Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Theology on Tap last night

Life at Jackson’s Bar & Bistro is great. We have our worship planning meetings there, Becki and I meet Tal there for our counseling sessions, and of course we have “theology on tap” there. Good theology, good fellowship and good beer are what you can expect when you come to theology on tap. When we started going there about a year ago, we never thought it would turn into this. Almost every member of the front of the house staff comes up to our table on Tuesday nights to see how we are doing. Brett, Jessica, and Charles update us on their lives and they seem to really appreciate us coming in there every week. Brett even remembers when we put up the "free beer for your story" sign, something we havent done in quite a while. Last week the weather was great and the patio was packed. This week it was freezing cold…literally in the thirties…so the patio only had a few random smokers who would bear the cold to get that nicotine fix. We actually had to break up in to two tables last night which was what we knew we would have to do because it is so loud inside that having a discussion would be impossible. This week we hit excerpts from Penses by Blaise Pascal. He is already under suspicion just for the simple fact that he is a math genius but to top that off, he is French. Despite that, God has used him to kick us all in the nuts with words that were written down almost 400 years ago.

Foster sums up the chapter by saying that Pascal basically says that there are two contradictory principles at work in all of us: the greatness we have because of our creation in the image of God and the wretchedness we have because of the fall. He says that only Christianity adequately explains the contradiction and only Christ can lift us above our pride and lust.

Could it be that pride and lust are at the center of all sins? What do other religions have to say about our pride and lust? I don’t think they have much to say that is helpful. Buddhism basically says for you to get rid of all of your desires which as soon as you desire that then you have failed because you still have a desire. That’s a little like saying that there is absolutely no absolute truth. Islam gives you list after list of things to do in order to conquer your desires. Why are we full of pride and lust? It is because we are broken, busted people that are enemies of God just because we were born into it. The good news is that even though we are enemies of God, He still loves us and hung in there all the way through death in order to save us from ourselves. Though we still have to go down the road of sanctification, Christians can be sure that we are united with God and that is something the Enemy can never take away.

That is some of the conversation that went down last night. I thought it was a great night and I am so appreciative of the guys that were at my table. This is the most honest group of fellow travelers I have experienced. I love these guys. More of us Christian men should tell our brothers that we love them. Paul wasn’t embarrassed of it and we shouldn’t be either.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday night update

Check out Roger Cullins on NoiseTrade. He has a really good sound. I am really digging “Who Can Know Your Ways”

I just posted a bunch of Disney pictures on Facebook. Check them out and comment on them.

Part of fulfilling Beeson’s ministry internship requirements includes setting learning goals and having my mentor take me through certain action steps to show that I have made some tangible progress in these goals. One of the goals I picked was to work on my attitude. So, my mentor lowered the boom. He said that this is going to be an ongoing battle for me. He said that I will many times come across as arrogant and derogatory even if I don’t mean to. Well I guess that explains all of the times I thought I was being so innocent and Becki thought I was just trying to cut her down. And all of this time I thought the problem was with her. Imagine! The problem was actually me. I know this may come as a shocker to some of you, but we are going to just have to accept this and move on. So what do I do? I need to be intentionally watching for that. I need to get people in my life who have permission to let me know if my attitude is getting too sarcastic. You would think I would be offended at this but I totally wasn’t. It is a lot easier to accept criticism from a mentor when he admits his own faults and is as transparent about his fears and faults as Tal is. He even said he knew he could get too sarcastic and too far off making fun of people and that created an atmosphere, especially between me, Casey, and himself of being cliquish and arrogant at times.

Thanks for taking time to read.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ministering in the restaurant (part 2)

