“You know, in the 90’s when we quit a show, we actually quit it. But not in the Brett Favre, Lance Armstrong double aughts. People just take a three day weekend and then get right back to it.”—Jerry Seinfeld to Jay Leno, trying to understand why Leno has another talk show
We had our Family Fun Day yesterday, and we had a great crowd - http://wp.me/pDyVa-h. More importantly, my team won when we played some 2 on 2 basketball. Don’t ask me if the goal was 10 feet or not - that’s not important.
Exciting news...ok not that exciting...moderately interesting, maybe
I started a blog on wordpress, just because it is easier for me to format and do comments, etc. - andrewdphillips.wordpress.com. But, I still plan on posting some at Tumblr and keeping up with it. So…that’s about it.
So, I have been thinking over the past few weeks, and I plan on using this blog more regularly. I have had this tumblr account for a while, and I have been using it to keep up with my friends and see what they are doing more than anything else. But, I have noticed how much I have gained from blogs by friends I went to school with and have gotten to know in ministry and in life. I want to try to return the favor. And, I think it would be good for me personally to spend more time thinking and reflecting about what is happening in ministry here (it is easy to get wrapped up in life and forget to think critically about what is happening). I will do my best to make this a helpful resource, although I reserve the right to include photos of our 17 month old son, as well as things I just think are funny. So, I am renewing my efforts to blog on this, my 28th birthday. I know, very symbolic.
I want to start by sharing part of a presentation I put together a couple of months ago. Sorry for those who have already seen/heard it, but I think this is something worthy of discussion. I tried to point to some questions that we need to ask ourselves in ministry, and one of them was “Am I learning from the past?” (Disclaimer: If this reads in a formal way, like a speech, that is because it is from a manuscript)
Sometimes, we downplay the importance of the past in the Church of Christ. Obviously, we can’t become so focused on our past that we spend all our energy reliving the nostalgia of the “good old days,” but if we want to better handle future challenges, we need to realize what has happened with those who have gone before us. Also, there is a difference between being intellectually honest and overly critical of our past. In some bulletin articles and on some blogs, there seems to be a negative perception of almost everything the Church of Christ has done in its history. If you read long enough, you might get the idea that we didn’t do anything right until recent years. While we all know that we have made many mistakes (who hasn’t?), in some cases, it almost seems like a recreational activity to poke fun at what the Church of Christ has done over the years, making statements like “I’m glad we aren’t like that anymore.” We all know the value of being able to poke fun at ourselves, and most of us are fine with making jokes. I am, however, sensing a dangerous trend developing that crosses the line into insensitivity.
The solution to balance in this area is not more arguing, and it also isn’t turning a blind eye to past mistakes and claiming that the church has been faultless. Rather, the key to balance is learning more about what previous generations in the church have done. For example, when I read the book “It’s All About God” that Harold Shank wrote about the life of E.H. Ijams, I was amazed to see the work brother Ijams had been doing in Nashville. Even more important was the family trip I took to Florence Alabama last year, in which my grandfather showed me the creek where Brother Ijams baptized him. Last summer, I was eating with my other set of grandparents, and I began asking them questions about being charter members of a newly planted congregation in Memphis years ago. It was fascinating to hear about the challenges they faced and the hurdles they had to overcome. I had attended that church as a child, never realizing what it had taken to get to that point. You can probably fill in the blanks with sacrifices you know of that have been made over the years. Do we really want to demean those efforts? Sure, we can admit mistakes and do our best to correct them, but is it a good idea to focus all the time on the negatives about what the church “used to do” or “used to believe?” What kind of message does that send to those who aren’t Christians? What kind of message does that send to those who have been members of the church for decades?
All of us today are living in cities we did not build (Dt. 6:10-12), benefitting from the way God has used those who have gone before us. Let’s be thankful for our past and seek to learn from it.
So I got an e-mail today that said I had officially been registered and my fee had been paid for the Oklahoma State Senior Games. And no, they don’t mean Seniors in high school. I called the number listed, and the lady asked if I was the Andrew D. Phillips who was 92 years old. Even though I have a birthday coming up on Friday, 92 is still a long way off. So, they mistyped his e-mail address and it found its way to me. I found out that Andrew Phillips had participated last year, and he even placed in Men’s Track, as you can see from this link. So, I will definitely be cheering for Andrew Phillips in this year’s games!
I don’t know what it is - maybe it is the flood of information available to us in this era of facebook status updates and 24 hour news stations, maybe it is the recent economic situation, or maybe it is just the everyday events in life, but it seems like chaos is all around us. It is hard for us to catch our breath from one problem in time to tackle the next one. As our schedules expand and our stress levels build, it can feel like we are constantly running on a treadmill - working hard, getting tired, and then winding up back where we started. At times like these, peace seems like a distant hope.
In the ancient Near East, there was a symbol for chaos that would have been familiar to many cultures - the sea. In tablets discovered at Ugarit (a place north of Israel), there were some writings that dated from 1400 -1200 B.C., and they discuss a pagan god of destruction “Yam,” whose name means “sea.” It makes sense that they would associate the sea with chaos and destruction. Think about the damage that floods and storms can do. They are forces beyond our control; even when we try to predict weather, we still can’t change it. Today, we still refer to turbulent times as “storms in life.”
