Church of the Way

Church of the Way
Changing The Way You Think About Church

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blood Moon Rising

"The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."  Joel 2:31

That verse is reason enough for pastors like John Hagee of Cornerstone Church in Texas to declare that Tuesday's 'Blood Moon' marks the beginning of the rapture, surely to happen in the next 2 years during four Blood Moon's we'll experience from 2014-2015.  Apparently, a lot of people are buying his book and believe the same thing.  I've been wrong before (a lot), and I could be here, but I'm not buying it.  I'm sure Pastor Hagee is a good man.  I've listen to his sermons on occasion.  He's passionate.  I like that.  But I don't get this mindset.

Christianity is, by nature, weird.  This week is the high and holy festival of our weirdness.  We believe a man rose from the dead and ascended into heaven after spending a few weeks risen and hanging out with his friends.  Their testimony is why we believe what we believe.  We believe it to be true because it happened, and they saw it with their eyes, told everyone, and gave their lives for it.  Would you give your life for something you weren't sure of?  I didn't think so.  But this is still weird to the rest of the world.  It's okay to be weird because of what we know to be true, what we believe happened.

When we propagate stories like this surrounding the Blood Moon, we become weird in the wrong way.  Not weird because we're different.  Not weird because we love our neighbor as ourselves.  Not weird because we put others first.  Weird because we believe something we don't know to be true and what we believe will happen.  That's totally different.  When we lean toward that weirdness, we lose our voice with those outside of the Church or Christianity.  That seems crazy (it's borderline) and like fear-mongering (it is).

I don't think it is our role to lead the Jesus movement based on what we don't know.  I think we're supposed to reach out to our culture with what we do know.
  • We are made in God's image.  I want everyone to know that.
  • God loves us.  Ditto.
  • Jesus died for us to forgive our sins.  Isn't that good news?
  • Jesus arose to give us victory over our sins.  That's great news.
  • He wants to restore His image in our lives.  Couldn't we all use a makeover.
  • He's coming again -because he said so, just not when.  So I want to live in such a way that if it's tomorrow, I'm content with how I've lived and in such a way that if it's a million years from now, I'm content with how I left planet earth, Christ's Church, my community, and the people I love.
If we push people to make decisions on unsure data, then those are unsure decisions.  If we lead people toward standing on the firm foundation of our faith, they will stand on the Solid Rock.  And it'll be a lot less weird.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Sunday Preview & Thought for the Week (4.11.14)

For our educators, parents, and students, I hope you've had a great spring break.  I'm so looking forward to sharing the last part of our series "How It All Went Down."  We'll be talking about the "Death of Jesus."  The message of Christ's death is central to our faith, and it's often misunderstood.  It's the best news ever.  I hope you'll be there to be a part of this special Worship Experience.

Thought for the Week
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  1 Thessalonians 5:11

Have you ever thought about how some people make you feel versus how other people make you feel?  Have you ever thought about how you make other people feel?  The truth is, we send signals even beyond our language, and it is so important to encourage others.  A Yale University School of Management study found that "of all emotional signals, smiles are the most contagious."  I'm reading a book right now called Primal Leadership, and the authors talk about how important emotions are in relationships and organizations.  There are some lessons from this passage and line of thinking.  
  1. Are you surrounding yourself with people who encourage you?  It's so crucial to surround ourselves with people who give us good emotions, inspire us, encourage us, and make us want to do and be our best.  Invest in people that smile and make you smile.  Spend time with people that build you up.
  2. Are you building others up?  Sometimes, we're the ones that are dragging the party down.  I don't want to be that person.  I don't know about you, but I want to be a 'smile giver.'  I want to be an encourager.  Think about how you treat and speak to others.  This passage makes me want make sure that even my body language is sending encouraging signals.
God encourages us to be around people that bring out our best, but he commands us to be the kind of people that bring out others best.  What would it mean for you to be a 'smile giver.'

God Bless,

Carter

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Noah

So I went to see Noah.  I felt like as a spiritual leader I needed to see what everyone was talking about.  Also, as a Christian, I felt like I ought to see it.  The story of Noah is near and dear to my heart.  I worked at a Summer Youth Ministry called Noah's Ark for four summers in college.  My son's nurseries were decorated in Noah's Ark themed gear, and I have a huge picture of the animals piling into the ark in my office.

For the first 3/4 of the movie, I was enthralled.  The imagery and effects were amazing.  The story was different, but I didn't mind the poetic license.  It was kind of like watching a movie with Biblical themes rather than a Biblical movie.  I didn't mind that.  I like movies.

The last 30 minutes got weird, so be prepared for that to happen when you watch it.  Noah and the story take a very divergent route from the Biblical narrative.  Noah's heart is not the heart of Noah in the Bible.  God's heart, at least interpreted by Noah, is nowhere near the heart of the God in the Noah story in Genesis.  I've read several reviews by theologians and seminary professors with different theories.  I believe the director's picked and chose from a lot of religious thought, and not all of it was from the Old Testament.

