A Richard Halverson quote

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“In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture.   And, finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.”

                                       ~  Richard Halverson
former chaplain of the United States Senate

I put this quote in my blog because I have heard it before, think its extremely insightful and believe it may shed light on why we have so much trouble doing the work of the Kingdom.

I don’t have all of the answers, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder if we’ve spent the last 50 years missing the point about what church should be about. We really have a hard time finding fault in the church. We seem to write off our troubles at times with the cliche “it must be God’s will.” Yet the truth is we have made mistakes, we always have and will continue to do so. We’re human and we make mistakes. We should thank God every day for His grace and mercy.

The problem I see with the church being an enterprise is that we tend to make our church the end, and not the means to bring people into relationship with Jesus. We are content if our enterprise gives us what we want and has a certain measure of success based on buildings, dollars and attendance. We are content if we can keep our groups together and have programs and services that meet our needs.

Our needs are not to be completely put aside, but we need to balance our needs with our obligation to reach and minister to the people in our communities.

Let’s look around us and see folks that need a relationship with Jesus and be willing to do anything that it takes to make that relationship happen.

The Spirit of Christmas

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This year I have been putting together a program for my choir to present in my church on one of the Sunday’s in December. As I began to put things together, I realized that Christmas is a really big thing. From Thanksgiving, (or maybe from Halloween,) to the end of the year, the “Spirit of Christmas” is the biggest event of our lives. And it should be because we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Christmas is first and foremost a religious season. Its a sacred event. But Christmas is so much more.

If you compartmentalize your life, and we all do, Christmas is also secular. And that’s not a bad thing. It can be, but it’s mostly a really good thing. There are a lot of secular activities that make Christmas the special season that it is. Christmas is not sacred or secular. It’s sacred and secular.

I know that when we come to church we are rightfully expecting a religious service. But since so much of what we do at Christmas is secular, and since those things are a big part of our lives, this year’s Christmas program is going to be sacred and secular.

What’s secular about Christmas? Christmas is also about families and friends gathering to celebrate together. It’s about celebrating the love we have for each other. It’s celebrating your baby’s first Christmas. It’s giving the perfect gift to someone you’ve loved your whole life. It’s making the long trips to bear hug loved ones we’ve been missing for a long time. It’s getting together for that traditional Christmas dinner. Ours is fried chicken. What’s yours?

A big part of Christmas is about just having fun together. Fun is a good thing, right?  We decorate together, we sing together, shop together, and look at Christmas lights together. We watch our favorite Christmas shows, listen to Christmas music, dress up in our Christmas clothes and eat green and red M&M’s, and drink hot cocoa and eggnog. We take vacations, go to parties and enjoy just hanging out together. We worship together, we read the Christmas story together and no matter how many times we’ve done it, we wake up giddy with anticipation on the big day see what we got from Santa.

Finally, the Spirit of Christmas is also about recognizing the struggles of others and doing something to help. We give gifts to people who are alone and hurting. We give to support ministries all over the world. We give to take the message of the cross to those who’ve never heard the Christmas story. We cannot celebrate the birth of Jesus and not express our love for the beautiful people all over the world Jesus came to redeem.

The Spirit of Christmas invades our lives in December and reminds us of things in our lives we hold most dear. This year, I’d like for us to celebrate this spirit of love and joy. I’d like us to celebrate so when the program is finished, we’ll know what it is we have and hold dear together and be challenged to take that spirit with us everywhere we go. And not just in December, but throughout the year.Image

We had an awesome vacation this summer

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Karen and I planned a week in Southern Utah for our vacation. I’ve posted my pics from the trip on Flickr. There’s a link in the sidebar.

We flew to Vegas, rented a car, drove to Zion National Park, camped 2 nights there, highlighted by a 2 day hike down the “The Narrows” on Tuesday and Wednesday. From Zion its a short trip through the Zion Tunnel to Bryce Canyon National Park. We spent 2 days there, one day hitting all the overlooks, second day we hiked the Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop trail. That afternoon we thoroughly enjoyed spectacular HWY 12 on our way to Capitol Reef National Park. We enjoyed burgers at Slackers in Torrey, marveled at a gorgeous sunset, and camped at the Fruita Campground. Next day we hiked the Grand Wash and drove the scenic drive. We ended our trip spending a night in Escalante (more HWY 12), hitting Petrified Forest and Kodachrome State Parks on our way back to St. George. Spent the night there and flew home Monday evening.

