Friday, March 30, 2007

Religious Traditions!!!

I am in the process or preparing a Sunday School lesson for this Sunday and I thought I would blog a little bit about it. I love to learn and have no problems being told something new and saying that I didn't know that. During my preparation for this lesson I found out something new.

The lesson is talking about Palm Sunday and the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. What i learned from this lesson was some history behind Ash Wednesday. I have never been a student of traditions within the church, but found this little piece of knowledge interesting. Historically, the ash that is used on Ash Wednesday, was gotten by burning the branches that were used in last years Palm Sunday.

As I got into my lesson and began researching it, some of the articles I read about this tradition really made me think about how I have and do celebrate the Easter season. Sad to say, the week hasa never really been anything special to me. Not because I don't believe the events or their significance, but I guess more because I have done it most of my life. I guess I would say that I have almost become immune to the power of the season. I can say this by the pure fact that this is the week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus and our forgiveness of sins. How can we not celebrate that? How can I not celebrate that?

Every day I feel that I grow closer to where God wants me. So many things I have taken for granted, I am not seeing the ultimate importance. As Christian we need to continue to celebrate our history and the events that brought us to where we are. We need to study the traditions of the people who came before us and understand why they did what they did. We (I) need to stop treating the Easter season like Halloween or just another holiday. This is the time of year where we celebrate the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection for our sins.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What's the Difference between Denominations?

I am amazed when I drive to church at the number of different churches I pass on the way there. By my count, there are 12 churches, mostly different denominations but a couple of the same. This is an amazing site to me. Not because I think we should have this many churches within an 8 mile stretch. I am more amazed at the reason we have so many different churches. Not just religions, but denominations within the same "Christian" religion.

I would venture to say that over 80% of all new church starts are because of a problem between people of a different church. I know that my home church split because of a conflict with insurance money they received. Out of one church, came two and not for the right reasons.

Even within the Nazarene church, we are prone to starting new churches just because of a conflict within one church, or a group of people not liking what another group of people are doing. Now, I know that there are some real theological issues to different denominations and there is no way that I could go into that on this blog. I know about some but not all and I wouldn't do any justice to it. One of the other things I have been thinking about lately is how much the people of a specific church, know about the history of the denomination they are in...

I know in my own church that they would be a very low percentage of people who could tell me how the Nazarene church started and why. I know I couldn't give a very detailed beginning but I have a good idea.

What does it mean to be in a certain denomination? What made you choose that denomination?

I know for me, I am a Nazarene because that is where I started. I began church at the age of 5 because of a bus ministry. Could that have been another denom? Probably. Would my viewpoints be different than they are now? Maybe. It is hard to say. I know in my search for a full-time position, I have looked into other denom's that hold a similar view to the Nazarene church. I follow what the Nazarene Church teaches now, because I have looked, studied and researched their beliefs and our history. I have look at other groups and seen and disagreed with some of what they have said.

To me, the Bible is fully true and fully God. If at any point a denomination tries to take away from the Bible, then they lose me. One of the interesting connecting points to most denom's is the Apostle's Creed. Many churches believe and recite this ancient creed. I believe it is a sounding point for many Christians...

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Amen.

If you look closely at all denom's, our basic belief is the same. Jesus is the message of all of us. Leave Him out, and you have lost me. Jesus is the central figure of the Bible and to dismiss Him, is to dismiss the Word of God. Argue with me or not but that is my belief.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wow, 2 Weeks is a long time...

Man, I can't believe it has been a whole two weeks since I last blogged. I need to get back into it. The last two weeks have been pretty hoping for me. And this is a good thing. I have spent so much time with my kids and my wife that it isn't funny. My kids have been on spring break, so we have been able to do stuff and just hang out. I am not doing ministry, so I have so much more time that I have moments where I don't know what I should be doing.

I am thankful for this break, and the opportunity to spend more time with my family. I think God knew what he was doing when the events of my life happened. :)

Anyways, life is moving right along. Beth and I are continuing to look at full-time youth pastor positions. We have talked to churches all over the Eastern half of the US. We are getting good vibes from a couple and hoping that God will bring our search to an end. We are getting more and more excited about this possibility. I have begun to start researching lessons that I am wanting to do, trying to get some stuff done before I move forward. That way I can hit the ground running. We are spending a ton of time doing research of different areas.

We did have one major setback. We were hoping to head to MD for a church near Baltimore but they decided to hire another guy. I wasn't too disappointed when I found out he had a master and bachelor's in religion... I would have hired him also. One thing I have learned from all this, is that most churches don't equate volunteer experience (no matter how much) with paid experience. I have been doing volunteer ministry for over 3.5 years and when some people hear that I am not paid, you can almost tell the change in their voice. And I know they aren't exactly the same, but some people haven't had the opportunity yet to get their feet wet and paid. At Covenant, I ran my ministry like I was paid. We had a full blown youth program, and there wasn't anything I didn't do. I probably put in at least 40 hours a week (on average) into that ministry.

