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The Great Communion service at Harrison High School was everything I hoped it would be. The attendance was great. We had between 550 and 600 people in the school auditorium. All four churches (ours, West Lafayette Christian, Crossroads Christian, and First Christian) were well represented in the crowd of worshipers. There was excitement in the air as we felt a sense of unity. Most importantly it was a Spirit-filled time of worship, with the crucified/risen Christ as the focus.

I was so impressed and encouraged by the Elmwood praise team that helped to lead us in our acappella singing. I believe many from the other churches were moved by our acappella singing. I was equally impressed and encouraged by those that led us in songs accompanied with instruments. Great men and women from all four churches put in a lot of time and prayer as they planned that portion of our time together.

Greg Eberhard, Sr. Pastor at First Christian Church, opened up with a heartfelt welcome and a brief talk that put this service in its historical context. He reminded us of the vision the early Restoration Movement leaders had. It was a vision that encouraged Christians to be united in Christ, and to quit dividing over non-essentials.

I had the opportunity to talk about the bread and the power of the table to unite people together. I reminded everyone that this Great Communion gathering – our time around the table together – has the power to preach a message louder than any sermon we could ever preach.

John Dittmer, Sr. Minister at West Lafayette Christian, did a wonderful job of preparing our hearts and minds for the cup. It was a powerful reminder that Christ intended for this cup to truly be a cup of blessing. The New Testament is full of passages describing the blessings of Christ’s blood.

As we prepared to close the service, Mike Duff, Sr. Minister at Crossroads Christian, gave us all a challenge. His challenge seemed so simple, yet we struggle with it all the time. The challenge was this: love others as Christ loved others. Jesus makes it clear that this is how the world will know we belong to him. Unity is not based on doctrinal correctness (history has proven that over and over). Neither is our identity based on this. Doctrine is important, but our identity is based on Christ and his love pouring through us. Unity is based on love, but not just any love. It has to be the love that Christ exhibited.

I’m grateful for elders that gave me the freedom to involve Elmwood, and for being behind this great event. I’m looking forward to doing this again.

WHO?

Last week I started a new sermon series that our LIFE Groups would also be following. The series is called WHO?
The idea is that there are certain relationships that all of us need in order to run the race and cross the finish line. I once heard a good friend of mine say this in one of his sermons: “No one is going to cross the finish line without holding on to the hand of someone else. That hand may be pulling you across, or it may be the hand of the person you are pulling across. But none of us will cross without that extra hand.” I like that. And it is that idea that I am building off of.

I’ve been using a couple of books as resources: Leonard Sweet’s 11 Indispensible Relationship and Glenn McDonald’s The Disciple Making Church.

This Sunday I will preach Who Is Your Nathan? No one really wants to be a Nathan, and no one wants to be confronted by a Nathan. But the truth is that we all need a Nathan or two in our lives. (Read 2 Samuel 11 & 12 for a refresher) The question that keeps running through my mind is, “How would we think of David today if it were not for Nathan?” Where would David’s life have taken him if Nathan had not been courageous enough to tell him the truth?

I don’t want to place too much emphasis on the work of a man, but the truth is that God uses people. If that man (Nathan) had not been open to letting God use him how much further would David fallen?

Who are the Nathan’s in our lives that have stopped us in our tracks and righted our ships? Who are the Nathan’s in our lives that courageously follow the leading of God and confront us in our sins? We all need a Nathan.

Giving Up?

Well, I’ve thought many times that I should just shut down this blog. I don’t ever update it (my last post was June 2). But someone sent me a message suggesting I need to update. So, here I am. No promises that I will stick around though.
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I’m learning more and more that preaching is not about me, my well-crafted sermons, or my eloquent speech. It is actually up for debate if I possess the last two. All preachers have sermons that think are duds. We realize it as we are speaking. But then something happens to remind us that the Spirit moves through the sermon. It is the Spirit that works. And quite often He does his best work through duds.

This past Sunday I preached what I thought was a real dud. I kept thinking, “This is going nowhere fast.” But then someone comes forward with tears in their eyes. They ask for prayers. And then they look at me and say, “Your message was powerful and well timed. Thank you.”

