Wednesday, November 30, 2011


  What a bottle...

  I can't believe I ate the whole thing...

  Any more where that came from?

  How the times are changing--I'm now (occasionally) feeding Caleb from a bottle, as he continues to grow.  We are looking ahead to the days of day-care and babysitting and all those other times when Rachel may not be available to feed the little eating machine, and beginning to prepare him for another stage of life.

  Isn't life constantly like that?  Even when we're smack in the middle of something great, God is preparing us for what comes next.  We rarely sit still, but are always barreling into the future, often so quickly we don't bother to stop and enjoy the present.

  I've fed Caleb twice now (we tried a third time, but that didn't go so well...  let's just say that I'm not mom and at midnight, all three of us simply wanted to go to bed rather than deal with eating), and it's a strange experience.  (For both of us, probably!)  I've never fed a baby before, and he's never drank from a bottle before--but now, there we are, each one of us like a fawn on new feet, trying to make this work, knowing that it is good but unsure exactly what the best way forward is.  We manage to make it work, but not with confidence or grace.  (I haven't dropped him, yet.  So I've got that going for me.)

  Caleb continues to grow, and I continue to seek out ways to be there for him, to encourage him and love him, so that he grows secure in the knowledge that he is loved immensely.  Rachel and I rarely know what we're doing, but we trust that God is doing a mighty work through us, and we're simply enjoying each moment, thankful for the grace and blessing of life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


  I find this fascinating and haunting at the same time.  Jobs are the keyword of the current election (and by current, I mean the one that isn't happening for another year) and the theme of the lives of so many right now.  Millions are looking for work--work of any sort, for they long ago gave up looking for the specialized work they would prefer to do.  At this point, they'd like anything that would provide a paycheck and keep them in their house.  They are in our churches, our communities and our neighborhoods.

  And what is the church to do about it?  I certainly believe our first and foremost task is to be in earnest prayer for every un-and underemployed person.  May we lift them up, in the hopes that the stress and strain of the search for work will not overwhelm.

  But what else?  How are we called to be Christ's hands and feet in their lives?

  For answers and guidance, I pray...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sermon on the Mound

  A great title will get a book a long way--and Michael O'Connor's Sermon on the Mound: Finding God at the Heart of the Game certainly has a great title.  For someone who loves baseball as much as I do, it doesn't take much to convince me to read a book that attempts to link baseball and religion.  I have always attempted to ensure that baseball doesn't become my religion, but I also believe that baseball, as with anything in life, is filled with opportunities to see God at work in the world if we look through the proper lens.

  Sermon on the Mound tells O'Connor's story of a deep and abiding love of baseball, and how baseball led to his salvation.  The narrative parts of his life are interesting, and it's fun for any lover of baseball to join with O'Connor as he reflects about different ideas in baseball that can direct our attention to God.  I wouldn't say that anything in this book is earth-shattering or life-changing, but it's a fun read and helps the reader see baseball as a chance to display gifts and talents from God.

  I think O'Connor's best reflection is done later in the book, when thinking about the free and easy love of baseball (and sports) in relation to the difficulties we often have transporting that enthusiasm into our worship.  He writes:

  Why is it, then, I find it so delicious to give myself in wild, spontaneous, rapturous applause to some self-centered, overpaid athlete who just slugged a game-winning homer into the upper deck when it is still difficult to lose myself in the sweetness of a worship service?  Why does gravity tug so at these hands designed by God to be lifted wholeheartedly in praise, when, in moments not nearly so regal, they are generously filled with helium?
  So long as I am able to enjoy the excellence I see down on the field and recognize it as a momentary diversion from life's struggles.  So long as we remember the true struggles are the spiritual battles waged daily in our hearts and minds, and that the outcome of this warfare will ultimately decide to whom we offer our adulation and for whom we have nothing left but a place on the trash heap with the banana peels and the day-old box scores.

  As we near the end of the college football season and the heat rises on the debate about playoffs and champions and rivalries, I wonder how we, too, might reflect on the place of sports in our own lives.  Are sports a helpful diversion, an entertainment option?  Can we enjoy the spectacle of a game well-played without getting so wrapped up in the result that a loss ruins our day?  Or have sports taken over our lives, hijacked our emotions, that the roller coaster ride of a football game tarnishes everything so deeply that we fail to appreciate the inherent beauty the game, so desperate are we for a victory?  Can we respect and appreciate those who play without worshiping them?  Can we be loyal to a program without building it up as an idol?

  Sports are such a massive part of American life--may we have the courage to enjoy them as the artistic forms they are without crossing the line and building them up as idols in our lives.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

11-27 Sermon

Luke 22:24-34

The Dispute about Greatness

 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
 ‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

 ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’

This morning we're going to talk about greatness.

