On Yesterday's Sermon

I wanted to clarify a few things from yesterday’s sermon on Heaven. This is a wonderfully complex subject, and one that I hope you will study more about. Hopefully this brief follow up can wrap up some loose ends, but it by no means is a complete summary of Heaven!

John is writing a description of his vision of the reality of Heaven, while using a specific genre of literature called apocalyptic writing. This writing style was popular during the inter-Testimonial period and first century Judaism. At the same time, John is attempting to convey the Heavenly realm, a reality that the our human minds have trouble grasping. When reading Revelation, we must understanding this tension: Limited language to describe the infinite beauty of Heaven, a specific writing genre, and the reality of John’s vision.

When we come to chapter 21 and 22 we are seeing the coming of the Bride, Jerusalem (the Church!), and the consummation of the entire narrative of Scripture!  What had been undone and broken in Genesis 3 by sin, is being redeemed and made whole again here at the end. I believe that what is being shown here in John’s vision isn’t necessarily a play by play description of heaven, but an explanation of the reality of God dwelling with his people in the New Earth and the New Heaven. It is a place of such profound beauty and richness, that our human language is simply to limited to express it!

Ultimately, the description of the open gates and the foundations of the city are meant to convey the openness of the Kingdom to all whose “names are written in the Lambs book of Life, and whose robes are washed white with the blood of the Lamb”.  How is one’s name writenin the Book of Life and how are their robes washed white? By surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and receiving his Grace! As I said yesterday, the ability to enter into the Kingdom of God through Christ is open to all who would believe!

My hope and prayer is that we would be challenged to reach out to our friends, our families, our neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers with the news that they too can enter into the Kingdom of God. Often times we have our preconceived notions that this person or that person will never come to church. But this way of thinking limits who we think God can save! The truth is, God is at work in the lives of the people around us at all times. We are given the gift and the responsibility to reach out to them in Christ’s name! What a holy, and awesome responsibility our Father has entrusted us with!

The Outer Banks is full of people who are lost and far from the saving grace of Jesus. But the Gates are open for them to come in, It is our job to walk beside of them, and do all that we can to make sure that their path to Christ is clear, as we lead them to the open arms of the waiting savior Jesus Christ.

Who will you walk beside? Who will you invite to church?

Note: For deeper study on the book of Revelation, watch or listen to Dr. Robert Mulholland's Asbury Seminaries Masters level class NT666 made available as a series of podcasts. Dr. Mulholland passed away just over a year ago, and Asbury made his class available to all. This is a rich resource. Dr. Mulholland was a faithfull, brilliant, and passionate teacher. Please take advantage!

Posted on February 13, 2017 .

Some Monday Morning MLK Day Thoughts.

Good morning Church! I hope you are all well today. Yesterday was a sweet time at church, and as one friend said to me later, "the Holy Spirit was thick at church today!" Amen. God's presence was certainly felt, and I continue to be excited to see how God will continue to work in our church throughout 2017.

Today we celebrate MLK Day. In light of this, maybe rereading yesterday's scripture would be appropriate:1Peter 3:8-18. We are reminded by Peter to bless those who commit evil. Repaying evil for evil is not an option for the follower of Christ! Christ himself commands us to love our enemy! Listen to these words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies."

Church, I am convinced that if we can display the generous, magnificent, earth-shaking act of loving our enemies and offering forgiveness to those who offend us, then we will see a revival on the Outer Banks that is nothing short of Heaven on Earth! Would you join me in prayer this week as we pray for this to take effect in our lives, in our church, and in our community? Commit to praying each day for those whom we struggle to love. Pray that love would pour forth from our lives. Pray that unforgiveness would be broken, and that the Cross of Christ would shatter hate, and that the love of Christ would bring the lost home to the Father!

I love each of you, and I can't wait to see you all next Sunday!

Posted on January 16, 2017 .

Snow Day

Good Morning! Well, it's not as snow covered as I thought it would be, but I've been out on the roads this morning and it certainly is icy out there! If you decide to drive anywhere this morning, please be safe and watch for the icy patches.

Since we cancelled our services for today, I hope that you could take this time to worship in your home. Whether you are by yourself, or have others in your home with you, this is the perfect opportunity to spend time with the Mighty Triune God! Grab your bible, put some music on, and be fed by the Spirit!

