The Latest Word
Here’s a little bite of what you’ll hear at Crossroads from week to week:
We will change worship times starting Memorial Day weekend and merge both services for the summer to meet at 9:15 a.m.
We are hoping this will enable people to make plans together before or after church and this will give our volunteers more of a break.
If you find it hard to serve during the school year summer is a great time to try something new, bake cookies, come to a praise band practice or volunteer.
God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
These words pour from the first verses of Psalm 19 (The Message) and remind us that God’s handiwork stands up to the strongest scrutiny. All of Psalm 19 is about inspection, beginning first with God’s Creation.
The image is then directed toward the Laws and Principles of God’s Creation -
The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.
We are in the final stages of inspection on a house we are building for a beloved friend in our community. We have diligently worked to anticipate all that he might find that needs done to pass the test. We know that like God’s inspection there is a reason for it, safety and truth. With a home inspection the inspector’s job is to make sure the person moving in can feel safe and secure that their home was build well and will give them a comfortable place to live for years to come. The inspector sees things the homeowner doesn’t and can verify that the house was built truthfully, according to the codes and guidelines of the community.
With God’s inspection we are instructed about how to live according to the revelations and directions of God which will pull our lives together.
I have to admit that doing home inspections and waiting to see what they say is not one of my favorite things. I also don’t especially like when the Holy Spirit brings an attitude or action to my attention that is out of line or dangerous. My first impression it seems is, why can’t we just call it “good enough” and move on. (Right now you should be glad I got out of the construction business when I was 20 years old!)
Good enough should not cut it with the buildings or the lives we build because we are not the only ones impacted. We might build a house but we will not be the only ones who will walk under that roof and God says that our lives are not our own, they have substantial impact on the lives of others. If our house is not in order people may be damaged by our carelessness.
The Psalm points out three “inspections” that are important to the people around us as they consider God – creation, the law and Christians. All three directly reflect on the builder.
A summary of the Psalmist’s words might say:
Inspect Creation and tell me that God does not have His act together!
Inspect the Laws of the Universe, they are perfect enough to protect us and let us live.
Inspect me, let me grow to be a testimony to God’s greatness just like the Creation and the Law.
No one I know enjoys an inspection, even when you think things are right there is a question as to what the inspector might see different. It is good to know that God sees us differently and cares much more than I do about how things are built. If you don’t know what I mean by that, come some Sunday and we can talk about it…
Join us for a family Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m.
The service will include carols, candlelight, the Christmas story and last a little under an hour.
This Advent we celebrate the Good News, news good enough to sing about. We are looking at four songs around the birth of Christ from those who witnessed it. Mary’s song December 2, Zecheriah’s (John the Baptist’s dad) song December 9, Simeon’s song December 16 and the Angel’s song on December 23.
How beautiful it is when something is go great that it makes us sing! When something makes my children sing it stops me in my tracks, makes me take notice. I miss wonderful things happening around me and when I hear someone so happy they sing it demands my attention.
Have you ever been moving through your day and notice that you are singing, maybe along to the radio, maybe a song that you remember that speaks to your situation.
What is important enough that you want to sing? The gospel is something to sing about, to take notice of and worthy of your attention.
There are a lot of ways to explain the gospel and we are always looking for ways to present the good news in ways that resonate with this generation. Here is a very creative presentation of the gospel which may or may not be your style but is worth sharing with the world.
The worst of the storm is behind us it seems and we are grateful for a lot right now. We pray for those who have lost in the storm.
- Sue Onorato, Shamong Township Manager and Bill Gates, Director of Emergency Management for Shamong called yesterday and asked if we could help staff the local shelter at Indian Mills Memorial School. A crew of 14 showed up at 4 p.m. and the elders of the church took the watches of the night through to this morning making sure the shelter was properly staffed. Several other people from the church stepped up, showed up and volunteered to be there yesterday and today until the shelter was closed just before noon. Thankfully there was not a lot to do but Mr. Gates expressed his appreciation for our willingness to support the community.
