Monday, April 24, 2017

Who Remembers the Armenians?

In the years during and immediately after the First World War, over one and a half million Armenians were displaced, deported, tortured and killed at the hands of the “Young Turks” of the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Families, primarily Christian who had inhabited this sacred land since the time of Christ were nearly all wiped from the face of the earth. Their homes destroyed, businesses burned, a generation of Armenians watched their men tortured, their women raped, their children crucified and the rest of their relatives taken away from their villages, to be slaughtered in the wilderness.
When Adolf Hitler prepared to embark upon a horrible Holocaust against the Jews, he scoffed at the notion that the world would rebel in revulsion. His response which is etched on a glass wall at the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. simply says, "Who remembers the Armenians?"
This weekend Debbie and I watch the movie, “The Promise” which depicts the atrocities of 1915. On April 24th each year Armenians around the world remember the first recorded genocide in modern history. Humanity seemingly has not learned from history as is demonstrated by the continued demonic extermination of peoples in the killing fields of Cambodia, the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the tribal ravaging in Rwanda, the slavery and slaughter in the Sudan and most recently, ISIS’s aim to destroy all infidels to the Islamic faith.
So today I ask, who remembers the Armenians and all the other martyrs whether Christian or otherwise?
Well today we do.
Your Armenian pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

What A Wonderful Week

What an amazing weekend we had at Celebration Community Church. In all my years at C3 we have never had a Good Friday service. We may have shown a movie in the past like “The Passion of the Christ” but never a service dedicated to Jesus’s sacrifice upon the cross. With this service replacing our normal Saturday evening service, most of our staff thought we might draw about 100-150 people. Much to our surprise over 300 people packed our worship space and overflow rooms. Soul stirring music, a retelling of the last days of Jesus’ life, the sharing of communion and an invitation to nail our sins upon a cross, made for what many people said was “the best service they ever attended”.
Then on Resurrection Sunday morning with Pastor Brant leading the service, almost 400 people packed our Colby campus which was celebrating their 5th anniversary. In Hays between our 9am & 11am services over 1400 people filed into FHSU’s Beach-Schmidt Performing Arts Center to celebrate Easter. During the service, we previewed our next series which begins this weekend called “A Case For Christ”. The series aligns with the book and new release movie about Chicago Tribune investigative journalist Lee Strobel’s journey from being an atheist to a believer. Using Scriptures and video clips from the movie, the series will explore some of the issues people have believing in the Christian faith.
When I heard that the movie was coming out, I called the local theatre to see if they were planning to release the movie here in Hays and I was met with the response that “they would not”. I then contacted the company who is releasing the film and asked them to try and persuade AMC Theatres to book the movie.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn this last Saturday that “A Case for Christ’ was now being shown, freeing me to invite all of the folks I would be talking with on Easter Sunday to check out the movie. Debbie and I and our son Jacob attended the 4:45pm screening on Sunday afternoon and we had trouble finding three seats together. What a joy it was seeing a room full of familiar C3 faces and to make matters even better; the movie was fantastic. I highly recommend you see it while it is still here in Hays and be sure to attend services this weekend as we begin the new series.
On a more somber note, throughout the weekend Debbie and I have been communicating with my sister in law Nancy concerning my oldest brother Eddie who was hospitalized in Tucson with a raging infection which started in his knee and has run rampant throughout his body. As of this writing, Eddie has successfully survived surgery on his knee and strong antibiotics are dealing with the infection. Thank you for your continued prayers and for the healing we expect because of the power of what we celebrated this weekend; the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

From “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”