When we begin to talk about greatness, one of the first things that comes to mind is some of the nicknames throughout the ages that allude to greatness. For starters, there is Muhammad Ali, who was simply called 'The Greatest.' There is Wayne Gretzky, who was called 'The Great One', and we have greatness rolled into a name in the case of Alexander the Great.
Each of these men had greatness in their nickname because they reached the highest pinnacle of their profession. There has been no greater boxer than Ali, and it's hard to imagine a hockey player better than Gretzky. I have never seen Alexander the Great in action, but since we're still talking about him thousands of years later, we can safely assume he was pretty good at leading an army. Greatness came naturally to them, and they worked and worked and worked to perfect it. They were great at what they did.
I'd invite you to take a second and consider what greatness looks like in your life. If I told you that in ten years you would be referred to as great, what images come to mind? What defines greatness in your life? What would it take for you, for others, to think of you as great. As a pastor, it's tempting to think that greatness would be a church where thousands gather every Sunday to hang on every word.
But that's the world's idea of greatness, and if we're not careful, we buy in to what the world defines as great. We think that if we achieve fame and fortune we will be great. As a pastor, it's so tempting to believe that I am great if people come to hear me—but the reality is that image is an idol, because it's not about me, and greatness in my profession, just like greatness in your life, isn't defined by the things this world defines as great. This is the distinction Jesus is making in the text today, and it's a distinction he wants us to make in our lives, too. Jesus is redefining greatness.
Let's look at the situation out of which this discussion arises—the disciples are arguing about which one is to be regarded as the greatest. Why is this important? Let's not forget that Jesus is leaving the disciples soon, and he's been pretty open and adamant about that fact. The disciples are assuming that whichever of them is the greatest will assume Jesus' role of leadership within the group, and to the world at large. They believe that the ministry will continue exactly as it has, and the leader will gain notoriety and fame across the region. They believe that being the greatest will enhance their status and reputation within the group. They want to be great so that others will see them as great.

Notice how Jesus responds to this argument. He doesn't dispute with them that the natural inclination is to assume that the one who is served, the one with the higher worldly status, is often seen as great. He doesn't dispute that those with wealth, fame and power are seen as great.
What he does is redefine greatness in the eyes of God. What Jesus does is demand that those who wish to follow him must follow a different route and be willing to set aside the world's idea of greatness if they want to achieve greatness in the eyes of God. God isn't going to love you any more than He already does if you have wealth and fame. You are going to achieve greatness the way that God defines it by doing one, and only one, thing: serving others.

Now, it's our natural inclination to want to complicate this. We're going to want to add all sorts of complications and intricacies to it—but Jesus says it so straightforwardly. Serve others. Jesus, the greatest person that has ever and will ever live, serves others. Jesus spent his time in the gutter, serving beggars. He spent his time reaching out to lepers and others that most people wouldn't even talk to—he served them with a heart willing to love. He did this as a way to show others what true greatness is—it's service. It's love in action.

Now, you may be wondering how much service it takes to be great. You may be worried that you're not serving enough to meet Jesus' high threshold. This is where I have some really good news for you:
Jesus calls broken people.
It would have been easy for Jesus to call the best of the best, the ones with the least sin in their lives. It might be easy for God to look out across the population today and choose to save only those with the least amount of sin in their lives.

But God loves broken people. Always has. Has promised to always do so.

Look at the disciples. Jesus has been talking for days, for weeks, for years, about how he is going to be killed. All of the action is coming to a head, and Jesus is busy discussing which one of the disciples is going to betray him. How do the disciples respond? With hearts full of concern for Christ? Desperate to hang on his every word, to catch everything possible before he is crucified?
No, they get caught up in worrying about who is going to be in charge when he's gone.
Then we turn to Peter, who promises to follow Jesus wherever he will lead, even if that ends in prison or death. No, Jesus says—you'll deny even knowing me three times before the sun rises. Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus will build his church, will deny even knowing Jesus Christ. These are the disciples, the ones whom Jesus handpicked to follow Him.

God loves broken people. He's been using them to build his kingdom for thousands of years. Now, he's going to use you.

You may want to object because you believe your sins are so great, because you think you're unworthy. You may not believe that you can ever lead a life of service like the one that Jesus led.

I have news for you—you'll never live up to his standard. You'll never achieve a life like the one Christ led. But the great news is that you don't have to—you're worthy of Christ's love because of what he did, not because of what you have—or haven't—done.
Which means that we can set aside all of our fears about being good enough, about being worthy. We can set those aside and focus our eyes on one thing: being great in God's kingdom. And that doesn't necessarily mean preaching to a church of 10,000 people or giving more money than anyone else. What it means is that you are called to serve.

You're called to serve your family and your friends, your neighbors and your church, strangers and loved ones, homeless and wealthy, republican and democrat—you are called to serve. You're called to serve with your life, with your time, with your money and your energy. You're called to serve others, to constantly put others first and determine how you find new ways to serve. You're called to serve through prayer and action, through your words and your listening. You're called to serve in ways you can't even imagine right now. You are called to serve, and in so doing, you are great in God's eyes.
Because whenever we serve someone else, we serve God. So strive to be great, not in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of God, and live a life that serves others, that chooses not to sit at the table and be served, but rather to serve. In so doing, may we do our part to join in God's building of a kingdom.
Let us pray.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


  I have a lot to be thankful for this year.

  It's been a pretty amazing year.  One year ago, I was having dinner on the island of Kauai with my wife, mother and sister.  It seems like a long time ago.  We found out in February that Rachel was pregnant with Caleb, and everything since then seems like a bit of a blur, with occasional days filled in for color along the way.  I remember the ultrasounds, the overwhelming sense of wonder that washed over each of us.  I remember my mother yelling when she called after she had gotten our package in the mail informing her of her new & upgraded status as grandmother.  I remember looking at Rachel at some point in early September and realizing just how pregnant she was.  I remember the sheer sense of unreality when I woke up at 2:00 in the morning and realized that Rachel was about to have a baby.  All of it has led to this day, this moment.

  But of course, God started to lay the groundwork for these precious moments long ago.  God has been at work in my life since before I was born, since before I was old enough to utter any words of faith, since before I realized how much God loved me.  God has been at work for years, for decades, reminding me of his love and surrounding me with amazing, gracious people who have helped me make it this far--not a single step was taken on my own, without the support and encouragement of so many.  And, of course, God has been there for every breath, every heartbeat.

