Wow is about all I can say after watching this video.  A friend of mine, David Walters started a new church two years ago.  The Vine is what church should be.  The video speaks for itself.


Joy at the Stroud House

I have to share my joy with you.  As some of you know, my wife is famous for her chocolate chip cookies.  She's good enough to make Amos not so Famous.  If she had enough time and enough ingredients, I believe that these things could bring about world peace.

For almost two years she's refused to make these morsels of heavenly wonderfulness.  The oven in the parsonage wouldn't regulate heat consistently enough and the cookies weren't the perfection she was used to.

The oven died...

The new one came today!  Rejoice!  Proclaim the good news in the streets and come for a taste of your own.  We made a special trip to the grocery store, just for ingredients.  Tonight at 7:52, the first batch arrived, golden perfection, heaven in your mouth and pounds around your gut.  I tell you the truth, I couldn't be prouder if Erin just gave birth.

Just thought I'd share.  (imagine how good this must taste)

Easter Celebration

Time to dust off the blog again and rejoin the electronic community.  Holy Week was a rush in more than one sense.  We survived, met several new people, and look forward to the coming weeks.

I had a blast on Easter.  I got to the church at 5:30am (which is the closest thing to an "ungodly" hour) and preached the sunrise service in the church parking lot.  We had 77 people at the service, which was remarkable since we hadn't advertised it much and we only had 45 last year. 

Followed that up with a great breakfast, cooked by our men's group.

11:00 was the big show.  We had a good crowd and everything came together.  The children's sermon was my favorite part of the service, which is interesting, since I don't usually like to do them (it's my personal opinion).  I told the kids that we were going to have a party.  I gave them all noise-making party favors and we decorated with streamers.  After I had them play "Jesus Loves Me" on the favors, I showed them how we would decorate.  I didn't tell anyone else what I was planning.  I simply took a roll of streamers and chucked it to the back of the sanctuary.  I have still retained my form from my lawn rolling high school days.

I had the perfect vantage point.  I saw every eye get wide when the roll went airborne.  Once the shock settled, people started catching on and the four rolls I had were unrolled all over the sanctuary.  It was incredible and much better than I had anticipated.

The point?  Easter is a celebration.  In fact, all days of every week, because of Easter, are celebrations.  No longer do the recession, our finances, our broken relationships, our illnesses, our hardships, or even our death have power over us.  Because of Christ, we have reason to celebrate every day that we draw breath and show that to the world.

The best thing about the last two weeks in worship is that it hasn't felt for a moment like drudgery.  There's been no lack of emphasis in worship and people have been very active in participating.  That, to me, is the way that worship should be.

I told Erin last week that I was thinking of revamping our worship services (we'll see how that unfolds).  I asked her what was the most significant worship service of the year, in terms of style, not theology.  If you think about it, it's Palm Sunday.  Yes, we do some ridiculous things on Palm Sunday like wave some branches in church, but it's still very meaningful.

Two weeks ago, on Palm Sunday, I preached on the concept of doxology (latin for sung or spoken praise to God).  Our doxology is the essence of worship.  We begin with introspection that leads us to confession and forgiveness.  With that forgiveness and the promise of a fulfilled, purposeful life with Christ, how can we not move to doxology.

Maybe your church recites a doxology on Sunday morning (in ours, one is the response to the creed and the other is the response to the offering), if you were going to redesign your worship service to center on doxology and help move people to that point, how would you do it?


On a side note:  I'm finally getting caught up on publishing sermons again.  I've skipped over last fall's for now and started again with this year's sermons.  You can find them on iTunes HERE (or by searching for "Mt. Bethel") or you can listen to them over the web HERE.


Gear for the Journey: Service

How are you doing with your disciplines?  Have you experienced a transformation in your spiritual journey?  I hope so.

Sorry for the lack of posting last week.  My intention was to post while I was away at my parents' house, but I got called back for a death in the church and my week was swallowed whole.  I still haven't posted on fasting, but I promise to do that soon.

Since I've just finished preaching service, I'll go with that first...

As I mentioned, I did a fair amount of traveling last week.  It was the first time in a while that I traveled by myself and didn't have my xm radio filling the car with continuous music or talk.  I had to find radio stations to listen to.  When I came into Birmingham, I found a sports talk radio station that carried with me almost to the Georgia state line.  The radio jocks talked about a number of different topics, some sports related and some not so much.  One that stuck with me was a survey that some organization had just completed.

The group surveyed thousands of women across the US (forgive me for not remembering who it was) and asked them all sorts of unusual questions.  There were two that stood out to me:

Half of women surveyed said that they would make a friend obese if it meant that they could be personally thin and attractive for the rest of their lives.  Wow.

More than half of the women surveyed, when given the opportunity to save the life of a stranger by shaving their heads, opted to keep their hair!  Really?  That stuff usually grows back.

Sadly, this isn't just the case for women.  Men have gotten to be just as vain and selfish.  We all look out for number one and won't give up even trivial things to improve the life of others.  In fact, we will sacrifice people that we claim to love for the sake of improving our own lives.  I would say that there's that whole thing about God exalting the humble and humbling the arrogant, but that's another post for another day.

The funeral I performed Sunday afternoon was for a different sort of person.  Her name was Doshia Barham and she was someone who set the example for selfless living.  She was an x-ray tech by trade on an army base, but was, for decades, a sort of community nurse for many of the senior adults in this area.  She took care of her parents and her husband's parents in their convalescence.  She went daily to a friend's mother's house to care for her.  Her mailman even brought his insulin shot to the house ever day so she could administer it.  Countless others recieved help from her that generations of people will remember. 

Doshia understood the discipline of service.  She gave and gave and gave.  She never recieved any compensation beyond the gratitude and endearment of others - and she loved what she did.  These last few months were tough on her because she was stuck mostly in a hospital bed and the tables were turned.  The people she had served now were serving her.  How incredible to see the body of Christ at work!

True service is something to be admired, learned, and practiced.  It's service that is humble, finds joy in its own practice, doesn't seek reward, attention, or compensation, and is habitual.  It's very different from self-righteous service, where we calculate what we will do for "those people," seek results in the form of affirmation or reward, and is done when it's planned (while passing by other, sometimes more obvious, opportunities to serve).  True service is an act of love and a reflection of a relationship with Christ.

Why do we serve?  Simple.  Because Christ first loved and served us.  After all, he took the form of a man and he didn't have to.  He called, taught, and put up with twelve disciples and countless crowds and he didn't have to.  He healed many of physical and spiritual ailments and he didn't have to.  He was arrested, tortured, and crucified and he didn't have to be.  He single-handedly took on death and won, offering us reconciliation with God and he didn't have to. 

Next time you see a cross, look beyond the beautiful stain or the shiny brass.  What do you see?  We place it as a symbol to remind us that God has extended grace to us.  True faith is accepting that grace and extending it to others.  "We love because Christ first loved us." (1 John 4:19)