This morning we celebrate the Epiphany. The Epiphany is the visitation of the wise men to the Christ Child. (Matt. 2:1-12). We all know the story, how three wise men see a star in the sky, and read the signs as markers that a great King has arrived! They travel from the East, and probably arrive by the time when Christ is a toddler. (They certainly weren't there on Christmas morning, despite what our Nativity scenes depict!)

The wise men bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold represented Jesus' kingship (Rev. 17:14). Frankincense was an incense, and foreshadows Christ's priestly role. (Heb. 4:14). Finally Myrrh was an used in embalming, and this gift of the Magi casts a pall over these solemn and sacred gifts.

In the midst of celebrating Christmas and the Epiphany, we are reminded that Christ's death permeates every page of scripture, as it should permeate every moment of our lives. In Revelation 13:8 we are told that the lamb was slain from the foundation of the world (NIV). A curious phrase, sine we know that Christ's death happened at a certain point in History. However, if we understand Christ's sacrifice as being part of an eternal moment, we see that the Cross was not an event that can be contained on a timeline, but one that transcends time and place! It is not just chronos time, but it is kairos time.

Kairos time is the eternal moment, and time to be seized upon. This morning, as you read scripture and pray, this is kairos time. Allow yourself to be caught up in the eternal moment of worship. Allow the images of the Christ child receiving his gifts to mix with the images of Christ crucified. And allow the empty tomb to cast such a light on all these images, that the hope of the Resurrection would sustain you in every moment of your life! 

I pray that you are blessed today. I miss seeing all of you, and I will see you next week as we celebrate the Word and the Table together at the Y.

Peace of Christ,

Joey

Posted on January 8, 2017 .

6 Essentials of the Church

As promised, here are the 6 essentials that I spoke about during the sermon on Sunday. There are far more scriptures than the ones provided, so dig into your bible and find some more. I have included examples of each, though there are far more things we can be doing. This is just a sampling! While reading, ask yourself, "Where are my gifts? Where can I serve the body?" Each of you are uniquely wired, and God wants to use all members of the church for the fullness of His Kingdom!

Essentials of the Church:

The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23, 1 Cor. 12:27, …)

The Body of Christ does not just proclaim what Christ did, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it is what Christ is currently doing!

The Church carries out its mission by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. Individual church bodies must have each of the following pieces

The church must worship (Worship) Acts 2:42-47
Ex.: Sunday Morning
Special gathering times
The Sacraments
daily life
Conveyed in the posture of the people

The church must care for the impoverished. (Missions) Matthew 25:31-46
Ex.: Mission Trips
Local missions like Room at the Inn, Ruthie’s Kitchen, Life Guard dinners, Surfing for Autism, Outer Banks Relief Foundation, etc…
Sponsoring and praying for missionaries around the world
Conveyed in the actions of the people

The church must share the Gospel with the world (Evangelism) 2 Peter 3:9
Ex.: Alpha
Youth Alpha
Sunday mornings
Daily conversations
Conveyed in the relationships of the People

The church must make disciples of her people (Teaching) Matthew 28:19
Ex.: Sunday School
Adult Education
Sunday Mornings
Conveyed in the words of the people.

The church must offer deep friendship and hospitality (Fellowship) Acts 2:42, Psalm 133
Ex.: Welcoming guests and visitors on Sunday mornings
Opening our homes to others
Life Groups
Picnics, dinners, and parties!
Conveyed in the hospitality of the People

The church must be a place of healing (Gifts of the Spirit) 1 Cor 12:1-11
Ex.: Pastoral Care
Prayer Ministry
Conveyed in the power of the people

Posted on September 26, 2016 .

Hospitality and Evangelism

Yesterday was a great Sunday! We had 2 wonderful worship services, a packed First Step Class for newcomers, and a great BBQ after church! When I got home, my belly, my soul, and my heart were full. I love this church, and I am so excited to be here sharing life with all of you!

Yesterday I spoke about hospitality being the key to evangelism. Hospitality is not about slick welcome packages, elaborate Pinterest tea parties, or warm cookies at the hotel check in desk. Hospitality is about sharing life with others. Share a cup of coffee, a meal, or take a walk with someone. Have somebody over to dinner without cleaning up! Its OK to let people see that your laundry isn't folded, or that the dishes aren't done. Its OK to serve soup from a can and grilled cheese sandwiches because you don't have time to fix something spectacular. The point isn't to wow people with your amazing culinary and housekeeping skills. The point is to allow people into your life; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Too often we show people the glossy, social media sanitized version of our life. But this is putting Vaseline of the camera lens of reality, and Christ is often cropped out of these blurred pictures. The truth is, Christ appears clearest in our weakness and our blemishes, and when people see the real version of our lives, they see him more clearly. This is what happens in the midst of true hospitality. Jesus invited people the share their lives with him, and the result was that sinners repented, the lost were found, and the Kingdom of God exploded with the beauty of broken people made whole!

Want to know how to be hospitable in your life and become a force of evangelism in your community?

 

  1. Go where the people are. Don't try to lure people to you. First, go to them. Most people that are far from God aren't just going to show up to church or to a bible study. Go where they are. This is what Jesus did, and if he can walk into seedy places, so can we!
  2. Earn the right to be heard. This is a phrase from the founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn. Don't expect people to listen to you if you haven't proven to them that you care for them. When people feel loved, their ears will be open. This takes time and patience!
  3. Invite them to share in your life. Take someone out for coffee. Invite them into your disordered life! Running to Costco in Norfolk? Take a friend with you. Inviting someone to share your life is actually easy. It just takes the initiative to invite! But when people see that you care enough to invite them into your mess, they feel accepted, loved, and are open to receiving Christ in you!
  4.  Love them for who they are and where they are at in life. People that are far from God, that have not given their life to Christ, are not yet filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Not to say that they are not being moved by the Holy Spirit, they may be, but they have not yet received the infilling that comes from being born anew. With that understood, we mustn't get upset when a non-Christian acts like a non-Christian! It is only through the Holy Spirit that you and I are able to behave in Holy and obedient ways. (Even with the Holy Spirit, we often ignore him, and act disobediently!) In short, people who are not following Christ are not going to act the same way you and I do. That's OK. We need to love them, and love them, and then love them some more. God was patient with us, and we show that patience to others through Christ's strength and love in us. People will change, but we have to wait sometimes. To paraphrase Dorie from the Pixar movies, "Just keep loving, just keep loving..."

That's all for now. Be hospitable, be loving, be an evangelist. We can blow this place up with the love of Jesus, and the Kingdom can grow by leaps and bounds!


Peace,

Joey+

Posted on September 12, 2016 .

Baptism, Pentecost, and a Prayer Vigil

Pentecost Sunday is coming! Pentecost is one of my favorite times of the church calendar. The Holy Spirit has already been poured out on the world at that Pentecost festival 2000 years ago. But each year we celebrate this coming of the Holly Spirit, and we ask for a greater outpouring of God's Spirit in the world, in the Church, and in our individual lives. It is a sweet season, one of hopefully expectancy, and a great (and traditional) time for baptisms!

Baptism is a sacrament that has been commanded by Christ himself to all who wish to follow him. (Mat. 28:19)  A sacrament has been defined as, "An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace." In baptism, we are united with Christ in his life and death, and we are sealed with the Holy Spirit! (Romans 6:1-11) If you or your children haven't been baptized, prayerfully consider this step!

The season of Pentecost also a season of prayer, asking for the revival of the Holy Spirit to pour forth. On Saturday May 21 through Sunday morning May 22nd we are going to have a prayer vigil at the church office. I will give more details later. In short, we will be praying for our church and our community and asking God for a sweet revival of His Spirit on the Outer Banks. There will be a chance for us to gather together as a large group during this time, but most of the time will be individuals or small groups of people gathering in the office for 24 hours of prayer. Will you consider joining us for part of this time?

We will be talking more about these things in the coming weeks, but I am excited to see what God is going to continue to do!

Posted on April 26, 2016 .

Small changes in our Sunday morning worship flow

When I interviewed here last year, one of the first things I fell in love with was our worship service. It is sweet, heartfelt, and our worship music is offered by sincerely talented, Christ-centered people. There is a simplicity and authenticity in our services that strikes me as humble and sincere. I give all the credit to our worship team and to Winfield for creating such a wonderful atmosphere of worship that welcomes us all into the presence of God!

