Christmas at the Training Station

Today was the last day of school before Christmas break for some of the kids at the Training Station. It was so cute seeing all these kids so excited about Christmas, partying with their classes and exchanges gifts and cards.

As she was leaving, one little two-year-old girl kept saying very slowly, carefully, and clearly: “Merry Christmas, Pastor Nathan!  Merry Christmas, Pastor Nathan!”  I could tell she was trying really hard to get it right, and she did!

There are some two-year-old twin girls who gave me cookies.  There were two containers–one from each twin–and one of the girls was holding both of them.  Her mom told her to hand the cookies to me.  The little girl handed me one of the containers and clutched tightly to the other one as she said: “Good cookies!  This one for you, this one for me.”

Several of the parents gave me cards with pictures of their kids and some really nice notes, and even some gifts.  It’s amazing how thoughtful and generous people can be!  These families totally caught me off guard–the writing space on my desk is covered with goodies.

One of the classes is doing their Christmas pageant tomorrow.  Today was their dress rehearsal, and it was so funny!  I snuck in the digital voice recorder that we use at CrossWay to record our messages, and I made a bootleg recording of the rehearsal.  It came out pretty well!  When I get some time I’m going to try to set some of their songs to techno music.

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Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 12:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Outback Elders

Last night we had an elders meeting at Outback.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!  That’s how elders meetings should be.  Forget this sitting around a table at church stuff, talking about the leaky toilet and the need for a new mulch job.  Bring on the grilled chicken with swiss and bacon sandwich!

In all seriousness, that really is how elders meetings should be.  Good food and a festive atmosphere is important for church gatherings.  Look it up–it’s in the Bible!

In addition to some excellent food, we also had some great discussion about church stuff and personal stuff.  Josh & LJ are both passionate about God’s calling on CrossWay, and I love sitting around with them talking about ministry and leadership.  I would love to be able to hire these guys full-time some day, so we could spend a lot more time talking, planning, praying, and serving.

And eating at Outback.

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 6:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Beautiful Soup

Linda, my mother-in-law, made the best soup ever for Carolyn and me last night.  It was so good that the leftovers I had for lunch today were even better than it was last night!  I’ve never had that happen before.  She is such a good cook that every time I eat her cooking it inspires me to poetry.  But usually I refrain because Carolyn thinks it’s really weird to be so moved by food.

That’s why Ratatouille was such a great movie.  The main rat understood that totally delicious food can be a catalyst for a deeper experience.  Just as our other senses can invoke a profound appreciation for the beauty of creation–such as when we behold the breathtaking view from the top of a mountain or let ourselves be carried along by a Beethoven symphony–so it can be with our sense of taste if we’ll open ourselves to the mysterious proclivities of scrumptious delicacies to stir us deep within our souls.

Yeah, it was some good soup.

Published in: on December 18, 2007 at 1:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Epipotheo

Yesterday I learned a cool new Greek word: epipotheo.  I came across it while I was studying Philippians 1:8.  In the Bible, the sixteenth chapter of Acts tells the story of how Paul the church planter started a new church in the ancient European city of Philippi.  After some pretty wild experiences there, he moved on.  But he and the new Philippian Christians went through so much together in such a short time that they built some really close bonds with each other.  That intimacy remained strong over the years, and considering they didn’t even have email back then, they did an amazing job of keeping in touch.  Apparently the Philippian church subscribed to Paul’s monthly missionary newsletter or something, because they always seemed to know where he was and what was going on with him, and they always knew where to mail a hefty check to help support him whenever he was in trouble.

Anyway, about 11 years after planting the church in Philippi, Paul wrote them a heartfelt letter expressing his gratitude to God for them.  His letter is preserved in the Bible as the Book of Philippians.  Toward the beginning of the letter, in Philippians 1:8, he writes: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

As I was studying this verse yesterday, I found that the Greek word translated “long for” is epipotheo.  It’s not a complex word.  It simply means to crave, desire, yearn for, long for.  It’s when you want something or someone so desperately it hurts.  You can feel it through your whole being.  Paul writes to the church in Philippi that he desperately desires to be with them.  He misses them so much he can physically feel it in his gut.

And then comes the coolest part: he says he epipotheos them “with the affection of Christ Jesus.”  Think about the connection here.  His affection for the Philippians was so strong that he craved to be with them.  They filled his thoughts.  He calls this kind of affection “the affection of Christ Jesus.”

In other words, this is how Jesus feels about us!  Anyone who ever went to church as a little kid learned to sing “Jesus Loves Me,” so it’s not a new idea, but there’s a difference between knowing something and actually realizing it–as in, “Hey, this is actually true–and it applies personally to me.”  Just as Paul longed for the Philippians with great affection, Jesus longs for each one of us with great affection.  Jesus wants to be with us and spend time with us and be in a mutual friendship with each one of us.  It’s very personal.  He longs for you and He longs for me with great affection.  He desires us.  He craves us.  He longs for us so desperately He can feel it in His gut.

That’s pretty amazing.  Jesus epipotheos us… even if that’s not exactly how they teach us to sing it as children.

Published in: on December 18, 2007 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Foot Washing

Yesterday at CrossWay we wrapped up the miniseries on ordinances with a message on foot washing. Although foot washing is inarguably a Mennonite ordinance, it seems to me like so much more. In the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet (in John 13:1-17), Jesus was calling us not to a rite but to a lifestyle of service.

