Saturday, November 27, 2021

A Nice Big Helping of Guilt and Shame!

Happy Thanksgiving. At a time to reflect on all of the things we have to be thankful for, what better topic to discuss around the holidays than guilt and shame. 

Was the stuffing or Turkey that you cooked and brought to the meal gathering too dry? Did you forget to make the green bean mushroom soup casserole or leave it on the counter at home? Did you show up late to the family gathering or speak too harshly at your kids if they got a little carried away? Perhaps you said too much when discussing the latest political news and views or maybe you should have kept your mouth shut when your mother-in-law commented on your father-in-law’s toupe.  If so, maybe you also helped yourself to a nice big helping of guilt and shame for your ride home.

As your mind ruminated on these ideas perhaps you thought that the holidays are a microcosm of what really happens in life. That’s right, not only do you feel like a Thanksgiving loser, but now you feel like a big loser overall!

Well, good news! No one is perfect and no one is ever going to get everything right. In fact, we may make the same mistakes over and over again.  Like Browns fans, we always hope it will be better next year, but, the difference is that with Christ we will be victorious.

When it comes time for communion, we are faced with this reality of life. We are asked to examine ourselves. Examine our hearts. If you are sitting here right now struggling with focus and/or you feel like a big Thanksgiving loser, Jesus is encouraging us to not give up. 

The purpose of communion is to draw us to Him. To examine our hearts and remember and give thanks for Christ and His sacrifice for our sins. The purpose of this moment is to help us focus. If your mind keeps racing or you continue to make the same mistakes, don’t throw in the towel. Don’t allow feelings of guilt and shame to keep you from working on directing your heart and mind during this moment. 

Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Father, thank you for being faithful and just and for cleansing us from all unrighteousness. We know that w you, all things are possible. thank you for carrying our shame. We confess we are guilty. But our shame isn’t what defines us. Jesus defines us. And even in the moments when our shame weighs on us heavily, we can look to you, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, knowing that He took our guilt and shame away forever. We pray for your guidance as we press on toward growing in our relationship with you. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Communion: Sobering Celebration

Sobering: We focus on the undeserved death of Christ, His burial, and 

Celebration: His resurrection. 

Sobering: We remember we are unworthy, that we fail, but instead of wallowing in our guilt and shame 

Celebration: We celebrate our forgiveness, our unwarranted pardon, God's Grace, our new life in Christ, and our ability to relate w God as our Father in heaven. 

Would you all please take a deep breath and find a comfortable posture. I would like to pray and read some scripture to help direct our thoughts this morning.

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”   ‭‭

Ephesians‬ ‭4:2-6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”   ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:35-39‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Wrestling Stance for Proper Prayer Posture?

As we prepare for communion, I would like to read 1 Corinthians 11:23-28.

When we examine ourselves, we think about our heart’s focus and our motives at this moment.  What do you do if you examine yourself and realize that you are not focused or your motives are wrong? 

I remember having a wrestling match scheduled immediately after church one Sunday morning. I was around nine years old.  I remember being so excited for my wrestling match, that since everyone was supposed to have their eyes closed during the last prayer, I got into my wrestling stance. I remember Dad catching me and correcting me and how embarrassed I was.  Wasn’t he supposed to have his eyes closed? That was a sign Christ was not my primary focus during that prayer. 

So how do we get focused and get our hearts right before taking communion? Well, it is a lifelong process. It is something we must practice. But to be a little more practical, I will share something we did at home. We prepared for communion beginning Sunday morning when we got out of bed. We had no TV and no secular radio. As we got older, that also meant no video games before church.  

In addition, this time of communion helps us focus on Christ, His death, burial, and His resurrection. It is a sobering celebration! 

If you are struggling to get focused this morning, remember you don’t have to be perfect. Don’t beat yourself up. Remember, He died so that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just. He will forgive us of our sins and all our unrighteousness.  He came so that we could have life and have it more abundantly!

