Saturday, December 31, 2011

Simple as Prayer

When Nadia and go outside, the steps in the garage are a little tall for her. She just reaches up her hand, knowing my hand will be there.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

On this Christmas Eve, my family and I wish you a blessed, Merry Christmas! What a wonderful time of year when the blessings of the Lord (a warm, dry house; a chill in the air; time off from work) conspire with the meditating we do on the Second Person of the Trinity left the Glory of "Heaven's High-Councel Table" (as Milton said) to come into our "darksom House of Clay" (MIlton, "On The Morning of Christ's Nativity").

We have been blessed through and through this year. As hard as it was to leave the ministry at The Rock La Roca, and all the people who blessed us for 5 years, we are also blessed to serve in Morehead. It is a wonderful thing that across such different churches, the Methodist system takes care of the preacher and his family. Indeed, we are blessed.

John is 11 now. He likes to read and imagine and make vehicles that have never existed, such as strollers powered by the wind. He is very happy to be in Morehead, as the university environment fuels his curiosity, and he is close enough to the country to start on his plans of being a cattle baron.

Joseph is 9 and loves video games, reading, and sports, especially basketball. Morehead is basketball crazy, so Joseph is in his glory. He has his own dance for when he makes a good shot.

Nadia is 18 months and is such a joy! She sits with me in the La-Z-Boy after church and watches football. She loves her brothers and will sneak up into their room after bed time to sleep with them. She knows a lot of words and phrases. She is spoiled rotten, too. I try to be firm with her, but it just doesn't work. She says "Daddy..." and it's all over.

Jessie is the children's pastor at Morehead United Methodist and is bringing her knowledge and desire to share Jesus to children's ministry. She really looks forward to being able to spend more time on Cave Run lake and the trails around it.

I am blessed when my family is blessed, and there has been great freedom in preaching the gospel and that is all I need.

Rejoice with us in our Savior's birth and in the blessings He has poured out on us. He is faithful, always faithful!

Friday, December 23, 2011

New Year's Wish/Resolution

My resolution is also a hope for Christians at large:

That we will be as interested in letting people know about Jesus as we are about broadcasting our political/social/environmental views; as we are about our favorite bands and sports teams;

That we will focus first on Jesus: His death and resurrection; forgiveness of sins and new life found in His name;

That we would quit believing, teaching and preaching that if we do some good that's good enough;

That we would speak simply that we can be saved only by Jesus, by His grace, through faith.

And my deep prayer is that as we come to know Jesus--to really know Him, who He is, what He has done for us in His death and resurrection-- a life of discipleship will flow from us. I pray that we will accept no counterfeit thoughts and actions that spring form our will or our own sense of of our own righteousness.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thinking Clearly About the Good News

Maybe I'm not so much thinking as remembering. Sometimes we have to go back to an experience to get to something deeper than the places the experiences we have had since then have brought us.

So, when I got saved, I was not so much overcome by the death and resurrection of Jesus. I was on the one hand angry that there were such things as miracles that I could now accept... more than accept, I believed. On the other hand, I was also very much relieved that my sins were forgiven, that I would escape wrath.

I sometimes wonder if we can only think about the gospel in terms of where we are right now. AS we have matured and learned more, we obviously have a deeper sense and appreciation for all that the gospel implies.

But at its heart is relief for the sinner because he has escaped the wrath of God. What if we quit talking about that because we already have it and have moved on to other things pertaining to a maturing Christian life? Is this why we have such little emphasis on evangelism? Have we forgotten that we had to simply plead the blood of Jesus for forgiveness of sins? Are we embarrassed that we were such beggars?

Let us not expect and therefore substitute mature discipleship for the basic milk of forgiveness of sins by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Home

I went to pick up the boys. It is a bright, cold day. Sun is going down behind the hills. As I came back to the house, I saw smoke coming from the chimney; Ica started a fire. And when I came in there was the smell of onions cooking. It was a really nice sight and smell.

Last night I stopped by a parishioner's house to pray with the family before some medical procedures this week. You think you are going over to provide comfort and they send you home with a bucket of kindling and a bag of turnips.