Anyways, not a huge issue. I know God has a place for me. He has begun to open up at least 3 new doors for us to look into. All of them would be great positions for us, and we are continually praying for His will in our life. One of the biggest things I have learned in the last 6 months is that God is in control, not me. No matter how much I plan or scheme or hope, what I do doesn't matter. My gut can tell me anything it wants, but if God has something else in mind, He will do it.


I live you with these verses from Matt. 6:25-34;
25“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

27
Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;

29
and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

32
For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

34
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What is a Yoke??? How do we give it up?

Definition of a Yoke: (from Wikipedia) A yoke is a shaped wooden crosspiece bound to the necks of a pair of oxen, occasionally horses. It is held on the animal's neck by a usually U-shaped oxbow that also transmits force from the animal's shoulders. A swivel beneath the centre of the yoke, between the animals, attaches the pole of the vehicle (when the animals steer the vehicle) or chains that are used to drag the load.

Over the last several months, I have felt an enormous yoke upon my shoulders. For almost a year I have been heavily involved (more than normal) with helping our church to run as a church. I picked up being the sound man, multimedia coordinator, video producer and computer technician, among my normal duties of being Youth Pastor. When I first came to Covenant, I shied away from doing anything besides youth because I didn't want any interference or to take more time away from my family, but for the sake of helping the church I picked up where others hadn't. Now, this all isn't to make me feel better, God gave me these gifts and I felt at the time that I needed to use them. But as the months passed, I really began to feel the wear on my life of being responsible for doing so much and having to decide which area of my life I was going to focus on.

As I know look back, I realize that my youth ministry began to go down hill. I began to get drained and feel that I was doing sooo much, that I didn't want to do anymore. The yoke I was carrying began to be to much for me. Then when I really started looking for a full-time ministry position, that yoke became even that much greater. I really began to dread going to church, just because I knew that it would include a ton of work on my part and I felt I was more running around doing things, then actually being able to listen and learn what God was wanting to tell me.

Well, with little choice on my part, all this has come to an end. I am no longer the youth pastor at Covenant, a committee has been formed to take my place as Beth and I look for a full-time position. I no longer wear any hats. I am just a member, who is actually able to sit and listen to the sermon. This is weird for me. After going full steam for the last year or so, I am able to sit back and enjoy some quiet time, and thankfully more time with my family. This is a welcome break, as I am getting ready to take on a full time ministry somewhere, and I know how much time that will consume.

But through all these months of looking and trying to figure out where God will be sending me, I have really took more emotional baggage onto myself. I am one who likes to plan, and likes to know what is going to happen. In our path to look for a full-time position, we have found ourselves not knowing hardly anything, and continually asking ourselves the question of, what next? We know that God has a plan for us, there is no doubt, but we really are ready for Him to reveal all the details so that we can begin to move in that direction. Yesterday, I sat in Sunday School for the first time in many months. Ray, our teacher, was speaking about Hannah, Eli and Samuel and how Hannah surrendered her son to God, because He blessed her with Samuel. Ray spoke of being able to surrender everything to God, even the disappointment in our lives, the struggles, then unknowing of what is going to happen.

As I thought about my blog and what I would write about, I looked up Matt 11:28-19, which reads,
"28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This verse has never really made sense to me till know. With everything I have gone through the last few months, I have had to lean on God more and more, because I (we) are very limited in what we can actually control. Even when we think we have control, we usually don't. But God is in control, God knows everything, He knows the intricacies of your life and where you will go. Our part as Christians is to give up that control and allow Him to lead us in the direction that we can be most useful for His Kingdom, not our own self-gratification.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Good Things Must End...

Aren't my kids gorgeous? I think so, so does their mother. As of Friday, this will be all the kids we have. I have been de-armed, so to speak. Beth and I have been talking about it ever since before Kaitlyn was born but we never did anything about it. Well, that day has come and gone. I had done what most men dread doing and gotten myself fixed. I will have to say, it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought, but wasn't the funnest thing I have ever done either. The surgery went fine once I was numb, and the recover is OK as long as I stay on my medication.

Not to get too into this story, but the reason I bring it up was because as Beth and I were waiting to have the surgery done, something came over her. She realized the finality of what we were doing. She realized that we wouldn't have any more kids beyond our 3. She was a little bit bummed because there are times that we have talked about having another, but then Kaitlyn does something we don't like and we realize we don't need another one.

But in this thinking of final endings, I asked Beth the question of whether she believed that God had a specific path that He wanted us to follow, or does He allow us to choose between two good options and bless us, as long as we are doing His work? Should we as Christians have limited God by taking the control of our reproduction out of His hands? Ever since the first year of our marriage we left our having kids up to God. We believed that He would give us kids when He knew we were ready, and in looking back, He was right. But now we have taken away that control, or have we done the responsible thing and limited it in a safe way.

This is a question that we have grappled with as we are looking for a new youth ministry position. Does God have 1 church that we are supposed to go to and if we miss it we are in trouble, or does God allow us to choose between several churches and as long as we are looking for His will, He will bless us. So that is the question of the day, do you believe that God has a single path that we are to follow or do you think He allows us to choose from several different options?

The Bible tells us that God knows the plans He has for us, are those plans absolute?