Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday flashback

I know it's a holiday weekend and all, but I really didn't expect to be surprised again by the attendance. Extra chairs had to be set up. Thanks to Mike and his team for their quick thinking. We ran out of outlines. Printed more. Still not enough!

There was a lady back again from last Sunday. I called her the other day to thank her for coming. It happens that I had ministered to her 4 years ago when her husband was brought to the ER with a heart attack. (They zapped him 11 times, she said.) She's been "looking for a church" and decided to give us a try last week. In her words, "I wanted to come back the next day and can't wait for Sunday." Today she brought 3 friends with her.

We also had a 35 member youth group from Mill Swamp Baptist Church in Ivor, VA. They came yesterday and worked with our nursing home team to host a New Years party at Britthaven. Obviously our style of worship was new to them. It was strange seeing teenagers looking amazed at our band. One kid came up afterward and shook my hand, thanking me for having a band "that rocked". Even their church music director came up and told me how much he enjoyed the music. Uh oh.

Great job again by the band. Chad's getting more comfortable leading, and they sounded great.

Today I spoke briefly, then we had a conversation with one of our missionary families, the Bensons. It's a great way to explain foreign missions. Our folks really seem to enjoy it when we do this. And the love offering we received for them was over the top! What a generous church.

Thanks to our support teams in housekeeping, the nursery and our hospitality team. What you folks do is so important to the big picture. While what you do is often unsung, it's not without notice.

Now I'm watching the Skins and Cowboys [pardon my french]. 3rd quarter and things are looking good for the burgundy and gold. You're in! Amazing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Misdirected worship


I just read this news piece: Priests brawl at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus.

Yesterday I met another local pastor who complimented our church on our new building, and he followed the compliment up with "But I heard you had a lot of opposition".

"Really? Actually we had no opposition within the church. Everyone was excited to build a new facility, even if it meant the old building had to go". And that's true. There was sadness at having to demolish the old place, but we don't worship buildings, and it was seen as a necessary step for accomplishing our mission.

I continued with "Any criticisms about our building didn't come from our members, but from people who worship buildings that house the church rather than the Lord of the church." Sadly, I'll bet those comments came from the mouths of professing Christians who just don't get it.

Sure, we get emotionally attached to church buildings. But the only thing that makes a building a "holy place" is when people who house the Holy Spirit are its occupants. Otherwise it's just a building.

What do you think those priests in Bethlehem worship? What's with jealousies over cleaning up after Christmas? How very non-Christian.

And I thought it was only Baptists who got into fights like that!

Even at Christmas life goes on

My other "job" too often reminds me of that fact.

After eating a great meal with family and friends we gathered around to read the Christmas story (the real one). I opened up the Bible and found the passage in Luke I wanted to read when my cell phone rang. "Chaplain, this is Dare Central. Can you respond to a call in East Lake?"

I had been listening on my pager to the search for a missing boater. Apparently he had been found and the news wasn't good for his family. Their chaplain was out of town for Christmas. So I handed Andy the Bible and excused myself and drove 35 minutes out to a grieving wife of 46 years, kids and multiple grandkids; all gathered for a fun family Christmas. Their uneaten Christmas dinner was still on the kitchen counter. They were waiting for him to come home. I don't know if they ever ate any of it. Today they're preparing for a funeral.

While I was enroute to East Lake my phone rang. It was one of our fire captains. But this news was good. One of our firefighters became a new daddy on Christmas. Life is indeed a mixed bag.

Then yesterday afternoon as I was getting ready to head home for a bite, then to join our youth at the bowling center for some fun an alarm was sounded for a house on fire in Mann's Harbor. By the time the second alarm was sent I was already on my way to the fire station. When we arrived the house was obviously going to be a total loss, so I sought out the homeowners and assisted them and contacted the Red Cross. Their 3 year old soundside home burned to the ground; everything lost.

Everything but their lives and the clothes on their backs. Had the fire erupted just a few hours later when they were asleep it would have likely been a tragedy with more than "stuff" being lost.

What's valuable to you? Family? Possessions? The cold hard facts of life are that nothing we have here lasts forever. And life goes on, even at Christmas. So we have to be prepared.

I hope you are.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve Communion

Since 1992 we've had a communion gathering on Christmas Eve. It's become one of our favorite traditions.

Tonight we were somewhat overwhelmed by the turnout. Our guys were scrambling, both to set up an additional 50 chairs and get another tray of communion cups filled. A good third of the crowd were guests and probably half of them from out of town. We did very little advertising, so I really was surprised. There were so many people I had never seen before.

Who knows how many heard a clear explanation of the Gospel for the first time tonight? I don't. But I suspect many did. It's a great way to introduce both the Gospel and the church to the twice a year crowd.

Next year we'll hopefully be better prepared!

Sunday flashback

The Sunday before Christmas is my excuse to wear my red shirt. Since I'm now sporting a beard (that is mostly white) I've been encouraged to let it grow for next year. I don't think so.

Lots of "Merry Christmas"es, hugs, exchanges of hugs and cards and a celebratory spirit. Again, our 11:00 crowd was a little bigger (and livlier) than at 9. And we had lots of guests, both family in for the holiday and those who love to be here for Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was teaching about the necessity of God's Word in our growth as disciples, I offered to anyone who didn't have a Bible that if they would ask, I'd get them one. Yesterday I had the joy of giving a Bible to a new attender who didn't own one. This is a fun job I have.

The music was great - again mixing new arrangements of old carols, with a new Christmas song and "Glory in the Highest", which is an awesome song. This Sunday was likely Nathan's last leading us for a while until after Tricia's medical needs (including giving birth to my granddaughter and receiving a double lung transplant) are resolved, which could be several months.

I took the last two Sundays to look at "Jesus Other Name: How God Can Be With Us". The first Sunday was about Immanuel, and why God had to become a man to redeem us. Then yesterday I focused on how God is with us today in the person of the Holy Spirit and how we as Christ's body are His visible presence in the world until He returns. Here's a comment I got this AM about the messages:

"I am especially blessed to have heard your last two messages. You really 'came down' to our level. I guess that could be called, the level of 'non-seminary scholars',to share the Christmas story."

For me, as a pastor and communicator, that's what it's all about.

And congrats to both the Redskins for a great game and to the ECU Pirates for their bowl victory in Hawaii. Let's hope the Skins are ready as the Evil Empire comes to DC Sunday.

Christmas Eve on the road


With our son and daughter in law temporarily living in Durham due to her medical needs (see Nate's blog) we all (Gail and I, Andy, Misha and Ty, Terry and Sarah and Ramon and Rachel)loaded up Sunday after church and made the drive to spend Sunday evening and Monday morning with them and have an early Christmas celebration.

After dinner at O'Charley's in Durham we returned to their apartment and opened gifts. It was a lot of fun. The picture is our three kids and their spouses.

About noon we're heading back to the OBX to get ready for tonight's Christmas Eve Communion gathering - always a highlight of our Christmas celebration, and our first one in the new building. Tonight we're giving our band the night off and will sing traditional carols.

I'm looking forward to another viewing of "A Christmas Carol" featuring Gen. George Patton, followed by "A Christmas Story" before retiring. Then I'm up at 4AM to get the turkey on the smoker and have it ready for dinner.

We'll have our family (minus Nate and Tricia) and some special friends joining us tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

NOTIFICATION OF ANTICIPATED CELEBRATION

(I confess stealing this from a blogging friend. But it was too good to pass up. My guess is that he stole it, too!)

To All My Liberal Friends:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere . Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

To All My Other Friends:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

If you thought Spock had it wrong..


Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears' mom, Lynn has a contract with Christian publisher Thomas Nelson to write a book on parenting.

The next best seller.

Oh wait, it's been put on hold for some reason.

In the mean time maybe we can see what the Bible might say about raising kids.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Subliminal "Cross"



Let's see.
He's plaing "Silent Night" (not "Jingle Bells" or "Frosty the Snowman") in the background.
He says "what really matters is the celebration of the the birth of Christ".
He uses "Christmas", more than once instead of the generic and pc "holidays".
He ends with "God bless and Merry Christmas".

And the dufuss critics in the MSM want to say that a bookshelf behind him is really a covert cross and that Huck's trying to get his religion into our minds subliminally.

Sometimes you just gotta shake your head in disbelief at what the geniuses who roam our country under the guise of reporters and political strategists come up with.