Since He was God, Jesus could have been and done anything He wanted. He could have had the most comfortable, exciting, enjoyable, luxurious life. Instead He chose to put aside His rights and privileges as God, not using them for His own advantage (Philippians 2:5-11). He chose to wash the dirty, nasty feet of His followers. He chose to live in a poor family among an oppressed people. He chose to serve. He chose to die an excruciating death. Why? Because He loves us.

After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus told them–and us–that He was setting an example for us to follow. And He promised to bless us when we serve others as He has served us. If nothing is beneath Jesus, what could possibly be beneath us?

The podcast will be up in a day or so, but I’ve got to warn you that the sickness I’ve had the past few days made my head really foggy. I felt like I couldn’t quite say what I was trying to say, like my words were separated from my thoughts by a cloud that I couldn’t navigate through. Frustrating. But I’m confident that God can still use even a bumbling work like this, because His Word is amazingly powerful.

Published in: on December 17, 2007 at 7:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Updated Church Website

Carolyn gave the CrossWay Church website a much-needed update today.  (You know a website hasn’t been updated in a while when you feel the need to blog about it being updated!)  She changed the graphic, the background color (it looks much better!), updated the time for Sunday morning Bible study, plugged the Christmas Eve service, and added our prayer request email link.

Hopefully in the next couple months the site will become more interactive and we can make it more informative.  Right now it’s pretty basic, mostly because the church has been in the process of internal rebuilding.

Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 11:37 pm  Comments (2)  

Lousy Day in Dallas

Wow, total meltdown in Dallas.  You can read about it here.

In a game that didn’t have any highlights for the Cowboys, there are two good things to be salvaged from their 10-6 loss to Philadelphia: First, the Eagles exposed some major weaknesses and limitations on the Cowboys, but they’re problems that can be fixed–and now they will be, just in time for the postseason.  Second, this game really didn’t carry any significance in the standings, though there’s a slight chance it could affect the playoffs situation depending on how Dallas and Green Bay finish out their seasons.

All in all, a good game to learn from and then forget!

(Okay Christi, go ahead and insert your comments below!)

Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 11:07 pm  Comments (2)  

Church Ministry Lessons from the World of Secular Education

Carolyn was gone for a couple days this week at a conference near Baltimore for kindergarten teachers.  When she got back I was looking through some of the materials she picked up while she was there.  There was one page that really jumped out at me.  It was about how children learn, but it read like a manual for discipleship!  Check this out, and as you read through it, imagine it’s talking about people in general instead of only children, and referring to church, ministry, and discipleship instead of the school classroom.  It almost reads like a page out of a seminary textbook on church ministry and discipleship.  It offers a lot of insight!  The following is written by Dr. Jean Feldman:

  • Children learn through play.  That’s why we offer learning centers.
  • Children learn by doing.  That’s why we sing and move.
  • Children learn through their senses.  That’s why we provide multi-sensory activities.
  • Children learn through language.  That’s why they need to talk.
  • Children learn on their own level.  That’s why we create open-ended activities.
  • Children learn through encouragement.  That’s why we cheer and celebrate with them.
  • Children learn through imitation.  That’s why we model what we want them to do.
  • Children learn through repetition.  That’s why we have games they’ll want to play again and again.
  • Children learn by experimenting.  That’s why it’s O.K. to make mistakes.
  • Children learn by interacting with their friends.  That’s why we encourage partner and small group activities.
  • Children learn in a safe, nurturing environment.  That’s why we strive to create a happy classroom community.
  • Children learn through wholeness.  Heart-mind-body are dynamically interrelated in that wonderful child!  Every experience in the classroom is connected in the brain to construct knowledge.
  • Teachers who love teaching create children who love learning!

And people who love Jesus create more people who love Jesus!

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  

Sermonizing for January ’08

The cold that’s going around finally caught up with me yesterday, so I spent most of the day working at home.  At least it gave me a chance to catch up with some planning.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately working on the preaching schedule for 2008.  As it stands now, the first five weeks of the year will be a series on God’s vision for CrossWay.  When I was at the church for a little while yesterday morning, I was talking with Grace and she was telling me about a book that some of the women at our church are studying in their small group.  She got to talking about the question: What is the Promised Land for us today?

Though I’d been studying and outlining the January series, I didn’t have a tight overarching theme to tie it all together.  But I think the Promised Land–and specifically the question that Grace raised about it–would fit nicely.  I spent most of the day arranging the pieces and putting them together, and I think it’ll work.  It’s coming along so well that I could probably preach most of the messages right now!

While being sick is no fun, it’s nice to be forced to take some down time and work on planning out the weeks ahead.

Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 6:26 am  Comments (2)  

Home Alone, Part 14

Carolyn should be back home in about an hour.  She’s been gone for the past couple days at a conference near Baltimore.  While she was away I made a self-discovery: I don’t think I’m mature enough to be left by myself.  Last night I stayed up playing until 1:30, and all I’ve had to eat the past two days are Spaghettios and cookies.

I’ve missed her, but the timing was pretty good considering that I came down with a cold.  If she was here, she’d keep after me to take some nasty-tasting medicinal stuff.

I think I’d better go squeeze in some Atari time before she gets home.

Published in: on December 12, 2007 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment