Peace in the Neighborhood

This is my second post for Advent 2018. Make sure to check out the first post and the second post.

Over the last few years I have come to appreciate Fred Rogers more than I did as a child. The combination of entering into parenthood and exploring Emotionally Healthy Spiritually together with my fellow staff members at Westbrook opened my eyes to what kind of treasure Mister Rogers Neighborhood actually is. He very intentionally and gently walks children through tough situations that they may face in their lives. Everything from being mad to your parents divorcing or even experiencing death.

One of the most wonderful things about Fred Rogers, as well, is the amount peace with which he carries himself. You never get the impression that he is upset or angry with anyone. He always seems to find a way to connect with other people no matter how different they are. From what I’ve heard, this was not only true of him on the show, but in real life as well. It strikes me that this example of peace is precisely the one that we need to reflect on during advent. 

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Our Present Hope

This is my second post for Advent 2018. Click here to read the first one.

My daughter has a lot of things on her Christmas list. She’s almost 5 and it seems like several times a week, she comes up with something new to add to her wish list. She’ll say something like, “Daddy, I want to add this to my Christmas list, I want it sooooo bad. I hope I get it.” I, of course, know exactly what she’s getting from us. Occasionally, she is actually going to get the thing she is wishing for, but many times we have opted not to buy that specific toy. Most of us can remember what this was like. We had things that we were wishing for and hoping for, but never got.

One of the words that is often reflected on during the time of Advent is Hope. It’s a word that we use frequently to describe our wishes. Like my daughter who is hoping for specific presents or when I am hoping that the Colts will be able to win enough games to make the playoffs, we are desiring a favorable outcome that we are unsure of. In terms of Advent, however, the idea of hope is much different when viewed through the lens of scripture.

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Practicing Advent

practicing adventThe hustle and bustle of the holiday season has begun. We are planning, shopping, cleaning, and wrapping. Christmas is almost here. The same can be said for the church. We just put up the Christmas trees at Westbrook. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it’s not Christmas yet. We’re in a season of waiting.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. You’re probably familiar with the term because of Advent Calendars that mark off the days of December leading up to Christmas. Advent is, in fact, an official season in the church calendar that begins 4 Sunday before Christmas and ends with Christmas Eve. It’s a time set aside to wait on the coming of Jesus and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. We remember how Israel waited for the Messiah and recognize that we are waiting for Jesus to come and restore all things.

It’s a time of waiting and expectation, and let’s be honest, most of us are bad at waiting.  Continue reading

The Eternal Current: A Review

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A few years ago I attended a service called The Practice for the first time. A friend of mine recommended the service to me, so I decided to go and check it out. The first few times I went, it was because of who was speaking that night, someone like Shauna Niequist, Sarah Bessey, or Ruth Haley Barton. After a couple of times, I found myself wanting to attend because I was drawn to the service instead of just the speaker. Now, I look forward to attending every couple of months as a kind of a personal retreat after busy seasons of ministry.

The Practice is a service and a community that embraces the idea that “A Sunday service is not the main event but rather a training ground to help all of us become people who can live the way Jesus would if he were in our place.” Because of that we should engage in practices together that prepare us to walk in this world as followers of Jesus. Every service is centered around liturgy and practice and sends you with a charge to live out what you’ve just learned. It’s this idea of a practice based faith that Aaron Niequist writes about in his book The Eternal Current. Continue reading

Going Deeper

Going Deeper

What does it mean to go deeper in our spiritual lives?

My family has probably logged hundreds of hours watching fish on our TV. This primarily stems from our girls’ love of fish. Both of them have been mesmerized by the brightly colored fish swimming around and since we don’t have an aquarium, we watch one on TV. You might think this is strange that we would use our TV as an aquarium, but many you’ve probably logged a multitude of hours watching Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. Whether it’s the aquarium, shark week, or some other show like Blue Planet or Finding Dory, many of us have viewed the depths of the ocean through our TV, but never swam in the depths or in shark infested waters. Why? Because it’s scary. I for one like air and not being eaten by sharks. 

