Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Shadows, Generosity and Sex

In the past couple of weeks I have finished three more books that I want to lift up to you.

The first is a novel that I read for fun. It is Robert W. Walker’s Shadows In The White City. I loved Devil in the White City (by Erik Larson), so the title fascinated me. It is a well written story of Chicago and the issue of homelessness during the year 1893 (a problem that has yet to be solved). If you like mysteries and historical fiction then this is a good book for you. I will tell you that I was a little disappointed with the ending. This is obviously going to be a series.

A couple weeks ago I read Kirk Nowery’s REVOLUTIONARY GENEROSITY. It was sent to me by INJOY Stewardship Services. Kirk is the president of INJOY. I have not seen this book available commercially yet. Parts of it were excellent — other parts drove me absolutely crazy. In terms of books on stewardship I would give this a 7 or 8. I just ignored the stuff that I totally disagreed with and focused on the rest, which was very good.

I mentioned earlier that I loved Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis. I just finished his newest Sex God, and I was very disappointed. I have great respect for Rob Bell and his ministry at Mars Hill (although many times I am fairly convinced that he has just repackaged fundamental Christianity in sheeps clothing that is palatable to many people). Sex God wandered all over the place. His chapter on marriage, however, was outstanding. I listen to Rob’s "sermons" from his podcast every week and you have to get used to his style which is very evident in the book. Overall, I don’t think I would recommend you run out and get this book.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Living the Faith

Interesting experience finding myself the target of a group of women who are trying to prevent others who don’t understand, refuse to understand or just plain disagree with the RC church from sharing their opinion. I posted about the suicide and the disconnect that seemed evident in the lives of the family. My whole point was not about whether the RC should have done the service, but that the family clung to a set of values that they did not really believe — or at least did not live.

Thanks to the person who wrote me to tell me how I became the target. I tried to reply but my e-mail was kicked back.

That to me is the paradox. Why we claim allegiance to something, yet have no practical application. I would have asked the same question whether he was clutching a rosary or a KJV Bible. Neither were a part of his life.

The question that I ask is WHY? Why the allegiance to the RC, UMC, Baptist or whatever faith tradition, if we do not live it? The hypocrisy of clinging to a false faith suggests that we all (whatever tradition we are in) have failed this family.

I am willing to minister to these families in need (Even when others won’t, refuse to, cannot — that is not the issue) because I want to try to bridge the gap that exists in the survivors lives. Religion is meant to be lived, not a magic ticket to heaven or anywhere else.

Staff Retreat

May 15 - 17, the Ridge Church program staff went on a retreat to Chesterton, Indiana. We have been doing this every year for the last five or six years. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to get away from phones, and the "daily stuff" of life and spend quality time together. Our goals are always simple. 1) Do planning for the next year. 2) Grow together as a staff. I think that we accomplished both.

We have heard your concerns! When we did our dinners for the Reaching Out To The Future campaign, we heard over and over again that we don’t know everybody. Unfortunately, we are too large to all worship together in either our sanctuary or fellowship hall (good problem – I know!), and even if we could all squeeze in, our parking lot is too small for all of us. So how do we offer opportunities for the people at11:00 met the people of 8:30 or the people of 9:45 meet the people of 11:00?

We are in the incubation stage of a number of really neat ministry opportunities that will try to bring us together. The most exciting is the creation of WWE @ Ridge UMC. This is a Wednesday night program that will minister to the entire ridge family. The evening will include dinner, children’s program and choir, middle school and youth BS (Bible Study) and adult Bible Studies. As you can imagine, the logistics of putting this together are huge. Over the next couple of months, we will be working hard to get them all worked out.

If you are interested, let the office know, and we will get you on the leadership team!
One of the other big planning objectives was to get the worship schedule put together. We are planning the following upcoming worship series:

Summer The Parables of Jesus (This will coincide with the children’s Sunday school material.) At 9:45 the children will stay in worship until a children’s message, and then they will be dismissed to their classes.
Fall August 26th will be Ridge Fest, a celebration of the ministries of Ridge Church. Jeff and I will begin a series we are calling: Being A Good Neighbor. We will look at Christianity in relationship to the other religious traditions that are a part of our community (Jewish, Hindu, Islam). We believe that this may be the most important sermons we have ever worked on.
Oct. Stewardship of all Creation
Nov. Waiting. How do we wait for God?
Dec. The Places of Christmas
Jan. What Good is the Church
Lent Why?

As you can see, we got a lot accomplished — but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Next article, I will share with you some of the exciting study opportunities that are being put together. Exciting things are happening at Ridge Church — Let’s continue to Reach Out To The Future!

Friday, May 18, 2007


Interesting replies to my earlier post. Obviously a group out to save RC from the horrible protestants. My information on salvation came from my local priest who clearly informed me that outside the "church" there is NO salvation. Maybe he is wrong (of which I am certain), but he sure thought he was right!

He also refused to allow a non-catholic to participate in a funeral mass, because non-catholics were not allowed --- again quoting him "according to the bishop." Maybe it is different where you all are from, but unfortunately, Vatican II has not come to North-West Indiana.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Disconnected From God

I had a very strange experience this week, that I hope someone can help me to better understand. As a rule, whenever the funeral home calls needing somebody to preside over a funeral, if I am available, I say YES. I do that because I feel it is better for me to preach grace in the time of loss for a family, rather than have someone else preach how the loved one is gone forever --- forced to spend eternity separated from God. (In other words, in Hell.) I don’t think any family needs to hear that at any time!

This week I conducted a funeral for a young man who committed suicide. And to add to the family’s misery, he had never been baptized. The family was Roman Catholic, but of course the Catholic Church would not do the service, since this young man was cursed to go to Hell. This is where I came in. Why this was so strange, and the part I don’t understand is while the Roman Catholic church turned their back on them, and said that the young man was going to hell, the family still put a rosary in his had, and repeatedly genuflect over the coffin.

Somebody help me here! If the “church” said I was going to hell, why would I still honor the church in the service? Are those rituals that are jammed down our throats as children so ingrained that we cannot even recognize the hypocrisy in them?

Out faith must make sense, we should not have to check our brains in our relationship with God, otherwise, at some point we will realize the disconnect, and that is exactly what we will do with God.