- People are checking up with each other. Several people have called and asked me who I knew who needed looked in on including our favorite lady who seems to be riding out the storm just fine.
- People are calling each other and going across the lawn to check on neighbors, what a great opportunity to do that! Starting and carrying on a conversation should not be too hard today.
- Pray for our local EMS and Fire personnel and our National Guard service people who continue to serve at this hour.
- The church does not have any water damage and for that we are thankful.
A few thoughts:
- There is a lot of damage in the Tuckerton Road/Forked Neck area. People need to be careful and if you live in that area and need something please don’t be shy.
- Upper Crust Pizza has invited people to come to the restaurant if they need clean water, bathrooms. Very nice gesture from the Caterina family who called to ask me if I knew of any needs in the community early on in the storm.
- I want to think about our building and creating the capacity to be a shelter or Emergency Management substation to assist when things like this happen. We have to clear some hurdles with purchase and occupancy first but we have people with a heart to serve in these situations as was made clear once again in the last two days. Lets talk about it.
- I am thankful as always for the Elders. I took the call to help from the township and came up for a few minutes last night. With no urging, direction, whatever these three guys not only showed up at 4 but worked it out so one of them would be in the building from 10 last night through 8 this morning as was requested by Mr. Gates. That is the kind of leadership you have in this church and why I love these three men and their families so much.
- We will keep our ears open as things settle down and the authorities and utilities assess the situation to see where we might be able to flex our ministry muscles.
- I hope that a positive outcome from this calamity is we return to some of the civility and camaraderie that was evident in the days after 9/11. Remember? As Christians it is our calling to bring that to our community no matter the circumstances, but Sandy was a big reminder as to how important it truly is.
We had a great time this past New Year’s Day welcoming the new year by watching the sun rise on the seawall in Brigantine and then heading across the street to the Pirate’s Den for breakfast. I have added a picture of what that place looked like in the middle of the storm. Just a reminder as to how wonderfully balanced this world was created that these events do not happen with much more frequency. Just one more thing to be thankful for when we head back to welcome 2013 in a few months…
It is political season – wait, wait don’t stop reading just because I said political!!! Though I understand why you would.
The ins and outs of the races has me thinking again about information and its usefulness. I bet you are wondering about some of the information out there and how useful or true it is as well!
We are bombarded by information every day. Some studies say that every day the average American absorbs 6 full newspapers of information. When you compare this with 30 years ago when the average was 2-3 newspaper pages things begin to come into focus. When those of us over the age of 25 think back we can remember a time when we did not have internet, over 40 cable television, over 60 television at all. The explosion of access to information may very well be the hallmark of this age of history.
Is all of this information improving our lives? In some ways. I love being able to search the internet for things I would have gone to a library for 20 years ago. I don’t miss those needle in a haystack trips even though I find libraries one of the most peaceful places on earth. I also like the way I can reach people I want to more quickly and efficiently. Just this week I reconnected with an old friend from Tennessee. That would not have been practicable without the internet.
I also find myself wasting a lot of time looking for trivial things… we are all aware of the more aggressive time robbing facets of the information age. While trying to compose this I was interrupted by a half dozen emails and a few texts. Such is the new way of life!
“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge” said John Naisbitt, a businessman who also served in JFK’s administration.
Does information lead us to better decision making? Critical thinking? No, in fact I believe the overwhelming access to information hurts our ability to be decisive. Something pulls us to check one more site on the internet, find one more source, post a facebook question and poll our friends about an issue we are facing. We do not lack data or information, we lack wisdom.
Clifford Stoll put it this way, “Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.” While I can go just about anywhere to get information, it will never become wisdom without a refining force that transforms it into applicable principles based on the foundations of life itself.
I submit to you the Bible is that very catalyst, a transforming agent that has the power to transform all of the information we ingest into a valuable commodity far superior to anything we might obtain without it. The Bible, when added to the who, what, where and when uncovers the why. Life without the what Socrates would call the unexamined life. I will leave it to you to Google “Socrates – Unexamined – Life” if you don’t know what his opinion was on that subject.