But, and this is the point that's so crucial for Christians, isn't it good that the world is talking about the Bible?  Isn't a conversation open to God's true heart?  The movie is well made.  It's got some Biblical themes.  It takes one of our stories and adds it's own spin.  It's an open door to say, "You know, that was really interesting, but I think X or Y really represents how a lot of the world misunderstands or misinterprets who God really claims to be in the Bible."  When we Christians immediately poo-poo a movie like Noah, we lose credibility in the marketplace.  We need to be able to engage the world, have open conversation, hear questions, live with doubts, and listen to fears.  We need to be able to be transparent about what we don't know and clear about the things that we absolutely know.  But we've got to be able to talk.  And we can't talk, we can't have a conversation if we don't know what the world is thinking.  And we don't need to be afraid.  Darren Aronofsky didn't change the Bible.  He made a movie.  And he dipped into our story to make one.  How can we use it to listen to what the world is saying?

The people I know who don't go to church or aren't really down with God want to be heard.  They want to be able to ask their questions.  Noah is like the world asking a question.  Let's use it.  Let's know what the Bible actually says.  Let's listen to God.  Let's listen to others.  And let's show the world in word and deed who God really is.  What his heart is really like.  And what he really did for us...and does in us...and through us.  But let's not put our hands over our ears and not listen.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sunday Preview & Thought for the Week (3.20.14)

I hope you're having a great week and enjoying this first day of Spring.  I can't remember ever being this ready for Spring!  Can you believe Easter is one month from today?  I hope you're inviting friends and preparing your heart.  Easter is a great time to invite others, and our Worship Experience is going to be awesome.  If you've got friends and family that are skeptics, new to faith, exploring God, or unsure about Jesus, it's the perfect opportunity to invite them as I'll be teaching about the basics of the Easter story and why it matters 2,000 years later.

This Sunday, we're continuing our series "How It All Went Down" as we talk about Jesus' Trial Before the Sanhedrin.  If you don't know what the Sanhedrin is, we'll make it all make sense on Sunday.  There are some great lessons for our own lives in these stories.

Thought for the Week
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness."  Matthew 6:33

I was telling Emily the other day that I can't remember a season of our lives like this.  Well, there's never really been one.  We're in the thick of preparing for Easter and working on building plans for a permanent home.  I'm reading about a book a week in preparation for another couple of weeks of school in May.  And we're chasing around the four baseball teams that our boys play on.  We talked about how we're having to say no to a lot right now.  My focus has been baseball, church and school.  That's about all I have time for these couple of months.  It will be over in May, and we'll breathe, but it's a crazy season.  I'll bet you've had or are having seasons like that.  Family life, work life, and something else all ramps up at the same time.  There are a couple of important things to note in a life cycle like that:
  • It's okay to give yourself permission to say 'no' for a season.  That doesn't mean it's a forever 'no.'  There are times you have to choose.  Know that you can always come back and choose differently when that period of life is over.  And let people know that.  Tell them, "I can't know, but talk to me about it this summer or in a year.  I'll be in a different place then."
  • Keep the main things the main things.  Where frustration happens in relationships is when people feel like we're short-changing what is vitally important to them.  For me, school comes last of those three.  While I'm going to school to help me grow as a leader (which is important to our ministry), I can take classes over again.  I'll never get watching my boys play baseball back and I'll never get the opportunity back of preaching a message that someone needs to hear or leading our church through this important season.
  • Don't say 'no' to God.  It's what I need most, and what I constantly remind myself of.  In the madness, we all need time to stop and exhale so that we can breathe in God's Spirit.  We need a moment in the Bible.  We need a time of prayer.  We need to connect with our Creator.  We need to seek Him first, not last, so that God my be moving and working in all our baseball watching, soccer mom-ing, school reading, client meeting, softball practicing, dance recital-ing, Bible studying, LIFE Group-ing, Volunteering, and family obligation-ing.  
May we seek Him first, even in the busiest seasons.

In Christ,

Carter

Monday, March 17, 2014

Doing Life Well

A week ago, I went to a funeral/memorial service for one of the most kind men I knew, Holt Fleming.  Holt was the long time treasurer at First United Methodist Church of Lawrenceville, and when I served on staff there from 2002-2005, Holt came every Thursday morning to sign checks for various ministries.  On Thursdays, I always looked forward to seeing Holt, and I never missed sticking my head in the office where he was signing away to say, "Hello," because Holt always made me feel good about my day.  Heck, he made me feel good about life.

At the service, I figured out I wasn't the only one.  He had made every pastor and everyone feel that way.  I came home, and told my wife it was the best funeral I'd been to in a long time.  His Sons-in-law spoke with reverence and honor about the man they lovingly called "Dad."  And I just thought:  "I hope I do life that well."

