Friday, April 29, 2011

Pray for Tuscaloosa, AL

I lived in Tuscaloosa, AL from 1984 to 1987, and fell in love with the place and the amazing number of fantastic people there. I can't tell you what a great year of ministry I had as Campus Minister Intern here (pic) at the Baptist Student Center, followed by a year and a half of serving the Lord through the loving church family at First Baptist Tuscaloosa as Minister to College Students and Single Adults.To see the total devastation caused this week by what is already being called the worst tornado in the state's history, is heart-breaking. Pray especially for those who lost loved ones, were injured, and those involved in recovery efforts.

Pleasantly Surprised at the Royal Wedding

NO, I did NOT get up at 4:00 this morning to see the "Wedding of the Universe." (That is what the major networks are calling it, aren't they?) I did, however, wake up on my own around 6:00 and, yes, I did turn on the tube in time to see the actual ceremony live.

It is not William and Catherine's fault the media is so insane about covering every possible "angle" (including imagined angles!) of the event. I admit that the coverage since their announced engagement has left me longing for the thing to be over with so we could talk about something else. The ceremony, however, held several unexpected (I admit my "expectations" are my own fault.) surprises including:

1. At least the ABC news people kept quiet during the actual ceremony.

2. The content of the wedding homily (sermon for all my Baptist brothers and sisters!) was, well, amazing. The message starts at time marker 3:40 in this clip. Be patient if you click it on the day of the wedding as I'm sure lots of people are trying to view was slow.)

The text of the message can be found here:

Having done my share of weddings, I was VERY impressed with the content of this message.

3. The reading of Romans 12 by Kate's brother. You can read it here:

What a great passage to be read at a wedding. This Romans passage does not just describe the kind of life our Father wants to give married couples in Christ, but this is His desire for all His children. Can you imagine a world in which people lived this way?

4. The simple prayer composed by William and Catherine read by the Archbishop of London, Dr. Richard Chartres:

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

An estimated two BILLION people watched this wedding, so I hope at least some of them really listened to the homily and the scripture reading. It will be interesting to see all the dissecting of today's events, and specifically the extent to which commentators go on and on about Kate's wedding dress, yet completely ignore the content of the service. Ouch! There I go being cynical again!

May we all pray a great marriage for William and Catherine, and they will have such a marriage if they trust Christ to make a continuing reality of what they heard throughout their ceremony. May each of us be so committed to Christ to see it happen in our lives, too!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sometimes, You Just Have to Jump in a Chair!

Did your pastor jump up in his "pastor's chair," and yell "SMILE" during your Resurrection Sunday Church Service? I don't know what came over me, but I wanted to take a group picture to give to a church member who missed his first Easter service in probably....well, maybe a lifetime. I was already told that I would have to provide prints to everyone. I can live with that (IF Walgreen's or CVS runs a two-for-one special!). Here is the picture followed by a link to other Easter morning pictures.

Jesus is Alive! Oh, and He's REAL, too!

I like gadgets...probably too much. At a weak moment, I recently bought a Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming system. I was lured into getting it because in addition to gaming, it is a 3D camera which is pretty cool. One of the games I bought is more of a simulation...a virtual puppy. Another intriguing feature of the system is what is called "augmented reality," which utilizes two front facing cameras to create the illusion of having a virtual puppy (I named mine "Cooper," and he even responds to my voice. Click on the first video to meet Cooper and click on the second one to see an example of Cooper living in the land of "augmented reality." Or you can trust me as to the coolness of the technology and skip down to the application of this technology to reawaken the wonder of having a REAL Savior (vs. a dead religion!).

And an example of augmented reality...

So what does this have to do with Jesus? Here is last week's church newsletter article I wrote attempting to show this connection:

I Got a New Dog! A couple of weeks ago I bought a new Golden Retriever puppy named Cooper! He’s smart and can already sit on command. He loves to play fetch with a tennis ball, and he walks well on a leash. He’s pretty good at taking a bath, too. The only downside is HE IS NOT REAL!

