Posted by: pastordarren | October 16, 2013

The Changing Cycles of Life and Living

20130917_084109I can vividly remember when growing up, going with my parents to these new video stores to rent a VHS movie AND the Video Cassette Player, spending $25-30 to watch a movie that the top quarter of the screen was messed up because we could never get the tracking just right.  It soon became that the rental came down in price, stores got rid of the machines because people were buying their own and video stores sprang upon every corner and in most strip malls.

Then the transition to DVDs happened, which got rid of the tracking issues, but whether or not you purchased or rented, had to have new machines to play the DVDs and replace the tapes that you had at home.  For a little while you could get both technologies together but it did not last long.  With the advent of HD TVs, we moved to Blu Ray discs which required a new way of playing them, although the Blu Ray players could play the DVDs.  We still had rental stores that also included video game rentals for most  of the systems.

We are in the middle of another transition, from the Blu Ray to streaming our movies, TV shows and even our games.  With the advent of services such has Netflix and Hulu, we can get on demand almost anything we want in HD any time that is convenient for us.  With the streaming happening the video stores are on their way out.  The picture with this post is of the last Blockbuster closing in our area.  There is no longer a demand for the rentals when we can stream and we don’t even have to go out to get the movies.  In short, we still have our movies and entertainment, yet we have changed the way in which we receive the material, share it, and enjoy it.  In other words, can can stream Star Wars on my big screen TV, put in one of several versions on DVD, or if I can find a working player, put in a VHS copy (and still deal with tracking).  Basically the same movie viewed in different ways.

When I saw the store closing and snapped the picture, I began to think about these transitions and how it is not just related to the video industry but to our lives as a whole, including the church.

I came across the following quote the other day, that even though is 150+ years old, speaks to our lives today:

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”
–Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

How often do we try to deal with the problems and situations of our current, daily life, with ways and means that are not appropriate for what we are living in.  As the video industry changed over the years, we gained things and we lost  things.  Some people maybe upset that they can’t go to the store and rent a tape or DVD, yet we are adapting to the new technology and opportunities that streaming affords.

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our community with past resources?

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our government with past methods and models?

In what ways are we trying to address issues in our churches with past mindsets and practices?

The issues in our churches is what hits home for me.  I believe that those who hold the faith and strive to grow and live it truly want to do so.  That doesn’t mean that we have to do things the same way or that holding on to the things of the past will engage the culture of today.  In other words, the ways in which we live out our faith, structure and live as a local, regional, and national church will be different from even 15-20 years ago.  Those practices and disciplines will draw from the past, such as the Spiritual Disciplines that have been part of the Christian life for hundreds of years, yet the way in which they are practiced are new.  There will also be things that we may have to leave behind and find new ways of living, structuring , and engaging that are more suited for today.

I believe that each person and each church will need to find that way and it begins by carefully looking inside at who they are and the culture around them.  Then finding new ways to address where they are and incorporating people into the Body so they can grow and express their faith too.

What do you think?  Where are areas where new ways of thinking and doing are needed and what might some of them be?

Posted by: pastordarren | October 3, 2013

To What Do We Apply?

There is a phrase that we use all the time in the Church as we study and read scripture. I’ve used it; I’ll bet you have used it too. That phrase is, “How does this scripture apply to my life?”. By asking that question, we are trying to determine what the text we are studying means to us.

I’ve been thinking about that simple word, “apply” lately. When we apply one thing to another, what we apply usually takes the shape of what we apply it to. Paint is a great example of that idea. The paint on the walk or the car does nothing to reshape the surface.

So I wonder, when we apply scripture to our life, does the scripture get changed or adjusted to fit our lives and situations?  I think that happens far too often, even if unintentionally.

What would it be like if we would flip it and apply our lives to the truths and guidance that we find in  scripture? Would our lives be what is changed and transformed to match the love and grace that is shown in the life of Jesus? Would we take more seriously the calls to forgive, love, disciple, give, welcome and the many other calls for those who believe?

Does may think this is a matter of word play and maybe it is.  If words have power and the way we use them can move people and change situations, then this maybe something to think about.

Do we change scripture to suit us, or are we changed and transformed by the power of God’s Word?  Let me know what you think.  I hope for the later.

Posted by: pastordarren | October 3, 2013

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Posted by: pastordarren | June 13, 2013

Do What We Can

In the latest Star Trek movie, in the midst of one of the crises, Capt. Kirk tells Spock, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I only know what I can do.”

