Easter Weekend Review

(Warning to reader: I haven’t blogged much these past few days, but I’m more than making up for it today!)

Work hard.  Play hard.  That’s the way to live, and that’s how it’s been this past week.

A review of events since last week’s Maundy Thursday service:

On Friday morning I got a call from Terri, the director of the Training Station Preschool, informing me that the fierce winds that’d hit the area had knocked over our sign.  So Carolyn and I went to check it out.  The two beams holding the sign had snapped right in half and the whole shebang had fallen right on top of the wooden shell that some CrossWay guys had built for pouring the concrete for the new sign.  Fortunately it didn’t seem to damage anything.

From there we went to the zoo in Salisbury.  Every time we go there we see something weird and funny.  This time it was a peacock that kept following a goose in the bison habitat.  The goose kept calmly walking in various patterns, and the peacock hung with him, staying a couple feet behind.  No matter where the goose went, the peacock followed.  When the goose stopped, the peacock stopped.  When the goose got going again, so did the peacock.  It was pretty funny to watch.  People were coming up with various theories to try to explain the peacock’s behavior.  The most plausible explanation I heard was that the goose was the peacock’s personal trainer.

It was nice to see that the zoo is making significant progress with the red wolves exhibit.  They’ve built a nice walkway with a kind of observatory building.  Hopefully the wolves will be here soon!  They’re keeping them right next to the deer, which seems a little bit odd.  It’s like the cheetahs at the National Zoo in D.C., which are right next to the zebras.  Carolyn took a great picture one time of a cheetah standing a few feet away from a zebra, hungrily staring at it.  I’ll try to find it to post on here.
On the way back from the zoo we stopped at Station 7.  Bring on the nachos!  Oh yeah!

Saturday was our Easter outreach at church.  We had an egg hunt for kids, along with games and a creative telling of the Easter story.  There was a pretty decent turnout, especially considering that our sign which was promoting the event had been blown over the day before.  I found it impossible to try to count the people, but I’m pretty sure it was somewhere between 50 and 100.  Probably somewhere in the middle, about 75.  There were nearly as many adults as children!  It was a short event, but a lot of fun.  I was very proud of the CrossWay team that pulled it off!

After the Easter egg hunt our praise band practiced.  Oh yeah, I don’t think I’ve mentioned on here that the Timmons family very generously bought a new drum set for the church last week.  When the worship team practiced on Saturday, they wanted me to try playing along on the drums.  That was fine with me, even though I was reluctant at first, because I was sure I’d be horrible and they’d excuse me from further participation until I’d practiced for a looooooooong time.  But it didn’t quite go that way.

On Easter morning I got up at 4:35 a.m., got ready, and headed to North Division Street (where Rt. 50 ends at the boardwalk) for the Ocean City Easter Sunrise Service.  The wind was blowing and it was about 25 degrees–without the wind.  It was really surprising to me that several hundred people still turned out at that time and in that kind of weather!  Only the miraculous grace of God can explain how the instrumentalists played their guitars and keyboard and sax, and how Diana from CrossWay signed the whole service.  I was afraid her bare hands would get frostbite!  She and her daughter Anna were such troopers to come out for that!

Right before I got up to preach, I was shivering badly.  I had no idea how I could preach when I was trembling–more like shaking–so much.  But it worked.  It also ensured a brief sermon!  It’s kind of funny how sometimes when I’m preaching, I can prepare a message well ahead of time but feel like God’s leading me to make changes right before I preach or even while I’m preaching.  I’d written this sermon two or three weeks ahead of time, but at 5:59 (the service started at 6:00), new ideas popped into my head for the opening and the closing.  I’ll podcast the message this week.

After the sunrise service, which to my surprise I really enjoyed, I went home to take a short nap.  When I woke up an hour later, I hadn’t yet thawed out!  But I had unfrozen by the time we got to CrossWay.