Palm Sunday should have been the happiest single day in Jesus' life. The crowds had surrounded him with praise and accolades. In John 12:19 the Pharisees murmur: "Look! The whole world has gone after him!" It seemed that way when Palm Sunday began. It looked as though His preaching/healing ministry was to be crowned with success.
But Jesus knew better. He knew how fickle the crowds were; He knew that, when push came to shove, “all would forsake Him and flee,”(Mark 14:50)
The same people who on Palm Sunday had laid their cloaks on the ground before him. The same people who waved Jesus in, on Good Friday waved Jesus out again. The one who rode into town in triumph on Monday, was carried out of town on a cross on Friday.
How quick were the crowds to shout "Hosanna!" on Palm Sunday--but also how quick they were to shout, "Crucify Him!" on Good Friday, when He didn't fit into their notions of what the Messiah should look and act like. Before the week was out, Jesus had been betrayed, arrested, tried, whipped, humiliated, spat upon, cursed at, plotted against, crucified, dead, and buried.
As we begin this week I want to encourage you to welcome the Messiah into your life and may his praise of “Hosanna” blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9) be in your heart and on your lips.
And then I would like to invite you to join us at C3 this Friday at 6:30 pm for a very special Good Friday service. We'll worship together, take communion and respond to Christ's sacrifice for us as we prepare and anticipate celebrating Easter!
Because of our Good Friday service, we will NOT be hosting our regular Saturday evening service.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

“It’s A Whole New Ball Game”

Sunday night was the opening game of the 2017 season for my favorite team, the WORLD CHAMPION Chicago Cubs. Of all sports, baseball is my favorite and according to Wikipedia it also provides the most athletic metaphors in the English language. Whether you are a fan or not, we ALL speak “baseballese” just about every day, and all year round.
Here are some examples I have used:
* We're not making a bit of progress with this project. We can't even get to first base.
* Your theology is off the wall. You're way out there in left field.
* Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, while others seemingly have two strikes against them.
* Everybody's so enthusiastic about your proposal. You hit it out of the park.
* I did not expect that reaction. She threw me a real curveball.
* Those inappropriate comments of yours were way off base.
* I know you can't give me an exact price, but can you give me a ballpark figure?
* Chris Matthews of MSNBC is so headstrong; the name of his show is Hardball.
* On Broadway, the musical "Hamilton” is a smash hit.
* I promise I'll consult you before I make any decisions. I'll be sure to touch base with you.
* I can't meet you today, but can I take a rain check?
* We need to get started on the project. Let's do it right off the bat in the morning.
* Melissa McCarthy is such a wild and wacky woman – she’s a real screwball.
* He’s just not owning up to his mistake. I wish he would step up to the plate and take responsibility.
* That woman is influential in her industry. she’s a real heavy hitter.
* When I can’t preach I might ask Pastor Derek to pinch hit for me.
I know what you are thinking, I use baseball metaphors a lot. Do you?
In contrast, baseball has adopted expressions that come from the Christian vocabulary as well. As followers of Christ we talk about “sacrifice”, relief pitchers getting credit for a “save”, “thou shalt not steal”, (as in second base) and the object of every batter and believer is to reach our heavenly “home”.
God loves you, sent his Son Jesus to die for you and has been thinking of you since the start of creation. As I have been saying for years, God is a baseball fan. The biblical proof was that,
In the BIG INNING God created the heaven and the earth” Genesis 1:1 :-)
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March (and April) Madness Part 2

