Category Archives: church

The Feelings of People and Things Passing…04/02/2015

Grace_Building__New_York_by_olymbos01Hopefully, some will see this and read it. This has been an eventful last few days. It started off last week. Mary and I had a wonderful vacation in Phoenix with my parents and my sister’s family. Relaxing, fun, good family time. Then a few hours after my sister and her family had departed, my Uncle Dave called my dad, and told him that my eldest cousin’s daughter had passed away in her sleep at 27.

While the Lutz family is pretty big, we have all managed to stay in touch over the years. We have been watching each others kids grow up and I have gotten to know a few of them. Meredith was one. I can remember her a youngster with her brother and sister at the UM Church that served as our Thanksgiving Day meet up for most of the Lutzes. The one thing I really remember was talking to her when she was in high school, I believe it was at her grandmother’s funeral, my Aunt Tillie, most of the cousins where there then too. We had a conversation about what her youth group was doing, and I about how I was helping to lead one here in Gaylord. So when I heard she had joined Mission Year after graduating, and she had a blog for her year, I followed and commented. Her mom appreciated that I had gotten in touch with her to show support while she was there.

Since then we have kept in touch via Facebook. I was hoping that we could meet up with her during our ill-fated cruise, since it was ported out of NOLA, where she lived. However, with the cruise being cancelled and not having the money to stay in NOLA, it wasn’t going to work. So I apologized to her, and we went home. That was January, and here we are in March.

Then, this week as I prepared my lesson for youth group, my mind kept going back to a video about Ed Dobson that I saw a couple weeks ago. It is entitled “Grateful.” The series itself is about Ed Dobson’s life as a pastor, and now retired, living with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). The people at the web site turned this into a Lenten Meditation. That’s what I used tonight. However, as I discovered, this was being grateful through suffering. So we watched the video, and talked about it. Then I shared about Meredith. Meredith was always grateful and graceful to those around her. That is probably why she has as big a family, from her church and friends in NOLA, as she does in the several states that our clan has spread out. I was able to express my grief to the youth group and show them that Jesus is with us in the suffering.

Before this last week, I wasn’t sure that I would be around for another year in youth ministry. However, after tonight God said yes you will and I am with you even in the suffering. Why such a big turn around? Because, my message hit on something that one of our seniors got home to, a grandparent passing. She called Mary and I, and said how much she appreciated the message, it ministered to her without her knowing about it until the news dropped on her.

So as people and things pass, we do suffer, but Jesus is there with us in the suffering. On of my favorite verses in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” It’s the shortest verse in the Bible and speaks volumes when put into the context of the death of his friend Lazarus. So during this Holy Week, when Jesus dies on Good Friday, remember that he is with us in our suffering and promises Resurrection. Or as another pastor put it, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.”

Is Fear the Driving Force in your Ministry?…02/13/2014

I have been making the same observation over the last 5 years or so. So many youth ministries or events have been focused on fear. I’m trying to focus on the things Jesus did, namely loving God and loving your neighbor. It’s not to say that there are things that I don’t fear about or in youth ministry. However, for now, fear doesn’t seem to be driving the ministry.

the achilles heel of your youth ministry | whyismarko.

We Would all Love Instant Transformation…01/30/2014

j0312654Since becoming the youth ministry leader with Mary, I have felt that I need to teach about the Old Testament stories, with the emphasis on love. Now, I’m feeling the need to stress more out of Jesus’s teaching on the “Sermon on the Mount,” (Matt. 5-7 or Luke 6). However, it can be frustrating when you don’t have instant changes. It is a slow process, that depends on relationship building with the youth, and for that matter, adults too. After 15 years in youth ministry, I still stumble with this. Just as it seems you are getting somewhere, one of the kids does something that is disappointing.

I realized, while Mary and I were on our vacation, that everything is a journey. That we all carry God’s image. That we all need each other to help raise each other up. However, the observations that God made in Genesis 3 (yeah, it was translated as curses, but that makes it sound like God put them on us. ) shows us how self-centered we are when we reject God’s image in us, and His ways. The internet has brought this out even more, as I read the comment sections on news websites. I read of some tragedy, and then I read the compassionless comments. The ones that are judgmental, like they know the best way to resolve the tragedy and deliver the punishment. Some call it justice, but most often it is revenge filled spite for with no mercy or grace.