  It hasn't all been easy, nor has it always been fun.  There are more tears in my past than I would have chosen, and there are people that I would desperately love to have back, even for one day.  I don't suppose I'll ever get over that sense of loss, no matter how wonderful the memories are.  That's just a part of life, I guess.

  I have also had the habit of making some not-so-wise decisions, and in so doing I made my own path a lot harder.  But again, those amazing people have helped me see that the road I was on led only one way, and it was not the way I intended to trod.  So with a helping hand and a lot of grace, I have tried (and failed, so often) to restore my feet to the path that leads to life.

  But only God can do that.  And God has blessed me so richly.

  This was Caleb's first Thanksgiving, and it was a grand occasion.  It marked his debut at the church, and he managed not to cry so loudly that not a single thought could be thunk, and he managed not to introduce himself to soon-to-be-friends through any bodily functions.  For both, we are grateful.

  We feasted at the church, surrounded by family and friends, and as we watched our son be rocked in the arms of a woman who knows a good bit more about raising children than we do, we were grateful.  Simply grateful.

  For what?

  For love.  For the love of a Savior.  For the love of God that is made manifest in the love of so many people.  For the love we have for a child.  For the love God has for that child.  For the promise of eternal love.

  So much love has been poured out, and it is my heartfelt and solemn prayer that I might spend my life pouring love out upon others as a way to say thank you to the one who has always and will always love me more than I can ever understand.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


  They say that an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewrites will eventually produce a work of Shakespeare.  I would offer, in that same vein, that the same amount of monkeys could not produce a solution to our current economic and political malaise that would satisfy both our current Democratic and Republican leadership.

  And that, I believe, is part of the frustration at the heart of the Occupy movement.

  I think.  

  I've struggled with what to make of the Occupy movement, as a lot of Americans have.  I certainly share the frustration with the overwhelming lack of clear leadership being displayed by those elected to positions of power in this country.  I, too, believe that there is too much money in politics, and the fact that Congress recently agreed to classify pizza as a vegetable in order to satisfy the Salt Industry and the Fast Food Industry may be the straw that broke the camel's back in this man's willingness to have any trust in Congress.  I am fed up with corporations getting their way in Washington simply because they have the ear and wallet of the right leaders in their pockets, and I believe that many of these corporations are corrupt and greedy.  In all of these issues, I agree with the Occupy movement.

  However, I have discovered that I am in the majority of Americans who simply don't know what the goals of the Occupy movement are.  This recent Gallup poll has 59% of Americans being unsure of what Occupy's goals are.  Perhaps the lack of clear goals is an intentional attempt to bring in all who are fed up with the current state of the country, but I think it weakens the broad support, since many, like me, aren't sure how to support an organization with unclear goals.  

  But as a pastor, I feel like the most important reminder of the Occupy movement is the important of having Christians in leadership positions live like Christians.  The Occupy movement is fed up with corporate corruption--they are individuals who see corporations are seeking the almighty dollar before all else, fattening profit margins before being concerned with the health and welfare of individual employees and customers.  

  When Christ calls someone to follow Him, He calls all of us, all of our hearts, all of our lives.  He doesn't simply call us to give up an hour on Sundays and occasionally write a check to support the work of the church in the world.  He doesn't call us to put a fish sticker on our cars and call it a day.  He calls us to lay everything before him and live with integrity so that everything we do is an offering to God.  This includes our work--when we work, we are to love God with all of our hearts and minds, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are to be ethical, responsible people, making decisions in our companies that are always based on what is right, not what is profitable, and we are to work to ensure that the places we work are ethical places.  Sometimes this is easy, sometimes not as much--but no matter the level of responsibility, we are called by Christ to be faithful, in big and small decisions.  Whether a secretary or a CEO, we are called to follow Christ within our places of work.  If those involved in the leadership of corporations across this country sought to live with the same selflessness that Christ displayed, I believe that would be a giant step in the right direction.

  I don't think corporations are solely responsible for the frustration and anger of the Occupy movement.  I think those in political office share much of the responsibility.  In 1 Timothy, Paul urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.  Well, they certainly need our prayers, perhaps now more than ever.  I think that there is little hope in America that those who have been elected to lead us will do so effectively.  The cynicism is so high that rather than despair that only 9% of Americans feel like Congress is doing a good job, we wonder what those 9% of people are thinking.  Hope is such a powerful force in our lives, and we most accurately recognize this when hope is gone, for then despair sets in, and despair cries out for action.  I believe it is despair that leads protesters out into the streets, into the parks--I believe they are desperate to find hope in someone or something, a hope that the future will be better, that someone will make decisions that are the best for the country and the future, not simply for themselves.  I believe people are desperate for hope, for themselves and their children, desperate to know that opportunities for employment and a voice will be present today and the days to come.  

  What does the church have to say to this despair?  It is my hope that we point to the Kingdom, the 'already but not yet' reality.  The Kingdom is not yet here, and we look forward to the future with hope, confidant that  Christ is coming soon to transform the world, but in the meantime, the Kingdom is here, too.  God is at work in the world, redeeming the world, and inviting Christians to join in the process.

  And if the Kingdom is already here, that means that individual Christians are called to be actively engaged in building the Kingdom, not just sitting back and waiting for the 'not yet'.  We are to be at work in the world, recognizing the needs of those who surround us and doing whatever we can to meet those needs with the blessings we have been given.  Each of us has different gifts--those are meant to be shared with the world, not simply used to enrich ourselves.  We need to love our neighbor as ourselves, and perhaps in doing so our hope will be restored--if we are tightly bound together in Christ as a community, it is a lot harder to give up hope, for we know that our voices are heard, that our needs are noticed, that we are not simply trod underfoot, left alone to face the rising challenges and trials of life.  With a community around us, we see glimpses of hope in the care and love of one another.

