Archives For August 2017

HELPING WELL

August 30, 2017 — Leave a comment

It was 6 years ago this week. Hurricanes Lee &

Ariel Shot of the 2011 Lee/Irene Flood

Irene turned into tropical depressions and overlapped their path in Northeast Pennsylvania. The result–devastating flooding.

This was my crash course in leading in times of Natural Disaster. Our area was hit hard with a flood. Our town became an island–stranded for almost a week. By God’s grace the parsonage was on higher ground. But my neighbors lost their homes. My friends lost their businesses. Some of our church families lost everything.

What I learned through the next 4 years of leading disaster recovery is how to help well.

Here is what I learned about the “dos and do nots” of helping well:

  1. Pray. Beseech God to make Himself known in the midst of this disaster. Ask God to give mercy, grace and restoration to those affected. Cry out to God that the 1st Responders are given a hedge of protection.
  2. Search the Scriptures. Read your Bible so that you may know God better, that you can understand who He is and the truths about Him. Remind yourself about God’s characteristics. See how He has moved in the past–know He moves the same way today. Know He does not change.
  3. Donate money. BUT, please know, it will take up to 3 years for that money to hit the area you are donating it to. I recommend the Mennonite Disaster Service and the Southern Baptist Men Relief. I have worked with both in Pennsylvania & Louisiana.
  4. Do Not Give to Individuals–give to ORGANIZATIONS. There are so many scams out there. Unfortunately–these folks kick into high gear during disasters. I have seen at least 3 scams on facebook.
  5. Do not donate used items. Most of these items get thrown out. And, if the disaster is somewhere else–like Texas–there are transportation costs incurred to transporting what will be tossed away.
  6. Understand This Will Be A DECADE of Recovery. Right now the flood waters are high in Texas. There is NOTHING we can physically do to help right now. BUT, we can help in the months, years and decade following. We will plan on short term teams–beginning as early as April. The NationalVOAD director is a friend of mine and will get us connected to relief organizations. 
  7. If you are ERT trained. Let me know. That is the national certification for Early Relief Teams to come and stabilize homes that can be saved. These will be the first volunteer teams allowed on the ground after the waters subside. We would need a self-sufficient team of at least 6 to go. We would work to muck out homes, tarp roofs, set houses up to dry out.
  8. The best time to help is BEFORE the disaster. Get involved with local relief agencies who are working with folks here. REACH, the Hope Center, the Red Cross, Maugansville VFD #13, Food Banks etc. Help those that feel the bite of loss and poverty EVERY DAY. Then, when the disaster hits here, you are plugged in and ready to go!

May the God of all Grace, Peace & Mercy make Himself known to the people affected by flood & fire. Give us the grace to make the invisible reign of Jesus Christ visible.

If you have questions, please let me know.

Experiencing God

August 11, 2017 — Leave a comment

 

Worship is designed to move us into the presence of God. To call His glory down. The tabernacle was God’s design for His people’s movement towards experiencing Him.

TabernacleThe curtains, the furniture, the alters, laver’s, candelabras–they all reminded the people of who God was–a Holy, Providing, Delivering God. Several of the psalms were written to aid the pilgrims heading to the temple to prepare their hearts as they ascended the hill of the Lord.  As they moved into the Tabernacle and toward God they were reminded of God’s character, Who it was they were approaching.

The Gathering Near to God is the celebration, the opening ceremonies of God’s activity in our lives over the past week. We have come to proclaim that “God has delivered us!” To make that proclamation, we celebrate the character of our Deliverer by rehearsing the characteristics of God through testimony, hymns and scripture.

Experiencing God

The next movement of worship is experiencing God. When the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies, he was entering the place where God’s manifest glory would come down and reside over the ark of the covenant. The priest was now in the presence of God.

Being in the presence of God is a life changing experience! Take Moses for example–when Moses came before God’s presence–Moses was changed. God revealed His will to Moses through the law and direction for leadership. God’s glory radiated from Moses’ face, Moses had to veil his face in order to protect the people from overwhelming power of God’s glory radiating from him.