With that said, as we pray, I am going to guide you through a prayer-based focus exercise to help:

Our father- You love us. You consider us your own, and you are patient and kind to us. Who art in heaven- You are not to be compared to or bound by rules of our earthly fathers. Hallowed be thy name- you are like no other god. You are set apart. Thy kingdom come- may your purposes be accomplished here on earth, thy will be done- it’s not about our will, but your will. On earth, as it is in heaven- May your will be accomplished here and in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Give us what we need right now and help us not worry about tomorrow, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Forgive us for our sins and help us forgive others. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Father, give us the strength to put love before earthly needs and protect us from evil.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Even the "Love Shack" song was tolerable

On July 15, I got to work a little before 7:00. I was speaking to a colleague in my office when I noticed a call from Columbus. Thinking it was spam, I let the call go to VM. After I met with my colleague, I saw the caller left a message. I listened to the message and discovered it was the Dean from Round Lake Christian Camp. He explained my daughter. had decided to be baptized on the last day of camp and wanted to make sure we were ok with it. I quickly called back and had to leave a message on his VM, but I couldn’t speak! I tried to leave a message and suddenly began crying! From where did those emotions come? I muddled out, “I don’t usually get emotional like this” (I didn’t want to admit weakness). 

I walked outside at work for better cell reception, and so no one could see me crying, and my co-worker, whose daughter went to Rivertree and was at the same week of camp as my daughter, pulled in. He had just received the same news about his daughter.

We walked into the office, and we were both happy. As we were reminiscing, we heard the “Love Shack” song by the B52s, and my colleague stated, I am so happy right now, “I normally hate this song, but I don’t mind it now.” We made a few dad baptism Jokes like, “we may want to hold them down a little longer to make sure it takes.” We won’t even talk about the emotions that flowed when I found out she wanted me to be the baptizer.

15 kids were baptized Friday night. My daughter remained close. It was kind of rainy, but the sun was sort of shining at the same time, and as the drops hit the water gently, the clouds parted and the sun shown down with a beacon of sun rays shining down on my daughter and the others. She smiled and said that God was shining on her, and I know He was.

The following day, she woke up, and my son said to her, “So, how was the first night sleeping after being baptized?”

She was excited to take her first communion, so she skipped the first half of Sunday school and participated in adult worship. She stated, “This grape juice is the best!” 

The next day was Monday, and my co-worker walked into the office. Looking at me, he said, “is your daughter acting exceptionally different since being home from camp?” I laughed and said she is eager to memorize all the books of the bible and is walking around very joyful, peaceful, and happy.”  He said, “I can’t lie, we may have got extra chores done around the house.”

Think back for a moment. Remember when you first believed? Do you remember the moment you accepted Christ, the moment you confessed? How about your baptism or the moments after a week of camp or a great retreat? Those moments are unique because they represent times we are wholly focused on Christ. We were deeply connected. Our God was big in our lives. Our father was all-knowing. He was all-forgiving. He was everywhere, and He was bigger than anything. Nothing was impossible for Him in our lives. In Psalm 51:12, David prayed that God would restore to him the joy of his salvation. He was asking that he would enjoy the fellowship with God he once knew.

The last time I spoke during communion, I talked about emotional intelligence—the ability to recognize and control our emotions as Christians. 

May we remember the love of Christ during this time of communion. May we remember the power of His resurrection. When we are at our best focusing on Christ, emotions seem to stabilize in the right direction, and nothing else matters. He will bring us to happy tears that will leave us speechless. Annoying songs will become less bothersome. We will be motivated to learn more about His word, we may get more done around the house, and we will be more aware of His presence. During those God moments, the clouds open up, the sun shines through, and we know that, yes, indeed, God is with us.

Let’s pray.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Emotional Intelligence and Communion

According to secular research, what would you say is the most significant predictor of future success in relationships, health, and quality of life?  It is believed that those with this skill can have an average IQ and outperform those with the highest IQ 70% of the time.

Emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others.”

High emotional intelligence allows us to be self-aware of our feelings to help us keep our cool when we could quickly fly off the handle. It enables us to identify conflicting selfish feelings that keep us from putting others first, even if that means we will not get our way. It helps us identify feelings that make us want to lash out at others instead of speaking a calm word to create a peaceful solution. 

Many in corporate America are working to improve their emotional intelligence. Bosses are looking for emotionally intelligent employees, and millions of dollars are spent on seminars and books because emotional intelligence can be improved.

I find it interesting that many of us who have grown up in the church have been trained in emotional intelligence since we were kids. Sunday school and youth group classes taught us to love others. We have been taught that love means to be patient, kind, not envy, not boast, not be rude or proud, to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere.  We were taught to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. So with all of this training, how are we doing?

I want to invite you all to embrace the preaching on the Sermon on the Mount by Pastor Rick. Pray about it during the week. Read about it. Talk about it with your families. Jesus’ teachings help us improve our emotional intelligence.