This brief admission has stuck with me and been bouncing around in my head.

Many times in our lives and the life of the church, we don’t know what we are supposed to do when we come to a crossroad.  Too many options, too many options that are different from what we have done in the past, none of the options seem good at the moment, and with many more excuses, we don’t act and take a direction.  We want the big picture, we want to know what each step is going to be like and that everything will be ok and smooth sailing.

What Kirk says here, I think is important to us in real life, “I only know what I can do.”  What would it be like in the church if each person took that task upon themselves, doing what they can do and have been gifted to do?  If our focus is following Jesus’ call on our lives in the world today and being the Body of Christ in the world, then each of us has a part.

Ephesians 4:11-16

 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built upuntil we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Just do what you can and have been gifted to do.  We may not know the next step, we can’t do it alone and we don’t have all the answers; but working together, we will build the Kingdom.

Posted by: pastordarren | May 2, 2013

Pray for Healing in Our World

Today is the National Day of Prayer. A day set aside to come together and pray for our communities, states and country. It is good to have this day and I was fortunate to participate in a powerful prayers service at our city council chambers in Hampton. Prayers were lifted up for all aspects of our lives – families, schools, churches, all levels of government, the military, repentance and renewed dedication to living the Kingdom of God in this world today.

Even though the following text was not the official scripture of the day, I was reminded of its importance – 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Lately we have seen many different examples of the brokenness in our world and it was good to be reminded that it is God’s people who are called to pray and allow God to work through them to heal the land and the people.  In the specific text, God’s people are the Israelites and today, I believe, the Church as a whole and each believer would be included.  The denomination that I serve in, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), has as part of its identity statement, “a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world”.  While it may seem a little vague, the meaning is clear, will we be a part of God’s healing movement in the brokenness and fragmentation that is all around us.

So the question remains, will we pray for the brokenness of the world?  Will we work toward bringing that healing?  Today reminded me of the importance of prayer and working toward healing.

Posted by: pastordarren | April 26, 2013

Blog Tour of Religion, Politics and the Earth – Religion

I have agreed to be part of a blog tour looking at different parts of a new book  called Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism by Clayton Crockett & Jeffrey W. Robbins.  Each person agreed to take a different chapter of the book and talk about it, encouraging comments from others.  Of the different chapters in the book including, Digital Culture, Religion, Politics, Art, Ethics, Energy, Nuclear Energy, Being (a Brain), and Logic, I choose to look at their discussion on religion.  This choice was based primarily on my faith and calling but also in that is my hope for the future of the church and how we express our faith within the global community.

First a couple of confessions.  I was not sure what to think of the book as I began to read.  I think as I went into it, I had an idea of what it was going to be like and those expectations were turned around.  The parts that I read were not necessarily an easy read.  It was not something that I could give a casual read but the more I focused, the more meaning was discovered.  The second is that this is not a book about giving simple answers (at least the part that I have read), but is about asking the questions of what can be and encouraging the readers to explore answers.  Now with that said, let me talk about the chapter on religion.

The authors spend much of the first part of the chapter talking about the historical view of religion from such people as Feueerbach, Schleiermacher, Freud and a few others and talking about the views that religion is primarily a construct of the human mind to reflect the culture in which it is created in.  This idea of religion has been used keep the status quo of the culture while also empowering those in control.

While this historical discussion  can be interesting, I believe that we can all look at religion today and see that it has many problems and issues that are easily brought to mind.  The meat of the chapter begins with this questions, “What if, on the contrary, religion had the capacity to subvert the status quo? In what ways has religion in fact functioned as a source of change?”

Within these questions, we have the crux of where religion and the church must move and act in the world today.  As I understood the basis of their argument, Crockett and Robbins argue that the change religion needs to be in the world goes beyond just the spiritual, personal salvation, to standing against the status quo of the world, including meeting the physical  or material needs of all those in need, non-violent responses, and the sharing of the resources in the world.  All of these are embodied in the person of Jesus.  They quote Žižek and Milbank, The Monstrosity of Christ, by saying, “Humanity is material; thus the material world cannot be written off in favor of some kind of retreat into an ethereal transcendence.”

