Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Reason For the Season

Well, our Church Secretary, Carol and I just got finished tweaking the Plum Creek Christmas tree, and hanging some decorations. I’ve just finished sipping my Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks, and now I’m all wrapped up in my favorite sweater as I sit at my desk to write this weekend’s sermon. I don’t care what anyone says – December is the best month ever!
I hope that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, and that you cherish, not just December 25th, but indeed, the entire “Christmas Season.”
I suppose that the exact length of the Christmas season is somewhat subjective. When does it start? When does it end? When is it okay for stores to start putting out Christmas decorations, etc. We all have different answers to that question. I think for many of us, Black Friday officially kicks off, at the very least, the Christmas shopping season, but I have a different definition.
For me, Christmas starts when the Charlie Brown Christmas Special airs on TV. Charlie Brown struggles to find the meaning of Christmas amid various frustrations such as commercialization, greedy children, and Christmas light displays that are meant, more to upstage the neighbors than to inspire others. Linus then comes out to the stage and announces “Lights, please,” and then goes on to quote Luke 2.
This year, we purchased the Christmas Special so that we can watch it year ‘round. And with MY boys, trust me, we will. They watch Christmas movies all year long. I don’t think they understand that Christmas day is just one day out of 365. And you know what, I’m very ok with that.
It’s funny to me that some folks complain that we put out Christmas decorations too early claiming “It’s not even thanksgiving yet!” But then we come to church, and we worship together and we say “let’s remember the reason for the season not just at Christmas time, but all year ‘round!” What changes? Why did things that once motivated us to “remember the reason for the season” suddenly inspire us to become so cynical about celebrating the holiday “too early”?
At my house, various Christmas sing-a-longs, VeggieTales Christmas specials, Rankin and Bass’ Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and others, now joined by the Charlie Brown Christmas Special are mainstays in our children’s DVD library all year ‘round. And while I admit that singing The Chipmunk Song for the hundredth time in July can be vexing at times, I’m very happy that my children are growing up with the idea that Christmas isn’t just a once a year thing.
I’ll close with the immortal words of Luke, as quoted by Linus Van Pelt:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:4-14 KJV

Friday, November 18, 2016

This is Your Brain on Faith

Most of you know Torrin pretty well by now. If you don’t know him personally, certainly you know his reputation. Torrin is rambunctious, stubborn, very hard to communicate with, he runs around at a dizzying pace, he sleeps poorly, is a terribly picky eater, he’s messy, he doesn’t listen well, and he tends to push all of my buttons at once. Do you remember the old saying, boys are made of “snakes, snails, and puppy dog tails?”
That said, he’s mine. And while he is very much all of those things that I’ve mentioned before, he’s also very sweet, very kind, very caring. He likes to give very tight hugs, he’ll get his arms around your neck and he’ll squeeze you for all you’re worth, to the point where you wonder if you’re going to be able to breath if doesn’t let go, but that’s his way of showing how important you are to him.
Torrin loves letters. The way your child might love Batman, or Barbie, my son loves the ABC’s. And shapes, he’s a sucker for shapes. He likes to draw these little characters, they’re basically shapes with arms and legs and simply names them “Square,” “Circle,” “Triangle,” so on so forth.
Now, most 6-year-old kids are rambunctious, and can be hard to pin down. They’re willful, stubborn, and not very easy to communicate with. But Torrin takes that to a whole different level.
When Torrin was a baby, we kept waiting for him to manifest traits that normal babies would exhibit. When he didn’t, and when as he grew older, he still didn’t, we decided it best that we start considering consulting with some folks who could tell us more about his development.
To make a long, very complicated story short, we ended up recently taking Torrin to a place in Indianapolis called Brain Balance, a pseudo-educational facility where Torrin’s behavior and learning patterns were analyzed. In speaking with the consultant, she informed us with quite a few things about how the brain works.
The Left side of your brain controls things like, logic, practicality, it’s your organizational side, your verbal side, it’s how you live and function in society. The Right side of your brain, meanwhile, that’s the more expressive side of your brain. That’s color, and taste, and art, and music and, for lack of a better way of putting it, it’s enjoyment and expression of life. 
What the folks at Brain Balance discovered was that Torrin has a hyper developed “right brain” and an under developed “left brain.” Now, some of you might be thinking that that sounds like non-sense, but trust me, as his father, listening to them in that consultation, it was like, someone was putting words to the things that I had been feeling about Torrin’s personality and behavior.
Because of these findings, I’ve been researching the human brain, and I’ve come to discover some very interesting things about both my son’s brain, as well as my own brain. 
Here are some things I’ve learned about the human brain, since beginning this research. Your brain is about the size of a head of cauliflower. It looks and feels like a three-and-a-half-pound lump of firm tofu. It comprises about two percent of your body's mass, but it uses twenty-five per percent of the body's energy. Scientists estimate that the brain receives 100 million bits of information per second and contains 100 billion cells, many of which are neurons.
These cells are shaped like tree branches. They vary in length from a millimeter all the way to a meter long. At one end of the cell exists the axon and the other end houses dendrites; think of them as twigs on the branch. Neurons communicate with each other by sending both chemical as well as electrical signals racing down said branch at speeds of around 200 MPH.
When the charge reaches the end of the cell, it leaps the synapse, kind of like Evel Knievel, jumping the space between the dendrite and the next twiggy branch. Each cell is surrounded by anywhere between ten to 100,000 dendrites creating the possibility of one million billion synaptic connections – that’s a 10 followed by a million zeros!

