For the third Christmas in row my sons and I are competing in the Reyner Disc Golf Invitational Tournament. Scott is the two time defending champion. In past years we have played one round – winner take all. This year we are changing up the format. It is a four round competition. We are playing one round at Leigh Farm, one at Cornwallis, and two at our home course Valley Springs. Scoring goes like this: For each round the 1st place finisher gets 4 points, 2nd place – 3 points, 3rd place – 2 points, and 4th place – 1 point. Total points after all rounds is the winner. After our first round this is how we stand. Chad 4, Tucker 3, Shay 2, Scott 1. Our next match will be Sunday – weather permitting.
So for those of you reading this who are not RBCers let me bring you into the loop. For 21 years Ridgecrest has put on the Durham Christmas Pageant at Page Auditorium (at Duke) as a gift to the city of Durham. It is a 2+ hour Broadway style show that features great Christmas music, a poignant modern Christmas story, and a telling of the gospel through drama and music. It was created by Al Huffman (worship pastor at RBC), produced by Al Huffman, and directed by Al Huffman.
Today’s performance of the DCP was the last one. The DCP is being retired after 21 years. I’m sure for Al that it is a bittersweet ending. It has been a labor of love for all these years and has been used to reach our city with the gospel and to create community and a shared purpose in our church. But I know that it is an exhausting endeavor each year. It takes at least 4 months of constant work to pull it together and I have a suspicion that it is never far from Al’s mind the rest of the year.
So with the lights going out on the DCP I wanted to say thanks to Al:
Thanks Al for all the hard work you have put in over the years to make the DCP such a huge success.
Thanks Al for creating something that our entire church could rally around each year for ministry.
Thanks Al for demonstrating such passion through the years to see the DCP come together.
Thanks Al on behalf of Billy Wentz and scores of others who are now in the kingdom of God because of the DCP.
Thanks Al for all the funny stories that have come out of these productions that now have a life of their own.
Thanks Al for giving kids a chance to shine and have fun performing on stage.
Thanks Al for introducing us to some of the best Christmas music around.
Thanks Al for the Hobos, and the Santa Clauses, and the Babies, and all the other characters that will never be forgotten.
Thanks Al for showing us your love for the Lord through this labor of love.
Thanks Al… for all the memories!
Incarnation Begins With “I”
‘Tis the season. Christmas is upon us. And if we are not careful it would be easy to lose sight of what Christmas is all about. Bottom line – Christmas is about the incarnation. Now that’s just a fancy shmancy word which means that God took on flesh and became a man – in the person of Jesus. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. God knew that the only way a lost and dying world was going to fully understand how great His love was was to show them up close and in person.
The same is true today. The only difference is that He chooses to show the world how great His love is through His children. WE are to incarnate the gospel to the world around us. People should be able to look at our lives and catch a pretty good glimpse of the nature and character of God. So when I say that incarnation begins with “I”, I mean that it begins with me – and it begins with you. Here are a few specific ways for you to think on about how incarnation begins with “I”.
Ignorant of sin – Jesus walked through this world confronted daily with opportunities to sin and yet chose not to sin. He lived a holy life. His holiness pointed people to God. In the same way, when we choose to be ignorant of sin – not falling prey to temptation – our lives can point people to God as they see a life of faith and integrity being lived out.
Illuminates the darkness – Jesus came to be “the Light of the World.” We also are to let our lights so shine that the world will see our good deeds and give glory to our Father in heaven. As we illuminate the dark places around us the world will be able to see Jesus shining through us and the darkness will have no choice but to retreat.
Identifies with those who are helpless and hurting – It seems like everywhere Jesus went He met people who had desperate needs and huge hurts. He took the time to touch their lives whether it was through a word of hope or act of healing. We are called to incarnate Christ in similar ways as we reach out to those who are helpless and hurting in real and practical ways.
Initiates forgiveness – The greatest spiritual need we have as humans is for forgiveness. This is what Jesus came into the world to address. He came to reconcile sinful people to a holy God and rebuild the relationship that had been destroyed when we willingly and deliberately turned away from God. We, as God’s children who enjoy His forgiveness, are called to be agents of reconciliation offering Gods’ free gift of forgiveness to a spiritually destitute world. We have the message that people need to hear – the gospel of a forgiving God who yearns for people to turn back to Him and experience amazing grace and abundant life.