This basic theme, that religion’s focus moves beyond just the ethereal to working in the material world, I believe is one that will not just change the church and religion, but will also make a huge change in the world as a whole.  Again, as the authors talk about different areas where religion must make a difference and stand against the status quo of culture, they don’t offer hard and fast ideas, but encourage the readers to work for ideas that will be faithful following Jesus’ life and teaching.  Looking at the different challenges that face our world today, the different attitudes, policies and practices, religion, and in my position, the church, has to play a leading role in making a difference in changing and challenging the status quo of the world.  How that is played out in different settings will look differently but the base line of following Jesus must remain the same.

I’m sure that the remaining chapters in the book will offer some further ideas on living this out and I look forward to reading them.

What are your ideas on this?

Posted by: pastordarren | April 24, 2013

The Power of Our Words

I know that I have been very inconsistent with this blog.  It can go weeks without a post but I have several things coming and am setting up a routine to post regularly.  This post deals with the scripture and theme for our Renew service on April 28th.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  This nursery rhyme is one of the most untrue statements that we can learn as a child.  Is it true that the tongue is one of, if not the most powerful parts of our bodies, capable of destroying or uplifting others and ourselves? according to James it is.

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it.  It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.  This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!  My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you? (James 3:3-12 The Message)

I think we can all remember times in our lives when the words that have been spoken to us have built us up, encouraged us, inspired us, healed us.  Yet there are other times, probably more times than not, where the words that have been spoken to us have belittled us, wounded us, destroyed us.  Sometimes we don’t realize the power of our words to build up or destroy, other times we are all too aware and yet use them anyway.  Our words can get us into trouble in many ways if we are not careful with what we say.  “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” and “Be careful what you say, for tomorrow you may have to eat those words.” are two phrases that speak to this.

It was mentioned to me by a wise man about the quote above “If you can’t say anything nice . . .”, that there are times were we do need to hear words of assessment that may not be pleasant to hear but it is necessary to receive them so we can work to improve what we are doing.  I think that the purpose of what James is saying above are the words of curse, insult, and degradation are the words that we need to not be speaking, that are the most hurtful and damaging to the hearers.

words_can_hurt_or_heal_smallThe issue that James raises and that we have to address is that how are we going to use our words.  As those who strive to follow Jesus, we are called to use our words to bless, praise and lift up, not to teardown.  The image of fresh water vs. brackish water, muddy water vs. the clear water, or apple trees bearing strawberries shows us that we should not have both coming from our mouths.  Obviously, we would want to hear the positive, uplifting, and life-giving words come from our mouths and those who are speaking to us which is not always easy.  It has been said that it takes anywhere from 4-7 uplifting comments to counter act 1 negative or destructive comment.

So my questions for us is this, “What kinds of words are most encouraging to you, that build you up and inspire you?”  “How do you deal with the negative words that we all hear?”  “How do you try to focus your words on uplifting and encouraging those around you?”

Share your thoughts and then come and join us Sunday at 6:30 pm.

Posted by: pastordarren | February 16, 2013

Lent and New Guitar Strings

20130216_173439For those who play guitar or another string instrument, you will know what I mean when I say, “There is nothing like the feel and sound of new strings when you play.” Especially when they need changed badly.

I finally took (made) the time to change mine this afternoon and while changing the strings, began to think of the similarities with the season of Lent.

When you haven’t changed your strings in a while, they get grimy, dull, and even rusty.  The sound that comes from the instrument is directly affected by the condition of the strings.  When the strings are old and dull, the sound is dull and lifeless.  Many times you can’t even fix it with a lot of processing and effects, you can still tell the strings are old.  The new strings are bright, responsive and sound great with lots of tone and better harmonics.

Lent is much like that.

When we truly enter the season of Lent and not just coast through with a passing thought, then we are changed and are given new life.  We may enter this season feeling very tired, lifeless and feeling like there is something missing in our relationship and walk with God.  Lent allows us to take the time to stop and allow the Spirit to search our hearts and minds to show us where we have allowed the things of this world to intrude in our lives.  Psalm 139:23-24 remind us of this:  “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

We get the opportunity to get rid of the old, the dull, and the things that drain life from us; to take a new route that is full of joy, newness, love and grace.  The journey of Lent that will end at the empty tomb is a journey from the old, lifelessness to the new life in God.  Sure, there are struggles and stretches along the way (just like stretching the guitar strings), but in doing so, we will learn to walk in tune with our God.