I wonder if the Christmas tree beside the "cross" is live or artificial. Either way, he loses that one, too. Either he's cutting down an oxygen producing plant and contributing to global warming, or he's going to create more waste for our ever increasing landfills. All because he just wanted to wish us a Merry Christmas.

Oh yeah. Paul is dead.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I ran the race

Saturday morning with cold temps in the 40's and a stiff breeze, I ran my first ever distance run. It was the Jingle Bell 5K in Nags Head. Why I did this, I'm not really certain, other than the fact that I got a bit inspired watching the marathon back in November.

My training regimen included 5 runs over two weeks, most of them on the treadmill at the Y. I set a goal of a finish time between 30 and 33 minutes. With my Santa cap on my head, I started at the rear of the pack. It was comforting to see the ambulance standing by at the finish line.

I made the half-way point at 11:19 which amazed me. But it went much slower after that. The hardness of the pavement wasn't something I was used to and my shins tightened up, making me stop and walk three times for a minute or two each time. Everything else, including my lungs felt great. But below the knees I was hurting.

They've got a run planned for New Year's Eve at 10PM. Maybe.

Oh yeah, I barely met my goal with a time of 32:31. Next time will be better.
Gotta go. I've got a racquetball appointment.

Sunday flashback

It was pouring rain with a howling wind Sunday morning. And it was a good test for our roof...which failed the test in a few spots. We even had someone get up and run for a bucket to catch the water dripping from the ridge over the auditorium.

But the rain didn't dampen either the attendance or the spirit. Great energy and enthusiasm! To change the seating a bit I added an extra table (now there are six tables set up) on either side and moved them up as well. Our First Impressions guys worked well at finding seating for everyone.

Good mixture of Christmas and non-Christmas songs. The band was excellent in both their sound and their leadership. And "O Holy Night" at the end gave me goose bumps.

After last year's bumper crop of babies at NHC I thought next year would give us a break. But no way. We got the news that another couple is expecting. Let's hope for a boy for Wade! He's got three girls already. At my count we have 4 expectant couples right now. And it's not even winter yet!

Our Honduras Mission trip team lingered after to do some strategizing for their upcoming trip. And the Bensons, our missionaries there in Honduras were all with us Sunday. We're taking up a special offering to buy Larry some socks.

And what do you know? The Skins have some new life breathed into them. Two wins in a row. What a wild game with all that wind. I just hope they save some of their winning ways for the next two weeks, and especially for the evil Cowboys.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Purpose of a Street


I guess I take this "purpose driven" stuff seriously.

Last week our town brought in the heavy equipment to begin resurfacing the street on which our church is located. The last time this street was paved was in 1962. I was 7 years old. It's an aggregate surface with exposed rock. The only one like it left in Nags Head. But a street's pavement isn't intended to last forever, and the years and wear are quite visible. Now it's full of patches and potholes. It's also too narrow for current safety codes. If two vehicles are approaching from opposite directions on of them has to pull onto the shoulder for them to pass.

I attended a meeting last night at the town's board room where residents along this historic street (and it is) could voice their opinion. There's a lot of attachment to this old road, warts and all. And I understand that. But what's the purpose of a street?

I'm no civil engineer, but I would guess that a street/road's primary function is to provide access to the neighborhood. Safe access. Everything else, including asthetics are secondary, aren't they? Is a road that's crumbling and eroding, that's too narrow still accomplishing it's purpose? And if it's not, what's the solution?

Having been a pastor for most of my adult life I know full well the fear and anxiety that comes with change. And like the street outside my window, I've seen churches that at one time were relevant in their methods for reaching and teaching their communities. But with the changing of times and cultures those old methods (I'm not talking about message) have eroded and are no longer allowing the church to accomplish it's purpose.

Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and repave.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday flashback

I'm curious as to why it takes us ten minutes into a worship gathering for people to come in and get a seat? Are they just unable to get there on time, or what? Just wondering. The second gathering probably increased 20% after we began.

The best news yesterday was that two attenders indicated they were trusting Jesus as Savior. One of them was a first timeer who wrote on his card, "I'm new and need a church. You guys are very kind and I'll be back soon." The other was someone who has been attending regularly now for a couple of months. She commented, "I am not sure how to do this right...I have so much to be thankful to God and I want to make sure he knows how much I believe in Him and love Him." I think He knows!

Our band gave us a mixture of Christmas songs, including "Christmas Time is Here" (think Charlie Brown), and some non-seasonal worship songs that all worked great together. We don't think Nate will be able to be with us on Sundays much longer (read his blog for more info there), and he'll be greatly missed. But I'ma also very confident the band will do an excellent job w/o him for a while in leading us. Can't wait for them to get to work on a CD!

With all the Christmas decorations up the place looks great! And Sunday the kids decorated a tree just outside my office door. I'm looking for the plug to energize the lights.

Our first gathering had zero babies in the nursery! A first. I didn't hear a report on the second gathering, but suspect they had their hands/arms full.

I'm really appreciative of the dedication and work our other pastors do. Yesterday was an example of their commitment to shepherd the flock. No one other than a few knew what they were up to, but it sure is a blessing to me to know they're watching over us like they do. Thanks guys.

Sunday evening we hosted "Defy Conformity", with Keith Deltano. It was a pro-abstinence rally for the youth and parents in our community. Our band provided the music and rocked the house. We know of 6 churches who participated. Our local crisis pregnancy center sponsored the rally and it was well done. I hope will make a huge difference. A good group of parents also attended and heard some eye opening things. We're blessed now to be able to host events like this, and look forward to more of the same kinds of things in the future.

Only 3 Sundays left in '07! What a year it's been for NHC. Kinda like traveling on a jet. There's been some turbulence, but we're getting there quickly!

Friday, December 7, 2007

When history is forgotten

December 7, 1941 was truly a world changing day. But I think few Americans, especially Gen Xers and Millenials are even aware that today is a monumental anniversary.

The rapidly vanishing "Greatest Generation" who fought in WWII haven't forgotten (unless due to dementia or Alzheimers). My generation of boomers seems to remember, but chooses for the most part to ignore.

But isn't it true that if we forget history's lessons we're doomed to repeat them?

But, hey. We're the USA. No one will ever get close enough to invade us again.

Oh, I almost forgot a Tuesday in September six years ago.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The lion roars


Peter wrote, "Be clear-minded and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering." (1 Peter 5:8-9 ISV)

This week, actually it became ominous a week or two earlier, the lion has been roaring in our ears. Our elders have sensed an increase, a "surge" if you will, in the attack against our church and those we know and love in the last few days . This isn't some heeby-jeeby feeling. It comes from real battles people we care for are in. And some of them are losing.

It takes more than a three-legged stool, a whip and a gun firing blanks to protect yourself, too. Unfortunately some are willing to surrender to the roaring lion and be devoured, rather than to be firm in the faith of another, greater Lion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I'm in training

Watching the OBX Marathon a few weeks ago as it ran past us on Sunday morning gave me some inspiration. I mean, I know I'm in better shape than some of those guys! So why can't I participate?

I may never run a marathon (pain isn't my friend), but there's a little 5K run coming up on the 15th that I want to try. So Monday I went to the Y and ran 5Ks. First I walked for 5 minutes to warm up. Then I reset the machine for 5K and ran for 40 minutes and a few seconds. The last mile I was clocking 1 mile in 12 minutes. (I learned that 5K = 3.1 miles).

I'm going back today and do it again. This time I'll increase my speed a little.

But there's a price to be paid. Yesterday I was walking around like I needed hip and knee replacements! The soreness isn't so bad today, however.

Anyway, it's fun to be able to look at your son and sons in law and say, "I can run faster and farther than you, big boy". And they know it, too.

Oh yeah. Thank God for hot tubs and advil.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

How you can pray for Tricia

At our communion Sunday night Nathan announced that Tricia is expecting a child. For her that brings a whole different scenario to her need for new lungs, due to her Cystic Fibrosis. He has written the following and asked me to send it to you so you can know specifically how to be praying for them. Please feel free to share this with others who will also pray. You can stay abreast of what’s happening with Tricia by going to Nate’s blog.

Thanks,
Rick


The doctors have taken Tricia off of several of her normal CF meds to protect the baby. They have replaced some of them with safe meds, but she is definitely missing out on the benefits of her usual meds. So far, everything about the baby is healthy, but Tricia is suffering because of it.