My Flickr pics cover a lot of the trip, with the exception of The Narrows hike. I wasn’t about to take my camera down the river. I would have taken my Iphone if I’d had a place to charge it (got away without a car charger.) We hiked about 30miles during the week, with two of the top rated hikes includes, that being “The Narrows” in Zion and the Queen’s Garden trail in Bryce Canyon.

Every where we went, we were amazed at the spectacular scenery. I’d recommend the trip to anyone who loves the outdoors and seeing the majestic beauty of God’s handiwork. We’re already making plans to go to Moab and tour the South Eastern Utah parks, Canyonlands, Arches and Monument Valley. Would also like to spend more time in the Grand Staircase. Its a pretty fascinating place, and huge. Over 2900 square miles of National Monument!

I hope you’ll enjoy the photos and I hope you get a chance to get outdoors and see the beauty God has created for us to enjoy.

Brad

Not Every Day You See One of These

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On my recent trip to Albuquerque, I came across a golden eagle sitting on a power pole on the side of the road. I stopped, got my camera ready, turned around and took a couple of pictures. I was between Vaughn and Roswell on HWY 380, about halfway between. By the way, there is nothing but power poles on the plains there for birds to roost. The road is lined with crows nests on several of the poles. Getting a picture of an eagle in the wild is a thrill.ImageImageImage

A Memorable Christmas

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Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to 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.

Isn’t it ironic that our celebration of the coming of the “Prince of Peace” has become the most hectic time of the year?

Christmas has become a time for hustling and bustling from store to store making sure we’ve got a gift for everyone on our lengthy Christmas list. It’s become worrying if we spent as much on Timmy’s gift as we did on Tammy’s. It’s hoping we have enough time and money to finish our shopping. Christmas has become going to grandmas’ houses and Christmas programs and parties. It’s about driving, shopping, working, decorating, cooking, eating, partying, leaving, arriving, and… going to church. It’s hardly a time of peace.

Even if we stopped for just 1 minute and turned off all the tvs and phones and ipads and Xboxes’ Playstations and gamepads and notebooks and Kindles and Nooks, we’d be anxious inside until we turned them back on. It’s the curse of our culture, isn’t it? It’s hard to come to a place where we can quietly commune with the Prince of Peace.

Stop. Gather around the table. Light a candle. Sing a carol. Say a prayer. Read a story. It sounds so easy, but its hard to do. We’ve got to make it a priority. If we could make some time to let the Prince of Peace be the center of attention, maybe we could have a Christmas to remember.

Three Words for Worship Musicians

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Be humble.
Be helpful.
Be holy.

I hope my pastor will forgive me for blogging during the sermon, but as I sat down after leading yesterday, this thought was in my head.

Be humble. The world glorifies musicians. Playing or singing to lead worship is so not American Idol. You are using the gifts God has given you to bring glory to God and to help others glorify God. Folks in the congregation need to be aware of this too. Don’t focus on the people up front leading. Do your best to see God through them.

Be helpful. Yesterday after our sound check, one of my musicians spent a few minutes helping a newer member of the band make some improvements in his setup. I appreciated this so much, because I don’t know how to setup electric guitar effects pedals. We all need to be willing to help and accept the help of others. That’s a big part of what a being on a team is all about.

Finally, be holy. The word holy has a double meaning. Both apply to us. We are “set apart” to lead worship. We are gifted with talent and called out to do what we do. Also, being holy is what God is and what he calls us to be. (Lev. 11:44) Its not just a calling, its also a way of life. It is our desire to be godly in all living. Purity, honesty and integrity come to mind.

What is hardest for you? For me its definitely being holy. Time spent learning and practicing holiness is more important and more difficult as a worship leader than learning how to play or sing. Think about it. I hope these three words are an encouragement to you. Be humble, be helpful and be holy.

Brad