All of that, all housed, right up in here. That told me something very important about my son, and really about all of us. Simply put friends, as Psalm 139 says, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Come here more this Sunday, November 20th at Plum Creek Christian Church. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cell Phones and Celebrities

Ever hear the phrase, “You might be mad now, but you’ll laugh about this later”?
I’ve often talked about the time I spent at GameStop as a store manager before getting into ministry. I spent about 4 years there, and have since held an extremely part time position. When I left the New Castle store, I was transferred to the Circle Center Mall GameStop. 

It was only about a half an hour to the West, but brothers and sisters, please believe me when I tell you, it was a crazy culture shock. There was lots of traffic in that store, lots of local, downtown commuters, mall walkers, homeless folks who would come into the mall to keep warm, lots of convention business, especially during FFA week, or GenCon, but we also had quite a few celebrities come through the store.

Some of our local pro ball players were semi-regulars. Players such as Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers, or Dwight Freeney of the Indianapolis Colts, Tony Dungie once came in to buy batteries. And occasionally, musicians would come to do a concert at Lucas Oil or Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, and they’d come in while they were waiting for their concerts to start.

So, the first couple of times, I would get really excited, about the 5th or 6th time when an NBA star comes in, it’s pretty much business as usual. So I never really lost my cool, like the others around me might. I’ve seen Roy Hibbert sign an autograph or two, Tony Dungie pose with a fan for a picture. No big deal.

Until one day, it was a big deal. Some of you are going to think that I’m a total geek when I tell you this. One day, I’m in my office, I’m on a conference call, and my assistant manager comes in. He tells me that I’ll never believe this, but Miley Cyrus was in the store. He was right. I didn’t believe him. Local celebrity, sure. Even a player from a visiting team, probably. But an “A List” celebrity, I don’t think so. He said to me, “You know what, you can sit there and not believe me, or you can come see for yourself.”

So, I decided to investigate this. Sure enough, he was totally right! Hannah Montana was walking around my store, looking at our video games like a normal person! I got a little short of breath for this one. Jesci and I were Hannah fans. It seems a little silly to admit now, especially since Miley Cyrus has all but gone insane, but at the time, I was really excited.

I didn’t go out of my way to bother her, but I did snap a picture on the best flip phone that 2009 had to offer. Of all things, she bought Guitar Hero V, and then left the store. If you’re curious, yes, she happily signed some autographs for fans, but for the most part, it was pretty normal. She kept a low profile. But I didn’t want to out an out bother her, so a quick picture on my phone was enough for me.
Usually, when I’m not using it, I’ll keep my phone in my front shirt pocket so that I can listen to the music on it, or grab it quickly if I need to. At the end of the night, I had bent over to toss our daily deposit into the safe, as I did so, my phone slipped out of the pocket, just as I was slamming shut the cast iron door to the cast iron safe. I tried to grab the phone, which flipped open when I reached for it, and as it continued to fall, it fell into the path of the moving cast iron safe door.