It is in our weakness that God truly shows his strength.
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I’ve been preparing for the Great Communion. On October 4th, our church will join in worship with three other churches in town: West Lafayette Christian Church, First Christian Church, and Crossroads Christian Church. We will worship together, blending our different traditions, and we will break bread together as a sign of unity. This is an event that will celebrate the 200 year anniversary of Thomas Campbell’s document, Declaration and Address.

I believe this will be a powerful time of worship, and I’m truly thankful that Elmwood has a group of Shepherds that can see the benefit of such a gathering. If you are in the Lafayette area join us on October 4th, 11am, at the Harrison High School auditorium.
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Final bit of news… Still waiting on Baby Kerrigan #2. He is past his due date, and his big brother is ready to finally meet the baby that has been kicking his mom.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works… ~ Eph. 2:10

I am a huge Seinfeld fan.  In the final two episodes ever created Jerry and the gang find themselves in pretty hot water.  While taking a trip to Paris their private jet makes an emergency landing in Lathan, Massachusetts for some much needed repairs.  As they are waiting for their jet to get repaired they decide to tour the little town.

Walking down the sidewalk they notice a gentleman getting robbed across the street.  Being from New York they find this quite humorous and Kramer even starts video taping the whole event.  They all get a pretty good laugh at this poor victim’s expense.

As the cop is interviewing the victim Jerry notices the victim is pointing at them and the cop does not look happy.  Next thing you know the gang is being approached by the cop.  He pulls out his handcuffs and starts arresting all four of them.

Elaine says, “No. No. No.  We didn’t do anything.” To which the officer says, “That is exactly right!” Apparently they had broken the Good Samaritan Law; a law that requires helping or assisting a victim if it poses no threat to the bystander.

I have become real good at not doing anything wrong, and the trap that I have fallen into is the belief that not doing anything wrong is the same as doing good.  Truthfully, there is a huge difference.  Not doing anything wrong is just that – not doing anything wrong.  It does not mean that I am, therefore, doing something good.

I have heard this described as the difference between the minimally decent Samaritan and the good Samaritan.  The former sees a guy on the shoulder of the interstate working on a flat tire, so he swerves to the outside lane to avoid hitting the stranded traveler.  The latter pulls over to lend a hand.  Neither of them did anything wrong, but only one of them actually did something good.

Many of us have become good at not doing anything wrong.  But God does not call us to be people who do nothing wrong.  He calls us to be people who do good works.

Being Saved

For Paul salvation is not just a one time event. It is not just something that happened in the past. Paul has no problem speaking of salvation as an ongoing event. There are times when he speaks of salvation as something we continually experience in our lives. We are not just saved, but we are being saved.

In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” In 2 Corinthians 2:15 he uses the same language of those who are being saved and those who are perishing. Paul sees no problem with dividing the world into two categories: those who are in the process of perishing and those who are in the process of salvation. Those who have accepted Christ’s invitation to follow him are those who are being saved.

This does not imply at all that we are doing anything to be saved. The language is very passive. We are being saved, and someone else is doing the saving. Paul uses this same type of language another time in 2 Corinthians 3:18 when he writes, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Again, a passive verb. We are being transformed into his image, not on our own power but by the Spirit’s power.

Maybe this is how Paul would define the ongoing process of salvation – being transformed into his image. Yes, Paul talks about salvation in the past tense. He has no problems suggesting that we were saved, and are saved. But for Paul I don’t believe that is the whole story. While we experienced salvation when we called upon the name of Lord and participated in his death, burial and resurrection through baptism, we are continually experiencing salvation through the Spirit’s transforming work. The end result of that work is that we are transformed into Christ’s image – ultimate salvation.

This should be exciting news for those of us who are being saved!

I’ve discovered that as a youth, campus, associate, or worship minister you can have many nontraditional beliefs, and yet be able to keep them to yourself.  Once you become the preacher there is no more hiding.  It is a little more difficult to keep some of your more “radical” views and beliefs to yourself.  Since I have become a preacher I have dreaded the day that certain topics get discussed – yesterday was one of those days.  Please note that I realize I may be in the minority with what follows, and that some of you may vehemently disagree with my stance.
One of our members gave me a DVD about 6 months ago that he wanted me to show during worship one Sunday.  The DVD is of a song called Before You Go.  It is a tribute to our war veterans from WW2 and it is extremely patriotic.  I am very very uncomfortable mixing patriotism with worship.  So I hoped that if I just put it to the side and didn’t say anything about it maybe he would forget that he gave it to me.  Well, he brought it up last month and I told him we would talk about it.   A month later (last night) I finally get the nerve up to talk to him about my views and why I was delaying a response to him.  He did not agree with my stance and had a hard time wrapping his mind around my beliefs, but he did not argue.