Friday night, there was a dinner at the church that a Sunday School invited us to. Such good food and fellowship. We have been having Advent breakfasts and it feels like we have been living at the church... and that has felt like a very good thing. I remember Norbert Itoula, from the Republic of Congo, used to talk about how we should live in the Church, for worship and prayer and fellowship. It sure feels like we could do that; the Spirit of the Season is inhabiting us...

Worship was wonderful today. My best friend in seminary, David Crow, taught me an old Methodist phrase, "having great freedom in preaching;" I had that today for sure.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Waning of the Reformation

Yesterday in a District Meeting, over a plate of ribs at The Ribber in Portsmouth, Ohio, Tami Coleman, the pastor at South Shore, said she heard a well-known speaker say that every 500 years the Church goes through a crisis. The last one was the Reformation, so we are due for another, and this time we are rejecting sola scriptura, the doctrine that scripture is the authority for Christian life and practice.

Now, Tami was not supporting this view, she was just passing it along as part of a larger discussion we were having.

We ARE rejecting sola scriptura.

But that is nothing new, not a recent trend, 500-yr cycles or otherwise. It is a constant temptation for the Church and individual believers. It has been a temptation from the beginning. It is a sad trick that the Roman Church rejected the doctrine, and then somehow claims that their medieval innovation is the apostolic tradition... And so the average Protestant seems to believe, even, that somehow the Reformation was/is a “recent” invention, and not the return to the sources of the Church it in fact, is.

We don’t have the space to rehearse it here, but a great source to find the proof of this is in excellent works like Thomas Oden’s “The Justification Reader,” and David King and William Webster, eds., “Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, vol. 3” Both of these show plainly and clearly that the Foundational Reformation principles of Justification and Scripture are not “simply” interpretive schemes of Scripture, but run throughout the Patristic literature.

So, sadly, the rejection of sola scripture is not as simple as thinking we are turning back a misguided Reformation, but is, rather, a rejection of the faith itself. It has been the constant temptation of the Church and individual believers because the Lordship of Christ means, simply, that we are not our own bosses, cannot do as we please, and this human beings have never been able to abide.

So sometimes we claim the Bible doesn't say what it clearly says.

Or sometimes we are bold and claim that the Bible is kinda like some suggestions or something.

Neither will hold up under scrutiny. But it is popular. If you and your church are more sold out to continuity, institutional survival, and being acceptable to the larger culture, I recommend you reject sola scriptura, too.

But if you are committed to Jesus and the Truth, stick with the Reformers and the Fathers and the Bible.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Magnificent Night

We got to have our first Christmas Party/ Ladies Night Out with the United Methodist Men. It was a great evening with church family, and especially getting to sit with some folks I don't often get to spend time with.

There was, of course, good food and fellowship.

And we had a great reading of the Christmas story. J.D. Reeder read from John 1, Luke 4, Isaiah 9, and Luke 2, weaving it together. I was struck how much the Word authenticates itself. We know it is the Word of God.

And I was wondering, thinking back on something. When I was in grad school studying medieval literature, I used to wonder about the first Anglo-Saxons to accept Christ. How in their cold and war-like world, there must have been many who, to varying degrees and at different times wondered if things could be different, wanted them to be different. And perhaps after dinner, they may have heard:

"Every warriors boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end. He will reign upon David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness. The zeal of the Lord almighty will accomplish this" Isaiah 9:6-7.

Can it be?

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Friday, December 9, 2011

Car-Free Shopping

You can get $109 worth of groceries on your bike:

Granted, you need an xtracycle (click here to see what it's all about).

Morehead is not as bike friendly as the Northside of Lexington. I will say that if you get south of Main in Lexington, it is not very bike friendly. At any rate, right there at St Claire Hospital a guy in a maroon truck honked pretty long at me. I waved--maybe he knows me? He must have! He waved back, and let me know he thought I was "Number One," holding up one finger at me.

And yes, that is a 48 pack of Waffles tied down with bungees. Don't you judge me. I rode my bike to Kroger and need to refuel. Don't you judge me.

Something about cold weather makes me want to bike more. Some of that, no doubt is that an idealistic streak in me sees a bike as an alternative to a car. I have always like riding bikes, from the time I was 6. I have only had 6 bikes, including the one I had when I was 6, and I have 2 now. My first long trip was when I was 12 and I talked my mom into letting me leave our village and ride to the big city, Homburg. Of course, in Germany, bikes were about as common as cars in those days, so it was safer than it sounds... I rode a bike for a year because i was in a feud with an insurance company over their drunk driver who totaled my car and I would not accept their pathetic settlement. So, yes, you can do a lot without a car. I used to ride to the District Office, but I am not sure Raceland is a feasible trip from Morehead...