In the last restaurant post, I said that there was someone who I could really say was my enemy. I mean it. This guy seemed to be doing whatever he could to make me look bad at every turn as if it was his personal agenda for the day to make me have a bad day. I had been praying for him because Jesus says to pray for our enemies but then the craziest thing happened. All of the sudden we started getting along! He was super nice to me, we would actually have conversations, we would help each other out. People’s heads were turning. They couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. He started asking where I was when I was gone and even telling people that he liked me. It was crazy! A few weeks later I realized that I had stopped praying for him. Now he was just a coworker that was nice to me just like most of my other coworkers. Tonight changed all of that though. I don’t know what happened. It was like a switch was flipped. Man, this guy was all over me tonight. I made a mistake. It wasn’t a big mistake, as a matter of fact, I think it is a mistake that is made often but he was making a HUGE deal out of it. And of course, I was in one of those moods. I wouldn’t back down. We had it out in front of everyone. Well later, one of the other cooks was saying how he couldn’t put up with this guy and just wanted him to get out of his face tonight. Apparently my enemy turned friend had told this other guy that the Bible is…cover your ears children…this isn’t G rated…Bull seit. Replace the e with an h of course. This guy was all mad that he had said that. Now, I am objectively out of the situation and I am able to tell him that he needs to have patience with doubters like that. I am telling him that there are plenty of people that don’t believe the Bible is true and we have to be willing to be used by Christ to win them over to God. I told this guy that my enemy turned friend would probably be most affected by his witness so he needed to remember that. My how patient I am. All of this conversation is taking place in the back of the kitchen. When I go up to the front of the food window again, my enemy turned friend (I guess turned back to enemy) jumps my case telling me that I had made the same mistake again. He told me that I was a dumb ass and that I needed to learn how to do my job right. So, I told him, “I am going to pull out this ticket and we are going to see who is a dumb-ass.” So I pulled out the ticket showing that I had done right and he says, “well then someone back here is a dumb-ass because they didn’t tell me that this ticket was up.” Then he tells me that I was a dumb ass earlier because of the mistake I made. So I told him to look at the ticket and tell me who was a dumb ass now. All of that after encouraging this other guy to be patient with my enemy. And all of this in front of the other guy. Well, I guess he is back on my prayer list. Christians in the restaurant industry know how dark of a place it is sometimes. Almost anyone in the restaurant industry knows how dark it can be sometimes. We Christians have to be praying for each other and encouraging each other everyday. It is a high stress environment but we need to know that people are watching us to see where our hope lies. Do we get just as stressed out as everyone else? Where is that peace that passes understanding the Bible talks about? Do we get pissed when a table leaves a crappy tip? What does the Bible say about the love of money being the root of all kinds of evil and what does it say about not worrying about what you will have tomorrow? If you are shining like a city on a hill then your light cannot be hidden.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Im not together but Im getting there.

I went to Chattanooga this weekend (unfortunately did not get a chance to visit those two beloved places, Ruby Falls and Rock City) because Tal was doing his porn presentation with Ruth Graham and Friends. He doesn’t like to travel alone, which is a really good idea because women at these conferences hit on him even though he is admitting his sexual sin. I guess somehow that turns some people on. So, Casey “Sea Bass” Hobbs and I went with him and I had a great moment with God as I read Thomas Merton’s book Spiritual Direction and Meditation later Saturday night in my hotel room. One of the most important things Tal talks about when he talks about the recovery process is accountability, which naturally includes the discipline of confession. I do not remember hearing much teaching, if any, on confession as I grew up in the church. There was not very much openness and honesty in the church I grew up in. Many priests and pastors have neglected this practice and do not have any practical understanding of how to take confessions or give spiritual direction to the penitent in order that he may avoid sin. As a pastor I want this to be one of the distinguishing marks of my ministry, that I not only preach and teach, but that I am loyal to receive confession from people in my church, am able to give direction and counsel for living in light of the gospel of Christ, and that I go into other churches and teach willing and able Christians how to give this kind of spiritual direction. So many Christians and even leaders are living a meaningless pantomime of perfection. This is precisely why so many sins have gained such a foothold in our church members and leaders today. The sin is kept secret and the secret feeds the shame and the shame feeds the addiction and the cycle goes round and round. How I wish this cycle would be broken and I believe the type of transparent spiritual direction Merton is advising, especially with novice Christians, is essential to robbing these secret sins of their power to perpetuate that cycle.

On page 27, Merton says, “ Even for a superior (What Merton means by superior is someone who has been maturing in the Christian faith for years, as opposed to someone new in the faith) a timely conference with a good director may resolve many apparently hopeless problems and open one’s eyes to unsuspected dangers, thereby preventing a disaster…In many cases the absence of direction may mean the difference between sanctity and mediocrity in the religious life…good directors are rare…If we really desire spiritual directors for our communities and for others, let us seek them. We can at least pray for this intention! He will raise up priests who will desire to give themselves to this kind of work, in spite of the difficulties and sacrifices involved. But there is always a danger that the priest qualified to seriously direct religious will be overwhelmed by the demand for his services.”

As I read Merton’s words, my heart was burning inside of me. I want to be that kind of director. Then it hit me that Tal is exactly that kind of director, even the completely overwhelmed part! God has me at Tapestry to learn this kind of ministry and to be able to go out to be this type of minister that is greatly needed. This ministry is not the glam youth ministry at a mega church that I wanted to do for years. At the Ruth Graham and Friends conference, Tal had 33 people in the first workshop and 36 people in the second workshop and that is if you count Tal, me, and Casey in both of them! Our church has about 30 people coming to it and Tal’s cell phone rings at all hours of the day with some addict he has never met and is probably going to lie to him for half of the conversation. And, he gets paid squat! In case you don’t know, squat isn’t a lot of money in Alabama. The conversion rate isn’t very good here.