Illustrates servanthood – Jesus himself said, “I did not come into the world to be served but to serve.” As we take up the mantle of servanthood, putting aside our rights and desires to have others serve us, then the world will see a visible demonstration of what it means to know Christ.
Intercedes for others – Scripture records numerous instances where Jesus engages the Father in prayer on behalf of the people He connected with. His example should be motivation for us to do the same. God chooses to use the prayers of His people to provoke His hand to work and His heart to save those we are connected to. Lack of prayer on our behalf indicates unbelief and effectually says to God, “I don’t need you. I can get through this life on my own.”
A few years ago I shared the words to a song I wrote in a message I preached about the incarnation. Enjoy and don’t forget that not only does incarnation begin with “I” but it also begins with you!!!
The Word Became Flesh
The Word became flesh and lived for awhile
In a world plagued with sorrow and sin
The Magnificent Son, The Most Holy One
Was determined the plaque had to end.
The Word became flesh as the Father revealed
All His love in the life of His Son
His Manifest grace must have felt out of place
When He saw what the devil had done.
The Word became flesh as God testified
To the truth that had never been heard.
The Savior appeared, God spoke loud and clear
Through the voice of His Incarnate Word.
The Word became flesh as the Father set fort
To give freedom to all who were bound.
Hope was restored, though God’s Word was ignored
When a cross took the place of a crown.
The Word became flesh leaving heaven behind
Giving up all the honor He had.
“Abba Father” He cried, as He suffered and died
I now know what makes You so mad.
Incarnate. Now there’s a word that you don’t hear every day. It does tend to pop up a bit more at this time of year. In case you are not familiar with the word, it means “in the flesh.” And it is used to describe what happened 2000+ years ago when God appeared in the flesh in the person of Jesus. Why did He do that you might ask. Great question. The succinct answer is this: God wanted to communicate in an unmistakable way a few things that couldn’t be done from His throne in heaven. He needed some face time with the people that He created, that He loved so much, and that had turned away from following Him. He wanted to make a loud and clear statement that would once and for all prove the depth of His love and His desire for reconciliation. He didn’t want people to spend an eternity separated from Him and unable to enjoy the magnificence of a home in heaven with Him. Thus the cross! Thus the resurrection! But it began with the birth! That pivotal moment in human history when God took on the appearance of a man. The incarnation! The virgin birth! The baby in a manger! Jesus!
How’s that for an opening to our Christmas letter this year. I am astounded at the extent to which God went to fix the mess that I (we) had made of things. Then I started thinking this week about a “what if.” What if Jesus had never been born? What if the incarnation had never taken place? How would that have changed our world? How would that have changed my world? I want to frame our Christmas this year with that question in mind.
If Jesus had never been born…
There would be no us! This year Linda and I celebrated our 29th anniversary. Yes that means that we are old. But we met 31 years ago on a Campus Crusade for CHRIST beach project. No Jesus. No Shay and Linda.
The next few follow quite naturally. There would be no Christy. We would not have watched she and her husband Chad continue to grow in their 3rd year of marriage. We would not have seen her excel as a 2nd grade teacher. We would not have watched Chad graduate from seminary. We would not have found out what an incredible blogger and photographer she is. We would not be praying now for the place of ministry the Lord has for them – possibly overseas.
There would be no Scott. We would never have seen him graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill in May. He would never have started seminary at Southeastern in August. He would not be preparing to go overseas as a part of the seminary’s 2+2 program (2 years theological education + 2 years overseas on the mission field.) I would never have seen him make an unbelievable ace on one of the hardest holes of our favorite disc golf course. He would never be working at The Bargain Box in Raleigh to support himself.
There would be no Tucker. He would not be a sophomore at NC State this year. He would not be leading a freshman Bible Study through Campus Crusade. He would not have gone to India for 2+ weeks last summer to serve with missionaries there. Nor would he have worked at Crossroads Camp as a counselor when he returned. He would not be enjoying rock climbing, disc golf, Harry Potter movies, or be in 1st place in his fantasy football league.