When that cast iron door struck that plastic and metal phone, it severed it completely in half. Not only did my phone get destroyed, but with it went any proof of my meeting with Miley. From this point on, as my assistant manager says, folks can either choose to believe me, or choose not to.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is an example of something that was upsetting when it happened, but is something I can laugh about now. Some memories are certainly more pleasant the further I get from them.  In life, we all have our share of stories like this. Stories of bad things that turn out to be funny, or even good things later on. So it is with the church. 

Do you know people who were burned by the church? Has your church burned you? Sometimes, even church experiences are things that are upsetting when they happen, but they can turn out for good. What makes the difference? You!

Stay invested in your church. Keep with it. Don't allow yourself to be easily offended, easily put off, or even more interested in your own meal. What I mean by that is, I have heard many people leave churches because they say they "simply aren't being fed" the way they'd like to be. 

Church doesn't exist to feed you. In fact, it doesn't exist for YOU at all. Not entirely. Not in the way that, especially in the American church, we think it does. The church, as William Temple once said, is the only institution that exists for the benefit of non-members. We're not here to be fed, but to be nourished. Nourishment leads to activity. Simply being fed leads to obesity. 

Let's not allow our churches to easily offend us. Instead, let's be like Jesus. Let's approach the church with the same attitude he approached us with. Let's put aside our own desires and embrace the church with her faults, her flaws, and her need for Jesus to show her the way. Can we be Jesus even to the church? 

Jesus embraced the cross. I'm sure that was something that seemed unpleasant at the time, but when we, as Paul says, are absent from the body and therefore are at home with the Lord, and Jesus embraces us, I'll bet he thinks that experience at the cross, while unpleasant at the time, was worth it now. 

Let's be like Jesus, and let's stick with our churches. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Christian Civil War?

When I was a kid, I really looked forward to summer time. I don’t know about you, but for me, summer time was the best! We’d often head up to my Grandparent’s cottage in Central Michigan, where they lived on a small (but long) lake. Appropriately, it was called: “Long Lake.” We had several fun summers of building sand castles, skiing, fishing, water tubing, swimming, and just taking the boats out for leisurely ventures.
Perhaps my favorite memories were centered around Independence Day. Up at the lake, Independence Day didn’t constrain itself to the fourth of July, but really lasted all month long. After a long day of work and play, families would gather on their beachfront lawns and set off fireworks. Because this lake was not being very big, you could see many family’s different fireworks displays. As a small child, I remember “ooing” and “awing” at the various presentations, but as I got older, things… changed…
There began to arise a spirit of competition between families; who could do the biggest, bestest, baddest show on the Lake. I remember very well that it started simple enough. The North side of the lake (of which, we were a part) against the South side of the lake.
We would each take turns shooting off our fireworks. Our neighbors to the east were first, and then the folks across the lake from them. Then it would be our turn, and the folks across the lake from us, so on and so forth. And we’d cheer for the folks on our side, and we’d jeer for the folks across the water (though, if I can be honest with you, the house directly across from us had some really nice stuff!).
There was never an official “winner” declared. Just a bunch of people yelling in support for their favorite teams. Before much longer, eventually the warring sides dissolved, and the result was a very anarchistic “every man for himself” sort of battle. People would set off their fireworks, and instead of hearing “OOO!” “AAAAHHH!” You’d hear: “BOOO! “AWFUL!” When, in reality, every display was actually pretty fantastic!
Before long, people in the community began to realize the toxicity of the activity. So, everyone agreed that we’d go back to just enjoying each other’s displays. By about my senior year in High School, everyone had buried their hatchets, and re-joined in America’s real favorite pastime, watching fireworks while eating marshmallows on the beach.
Why do I tell that story? Sometimes, a little friendly competition can be fun. Even healthy. But there are times and situations where it causes way more harm than good. I’ve noticed that competition seems to be something we’ve really invested in as a culture lately.
Of course, there’s the upcoming election, and a wealth of sharply dividing opinions on the candidates and opinions there. It’s NBA playoff time, and everyone’s rooting for their favorite team to take out the others. And even in our movies, we’re putting beloved superheroes against one another. Batman vs Superman, Iron Man Vs Captain America, which has gotten my attention, when I feel like I should really be focusing my energy on Finding Dory.
I bring this up because I see competition working its way in our churches. And of all the things Jesus wanted us to be, competitors in a competition is not one of them. The Holy Spirit equips us for many things, but being combatants in an arena is not a part of his spiritual gifting.
People seem to be at war in churches across the country over issues like worship music, worship service elements, leadership politics, Biblical translations, right on down to how we dress and behave on Sunday mornings.
The trouble with this is that we’re tearing ourselves apart as opposed to building the kingdom up. We convince ourselves that we’re right, that this is how Jesus would really want things to be, but we bust ourselves apart from the inside. People on both sides of these issues need to remember that Jesus’ prayer was for us to be unified. To be one, even as he and the father are one (John 17:21).
This is, in part, why I’ve chosen to focus our attention as a church, as Plum Creek, on the book of Acts, and analyzing how a healthy church operates. Where everyone was devoted to the apostles teaching, to the breaking of bread and to prayer, and everyone had everything in common and gave to those in need (Acts 2:42-45). Where they were one in heart and mind, and didn’t consider anything to be their own, but shared with each other (Acts 4:32). God blesses this sort of behavior, and the church grew exponentially as a result (Acts 2:47). 
What we need to remember is that no matter how much we may prefer something to be one way, or that something not be another, we need to remember that Jesus’ desires for his church trump ours. And his primary desire is that we be one. If we can’t find a way to settle our differences, then we should expect things to get more chaotic rather than less. We need to remember that Paul gave us that Spiritual Armor in Ephesians 6 to combat the world, not each other.

