Why I’m Not Looking Forward to Annual Conference

Next week, members of the Kentucky Annual Conference will gather in Covington at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center for Annual Conference. The three-day event is typically a “family reunion,” where friends gather to reconnect, worship, and discern where God is leading our movement in the coming year.

I’m usually excited for this annual gathering. This year, however, I dread going to annual conference.

It has nothing to do with fighting Northern Kentucky traffic. It has nothing to do with my annual search for an affordable meal option. It even has nothing to do with the long lines for coffee during breaks.

It has everything to do with the current state of our denomination. We are in a state of infighting, which is not healthy for the long-term mission and vitality of the church. Continue reading

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Sunday Sermon: David and Bathsheba

As we pick up the story of David, today, we find David seemingly on top of the world. It seems like he has it all.

David, as we saw last week, is king of all Israel and has ended the civil war between Israel and Judah. His military secured the borders of this united nation through victories against the likes of the Ammonites and Philistines. Furthermore, God gave David a promise that his kingdom would never end. A promise that would be the forerunner for the hope of a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would come from David’s lineage.

While so much was going right for David, things were starting to bubble up that showed that not all was going well for him. This mostly came when David began to focus more on his own needs than the needs of the people. David wanted to build a temple for God, even though the Lord never asked for one. He sends his military into battle, but stays home contrary to the practices of the rulers of that time. David was becoming more relaxed and acted as if nothing would or could stop him and his kingdom. Continue reading

The Foolishness of the Cross

For many of you, this is the first time you will hear me say a few words about faith. Allow me to tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up in West Virginia. I spent the first 23 years of my life in the Mountain State, learning everything from the proper way of eating a hot dog – that would be with mustard, ketchup, coleslaw, chili, and onions – to how to look away from a West Virginia basketball game that doesn’t seem to go your way.

One of the most lasting impressions West Virginia and its culture gave me was a strong work ethic. You worked hard at what you did. There was a strong emphasis placed on proving yourself, showing your worth, and getting the most out of life. You were taught to earn everything you have in life.

Even though this is an ethic I learned in West Virginia, I do not think it is too far from the norm for many of us. We value hard work. We want to earn what we have and prove our worth to people. This is true whether it is in our jobs, our families, or in any other situation that comes before us. We want people to know us by what we do, by what we know, or by what we’ve accomplished. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: Why Have You Abandoned Me?

There is no need to beat around the bush. This is a difficult passage of Scripture to engage.

A lot of aspects to this passage make it difficult for us to interact with. We have the uncomfortable aspect of hearing Jesus cry out in pain from the cross. There is the word “abandoned” or “forsaken” that leaves us wondering about the emotional and spiritual pain that Jesus felt in those moments. We hear these words and we want to move past them quickly, act like they were never said, and go to another passage.

We cannot hide from difficult passages of Scripture. In the examining the harder passages we find elements of truth that speak to us in the difficult moments of our lives. The good thing is that, today, we will walk through this difficult and challenging passage from Matthew 27:45-46 together. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon – Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise

At our property along U.S. 127, you see a common adaptation of what took place on the Golgatha hillside. Nestled among the hills and overlooking the passing cars are three crosses that serve as a symbol of an event that changed the world.

For on that hillside sits the same number of crosses Scripture tell us were there at Golgatha on the afternoon of Jesus’ death. One for Jesus and one each for the two criminals who were crucified with him. We give a lot of attention, and rightly so, to the one in the middle – Jesus – who died unjustly and committed no act that was worthy of this kind of brutality. Yet, the two criminals play an important role in helping us to understand what took place that day.

To set the scene for us, Jesus and the two criminals have already been placed on the cross. There were two ways someone was affixed to the cross. They were either tied to the cross or were nailed to it. John tells us that Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus is facing the deep and unthinkable pain that goes along with the crucifixion. At the same time, he is experiencing the public humiliation that went along with this kind of punishment and torture. Jesus was mocked by the religious leaders who insisted that he put on a show and save himself. The soldiers joined in by gambling for Jesus’ personal items, which was a customary act for a crucifixion. Continue reading

Sunday Sermon: The Last Words of Jesus – Father, Forgive Them

This morning, and for the next five weeks, we are going to be at the cross on Golgatha’s hillside. We are going to immerse ourselves in a moment that has changed the world and continues to change it today. We are going to experience Jesus’ final moments before his death.

The way we are going to do it is by looking at the seven phrases that were said by Jesus in the hours that he was on the cross. Each of these phrases are powerful and express what was on Jesus’ heart and soul in those final moments. They are also words that would have been extremely difficult for Jesus to say. Continue reading

Preparing for Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas movies, if not one of my favorite movies of all time, is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It is my “must watch at least five times” movie during the Christmas season.

The movie follows Clark W. Griswold on his mission to have the perfect Christmas family gathering. He invites his entire family to his Chicago home, from in-laws to distant cousins, for a festive celebration. Of course, along the way Clark runs into a lot of hilarious obstacles.

I think that is why I love the movie so much. I can relate to Clark. For one, I’m a little bit of a klutz and can be a bit accident-prone. When Clark staples his shirt to the roof, I empathize with him, knowing that it is something I would likely do. I can also relate to Clark because I love to plan things and want every holiday gathering to be perfect. I spend all my time in the weeks leading up to a holiday thinking about what we will eat, what we will do, or what route we will take to get to our families. I plan for everything so that we will have the perfect celebration and have a hard time when something goes wrong, such as an unexpected traffic delay on the way home from a family gathering. Continue reading