Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delayed blog post

Hey all,

I'm going to try to get a blog post up this week, but God has been laying some things on my heart and I have a friend in town this week too.  Nothing's wrong, I just don't really feel like composing anything at the moment.  I want to sit on this and allow for some time of reflection before I blurt out my thoughts.  Pray for me during this time!

Adam... P.S. Maybe look for a blog post around Friday... probably?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recap 3/16/2011

I can't share all the "behind the scenes" details of my church life, but just like anything, there are ups and downs.  What I can say is that the first week in March was an "up," and the second week in March was a "down."  Going into Sunday the 13th, I had been through two incredibly busy weeks and had to preach two separate sermons that day to two different groups of people.

About three weeks ago, I was asked to preach for the Culpeper County Ministerial Association's (CCMA) Lenten Service.  Now, I love to preach-- I can't imagine a point in my life when I won't want to preach on a regular basis-- but I've discovered that, if I had my preference, I'd rather not prepare two sermons for one week.  Still, it's what the Lord had in store for me, so I did it.  Fortunately, given the short amount of time I had between the time I agreed to preach and the time when I actually had to do so, the chapter from which I was instructed to preach suited me very well: John 13.

In this chapter, Jesus washes the feet of His disciples and demonstrates for us how we're to love each other.  The sermon went really well (you can listen to it here).  Over 40 people were hearing me preach for the first time and I wanted to leave them with something that was meaningful and impacting.  Fortunately, Jeff Light, the preacher at Novum Baptist Church where this event was being held had thought even one step ahead of me.  I had asked people to consider ways to humble themselves and serve, and he provided basins with water in order to wash each other's feet.  People were given the opportunity to come have their feet washed and to wash others.  Several people dropped denominational differences to unify in an act of humbling service.

To be perfectly frank, I think we need to see more of that.  In the sermon, I described what the church should do as the ultimate "show and tell."  Show Christ's love first, then you get to tell people why you're doing it.  Think about that this week... especially if you're having a "down" week.  Chances are, so are other people around you.  To put it in context, Jesus wasn't exactly having the week of his life either.  Two of his friends were about to betray Him, and he was about to die a horrible death.

Two acts of service (the footwashing and the dying) and things turned around for the better by the following Sunday.  Give it a shot, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I went swing dancing once.  It didn't go well.  My date/teacher (Lisa) was great at it, but I was just having so much trouble picking it up and I couldn't quite figure out why.  To me, it sounded like the basic count was "One, Two, Rock-step," but when we actually started to dance it would be four separate steps, "One, Two, Rock, Step."  I asked Lisa if "Rock" and "Step" were two different counts and she said, "Yes, of course..." so I reverted from a three-count to a four-count.

That made more sense, but something was still off and I figured it out immediately.  The music was in a three count, meaning there were three beats for every measure-- but marching band songs were almost always in four, and the first beat of every measure the left foot hits the ground (unless you happen to march with the Cadets).  Suddenly, I understood exactly why I was so horrible at swing dancing.  Then I understood that it would take along time for me to get any good at it at all.

When I was a junior in high school marching band, we played a movement from Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony (Profanation, the second movement).  This song had changing meters-- 4/4 mostly, but also 5/8 (counted in one long beat and one short beat) and 7/8 (one long beat and two short beats).  I'd estimate that in learning how to play the music and march correctly, we probably spent about 10 hours in preparation JUST working on that part of the show before it was ever performed, and then we continued to perfect it all year long.  In fact, while I'm fairly certain I understood it by the end of the season, I must admit I was still far from automatic when it came to marching that part of the show correctly.

The point is this: sometimes it takes an awful lot of time and an awful lot of work to get out of the habits that we make for ourselves.  To this day, I can't run while I'm listening to music because I always try to make my left foot hit on beat one of a measure, my pace changes with the tempo of the song, and that awkward period between songs almost always makes me stumble.  Who knew that marching band would cause so many problems?