Communion helps us focus on the importance of the first statement in the sermon on the mount:

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Happy are those who acknowledge their spiritual poverty. We need a savior.  When we realize how amazing it is that God enables us to be with Him through Christ, it drives us to love Him and others with is the foundation for improving our EI.

As you prepare for communion, reflect on how you are doing with your emotional intelligence. How well do you recognize your emotions and the emotions of others when you:

  1. Don’t feel like it.

  2. Don’t get your way.

  3. Those around you let you down.

  4. Others don’t meet your expectations.

As a church, let’s be leaders in our awareness of our emotions and how they impact others.  May we grow in self-discipline when it would be easier to react emotionally. Through Christ’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit, may we be transformed in how we speak to those we encounter, act when we are tired and frustrated, and in the habits we build. 

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Communion and the Four Fs

Good Morning.  As we prepare our hearts for communion, I would like to read:  1 cor 11:23-27

I am excited to get to do the communion thought the week after Christmas and the week before New Year’s eve.  I love communion and I love the end of the year as an opportunity to reflect on what went well and where growth can occur in the future.  Based upon our reading this morning, there are two major themes to consider at communion time.

Two major themes:

#1. Communion allows us to focus on His body and His blood.  We purposefully come together to focus on what really matters-  Our hope in Christ.  There is power in remembering His past, the present with Him, and our future in Him.   

#2. Examine ourselves as we reflect on Him. Examine where we have been in the past, where we are now, and where we might be in the future in our relationships with Christ.  This year I learned one of the most important elements of learning is proper reflection.   Do you struggle with this concept? Is it hard for you to focus and reflect? If so, here is a little tool you may find helpful borrowed from the reflection toolkit from The University of Edinburgh:

The four Fs:

  • Facts: An objective account of what happened

  • Feelings: The emotional reactions to the situation

  • Findings: The concrete learning that you can take away from the situation

  • Future: Structuring your learning such that you can use it in the future

Let’s pray:

Father thank you for Jesus- Thank you for dying on the cross for us.  Thank you for giving us your spirit now and guiding us in this present moment.  We welcome your presence.  Thank you for giving us a future here on earth and in eternity with you.  

Father, where we fall short, we pray you will help us change the way we think as individuals and as a church.  Help us be transformed.   Father open our eyes to the facts that matter most. Help us be objective. Help us be aware of our feelings and how our emotional reactions impact others and our growth in you.  Teach us to use the findings, the concrete take home messages from our experiences, to grow and to make great changes as individuals and as a church in the future.  Help us be transformed not only as individuals, but as a church.


Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Power of a Good Time Out!

The past few months, I have come to appreciate the power of a good time out.  Unfortunately, not because I called a time out when a time out needed to be called, but I failed to call a time out when one was in order.   In both instances (one in a championship softball game and one in a social gathering), I believe a time out may have changed the outcome.  Here it is:

Have you ever been part of a team that used time outs wisely?  In other words,  whether they were winning or losing, they knew when to call a time out and the decision led to strengthening the team or shifting the momentum in their favor.  

Perhaps you were part of a winning or losing team this week. In either case, perhaps you feel the need to call a time out?

That’s exactly what Jesus did for us when he encouraged us to meet for communion any time we got together as a family of believers to remember our roots. 

At this time, let’s imagine that we are in a big huddle. Let’s listen to what Jesus and His disciples might say in a huddle.  time out!

Our father you are awesome!  You are unlike any other father and we welcome your spirit that gives us power, love, and self-discipline. Help us relax right now. If there is any tension in our bodies, help us to shut it off.   Satan- you are not welcome here.  Leave. Help us rest in this moment peacefully knowing you, the creator of known and unknown things and places, are in control. 

As we examine our thoughts, behaviors, and habitual ways of thinking, speaking, and doing, both as individuals and as a church, we pray you will help us focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure lovely, and admirable.  Help us focus on things that are excellent and praiseworthy.  

We confess where we fall short and pray you will help us change the habits that need changed and build those habits that bring you glory.  

Help us never to be lacking in zeal but to keep our spiritual fervor serving you. Help us be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.  Help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, 

Help us to be slow to come to our boiling point when it comes to forgiveness and help us forgive.  Father, we know we are called to vote once every four years, but we are called to be your church every day. We know you did not come to take sides, but that you take over.  

Help us to make every effort to do what is right in the eyes of everyone and to live at peace with everyone. Help us to go and make disciples of all nations.

In Jesus Name.  Body that was broken for you.  Blood that was shed for you.  Let’s get back out there and do this…  Ready… Break...