If Jesus had never been born…
I would not be the Executive Pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church – now in my 18th year. I would not have been the Project Coordinator for the IWC trip to Peru this past summer (that Linda, Christy, and Chad were all a part of). We were able to share the gospel message and disciple believers in 5 villages along the Amazon.
If Jesus had never been born… we would not know the One who is the Prince of Peace and we would not have known such peace in the midst of so much transition in our lives: 1) our pastor retiring, 2) our youth pastor leaving to go on the mission field, 3) my responsibilities on staff changing as a result of both of these, 4) Linda’s principal changing and new counseling colleagues to work with, 5) Christy and Chad figuring out “what next?” 6) Scott preparing to go overseas.
So perhaps you can see why we celebrate the incarnation. Why Christmas is special to us. Why we are thrilled that Jesus was indeed born! We are incredibly blessed as a family and our desire is that you would experience the blessing of God upon your life and understand in it’s most profound way the meaning of John 1:14…
“The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us!”
Christy, Chad, Tucker, Scott
Shay and Linda
So Linda and I are dog sitting this weekend. First time we have had a dog in our house in three and a half years. We have had 2 dogs since we got married. Both golden retrievers. We got Cassidy while we were in Massachusettes when I was in seminary. She was with us for 7 years and died right before Tucker was born in 1990. We got Molly in January of 1994 after we moved to Durham. She lived just over 13 years. Golden retrievers are wonderful dogs. Great pets – though don’t let them know that they are not people as they will be offended. And yes we are most definitely dog people. Not cat people. Don’t ask us to cat sit. It ain’t gonna happen. So this is Duke. He has taken to us quite nicely. A very laid back mutt. Doesn’t demand attention. Doesn’t beg for food. Seems to be content to just lie around and be a dog. My kind of pooch.
So in honor of Duke and given that it is Christmas here is a little doggie humor for you to enjoy:
Holiday Etiquette for Dogs
1. Be especially patient with your humans during this time. They may appear to be more stressed-out than usual and they will appreciate long comforting dog leans.
2. They may come home with large bags of things they call gifts. Do not assume that all the gifts are yours.
3. Be tolerant if your humans put decorations on you. They seem to get some special kind of pleasure out of seeing how you look with fake antlers.
4. They may bring a large tree into the house and set it up in a prominent place and cover it with lights and decorations. Bizarre as this may seem to you, it is an important ritual for your humans, so there are some things you need to know:
– – don’t pee on the tree
– – don’t drink water in the container that holds the tree
– – mind your tail when you are near the tree
– – if there are packages under the tree, even ones that smell interesting or that have your name on them, don’t rip them open
– – don’t chew on the cord that runs from the funny-looking hole in the wall to the tree
5. Your humans may occasionally invite lots of strangers to come visit during this season. These parties can be lots of fun, but they also call for some discretion on your part:
– – not all strangers appreciate kisses and leans
– – don’t eat off the buffet table
– – beg for goodies subtly
– – be pleasant, even if unknowing strangers sit on your sofa
– – don’t drink out of glasses that are left within your reach.
6. Likewise, your humans may take you visiting. Here your manners will also be important:
– -observe all the rules in #4 for trees that may be in other people’s houses.
– – respect the territory of other animals that may live in the house
– – tolerate children
– – turn on your charm big time.
7. A big man with a white beard and a very loud laugh may emerge from your fireplace in the middle of the night. DON’T BITE HIM!!
One of my favorite cartoonists is Scott Hilborn who publishes “The Argyle Sweater” comic strip. You have probably noticed some of these popping up in my posts.I came across this one the other day and it reminded me of the story of the dung beetle (order: coleoptera, family: scarabaeidea). Quite fascinating, albeit pretty gross.
The dung beetle it would seem has one purpose in life: to collect dung. When they come upon a pile of dung they begin creating dung balls which they roll away from the pile to keep their property from being plundered by other beetles. They can roll dung balls up to 50 times their weight. Beetles generally work as couples. Usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mate underground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the ball as a birthing bed. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the dung.
So what life lessons are to be learned from these interesting creatures. Here are a few that come to mind:
1) Like the dung beetle, are we fulfilling the purpose that God has created us for – with as much diligence and tenacity?