Even the effort to write this little post is a good example of time wasted unless it accomplished one thing, it challenges and encourages you the reader to examine the information you ingest and consider increasing the amount of scriptural wisdom you partake. If this is the result, it is time well wasted!
New @ Crossroads:
- This fall we moved to two services, 9 and 10:30 a.m. to accommodate those who want to worship with us on a weekly basis.
- Our local house build project is nearing completion. Some yard work and a visit from the plumber are all that is left before calling for final inspections – electrical is already complete!
- We are finalizing an agreement to purchase the building where we now worship. We have a Certificate of Filing from Pinelands and are working with the local building inspector.
- Operation Christmas Child was a great opportunity to provide Christmas and the meaning of Christmas to children from around the globe.
- We had a great Progressive dinner in early December, 40 people traveled from house to house getting to know each other, eating and enjoying a relaxing evening. Thank you to all of the hosts, chefs and to Upper Crust Pizza in Tabernacle for providing the main course free of charge. Frank and Robin you are the best!
- With sufficient progress made with Pinelands and the township we will begin work on the church building starting with doing some masonry work on the back of the building.
- A group is praying for our next outreach project. As we complete the house build which has stretched and challenged us over the past four years we don’t want to get caught flat-footed. What is the next outrageous opportunity God is calling us to tackle? Stay tuned…
One of the Sundays which stuck out for me while we were meeting at Seneca was when Hilary Watson came and ministered to us. She has a great spirit and I really enjoyed how she took the time to speak with the children. We have an opportunity to welcome her back following the release of a new album and a tour through Europe. She recently teamed up with violinist Kate Feldtkeller who will be joining her on their jaunt through the Northeast.
We will have the opportunity to worship with them November 11th in the morning worship. You can learn more about Hilary and Kate at hilarywatsonmusic.com and download her music on iTunes. My favorite right now is their remake of Be Thou My Vision off the Mostly Unplugged EP.
I am expecting another great Sunday, we have been blessed to have in our congregation and to host some incredibly talented musicians under our roof and Hilary is among the best of that bunch. Invite your friends, we will make room and the hour is going to pass in a blink…
UPDATE - It was a great Sunday as expected. People from the first service were so blessed that many stayed for the second service as well. A group of almost 20 hit the Shamong Diner after the services to get to know Hilary and Kate a little better. We are looking forward to having them back the next time they make an East Coast swing and are planning to add a coffee house to the next visit. Watch the website and the weekly email update for an announcement.
July 15, 2012
We had an exceptionally fun morning in worship today. Summer is often a time where people are away on vacation which can be sad, not seeing the people you love. However it also is a great time because people often are visiting family and they come out to church together. I love meeting our parents, grandparents, cousins and college friends as the come through our community. The other wonderful things this morning are watching how God is working to provide a building for us to worship with space to grow as we draw the construction phase of our local house build to a close. Finally worship was great this morning, one of my top five hymns is Victory in Jesus – this morning the church sang it with conviction and Jim Gooch put together a guitar solo that fit right in. Never thought I would write “guitar solo” and “Victory in Jesus” in the same sentence – you had to be there!
I shared a praise this morning about God reminding me of all of the ways he is providing for and leading me to become the person I was created to be. When I just starting school my parents realized that something more was going on than I just didn’t listen to them, they astutely discovered I could not hear them. My first set of tubes were placed in my ears in the second grade and in the third grade I transferred to Port Republic School where I met Suzanne Johnson, the school speech pathologist. Every week I would get called out of class to go to the little dark closet where the nurse, speech pathologist, counselor and just about anyone else who came through the school. I would work on my “s”‘s and “r”‘s and the fact that due to the hearing loss I spoke too loud (must have been a joy to have a screaming kid around all those years) and developed nodules on my vocal chords. Ms. Johnson was wonderful lady and she was so encouraging, especially when students made fun of me for being called out of class and for the conversations I missed or the way I talked.