  Christ calls us to love our neighbor, to feed the hungry, to reach out to the stranger.  As a church, we cannot meet all the worlds' needs and answer all of the cries of the needy.  But we can listen to each one, and recognize that we can always work to restore hope, to love one another, and to make sure that people do not feel isolated in the valleys that we each traverse.  While we cannot save the world, we can do our part to join with what God is doing in the world, and always remember that we find hope in Christ, and that hope should transform us to offer that same hope in love and service to our neighbors.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

November 20 Sermon

  Rather than give one sermon this Sunday, I used the Call to Worship and Prayer of Confession and reflected on the text.

Luke 22:7-13

The Preparation of the Passover

 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
Isn't it wonderful when things are prepared for you? Rachel and I don't go out to eat very often, but there's something so relaxing about knowing that all of the cooking and preparation will be taken care of—we don't even have to wash dishes! We simply get to sit back and enjoy a relaxing meal in each other's company. We have a role to play, but so much is already done for us.
Today's Gospel message invites us into this reality—in today's message, we reach the Last Supper, the celebration of the Passover meal before Jesus is arrested and put on trial. In today's passage, we see where all the preparation has been leading.
But before Jesus is arrested, before he heads off to the garden to pray, he eats a meal with his disciples. And he sends them off to prepare the meal, but the story conveys the message that God has been preparing for this for a long time. Things have been set in motion hundreds, even thousands of years, each of them leading up to this moment.
But Jesus still invites the disciples into the action. He gives them a role to play—they are to go and prepare the meal. They are to accompany Jesus these last few steps of the journey. They are to take the message to the world after he ascends, to be Jesus' witnesses.
In the same way, each of you are invited to join in with what God is doing. We don't have to make all the preparations. We don't have to determine the path to salvation. It has all been done for us. God has made everything ready, and he invites us to play a role, to join with him in what he is doing in the world. Today, we gather to celebrate God's mission, and in our worship we are rejuvenated to go out into the world and share the Good News of God's love and grace in the world.

Luke 22:14-23

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
Imagine with me, for a moment, that you worship in a church that has tall, vertical windows up and down the walls of the sanctuary. Now, this might not be so bad if the church were located in a suburban area where there's nothing but trees and parking lots as far as the eye can see. But imagine this church is in the middle of a highly developed area, where there is constant change just outside the window. Perhaps, just as a bonus, we'll throw in a siren every thirty minutes or so, just as another noise. Imagine trying to focus in such an environment. It would be difficult, right?
The world is filled with distractions. Many of them are harmless, but some are much more than that—some turn our attention away from God, and when we turn from God, it leads our vision away from God, and can easily lead our feet, our hearts, away from the path God has set before us. Before we know, we're far from who we want to be, and it's not always easy to find our way back.
In the passage I just read, Jesus is talking about how the betrayal of one of the disciples is upon the group. Each disciple is stunned, and notice what happens just after Jesus introduces this fact—the disciples begin to ask one another who it could be that would do such a thing.
It's only natural—we'd do the exact same thing. These men have spent so much time together over the past three years. They are as close as brothers, and they've just found out that one of them will betray their leader. They want to know who, and why, and all sorts of other information.
But notice what the distraction does—it turns their attention away from Jesus.
This is what sin does—it turns us away from God. It distracts us and drags our hearts and minds away from the worship of God. Sin keeps us from thinking about God, and we end up with our minds set on the things of this world—before long, we're so busy that we forget to notice that Jesus is still at the table with us. Before long, we might even forget why we're at the table.
Sin does the same thing to us today that it has for thousands of years—it turns us from God. I don't know what the sin in your life is, whether it's big and all-consuming or small and insignificant, but I can tell you what it does to your life, because it does the same to mine—it turns our hearts and minds away from Christ. When we gather together to confess our sins, we set our hearts and minds back on Christ, and begin once more to struggle against sin, to struggle to live for Christ.
I invite you to join me in a time for silent confession of sin, to reflect about the things in your life that turn you from God, and pray for God's forgiveness, that we might once more direct our lives back toward God.
Please pray with me.

6.5 Weeks

  For the first in what I'm sure will be many times, I am amazed by how quickly my son is growing.  He's probably over 12 pounds by now, and most of it seems to be comfortably seated in his thighs.  His cheeks are chubby, and when Rachel and I were giving him a bath last night we had to tilt his neck several different directions to get the washcloth between his neck rolls.  (He'll get a few more weeks before he starts his training regimen at the YMCA.  I'd like to have the doctor's approval before he starts weightlifting.)  He's packing on the pounds, and he doesn't fit quite so well in our arms anymore!

  Life moves so quickly... and we're just busy trying to enjoy each day.  Rachel and I took Caleb out for a walk in the stroller today, enjoying the afternoon sun and the fall weather here in the South.  It's cool, but every now and again those perfect fall days pop out and we feel the need to savor them.  Tonight, we'll go to sleep and this day will slip forever into the past, replaced quickly by tomorrow, when we'll rise and have the chance to do it all over again.