Josh, our worship leader, had talked me into playing drums during the service.  I still couldn’t believe that was happening.  I was as nervous, if not more nervous, about playing the drums at CrossWay as I was about preaching to hundreds of strangers at the sunrise service!  I just can’t believe that he and the others in the band thought my drumming was unbad enough to actually be a part of the service on Easter, of all days.  But Josh takes his ministry seriously so I decided to trust his judgment.  However, I still can’t believe I made my drumming debut on Easter Sunday, and with one day’s notice.  But hey–God can use anybody to do anything.

Actually, the music overall was great yesterday!  Josh’s wife Christi helped with the vocals and played that little shaky egg thing.  Terri’s sister played the keys and Diana was on the bass.  Terri’s daughter, Kelsy, played the flute in one of the songs and that was a great touch.  At Saturday’s practice we’d had John playing guitar, but he wasn’t there yesterday.  If he had been, we’d have had a seven-member band!  For all I know there might have even been more people doing stuff.  Not only was I off to the side where I couldn’t see, but I was also scared!

The attendance at church yesterday was by far the largest we’ve had the past year.  It was twice our average attendance!  Carolyn taught Children’s Church and planned for three times as many as she usually had–and she had as many kids as she planned for!

Something in the service that was planned last minute and really blew me away was Josh signing the Ray Boltz song “Watch the Lamb.”  It was an interpretive signing–not just sign language, but also drama.  It was excellent!  When I got up to preach after he finished, I saw tears in people’s eyes.  Very moving.

It’s been almost a year since I came to CrossWay.  In all that time we’ve never had the fire alarm go off.  Naturally that would happen on Easter Sunday during the sermon with a packed house and a bunch of first-time guests.  You’ll be able to hear it on the podcast.  As I was transitioning out of the sermon intro, the alarm started screaming.  Fortunately no one panicked or anything.  In fact, they were all kind of staring at me, almost as if they were wondering: Is that part of the message or something?  Terri got it turned off pretty quickly, and the building burned down.  Sike.  Something I learned this Easter Sunday: our fire alarm goes off by itself sometimes.  Nice.  At least Carolyn had the kids all lined up and ready to evacuate!

After church we went to Carolyn’s parents’ house.  Her whole family was there.  On the way I called my parents’ house, where all my family was gathered.  I got to talk with my little niece, Jazlyn, which was awesome!  She’s the best kid ever.  Everybody should have the privilege and joy of knowing Jazlyn.

At the Dohertys’ house we ate some delicious lasagna and the most unbelievable strawberry shortcake.  Linda makes the best cake, but she added a special touch to this one: it was a two-layer cake with frosting in the middle (normal for regular cake, but not strawberry shortcake).  And the strawberries were fresh ones that she’d grown.  If the second-best strawberry shortcake in the history of humanity registered a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, this cake would register about 28.  It awakened senses in taste buds that I didn’t even know I had.  An amazing experience.

The cake was in honor of Michael turning 30.  Michael and Kristen (Carolyn’s sister and her husband) are turning 30 soon–Michael in April and Kristen in May.  It’s very exciting for me because they always make old man jokes about me because I’m in my thirties.  Ordinarily, over-the-hill parties are reserved for 40th birthdays.  But when Kristen’s 30th rolls around in a few weeks, I think we’ll need to throw a major over-the-hill bash and target both Michael and Kristen!

Steve and Linda are a lot of fun to hang out with, so we hung around and talked with them for awhile after Michael and Kristen left.  (Her brother Christopher, of course, was camped out at the computer, only leaving long enough to prepare various dishes buried in whipped cream.)  He leaves for college today and we didn’t even get to have lunch at La Tolteca!  Oh well, we’ll have to make up for it in the summer.

On the drive back from their house we saw an albino deer.  That was so cool!  We really wished we had Carolyn’s camera in the car.

After a busy and tiring week, and an especially exhausting weekend, I slept 9 hours and 20 minutes last night.  It was great!!!!

If you’ve read this far, thanks… but don’t you have stuff to do?

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Published in: on March 24, 2008 at 11:38 am  Comments (2)  

Preaching: Greatness or Effectiveness?