He exists in a handheld game system. The technology is pretty impressive in that he appears in 3D, and responds not only to my voice and the name I picked out, but also to your facial expressions (via the system’s camera). He is probably the most advanced “virtual” dog available, but he is not the real thing. He’s stuck in a little gadget, and can never truly enter my world in the flesh. The system can make him "appear" to exist in my world, but it's just an illusion.

I’m sure that when the game breaks or I lose the game cartridge, I won’t shed a tear over losing Cooper. How could I? He is really nothing more than a bunch of 1’s and 0’s in a computer chip! I remember when Dave, my real dog died, how amazed I was that it hurt so much to lose him.

What does all this have to do with Christ as we approach Resurrection Sunday? I was just thinking about how easy it is to treat Jesus like I treat Cooper…turning him on for a diversion (or paying attention to him when I’m in real trouble), but then turning him off again for the majority of my life. Like my virtual puppy, the Jesus of some people appears to be trapped not in a handheld gadget, but in a church building, where He’s paid attention to for an hour or two a week. As we leave a worship service, it’s so easy to leave Jesus there and not think about Him much in the coming week. Then we end up acting and reacting to the week’s circumstances just like everyone else does, Christian or not.

Jesus didn’t die a horrible death and rise from the grave merely to give us all a bunch of things to believe so we’ll get into heaven one day. He died so we could be adopted into God’s family NOW and forever, and He rose so He could be our REAL living Lord in daily relationship with us. How sad it would be for an adopted child who knew the facts of his/her adoption, but never connected with, or was transformed by the love of his/her parents…a love that sacrificed so much to make him/her a part of their family.

Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:15,16: "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children."

The abundant life of an adopted child of our Heavenly Father is a reality both now and in the "hereafter," and that beats any fancy, cutting-edge, technological virtual puppy! Jesus really lived on earth, really died on a cross, really rose from the dead, and now really sits at our Abba Father's right hand. Oh, and His REAL living Spirit is right here to transform us into the people who love our Father and others more and more like Jesus Christ does.

My prayer is that you will celebrate our Living Savior and Lord both when you are with a community of faith, and when you are alone. May we celebrate every day for the rest of our lives, that we have opportunity after opportunity to know the Creator of the Universe as our own “Abba Father.”

Sure, a virtual, computerized, once-a-week, electronic savior would be easier to deal with in some ways, but you can’t be saved, transformed, or loved by something that’s not real. Jesus is Risen! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Real!!!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baptists Need to Dance More!

My Baptist heritage says I should not dance, and my physical lack of finesse and rhythm insures that I won't dance. Still, the Scriptures tell us in Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 that...There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...(also check out Jeremiah 31:12-14)

Good Friday is our time to mourn over our sin which took Jesus to the cross to suffer and die in our place, but Resurrection Sunday is our time to dance over the good news that Jesus has defeated death (on the cross and for each of us) by rising from the grave to be our Living Lord. Oh that we would have enjoy joy and gratitude to dance with joy as our brothers and sisters in Christ did last year in Hungary. Click on the video to see what I mean! May such joy grip you every day of your life as you remember how much our Father has "lavished" His love on you!

The Bridge - A Modern Tale of Love and Sacrifice

I've probably posted this for some Easter past, but it still paints a powerful portrait of sacrificial love.

If you want to see the 30 minute movie in its entirety, go to:

The Silence is Broken!

Wow! Almost a month with no posting...sorry about that, but, as usual, I've been "distracted." I was taking some time to get ready for this coming Sunday's resurrection celebration., when I ran across this Easter video from IgniterMedia. I've seen several video presentations using "social networking" to tell the gospel story. I thought this one had some merit of telling an old, familiar (sometimes a danger....that over-familiarity with sacred things) story framed in a current social phenomenon. I hope it reminds you of the wonder of the Creator of the Universe coming to earth as a man to die for us, and then to rise from the dead to be our Living Lord.

You can purchase this video from