There are moments when things become clear.  Every one of us will have a funeral or memorial service.  Our children, friends, nephews, nieces and business associates will gather to say something about our lives.  At that moment, the daily moments that we take for granted will add up to something.  We will have lived a lifetime of kindness or something else entirely.  It's so hard to think about that in the grind of life.  I spend most of my time working and chasing around four boys.  We spend our conversations trying to figure out what we're having for dinner and what time we're eating dinner in order to get to the ball field or a meeting on time.  I spend time worrying about church stuff and how to lead our ministry to where God wants it to go.  I go to meetings and write reports.  And, yet, I don't want to be remembered for any of that.

No one wants their children to say, "You know, the best thing about Dad was that we always had our schedule nailed down so that we could eat dinner before going to baseball practice."  And no one wants to be remembered as someone "who could really lead a meeting" or "really write up a report."

I want to be remembered as a man who really loved Jesus.  A husband who honored his wife every day.  A father who nurtured and cared for his sons, and taught them how to be men of integrity.  I want to be adored by my future daughters-in-law because I have cherished them and my future grandchildren so dearly.  I want to be known as someone who was fun to work for and with.  And I want to be remembered as kind.

It would help, if we could think about the back end of things on the front end.  Much of what we spend our energy, time and emotions on won't matter.  But we also can't live all of our lives at once.  I knew Holt Fleming as kind because he was kind the first day I met him as a young associate pastor.  Then he was kind the next time and the next.  Then he was just as encouraging every time I saw him when I dropped by to visit, even after I was serving elsewhere.  One visit at a time.  One smile at a time.  One kind word at a time.  That's how you build a legacy and a life.  When our children eulogize us, what will be the total sum of the 'one at a time' investments we've made over a lifetime?  What will matter at that moment won't be whether we did work, meetings, or reports well.  What will matter then is if we did life well.  So do life well today.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sunday Preview & Thought for the Week (3.13.14)

Hey there Church of the Way!

I hope you're having a fantastic week and enjoying some of this spring-like weather.  It's almost here!  I'm so excited about what God is doing at Church of the Way.  Yesterday, we met with our builder to begin to dream about renovation plans.  It's starting to come together, and when it does I can't wait to share with you the exciting days ahead.

This Sunday, we're continuing the series "How It All Went Down" as we take a look at "The Garden & Arrest" of Jesus.  We'll be following up last week's message about the cup of grace Jesus offered us.  That wasn't the original cup on the menu.

Thought for the Week
"Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief."  Psalm 31:9

I've been thinking about grief a lot lately.  Grief is simply dealing with loss.  We think about the death of a loved one when we think of grief, and that is certainly the most final and traumatic loss, but there are all kinds of losses in life.  Loss of dreams, relationships, friendships, jobs, money, and on and on.  I felt weird for a few days and I realized I was dealing with grief.  It wasn't even over something bad.  Simply, a good friend is moving away, and I was grieving.  Things will...change.  Change is a part of loss.  And everything is always changing, so in turn, we're kind of always dealing with grief.  The key is to remember that God is with us in loss and disappointment.  God is present.  No matter the change or grief you're doing through, God is with you.  And, there are better days ahead.  We serve a God who has big plans for us.  If we can focus on what is ahead that we're gaining rather than what we're losing, we learn to handle change and loss better.  It isn't easy.  Jesus grieved.  We all grieve.  Give yourself space and time to grieve, but know that God is there, and you have a future.

In Christ,

Carter 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sunday Preview & Thought for the Week (3.6.14)

I hope you're having a fantastic week.  Sunday was such an awesome day as we kicked off the series "How It All Went Down."  I'm having a great time studying up for this series about the week the changed the world.  I believe if we'll listen to what God has to say to us in this story, we'll be changed as well.

This Sunday, we'll continue the series as I teach about "The Betrayal and Last Supper."  There are some rich lessons for us in these passages.  Also, don't forget to set your clocks forward one hour this Saturday for Daylight Savings Time.  If you sleep in after losing an hour, make plans to come to our 6 p.m. service!

Thought for the Week
"Even zeal is not good without knowledge, and the one who acts hastily sins."  Proverbs 19:2

Has your zeal ever trumped your knowledge?  My passion has been known to do that from time to time.  This verse caught my eye on the eve of the Spring sports season for my family.  We'll be spending a lot of nights and Saturdays at the ballpark cheering on your boys' baseball teams.  It's easy to let your zeal overcome your knowledge when the umpire makes a not-so-correct call.  Of course, this happens in relationships, at work, at the DMV, in traffic, at family reunions, in the airport, dealing with customer service, and just about every day.  Zeal is not a bad thing.  It's a very good thing.  The world so desperately needs people who are full of life and energy.  However, we are unwise when we don't package zeal with knowledge.  We are called to do our due diligence.  Acting quickly isn't always the right things.  Speaking quickly isn't always the wise thing.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes we're able to have insight immediately and quick action is needed.  But, we're wise to check ourselves.  This passage reminds us to do the right thing and say the thing instead of the immediate thing.  Don't lose zeal.  Just couple it with knowledge.  Something to remember the next time you're ready to fire off an email, post a comment, say something you shouldn't say or act hastily without thinking it through.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Carter