  It's amazing to think that so many women only get six weeks maternity leave.  What that means is that Rachel would have returned to work this week.  We are so grateful for the generous policy of the TVA--she has treasured this time at home, and I have, as well.  We've bonded as a family, thanking God for the gift of Caleb, praying for his growth and health.  We wonder at how our life has changed, and we can barely remember what it was like before God blessed us with his presence.  (Although we're fairly certain it was quieter.)  While we don't know what God has in store, we're so grateful for what has transpired over the past six weeks--day by day, miracle by miracle, we soak in the beauty of this new stage of life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

11/17 E-News

Join me in prayer: Last evening, Evelyn Piatt completed her baptism @ 6:30. She was surrounded by family members, and we join them in mourning. A service of witness to the resurrection will be held in Bellaire, Ohio next Wednesday. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First United Presbyterian Church of Bellaire, 3358 Guernsey, Bellaire, OH 43906.

Youth MusicalThis Sunday! Be there!

Outreach CommitteeMeets tonight @ 5:30

Music for Water—Thurs., December 15 @ 8:00 will be a recital that you will not want to miss! John Brandon and some other talented singers from the Chattanooga area will be blessing us with a Christmas recital to help raise funds for our Living Waters mission. Admission will be $10, and a freewill offering will be held at the end of the service. Details found here.

New Hope News
Thanksgiving Meal-- Do you have plans for Thanksgiving? If not, please plan to join us in the McMillan Building for a great annual tradition. Speak to JoAn Wright if you'd like to join us at 2:30 on Thanksgiving Day!

58 Shoeboxes were packed for Operation Christmas Child!

Living Waters Update--
It is not necessary to install a purification system at the O'Dells home in Tazewell.  The new well which we provided has pure, usable water, but the three homes it serves need to be "shocked" to purify the system from previous bacteria.  We are waiting to hear from Mike in Knoxville about when we can go to do this.  We will let you know when it is, in case someone would like to go and participate, or see what has been done. 
There is a possibility of putting in the purification system at another home in that area, possibly in the spring.  The Christmas concert will be a great opportunity to raise money to buy this system.  We will let you know any new information we receive.  Lloyd, Don and Gerry

Pray for:
Ashley Gerskin—she's having surgery tomorrow morning to remove a benign tumor.

Roger & Lynn Meyer


Speaking of waiting--if you can't wait until Wednesday to see the muppets, the soundtrack comes out Monday.

Text for this Sunday

Luke 22:7-23

The Preparation of the Passover

 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.’ They asked him, ‘Where do you want us to make preparations for it?’ ‘Listen,’ he said to them, ‘when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, “The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ ” He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.’ So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!’ Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011


  I do all the grocery shopping in our household.  It's an exercise I truly enjoy--there's something about wandering up and down the aisles of the store, knowing that I can buy whatever strikes my fancy, that I look forward to.

  But there is one thing that always improves my grocery store experience:  the shopping list.

  Why?  Probably because the shopping list frees me from the anxiety of wondering exactly what I'm going to cook for dinner.  By sitting down and thinking about what it is I need for the next few days, I am able to suppress the sense of panic of not buying enough for dinner.  I'm prepared, and it helps me relax.

  At some point during my visit to my local Publix last week it occurred to me that this sensation is not unlike my spiritual life.  I was wandering the aisles, desperate for inspiration for a meal, when I realized (for the 3287th time) that this anxiety is so unnecessary and could be prevented with five minutes of forethought.

  With my spiritual life, I'm convinced that planning and preparation are such huge parts of my experience in prayer and study.  That's not to say that spontaneous prayer isn't helpful, or that unplanned studies of Scripture don't help me grow, but when I think about the overall structure of my spiritual life, so often I'm left with the pressure of grabbing whatever is closest because I haven't sat down and thought about the overall structure of it.  I haven't spent the time dreaming about where I would love to see growth and how that might happen.  I just throw something together, panicking because I know that I need to do something.

  I don't feel like I need a list, but I need forethought.  A course of action would be so much more helpful--it would provide a structure onto which some flesh and bones can grow.  I don't want it overly rigid, but I long for some semblance of a destination, so that I might release myself from the anxious uncertainty of doing anything for fear of doing nothing and simply be in the presence of the Lord, relaxing in his tender care and following his loving guidance.

  I trust in the Lord completely to guide my feet--but if I spend some time in silence and reflection, it would help me see where the path leads, rather than simply lifting my feet up in the air and hoping they come down in the path He has set for me.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sermon for 11/13/2011

Jesus choosing Judas tells us nothing about Judas--but it tells us everything about Jesus.

Luke 22:1-6

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.
 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

For those of you who are football fans, you doubtless have heard of a little event held every year called the NFL draft. It's the time of the year when professional football teams gather to draft the college players for their team. NFL teams spend untold amounts of money scouting for this huge event—they want to be sure they pick the best player. Any number of websites will offer up their opinions on who the biggest draft busts are—players who were picked very highly, who were expected to perform at the highest levels, and often ended up being out of the league within a few short years. Somehow, the scouts missed something and didn't predict that a certain player just didn't have what it takes to make it in the NFL. The NFL is an uncertain business, and one mistake can cost a team millions of dollars.
I want you to hold the NFL draft in your mind—it's an event where each team does whatever is possible to draft the absolute very best player to ensure their future success. If you were responsible for running a football team, or any other type of team, you'd want the best and the brightest, too. If you're hiring someone to fill a job, you want the absolute best person you can get, right?
So imagine that you had the responsibility of picking Jesus' disciples—how would you choose? You'd probably go to the biggest and best synagogue and pick the brightest and most promising disciples, right? Being humans, with our limited knowledge, we wouldn't know how each one would turn out, but we'd pick the most qualified and believe that they couldn't be topped in terms of potential. You'd feel even more pressure if I told you that Jesus Christ would be crucified, and the twelve disciples would be largely responsible for the future of the Christian Church once Jesus ascended into heaven. You'd be so worried you'd spend hours questioning each candidate to make sure the church was in the best hands possible to ensure its survival.
That's what we would do if we were in charge of choosing disciples, right?