> Tricia now has Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes are common both in CF patients and in pregnancy, so she was almost guaranteed to deal with it at some point. She is currently taking three different kinds of Insulin (all shots) to counter her need for a high carb, high calorie diet. Counting carbs, pricking her finger every few hours to test her blood sugar level, thinking more about what and when she eats (and doesn't eat), etc. has added to the stress of her daily life.

> As the baby grows, the room for her lungs to expand shrinks. Tricia is now on oxygen almost 24/7. She carries an Oximeter with her everywhere so that she can always be sure her heart rate and oxygen intake are at a healthy level for both she and the baby. She also carries portable oxygen tanks everywhere. Even with the extra oxygen, her levels are constantly on the brink of being dangerous, especially for the baby.

> Because of her oxygen level, Tricia is very limited in what she is able to do, where she is able to go, etc. Things as common as folding laundry, fixing lunch and walking to the car have become very laborious for her. Her daily PT at the Center for Living is becoming more and more difficult, and more and more important. She is not able to travel much any more, and she may not be going home again until after the baby is here, which is not fun to think about, especially for her. More than likely, she will be on bed-rest in the hospital in the near future.

> Because of the new diet, diabetes, oxygen issues, etc., we have to get up several times in the middle of the night to tend to things, which makes our daily routines a little more difficult. I suppose that it's god preparation for the baby, but not really healthy, especially for Tricia. Needless to say, we've both been sleeping later and Tricia has been getting as many naps as she can.

That's all for now. We appreciate your prayers and sincere words of encouragement. We are relying on God more than ever for our strength and joy, and we are seeing Him provide all that we need. We're always open to phone calls and emails and even visits (for anyone who wants to make a trip to Durham). Thanks!

Nate

Monday, December 3, 2007

Every church needs a cheering squad

Last Sunday night at our annual budget conference when the church gives approval of our vision for the next year we had a smidgen representation of members present. In fact, had we a requirement for a percentage for a quorum, we likely would not have been able to make a decision.

And to some, that was not a positive sign. "Where are all the members?" Yet the following Sunday evening at our communion gathering and dinner we had an all time high attendance.

What does that say about us?
First, our church has learned that our leadership can be trusted to be seekers of God in making decisions and finding His vision.

Second, those who came out to the budget meeting are the core. And the core of any ministry are also the cheerleaders. They see better than most what God is doing and how He's doing it. They have truly bought into the vision of the church with their lives and their support. (The approval btw, was unanimous.)

Third, that so many come out to a communion worship/fellowship gathering shows where our priorities lie, and that's in drawing close to what really matters: the cross and one another.

I love our church!

Removing God from Christmas?

Here's the intro statement on a thread in a forum I frequent:
We have a family in our school that will not let their children sing "The first Noel" because, "El is the Hebrew word for God. No, mean no. So Noel is really saying there is no God."

How stupid is that?

Yes, "El" is a Hebrew name for God (ie. El Shaddai, Elohim...). That's Hebrew. And "No" is a word in some languages for negatory, but not in Hebrew. The fact is "Noel" comes from the French word for Christmas.

What was it Jesus said about straining at gnats? Spirituality doesn't equate being dumb.

Merry Xmas. Uh oh. I've done it now...

But the Greek symbol for Christ is...

Sleeping with someone's grandma

Now that Nathan and Tricia have gone public with their announcement that she is expecting, I can talk about it, too.

I have to confess, my initial reaction when they gave us the news (back in September) was not joy-filled. Humanly speaking her pregnancy came at the very worst possible time for her. She was literally to begin PT the next day in preparation for her double lung transplant that is necessary for her life. A pregnancy eliminated her from being put on the transplant list at the time when she needs it most. So my mixed emotions stemmed from the very real possibility that the odds were against them big time.

At the same time, how can you not be elated with the news that your first grandchild is on the way? I know I have had the grandfatherly look now for several years. It's a genetic thing. But Gail (to me) will never look like a grandma. But trust me, she's ready to be one! And I'm getting more used to the idea myself, and it's not bad! - I mean of me being a grandfather, not her being granny.

A comment was made on Nathan's blog that I want to echo. "Tricia - you are the bravest, strongest woman i know! Nathan, keep holding strong!" These two young people are my heroes. I can't imagine being in their situation and being as strong and courageous. I'm humbled by their faith and their love. In fact, all my kids amaze me.

So I request your prayers for them.

In the meantime I'll get ready for the reality that my bride is a grandmother. My guess is she'll shine like never before.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Coaching 101: Learn the rules of the game

How many ways can the Redskins come up with to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. If you've read previous blogs, you know I'm not enamored with the coaching. And it hurts to say that, because like all real Skins fans, I'm a Joe Gibbs guy. But this year I'm thinking Joe needs to go back to NASCAR. Today was the worst.

The look on his face when he realized he made a bonehead timeout call that sealed their defeat was sad to see.

And if you can't play with more heart than that this Sunday in particular, something's bad wrong. I'm guessing the Dolphins could use a new fan.

Sunday flashback

It's great to hear Christmas music again in our worship gatherings! And our band does such a great job in making the old songs new.

The message today was about being prepared to follow Jesus into the darkness of the world. I really believe He's using this series to wake us up to the need to be a community of missionaries. And that's very exciting.

What do you say to people who consistently drive for an hour or more to come to your church? We have folks who drive from as far away as Elizabeth City (60 miles) and Columbia (45 miles) every week. That's encouraging. Maybe we should give them a gas card!

This afternoon our kids planned a movie lunch at home. We watched the movie "Hairspray" - yeah, the one where John Travolta is in drag. I confess, I slept through much of it, and what I was awake for...well, let's just say it wasn't my cup of tea.

But the day went out with a bang, for sure. The house was overflowing for our annual church Christmas dinner. We really were overwhelmed with the turnout. And my son, Nathan revealed to the church that he and Tricia are expectant parents. You can read more about that in his blog. I'd encourage you to do so.

It was in many ways a tough week last week. I'm hoping this one is a bit cheerier!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lessons from a Cristy Lane CD


At a recent regional denominational youth event participating churches were asked to donate items to give away as door prizes. One church gave a Cristy Lane (real name: Eleanor Stoller) CD.
1. Don't work with youth if you think Cristy Lane is what they would enjoy listening to.
2. Don't ask them to sing along with "One Day at a Time". And they don't remember Kristofferson, either, so it still won't work.
3. Don't ask "I wonder why we just can't get our youth excited about Jesus" if you think Cristy Lane is what they would enjoy.
4. If you invite Cristy to come and perform for your church (is she still alive?) don't be surprised if your youth choose to stay in the church basement and play pong in your youth room. However, be ready for your parking lot to be filled with Oldsmobiles.
5. Don't be surprised if the church down the road has a growing youth group while your's is populated by the pastor's and deacons' kids who would rather be down the road.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Say what?

I was talking with a member of another local church in the area recently. We've known each other for several years, but not really well until the last year or so. He always knew my role in my church. And he had heard some things from people in his church about us that made him form a very negative opinion of both me and the flock I shepherd.

Funny thing is, there's not an ounce of truth to what he heard. He knows that now because he's been around me and people from our church enough to have figured out on his own that the rumors were unfounded.

What makes Christians want to bash other Christians like that? I've got some ideas about it. Primarily I think it comes from ignorance and jealousy. Fact is, we're the only church in our denomination and in our area that is growing. The others are either in decline or on a long term plateau. Some are sincerely trying to move ahead. Others are content like they are. And for that I'm sad.

So do Christians think that if their church is struggling while the one down the road is healthy and growing that they need to "level the playing field" by knocking the other church? Is that what the Kingdom is about? I hope not.

I'm pulling for them to reach our community for the Kingdom. I see them as team members, not competitors, even if they do church differently than we do. That's OK. Just do it.

When I heard some of the stories being told about us, I didn't get mad. In fact I chuckled. How ridiculous can people be? How petty?

Just think. If some of those folks spent as much time and effort talking to people about Jesus rather than talking about another church, we might be talking about them!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday Flashback

It was a cool rainy day today. Don't know if the weather had anything to do with it or not, but the 9AM gathering had a tough time getting up any steam. I found it tough to worship and felt like I was just singing the songs. For me it was probably due to my one mental distractions. I'm going to ask the hospitality team to find a coffee with more caffeine or something.

The 11AM gathering was more like it. And while the earlier gathering was well attended, the 11 was really full. We set out two more tables with chairs, making 4 now and they were used.

