Weekend Reading

Here are some insightful, interesting, and fun things to read:

Blaine Tucker hit one out of the park with “The Club.”  I loved this.  Blaine was in Italy right after me and married my wife’s roommate and our friend/co-worker from Italy.

18 Tricks/Tips for Memorizing Scripture

This is sad but likely to make it into many sermons.  Woman was dead for 18 months and no one noticed.

I don’t like this t-shirt at all.  Give the bucks to feed someone or leave a big tip with your church business card next time you eat out.

Lots of good stuff, as usual from Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum.  Check out “Wicked Systems

Christianity is too Happy?!!?!?!? What?  You need to read what Jeff says.

An Evangelical Bailout Package by C. Michael Patton

Some Church Pet-Peeves from 2or3.  Me, too!

Some bloggers I recently discovered/met:

Jay Towell at Overflow

Carl Feril at Checking the Mail

And just for fun: Time’s top 25 Horror Movies (I had not heard of most of these.  One Disney classic is included but it is a serious list)

And no I did not write this post from my Blackberry.

Have a great weekend and a great Lord’s Day with His People.  Even if you don’t think you need to be there, someone might need you.  And God deserves it, anyway.

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What’s Up With Me?

I’m good. I haven’t been blogging lately. Just in one of those blogging ruts. I do plan to share more of my story later this week, but for now just wanted to ramble on about my summer.

The next four months will be busy.  Here is what’s going on in my world:

May

  • Going to see the Wolverine movie as soon as possible, probably Saturday afternoon.  I loved reading those comics when I was young and glad Hugh Jackman has been playing him.
  • I am taking a Leadership class from May through December.  It is only one day a month but a full day.  Lots of materials.  I am excited.  I will definitely share more about it later.
  • We are going to spend a weekend in Philly in May.  Take the kids to the aquarium in Camden, NJ, and try to spend maybe a day seeing cool stuff in downtown Philadelphia.

June

  • I will be 33 years old on June 4th.  Jesus didn’t live much past that if he made it that far.  That’s wierd.
  • The men’s retreat in Kent, CT, every June is a highlight.  Beautiful area, good fellowship, just an overnight trip but refreshing.
  • Going to preach in upstate NY for my aunt and uncle’s congregation.  They live 50 miles in two directions from the nearest Churches of Christ and started meeting in their garage, and now have a building.  I am excited.  I have never been invited to speak anywhere and am glad to encourage this small congregation.
  • There is a Golf scramble fundraiser for our Bible Camp the end of the month.  That should be fun.

July

  • My wife’s older sister is coming to visit for a couple of weeks and we will probably take her into the city.
  • Camp Manatawny.  Our Bible lessons for junior high 2 week of camp is Philippians 2:5-8.  I need to write two lessons in the next 3 weeks but I love camp and can’t wait for that.

August

  • We are resurrecting a VBS program.  I asked one teen to help and she replied, “What’s VBS?”  That tells you how long it has been since this congregation had VBS.  Once I explained it, she liked the idea.  We are only doing a one-day program.  Lots of time and energy and prayer will be needed started now to make that a success.

How I Got Here (3): pivotal months in 1998

As a senior English major I considered continuing my education and completing a Master’s degree.  I even took one of those prep tests.  I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but a door opened and I walked right through it.

I had heard of the Avanti Italia program from the semester I spent in Italy back in 1995.  It is overseen by the College Church of Christ in Searcy, AR, which is where Harding University is located.  The school program I was in was actually a part of Harding and not FHU.  There was a social event at the Avanti building and we met the workers there.  We also worshipped at the church of Christ in Florence often with the Italian church and Avanti Italia workers.  At that point in my life, I had no inkling or desire to be a minister or do mission work.

But by the time I got to the middle of my senior year, the chance to live overseas teaching English and the Bible really appealed to me.  Of course, the fact that it I would be living in Italy was also cool.  I had a couple of friends who also committed two years to serving in this way.  The program recruits Christians who are college graduates to spend two years in Italy, mostly in Florence, but also other regions, to simply teach English lessons using the Bible.