Which is yet another illustration as to why we're not in charge.

Jesus goes for a slightly different route than the one we would select. He goes and chooses fishermen, men who may have aspired to be priests and Pharisees but just didn't make the cut. Jesus chooses men who weren't quite good enough, who longed to qualify as religious leaders but didn't measure up in the eyes of the leadership of the day. Jesus goes for them. It's a curious selection, we would say, and one in particular is more curious than the rest.

Judas Iscariot.

Now, we believe that Jesus knows everything, and that He knows what is going to happen. So, basing off that, we can say that Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him. Which makes most of us wonder why Jesus chose Judas to be a disciple in the first place. If I'm Jesus, and I'm clearly not, I would have had Judas stay as far away from me as possible. But Jesus chooses Judas to follow him, invites him in to a fellowship of disciples and spends three years with a man who will voluntarily betray him. Jesus knows this is going to happen and chooses Judas anyway.


Why choose your betrayer to be one of the twelve people in the world who are closest to you?

Why choose a sinner who will not turn back until it's too late?

Why choose a man who will not be able to control himself in the face of temptation?


That's the kind of God we worship. We worship a God who doesn't always make sense, who doesn't choose people for the reasons we would choose people, who doesn't follow the wisdom of the world. We worship a God who loves freely, who extends grace to everyone, and who desperately longs for each one of his children to come to him in repentance. We worship an amazing God, and it's in stories like this one, in the tale of Judas, that we realize how incredible our God is.

Jesus picked Judas because he loved Judas. Jesus wanted Judas to be a part of the Kingdom of God, to know God's love and to worship God with all of his heart. It's the same thing Jesus wants out of each of us—to love him completely, to live a full life that can only be found when lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Jesus picked Judas because Judas was loved just as much as every other child of God.

Did Jesus know Judas was going to betray him?


But Jesus loved him anyway.

Just as much as Jesus loves you and I, even when we betray him.

Now, it's easy to see the betrayal of Judas when it leads to the cross. But I believe that we just as often betray Jesus Christ when we choose sin over Him in our modern world.

As I've watched this appalling story of child abuse and neglect at Penn State break out, I see a betrayal of Jesus. I see sins of omission—adults with a responsibility to love and protect children failed in that responsibility. They failed to act to protect children, and in their inaction, they sinned. Sin isn't simply doing something wrong—sometimes we sin when we fail to do the right thing.

But sin doesn't have to be big and public. It can be small and private, in the depths of our hearts, a sin that never knows the light of day. Whatever your sin is, it's different from the sin of Judas by a matter of degrees, not type. When you and I choose sin, when we choose to worship something other than Christ, we betray Jesus in some big or small way.

And yet Christ has still chosen us. He has still chosen to live for us, to die for us, to rise for us. He has still reached out in love and mercy to extend the grace of the Gospel to each and every one of you. He didn't cast you down or refuse to choose you because he knew you would sin. He didn't opt not to offer salvation to you because he knew at some point you would turn your back on him. Instead he chose love and grace, forgiveness and mercy, and for that reason we gather here today, so that the hearts that beat within our chests might cry out in love and gratitude for all that God has done. We live out a life of thanksgiving, because Christ has chosen us. Not because we were worthy, not because we were the best, not because we were the most qualified, but because he is a God of love, mercy and grace, and we are the ones that he loves. For no other reason but love did he die on the cross, and so it is my utmost prayer that each and every one of our lives might be a loud song of praise, of thanksgiving, and that we might have the courage to live as disciples of the great and merciful Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Today is a day to be grateful

Deep Thoughts for a Friday

"What is that thing?  When is he leaving?"
  The world is an uncertain place.

  Just as they believe the fiscal crisis in Greece was passing, another crops up in Italy.

  We're still at war in Afghanistan, ten years later, and while it seems like most people would like to leave, no one knows what would happen if we did.

  I suppose the recession in this country is over, but it doesn't feel like it some days.  I talk to people, pray with and for people, who are desperate for jobs, who apply and apply and apply until they don't think they can, and they count themselves lucky to hear back.

  Milk costs $3.99 a gallon last time I was at the store.

  Great time to have a child, isn't it?

  Sometimes I laugh when I'm trying to think of the good things going on in the world that I can tell Caleb about.  I have to think pretty hard, and some of the good things seem so minor compared to the headlines of the day.

  Yet, in the midst of all of this, God abides.

Look at me!  I'm so cute!
  I believe, in the depths of my soul, that God abides with each of us throughout our lives.  Paul writes this so eloquently in the 8th chapter of Romans (For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.) and it is evident throughout the witness of Scripture that God's love is not simply some cosmic ideal--but a reality, more certain than anything else in our lives.  Just as that pillar of fire was with the Israelites by day, just as the pillar of smoke led them by night, God abides with us.

  It's a truth I have not always accepted easily.  It's hard to believe in something that you cannot see, cannot touch, and sometimes cannot sense.  It takes great faith to believe that when I'm in an empty room and lift my voice to the Lord that God hears my prayers.