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Many of us have been enjoying watching March Madness, (which interestingly will still be going on into April). This annual NCAA basketball tournament started with 68 teams, and the Final Four were decided last weekend. KU, the last Kansas team in the running did not play well enough against Oregon to get out of the Elite Eight. Next weekend Oregon, North Carolina, Gonzaga and South Carolina will play to see who gets to compete next Monday night for the National Championship.
In the NCAA Tournament it's "do or die" for every team. Win and move on — lose one and be done. The season is at stake with no second chances. This inescapable fact weighs heavy in every game. Everyone gives it all they've got, because it might be their last game of the season. There are no second chances on the road to the Final Four.
Thankfully our God is a God of second chances. Because God loves us so much, He gave us a second chance (and a third, fourth, fifth…) by sending His own Son Jesus Christ. Most Christians I know are obviously thankful for this basic truth. But today I challenge you to live life like you are in tournament mode.
Don’t ever take for granted God's grace and mercy. Have you ever faced a temptation and fallen into sin partly because, in your mind, you were thinking something like, "Oh, if I mess up just this once God will forgive me … after all, He loves me unconditionally doesn’t He"? Do you ever take second chances for granted?
Don't let God's unconditional love be a mental and moral excuse to give less than your best effort. Know this; our salvation is not dependent upon how good we act (THANK GOD) but rather by what Christ has done for us on the cross at Calvary. But in response to that indescribable gift of God’s grace we strive to, as the old hymn suggests, “Give of our best to the Master”.
I encourage you to live life more like you are competing in March Madness. After all, if we really understand what the cross meant in terms of love, forgiveness, grace and second chances, we'd do nothing less than give our very best, playing with a passion and resilience that will not give up or give in.
Whether you are a college basketball fan or not, we all look forward to the madness of March ending and on April 16 embracing the most important event in all of human history; the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

March Madness

Last weekend was the beginning of the N.C.A.A. Men’s Basketball Tournament which will conclude with the championship game on April 3 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona. Many Kansas basketball fans were happy that their favorite teams KU, K-State or Wichita State all made it to the “Big Dance”. College basketball aficionados call all of this hoopla, “March Madness”. I think back to my younger days as a teenager, when I really enjoyed playing basketball, not just watching it. I even captained my high school team in Chicago back in the late 1960’s. (And no, we didn’t use a peach basket and a ladder to get the ball out!)
With March Madness in the air I got to thinking about a few things this time of year reveals about us as Christians:
* We are made for something extraordinary
I believe that inside each of us is a desire for something more, a craving to be part of something bigger, something greater, and something significant to strive for. Tourney time gives us a glimpse of young student athletes aspiring, on their sports biggest stage, to live out a part of their God given purpose and to seek a payoff for all of the hard work it took to get to where they are at.
* We love rooting for the underdog
Why do we love the underdog? I think it’s because we see ourselves in the story of these Cinderella teams. We identify with the “Davids” who battle and win over the Goliaths because we believe in our hearts that we are overmatched by the forces against us. But all of us want to cheer for those who overcome the adversities and succeed in living out their dreams.
* We want to be on the winning team
There’s a longing in all of us to come out on top. As ABC’s Wide World of Sports video introduction used to say, they were, ”Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport... the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!”
I want you to know something that is ultimately important: As followers of Jesus we are on THE winning team. Christ secured that victory for us all some 2000 years ago. Though we may experience failures and momentary defeats in our lives, our humble champion has already won. And because of that He reigns eternally and we share in the fruits of that victory!
On April 3rd at the end of the Road to the Final Four as the 2017 National Champions cut down the nets as a show of their victory, CBS will play, as it does every year, the Luther Vandross song “One Shining Moment”.
As Christians, as members of God’s team, we are all awaiting that one shining moment that Christ will return and claim us, His trophy of the final victory that He secured for us all on the cross at Calvary.
Whether you are a college basketball fan or not we all look forward to the madness of March ending and on April 16 embracing the most important event in all of human history; the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Apostle to the Irish

This week those of us who have some Irish in us and many many others who don’t celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. My Irish mother used to say, “ There are two kinds of people in this world those who are Irish…and those who wish they were.”
If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you're likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland.It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish—yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever.
According to Wikipedia, Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd.
In his book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, "The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills."
Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn't really believe in God. But now—hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold—Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, "I would pray constantly during the daylight hours" and "the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more."
Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, "Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look—your ship is ready."
What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey—and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family.
Patrick was a different person now, and eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop.
Church history teaches that through Patrick, God converted thousands. As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick's Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, green beer and being pinched if you are not wearing any green, we ought to recover our Christian heritage and celebrate the great evangelist teaching our kids about this Christian hero.
Saint Patrick didn't chase the snakes out of Ireland as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a true faith in the one true God—and to forever transform the Irish people.
Proud to be part Irish,
Your pastor and partner in ministry,