Archive for October, 2011

Contentment

October 30, 2011

Today I preached on finding contentment. Once I really wanted a metal detector. I could see myself finding valuable coins and relics in our backyard. I wanted to take it to the beach and find a Rolex watch or a gold nugget on the beach. So I dropped numerous hints to my family knowing my birthday was coming up. And they gave me one! That was eight years ago and I have used that gadget about 3-4 times. When we go to the beach, I either forget to pack it or the trunk is full with everybody’s toys!

Life is like that. We buy into our culture’s mantra of “stuff brings happiness.” The truth is stuff brings debt, more responsibilities and the anxiety to maintain and keep up with it! Stuff leads to worry and misplacement of trust and loyalties. Paul wrote from a prison cell in Rome that he had discovered the secret of contentment. (Philippians 4: 11-12) He tells us that contentment is found in our relationships with Christ, our family and our friends. Jesus said that contentment is found in two loves – our love for God and our neighbor. No stuff required there.

So I think I will go out and do something to build contentment. I’m going out in the yard to play with that old metal detector and I’ll take one of my family members along. Of course, that means any treasure we find I’ll have to share. And I’m content with that!

Mega-Churches vs. Personal Touch

October 17, 2011

Last week my nephew was in a motorcycle accident that left him brain-dead. My brother and his family had been attending a mega-church known for large, inspiring worship services, great music and anonymity for attendees. The family contacted the church to ask a pastor to come and plan a funeral with them. The church office replied that they did not do weddings and funerals. So my brother contacted the local United Methodist church they had attended for about 15 years before they went to the new mega-church that was averaging 24,000 people a week.

Their church sent over two pastors and assisted them in the planning of the funeral. I attended the service and was deeply blessed by the church’s outpouring of compassion, love and concern. I believe that a church is at its best when we are walking alongside one another in times of pain, loss, questions and doubt. Inspiring worship and great music is good but it cannot take the place of personal contacts, having a relationship with a pastor and having fellow disciples to learn from and be held up by their prayers and presence.

At the end of last week, as I reflected on the response of these two churches, I found myself very glad to be a part of a faith community that seeks to know, care for, lift up, and teach one another as the body of Christ. Next time you are tempted to give up your local church and go get lost in one of the mega-churches, remember that one day you will need a personal touch. Stick with your local church and work alongside your fellow believers to make it a place of faith, love, and Christ-like actions for those in your area hungry for hope and healing in this broken world.

Revelation at the Ice Cream Counter

October 10, 2011

This past weekend I attended the annual President’s Retreat for Asbury Theological Seminary. One of the guest speakers was an alumni, Dr. Spencer Lungaard. Spencer was a student several years ago in the Beeson Doctoral Program. He was in the Cafe of the seminary one day with his children and they were debating which ice cream flavor to get that day. Spencer had just finished a conversation with two fellow students. One was from a village in India and he shared that his home church had just been burned and his pastor killed. The other friend shared that his church in Africa had recently been destroyed by a group of radical Islamists and the members were enduring terrible persecution.

Spencer recalled that he had a revelation that day in the cafeteria. He turned to his family and said,  “We don’t have time to argue over ice cream flavors.”  Sometimes life demands a serious and focused perspective. We live in a world where people are dying for their faith and others are dying spiritually because they do not have a meaningful faith. Jesus sent his followers out into the world to bring hope and new life to a dying world. Our mission is no different today.

This morning I received a note from a member of my church. She was upset about the choice of hymns used to open the worship service. A man in the church lamented that we did not have a Bible out on the altar table. (I guess he did not see that the worship leaders were holding it to read and teach from!) Another person said the lights were not bright enough during the sermon. It amazes me that church folk get so concerned about the “flavors” of the worship service and miss the calling of Christ to the higher things of His kingdom.

Folks, we do not have time to “argue about the flavors of the ice cream.” We live in a world of hurting people, where children need mentors and where the hungry of soul and body need food. Will we get around to feeding them or will we waste our energies on the flavors of the ice cream offered in the name of Christ?