We need to step together, and we need to keep in step with him. Let’s seek his will for the church, and not our own. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Plum Creek Poems

During the month of March, Rush County was "Seussed Up". From the Rush County Players and the High School both doing the musical Seussical, to the Rush County Schools going all out for NEA's Read Across America day, it's been difficult to go anywhere in Rush County and not be reminded of Dr. Seuss, and our favorite stories that he's written.

I used this to help illustrate several points throughout our sermon series in March. And now, by popular demand, here are the poems I created for those sermons:

From the sermon: Do You Believe You Are A Part of God's Plan? 3/13/16
There is great power, great power indeed,
For one individual taught millions to read.
Perhaps you don’t think so, you might disagree,
But that is the truth as it seems to me.
I’ll tell you a secret, I’ll let this truth loose,
One man who helped millions to read was named Seuss.
You may not think much of his fine contribution
But I’m am most grateful of the distribution
Of reading, and rhyming, and talents galore
He shared these with us, these things and much more!
So the next time you think that you don’t have great merit,
Remember you’re capable! Find your talent and share it!
He was just one man, one small individual,
Yet what he accomplished was quite indispensable!
What can you do, you may sit back and wonder?
You can make your voice heard quite louder than thunder!
There’s a spirit in you, an image was granted
By the Lord up above, and in you he planted
A purpose, a reason, a plan to exist!
And so, friends, this purpose just cannot be missed!
You can do such wondrous things, after all,
A person’s a person no matter how small!
unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot, 
Nothing is going to get better, it’s not. 
And that is the point of my message today. 
I hope that you’ve heard what I have to say. 
The Lord God has given great purpose to you,
So seek out your gifts, and then follow through
With the mission, the goal, the purpose he gave
Because our Lord Jesus died to save
All the earth from their sins, their malice, and practicing
So we must rise up, and stop just relaxing
We all have a part to play, after all, 
A person’s a person, no matter how small. 
So offer yourself, a living sacrifice
To do so would be so much more than nice
But really the doing of a command
We were saved by his grace and led by his hand 
Into service, conforming not to the world,
But acting like he, who by speaking unfurled 
A planet, and creations, and then he expanded
A family of people, yes, that’s how he planned it!
So renew your mind, and give him your trust,
You must understand that your trust is a must.
If we don’t trust, his plan for redemption's a bust
We act, or wait to turn back into dust. 
But we have a purpose, and he has a plan
This plan includes, you, you, you, every man!
I humbly beseech you, I hope that you’ll hear me. 
He told me to tell you and tell you quite clearly
That you are so much more than you think that you are
He died just for you, so you wouldn’t be far. 
His plan includes you, so listen and hear it!
Otherwise would he fill you with his Holy Spirit?
Submit, and be part of his plan, after all, 
A person’s a person, no matter how small. 