This past Friday my Godincidence (God ordained coincidence) I ran into Ms. Johnson and we had a great talk. It has been thirty years since I left that little dark room for my last session. I still do not hear all that good but because I had to work on my weakness/disability with her help I developed an awareness about my own voice and an ability to project to fairly large crowds and the clang of our blessed old air conditioner at church. God took a disability and turned it into a strength which has allowed me to preach and be heard in the Straw Markets of the Bahamas, old camp meetings across the midwest and south, to youth groups in noisy gyms and to be heard by the sweetest old ladies who despite their hearing lost insist on sitting in the back pews of little white churches. Thank God for weaknesses and for people like Ms. Johnson – God can turn these into strengths!
God certainly has made each of us with personal abilities and gifts waiting to be discovered and honed, but thank God for our weak links too. Sometimes God uses these to teach us dependence, vulnerability and to understand that God can do a lot with obedience.
This summer we are working through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians but in his Second Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 12 Paul writes, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ””
Praise God for our strengths and abilities, but don’t be discouraged or lament too much your weaknesses, they often can teach you more about God than anything else and might lead you to the heart of your calling.
In John 21 we find a beautiful story about Jesus restoring Peter after his three denials over the time of the crucifixion. What Peter must have been thinking as he swam to shore… I really messed up. What dumb mistakes. How can I ever make it up to Jesus.
Of course Jesus doesn’t need Peter to make it up to him, the whole purpose of the Cross was to pay a price we could not pay.
With the reverberations of the three denials in his head Jesus asks him three times, do you love me. The Greek words employed by Peter and Jesus say a lot more about where they are coming from than just “love”. Roughly the “love” Jesus and Peter are talking about in the Greek is Agape and Phileo. While I am not a scholar I would translate it roughly like this:
Peter do you love me with the full love of God, more than all others?
Jesus I love you like a brother.
Peter do you love me with the full love of God?
Jesus I love you like a brother.
Peter do you love me like a brother?
Jesus I love you like a brother.
Peter’s mouth wrote a lot of checks his body could not cash over his three years with Jesus. The most glaring for this context is when he said recorded Matthew 26 and Mark 14 that he would never fall away, even if everyone else did.
In the early morning hours as Jesus was interrogated, beaten and imprisoned the world came calling for that statement and Peter’s account was sadly empty. Is this what he was thinking as he swam to shore, as he answered Jesus’ questions with a newly found humility. Maybe he was done making bold claims? Well he was done making bold claims about himself but when the Holy Spirit descended he gave some of the boldest and courageous testimony the world has ever known to the greatness of his Savior.
While we are on the subject of comparison, let’s look at what Paul has to say on the subject as well:
2 Corinthians 10:12-18
12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. 14 We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. 15 Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, 16 so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. 17 But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
Here are some practical take-aways for us to employ in our Christian walk:
1. Stop comparing yourself to others. Do you when driving down the road have the strange compulsion when you see a car to follow them to wherever they are going? Do you walk through a neighborhood and walk into other people’s homes at dinner time? No that would be crazy right? (OK I admit to doing the dinner thing through my mid-20′s)
Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others who are going down a different road, to a different destination. If you were to follow them all you would succeed in doing, at best, would be to miss what you were supposed to be doing. At worst you might get into some deep trouble!
2. Test your actions and desires in light of your walk with Jesus, your walk! There was a time when I was consumed with scoreboards and grade books, wrapped my whole existence up in what they said about where I was in comparison to all of the others. Now I understand God is more concerned with personal best… how can I follow God in such a way that I give God my best and in return can receive the best God has for me?
3. Be Grateful for what you have. You will always have less than some and will always have more than some when it comes to every commodity the world has ever know. Being thankful for whatever you have, for the daily bread is God’s way of helping us remove our eyes from the plates and storehouses of others.
4. Pleasing Jesus is all that matters. If I serve Christ the wrong people are going to hate me and the right people are going to love me. If I serve myself or I serve others I will please the wrong people and alienate the people God has sent to journey with me.
You will climb an avalanche but the Bible will help you ascend a rock that withstands the ages.