2) And like the dung beetle, are we investing our lives in the collection of “dung” – stuff that really isn’t worth a poop.
3) Are we willing to share our “dung piles” with others – the stuff that we have worked so hard for – or do we hide it away for our own enjoyment only?
4) What do we hunger for – dung and more dung? Or do we hunger for the kind of food that will feed our souls?
Paul said this in Philippians 3:8: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them like dung (literally this is what the Greek says) that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…”
(If interested in how this really works for the dung beetle then check out this You Tube Video)
Shalom is often translated “Peace”. But it’s meaning is much broader than just peace. Here are a few ways that the word is used in Scripture. You will get a feel for the richness of the word as you read it in context.
In 1 Kings 2:13, when Bathsheba asked Adonijah, “Is your coming shalom?”, she was not asking if he had come peacefully. Rather, she was asking if he had come with friendly intent. Although he answered, shalom, he was lying. Even though he did not come in war, he did not come with friendly intent, but rather with treachery in his heart.
In 2 Kings 4:26, the Shunamite woman was asked by Elisha’s servant if it was well with her, her husband and child. In the original Hebrew text the question was simply, “Do you have shalom?” It would be like asking someone today “How are you doing”.
in Judges 11:31, Jephthah tragically vowed that if he returned from the battle “in shalom,” that he would sacrifice to the Lord the first living thing that came out of his house to meet him. Shalom here is used with the same meaning as in Isaiah 41:3, “He pursues them, advancing in shalom (the NIV translates this “unscathed”)
And check out Isaiah 52:7, ” How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring shalom.” Sound familiar. Paul references this verse in Romans 10:15. We often hear it translated “good news.”
Isaiah 9:6 – “And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Shalom.”
With those verses in mind, I will leave you with this blessing. And the next time you see me instead of saying “Hey man”, or “What’s up”, or “How you doing”, or “Dude” – just say “Shalom my friend!” and I will know exactly what you mean.
Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you; the lord turn His face toward you and give you SHALOM.”
Probably most of you know that I am Jewish by birth. It is a part of my spiritual heritage that I am very proud of. Around the office I am affectionately called ‘The Rabbi” – and on my business cards under the title Executive Pastor I have put “Resident Rabbi”. If you’ve ever called me at church and been diverted to my voice mail then you have heard me end my greeting with “Shalom.” It is one of the great words of the Hebrew language. Here are a few things for you to know about what is meant by the word.
1) First of all it is one of the names of God. Here’s an excerpt from another blog I found that does a great job of detailing the story of Gideon – who referred to God as Jehovah-Shalom (Judges 6):
Gideon had only one thing going for him: God called him. God addressed him this way: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!” (Judges 6:12) There was nothing in the natural to suggest that this was true. Gideon replies back to the Lord; “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15) He was just being honest. It sounds like Gideon was more realistic than the Lord in his self appraisal. In fact, when God appeared to him he was threshing wheat in secret inside a winepress so as not to be observed and possibly attacked by the Midianites who were riding roughshod all over Israel.
God saw Gideon differently than Gideon saw himself. God saw the secret weapon with which he had equipped Gideon: HIMSELF. God said; “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.” (Judges 6:16) Oh my goodness, the stark terror that Gideon must have felt at that moment! I know I would have wanted to go running in the opposite direction with my ears covered. Probably as a delay tactic, Gideon asked for a sign about who was really speaking to him and then begged to prepare a meal for his guest. He probably hoped no one would be there when he got back with the meat and bread.
But God was still there, waiting, when Gideon returned. The Lord told him to lay the meal on a rock as an offering and pour the broth over it. Then God touched the sacrifice with the staff in his hand “and fire rose out of the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread.” (Judges 6:21) Then he disappeared. Now Gideon understood beyond all doubt that he had been talking face to face with Jehovah. That scared him worse than what God was calling him to do.
So the Lord said to Gideon, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.” And then Gideon built an alter in that place and called it THE-LORD-IS-PEACE: Jehovah-Shalom. Why did the Lord reveal himself as PEACE at that time? Why not “The Lord is Courage” or “The Lord is Strength”? I think it is because the Lord’s peace is so profound that it overcomes every other consideration. Peace was the real thing that Gideon needed. Peace is the real thing each of us needs when we are up against the wall.
