Christian Education

I recently had a conversation with a seminary friend of mine about what we would do if we ever "made it big." We both ruled out starting megachurches (we like our churches just fine, thank you very much), but we also both agreed we could easily start a seminary. Christian education is a shared passion of ours -- and it should be for you, too. I'm not saying we should all attend seminary (or open your own); I'm saying each of us is called to be a disciple and to make more disciples, and part of that discipleship is education, commonly called catechesis. Part of the Great Commission, after all, is "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). We're told by Paul the B

Testimony

One of the primary ways in which we share the story of Jesus with other people is by sharing the story of us -- and by "us," I mean the tale of "Jesus and me." Our personal testimonies are real-life accounts of how Jesus Christ has made a difference, how God has truly achieved the impossible, and how the Holy Spirit has changed us into new creations. Testimonies make full use of both the true and the story to present compelling true stories to others about the love of God. They do more than just display the data to other people, however. They showcase the emotional side and draw others in with what I call the "Me Too Factor." At times, the most powerful feeling in the world is best expressed

Out There

Our youth group recently returned from their annual mission trip. Wednesday evening they hosted a discussion before the church to explain where they went, what they did, share funny stories, and generally fill us in on all things mission trip. It was a great way for our youth to show the rest of our congregation how important it is to get outside the walls of the church, to go "out there," and serve others in the name of Jesus. That sort of service is absolutely crucial. Christ calls us to be servants to others, and our service benefits everyone involved. Those whom we serve hear the Gospel of Christ and receive help in practical ways as well. Those who do the serving grow in holiness and lo

Time & Treasure

One time-honored way of calling out someone who talks a good game is to say, "Put your money where your mouth is." In other words, if you really believe what you're saying, then back it up with cold, hard cash. Prove its worth to you by assigning it a monetary value -- and then pay up. Things change, though. Whereas money used to be the scarcest commodity, now it seems to be time. We run too hard, too fast, too long. Our lives never slow down, and so we think in terms of time instead of money -- to the point of a new fad of calculating value based on how long you'd have to work to make the money to pay for something. It's a trend recognizing we essentially trade for things with hours of our

Fellowship

After Sunday evening worship, about half of the congregation ends up at Wendy's. It's about an even split as to how many get "real food" and how many get just ice cream or coffee, but it really doesn't matter. The same goes for the monthly Lena Hale Sunday School Class dinner. It's a dinner, but it's also more than that. Both of these get-togethers are precisely that: get-togethers, social functions, fellowship opportunities. And fellowship (also known as community) is essential to the life of the church -- and the life of the Christian. Partly due to our American love of independence, church in other countries have caught on to this faster than we have. Once a friend and I were at lunch in

Among Humans

In response to a prayer I posted on Facebook about the terrorist attack in Nice, France, a friend sent me a quote from Seneca, a Roman philosopher and politician living during the time of Christ: “As long as we are among humans, let us be humane” (Chris Peters Translation [CPT]). It sounds fairly fundamental – “be nice to other people” – but the implications are far from basic. Let’s take it piece-wise. “As long as we are among humans,” Seneca begins. In other words, as long as we live. We’re sojourners on this earth, not permanent residents. While Seneca may have had no conception of (or belief in) a Christian eternity, he still acknowledged the reality of death (and maybe an afterlife, too

One of Us

I visited my hometown last weekend to spend time with some friends and see my family. That Saturday was the first day I had truly done nothing productive whatsoever in month, and I relished it. As I was driving a friend and his fiancee to dinner with another of our friends, both of them whipped out their phones to play the new Pokemon game. His fiancee asked me if I played as well, but before I could answer, my friend responded, "No, honey. He's not like us." He went on to tell her I wasn't glued to technology, nor obsessed with Pokemon, and that I'd only "had a smartphone for like two weeks." And that's just a lie. It's been just over a year, as a matter of fact. (Rest in Peace, dumbphone.)

In My Humble Opinion

As a pastor, I get asked my opinion on just about everything. I'm never quite sure how to respond to things like "Preacher, what would Jesus think about these gas prices?" or "How should Christians respond to vegans?" but I do my best. Mainly, though, people want to know where I stand -- and where God stands -- on the hot-button issues of our day. In case you're wondering, too, here's my response: I'll tell you when I see you. The Internet is not the most conducive place for well-reasoned discussions. It's so very easy to be misunderstood. All it takes is one word to be skipped while reading or the tone of the post to be misinterpreted, and all is lost. Friendships can be destroyed, relation

Unspeakable

There are times in life when words utterly fail, when language is simply inadequate to convey the felt depth of emotion. Some of these moments are happy times. No phrase is sufficient to express the look on a groom's face when he sees his bride walking down the aisle, nor can we put into words everything contained in holding a newborn child for the first time. The love and joy in our hearts is beyond language. As 1 Peter 1:8 says of our belief and love of Jesus Christ, we "are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy" -- "a joy unspeakable." And in those happiest of moments, to speak would surely be to shatter the feelings of our hearts, to cheapen and dull them by trying to define them

Pray for Me

It's a simple request, one we may make or hear made a dozen times a day: "Pray for me." There is a need, a desire, a hurt, a blessing. Something needs to be addressed, something the petitioner can't do on his or her own. They request prayer, hoping the one they ask will take up their cause, approach the throne of God, and make intercession for them. Do we? Or when we tell someone "I'll pray for you," does it simply . . . never happen? I'll be the first to admit I used to be pretty bad at praying for people. I'd say I would, then go on about my day and never think about it again. It's not that I was being deliberately malicious, mentally rubbing my hands together and thinking, God will never

Hunger Pains

It's a terrible thing to be hungry. I'm not talking about "I'm bored, so I think I'll eat," nor do I mean "I had to work through lunch and I could eat a horse!" No, I mean starvation. Famine. The total inability to obtain sufficient food for prolonged periods. According to the United Nations, hunger kills 3.1 million children under the age of five every year. Over 66 million school-age children go hungry every day in the developing world. (See these and other statistics here.) Meanwhile in America, the FDA this week approved a stomach pump you can use at home as a weight loss device, pumping out the food you just ate in something one doctor has dubbed "mechanized bulimia." We have problems.

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