From the sermon: Do You Believe God's Plan Requires Action 3/20/16
*for the reader, for this sermon, and the one before it we used the book Horton Hears a Who! to illustrate our points. I referred often to the clover full of "whos" that Horton carried with him, and carried a clover in my hand throughout the sermon. 

So as we wrap up our sermon and head toward for the door, 
We’re going to do something different than we’ve ever done before. 
Today is Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, 
We have a tradition for which we are eager. 
We hand out palm branches and wave them, then shout
“Hosanna” blessed is he, and then we go out. 
We go out to restaurants, or go to our homes
Perhaps we take naps, or drink root beer with foam.
And then those palm branches, they tatter and tear
We might as well not even have them, they wear. 
Eventually we toss them, we throw them away. 
And lately, I’ve thought, “that’s just not ok.”
I’ve got a new idea! I’ve been thinking it over. 
I’d rather not hand you all branches, but clovers. 
And clover, by clover, by clover with care, 
I want you to take one, and constantly stare
At the clover we gave you, and then be encouraged
To remember your value, your worth, and your purpose. 
God didn’t just send his son only for you, 
He sent him for everyone else on earth too. 
So like our friend Horton, who had once heard a who, 
You and I have a very great job we must do. 
We care for our world, our sisters, our brothers,
We care for our fathers, mothers, and others
Who Jesus redeemed, his life laying down
We will spread the message of his word throughout town!
Through all of the world, we will be reminded
By the clover we keep where both eyes will find it. 
We must find his people; they don’t hide too far. 
Most folks who are hurting hide right where we are. 
They silently sit and they sink into a crowd
Yes, they are already here, and they aren’t too loud. 
Yet others are out there, we can’t be deserting
The millions of folks in the world who are hurting. 
To fulfill this mission, we must be at our best!
Which means we need lots of good spiritual rest.
That doesn’t mean doing nothing but heal
But by actively serving, we’re renewing our zeal. 
Live at peace with the world, peace and not malice. 
For one day we’ll all have a room in his palace. 
Speaking of palaces, Jesus our king
Is a master most worthy of the praises we sing!
He deserves our devotion, and all our hosannas!
And if all my rhyming just drives you bananas, 
Then please forgive my great passion for it
My message is to the church: I implore it
To protect the world that Christ died to save
And rely on the power of the Spirit he gave.
Your efforts will lead you to uncertain places
Across town, across seas, across mountains and spaces. 
Remember he leads you, hold out for his hand,
His Spirit’s inside you, as you travel the land
Reach out to the hurting, the dying, the lost,
And never forget that Christ paid the cost!
We must help to restore the land that he built 
Let’s bear witness to Jesus so that this world will tilt
Back in the direction of he who created it
And not in the ways of Satan who hated it. 
Be reminded of this mission as you look at your clover, 
and if you’re not certain, that’s fine, think it over. 
Follow the lead he has placed in your heart, 
because he has a great plan and we each play a part, 
from the smallest of small, to the tallest of tall,
God has a purpose for each, one and all! 
So embrace that purpose and respond to his call, 
he loves each single person, we don’t have to fall, 
as his followers, we have a duty to all! 
He died for each person, because, after all, 
a person’s a person, no matter how small. 

From the sermon: Do You Believe that God's Plan is Worth Your Sacrifice? 3/27/16 (Easter)