One of the best preaching blogs on the Internet is “Biblical Preaching.”  I don’t know how they come up with such rich and helpful material every day!  Today Peter Mead writes on there about the difference between being a great preacher and being an effective preacher, and he explains why we should aim for effectiveness rather than greatness.

You can read the full post by clicking here.

Published in: on January 30, 2008 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Update on the “Creed” Series

Last fall at CrossWay we began a major series called “Creed.”  The goal of this series is to explore up close each of the 24 topics in the Mennonite Confession of Faith.  To avoid having a massive, half-year series, we divided it up into miniseries and scheduled some breaks in between.

At the end of 2007, we were just over the halfway mark.  Toward the end of the year, as I was looking ahead to 2008, I had several discussions with some of the leaders at CrossWay and some pastor friends about the direction of “Creed” and our preaching schedule.  We decided together to share the second half of the “Creed” series in a different way.  What we’ll do is plug some of the remaining miniseries into our regular preaching schedule.  Some of the other miniseries will be made available as recordings on CD and on the podcast.  Whenever the recordings are completed, I’ll blog about it.

The reason for the change is simple: While we still believe in the critical importance of the “Creed” series, we’re aware that much of what remains is in-house kind of stuff.  Since we’re focusing on outreach and evangelism, we want to make sure that our Sunday morning messages are something that new Christians and non-Christians can understand and relate to as well as long-time Christians.  While this is completely possible to do by presenting the material in the right way, we decided that it would be much more constructive to schedule some different sermon series and finish out “Creed” as I’ve just described.

Just thought I’d offer that explanation so it doesn’t seem like “Creed” suddenly vanished midway.

Published in: on January 24, 2008 at 10:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Loving God, Loving People

On Sunday at CrossWay Church we continued the series “The Promised Land” by looking at our strategy for accomplishing our church’s mission.  A brief recap to set the context: the purpose of the church is to glorify God.  That happens when we accomplish our mission, which is to make lifelong followers of Jesus Christ in our community and around the world.  And we need a strategy in order to accomplish the mission.  Simply put, our strategy is this: love God and love people.

Not only is loving God and loving people our strategy for accomplishing our mission, but it’s also the only thing we do that lasts for eternity.  No matter how far you go in your career, no matter how rich and famous you become, no matter how popular you are and how much you achieve–none of it matters in eternity.  Even valuable things like faith and hope will come to an end in eternity, because everyone who belongs to Christ will see the Object of our faith face to face, and hope will no longer be necessary because all our hopes will be fulfilled.

But love will remain.  As 1 Corinthians 13:13 says: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

The only thing we can do to invest in eternity is love.  In Luke 10:25-28, Jesus taught that love is the greatest commandment in Scripture, that all of the Bible can be summed up in the command to love, and that the key to living a full life is love.  The importance–the eternal significance!–of love can never be overstated.

As part of our church strategy, we ask everyone in our membership to love God and love people in five specific ways:

(1) We love God by worshiping Him together with His family.
(2) We love God by developing healthy spiritual habits.
(3) We love people by serving them.
(4) We love people by building friendships with them.
(5) We love God and love people by inviting others to do these first four things with us!

You can listen to the podcast of this message by clicking on one of this site’s links to the CrossWay Podcast.  (You can also use these links to subscribe to the podcast if you’d like.)

Published in: on January 23, 2008 at 5:52 am  Comments (2)  

Another Preaching Learning Experience

It seems I’m constantly finding out not only how much I don’t know, but how little I knew there was so much I didn’t know.

Make sense?  Welcome to my world.

Yesterday when I prepared the latest CrossWay podcast, I learned how important it is to wear the right shirt when I preach.  The recording gear we use for the podcast produces a great sound, especially for the price, but on Sunday I didn’t wear the right kind of shirt.

As I worked on the podcast, I kept hearing a swishing noise.  Sometimes my voice would boom, then fade away.  I realized why: the shirt I wore didn’t have buttons or a collar, so I had to clip the mic on my neckline, just under the shirt.  The mic kept rubbing against it and pressing into my throat, giving it a weird and homemade quality.