So why are we changing things up a little bit? There are a few reasons for this change, and they are both practical and theological. These changes speak to our natural human disposition as well as to the journey that our entire being (body, spirit, and soul) experiences in worship.

First, the natural human disposition: All of us, ministers and worship leaders included, find ourselves in a bit of a rush most Sunday mornings. With the strain of the week behind us, the worry of the week ahead, and the chaos that most families struggle with in getting out of the house anytime they leave, we are not always in the easiest place to enter into worship when church starts. And that is OK! While some people can settle quickly and let all that mess wash off like water on a duck’s back, I’m not one of those people. And I bet that most of you are like me. With the way our worship structure has been, its only by the end of the third song that I feel a bit of rest and peace pouring over me. Then all of the sudden, we stop, make some announcements, and take a five minute break. Talk about a buzz kill!

By moving the worship to the end, we are allowing all elements of the service to minister to our entire being and to more effectively shape us and open us up to respond in deeper worship and admiration for our mighty, Triune God. Because it will now be at the end, we will be freer to be more spontaneous: If the worship team and I feel that there is a particular sensing of the presence of God, we can continue to sing another chorus, or to pray in spontaneity without feeling hampered by the commitments of the rest of the service. It gives us time to offer more prayer ministry to those that want to pray with a prayer minister at the back of the church. Mostly though, it allows the hassles of the week to slough off and clears our minds to respond with a greater passion to God’s call on our life.

Secondly, the new structure provides a few elements that we were missing. 1.) The declaration of the Word of God apart from the sermon. Don’t get me wrong, I love preaching sermons, and think that it is a wonderful and necessary part of discipleship. However, the Word of God, specifically in the Gospels, should be given a chance to speak for itself. God is alive in the Word, and when we take the time to read it publicly, we are honoring Holy Scripture, and holding it up as central to our church’s life. So each week, we are going to have a special time to read a Gospel passage out loud. Sometimes this will the subject of the sermon, other times the sermon may focus on another Scripture passage. Regardless, we will give the words and life of Jesus Christ centrality to our church’s beliefs! 2.) The Take 5 has been a fun part of our service, and I am a little leery in changing it. However, it has also served as an unnatural break in the flow of our service. The history of church worship has always allowed for a moment where people may greet each other, but more specifically for them to bless each other with the peace of Christ. This “passing of the peace” allows for people to be greeted and for people to make amends before responding to the message of the worship. If there is someone within the service that has offended you for some reason, this passing of the peace is the perfect time to extend and receive forgiveness before approaching the communion table. It isn’t just a silly moment of wrote and meaningless gestures, but one that is rich in forgiveness and love. By removing the Take 5 and instituting The Peace, we are removing an unnatural break in the service, and allowing for the forgiveness and hospitality of God to flow through us!

Each of these changes addressed our entire being: our bodies (weary and in need of being restored in Christ through worship) our souls (which need to be cleared and stilled) and our spirits (which need nourishment from the word, the communion table, and the peace of the community). Hopefully these small changes will help us to engage deeper and experience more and more the blessings of the Kingdom of God on our little community!

Peace and blessings,

Joey

Posted on March 29, 2016 .

Easter is Coming!

We are now just 2 1/2 weeks from celebrating the Risen Christ. The Lenten season is coming to an end, and the penitential activities such as fasting, will give way to feasting and praising God with shouts of "Alleluia"! Not only am I looking forward to a large cup of coffee, which I gave up for lent, I am most excited about the opportunity to preach on the the resurrection, the compete defeat of death, and triumph of the Power of the Kingdom of Heaven!

But... we are still in the season of Lent. While the light is at the end of the tunnel, there are still 18 days left. 18 days to embrace this somber valley in the rhythm of the church calendar. It seems strange to some to speak of embracing "somber" and "penitent" times. After all, we live in a culture that insists that we live from mountain top to mountain top. Cries of, "You deserve to be happy!" and "Treat yourself!" fill social media with stale memes of self-love and hearts turned in on themselves. Lent stands in stark contrast to these ideals. Lent is about denial. It is aboutlosing yourself rather than finding yourself. Its about turning the heart away from an inward focus. And that is not a bad thing. Its actually a really holy and good thing!