The band, sans Nathan, did really well. So did today's tech team of Steve and Matt.

Lots of guests today. Some were here for the holiday weekend, but many are locals checking us out. From the few comments I got, the message was "intense" and really connected (with some, at least). I talked today about "Dirty Jobs" and following Jesus into the dark places.

To top the day off, our annual Vison Conference when we ask the congregation to confirm the next year's budget when super well tonight. Those who attended were our core and they get it. It's another big step of faith for us, but God keeps making it all possible. So we vote to go with God!

One word about the Redskins game. Turnovers kill. But the decision to go for a 4th and a foot rather than the 3 points from the 5 yard line was unexplainable that early in the game and behind by 6 points. It made the difference. Those 3 points would have taken them into OT, and the way their defense was shutting down the other team, and the fact that their offense was driving the field... A bonehead call, Joe. Sorry, but true. Either he's lost it, or he's listening to bad advice.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My mission gets some press

This article appeared in today's local paper. The writer got it "mostly" right. (Do you believe everything you read in the paper?)

Several years ago a pastor friend told me that his church staff (at a mega church in the Atlanta area) all volunteered one work day a week in the community. It got the pastors out of the bubble and into the field. I wondered where I could be used by God for His kingdom and useful to the community, and he placed me in the fire department.

Every little boy's dream is to wear bunker gear, a helmet and ride on a fire engine with sirens screaming. Sometimes I get to do that, too.

Every believer needs a ministry to the church and a mission in the world. What's your mission? (I think I've asked that before on this blog.)

Merry Christmas!

I might as well get started sending out greetings early.
Here's a greeting from the staff of Nags Head Church.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The trees are up

'Tis the season around here.

Earlier this week I filled up the back of my truck twice with Christmas decorations and bought a live tree. I think Gail is the queen of Christmas decor. This year we're setting trees up in our living room and family room. One live; one not. Plus we have two trees out on our front porch.

When Gail comes home this evening she wants me to help her decorate one of them. The kids used to have that job. Guess I better make a pot of high test. It's going to be a long evening.

But it sure smells good in here with that tree! Now, if I can get that fireplace lit!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve Flashback

Wednesday night's gathering was exceptional. The only negative was it went a little long (especially for the ladies and babies in the nursery!). There was a great spirit, which doesn't always come easy when you have three different congregations coming together, and two aren't really sure what to expect.

We did a number of reponsive readings from Psalms that related to the songs we were singing. Rarely do we do responsive readings, so that was a change for us. But we do often read scriptures aloud together.

Two videos were seen. One we bought from Bluefish about a little girl's prayer at the family Thanksgiving meal. Pretty funny! The other was one we did in house of the testimony of a guy from one of the other churches present. Very powerful!

And from the third church a gifted artist painted a Thanksgiving themed painting the entire time we were worshipping. For our church that was something new, and he did a great job.

Our band has put in a lot of hours lately getting ready for this and for the upcoming Festival of Trees next week. They're so devoted to their ministry and they're also very good. I think our guests were blown away by their contribution to the worship.

The offering received was of non-perishable food items, which will go to our local food bank to replenish what I'm sure they've given out this week.

A fun thing we started was to have everyone present sign one of our promo posters. We'll get it framed, and start a collection like it of special events NHC hosts and use them in our decor around the building.

Can't wait until next year!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Top Ten

The Bible tells us many times in many ways to give thanks. I’m sure that means first to God, but if you’re like me, there are lots of people to thank and lots of things for which to be thankful. So please humor me as I share some.

Ala David Letterman’s Top Ten, here are some things that come to my mind for which I am thankful this year.

10. In June, with my pastor Burnie and my son Nathan I went to a ballgame at Wrigley Field. I’m no Cubs fan, but I love the game, and Wrigley is one of the game’s shrines. Next year I hope to go to a Nationals game in their new stadium in DC.

9. Working with younger guys who stretch me and make me see different and new ways of doing things. For example, I’ve started blogging this year. And a couple of times this summer I wore sandals to church. (Hey, Jesus wore them!) I don’t want to be one of those old guys who never changes because he thinks the old days were better. As I grow older I still want to think young.

8. I’m about to occupy a brand new office. A year ago our church vacated our old building, and with it went a real office. So for a year now our staff has worked wherever we could find a space. And that’s OK. But I’m looking forward to a regular place to come to work with familiar pictures on the wall.

7. How can I not include the fact that I live on the Outer Banks? Since 1986 this has been our home, and I can’t imagine any place better to live and raise a family. And to top it off, we just passed through another hurricane season unscathed!

6. God has given me more friends than I deserve. Every one of them enriches my life and teaches me. A lot of new ones came into my life in the last year. And one thing I really like about my friends is that they don’t treat me like a preacher.

5. Surrounding my life is an incredible church family. Their passion for the Lord, for one another and for the community makes my job as one of their pastors a joy (almost all the time!) They held together through a big building project that included demolishing their old home. Every day I’m grateful to God for them.

4. At 52 I feel better than at 42. I know. Looks can be deceiving. My doc and my racquetball partner, see to it that I don’t totally neglect taking care of this temple. I’m at the stage of the game now when health is something I have to work on. I’ve got more aches and pains than at 42, but still I feel great!

3. God has given us three fantastic kids. If you know them, you know how blessed I am as a father. All three, along with their spouses love one another and love the Lord. This year has been an exciting one for our kids. Both of my daughters got married. (I don’t recommend that, by the way.) Our son’s wife is preparing for a double lung transplant, and that’s exciting in a different way. It sure seems quiet around the house with all of them gone.

2. My wife Gail and I celebrated 30 years of marital bliss this year! She’s the constant in my life and has loved me for even longer. We’re now looking forward to some grandkids in the future!

1. To be able to have a personal relationship with the Almighty God. To realize that He resides within me and cares about every detail of my life is still most amazing. Knowing Him and being able to communicate through prayer and by reading His Word are privileges for which I can’t thank Him enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Worship Gathering


For a number of years we've had a Thanksgiving Eve worship gathering at our church. It began when we still did a Wednesday night Bible study every week. In the early days we invited another church (of another flavor) to join us, but eventually we outgrew the ability to do that, so we just did the gathering with us.

Now that we're in our new facility with more space we've invited a couple of local churches (again, different flavors) who meet in rented facilities on Sundays and have no place like this through the week. Both have similar worship styles as us, so it should be a great time together.

I'm not the greatest proponent of "ecumenicalism". But, as the old preacher used to say, "I'm friends of the friends of Jesus". It's a Kingdom thing, isn't it?

Lots of great music. Lots of scripture. A great testimony and an artist doing his thing on a canvas on stage. Hope to see you here on Wednesday night.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talkin' 'bout my generation

This morning at First Appointment* I divided one of our groups. I've been talking about it for a few weeks, so this morning I made an executive decision. "Set up an extra table".

This one particular group - The Old Guys - has grown to the point where it was time to "give birth" to a new group. They've had a great group going on. They even all got "Old Guys Rule" coffee mugs (and honored me with one! - not that I'm old, mind you). So you might think they would react adversely to being split up.

Not so. These guys are maturing disciples who get it. They know that a major purpose of a small group in our church is to grow and procreate - begin new groups. And they're setting the example to the rest of the guys in FA. So, today instead of one group with 11 guys trying to get a word in edge-wise, there were two groups with plenty of opportunity for everyone to participate.

All this at 6AM, too. Gotta love men who love God that much!



*A gathering of men in small groups for fellowship, prayer, Bible study, outreach and accountability. We meet from 6-7AM every Monday morning. I got the idea from Chuck Bayless at Coast Hills Church.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Football's not rocket science

If you can't stop a guy from catching passes or keep him out of the end zone, you can't win. It's that simple.

I should be a defensive coordinator.

Sunday Flashback

We're continuing to talk about our vision and mission as a church, and today we got to the nitty gritty of being a Jesus follower: servanthood and submission. I think they're the big steps every disciple has to take to really follow Jesus, especially when He leads into some hard places.

Today we did a little "experiment" with the seating, putting out a couple of round tables and chairs. Let's see if they catch on. This time of year we've got extra space and can do it.

Great attendance today! Lots of guests, including a couple of ladies who work at the Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday we hosted a Chamber open house at NHC. These two ladies both work for the Chamber, and one invited her sister to come along to day. Apparently they saw something Wednesday that invited them to try us out.

