has been searching for a living relative and they found one, me. 

HOW MUCH?

I know you’re wondering. Well, it’s a staggering amount: $9,820,000.

After reading the letter and then getting up off the floor I started thinking of what I would do with the money. How much would I give to my church? How much would I give to my kids? How much would I give to my government?  I would definitely get new tires for my wife’s car and probably buy a new fly rod. I’m such a visionary. 

I wondered if Sunday would be my last day on the job? 

AND THEN?

I should probably mention that the law firm didn’t contact me in person, nor by phone, email, registered mail or by telegram. It was by fax. I didn’t know people still used fax machines. We have one in the office, it’s a dinosaur, but it’s how I got the letter. They obviously tracked me down and discovered where I was employed.

HOWEVER

After further reflection, and some internet surfing, I’ve determined that it’s probably a scam aimed at getting my SS number, bank account numbers and so forth. Wouldn’t surprise me if they needed money to pay filing and processing fees and to compensate them for their time. 

Also, the fax had misspelled words, a rather awkward writing style and other clues indicating it was less than a professional document. 

Therefore, amidst great sadness, I’ve concluded that I’m not going to be a ten-millionaire and should forget all about it.

Sunday will not be my last day on the job. I hope.

TO CLOSE

Wow, now I wish I hadn’t gone ahead with the tires, talk about spending money before you have it! 

Oh well, live and learn. 

Sonora Smart Dodd and What She Did

THE DAY AFTER

It’s the day after Father’s Day and all the working dads are back on the job. We got the day to celebrate and we are grateful, but it didn’t include Monday off so, back to work.

It’s okay, I had such a good time with my kids I’ll gladly start the new week back at work! Yesterday, we were about to give thanks at the dinner table when my son, who is thirty-five, asked, “Dad, do you have any wisdom?” He was being a bit snarky, but really he was  encouraging me to talk about being a father.

So I did. 

I told my son and daughter that being a father has been the greatest honor and joy of my life. That I love them more than ever and am thankful for them every day. I said how proud of them I am and how blessed I feel to be a Father. That’s what I said.

 I like Father’s Day, but I’m one of the lucky ones who has the sense that Father’s Day happens all through the year.

IMG_2003
One of my Father’s Day cards. Not a card thats close to the one I got, but the actual card

FATHER’S DAY? 

Did you know that Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910, by a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd? And why? Because she felt her dad deserved to be honored.

Her father was William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran and a man who had fathered six children, one of whom was, of course, his daughter Sonora.

GANG BUSTERS?

Father’s Day didn’t catch on. Sonora did what she could but life got busy and she let the banner drop. But in the 1930’s she renewed her zeal and restored her efforts and brought Father’s Day to a national awareness. She solicited help from the trade groups who benefited from Father’s Day, groups like the men’s tie manufactures and the tobacconists with their pipes and such. She succeeded in getting the New York Associated Men’s-Wear Retailers to commercialize Father’s Day. It took some time, but it worked.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers. In 1972, it became  a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law. 

So, Happy Father’s Day and thanks to everyone who helped us get here!

And a special thanks to Sonora for her loving efforts. 

BUT ACTUALLY

The person deserving recognition is Mr. Smart. We honor him for his service, and for being such a good dad to his six kids. And by the way, Mr. Smart wasn’t just a conscientious father, he was also a single parent. Yep, he raised his family of six children on his own.

So we honor him for being the kind of father who inspired his daughter to grow up and invent Father’s Day.

And it’s been another great Father’s Day!

 

 

 

 

The High Five

WHAT’S A HIGH FIVE?

We have lots of ways to demonstrate our excitement. One of the most prominent is, “The High Five,” the act of raising up a hand, thus the five fingers, and slapping someone else’s raised hand.

Although it seems to have been around forever, dictionaries have only included the term as a noun since 1980 and as a verb, or the action of the high five, since 1981.

WHY DO WE DO IT?