I have been struggling for a few weeks about my position in ministry, my role at Tapestry, what I'm going to do when I graduate from Beeson and get married, and how the church down the road is swelling by the minute and Tapestry is barely filling the preaching lab. But this weekend, I laid in my bed thinking about our church, how Kellee McCoy was going to lead worship on Sunday, and how Tal wants to train me and Casey to do the ministry he is doing. I was thinking about how Kellee told me that he finally realizes what he should have realized all along, that he isn’t worthy to be leading worship. I started thanking God for that and then talking to God about how I'm not even worthy to hold the doors open as these wonderful, confessing, broken-but-in-repair people walk in the doors to our worship gathering. I said that I certainly wasn’t worthy to be breaking the bread and pouring the juice and praying over the communion element like I get to do so often. That’s when I started crying. God was giving me a wonderful, humbling vision for ministry and I think it is beautiful. It isn’t anything like what I thought it would be when I was going to Bible College and it certainly isn’t what I thought it would be when I was in high school but it is awesome and I'm so happy that I'm in the ministry position I’m in.

Monday, October 06, 2008

TOH Worship Gathering

Last night was amazing! I love being a part of this church. The whole night was a night of prayer, using the model prayer as a structure. We opened with some basic instructions, letting everyone know that we would be using the model prayer as a structure and telling them that after the Scripture was read to meditate on the phrase from the model prayer and pray out loud a prayer along the lines of that part of the model prayer if they wanted to. We used songs that went along with that section of the model prayer as bridges between the sections. There were some amazing responses to this. During the time of praying "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" conviction and repentance swept over that room like I have never felt before in any room. People were crying out for forgiveness and confessing failures. Tal challenged people to ask God to bless certain people in our lives that had wronged us. People all over the room were asking for strength to forgive people that they had been mad at and had been withholding forgiveness from for years! I was crying all night long. Some of the raw honesty that came out of some people broke my heart. As you will see in this lineup, we took sections from the Sermon on the Mount to go with each line from the model prayer. The Sermon on the Mount is one of the foundational texts for TOH.

Here is how we broke it down.

Song- Come and Listen (Marc always does a great job with this one.)

Our Father in heaven hallowed be Your name
Matthew 5:43-45
Time of Meditation
Song- How Deep the Father’s Love. (Alyssa Adalpe goes yard on this one everytime.)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Matthew 5:2-12
Time of Meditation
Song- Mighty Fortress (Casey and Jeanette stepped up to sing on this one.)

Give us this day our daily bread
Matthew 6:25-34
Time of Meditation
Song- The Air I Breathe (play through communion)

Communion Marc spontaneously sang a verse from Amazing Grace here. We always use the words from the book of common prayer as we explain the bread and wine. I normally say something about communion not only being a way to remember Christ but a way for us to realize our commonality in the body of Christ across the room, around the globe, and throughout time. At TOH the communion table is open to all who follow Christ, regardless of denominational affiliation. We tell people that they dont have to be a member of this church of any specific denomination but just be a follower of Christ to partake of the Lord's Supper. The one giving the Communion devotional says that in this we proclaim the mystery of our faith. And we all say together, "Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again." There is a great song by Charlie Hall on his new album that says "Celebrate His death and rising. Lift your eyes. Proclaim His coming." I love that.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:14-15
Time of Meditation - As I said earlier, this was a deeply confessional time of repentance for many in the room.
Song- Jesus What a Friend for Sinners (A great hymn. We just sang the first verse and the chorus.)

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Matthew 5:38-42
Time of Meditation
Song- Feels Like Redemption (A Michael English song that is right in Marc's wheelhouse.)

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever amen.
Matthew 5:17-20
Time of Meditation
Song- O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing (DC*B arrangement)

I think this was "a very Tapestry" worship gathering because we were seated in a circle with the communion elements and the cross at the center, we had a lot of overlap between songs and Scripture, we heard the gospel proclaimed in many different ways from many different voices as different people prayed and different people stepped up to the microphone to read the portion of Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount, and there was a single thread of thought that ran through the whole gathering.

This was an awesome night where I was just so honored to see God through the things we had planned. I really think God uses our worship planning team when we get together and focus and pray and seek Him on what to do for the week. Before we got together Wednesday, none of us had ever seen this done or had any idea how to pull it off. Now, I think it was one of the most meaningful worship gatherings I have been a part of. I love this church and I am so humbled that God would let me be a part of its leadership team.