It's not just about distance or our crazy ride to Annual Conference. It's also about seeing if I could get by without a car. And yes, I could. We have two, so if one dies, I probably won't replace it. If the second dies, well...

Bikes aren't toys. Not simply recreational or for exercise. They can and should be about daily tasks. The xtracycle has been awesome for me. Yesterday I had a bunch of chairs I needed to take to the church. It was cold. Why not load up the X?

It only took me 17 minutes to get from Kroger back to the house. I won't lie, that hill is a killer, especially with 40 extra lbs.

I think I have the only xtracycle in Morehead, and yes, my vanity likes that! I had one of the first 3 or 4 in Lexington, and then hipsters started getting them and I had to leave town...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sunday and Monday After

what a great day yesterday! wonderful worship across three services, Stephanie McNeill sang the Scripture for us (Matthew 1:1-17, who knew there was a song in that!), great freedom in preaching, holy communion, and we baptized Megan Alldredge! Praise God for His work among us!

Monday after Communion Sunday means communion service at Cave Run Manor, an assisted living facility. What a wonderful time with the people there! Something sweet happens in the small group that hears the Word and takes communion together. It is a special place, feels like a family there.

I fretted over how to put the Scripture together for Sunday's sermon, but glory to God, He worked it out in spite of me! This week, preaching on Joseph and already the Lord is throwing Scriptures at me, putting things together. I look forward to preaching on Joseph!

I am taking Nadia with me to have communion at Cave Run Manor... they won't let me in without her ever again. They're serious. She is such a joy. She will jump up and run to me when I come in the door. She will say "Da Da" over and over again. I am blessed by her cheerfulness... and even her mischief!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Scenes from Morehead

One of the first things Bruce Nettleton, th former pastor here, did was take me to Eagle Lake and show me the trailhead. Ha! I was glad to know there was someplace so close by, so quick, to head out into the woods. And there is lots of climbing so you get a good work out. Theres no better way to get thinking than to be out walking (or riding a bike). Bruce said there was a trail that went off the main trail and led up to the ridge. I found at least one of those yesterday. Steep path, great views. Reminded me of being in Germany, where there is so much walking in the woods and over the hills.

I took a few walks with Nadia today... Trying to get my mind around the sermon. It was pretty cold early this morning when I went out and she was insistent about going. But she also hates to wear a hat and mittens. I told her, "you have to wear your hat and mittens."

I went to put my shoes on and she came in with her hat on and her mittens in her hand. She knew what it would take! It was a great time to walk with her.

I have been having some trouble with my knee... Not unusual. Some of you remember how summer of 2010, I was intending to ride my bike to Annual Conference, but had to bail after the first long training ride. Took physical therapy ad came back to ride in 2011. Got thru without much knee pain and got thru cramps that always seemed to hit at about 40-45 miles. Well, it has been bothering me for no real reason.. No long rides to irritate it. And there is a bony knot on my knee cap which makes it hard to kneel. The sawbones here, Tom Fossett gave me the straight dope. It's an after effect of surgery years back and when they do surgery on you your knee won't eb the same so deal with it and get back to what you do. I was really worried it was gig to slow me down, keep me from riding or walking as much as I like to. It sounds foolish, but I feel really happy to know that its just how it is and I can still do everything I want to.

Paul Ousley brought me a truck load of wood. Ica got a roaring fire going... We're going to need more wood, Paul. Feels very good to sit of an evening reading there...

Speaking of cold night reading:
In college, you don't get to read the big fat hairy novels as much as you should. Here's 10 to keep you occupied. I can only put the first few in a favorite order, and I bet that will change year to year:

Les Miserables

The Brothers Karamazov

War and Peace

Don Quixote

The Bones of Plenty

Kristin Lavransdottir

The Count of Monte Cristo

David Copperfield

The Faerie Queene-- so it's not a novel. Deal with it.

Middlemarch, the shortest on this list

I think this Christmas I will reread Adam Bede, by George Eliot

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