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September 27th, 2015

Member Care circulates healing in the body of Christ.

Colossians 3:12-17

September 27, 2015

What God prefers

In all my years of preaching, there’s one line that I hear quoted back to me more than any other:   “God prefers imperfect intimacy to outward conformity.”  It was from a sermon I preached three years ago on Jeremiah 31:31-34 I titled “The New Covenant.” God anticipates the covenant he will make through Jesus and says, “They will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, for I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”  That last phrase gripped me as I thought about my family.

When Linda and I married in 1978, we had no delusions that we would have a perfect family.  But God being our helper, we wanted to do it right by him.  We took a marriage and family course in Bible college together so we could learn and discuss what it means to be a godly family.  We learned that Mom and Dad should put their relationship first.  Divorce is not an option.  Don’t go to bed mad. Don’t fight in front of the children.  Teach them God’s Word.  Lead them to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Let them see you in prayer and worship and Bible study.  Prioritize date nights.  Spend time with your kids as a priority.  Balance discipline and love.  Make family devotions a priority.

Looking back, I would say we did all that, and did it fairly well.  Ask our young adult kids.  But they will also tell you something was missing. Read more »

September 23rd, 2015

I had already planned to write a column for today’s newsletter, which I do about once a month.

I had already planned to write about this week’s final sermon in the series, “Why We Do What We Do.”

I had already planned to connect the sixth Core(inth) Value, “Member Care,” with the upcoming Family Life Conference October 9-10, and our keynote speaker, Curt Thompson.

I had already planned this morning to finish reading Dr. Thompson’s newest book, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves, and refer to it in my column.

What I hadn’t planned on was what I found in the Acknowledgments at the end of the book –

Over the last several years as I have been invited to speak in so many difference places, I have been the recipient of the unfathomable gift of new relationships. These people have honored me by inviting me into their communities, allowing me to be a part of their journey as they do the hard work of scorning shame, turning to new avenues of vocational creativity, and providing deep comfort and encouragement to me on the path to completing this book. These communities include but are not limited to Corinth Reformed Church in Hickory, North Carolina….

My first thought was, “We don’t deserve that. Curt, do you know enough about us? If you saw what I see on a daily basis…relationships ruptured, disillusioned ‘members’ who are no longer active, addictions that remain hidden because vulnerability doesn’t feel safe, pastors and staff who regularly feel inadequate for our calling….”

Oh, that’s what the book is about. Shame says, “I’m not worthy. We’re not worthy.” Curt Thompson treats shame not as a thing but almost as a person. Shame stalks, lies, whispers, hides, screams, lurks, divides – whatever works to destroy. “One way to envision shame is as a personal attendant,” Curt says, shame actively opposes the work of the Holy Spirit.

I’ll make sure some copies of The Soul of Shame are available for you to buy or borrow (from the church library) starting this Sunday.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in Life Together that we destroy Christian community when we envision the “ideal” and try to make it happen. God has created us for the capacity to be known by him and by others how we really are, not how we want to be perceived. It is in the admission that we are flawed that we find the hope of the gospel applied to our families and our church. Join us Sunday for worship, and be sure you’re signed up for the Family Life Conference.

September 20th, 2015

Your work and everything you do will be more meaningful if you share with those who are less fortunate.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Shared suffering

Not long ago Linda and I were watching one of those Hallmark movies men enjoy with their wives. A woman in the story was bemoaning the fact that she was ignored and overlooked. I looked up from whatever else I was doing and faked a cry “Wa-wa-wa.” Then I looked over at Linda and realized she was crying. Linda oozes compassion.

If it’s not the Lord or some angel, there’s surely someone among the great cloud of witnesses in heaven who is snickering that Bob Thompson is preaching a sermon on compassion. It doesn’t come naturally to me. Through the years I’ve taken the Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis several times. On the “sympathetic v. indifferent” scale I generally score somewhere around the 10th percentile, give or take a few.

Over the years I’ve made some progress in compassion. Why? Some of it, honestly, is just life. Read more »

September 16th, 2015

It’s probably a good thing Sandy Davis was in ICU when I made some disparaging comments about cats a couple of weeks ago in a Sunday sermon. I happen to be allergic to cats, and our cats are only affectionate toward me on their terms and timetable. So I said the only reason God created cats was to show us what worship is not.

The dog lovers that day were high fiving me on the way out of church. Had Sandy been there, she may have scratched me with her nails on the way out. If Sandy had to choose between her love for Mr. Whiskers and Ollie and her love for Pastor Bob, we all know who would have won out. Read more »

September 13th, 2015

The church is always one generation away from extinction.

Romans 15:14-22

One generation from extinction

People have asked me recently if I’m losing weight. The answer is yes, but I’m losing weight that has been “lost and found.” I have a perpetual ambition never to return to the 255 pounds I weighed 15 years ago. Do you have any perpetual ambitions?

Another lifelong passion is to do my part to leave one local church at a time, and the Church, in better shape than I found it. The only priorities that matter more than that perpetual ambition are my own relationship to God, to my wife, and to my children.

Leaving Corinth Reformed Church in better shape than I found it doesn’t necessarily imply leaving it bigger, but leaving it stronger, healthier, more likely to extend its impact to another generation. I hope to do the same for the Church universal – to do my small part to leave a legacy that impacts other churches in Hickory, in the United Church of Christ, and wherever else God allows our influence to reach.

If I/we are going to have that kind of impact, our sense of mission cannot be confined to what happens among people who are already here. Read more »