This translates into our spiritual lives as well. We desire depth in our relationship with God and have hopefully have made some attempts to go deeper, but have yet to truly venture out into the deep waters. Instead, we choose not to travel very far from where we started. We are like beachgoers who only venture only several yards into the ocean instead of several miles. We are exchanging a perceived depth for a truly profound relationship with God.  We read another book about God instead of getting to know God. Instead of letting a passage take us deep into the heart and mind of God, we are simply reading bigger commentaries. Instead of sitting with God in the silence, we are seeking elaborate practices that make us feel like we are going deeper. Instead of truly addressing the emotional and spiritual problems deep within us, we hope that simply changing behaviors will help us be better Christians.  Continue reading

And who is my neighbor?

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In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is faced with a question. He is asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question about the law, “What is written in the law?” The expert in the law answers with the 2 greatest commandments: Love God and Love your Neighbor. Jesus applauds tells him to go and do just that.

The expert, however, isn’t done yet. There’s a but. Verse 29 says, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” So Jesus tells him the story of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, who has no legal requirement to, helps the dying man on the road while the legal experts walk along on the other side of the road so as not to become unclean. Jesus tells him that the Samaritan acted as a neighbor, and to go be a neighbor to people like the Samaritan was. Continue reading

Difficult Prayers

Difficult prayers

If you’re connected with me on social media, you’ve seen a couple of my posts about #MayThe4thBeWithYou today. It’s a nerdy holiday and I’m a nerdy guy. I like Star Wars, but today there’s something more important happening besides a bunch of Star Wars fans enjoying a good pun in order to celebrate some fun movies. Today is the national day of prayer here in the United States. It’s a day where Christians all around the country gather throughout the day for prayer services and often the focus is prayer for our government both local and national.

While this it is very biblical to pray for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-4), I think sometimes this call to pray for governmental leaders often overshadows a harder and more important call to prayer. Continue reading

Struggling with Spiritual Disciplines

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I grew up in a Christian home, went to Christian schools, and now I’m a pastor. In spite of all of that, I have struggled for a long time with what the spiritual disciplines do, or maybe I should say I have struggled to understand why we practice the spiritual disciplines.

Growing up I had it in my mind that practicing a spiritual discipline, like reading the Bible, simply made me a better person because I did it. It was like a mathematical equation of adding a practice (like Bible reading or prayer) + obedience + a certain amount of learning = better person. Continue reading

Reading for the Common Good

a-review-ofIn this day and age, we do little actual reading. We skim, peruse, read half of something, or read only a headline or a tweet. The act of truly reading–digging, exploring, researching, and digesting–is neglected.  Now I know this is not totally true, there are many who read, but the standard operating procedure for most of us, especially as we encounter more and more content online, is to not really read anything. And on top of that, we try to comment, argue, and fight for change while not having read those things that we are for or against.

For example, there has been a lot of things spoken, posted, tweeted, shared and reported on the recent executive orders signed by President Trump. But, have you read them? Maybe you have, and that’s great. I must confess, however, that I haven’t. I’ve said my fair share of things about some of them, but I haven’t read any of them. Why have I not read them if I choose to speak so much about them?

When I think about that, I’m a little ashamed of myself. I know how to research. I went to college and grad school. I’ve written a thesis. And yet I am guilty of everything that I just said was a problem. So, what are we to do about it? Continue reading

The Gospel and Lamenting

Copy of Misrepresenting the GospelYesterday morning I wrote a post. Then I turned on the news and saw what happened to Alton Sterling. This morning I woke with the thought that maybe I should hold off on my post. Then I turned on the news, saw what happened Philando Castile, and knew that I needed to write something different.

My friend and fellow Westbrook pastor Caleb Trimble preached this last weekend about the Gospel and lamenting. It was almost prophetic that he should choose to focus on lamenting as he preached through Acts 16. If you have the time, you should go and listen to it. Continue reading