Great music and sound this morning, too. Our band works hard. In fact, they're practicing this evening and Tuesday night, getting ready for the Christmas season.

I sat in the lobby between gatherings, just observing. One of our out of town guests came and spent a few minutes with me. He said there was "buzz" going on in our church that showed people really enjoyed being there with one another. And that I "told it like it was" in the sermon - something he said was missing in his home church. We were "a breath of fresh air", he said.

We don't take lightly the fact that we get so many guests visiting the Outer Banks, and we hope that we are an encouragement to them.

I was told we collected 99 boxes for Operation Christmas Child! I'm sure that's our most ever. But I'm confident that next year we'll topple that mark.

After the second gathering we hurried to the Y for a baptism. Two young ladies followed Christ and made their faith public. It was especially great to watch a dad baptize his oldest daughter after he and mom led her to Christ.
Great Day!

I'm afraid, however, the upcoming game between the Skins and the dreaded Cowboys will be less positive than the rest of the day. The Redskins play hasn't given me a great deal of confidence. But maybe old Joe can get 'em up for the 'Boys.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Eat your hearts out


The picture was taken Sunday morning, 11-4-07 at sunrise on the beach here in Nags Head by Frank Brown, III. He was in church that Sunday, came back Sunday night for communion and had this photo in a frame for us.


"Praise his glorious name! It is far greater than we can think or say. You alone are the LORD. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve and give life to everything, and all the angels of heaven worship you." (Neh. 9:5-6 NLT)


And to think I could see this every day if I just got up early enough! (BTW, our sunsets over the sound are just as amazing!)

Sprucing up

It's been a hopping place the last couple of days at our church. Tomorrow the OBX Chamber of Commerce is having a ribbon cutting and open house here to welcome us into their community. So we want the house to look great!

Randy has done an amazing job organizing the 20 or so different folks who have volunteered their time to do everything from dusting to installing blinds to tweaking the much and flower beds.

Growing from a tiny facility to one 5 times the size underscores the fact that caring for the church's house is a stewardship that can and should involve the care of every member. Why? Before they know anything about us, they judge us (right or wrong) by how we care for our house. It's the visible representation of who we are in many ways.

So thanks to you all for your ministry and mission in sweeping, mopping, planting, painting...
Jewels added to your crowns!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Flashback

I was right.
Today started at 6AM with the OBX Marathon - it was a great way to reach out to our community and we had a blast doing it - and I got home to stay at 10:00, only to have to finish my stuff for First Appointment, which is at 6AM tomorrow!

Because of the marathon we only did one worship gathering. The race's course goes right down our street, making getting to church early almost impossible due to the 4,000 runners. We began with a couple of great songs, then showed a video reminding us to pray for our military personnel. I asked all the vets to stand and as they stood the church gave them a real ovation.

I should also mention that yesterday was the birthday of the USMC. Having given the first 17 years of my life to the Corps, I feel an affinity for them, though I never wore the uniform. Ooorah.

Before my message we did a video interview with two of our oldest members, George R. and Marilyn D., asking them about the changes they've seen over the years in the church and their reaction to them. It hammered home the point of what I then taught: our methods change constantly but our message can't.

A third animated clip Nate found illustrated the highlights of the Bible in about 2 minutes. Very cool. And two trusted Christ today. Even cooler.

Every week I'm repeatedly amazed and thankful for the team of volunteers who make Sunday's so special at NHC.

There was a group from out of town today on a marriage retreat. In their words, they're from a church "with 200 years of history unimpeded by progress". So when they gathered up front for a group photo, I suggested they all get up on the platform and each one either strap on a guitar, sit at the drums or grab a mic for the picture. Mind you, they weren't gen Xers. They had a blast pretending they were rock stars! I think they found out church can also be fun.

I'm even glad I spent most of the afternoon at my mother-in-law's new digs, moving furniture, etc. Her TV wasn't hooked up yet, so I didn't have to suffer through another disappointment from the Redskins.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Killer week almost over

It's 8:34 Saturday night and I'm in my "office" wrapping up a few loose ends before tomorrow morning. Typically you won't find me in my office on Saturday because I try to get everything necessary for Sunday done by Thursday night. But this has been some week. To prove my point I never got to the raquetball court. Not once.

It's all good, but a lot of extra stuff piled on, including both my son and daughter in law and my mother in law moving. And tomorrow morning I'll be here at the church at 6AM with the volunteer team serving the OBX Marathon.

Friday afternoon I got to lead a young lady to faith in Christ. She plans to be baptized next Sunday. So, despite going non-stop, I'm glad there was at least one "divine appointment" for me this week!

What scares me is that I have a hunch next week is going to be a repeat of this one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Apocolypse Ended!

This morning I discovered our server is back up and we're back on at Nags Head Church.
I guess since it started Saturday and ended sometime Tuesday it must be a mid-trib thing.
Now I'll have to rethink my eschatology.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Apocolypse Now!

You would think the world is coming to an end. Our web site server has been down for 4 days. Pandemonium is everywhere!

Geez. How did we even survive a few years ago? The young guys on staff are freaking.

If you're trying to reach our church web site, don't try right now. If you've emailed me since Friday, I didn't get it. But you can email me here if you need to because my old email address is temporarily non-functioning.

At least when I get in my truck I can turn on the oldies station and retain some sanity.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy Aniversary!

Today is my parents' 53rd wedding anniversary. Since they don't own a computer, they can't/won't see this. But today's a special day for them. Nine months and 3 days after their wedding I arrived. I say, "Thank God for those 3 days". Otherwise, in 1955 I would have been the subject of gossip, don't you know?

My guess is that in 53 years they've lived in 25 different houses/apartments. Sometimes they're just hard to find. Gail and I visited them a couple of weeks ago for a couple of days. It was our first visit to their current home, and we never got to see them at the last one.

Dad's been out of the Corps for 35 years, but I guess the Corps, with all its transfers never got out of him.

I hope they enjoy their anniversary. Heck, I hope they remember it.

Sunday Flashback

Typically I write this on Sunday evening, but our Sunday was long and full yesterday. And it was good!

Sunday morning we commissioned 120+ who committed themselves to engaging their cultures as missionaries. I've just read through most of the cards and am excited about the potential to reach our community "wherever we go". Of those who came forward (our first public "invitation" in years) 16 are in our "community" - attenders but not yet committed to the fellowship and another 16 were middle and high school youth.

I've challenged them to form "mission teams" with others who work in their same field, or who have similar passions. For example, several said they want to reach the surfing community. Several moms want to reach other moms. My dream is for them to team up and make a difference together. It could happen!

We used several videos yesterday of stories of how to and one of how not to reach your community. It was stuff everyone can do, and I think we got it. Everyone who has been adopted by Jesus is called by Him to be a missionary.

The band did some songs that relate to the whole outreach theme. I asked Nate to include Geoff Moore's "In My Own Backyard", which they played/sang as the "missionaries" were making their commitments.

One couple (that I know of) came for the first time as a result of Trunk or Treat. I met some other brand new folks seeking.

One of our pastors, who has been here almost as long as me, said it was the the most "moving" worship gathering we've ever had. I'm encouraged, and time will tell. Our job now as leaders is to continue to lead and direct them into ways to reach their cultures in their generation.

Another step to becoming a missional church and being balanced in all 5 purposes of the church.

Sunday evening we returned for our monthly Communion gathering. Steve did a great job teaching about the things that remind us of the cross. Nate led us in a new (to us) rendition of "Nothing But the Blood". So many positive comments about how we're able now to have Communion all together with the meal. Last night we fit about 140 in. And the food - "Thankgiving Feast" was over the top good and plenty!

Gail and I ate with a first time couple to our Lord's Supper gathering, which we seem to do often. That's a good thing for us. They brought a couple of their teenage son's friends with them to church Sunday morning. These kids did not want to go. But when it was over they said they wanted to come back.

We also welcomed 3 new members into the fellowship, which is always fun! I'm not sure what it is, but the last couple of months we seem to be on a constant crescendo from Sunday to Sunday. My guess is that's how it's supposed to be.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Trunk or Treat Debrief

We set our goal at 600 - double the 300 who came last year. Our best guesstimate is there were 1000 Wednesday night! At one point there must have been 400-500 there at one time. The place was wall to wall kids and parents.