Some students just want English but they get the Bible.  Some want Bible discussion from the beginning, others grow in their interest.

I made the decision in December of 1997 and had a year to raise my support.  I needed around $900 per month for a two year period. Fund-raising was a challenging and faith-building experience.  I also appreciate my home congregation (Lone Oak) for being my sponsoring church.

I was scheduled to leave in January of 1999.  What would I do from graduation (May 1998) until then besides raise support?

God had an answer for that, too.

The Clements Street Church of Christ in Paducah, KY, stepped in.  My grandparents attended there.  I often joked that they were the congregation’s youth group.  It was an older, smaller (around 40-50 members) congregation that was in between preachers and needed someone to fill in.  And my grandfather recommended me.  From about July through December I preached both times each Sunday and taught Revelation on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening continuously. (Why Revelation? I had just completed a really good Bible class at Freed my final semester and had good notes and a couple of good books.  It went pretty well.)

It was a wonderful experience for someone with no Bible degree, no preaching classes, little speaking experience.  I grew a lot.  They were a sweet group of Christians and I will always appreciate my grandparents and them for giving me that great opportunity.

The next post (next week) will cover my time spent in Italy, and I may need to break that into two parts.

Sermons Online Again

After having my entire 14-month series on Jesus eaten by the Mypodcast server, I have begun uploading them again and adding recent sermons including a series on Faith from Hebrews 11.

Here is the main link: My Sermons

Here are some individual messages:

Connecting with God on Sunday Morning

Evangelism: notes from Tulsa

God Believes in You!

A Better Country

The index page at www.echolakechurch.org needs to be updated and won’t be helpful until it is.

What’s Wrong with America?!?!

My personal opinion…it’s the Christians.

I see that just about everyone has been blamed at some point:  Jews, homosexuals, Republicans, Democrats, Wall Street guys, Muslims, and Christians.

My vote is for us.  Disciples of Jesus.  His Kingdom on Earth, the Church.

Throughout the years, we kept talking about how great America is and didn’t talk enough about how great Jesus is.  The schools and government preached “be a good person” and converted most of our nation and we were okay with the low standards.  We have been a nation of church-goers and “good” people for a long time.

What will that get you?  All the bad news you keep reading about.

Why do we expect people who have not committed their lives to Jesus to do anything other than follow Satan?  Is that really a shock?  Mankind is sinful and without the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, things get ugly.  Even with those blessings and power, those of us really attempting the life of a disciple struggle.

In my worthless opinion, the blame should go to Christians.

If the church had focused more about the Gospel than being good…

If the church had focused on love instead of politics…

If the church had focused more on benevolence than greed…

If the church had focused more on evangelism than buildings…

If the church had been focused more on unity than winning debates…

If the church had focused more on Jesus than programs…

If the church had been all about salt and light instead of power…

If the church had spoken the Truth in love, while living holy lives instead of judging, condemning and voting…

I am disappointed in those who wear the name, Christian.  We have made a commitment to live, act, speak, etc. a certain way because of God’s Great Love and Jesus.  Our nation could have been a better place right now.

Laws are not going to make our nation what we want it to be.  Christian politicians passing Christian laws are not going to make us better. Sure, we can reign in the sinners, but we won’t change them.

Preaching the Gospel in order to have more people transformed by the Holy Spirit will make our nation a better place.

Keep in mind, we should not expect a Utopia on earth.  Jesus said “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)  America has been blessed but not a Christian nation.  Christian nations don’t practice genocide (native americans), Christian nations don’t oppress and enslave races of people, Christan nations don’t perpetuate and enforce racism.

Keep in mind, I am not speaking as a Democrat, nor an East Coast elitist, nor an Ivy Leage trained liberal.  I grew up in the Bible Belt in rural KY, studied at Christian schools, voted mostly Republican when I voted and just happen to live in NJ now.

My opinion, right or wrong, comes from my faith in Jesus and understanding of His Word.