So often, I'm finding that my own method of doing things and my own preconceptions of how things "have to be done" gets in the way of effective ministry.  For me, I wish I understood better how "the South" works, or at least what things I say and do might be seen as odd, awkward, or even offensive.  Too many times, I want things done my way, rather than any other way... and most times I don't even think that there may BE another way than my way.

Confusing?  Probably-- but perhaps it should be.  I've gotta believe this is how outsiders of Christianity look at God.  I was raised in the church.  It has always been a very safe and familiar place in my life.  It took me a long time to learn that other people didn't have the same experience.  How much longer would it take someone outside the church, who has grown up with nothing resembling it to learn our customs, our language, our behaviors?

As the church, we need to do a better job of helping people through this process.  It's not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.  I don't really feel like looking up the number right now, but there's a statistic that says somewhere in the area of 4 of every 5 new American Christians will not be attending church a year from the time that they start.  That needs to get better.

If my series on Ruth taught me anything, it's this: Ruth was an extraordinary woman who was very devoted to her mother-in-law Naomi, and not to God at first.  Just because she crossed over into Israel didn't mean that she automatically understood all of the Israelite customs, laws, religion, etc.  It took time and people being patient with her, coming along side her, helping her to get out of her former habits and to adapt new ones.

It may have seemed like a lot of trouble, but ultimately, Ruth became one of the ancestors of Christ.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that any new Christian will not have that honor anymore-- but we risk wasting so much potential if we do not help new Christians adapt to learning about God in a schedule that fits them, rather than us.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Infinite love.

I was listening to a talk by Dr. Lawrence Krauss the other day titled "A Universe from Nothing."  Krauss is a theoretical physicist, he's an atheist, and he's really full of himself.  In fact, he's that special "full of himself" kind that probably wouldn't mind that I called him full of himself.  This post has nothing to do with him EXCEPT for the fact that he brought up a paradox that I hadn't heard before.  So thanks for that Dr. Krauss.

So, Hilbert's Paradox of the Grand Hotel.  I must say, I don't fully understand this topic, nor do I expect anyone to.  I wouldn't be surprised if David Hilbert doesn't understand it either.  Here's the simplest explanation that does it any justice.

Imagine a hotel that is infinitely large with an infinite number of rooms all of which are occupied.  Then imagine you walk in and want to check into the hotel.  The manager says, "We're full..." but then he remembers that he has an infinite amount of rooms... so he just moves the guest in room 1 to room 2, room 2 to room 3, and so on and so on.  Therefore, room 1 is now unoccupied and ready for you to move into it.

Confusing right?  The only way I can conceptualize it is when I think of some of my friends.  Just the other night, one of my friends was nervous and sick.  She didn't want to inconvenience anyone, but she said "Hey, you're up late, can I call you if I can't sleep?"  Of course I said she could.  Then she asked, "How late is too late to call?" and I replied something like, "Aw, that's cute... you think there's a time that you could call when I wouldn't pick up for you."

She's not alone.  There are certain people in my life who I love an infinite amount and I would literally do anything I could for them.  Nothing they could ever say or do would ever make me love them any more or less than I do now.  It's an infinite love.

God has that same kind of love for us.  It will never decrease, nor will it ever increase.  It is ALREADY full.  Not only is His love infinite, but His actions back up that love.  His gift of a Son to come to earth to give His life as a ransom for us was all we'll ever need to forever be justified in God.  He's done everything He can for us.  Here's the kicker though... His love is infinite... for an infinite number of people.  He has loved every single person in His Creation the same way.  He always has and He always will.

It's nearly impossible to understand... Hilbert's paradox seems to have as many detractors as it has supporters.  But when it comes to my faith in God and how He loves me, I take comfort in the fact that it's even purer, better, and just as infinite as I love I have for my friends.

1 John 4:16b-19

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
 19 We love because he first loved us.