I could give you the numbers of hot dogs, pounds of candy, bags of pop corn, cotton candy....which were all amazing to us. But the numbers that count are these:
  • Over 400 pieces of Gospel literature were given out to kids and adults.
  • 41 parents asked for more info about NHC ministries to children and youth.
  • So many who said, "Thank you! This is a great thing your church is doing."
  • 100 volunteers from our church community made it happen.

When I get some pictures I'll put some up. Here's the link to a video on Youtube.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Beantown Bonanza


Sometimes things just can't seem to go wrong. Take Boston, for example.

Last night the Red Sox put the broom away after taking the Rockies to school in the Fall Classic. (Wouldn't a Red Sox/Cubs series have been great? Fenway and Wrigley...) That's series MVP Mike Lowell taking a cut to the left.

And their NFL behemoth, the Patriots gave my Redskins their worst whipping since 1961. They seem unbeatable.

Top it off with Boston College's #2 ranking in NCAA Div. I, and there's more excitement in New England than they've had since tea was dumped in the harbor.


Some people just seem to always get the corner piece of the cake.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Flashback

It was good to be back home today!

We began both our gatherings with baby dedications. Eight in all! Wow. We've had a population explosion. But it is indicative of who our church is reaching as well.

A lady from out of town made the comment to me about how she has been coming to Nags Head Church for years while on vacation and is thrilled about the transformation she has seen over the years. A minute later another vacationing guest commented on how she wished we had sung "the old hymns". Her friend reminded her that we had just sung "I Stand Amazed". I guess "older" is relative, because she said that song wasn't "old enough". You have to smile.

Today the church got to see the new paint job in the nursery/pre-school hall. It's fantastic! The kids have to love it.

Today I talked about mission, challenging the church to engage our culture where they are and be agents of reconciliation. Next Sunday we're doing a missionary commissioning for the whole church, and I've asked them to come to church dressed as they do at work. It should be fun!

Another super job today by our band and tech team. We could sing The Revelation Song and I Stand Amazed every Sunday and I'd love it.

I'm headed out the door for our CREST meeting tonight, looking forward to hearing what God's doing through our church and to casting a little vision stuff as well.

Will the Red Sox put it away tonight? I wouldn't be surprised.
Thanks to God for the rain! The winter rye is coming up and the lawn at church is looking green for a change.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Happy Birthday Gail!

After a week away (to where the wind comes sweeping down the plains) Gail and I got up early - 5AM for her is still like yesterday - caught a 7:30 flight and headed home. What a way for her to start her birthday.
But, how many women (outside of GA) can say that for her birthday her husband took her to Atlanta for lunch?
So...we had a two hour layover in the Atlanta airport. She got a burger and fries.
It's true what they say. Love knows no bounds.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Memorial Service In OK City


I was part of a corps of 150 fire chaplains marching behind a drum and bagpipe corps under crossed ladders into the Methodist church across the street from the Oklahoma City Memorial (Murrah bombing site) for a memorial service tonight. Remembered were fire chaplains who had died in the last year and all LODD firefighters from the US and Canada, with each name being read aloud.

Afterward we walked across the street to again spend time at the Memorial, which is beautiful at night with its reflecting pool, arches and lit markers for each life lost.

Prior to the service we were treated to Oklahoma barbecue at OKCFD Station 1. It was good, but I refrained from telling them they "ain't ate barbecue until they've ate barbecue" from eastern NC. I didn't want to hurt their feelings. It was my random act of kindness for the day. Being with all these chaplains brings out the merciful side of me.

More from Oklahoma City

Today's highlight was our visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial at the site of the Murrah Building, destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1995. Going through the museum (and they've done an incredible job there) gave me the same kind of feeling in the pit of my stomach that I felt going through the Holocaust Museum in DC. Remember the kids who died in the day care center? If you ever come to OKC, you need to block off a couple hours to see the museum.

I'm also watching the wild fires in Southern California on the news. Being with 150 other fire chaplains makes it that much more of a concern, esp. for the men and women fighting those fires. Everyone of us wants to get out there and help somehow. As of tonight there are 500 homes lost just in San Diego Co., with 250k people evacuated.

Sad day today.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Flashback

Since I'm in Oklahoma City today, I can't review today at Nags Head Church. But I've heard from a couple of people that it went really well. I love our church, and being able to be away knowing that things are well taken care of there. It wasn't always that way. But God has given us great leadership in our church.

Thanks Nate for putting together a "fun, different" worship time.

Meanwhile, here at the Federation of Fire Chaplains annual conference I've finished two days and 16 hours of classroom instruction. Brain overload! The convention actually begins tomorrow, with a trip to the Murrah Building included in the day. Gail's stayed busy shopping and seeing some sites.

She got to attend lifechurch.tv today, and really enjoyed it. I attended the worship service here at the hotel with the conference. I wish I could have gone with her. 'Nuff said.

We're about to get hammered by an Oklahoma thunder/lightning/hail storm. The wind is howling! Where's the storm shelter in this place?

Friday, October 19, 2007

OKie dokie

After waking up at 2:30AM and leaving for the airport at 3:00, Gail and I arrived in Oklahoma City a little after 10AM Okie time. We picked up our rental car - a yellow (her choice) little chevy of some kind with no frills - and headed toward the metropolis of Hugo, OK. First, however we needed food, and found a good spot at the Santa Fe Steak or something like that, just outside Tinker AFB. Very similar to a Logans Roadhouse, if you're familiar with that.

The 3 hour trip to Hugo, where my parents and brother/family reside, was a vivid reminder that Oklahoma was Indian Territory before statehood 100 years ago. (It's their centennial year.) It also reminded me, as I saw signs with familar names, of the time we spent ministering in Tulsa in 1978-1980. Lots of short trees out here!

This is our first visit here in several years, and the first time to visit my parents in their current home. It's very comfortable. Mom had a great supper prepared and we enjoyed the evening talking.

I'm up at 5AM (my internal clock says it's 6:00), so before everyone else rises I'm doing a little work. Mark, Debbie and nephews and niece arrive later for a visit. Then this evening we drive back to OKC where I'll be taking classes through Wednesday.

I may have to pick up a cowboy hat while I'm here. You're doing fine, Oklahoma. OK. (It's a nice place to visit, if you know what I mean.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Liberated!

I don't stay really close with the hot topics within our denomination. That's my choice. I've got enough to be concerned with pastoring a local church than to be overwhelmed by denominational politics.

But occasionally I do read up on what's happening here in my state. And right now it appears that the state WMU (Women's Missionary Union) is cutting ties with the state convention. It seems they don't like the direction or the leadership or something or other. So the ladies have chosen to secede and be free from their historical ties.

I wonder if they're all burning their bras, too? Fire up the old Helen Reddy anthem.

Good grief!

I heard today a sadly familiar story. A professing believer in Jesus, when confronted lovingly by a concerned Christian family member about the moral wrong, bibilical prohibition and potential damage of a lifestyle decision replied, "That's what you believe, but...(I'm going to live how I want to live).

I'm grieving over this. Partly because of her rebellion; partly because she wants no relationship with a church family although she has "trusted Jesus as her Savior"; partly because the dysfunction of her upbringing didn't teach her any differently. Mostly because it hurts to see her choose a way of life in opposition to what God would have her live.

As I was thinking of my own grief I was reminded by a still small voice that He grieves, too. In the middle of a discussion about all the bad stuff of life we've been freed from by Christ, Paul instructed the Ephesian believers, "And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live."

If our rebellion causes God sorrow and grief, I wonder if He ever has a tearless day?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Flashback

After a great lunch with family, I got home to turn on the TV and catch the remaining quarter and a half of the Skins' game. They were leading 17-14. But as it turns out, I would have enjoyed watching golf or bowling more.

Today was our first real "fall" day. Great cool sunny weather. Have you noticed how almost perfect weather makes everyone a bit cheerier? Smiles everywhere at church.

I got to meet more new people, which is always fun. Hanging out in our spacious lobby with a cup of coffee and just talking to guests is one reason I love this new building. We ran into one first time guest at the restaurant. When she saw us she did nothing but rave over her experience in our worship gathering. What perked my ears was her comment about how "genuinely friendly" everyone was. Apparently she's been church shopping, and "believe it or not, not every church is friendly." I wonder why that is.

Two of our Trunk or Treat video ads were shown today. They're a hoot. Great job!!

