Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reflections concerning Groundhog Day

As a youngster, I used to receive a good deal of razzing from my fellow classmates about being born on Groundhog Day, February 2nd. That, of course, was long before Bill Murray starred in the movie about a TV weatherman covering the annual forecast of the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania. The weather forecaster becomes mysteriously mired in a cycle in which his life activities are repeated identically each day. Murray’s character ingeniously devises some elaborate schemes to exploit the situation, since he knows exactly what to expect at every minute of the day from the time his alarm clock first sounds in the morning.

Perhaps for some people, such an absolute sense of utter predictability would symbolize comfort. Knowing exactly what was going to transpire every day might seem to offer reassurance and stability. I strongly suspect though that for most of us the invariable sameness of each new day would rapidly become maddeningly frustrating. It would also undercut any sense of excitement and anticipation about the new adventures that each day holds, given that none of us has a crystal ball that accurately predicts the future.

I’m grateful that God allows us the privilege of awakening each day to a clean slate of opportunities and possibilities to love Him and to love others. Rather than living in some kind of a rigidly controlled environment, He affords us the chance to fully experience life with all of its complexities and risks. That being the case, we really do have to learn to walk by faith and not by sight, trusting God for the strength and wisdom to live each day to its fullest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Guatemala update

We arrived back in Guatemala City this evening after a couple of really good days of leadership training conferences in Quetzaltenango.  We had 72 pastors and leaders in attendance, including some for the first time.  Josh Stowe and Ann Pittman did a great job leading in the workshops and I was able to take a break from my normal translation duties as a result of Steve Mines accompanying us and handling those responsibilities.  Steve's folks were our big brothers who welcomed us to Argentina in 1988 as we arrived there as new missionaries.  It's been good to catch up with him in these days.

It's been cool here with temperatures in the middle 30s in Quetzaltenango at night, but that's a lot better than the weather I left in Missouri with several inches of snow on the ground and chill factors of -20.  We'll visit the Tabitha Ministry tomorrow morning before doing some sightseeing in Antigua later in the day.  After that, it's an early morning departure on Friday as we head back to the States.

As always, the conference participants were extremely gracious and affirming of our presence and contributions in making the training event a reality.  We were also able to visit the Judah Baptist Church there in Quetzaltenango where our church will be sending a missions team next month.

I was also able to visit with Mary and Joe Wood who are volunteering in Guatemala for a year.  Mary was our church's children's minister a few years ago before becoming the minister of education at another church in the Kansas City area.  It was wonderful to spend some time with them today.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Pastor's Daily Devotions

Shortly after Dr. Blake McKinney began his ministry with us as our senior pastor a year ago, he began publishing a series of daily devotions that can be received via email.  They have consistently been outstanding in terms of their quality and focus.  They are brief, to the point, and always extremely practical.  I'm not sure why I have waited until this point to mention them, but I'd encourage anyone who is looking for a challenging and encouraging word from the Lord each day to subscribe to Blake's devotions.

Here's a link if you're interested in signing up for the free email devotions.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The KJV and Change

(I shared the following reflections in our church's newsletter this week).

With the arrival of 2011, we will find ourselves celebrating the 400th anniversary of the printing of the King James Version of the Bible. Shortly after his ascension to England’s throne, James I convened the Hampton Court Conference in January 1604 that called for a new translation of the Bible. Seven years later, the forty-seven biblical scholars assigned to the task had finished their work and the new version had been printed by Robert Barker.

I suspect that many of you grew up reading and studying the King James Version. It really wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that other English versions began to appear that would eventually dethrone the KJV as the most widely sold and read of all Bibles. Most of us heard the KJV preached from on Sunday mornings and studied it in Sunday School. It was the version from which we memorized our favorite verses. Many still love the old English language of the KJV and continue to use it today. For others, the KJV language sounds foreign to their ears and is a hurdle to understanding the meaning of the biblical text.

The lesson I take from this is that the only constant in life (including our Christian experience) is change. Many opposed the appearance of new English translations and branded them as heretical. There are still some fundamentalist churches today who insist on the use of the KJV in their services. Most of us have moved on to other Bible translations that help us to better understand God’s message for our lives. We’ve been blessed by the labor of biblical scholars working with more accurate Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. As we begin a new church year with new worship schedules and a host of new Bible Fellowship classes, I pray that we’ll do so with excitement and enthusiasm, realizing that while change can be unsettling for a while, great good and benefit can come from these new experiences.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Sunday Schedule

I mentioned in my previous post that today we would be launching a new Sunday morning schedule with three different worship formats.  I'm delighted to say that despite pretty frigid temperatures here in the Kansas City area this morning (about 14 degrees I think earlier) and the fact that we're still kind of in an extended holiday weekend mode, we had a great response to the three different services.  We had around 120 in the 8:00 a.m. traditional service, over 500 in the blended service at 9:30, and 180 or so in the contemporary service at 11:00.  I was also very pleased with a turnout of 24 in the new Sunday School class that I began teaching this morning during the 9:30 hour. I haven't heard the reports yet from the other new classes that were started, but it was encouraging overall to see a good response to these new initiatives. 

This week I've got to catch up on some stuff in the office after being on vacation, especially with regard to our Free Community Garage Sale that we'll be hosting on January 15th.  We've been doing a monthly "First Serve" community service project since June or so of this past year and the "free garage sale" will be our kickoff event for 2011.