I recently read the book of Jonah to the youth group, only I put in local places, and changed things up a bit. Since then, I have read over Jesus saying that the only sign of Jonah (Matt 12:38-41) will be shown to this generation. After reading Jonah, I wonder if we aren’t seeing this. The church in general sometimes gets so into the rules that get legalistic. So when someone preaches about love and grace and mercy, they are shouted down, or even asked if there is a sign that God has given them. The sign of Jonah that Jesus was talking about was about him dying and rising again, but I wonder if we can’t learn something about our generation here.

Jonah was told by God to go to Nineveh and prophesy to them, because of the wickedness they were doing. He didn’t want to go, so he ran somewhere else. When he finally went where was supposed to go, he did so angry, and even when the Ninevites listened to him, and repented, he still wanted them destroyed. I wonder if this is the sign of Jonah to our generation. God is so full of love that when we reluctantly witness, we have no grace or mercy to really want them to change. Of course, if they do change then we pile all sorts of rules and stuff on them as Jesus says in Matt 23:15, and make them “twice as much the child of hell that we are” (Paraphrased).

So as I went on my rant…my point is that transformation is not instant. There needs to be love, grace, and mercy involved. The justice that is meted out should not be in vengeance, but a justice that corrects in love. This is the tension that I live in…

Things going on in the life of a meteorologist…10/8/2013

Remmy gets me to do this as well.If you follow this blog or my microblog, you that my life is blur sometimes. Not to mention that I try to keep a weather blog as well. This is what is going on…

  1. The government shutdown – yes, this has finally caught up with us. I mean that it was bound to happen. They threaten it every year, which gets old, but they finally pushed the button. This week when I get paid, I’ll only get a partial paycheck. This pay period straddles the ending and beginning of the fiscal year. So I’ll get about 9 days of pay and an IOU from the government for the rest. So things are okay for now, but another two weeks will mean juggling and making phone calls to a few creditors/mortgagors.
  2. Mary and I are leading our youth group – we have some adult helpers (we could use some more), and things are going well. Right now, I’m taking the group through the Old Testament, by teaching on the stories of the fathers. In this case, Abraham.
  3. Fantasy football (!?!) – After being at this office and participating in FF for the last 13 years, I almost hung up my clip board and took a break. However, I decided that last year wasn’t the last year, and decided not only would part take in the office one, but there is a family one with some of the cousins. I have to admit, that I’m feeling pretty good about it. I’m doing average in it…LOL. In my office league, I’m currently leading the league with a 5-0 record. I’m the only undefeated team left. In the family league, I’m dead last. I guess that makes me playing .500 ball. I’m hoping to win it all at the end of the year in the office league. We’ve had only 2 repeat winners in the history of the league. So, I’m hoping to get back the streak of another first time win back to the league.

So I have a pretty full plate at this point. Pray that the shutdown doesn’t continue and they find some solution. We can get by, but there are others out there, who cannot.

Judgement and Grace

Grace_Building__New_York_by_olymbos01Since I have been preaching to the youth group, the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission, and how the Bible keeps pointing back to that, I have been having the thoughts about judgement versus grace. Brian Zahnd has been pointing out that Jesus preached against the “who’s in, and who’s out” thought.  Then I ran into this post that John Meunier reblogged a post he wrote a couple of years ago. It was where my thoughts have been turning. The thing is that Paul talks about this in Romans 14.

John’s post is well worth the read. Who Wesley would send to Hell | John Meunier.

Why would God End the world?…5/2/2013

Apocalypse_vasnetsovI’ve been trying to share my youth messages that I have been doing. Both by sharing the text, and recording an mp3. However, since I’m having trouble affording hosting, probably only text for the time being.

I had a week where I asked the students what questions they have. One question was “Why would God End the World?”

So here’s this week’s message:

What This Past Lent Has Taught Me

Don’t fear.