  But that's the type of faith I hope that Caleb grows and matures into--a faith that is steady, that is based on the truth that God is with him always.  In the darkest of the nights of his life, I pray that he will know that God abides, that God is always faithful, that God will not fail him.  I've been preparing a Sunday School on Mormonism, and there is a belief that the Holy Ghost can be in one place at a time.  I would struggle so much with such a faith--I need the constant assurance that God is near, that the feeble whispers of my heart can their way to his loving ears.  I need to know that when my strength falters and my soul tumbles, that I tumble directly into the omnipresent hands of my Creator.  I need this--it is not simply a desire of my heart, but a need that encompasses my being and drives me forward.  Without the assurance of God's presence, I could scarcely move.

  My son is almost 6 weeks old.  He cannot move his arms with any semblance of control.  He drools like a St. Bernard, and it will be years before he can utter a complete sentence (at which point I will remember the bliss of the days before speaking).  I dare not look forward to the day when diapers disappear into his past, for I know that is a long time coming.  When your next major landmark is being able to control your head, walking is still a long way off.  (thanks be to God!)  Despite all this, I believe that the hands of the Holy Spirit hold him up every second of his life, every beat of his little heart, and every breath/pant/grunt that he takes.  I believe that God sustains his very life, just as he does mine.  It is my hope, deep within my heart, that he grows into a faith that provides him with the assurance that these things are true so that, in the trials that I pray do not come but most certainly will, he will turn to his Savior and know that God is faithful and solid.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

11/10 E-News

Outreach CommitteeMeets next Thursday @ 5:30

Worship TeamHave you ever been interested in helping to plan worship? Are there things you would love to see New Hope do during worship? Join us at 2:30 on Sunday the 13th to participate in this discussion.

Music for Water—Thurs., December 15 will be a recital that you will not want to miss! John Brandon and some other talented singers from the Chattanooga area will be blessing us with a Christmas recital to help raise funds for our Living Waters mission. Admission will be $10, and a freewill offering will be held at the end of the service. Details found here.

New Hope News
Thanksgiving Meal-- Do you have plans for Thanksgiving? If not, please plan to join us in the McMillan Building for a great annual tradition. Speak to JoAn Wright if you'd like to join us at 2:30 on Thanksgiving Day!

Earth Care Congregation-- As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of the environment. If you're passionate about caring for the environment, there is a group of New Hope-rs working on making the church an Earth Care Certified church. Speak with Rosie Sanislo if you'd like to be involved.

Pray for:
Our church, that we might continue to look for opportunities to serve others this Christmas season

Roger & Lynn Meyer

Looking for a way to volunteer with a nonprofit? Want to learn more about those that are actively engaged here in Chattanooga? Be sure to visit the Chattanooga Market this Sunday!

I bet you've never read anything about a circus ministry.

This Penn State scandal is appalling in every way. Jason Gay at the Wall Street Journal had a good piece on it. I get angrier and angrier the more I think about how adults failed to protect the children.

Text for this Sunday

Luke 22:1-6

The Plot to Kill Jesus

  Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.

  Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.

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  I believe that Jesus loves everyone.

  I have to work pretty hard to remind myself of that in the case of child molesters.

  This whole mess at Penn State appalls me, disgusts me, roils my stomach and gets me angrier and angrier the more I read and hear about it.  I have read almost every article I could in the last few days about it, and each one seems to have revealed some seedier side of this whole mess.  I want to run and hide and cover my ears and never hear another word of it.

  It saddens me, most of all, for the victims.  The last I heard there were eight that they knew of, but considering the free reign Jerry Sandusky had to young boys through his charity, I would be shocked if that's all there were.  These boys, now young men, will have to wrestle their entire lives with inabilities to trust others.  Those who were in power failed to protect them from a man they knew to be dangerous, and they will not be able to live normal lives because of it.

  It angers me that grown men knew about this and did nothing to stop it.  From Mike McQuery to Joe Paterno to anyone else who knew that there was a child predator on the loose, it angers me.  Grown men are supposed to protect children, to help them grow and flourish as God's children.  They aren't supposed to turn a blind eye when one of their own is preying on children.  They aren't supposed to hear stories about naked men in the shower with young boys, no matter what details they heard or didn't hear, and go on living like nothing happened.  They're supposed to do something more than just pass the story on and try to erase it from their minds.  It's not enough to do the bare minimum and hope someone else solves the problem.  Call the police, call the newspaper, call anyone--follow up.  Do something.  Do anything.  Children depended on these men, and they failed him.

  Over the last few days there have been countless debates over the future of Penn State's football program.  The football team matters so little right now when compared to the havoc that has descended upon the lives of these young men through the halls of the organization that some sought to protect through their silence.  I hope we can forget about the football team and remember what truly matters in this sordid affair.

  One verse from the Bible has been bouncing around my mind whenever I hear of this scandal--and I pray that each adult who has the ability to protect a child from a predator would remember it and do whatever they can to keep the child safe.  And may we be in prayer for all of those involved in this scandalous event.  Christ calls us to love them still, each and every one of them, whatever that love may look like.

  Matthew 18:6 If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Just a quick update--we have a really cute baby.

No, seriously--he's really cute.

I mean it.

Monday, November 7, 2011


  So there I was...

  I was listening the radio on the way home and they were interviewing a political candidate.  They described his candidate as 'well-funded.'

  Not well-liked or well-respected, but well-funded.  It didn't seem like the first term I want to use when I refer to a politician that I like.  And yet, in politics these days, that's often exactly what it takes to win an election--not necessarily a deep integrity, but deep pockets.

  I wonder if we sometimes evaluation the church on the wrong metrics, too.  Do we get too caught up in the race to 'win' that we sometimes miss the importance of being faithful to the Gospel?  Are we too worried about our appearance or our reputation than we are about doing the inner work of the heart?  Are we too caught up in looking like we're living a faithful life that we don't have enough time to actually pursue a deep and passionate relationship with God?