Again, I realize I may be in the minority on this one but I feel very strongly about it.  Let me share a short rationale.  When we come together to worship we are gathering as people whose citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).  We gather as exiles or strangers (1 Peter 1:1).  Our citizenship knows no borders, and our brothers and sisters are made up of all nations, because our God is the God of all nations.  His house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17).  I believe that when we raise our country’s flag in our services of worship and pay tribute to those who have shed blood for our land we are placing our loyalty and allegiance to our national citizenship above our loyalty and allegiance to our Kingdom citizenship.

I believe this is especially problematic in a place such as the city I live in, Lafayette, IN.  We are a college town – Purdue University.  Purdue pulls people in from all races and all nations to study.  There are people from India, China, Japan, Germany, Russia, Africa, Scotland, etc…  On any given Sunday there is the possibility of having a brother or sister from one of those nations worshiping with us.  They come (like me) to worship and pledge their allegiance to the God of all nations, not to America’s flag – land – or soldiers.

Now, let me be very clear.  Many take my stance to be one that dishonors (or shows a lack of respect) to America’s war veterans.  That is not the case at all.  Our congregation is made up of many veterans and I have sat with them and heard their stories and honored their accomplishments.  I’m grateful for the freedom that I enjoy today because of them.  I just do not believe that our corporate worship gathering (our time of enthroning Jesus as Lord) is the appropriate place for patriotic sentiments.

That is where I am in my faith journey.  Now, let the stoning begin.

At Pepperdine I attended a class taught by Thomas Fitzpatrick.  He is the campus minister on Pepperdine’s campus.  His class title intrigued me  – Illegal Aliens, Bottled Water, Nike Shoes, and Everything Else I Now Question (How Being Like Jesus Messes You Up).  A fairly long title, but intriguing!

The class was basically about a holistic gospel.  A holistic gospel is one that affects more than just the church we choose to attend, how we worship, or whether or not we pray before a meal.  A holistic gospel is one that impacts all of our lives – our workplace, our home, our decisions, our purchases, etc…

He never really came to a conclusion on anything.  He basically just posed a bunch of questions and we spent the rest of the time discussing different issues.

The biggest issue we discussed was the gospel’s impact on our purchases.

  • It has been well documented that Nike provides terrible working conditions and pay for their workers in other countries.  You could almost call it inhumane practices.  Many of their workers are making no more than the equivalent of $1.50 per day (not hour, but day!), yet we pay $100 for the shoes.  There have been documented reports of physical abuse, hiring underaged children, and hazardous working conditions.  Should these facts and our knowledge of the gospel play any role in our decision to purchase or not purchase Nike products?
  • Today’s experts proclaim that bottled water is no better than water from our tap (in fact, scientist say we have a better idea of what is coming out of the tap, as opposed to some bottled waters).  Yet, Americans spent nearly $16 billion last year on bottled water.  There are over 1 billion people worldwide that lack access to any sort of safe drinkable water.  In 2004 there was an estimated 2.2 million deaths related to unsafe drinking water, 90% of that number was children under the age of 5.  I would think that $16 billion would go a long way in helping change those horrible statistics.  Should this knowledge and our knowledge of the gospel play a role in whether we choose water from the tap or bottled water?

These are tough and convicting questions, especially when you read passages like:

  • Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. ~ Proverbs 21:13
  • The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. ~ Luke 4:18-19
  • As the apostles were struggling with what to do with the Gentiles and whether or not Paul should take the gospel to them, they eventually gave him the OK and only gave him one requirement.  Paul says, “All they asked was the we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. ~ Galatians 2:10

I could list many many more passages regarding God’s love and concern for the poor and oppressed.  The question we discussed was whether or not this knowledge should have any impact on the purchases we make in life.  Wow, following Jesus really will mess you up!

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