Friday, September 19, 2014

New Website and a new welcome from our Church, St. Luke & St. Peter's


Well its no Dog with a Blog and I really can not say that this blog has changed the world or has been widely read, but it does give me an avenue within the context of my pastoral ministry and leadership to offer those within my life and ministry to gain a greater glimpse into how their faith interacts with the world in which we all live.

This week the new website for the church with which I serve goes live! The church is The Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Peter’s and the website is www.lukeandpeter.org.

This new website replaces a perfectly adequate website which has served our church for many years. This new site however does some things the old site does not. First, it connects potential visitors and our current members with pictures and videos of happenings at our church. Second, it also connects visitors and members with online Calendars, social media, sermons and my pastors blog. This will allow visitors to gain a much fuller grasp of who we are, what we do and what we believe. It will also connect current members to the life of the church in a more comprehensive fashion.

I love what a Barna group survey from the late 1990’s (yes eon’s ago) indicated of visitors to churches who were looking for a new home. This survey posited from a study it did on persons searching for new churches that visitors to our church will know within five minutes of walking through our doors whether or not they would ever come back. Visitors first impressions of how they are welcomed as well as the ‘curb appeal’ which shows that the church has resources for ministry is vitally important if we ever want a visitor to remain.

Churches took this information and started welcome ministries that began the greeting process on Sunday mornings from the moment a person’s car come onto their property. They also made sure that their campuses were well maintained and beautiful as a mark of ministry. I think anyone in business understands the principle that making people feel welcome is truly tremendously important to inviting and maintaining clientele.
However we no longer live in the 1990’s when visitors found us in the phone book or with a print ad without any knowledge of what the church is really like. Their first impression of a church was when they stepped onto the church campus and how they are greeted once they arrived. Today, potential visitors will take their first steps into our church by finding us online. In today’s world, potential visitors will judge whether or not they will even set foot on our church campus based on what they find via our website and social media. This means online welcoming and online ‘curb appeal’ which allows visitors to easily find us and explore who we are is of the utmost importance.

I would be surprised if you disagreed with this assessment because you are most likely reading it on my Blog. Anyone who takes the time to read a blog understands that in our world today we first search online for everything in order to determine what we will search it out in person. Our new Website attempts to bridge this gap by creating a website which will mirror the welcome and family friendly nature of our Church. We hope that by searching us out online, you would be a church which desires to warmly welcome you as a part of that family whether you have found us for the first time or have been a member for years.

The Church of St. Luke & St. Peter's Has two new websites one for our church and one for our preschool, both of which we believe are reflections of what you will find when you visit us in person.
Church website: www.lukeandpeter.org
Preschool website www.lukeandpeterpreschool.org

Fr. Rob+

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Run out of Gas Lately? I did! Time to get refreshed





Alright, I know this imagery is pretty well known and written about, but once it happens to you, you a reminder is always helpful.
 
Running out of Gas

My gas light had been flashing at me for the whole day. That night I saw I was below empty and gave myself a reminder that I needed to fill up the tank the next morning, but it really wasn’t a problem because my gas gauge had been down that far before and I knew I had about 30 more miles before I would truly be empty. The next morning however it had all slipped my mind and I did nothing all day. The truth was I never even noticed my gas light was flashing at me. Why would I notice it? I had seen it a million times and never run out of gas. I was fine! It was about 5:30 in the ‘Prevening’ as Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory has coined the term, and I was delivering dinner to a couple in our church who both just had surgery. The woman met me in the driveway so I left the car running and met her with the food. She invited me inside so I went. We talked for several minutes and then said goodbye. Returning to my car I remarked to myself that the engine seemed pretty quiet. I got inside, the air conditioner was still running and the radio was on. I buckled up, put the car in gear, pressed the gas peddle and… nothing. My car wouldn’t move. I had run out of gas! Never in my life had I run out of gas. Not even in college when I was notorious for driving on an empty tank. So what was I going to do? I sat there with my seat belt on saying to myself, ‘Well I guess I will call my wife and have her bring the gas can.’ I knew however that this would be difficult as dinner was literally being put on the table and she would have three kids to get into the car. Then I thought, maybe the parishioner has a gas can with a bit of gas for his yard work. I went and asked and luckily they did have gas. I put about a quarter gallon in and drove straight to the nearest gas station. When I got there, the atm/credit card machines were down and they were only accepting cash for gas. I HAD NO CASH! I prayed my little amount of gas would get me to the next station and by God’s grace it did. I filled my tank, went home and told my family all about it.