Amazing worship once again. Chad is stepping up more every Sunday, getting ready for a larger role in leadership once Nathan has to be gone for Tricia's transplant. It's great how the songs tie in so well with the message.

I got a new stool to sit on while I teach. It's super-comfy. Kinda retro looking. At my age I need all the help I can get.

The kids in Kidmo were outrageous today. I don't know if they're having that much fun or eating too many doughnuts when they get to church! And the ladies in the baby nursery said they had TEN babies during the second gathering. Great job, Faith and Bari!! All these kids is a good sign that we're reaching our target. We've gotta get that upstairs finished off for them.

I gave out an assignment to everyone to find someone who had served them this morning and encourage him/her/them with a few words of thanks. I'd love to hear from anyone who got a word of encouragement or who gave one out.

I'm going to miss it next Sunday. I'll be in OK City for the Federation of Fire Chaplains convention, thanks to the town of Nags Head. Lots of classes. But it will be a good getaway for Gail and I. She's already said, "I may have to go shopping".

Saturday, October 13, 2007

One another

For those of you NHCers looking to dig deeper, here's the list I will mention Sunday. Have fun with it.

“One Another Passages” in the New Testament

Love one another
Love one another – Jn. 13:34
Be kindly affectionate to one another – Rom. 12:10
Greet one another with a holy kiss. – Rom. 16:16
may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another - 1 Th. 3:12
But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another - 1 Th. 4:9
Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. - James 4:11
Do not grumble against one another – James 5:9
love one another fervently with a pure heart – 1 Pet. 1:22
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. – 1 Pet. 3:8-9
above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”- 1 Pet. 4:8
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another – 1 Jn. 1:7
For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another – 1 Jn. 3:11
And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave £us commandment – 1 Jn. 3:23
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God – 1 Jn. 4:7
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another – 1 Jn. 4:11
If we love one another, God abides in us – 1 Jn. 4:12
that we love one another – 2 Jn. 1:5

Get along with one another
Have peace with one another - Mk. 9:50
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another - Rom. 15:5
Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? – 1 Cor. 6:7
But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! – Gal. 5:15
walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
peace. - Eph. 4:1-3
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. - Gal. 5:26

Respect and honor one another
honor giving preference to one another – Rom. 12:10
Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. - Rom. 14:12-13
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us - Rom. 15:7
Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. - 1 Cor. 11:33
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. - Eph. 4:25
do not lie to one another - Col. 3:9
bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. - Col. 3:13

Share in each other’s successes and failures
and be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs – Eph. 5:18b-19
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. – Rom. 12:15-16
And be kind to one another forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Eph. 4:32

Hold one another accountable
Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. – Rom. 15:14
submitting to one another in the fear of God. - Eph. 5:21
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. - James 5:16

Serve one another
that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another – 1 Cor. 12:25
through love serve one another. - Gal. 5:13
Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. – 1 Pet. 4:9
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another – 1 Pet. 4:10
Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility – 1 Pet. 5:5

Encourage and build one another up
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs – Col. 3:16
comfort one another with these words [about Christ’s return] - 1 Th. 4:18
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another – 1 Th. 5:11
but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. – Heb. 3:13
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. – Heb. 10:24-25

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The beehive is active

I've been working in my "temporary office" in the church lobby all day, getting ready for my class on Saturday and putting the finishing touches on my sermon for Sunday.

This place has been hopping!
  • When I arrived at 9AM the Chandlers were inside doing some housekeeping.
  • The mowing service guys were finishing up with the sandspurs...I mean grass.
  • Fred was working on the electrical in the almost done admin area.
  • The plumber came by to repair a porceline wall fixture in the men's room.
  • Randy and Leroy put out some rye grass seed. (Pray for some rain!)
  • Dianne stopped by with a couple of checks for paying bills.
  • My nephew showed up to say "Hi" and to eat lunch with his dad.
  • The concrete contractor arrived to replace some cracked sidewalks.
  • Tom put the finishing drywall touches on my real office.
  • The copier repair guy came by to fix the copier.
  • Randy started painting in the Kids Church room. Bright yellow.
  • A lighting contractor (3 of them) from PA came in to give us a price on theatrical lighting for our auditorium. They happened to be in town working on another project.
  • In a couple hours the band will get here for their practice.

Busy day here at the launch pad.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A perfect beach day

Monday afternoon I picked Gail up and we went to the beach. It couldn't have been a better beach day, except maybe the waves could have been a tad bigger. But for October, it was amazing. About 80 degrees, light wind, blue sky, water temp at 75 (!), and a virtually deserted beach.

We took our beach chairs and a couple of books. I even got a little nap in.

It will be a long time before another day like that comes around. But I'm not complaining. Here comes the cool weather! Let's have some fall and turn off the AC!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Better be looking over your shoulder

This morning when I was ten minutes into teaching at First Appointment (at 6:10AM!) my cell phone went off. I keep my phone on "vibrate", so I was surprised that a song was playing from my phone in my pocket.

Last night we visited with our son and daughter, as well as our two daughters, their husbands and friends. I left my cell phone there.

This morning before First Appointment I was handed my phone which I put in my pocket. I never thought to check it for tampering. They had set the alarm to go off at 6:10, knowing I'd be teaching, and downloaded "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don't your wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?" as my ring tone, turned up as loud as it could go. It was hilarious.

Somebody blamed in on my son-in-law who wasn't present.

Payback is sweet. My mind is swimming.

Lock your doors.

Sunday Flashback

Yesterday was another super worship day at Nags Head Church. And it was a long day, too.

Having been here for going on 17 years and going back to when I literally wore just about every hat with a tiny congregation, it's great to see the church "doing the work of ministry" and getting it done. It allows me to concentrate on my main task on Sundays, which is teaching. God's given us a great team of servants who volunteer and make sure things are running on all cylinders.

One of the exciting things to observe is how our church is learning to worship freely. Sometimes you just can't stay in your seat while you're singing about things like being "finally free" because of the cross.

I hope the messages in this series are connecting. Only time will tell!These are values about which I'm very passionate. As an old pastor of mine used to say, "I'm stronger than horseradish" about the local church.

After church I had lunch with an old friend and retired pastor, Billy Sellers and his wife Pat. It was a pleasant surprise to see them after many years. Way back Billy spoke at a Bible Conference we had here, and later I preached in his pulpit at the historic Meherrin Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, NC. He's now enjoying life in the mountains of western NC.

Then I got to attend the 50th wedding celebration of Paul and Jan Martz. And while there I found out that it was also the 40th anniversary for Don and Agnes Kirschner. Both couples are super role models for younger couples.

Sunday night's communion service was packed out! Wow. Great job by Tom Lee leading the service and by Nate, Josh and Chris leading us to the cross through music. The fellowship around the communion table is super. Gail and I got to sit at a table with new folks who are still checking out NHC. And that's always a treat.

My chili didn't even place in the cook off. I think it was rigged. But everybody got plenty to eat with at least 14 pots of chili and sandwiches and desserts... Even though we dropped the word from our name we're still baptists when it comes to eating.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Why Be Culturally Relevant?

Last Sunday I'm told that a guest got up from her seat and left one of our services after the second song. She didn't even stay for the offering! (Just kidding.) I heard this evening from someone who knows her that she left because "It wasn't what I was used to".

It's not unusual for our worship style to get criticism - sometimes even from our members who should understand our vision and direction. But because it "isn't what they're used to" (read that: what they were brought up on) it's either "wrong" or somehow prevents them from connecting with God.

On page 51 of "The Present Future", Reggie McNeal hits the nerve on the head.
Witness the worship wars. They are the result of club members [McNeal's term for institutionalized Christians] discussing their worship style preferences as stockholders and stakeholders, not missionaries. The usual goal is to find something that club members like.

He continues a bit farther, Missionaries understand that being culturally relevant is critical to an evangelism strategy.

Then he swings the hammer. Only people without a missiology disdain attempts at being culturally relevant."

Ed and Edith would give testimony that their theology [what they believe about God] is orthodox. But until they develop a missiology [the doctrine of reaching the world with the Gospel] they haven't discovered His heart for saving those outside "the club".

It just isn't what they're used to.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"We're not going backward."

So says the leading bishop of the Episcopal Church here in the US. Her comments were in regard to pressure from the world's Anglican leaders that the US Episcopal church assert that it would not perform marriage unions for gay couples or approve gay clergy as bishops.