  It's worth taking the time to remember what truly  matters in this life--our relationship with Christ--and investing in that first.  Everything else will come later.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 6 Sermon

Luke 21:25-38

The Coming of the Son of Man

 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Exhortation to Watch

 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
 Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives, as it was called. And all the people would get up early in the morning to listen to him in the temple. 

I want you to stop and think for a second—when was the last time you drank something just to get energy?
Might have been this morning—I know that they make coffee makers with alarm clocks built in to ensure that your coffee is ready before your feet hit the ground. Could have been Friday afternoon—maybe you were dragging as you headed into the weekend. Or perhaps late Thursday night, as you worked on a project that was due on Friday morning. I think the last time I did was when I was driving back from Kentucky not too long ago—I stopped in Knoxville for a cup of coffee to keep me awake, and, sure enough, it kicked in around the time I got to Cleveland, ensuring that I had plenty of energy right about the time I was trying to go to bed.
When I was in college, I don't remember having a lot of options for energy when I had to stay up late and write a paper. We didn't have the variety of energy drinks that now stack the shelves of every grocery store, gas station and mini-mart in the country. Though the energy drink only broke into the market almost 15 years ago, it has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry and one of the easiest products to find. It seems like you can buy a bottle of 5 hour energy almost anywhere.
The fact that this industry is thriving is an indicator that each of us often finds ourselves running out of energy. We're over-committed and over-burdened, rarely feeling like we have enough time in the day to fulfill all of our obligations. We're running ourselves into the ground. We often joke about it, laughing it off as we run for our next task.
But Jesus warns us about the dangers of this in today's text.
Be on your guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation, he says. Dissipation is the loss of energy over time. If we take this tennis ball and bounce it down the aisle, we'll notice that each bounce is a little lower than the one before it. Each time it meets the ground, some energy is removed, so that it soon doesn't have energy to bounce at all. Perhaps that may sound like many of your days.
What are the dangers of dissipation, of losing energy? We don't have to leave the Bible to discover those. We can turn to the story of Jacob and Esau to see the danger, the peril, that lurks in our exhaustion. In our exhaustion, we find ourselves weakened—and our moral compass is weakened as well. Esau, exhausted from his labors in the fields, comes to Jacob and is willing to offer his birthright in exchange for a bowl of soup! It's the worst trade in human history, and yet Esau accepts it, such is his desperation. He gives up everything in his weakened state.
We, too, are often in danger in our weakness. When we're not at our best, it's easy to fall into the snares the devil sets for us. When we aren't fully alert, we can easily fail to obey Christ and settle for what's easiest, for what's convenient. It is so important that, as Christians, we live lives that are morally upright—we have to do everything we can to live up to the standard Christ has set for us. We will never succeed, of course, but the world is watching us live, and part of our testimony is our actions. By our choices we reveal the foundation of our life.
So Christ tells us to be wary of dissipation. He doesn't want us to allow our energy to fade and flag. He warns of drunkenness in this passage, but any sin could fit in here—we need to be on our guard.
This is the first command Christ gives us. It's amazing to think that he spends this entire chapter talking about the end of the world, and at the end he gives us two very specific commandments about what to do about it. He doesn't tell us to spend the next 2000 years obsessing over and worrying about the end of the world, like many have chosen to do. He tells us this for information, I suppose, but then tells us to get about the business of being a Christian. Being on our guard, being alert, is the first aspect.
The second is prayer.
I want you to take a second and realize what Jesus is saying—he is telling us that prayer is one of the two most important things we can do in our lives as Christians. It isn't a supplemental task that we can pick up when we need some help, or something that is always there for us if we're in a tight spot. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is telling us that prayer is to be part of the foundation of our lives, one of the single most important things we can do. We don't know when the end times will be, when Christ will descend from the heavens in his glory, but we can prepare in the way we live, and in our lives of prayer.
So are you taking prayer as seriously as Christ is charging you to take it? It's an easy thing to put off. I heard the other week that the average Christian prays for five minutes a day. The average pastor apparently prays for eight minutes a day. I will freely admit that there are many days when I struggle to make the time to pray. It feels like another task to fit into an often overwhelmed day. But Christ is telling me that it needs to be the first task that goes into my day, the first thing I schedule, and the rest of life needs to unfold around it. It needs to be foundational.
Notice, too, what we are to pray for—that we will stand before the Son of Man. We are praying for the future, that our lives may be pointed in one direction, and that they will culminate in our eternal worship of Jesus Christ. In our lives of prayer, we are being formed as disciples, as individuals whose lives are oriented towards Christ the King—we are aiming for heaven while we're living on earth. We are being reminded of our purpose, of the single most important aspect of our being—that we are called to worship, we are created to worship, and when our prayers remind us of this, they re-orient us.
When our prayers remind us of our single most important aspect, they should lead us to awe and wonder at the God who created us.
And this, you may find, gives you a little more energy. Because the idea that God created you to exist forever in his eternal glory might just help you live with a sense of purpose here—whatever task is before you is one that is you offer up in your life to your God and King. In this life, you are preparing for your eternal worship. Each thing you undertake is vitally important to the Kingdom—because you are vitally important to the Kingdom. Whether at work or play, you are doing Kingdom work, spreading the Good News of Christ.
May you do so on your guard, led by prayer, filled with the Holy Spirit. May his energy fill you and lead you out in your life of discipleship.
Let us pray.