                The God thing about running out of gas is two fold. First happening at the home of someone who had both a Gas can and gas in the can. God seems to be taking care of me this way lately, thank you very much! Second, it happened the evening before I was leaving for the day to go to a one day retreat with other pastors and church leaders to refresh and rejuvenate ourselves. I realized that I had been running on empty for quite some time and if I did not get away to fill my spiritual tank I would have nothing left for the church, my family  and spiritually run out of Gas myself. Thank God this one day retreat was the pit stop I needed to be re
 
freshed and encouraged to run the race of ministry for which I had been called. Isaiah 40:31 tells us, ‘But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint’ Paul continues this line of thought when he writes in Philippians 3:13-14, ‘Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’


I encourage you as a follower of Jesus to not let your tank run out of gas, but take time to rest in the lord, renew your strength and continue to press on toward the prize.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 87 For the Love of Money: A Tale of two perspecetives (Pastors of L.A. and Pope Francis)


For the love of Money: A tale of two perspectives

Ok this is going to be a long post. After not posting on the Essential 100 challenge for awhile, this is a doozy. When I came upon reading 87 about ‘The Love of Money’ I was really challenge.

I do not know about you, but I could have seen this coming. On the Oxygen network this fall is a new reality show called, “Preachers of L.A.”. This show follows six ‘mega Church’ pastors and what is called their ‘Mega-lives’. The trailer for the new reality show indicates that that it will follow these six pastors in their ministry and their lavish lifestyles. If you want to know what the show may focus on just look at these quotes from the Oxygen Channel’s trailer for the show:

1.       "The Bible says I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. I believe that," declares Bishop Clarence McClendon, one of the stars of the show.

2.       McClendon, whose weekly international broadcast reaches some 250 million homes, believes "there is no other kind of Gospel" except the prosperity gospel, according to a release from the Oxygen network.

3.       P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they're not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses," says cast member Bishop Ron Gibson, a former gang member who now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ.

4.       "The Bible says that those of us who sow among us should reap from us, that's implying that preachers should be taken care of," says Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary of Huntington Beach Pastor Jay Haizlip, who is also on the show.

Another cast member is described as follows:

“Cast member Bishop Noel Jones, who was born into extreme poverty in Jamaica, now lives "on a hilltop with a view of the Pacific Ocean, Malibu at his feet, and across the street from the former home of the late L.A. Lakers owner, Jerry Buss," according to his biographic information shared by Oxygen.”

Part II

What holds all these pastors in common is not their ministry, but their lavish lifestyles and belief that God’s desire is for those who follow him will prosper.

Recently, as I was reading day 87 of the Essential 100 challenge, I was confronted with Paul’s writing to Timothy regarding Pastoral leadership and ‘the love of money’. In 1 Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

 

I will be so bold as to declare to things:

 

1.      I love money. I love the security it brings, the comfort it brings and the lifestyle it brings. But this too, as the writer of Ecclesiastes would say, is vanity. To love Christ is to forsake money. You can not serve two masters.

 

2.      God specifically does not want money, possessions or anything else to impede our relationship with him or our mission of spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom of heaven; which is freedom in and through Christ.

 

I want to end with comparing two stories from this week, the Pastor’s of L.A. with Pope Francis and ask which of these ministers most truly reflects the heart of God and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

 

1.      Those six Mega Pastors on Oxygen


 

2.      Pope Francis asking his clergy, “What Would Jesus Drive.” And asking them to be more humble.

http://news.yahoo.com/jesus-drive-pope-tells-priests-buy-humble-cars-183903106.html

 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Secret Pain of Pastors, "Why did I ever agree to do this!"

This is a very interesting article on the true difficulties of being a pastor. In essence it gives a detailed look at how stressful a pastor's life can be based on all the things he or she must deal with as a pastor on a daily basis. I invite you to take a look and then respond by giving your pastor a word of encouragement whether you think they deserve it or not or whether you like them or not.

http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/167379-philip-wagner-secret-pain-of-pastors.html?p=1

Readings 26-29 The Book of Judges: The cycle of Sin and redemption

The book of Judges is a microcosm of the overarching theme of the Bible. God calls his people to relationship and for a while the people accept and follow him. Then the people fall away from God through pride and selfishness. Without being in relationship with God their lives begin to suffer. God is no longer able to protect them from themselves and outside forces. Then in their oppression the people repent of their pride and selfishness and return to a relationship with God. Now God can provide for them and he does so. God redeems his people and once again they are in right relationship. Soon the people begin to fall away again in their pride and selfishness. It is a cycle that never ends and to which the law of Moses has no power to stop.
I am hoping you not only see this pattern in the Bible, but in our own lives. I do not know about you, but I live a life of extreme comfort. I may not be flush with cash, but I live in a nice home, have food on the table, two cars and opportunities to enjoy myself. I am doing extremely well. Yet it is in this comfort and ease that we become most susceptible to selfishness, pride and arrogance. We are susceptible to rejecting the need for a protector and provider. So I reject him. I may not think that I reject him, but by relying on my own strength and failing to go to God in thanksgiving for all he has given me and my family I say, ‘Look what I have been able to do.” I turn to myself and thus reject God. This grieves God as he longs to be my foundation and provider but can not do so as long as I limit him and even reject him.
But God is so amazing that even though he can say, ‘I told you so.’ when my selfishness and pride cause my life to come crashing down, He judges not except to hold me in his arms and say, ‘how I have missed you.”
So as we read the book of Judges, may we know that this book is for each us in that God does not desire our lives to end in sin, civil war and exile as it did with the nation of Israel. God desires to be our ‘Judge’, our protector, our redeemer, our king. Let us think of those places in our lives in which we need to turn over to God and the areas of our lives in which we need to thank God for the redeeming gift of Jesus Christ and follow him in good times and bad as our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 25: Reading the Bible every day is impossible! Nothing is impossible with God; ask Joshua!



