Sunday, May 31, 2009


Our new summer sermon series begins on June 7th, and we’re going to spend several weeks focusing on some of the great hymns of faith. I’ve already been challenged greatly as I’ve been preparing the first few messages.

Few things are more controversial in our churches than our music. It seems that everyone has an opinion about what type of music should be performed in a worship service, and we are all eager to share those opinions. In recent years, the controversy has been between those who like the old hymns (preferably straight from a hymnal) and praise music or choruses (generally displayed on a screen or a wall).

I grew up on hymns. Truth be known, I grew weary of them. Too often they were sung like funeral dirges—slow and joyless. We seemed to open every service with Victory in Jesus and close with Just As I Am. I wasn’t disappointed when we started attending a church where hymns were sung infrequently, and when they were sung, it was a much more positive and upbeat experience.

But as time has worn on, I miss some of these great old hymns. While I do enjoy much of the newer praise music that we sing, my heart begins to race when we sing some of those familiar hymns. And with the way that Dennis leads our hearts in worship, these hymns take on a freshness that leads us closer to God’s throne of grace.

One of the things that has long intrigued me about the old hymns is the stories behind them. It seems that so many of those songs were born from difficult circumstances, tragedies or adversities that drove the hymn writers to a deeper place. We’re going to touch on some of these stories as we go through the series.

And there is some strong theology that underlies these hymns. It was not enough for these songs to have catchy tunes or pithy phrases—there is real doctrinal meat on the bones of these ancient songs. Though they may have been written centuries ago, there is a relevance that makes their meaning timeless.

This sermon series is certainly not an attempt to suggest that hymns are better than modern music. But it is an attempt to learn more about these songs and their relationship to the faith of our fathers. It is a way for us to keep the fires of the faith burning strongly for us and for future generations.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Remember Memorial Day

"What are you doing on Memorial Day weekend?"

I suppose I've been asked that question a dozen times over the past several days. Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer, though the calendar says we're still three weeks away from the Summer Equinox (not to be confused with the Chevy Equinox, which seats 8). Pools open. School's out. And Memorial Day is the first of three extra days off between now and the end of August (Independence Day & Labor Day being the other two). So I can see why folks get excited about it.

At the same time, I fear we've lost a sense of what the Holiday is all about. I remember my parents and other older folks who actually referred to it as "Decoration Day"--it was the day to take flowers to the gravesites of loved ones and "decorate" the graves. It was always a big deal to make the trip to TG&Y to pick up the wreaths to lay on the graves of my grandparents and brother. We added my dad's grave to the list in 1976.

And although the tradition for many families was to decorate the gravesites of all family members, the original intent of the day was to memorialize (hence "Memorial" Day) those who had given their lives in service to our nation. It officially became known as Memorial Day in 1967, and in 1968 Congress declared the observance of this day would be on the last Monday of the month of May in order to create a convenient three day weekend.

I wonder how many of our young people even know the reason for Memorial Day. I stopped visiting the cemetery on Memorial Day years ago. Kim, Kacie & I have never done anything special as a family to observe the day. And I don't think it's only us. But in the process, we lose not only some of our history, but some of our character as a nation.

In the midst of writing this, Kacie & I just had a quick conversation about Memorial Day. She had a vague idea of its meaning, but I gave her a more complete recounting of its history. She may not remember it tomorrow. But she can't say she never heard it before.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the day off. I like the grilling and the time with family and friends. I don't think it has to be a somber day void of fun or frivolity. But let's not forget the reason our nation has set aside this day, and let us keep uppermost in our memories those whose sacrifices make the ballgames, picnics and lake outings possible.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Elder Board not Bored

I'm preparing for our monthly Elder Board meeting tonight. Although it's a relatively light agenda, there are several issues we're dealing with that hold promise of bringing some excitement to the table.

We're going to get a report from two of our men who are senior law enforcement officials who attended a seminar on church security last week. It hasn't been that long ago that we wouldn't even think about such things, but those days are past. My guess is that this issue will take up more of our time in coming months as we try to respond appropriately to potential problems. I appreciate that our Board is so proactive in their thinking.

We have initiated the first steps in the budgeting process for the new ministry year. This would be a lot more fun if we had tons of money to deal with, but this year we're going to have to look long and hard at how ministry money is being spent. Last year we were pretty conservative in our budget estimates, and so far, we're holding our own. A lot of churches are down 20% or more in giving, but our people are quite faithful in spite of the big hits that many families have taken. God is so good. But we know that we need to be careful stewards of these resources.

We are also in the beginning stages of the master plan process for the church property. The Master Plan Vision Team met with the architect last week, and tonight the Board will consider how far to go in the planning process at this time. The cost estimates for construction are sobering, but it will be exciting to see how God accomplishes all of this in His church.

Tonight we will also consider how to proceed in the selection of a new Elder. Several nominations were made by the congregation, and although a few men have removed themselves from consideration, we have a couple of excellent candidates. Our Board has operated so well for the past 2 1/2 years, and adding new Elders is among the most important decisions we make. I know God will lead us if we will be sensitive to His guidance.

There are a few other odds and ends on the agenda, but these are the major issues we're dealing with tonight. We're blessed to have men who are willing to take a night out of their schedule every month to come deal with these matters. And as we grow and mature as a Body of believers, there will continue to be new and exciting issues that keep the Board from getting bored.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blog, Shmog

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. My last blog was 17 days ago.

I feared this would happen. I reached a point where I just didn't have anything to blog about. Now, I 'm sure a few of you will say, Well, that hasn't stopped you in the past! But really, I just couldn't think of anything to write.

Even now, I continue to experience writer's block. But I feel guilty for not having blogged for 2 weeks, so I decided to blog about not blogging.

I have to admit that sometimes the same thing happens to me when preparing sermons. That's one of the reasons I like to preach in "series"--it gives me a road map for future messages. It's also why I enjoy preaching through Books of the Bible. I don't have to wonder what passage I'll touch upon next--I just do the next section of the Book we're going through.

Over the next few weeks, I'll begin a new series of sermons based on some of the old hymns. I've often toyed with the idea of preaching on these old songs which are so rich in theology but rooted in practicality. But I've never tried it before. So I've outlined a tentative preaching schedule that will take us through the summer.

Then, unless the Lord changes my mind in the meantime, this fall we're going to go through the life of Joseph of the Old Testament. Again, I've long wanted to do an in-depth study of his life, so I'm really looking forward to getting into that series.

Which all goes to say that I have a lot more ideas for sermons than for blogs. But at least I've bought myself another few weeks with this one.