Understanding our identity can only be grasped in our relationship with our Creator. We are His. That is the fullness of our identity! Nothing else captures who we are. Not our wealth or lack of it. Not our education level, our job title, our marital status, our political affiliations, our our citizenship. Not that these things don't shape our lives, or add substance to our thinking and paradigms. They do. But these things are either redeemed in Christ and made subject to our status as Children of God, or they rule our identities and becomeour idols.

Let me explain what I mean: If I fully embrace my identity as His, then no matter what my job title is here on Earth, I understand it in terms of how I am serving my Daddy's Kingdom. Am I a teacher? Then I teach for the Kingdom, no matter what type of school I am in. Am I a mechanic? Then I serve the people in my community, honoring the Kingdom of God in the integrity of my work and the love I have for my customer. You see? Belong to Him as His child becomes my identity, and everything else is simply a means by which the Grace of God can pour out of me into the world.

Lent helps us let go of those things that would rob us of our true identity. Fasting, praying, self-denial, and reflecting on our brokenness apart from Christ leads us to a deeper hunger and yearning for the joy of the embrace of the nail scarred hands. When Easter finally comes, and we have journeyed through the valley of Lent, we effectively lose our self, or at least our false self. But we find our true identity in Christ, and in Christ we no longer worry about ourselves. Our hearts have been turned outward and upward. Outward towards others, and upward towards our mighty, Triune God!

So embrace these last 18 days. Long for Easter and prepare for Christ's magnificent return!

Posted on March 9, 2016 .

About the 2016 Presidential Race

As a pastor, I have to be very careful of not using my privileged place as the shepherd of this congregation to endorse political candidates. It is not my role to back one person over another. However, it is my role to remind each of us as to our responsibility to elect men and women of character; people who are decent, moral, and upright in their actions. Honest people with integrity that have wisdom, humility, and treat everyone with equality, love, and respect. Politicians are often notorious blowhards, and this presidential campaign has the blowhards as the front runners. We must look at their actions and their lives, not just listen to their words: If their fruit is rotten, they are not who they claim.

We are warned in Holy Scripture of evil men and women who claim to be godly people, but are "waterless clouds, hidden reefs, shepherds feeding themselves.." (Jude 1:12-13) In other words, just because someone claims to be a follower of Christ does not mean that they are.

Christ said of these people:

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Pray, fast, and lift up our country to the Lord. Pray that we would be a repentant land, and pray for each of the candidates. Especially for those with the hardest hearts whom we disagree with the most. Pray that they may be transformed by the grace, mercy, and tenderness of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work, and the Kingdom of God has a power that far exceeds anything here on Earth. Praise be to Him who is the True Sovereign King of this land, and of the world!

Posted on February 25, 2016 .

Acts 2

Good afternoon everyone. We just wrapped up our series on Acts 2, and the 6 essential components of the Church. I wanted to write up a summery of the sermon series for the sake of posterity. If any of these raises questions, or you missed one of the sermons, feel free to comment here for further clarification, or give me a call and we can go grab coffee!

First, we see the obedience of the Apostles to Christ leading to the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles follow Christ's command to wait in the city for the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4). That obedience led to the baptism of the Spirit, and to God's name and the Gospel being proclaimed to people from the ends of the earth! (Acts 2:5). The end result? 3000 people were baptized and the early church was formed when the Holy Spirit added to the remains of Apostles and Disciples left after Christ's death and resurrection, breathing the life of Christ into them!

In Acts 2:42-47, the first Church engages in 6 practices:

1. Discipleship: They devote themselves to the teaching of the Apostles. Of course, the Apostles taught what had been revealed to them in Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Many things that they learned from Christ, they only understood in retrospect as the Holy Spirit revealed to them the truth that they had previously not quite grasped! As we seek to be taught, whether is is through sermons, books, podcasts, or even in the studying of scripture, we have to have the wisdom of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, revealing the truth of the mighty Triune God!

2. Fellowship: The early church forged friendships, shared meals together, and shared their very lives with one another. Fellowship surrounded their prayer, the teaching, their worship, and even their mission and evangelism! So it should be with us as well. We learn, worship, pray, and reach others best in fellowship. Certainly there are moments when we engage in these things alone, but only as means to reengage others with more energy, strength, and wisdom.