Posted by: pastordarren | February 6, 2013

Barriers We Create

Junk-mail-NO1Many of you have heard the news by now, the postal service is considering not delivering some mail on Saturday in order to save money.  There is some mail that would still be delivered, but most of the general mail would have to wait until Monday to reach our door.  If you have not read about it, here is a link to the NBC news report.

In reading the article, a couple of sentences really jumped out at me:

The move is another milestone in the long-running political dance between Congress and Postal Service managers over how to finance the delivery of mail to 151 million addresses, nearly 40 percent of the world’s “snail mail” volume. Lawmakers have spent more than a year trying to nail down postal legislation, but have been unable to settle on an agreement.

Though its Capitol Hill critics complain that Postal Service should be made to operate “more like a business,” Congress has created a set of rules that all but guarantee billion-dollar losses.

I don’t know much about the inner workings of Congress and specifically how they interact with and control the postal service, but it seems to me that the constraints, rules, and control that they exercise over the USPS (and other aspects of the country?) are in a real way killing the ability to function and do what they need to do.  Makes no sense to me.

As I read this, my thoughts went to what we do it the church and how, in way too many ways, we are just like congress, trying to control, set rules, and make judgements (intentionally and unintentionally) about who is right, what is the correct path of discipleship, expressions of worship, how we live out our faith, and many other instances.  In other words, we put up barriers to people who are seeking that relationship with God because they are different or do things in ways we do not approve of.

The story of Cornelius and Peter in Acts 10-11 is a great example of God’s grace and love working outside the perceived normal paths and the change in perspective and understand that Peter and the other leaders go through.

We put up these barriers based on our need to control, our understanding of what is the right way to do things (that is many times personally or culturally based) and this ends up turning people away from the church and in some cases, away from God.  We put these things in place because we see them as helpful, when in reality they are hindrances.

I hope that we will really begin to look at how we try to control things, maybe even see where our church parallels congress’ actions, and then remember that we are called to love God first and then love all around us, those like us and those unlike us, and see God’s grace and love that is already at work.   We then listen to the stories that others tell us of how God is working in and through them and we learn and grow too.


Posted by: pastordarren | January 17, 2013

Dealing with Hurts and Offenses

546808_144669879021183_1810123005_nOver the last few weeks at our evening Renew service, we have been talking about how we need to deal with the hurts and the times were we have been offended, or take offense at something. We are all hurt at various times in our lives and it is worse when that comes from someone who is close to us or a group who we put our trust in. Examples would be family, friends, church, etc. When the hurt comes from these places, the trust and security that we once felt is broken.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have begun to look at how we move forward, and begin the healing process. Many times it is not easy nor does it always happen quickly, but we have to begin somewhere.

The first two steps, as we have talked about are, acknowledging that we have been hurt or there is a brokenness that we are living in; and the second step is to be willing to lay it down.  The first step may seem a bit obvious but if you think about it, sometimes, when we are hurt but someone or a group that we love and trust, we will sweep the hurt and the offense under the rug and pretend that it did not happen.  This may seem like the easiest thing to do, but we can not move forward until we acknowledge that there is pain and brokenness.  We don’t lash out and try to seek revenge, but we begin, if we haven’t already but saying, “What happened hurt and caused brokenness in me.”  If we don’t, we effectively remain locked in the past, carrying around the pain and the hurt, even without realizing it.

The second step is one of being willing to release it and let it go.  Many times our pain and hurt becomes comfortable over time, other times we wear it as a badge of ‘honor’ or a sign that we are ‘strong’.  By being willing to lay the hurt down, we make room in our lives to be free and to receive healing.

This Sunday we will be beginning the last two steps of moving forward; recognizing that we have received forgiveness and then being able to pass on that forgiveness.  We will be looking at the parable that Jesus tells from Matthew 18:21-35.  In this parable, Jesus tells the story of a servant who is forgiven a great deal by his master and then goes out and demands payment of a very little amount from a fellow servant.

The main questions that we will be discussing will be:  Do we understand how we have been forgiven by God and others?  Do we take that forgiveness for granted?  Can we understand with our head and our heart what that forgiveness has done for us?

What do you think?  Share your comments and be part of the discussion.

The next week we will be focusing on what it means for us to then offer forgiveness to others, setting the prisoner free, and realizing that the prisoner is us.

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