Showing posts from September, 2011

Is it still a church service if you take a field trip?

Every once in a while, church needs to be different. Today at Sanctuary Church, it was definitely that. It was our week to focus on sharing God's love outside the church walls, and we hauled off and took a field trip. We met for a few minutes at our usual location in Natomas, and then we moved everyone to Ninos Park, a low-income neighborhood where the GreenHouse Christian Community Center is. The GreenHouse was launched out of Sanctuary, and Sanctuary continues to be heavily involved at the GreenHouse. I think it was a touching service. At the Park, we split up into six groups and went to different places around the neighborhood to pray.

I must say, doing church like this for a Sunday both energized and worried me. I was energized because I love getting out and "being there." Why just talk about mission when you can go there and do it?

I was worried because I wonder what people think when church is that far out of the ordinary. Meet at your building for a half hour and …

The movie The Help

Susan and I went to see a very good movie the other night: The Help. Guys, you may think this is a "chick flick," but I'm telling you there is a lot of substance here for all of us. While trying not to give away too much of the story, here are some of the elements of the movie I appreciated:

The movie is about race relations. I half expected to see familiar cliches: people of one skin color are good, and people of another skin color are evil. Not so in The Help. Characters are varied, and their views on race are not uniform or necessarily predictable.Faith plays an important part in the story. Aibeleen, one of the movie's primary protagonists, makes decisions based on an inner conviction that God is leading her. For Aibeleen, living out her faith means taking dangerous risks and requires immense courage. It is a story of doing what God requires no matter what the consequences might be. And not all turns out rosy for Aibeleen. God does not make all her problems go away…

What not to do at Starbucks

The following is a coffee shop violation that happened this morning. I arrived at Starbucks for a meeting I had scheduled with a friend from church. I was there first, so I set out to get a table for us. The Starbucks was so packed there was only one table open. So I walked over, pulled out a chair, and began to sit down. While I was doing this, a college student with a laptop pulled out the other chair, mumbled "hi" to me, and started spreading his stuff out on the table. No "is someone sitting in this chair" or "do you mind if I use this table too." Nothing but the nonverbal version of "I have to plug in my laptop, so I'm going to sit here." In his mind, we were going to share this table like we were in the university library or something. Then again, the dude was listening to his iPod and was really focused on his laptop, so I'm not sure he really knew I was there to begin with. Maybe I should have said, "Dude, this is not a stud…

When you think God is going to change things, but you don't know how

Sanctuary is embarking on a new adventure, and I have mixed feelings about it. Maybe you have been in that place where you know God is going to change things, but you don't know what he will end up doing. He wants to revamp the way you interact with your spouse. Or he wants to address the way you spend money.  Or he asks you to think again about the ways you spend your spare time. When God signals that it's time to change things up, we often have mixed emotions. We are excited because we sense God moving in our lives. We also wonder what the changes will mean. What will this require of me? Will I like what God has in mind for me? Am I afraid I will fail to be obedient to him? How will he transform me to be more like him along the way?

Sometimes I feel that way in my personal walk with God. Sometimes I feel that way as pastor of a church. It is true particularly in this season at Sanctuary. The congregation and I have had a year to get to know each other, and Sanctuary is now o…

Close to Jesus: The boy with the fishes and the loaves

Not long ago I wrote out a dramatized reflection on the boy who gave Jesus the fishes and the loaves. It was for a sermon at Sanctuary. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it!
First a couple of introductory observations. If we were making a movie about Jesus multiplying the fishes and the loaves, I would cast a 12-year-old boy for this part. The story is told in all four Gospels (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6), but it only includes a few scant details about the boy. He was apparently by himself. There is no mention of his parents. He was old enough to eat a sizeable meal and carry his own lunch. Yet he is referred to as a boy and not a man. The official age for manhood was 13, so I am guessing the boy was about 12. I've added a few other details in the story, based on the four Gospels and a little biblical scholarship.

Okay, now grab a few quiet minutes. Quiet yourself in God's presence. Enter into this story as fully as you can, imagining yourself as the 12-year-old boy. Put y…

In touch with God's missional heart -- the big "so that"

Often we Christians can spend time praying and living for God, and still miss the heart of God. One way this happens is when we turn inward, wanting God to bless us and take care of our needs (which is a good thing to do) while not paying close attention to the rest of the world (which is not good). It's easy to do. But there is a prayer in Scripture that, if we pray it and practice it, will keep reminding us that God's heart is for all people including people who already love God and people who don't.

The prayer is the first two verses of Psalm 67, which is the passage we focused on last Sunday at Sanctuary. The prayer goes like this:
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us --
so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.Do you see the big "so that" in there? We want God to bless us so that his ways may be known on earth and his salvation among all nations. We want him to do good things for us so that peop…