3. Prayer: We pray to communicate with God. We pray to the Father, in the Name of the Son, and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We receive, we ask, we praise, we worship, and we listen in prayer. In short, prayer is our lifeline, it is the source of our communion with the Holy Trinity. Prayer can be spontaneous, it can be wrote. Prayer can be in our silence and in our shouts. Prayer can be thankful, and it can even be angry (read some of the Psalms)! Prayer is how we God communicates to us, and how we speak to him. And if we aren't praying, we aren't hearing the one Voice we need to hear!

4. Worship: Our whole lives can be worship. Our jobs, our play, our family life, our private life. Each action, when done though the righteousness of Christ in us and the power of the Holy Spirit can be an act of worship. More specifically in this case, we are speaking of corporate worship...worshiping our Lord together. Worship, like prayer, transforms us, and molds us into the image of Jesus. When we worship, we empty ourselves and are filled with the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!

5. Evangelism: Worship, Prayer, Discipleship, and Fellowship are ways in which we are filled with God. That infilling is not meant to be contained, and the sweetness of God's love is not meant solely for our consumption.  Rather, we are meant to overflow with God. We are filled up, so that we can spill out! This "spilling out" results in God, using his body and Bride the Church, to minister to the world. We minister in our word and in our actions, sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christto all that we encounter!

6. Mission: Mission is an extension of evangelism. Here I am using mission in the sense of evangelism that is marked by service and care for the poor, marginalized, and the oppressed. This is the embodiment of Mathew 25: feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the sick and imprisoned, care for the widow and the orphans. Again, Mission and Evangelism are outpouring of the work of God in our lives, the infilling of the Holy Spirit that we receive when we pray, worship, fellowship and are discipled effectively.

If any of the components are missing, we are failing in our role as the church and missing out on the blessing of living into the fullness of God's calling!

 

 

Posted on February 3, 2016 .

Advent

Between gallbladder surgery and Thanksgiving, I took a little break from the blog. However, I am back! Hopefully the wait hasn't been too unbearable...

It isn't the Christmas season yet. I know, it is December. Christmas is just three weeks away! But it isn't the Christmas season yet.  I know. Christmas decorations were going up in stores right after Halloween. A week before Thanksgiving Starbucks had stopped selling their Thanksgiving blend and had already started brewing their Christmas brew.  Even with their now infamous red cup, it isn't the Christmas season yet. Rudolph, Frosty, and the Elf on the Shelf were already on TV. Even still it isn't the Christmas season yet.

It is the season of. We are now just 6 days into Advent, the beginning of the new year of the Church Calendar. There are 3 more weeks of Advent, a time of prayer and preparation. Then, according to our ancient Church Calendar, we have 12 full days of Christmas! Following the Church Calendar and celebrating Advent is kinda counter cultural these days, so why should we do it?

We live in a culture that wants everything instantly. We don't want to contemplate how it happens, or why; we just want what we want when we want it. I'm guilty of this. I am impatient. Pandora has been streaming Christmas music on my computer since the day after Thanksgiving. I want the feeling of Christmas morning, in my coffee mug, on my couch, right this moment. I don't want to reflect and pray. I just want to play with my children's new toys and eat Christmas cookies till I'm sick.

But I have to wait. And waiting is a good thing. Waiting brings suspense and anticipation. Remember the old saying, "absence makes the heart grow fonder"? This isn't just true of people. Moving to the Outer Banks this summer, I wasn't prepared for many of my new favorite restaurants would close for the winter. But now Kill Devil Custard is shuddered, and I can't get a BBQ sandwich and beach fries for 5 more months. But do you know just how wonderful it will be when I bite into one in the Spring? I'll let the BBQ drip down my chin as I savor every. single. bite. Waiting for Christmas brings the same kind of anticipation, only better!

When we saturate ourselves with the things that we long for, and consume those things without contemplation or appreciation, we run the risk of overkill and we diminish the value. Christmas is no different. I'm not saying to cut off the Christmas Carols, or to put your Christmas tree up on Christmas Eve. Go for it. What I am saying is this: Allow this Advent Season to be one of contemplation, prayer, waiting, and repentance. Don't just consume the Christmas gluttony around us. Stop, read Scripture. Contemplate the gift of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. Pray that the obedience of Mary and Joseph would be reflected in your life. Seek the shining star that would guide you to Christ. Don't try to make every moment recapture the feeling of Christmas morning. Relax, let the anticipation build. Then, on the 25th, bite down and savor Christmas. It will be gone before you know it!