That phrase is in the bible from one person’s count, 365 times. As people have told me one for everyday of the year. As I have journeyed through this Lenten season. There have been several things, I feel, that God has been speaking to me on.

  1. Continue the less meat, higher veggie diet. 
  2. Keep the caffeine consumption low.
  3. Teach the Youth Group about not fearing things
  4. Continue to teach on Love your neighbor and your Enemy

I’ve been teaching on what it means to be the church, in the context of love. Which means I’ve be trying to tell them about loving others more than yourself.

There is one thing, though, that through the 46 days of Lent that has been continuing to resound louder and louder and that is don’t fear. The kids in the youth group are constantly bombarded by fear based things. We wonder why we end up in a culture that tries to medicate kids and teens, when they are just being kids.

So my next quest is to figure out how to communicate how to not fear, and love others to the point that others may hate you.

More Grace and why I am on this kick

I’m not a great writer. I’m good, to the extent that I do get compliments when somebody reads these posts from time to time, but not great. Sometimes, I wish that more people read my blog and commented on what I had written, if only to learn from others as they read what I said.

However, it has occurred to me that 1. I’m searching for approval from my interactions. This is not what I wanted, I shouldn’t/don’t need validation, but those feelings have occurred, as I recently noted to my wife.  And 2. that I don’t think that I need to be out there among the Christian blogosphere writing who’s right and who’s wrong. Recently, there was another dust up between bloggers which you can read about here, and why that particular blogger decided to step away.

The post is long so if you go there, be prepared to sit and read the post for about 10-15 minutes. He feels that he needs to be a positive voice in Christianity, so closed down his current blog, and will be reopening a blog that will be more positive. I have to say that his take on the exchange between the other two bloggers was right on. There was a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist.  However, as I read the post, there was little grace or mercy. Oh sure, they talked about defending the weak and why they were right, but still there was no grace or mercy.

I’m big on grace and mercy as of late. With the move back to Gaylord, and some other issues, I have been struggling to not lose my cool, because things aren’t the way I want them. Don’t get me wrong, I try to effect change into the situations, but when the advice gets trampled on, I have to remember to show grace. Die to myself, just like Christ.

However, for the foreseeable future, I’ll write about grace and mercy. Everything I have been running into as of late has been pointing me in that direction. I will sound like a broken record probably in the months and years to come. However, I don’t care. I’m going to tell stories of grace and mercy. That is loving God and loving others. That’s what Jesus commanded.

As I have been in the process of writing this post two things have popped out at me. One, is what Rob Bell said in his latest video (at the bottom) and the other is Brian Zahnd in several sermons lately. It’s about the saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I think that Rob is right when he says that the problem is that we have lost the childlike wonder, because churches have told us dos and don’ts. Brian Zahnd says that the community of the church (body of Christ) is needed, but the church itself has been going down a dos and don’ts road for about 100 years or so. That there is a shift beginning to happen. I agree.

We can’t be loners. We must be a community. We must show grace and mercy to those within our community and those outside.  When they fail, and we will all fall sometime, we can’t be about dos and don’ts, but be about love. People (and specifically the media) give Christians such hard time because of what we are against, because typically it is said without love (not that they are interested in that, remember if it bleeds it leads). We should be more.

Jesus gave grace and mercy to the woman caught in adultery, not condemning her, but sending off with, “Go and sin no more.” What if we did this? What if we granted grace and mercy, and told people to go and sin no more? I’m starting to think that more people would be willing to come to church and live life together in love, than is happening now.

Here is what Derek Ouellette (the blog writer) concludes with:

Brothers and sisters, that’s why I’m moving on. That’s why I’m creating a blog around “inform.inspire.imagine.” That’s why I want to find new, creative ways to pass along my ideas, without tearing down another person. I want to exhort without attacking. I want to teach without ad hominem. I want to see people grow. And I want my place to be a place that contributes to a positive image of God’s Kingdom online.

This is the same tact that I am going to continue with on my blog. Maybe someday more will read it and realize that this is what we always should have been doing.

HT to John Meunier