Far, far away in the Heavens where the lord God resided,
He looked down at the earth over which he presided. 
He saw his animals, fish, and birds all at play,
The deer were quite energetic that day. 
He looked at his plants after spying his creatures. 
They all looked amazing with their colorful features. 
The earth was quite strong, the waters were still,
But then something struck him that made him feel ill. 
Man was the next creature upon which he gazed,
And he had grown evil, corrupted God’s ways. 
God watched them in sadness and uttered “oh, dear,
Something has happened, things aren’t quite right here.”
The men were rebelling growing worse by the minute. 
Then they cursed God, who said “Okay, that did it!
I hoped not to do this, but I have a plan. 
A plan that will wipe the earth of each man.
The sky starting raining, it started to pour. 
The strange thing was, that’d never happened before. 
The rain kept on piling, it became quite a flood. 
God said “I’ll make a new Earth, for this one’s a dud.”
Mankind was wiped out, the earth’s future was dark, 
But thankfully God saved a family through the work of an ark. 
Thanks then, to Noah, and all of his kin,
The whole world would soon be populated again. 
There still was a problem, a sad little matter,
God’s perfect world was now clean, but still shattered. 
“Flood waters won’t do it,” God sadly confessed.
“To save them, I’ll have to give up of my best.” 
“Jesus, my son, come here if you please.”
“Yes, father,” he answered, “What is it you need?”
“Remember the plan that you and I hatched
When we formed all the planets and space out of scratch?”
“Oh that one,” said Jesus. “I remember it, now.
Though I hoped we might be able to avoid that somehow.”
“I understand,” said the Father replying,
“But the only way to save them is dying.
My plan is to send you to live among men. 
Show them how to be holy and to act right again.
Correct the mistakes that their actions are making
And as you live differently you’ll find them awaking 
To the truth of your status as my only dear son
Your life will be proof that I love everyone.
I’m sorry to do this, much more than you know. 
But if we are to save them, this has to be so. 
For the reality is, I so love the earth,
That as much as it pains me, I think they are worth
Your sacrifice, the great plan that we planned 
Will soon be unleashed to save every man.”
“I understand father,” the Son said in reply.
“The only true way I can save them is I 
Must be very willing to give them my life
To free them from sin, from evil, from strife. 
And, Father, I’ll do it, for I love them too. 
After all, I once created them with you. 
I’ll go to the earth, I’ll show them true love. 
I’ll reconnect them with you, here above. 
They’ll be reminded of goodness, reminded of joy,
I’ll reveal that you would not send your little boy
Unless you loved them, as truly you do. 
My father, I will, I will do this for you. 
I’ll do it for them, for I love them so much. 
And thanks to my sacrifice, they’ll be able to touch
The shores here in Heaven, by the fine crystal sea
I’ll build them a house, with a room next to me!
They’ll join us in this land where they’ll never grow old
And they’ll walk down the streets which are paved with pure gold. 
So father, I’m ready, I’ll go as you say
And I’ll bring them all back to be with me someday. 
I think they are worth it, I will sacrifice 
My life just for them, my blood paying the price
Of the very large, very great debt they’ve incurred.
“But then,” said the father, “After you have endured
The wrath of my anger on their behalf, 
I promise that won’t be the end of your path. 
Your suffering will last only just a short while
And then you’ll be back, there will be no more trial. 
You’ll be raised on the third day, alive and you’ll stand!
Then you’ll come, sit and join me, here at my right hand. 
For by doing this, son, you’ll redeem all our people. 
They’ll worship you always in churches with steeples. 
The ones who call on your name will not fall
We’ll send them our spirit, and then they will call
All folks to repent, to come and join our kingdom. 
Those who trust you will shout your praises and sing them
And the day will soon come when we’ll go back to Earth
And we’ll bring them all home, and it shall be the birth
Of a new era, a world where sin is destroyed!
And evil is gone, every girl every boy 
Will live with such peace, understanding and joy. 
Just like we imagined, yes just like we planned. 
Jesus, your blood will save every man.”

His Servant and Yours,

Monday, February 29, 2016

What Do You Believe?

Saturday evening, Jesci and I had the privilege of having dinner with Russ and Nadine Jarvis. Russ was the pastor of the church that I grew up attending, he was the father of some of my best friends, and today continues to be a strong friend and mentor. That night after dinner (Nadine's pizza, another thing I grew up loving), we discussed various trends in ministry and churches, and in people of faith themselves.

Russ remarked that he had observed that in a world where people try their best to customize and define every category of their lives (political affiliations, gender identity, sexual identity, race, culture, heritage), the church stands somewhat in opposition, asking people not to define themselves by their own selves, but to adopt Christ - to be called by his name (Acts 11), to put on Christ as a garment (Galatians 3:27) and to submit to him as the only way to salvation (John 14:6).

It seems that Christ walks up to the worldly thinker and draws a line in the sand.