Posted on December 3, 2015 .

Scriptures and the Nicene Creed

As promised, I have written scriptures to go along with different phrases of the Nicene Creed. There are certainly more scriptures that could go with each, but this is a start if you want to explore the scriptural basis of the Creed. Enjoy!

We believe in one God, (Isaiah 45: 5-6)
The Father, the Almighty (Romans 8:15)
maker of heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1)
of all that is, visible and invisible (Col. 1:16)
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, (Matthew 3:17)
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, (John 1: 4,9)
begotten, not made, (Hebrews 1:5, 5:5)
of one Being with the Father; (John 10:30) through him all things were made. (John 1:3) For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, (John 3:16) was incarnate from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man.(Luke 1:31-35) For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; (Matthew 27:2) he suffered death and was buried. (Matthew 27: 35-50, 57-61) On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; (John 20:1-18)
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. (Mark 16:19) He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, (2 Timothy 4:1) and his kingdom will have no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. (John 15:26) who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, (John 4:23-24)
who has spoken through the prophets. (Acts 2:17)
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. (Ephesians 4:3-6, Galatians 3:28)
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. (Ephesians 4:5 Acts 2:38)
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. (1 Corinthians 15:20-24)

Posted on November 12, 2015 .

Some Answers about The Nicene Creed

I hope that all of you are enjoying the sermon series on the Nicene Creed. I wanted to make a few points on here and perhaps clarify a few questions that you may have. 

  1. Church of the Outer Banks is a church in the Protestant Stream. What I mean by this is that our church is neither Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, etc… Our history and our theology, like every Protestant Church (whether it’s Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Non-Denominational, Church of God, etc…)  comes out of the Protestant Reformation of the 1500’s. This doesn't mean that we ignore everything that came before though. The Reformers believed that they were reforming the ancient church from a (relatively) short time of corruption, not starting a brand new movement! 
  2. You may ask, do churches that aren’t Roman Catholic say the Nicene Creed? the answer is absolutely YES! The Nicene Creed has been the standard summary of Christianity since it was written in the 4th century. Every phrase is backed up by scripture (I’ll post another blog with scripture references another day). Churches that came to being from the Protestant Reformation accept and affirm the Nicene Creed. The Orthodox Creed of the General Baptists (1687) noted that the Nicene Creed, the Apostles Creed, and the Athanasian Creed should be taught and memorized. The Methodist movement, the Anglican Communion, Lutheran churches, and the Presbyterian churches have always included these Creeds as well. While many non-denomination churches may not specifically recite or say the Creeds, they would not deny the contents. To deny something written in the creed would be considered heresy by all orthodox Christian traditions. 
  3. So then, what is that weird phrase saying that “we believe in one, holy, catholic church” all about? The word catholic simply means universal. We are acknowledging that we are not followers of Christ alone, but that we are a part of a great family! That family consists of all Christians, everywhere, and from every time. The Holy Spirit unites us together into one body. Though we may worship in different places, we are united as Christ’s Body. Saying this piece of the Nicene Creed is a reminder that God has joined us together, made His people Holy, and that he is present in the church. 

I will post some more next week. I will try to link each phrase with the appropriate scriptures so that you can see how these early church leaders formed the Creed. If you have questions, leave a comment, and I will try to answer as best as I can. 

 

Peace, 

Joey

Posted on November 3, 2015 .

Introducing my thoughts, ramblings, and other stuff

Welcome to my blog. I wanted to create a place where I could express thoughts and ideas that just don't quite make it into the Sunday morning sermons. Sometimes it will be thoughts that pertain directly to Sunday mornings; expanding on ideas or providing additional thoughts, resources and information on the various topics that we are studying. Other times it will be information about current events, thoughts that occur to me after eating too much chips and salsa at 11:00 at night, or interesting articles that I find and want to share with you.

Please enjoy, and make comments! I hope to have a free dialogue with the comments. Check back in a few days, and hopefully I will have a new entry up. I will shoot to have at least one a week, but there may be a time when I get lazy, forget, or camp out for a week straight to get Star Wars tickets. Hang with me. I'll always come back on-line.

Peace of Christ,

Rev. Joey Fitzgerald

Lead Pastor, Church of the Outer Banks

Posted on October 28, 2015 .