  • it’s the joy of victory
  • it acknowledges someone doing something noteworthy
  • it’s a celebratory gesture for anything that makes us happy
  • it’s just fun

THE FIRST HIGH FIVE

It first happened at Dodger Stadium on October 2, 1977, in the last game of the season. Dusty Baker hit a homer that made the Dodgers the first team ever to have four players hit thirty home-runs. As Baker was rounding the bases, Glenn Burke, the next hitter, went to the plate to congratulate him.  He did so by raising his hand up high, and Baker returned the gesture.

From Dusty Baker:

“His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back. So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed liked the thing to do.”

And the High Five Was Born

WHO GIVES HIGH FIVES

  • professional athletes
  • athletes of all kinds
  • coaches of all teams
  • children, teens and college kids
  • adults of all ages for all kinds of reasons

WHAT HAPPENED?

It happened last Sunday morning during first service. It was time for the offering, and the children were cued to come and give their gifts that support Haitian kids for Christian education. They drop change and dollar bills into a basket. It’s a big deal in our church and the kids love it.

Afterwards, they walk back to their parents. On that Sunday, as they were walking back, a little girl sweetly smiled and put her hand up. So, I smiled back, put my hand up and she smacked it. I loved it. A few feet behind her was a mom with her very young son, I think he is almost two. He was adorable. She’s teaching him to be generous with those in need. He doesn’t understand yet, but he will, and it will become part of his character.

Then it happened. 

He had watched the girl give me the high five, so he headed my direction. He could barely walk and was holding one of his mom’s fingers. He looked at me excidedly and raised his little hand. We shared a high five. He was so happy. The whole thing made me emotional.

IN CLOSING

I like kids. I’ve learned that kids like to have adults pay attention to them. An adult who notices them and cares about the things they care about is very like Jesus, who always welcomed the children, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

IMG_1894

“And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” 

Mark 10:16

 

 

 

A Day For Firsts

A  recent box office hit that I enjoyed was “First Man” the story of Neal Armstrong, the first man on the moon. It was a good story and I’m a sap for all things NASA. If I had been twenty IQ points smarter, a bunch of pounds lighter, and a whole lot more gifted, I would have been an astronaut. I would have been a kickin’ astronaut.

Anyway, last evening I was watching the movie (again) when suddenly there was a loud roar overhead. Not in the house, but up in the sky. I new what it was, it was an Air Force jet of some kind. I hear and see them all the time because we live close to Ellington Air Force Base which has a long and proud history with NASA here in Houston. I see all kinds of aircraft. Huge jets, fighter planes, trainers, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. I think its cool.

There I was, watching a movie about the first man on the moon when I hear a massive jet roaring over my house. A jet I know will be landing at Ellington. I’m not certain, but I may be living in Neal Armstrong’s house when he was in the space program, probably not, but maybe.

Anyway, it got me thinking about firsts:

Yesterday at church, a little boy came up to talk to me for the first time, I think he was three. I’m not sure what he said, but I felt great that he said it.

In the opening of my lesson I compared a lion to a cat, it set up the message of how God  transforms us to something greater. To illustrate it, I had a picture of a cat on the screen. I’ve been preaching for forty years and a cat picture is a first.

At the close of 2nd service I had all the teens and adults who were about to go on their annual mission trip come up on stage. There were about 60 of them and I was proud to pray a prayer of blessing over them. Mostly, I was captivated by all the 7th graders going. It’s their first mission trip. The first of many I hope.

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So joyful to see so many going to help people in need. Yes, that’s me on the right, close to the edge, really very close.

In the afternoon we stopped by to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.  I know that every year is the first of its kind. Just the same, acknowledging someone who has been married for 50 years is a good. It was a major first for them.

IN CLOSING

Jesus was the first of his kind. He was the first savior, the first God to come near. He was the first divine being to sacrifice himself. He is the first King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he will be the first to come and take us home for eternity. He is the first of all firsts.

Have a good week and may the God of firsts bring something amazing to your life.