I didn't disagree with Russ. But I added that I have observed that those passages (such as the ones listed above) that point out the exclusivity of Christ, and promote self-denial over self-satisfaction, and promote that idea that, as John the Baptist put it, "I must decrease, and he (Christ) must increase" (John 3:30) actually seem to be met, when I preach about them, with more enthusiasm than disdain.

It makes me wonder if people in our culture aren't getting tired of this post-modern worldview of customizable values, and are instead, beginning to become more interested in something established, familiar, and secure. Perhaps I'm way off, but it seems to me the more I preach on these subjects, the "Amens" seem to get louder and louder.

So far this year, we've baptized 4 people (not bad for a church of 140) and have more people that seem to be interested in furthering on their Christian education through discipleship, leadership training, and service. I think perhaps this indicates that tastes are starting to change.

When I was in High School, my mother fed me. And she fed me well. She gave me healthy meals, and made sure that I was getting the nutrients and vitamins I needed. When I moved to college, and I was no longer under her direct care, it was my decision what to eat, how often to eat, and when (if ever) to stop eating. I gained nearly 100 lbs, and have struggled to get the weight off since.

I've become increasingly burdened with the onslaught of fast food, limitless sweets, and soda over water. I've decided that it was time to make a change in my diet, a change in my lifestyle habits, and a change in my routine. I have come to feel the counterfeit offerings of a poorly balanced diet in a real way, and I'm working to change that.

I believe that people in our culture are beginning to wake up to this. Like a person that can't control their portion intake, so many people have thrown out good advice, sound teachings, and clear morals for whatever their burning hearts desire. They've drowned out the truth of reason with the lie of counterfeit values, modified standards, and "do-it-yourself" ethics. The result of which has been chaos, and much like the way my body responded to my diet, our culture is out of shape.

But I'm beginning to see trends and signs that people are ready to start listening to reason again. Rather than choosing their own morals and standards, they're ready, and their hungry to hear from God's word. Not everyone for sure, but people are starting to wake up. I don't have any statistics to share, only the assertion that the "amens" are stronger, the feedback is positive, and the people who provide both are beginning to move toward maturity and discovering that, as the author of life, God has some pretty great plans about how to live it out.

Starting this month at Plum Creek, we'll be beginning a sermon series called "Do You Believe," based on the movie of the same title. Our four topics for the month are:
3/6 Do You Believe God has a Plan?
3/13 Do You Believe You Are a Part of God's Plan?
3/20 Do You Believe That Faith Requires Action?
3/27 Do You Believe Jesus is Worth Your Sacrifice?

As we head into the Easter month, I'm very excited to explore these questions and more as move closer to that line in the sand that Jesus has drawn. Do you believe it's a line worth crossing? I do. I hope you'll join us this month at Plum Creek Christian Church and hear why.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New Beginnings

Well, obviously my New Year's resolution wasn't to blog everyday, which is good, because I'd be 26 days behind.

But, so far, I'll say that 2016 has been a fine year for us. Jesci is officially cancer free, I am serving Plum Creek as the Lead Pastor, my son Tristan will be a toddler in a few days, Torrin will start 1st grade (In the fall, of course) and my family is looking to buy our first home. Look out, 2016, the Korff's are coming!

If you are reading this, and you're a member of our church (Plum Creek), let me tell you what you can look forward to. We'll be talking about discipleship, and setting up a clear model for how it works at Plum Creek. We'll also be talking Servant Leadership, Financial Stewardship, and of course, Jesus' Resurrection at Easter time in the first quarter. It's gonna be a great year for Plum Creek.

If you are reading this and you're a family member and or friend, I'll be posting stuff about how the family is doing, how the boys are growing, and how Jesci's progressing. She looks great, has all of her coloring back, and most of her energy. Hopefully, we'll also soon be posting pictures of a new home.

If you are reading and you're a fellow movie buff, I'll be talking about all of the nerdy films I'm looking forward to in 2016, such as Star Wars: Rogue One, the new TMNT movie (Bebop and Rocksteady!) Batman V Superman, and Captain America Civil War.

I'm looking forward to all of what 2016 is going to offer, challenges, opportunities and more. I'm hoping for a good, fun, safe and productive year!