Who knew that my wardrobe selection would affect our podcast quality?  From now on, I’ve got to remember: Sunday mornings need a collar or buttons.  Just when you thought you’d thunk o’ everything….

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preaching Mistake #397

Tomorrow will be my sixteenth straight Sunday preaching.  This will be the first and hopefully last time I’m doing this.  Trust me, there’s nothing heroic about going four months straight in the pulpit (not that we actually have a pulpit, but you know what I mean).  I’ve gotten myself worn down, and in the process have shorted the people at CrossWay.

There are several reasons I’ve made this mistake.  The biggest is probably inexperience.  Well, that and hardheadedness–I’ve been warned not to go too long without a break, but like usual I’m having to learn from experience.  The other three factors:

(1) I love preaching.  It’s my God-given passion.

(2) We’ve been in this “Creed” series, and I think I’ve been trying to crank it out so we’d be past the halfway point by Christmas.  (The series is actually taking a different turn, which I’ll explain later.)

(3) There was a period of time late in the summer when I didn’t preach for four out of six weeks.  I guess I felt guilty about that and tried to make up for it.  Being new at a church, I didn’t want to give the impression that I was going to be a slacker preacher.  Instead I’ve become a foolish one!

Just for the record, the church has never put any kind of expectation on me to try to be some kind of Preacher Iron Man.  In fact, at every Worship Planning meeting they remind me that I can take a break any time.

In planning for 2008, I’ve built in some breaks in the preaching schedule.  In fact, today I revised it so that there are several back-to-back weeks when I’m not preaching.  These times will prove extremely valuable for getting refreshed and prepared for the next round.

Meanwhile, I plan on doing some intense relaxing during the Christmas holidays.  One of our church members, Norm, is a retired preacher.  He’s delivering the sermon on December 30.  Then I jump back in for another nine weeks.  I’m sure the one-week break will prove very beneficial, but preaching 25 out of 26 weeks isn’t too smart either.  But like I said, I’ve learned from my mistakes and will do a better job of planning in the future.

Published in: on December 22, 2007 at 6:02 am  Comments (2)  

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)  

Preaching That Makes You Wanna Dance

Our Australian friend Tom has put together a pretty cool little audio clip you can listen to here.  Be sure to check out his blog at http://runnoft.blogspot.com/

That’d be pretty cool to have music in the background when I preach!

Published in: on October 13, 2007 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Getting Ahead in Preaching

As much as I feel in my groove when I’m preaching, I’ve discovered a serious difficulty that comes with preaching every week: I always feel like I’m preaching a first draft!

A sermon is something that really has to be developed, to be worked over, and it’s hard to do week after week.  When I finish a sermon manuscript, that’s just the beginning.  The sermon that is actually preached often has only a loose resemblance to the first manuscript.

But I’m finding that one week does not allow time for this process to happen from start to finish.

A possible solution, I think, might be increased intentionality in the preaching schedule.  There needs to be a rhythm.  A couple months of preaching should be followed by a couple weeks off, not just to get refreshed and recharged, but to get ahead.  That’s the key, I think: to get ahead and stay ahead by at least three weeks if not more.

There have been breaks in the preaching schedule at CrossWay, but some of them have been last-minute.  And with some of the others, I didn’t use them to get ahead.  I’ll work on being more intentional that way, using down time and breaks in preaching to get a jump on upcoming messages.

Published in: on October 3, 2007 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Podcast Fixed

Until about a week ago, I didn’t realize that our church podcast only played in one speaker.  When I listened to it on my computer, it came out of both speakers.  But I had inadvertently been uploading them with the sound only coming out of the left speaker.

Anyway, my brilliant wife figured out how to fix the problem.  So except for the intro, we are now in stereo starting with yesterday’s podcast.  My apologies for the sound quality glitch!

Published in: on July 23, 2007 at 2:23 pm  Leave a Comment