We are one quarter of the way through our Essential 100 and I was wondering something. Have you actually read twenty five daily bible readings? Are you where you need to be to finish the E100 bible challenge on time? Here is the truth, reading the bible, even for five minutes a day is not as easy as Fr. Rob said it would be. How do I know? I have missed a few days. Ok so I have missed six days. Of course when I do miss I make it up the next day or over the next few days.

The truth is about this time we begin to get slack with our reading and even wonder if it is worth the effort. If you have made it to the twenty fifth reading you will find that it is the point in the story of Israel in which after their forty years in the Desert they have crossed the Jordon to claim the homeland that god has promised. Big problem though; there are already people living in the land. These people are numerous, have armies and cities with big giant walls. How in the world are the Israelites ever going to establish themselves in this land it is seemingly impossible. The first obstacle is Jericho, the city with massive walls. God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to take the city. One problem though. With their technology there was no way to take it. The walls were too thick.

                Yet Joshua was obedient and moved as the Lord commanded. When he did so God came again and showed that what is impossible with man is possible with God. He had Joshua do some parading around the city which in itself was silly and could do nothing to actually penetrate the city. Yet God told Joshua what to do and what the outcome would be. So Joshua commanded his army to march around the city in faithfulness to God’s command and what happened? God brought down the walls of Jericho, the Israelite army rushed in and took the city.

                So if God has called you to participate in the E100 challenge, trust in him to accomplish this task and be obedient in doing so. This is not only true with our reading, but in every part of your Christian life. Throughout the Bible was God’s continued call upon Christians is not to a good and happy life, but to obedience. By being obedient God’s people become Holy. By becoming Holy, we are reside in the divine will of God. This is where we have always been meant to be.

                So take off your shoes my friends, be obedient to his call to holiness for you are standing on the Holy Ground of God’s word.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 18: Pharoah's Heart became hard."


Day 18: ‘Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not let the people go.’ Exodus 8:32.

From Chapter’s 7 through 11 in the Book of Exodus, eleven times we read some form of these words, ‘Pharaoh’s heart became hard’. Eleven times! These chapters are of course from the ten plagues sent by God upon Egypt to prove to Pharaoh that the God of the Israelites demands their freedom. Ten plagues in all and all because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened to the will of God and to the welfare of God’s people

                If I am honest with myself I too have a hard heart many times and it causes bad things to happen. My bad experiences, my hurts, my difficulties taken together can harden my heart toward God, his direction and will for my life. My heart also becomes hardened to people in my life who hurt, harass and even simply annoy me. Maybe worse of all my heart has become hardened toward those whom I have been called to love such as my family, parishioners, and the least of these in society.

                The tragedy of hardened hearts are two fold. First are broken relationships. Marriages do not fail overnight. It is often a progression of little steps. A harsh word here, lack of follow through there, you know how it often goes. Until one day the marriage is over and the couple wonders how they became so distant and hard hearted toward one another. Sadly the same is true with God when we harden our hearts. We begin so close and one day we find ourselves distant wondering if we will ever be close again.

Second, the result is God’s will can not be accomplished. Think of it as a football team who is fighting with each other and not understanding and anticipating each other’s play calls or actions on the field. The result will be a team that can not accomplish their goals of moving down the field and scoring touchdowns. So too with us and God if we are not in communication, in strong relationship with God, we can not hear, reside in or accomplish God’s will.

                Hardening our hearts inevitably leads to broken relationships and broken roads. But the Good News is that with God all things are possible. God gave pharaoh nine opportunities to soften his heart towards his will and his people before the final plague that resulted in his son’s death. God never stops trying and never gives up on us. Yes there are consequences in our lives due to the hardening of our hearts, but even in our brokenness God is always attempting to soften our hearts. It is never, ever too late to soften our hearts. Our future may now be different, but God can and will bless it wherever we are.

All we need to do is to say yes to God; the easiest and hardest action toward God that we will ever do.