But Bishop, when you're facing the wrong direction, you only think you're going forward.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Old Guys Rule


The old guys at First Appointment are putting the rest of the guys to shame. Yeah, they're old, so they get up with the chickens. But how do they remember it's Monday morning?

You guys rock! Thanks for setting the pace, catching the waves and being role models.
"One would think the deep had white hair." - Job 41:32 NKJV
(Talk about taking a verse out of context!)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Flashback

It's been a busy weekend! Saturday morning the elders spent four hours together visioneering and working on the '08 budget. I'm really excited to get to next year.

It appears that the 11 o'clock gathering is more popular in the fall than the 9 o'clock gathering. That's the opposite of what we typically see in the summer. We had a full house at 11 and the energy level was noticeably higher. As Tom said, maybe it was the caffeine kicking in or the extra sleep!

The out of town guests this time of year are an older crowd than in the summer, too. Fall is a great time to visit here, and it's a lot cheaper. Not that older people are cheap! One guy said he's come every year since 1961. Another couple told me they drove right past us, looking for the little white church with the steeple!

Thanks to Tom for a very different message today. Not being an "arts" kind of guy, I wondered where he was going to go with "The Art in Me". One worshipper told me how great the reading of Genesis 1 went with our eyes closed, imagining the Creator crafting the universe. And he did a great job of bringing in the Gospel.

During the first gathering I got to spend time with the kids in Kidmo. What a great worship tool for them. Lots of creativity there!

I was told that a lady walked out after the second song in the first gathering. And someone said she was an employee of our NC Baptist convention!! She missed a great service! Hope she wasn't sick.

After church we had a huge turnout for our fall picnic. The weather, although a bit breezy (what do you expect on the Outer Banks?) was picture perfect. Lots of great food and plenty of fellowship. I saw soccer games, football, softball, kites and lots of people just getting together. Thanks Fellowship Team for all your work. It was a lot of fun. Joe Carey and I humbled the Staples brothers in horseshoes. You should have known better, Burnie.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ed and Edith* are in The Present Future

So here I am, reading chapter 2 (see my earlier post on The Present Future) and I find Reggie McNeal talking about Ed and Edith! Here's what he wrote:
The North American church culture is not spiritual enough to reach our culture. In our self-absorption we don't even see the people we are supposed to be on mission to reach. Don't hear this as a call to a "deeper life" spirituality. Often this "spirituality" is just another expression of refuge thinking (allowing Christians to hide out in Bible study). I am talking about a missional spirituality. Missional spirituality requires that God's people be captured by his heart for people, that our hearts be broken for what breaks his, that we rejoice in what brings him joy.
Tough stuff!

*[To meet Ed and Edith, read my earlier blogs about these prototypical evangelicals.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Present Future


Today I re-started reading Reggie McNeal's The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. I say "re-started" because I began reading it months ago then put it down and got sidetracked. So today I went back to page 1 and began again.

Here's the final paragraph from the first chapter about the need for the church to rediscover her mission. It encapsulates the chapter well.

That's the church's mission: to join God in his redemptive efforts to save the world. People all around us are in darkness. They are going to die unless someone finds a way to save them. Trouble is, the church is sleeping on the job. Too many of us have forgotten why we showed up for work. Even worse, many of us have never known.

Like it or not, he's right. Let me get into chapter 2.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Finally Finished Dan's Book


If Dan Kimball is still lurking, I finally finished They Like Jesus But Not the Church today.

Suffice it to say that Dan gives the church lots to think about. I came away with some ideas I hope to implement as we continue to seek to be a missional community.

Two thumbs up from me! Now I've got to wait until February for the follow up book, I Like Jesus But Not the Church to make me more uncomfortable. Until then, Dan's given me several other suggestions.
Thanks Dan. I like you, but not your hair.

Happy Birthdays Rachel and Ramon!


Today our youngest celebrates her birthday and her husband celebrates his on Friday. It's their first birthdays since being wed in April.

I can almost remember what it was like to be 22. Which, by the way, was also my first birthday as a married man.

The picture is of the two of them at her sister Sarah's (you, too, Terry) wedding in July. Ramon, you're a lucky guy!

Retreat!

There's never a good time for this, but I'm able to hide away some this week and get away from much of my regular routine. Thanks to able pastors serving with me, I've been given two Sundays away from teaching, allowing me to do some catch up on reading, praying and seeking God's direction.

And fortunately God has provided a place for me to get away. So, if you can't find me this week, that's a good thing! Please be praying with me. I need the spiritual refreshment, time in the Word and challenge as I complete a couple of books that have been patiently waiting on me.

There's a real buzz in the church right now that's truly exciting. We've launched a major small groups launch and we're scrambling to find new group hosts and leaders for all the new people wanting to join in. And the transitions we're making, climbing the next step of the ladder toward being a missional community are starting to take shape, too.

Lots of coffee will help, too. At my age reading can be the most tiring thing I do. Next to watching the Redskins, I mean.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flashback

Andy brought a great message today on consistency. Lots of good stuff to go home with and chew on for a while, too.

It think it was funny that a guy from out of town came today. He looked us up on the web and came to us because he didn't want to go to a Southern Baptist Church! Oops.

A Catholic lady asked me after the service about communion, so I got to explain to her a little bit about what we do.

I was really glad for the Kids Church kids and adults today. They got to meet together again.

Buddy had it going today on his solo parts! And I especially love hearing Thanisha sing the Revelation Song. Great worship again!

Burnie had lots more sign up for Connection Groups. What's so great is that some are people I don't know at all.

And I heard several glowing reports of a new group that started up last night. That's especially encouraging.

I wonder how many noticed that lonely daisy in the pot up on the shelf?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Birthday celebrations and football

Tomorrow afternoon we've got a couple of birthdays to celebrate in our family. Rachel and Ramon's birthdays are this week, and we'll use our Sunday afternoon to party.

I've ordered wings and NC barbecue and hushpuppies. So the food will be excellent.

Then, later conclude a great Sunday afternoon with the Redskins.

And what makes it even better? I get to enjoy listening to someone else preach tomorrow!

Ed and Edith at the Franklin Graham Crusade


I picked up the paper this morning and there were our friends Ed and Edith (!) in this article about the Franklin Graham Festival held in Norfolk, VA. The byline said they were in the choir. (If you look closely in the picture you can see them above the blue background.)

That Ed and Edith were there (in huge numbers) is no criticism of the BGEA or the Grahams, elder or younger. As a prof in college wisely said, "The day I've won more people to Jesus than Billy Graham is when I can start criticizing him."

No, it's another proof that Ed and Edith are about Ed and Edith. They didn't invite any unchurched people to the Festival with them because they're consumers, not contributors. They either could care less about their neighbors or they don't know any outside the faith because they're happy living in their fortress. And I guess that means they could care less, as long as they've got their "fellowship", their Christian music and are being "fed".

One pastor suggested, "We need to do some soul-searching, the faith community..."

Meanwhile a lot of God's energy and dollars went to entertain Ed and Edith in the name of evangelism. The BGEA gave it their best, but with churches full of Eds and Ediths, what else could be expected?
Indeed, we need to search.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In case you were wondering about Vintage

During the summer we experimented with a worship gathering for the emerging generation we called "Vintage". Every Monday night young adults met for fellowship, teaching and worship. It certainly wasn't your father's Oldsmobile.

I taught from the book of Daniel about living a heroic life and what it takes. Here's a link to a video Nate put together that introduced that theme one night. Pretty cool. And our band covered the song, too.

Vintage will return in January. Gear up.

Comm/unity

I'm working on a series of messages right now about who the church is from a biblical perspective. We got started last Sunday with Jesus introduction of the church as His project, His property and His promise to defend her. Then we briefly viewed a scene from the Jerusalem Church in Acts 4 and Luke's comment that they shared all things in common.

In that passage and others in Acts, the first church is described as having unity. That's where I'm going next in my series. But one thought that is bouncing around in my head is why unity was so prevalent in their fellowship. Certainly it's something every church craves, but in our culture few actually enjoy.

And I think one huge difference between the first century church and the American evangelical congregation is that unpleasantness we refer to as persecution. For them it truly was necessary to be of one mind for survival's sake.

It's been so long since Christians experienced any true persecution in this country that we've lost the need for unity. (I think in many ways we've become the persecutors.) We really don't need the church to survive, so unity becomes a secondary ideal. The slightest jar to our personal comfort becomes a mighty wedge.

I'm still chewing on that.