When we worship, we experience the revelation of God through His Word. The scriptures contain the self-revelation of God. Scripture is sufficient & efficient. In other words, the Bible contains all of the information about God that we need to know to be in a right relationship with Him. They are sufficient in that no other information is needed outside of the scriptures, not tradition, not reason, not experience. God’s word and God’s word alone. They are efficient in that the truths of God’s self revelation are effective and true–they rightly show us who God is, who we are, and how God has made a way for us to stand before Him.

On Sunday this is the preacher’s job–aided by the Holy Spirit. The preacher is to read the Word of God, explain the Word of God and encourage the hearer to trust the Word of God. This is accomplished through expository preaching. The style where the preacher starts with the text and explains the text, exposing God in the verse or verses. Expository preaching grows us in our understanding of God. The alternative of this is topical preaching–where the preacher picks a topic and then looks for scriptures to prove his point. The problem with topical preaching is that the preacher picks his belief, opinion or stance and then finds scripture to prove his point–often taking scriptures out of context or manipulating them from their original meaning. The preachers job is not to entertain, not to wow the audience or display his own oratory skills. It is simply to expose God as He is found in His scriptures.

Experiencing God as He has revealed Himself through our worship should change us. We are convicted by the law, transformed by grace and sent forth to reflect the character of God as it radiates from us.

This Sunday, would you come ready for that? Please come expecting to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Please come expecting to meet God in the worship. Please come ready to be moved towards God, changed by Him and leave radiating His glory!

 

 

Why do we do that?

August 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

IMG_5576One of my first assignments in seminary was to create an annotated order of worship. The task was to design worship, and then give a narrative explanation of why each element was included, placed where it was and what is the theology behind that decision. What Dr. Cook-Moore was teaching us, is that worship design needs to be intentional, theologically reflective and explained to the congregation. In other words, why do we do and say the things we do? The answer is not because, “The pastor likes this song” or “the organist picked the hymns.” And especially not, “We have always done it this way.” Worship is a design with purpose and intentionality. Unfortunately, pastors and worship leaders don’t usually let the congregation in on what the purpose and intention is–so everyone else is left in the dark. 

You may have noticed a change in the order of worship at MBBC. If you’d let me, I’d like to explain to you the purpose and intention of the design of worship.

There are three movements to the worship at MBBC: Gathering Near to God, Experiencing God & Our Response to God.

Gathering Near to God

The first part of worship is when we Gather Near to God. The purpose of this movement is gather as a body and proclaim, “We have made it through another week!”. In other words, God has sustained us, provided for and moved in our lives so that we survived another week in this broken world. It is meant to be an opening celebration! (Think of the opening ceremony at the Olympics.) We have lived our lives separately all week, and now we are coming together, as one body from many different places, to report and celebrate God’s movement and saving activity in our lives. It’s our Ebeneezer stone! We have reached this moment because “the Lord has helped us!” (1 Sam 7:12)

Gathering Near to God can consist of a scripture reading, hymns, testimonies or songs that exclaim the characteristics of God.

  • Songs & Hymns: The intention of the music is to put to voice who God is, and how it is that He has saved us and delivered us this week. He is “Holy, Holy, Holy”. If we had a 1,000 tongues, it would be enough to give God the praise He deserves.
  • Calls to Worship (aka “responsive readings”): The Calls are usually scripture readings or creeds that teach truths about God. The intention here is to teach truths and engage the congregation, allowing the whole body to participate in the proclamation.
  • Testimonies: When we share what God has done in our lives, we witness to the world who He is and how He is redeeming humanity. The testimonies are intended to be a witness and encouragement about the activity of God.

This week, as you get ready for church or during the drive, think about how God has been active in your life this week. What do you have to celebrate? What are you thankful for? How has God been your help this week? Bring your reports of God to worship and proclaim them for all to know!