Very very true don’t you think? In my next post I’ll talk a bit more about this incredible word. In the meantime…. “Shalom” – or as we like to say in the South… “Shalom ya’ll”!!
My pillow – I don’t know about you but I am very particular about my pillow. I can’t sleep on just any pillow. in fact if it is not a pillow I don’t like, then I can’t sleep. I’m a foam pillow kind of guy. Don’t give me one of those pillows where your head still feels like it sinks to the mattress when you lie on it. I’ve even been known to ask hotel managers if I can have (or buy) one of their pillows if I really like it. I believe the pillow I currently have came from Country Inn and Suites a few years ago.
Nose and ear hair trimmers – For those of you who are still on the young side of life you will find that as you get older hair will start growing in places you really don’t want it to. I hate those pesky little hairs that pop out of my nose and compete for face time with my mustache. Enter my nose hair attachment and zip – that wiry sucker is history.
Loofahs – Okay, I admit it, I use a loofah. And I like it. I’m not a manly man that washes with just a bar of soap. Neither do I use a wash rag. I love the way a loofah gives me consistent soapiness throughout the entire shower experience.
Hoodies – I love fall and winter if for no other reason than I get to wear hoodies. The pullover kind not the zip up kind. And especially ones that have pockets. Maybe it’s because of my hairlessness that I love the hood on the hoodie. All I know is that they sure do help me to stay warmer this time of year.
My Droid X – This is the only tech gadget that makes my list. I’ve only had a smartphone for a couple of weeks but I gotta tell you that it is an impressive piece of equipment. Who would have thought 10 years ago that I could carry in my pocket not just a phone but a camera, a video camera, a Bible, a photo album, a calculator, a web browser, a radio, a TV, a newspaper, and I’m sure much more that I haven’t even discovered yet. I’m a fan.
I really have so very much to be thankful for. And not so much the stuff that I have as the people in my life – and the fact that God has “rescued me from the dominion of darkness and brought me into the kingdom of His Son.” Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Seems like we just celebrated Thanksgiving about a year ago and here we are again. It’s always good to be reminded that we should be thankful. I know that I do not say thank you enough to enough people. And I do not say thank you enough to God for the abundant blessing upon my life. Since this is a thanksgiving post let me go ahead and list the things that you would expect me to be thankful for: My wife, my kids, my extended family, my health, my job, food and shelter everyday day, great friends, great colleagues, and on and on. I wanted to spend a few minutes here listing some things that I realize I take for granted that I am extremely thankful for. For example:
Zippers – I once had a pair of pants that had buttons instead of a zipper. What a pain. I was thinking this morning how much I take for granted the fact that every day I can zip up my britches. And don’t you just love those plastic bags that are zip lock – instead of trying to line up those thingies that you are supposed to press together. I sure do.
Toilet paper – Here’s a little toilet paper history you probably didn’t know – Joseph Gayetty is widely credited with being the inventor of modern commercially available toilet paper in the United States. It was first introduced in 1857 as Gayetty’s Medicated Paper and was sold in packages of flat sheets, watermarked with the inventor’s name. I’m not EVEN going to comment on that last line. The jokes should jump off the page. I will say this though – if you have ever used bad TP then you can understand why I am thankful for good toilet paper. Now I come from a generation that has by and large always had decent paper to work with. But apparently my pastor has not. A recent reference in a sermon to the Sear’s Catalogue left me with a picture that I would just assume had never gotten into my head. One other thought: Whoever developed 2-ply should be given an award. That single ply stuff is not worth a cr…. Pun intended. (not sure if I can say the word since I’m a pastor)
Electric blankets – I gotta say that I do love climbing into bed at this time of year when the sheets are nice and toasty. Now my wife will tell you that it is her very favorite part of the day. This is because her feet stay at a temperature of 27 degrees. I know this because the first thing she does when she gets in bed is show me how cold her feet are. Every single night. I’ve tried to tell her that I believe her when she tells me how cold her tootsies are but for some reason she feels compelled to prove it to me. So the electric blanket has become a good friend who helps me make it through the cold winters and helps me put up with cold feet. Cold feet I can deal with. So thankful that my wife does not have a cold shoulder.