We also find the “sea” mentioned several times in scripture. In Genesis 1, God separates the waters, putting them in their proper place. In Job 38:8-11, God reminds Job that he was not there when God was “enclosing the sea” or saying to the waves, “This far you shall come, but no further.” The Psalmist described God as “dividing the sea by His strength” in Psalm 74:13. This is poetic language, of course, but it reminds us of God’s power over the sea. What happened in the New Testament, when Jesus and His disciples were caught in a storm at sea? Jesus calmed the storm, amazing His followers (Mark 4:35-41).
What does all this mean? Did every Israelite see the term “sea” and automatically think “chaos”? While we can’t know for sure, it is likely that they would have associated the two, and scripture does seem to stress that God was in charge of these elements. In any case, it serves as a good reminder to me that I will never experience any chaos that is greater than God. My life might be overwhelming to me, my problems might appear to flood over every aspect of my life, but I serve a God who is more powerful than any storm. When the new Heaven and Earth are depicted in Revelation, we are told that there will be no more sea (Revelation 21:1). While I might not always experience peace in this life, I know that if I live for God, I will one day live in a place where there is no sea, no chaos, because God has said “Peace, be still.”
Here are three new things I tried during last Sunday morning’s sermon:
1. Our new projector - it worked great. When using our old projector, it was a strain even to see a clear picture. We have long term plans for a much better a/v setup, but due to budget issues, we are going to have to wait on that. So, we got a replacement projector that is handling the job fine and can be used in the classroom once we replace it. So, it was the first Sunday in a while that the visuals were part of the lesson, not a major distraction.
2. Since we can’t put the new a/v setup in right now, we don’t have a monitor for me to look at to see the screen displays. But, I don’t want to keep turning around all the time. So, I bought a round rearview mirror at Wal-Mart with adhesive on the back and attached it to one of Luke’s wooden blocks (trust me, he has a ton of them and will not miss it) that is shaped like a triangle. The end result is a makeshift rearview mirror in the pulpit (which no one else can see) that shows me the screen. Just call me MacGyver.
3. As we have been going through some questions often asked (ingeniously titled “Frequently Asked Questions,”) we have been exploring worship. During the times we focus on a particular aspect of worship, we have spent time in that actual act. For example, when we went over prayer, a few of our men led us in some focused prayer time at various points in the sermon. During the sermon Sunday about God’s Word, we had an extended period of reading scripture. It is amazing how few times we do that in worship. Think about it - we are there to worship God, yet we rarely (in my experience) have extended readings from His Word. It was really challenging to think about how much time I spend saying, sifting, organizing, refining, and deciding on my words in light of how much time we spend in worship reading God’s words. I often obsess about what I say, what I should have said, what I can say next time, and I face the temptation I guess every minister faces - to keep talking. So Sunday, we spent alot of time listening to God speak. Obviously, we should all do that privately, but I hope we can do that more publicly in the future.
I have not been posting much or actually using this blog very much lately. I plan on actually starting to use it, post stuff, and put more things on here. So, I am just preparing you for that. Consider yourself warned.
We have lived in Kentucky for about half a year now, and the people here have been very good to us. We have been able to reach some people, and we are making plans to do a much better job getting involved in the community. It is exciting to think about what God has in store for this congregation.
Although we are so close to Nashville, it does seem obvious to me that we live in a different state than Tennessee (where I spent a majority of my life). The huge farms with seemingly endless rows of corn are new to me, as is the ubiquitous nature of RC Cola. Seriously, it is everywhere here. RC Cola machines are just as common, if not more common, than Coke machines. And the state income taxes remind you of the difference as soon as you get your first paycheck. Obviously, it isn’t like moving to the northeast or west coast or anything, but I have enjoyed picking up on the little peculiarities that make it unique. And I will be honest, I have even felt sorry for myself at certain times, missing what I had become used to at MJ (proximity to a movie theater and a really good wing place come to mind).
But, I had a perspective check recently. I was talking with David, who just re-opened the BP next door to our church building (which I was really excited about, since now I don’t have to describe our church building as being “next to the old abandoned gas station”). He moved here from Jordan when he was in his early 20’s. He has lived in several places in Tennessee, and he now lives in Springfield and drives to work in Russellville. I asked him to describe what he thought about America after spending a few years here, and he said, “Tennessee, Kentucky - it all looks the same to me.” For him, there wasn’t much of a difference. It had seemed really noticeable to me, but not at all to him.
Then I thought about Nick and Amy, who are in training to do mission work in Brazil. I thought about Barton, Allison, Matt, Charla, Gary and Jennifer who are getting ready to leave for Peru to plant a church. I thought about Alan and Rachel who have moved to work with various tribes of the Makua people in Africa, learning different dialects along the way. I thought about Coach Drinnen, my high school Bible teacher, who left America to work with the Village of Hope in Ghana. And I realized - driving a long way to see a movie is not that big of a deal.
It seemed like a big difference, but in light of what those people are giving up and enduring for the sake of mission work, I was being pretty short-sighted. I mean, I wouldn’t complain if Russellville built a WOW Wingery soon, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m just glad God used David to re-adjust my vision and remind me that some people have greater challenges than having to drink RC Cola at restaurants.
Here is the link to our new church website - www.churchofchristcd.com. Now, this is my very first attempt at website stuff, so bear that in mind as you check it out. Plus, there will be changes when we get our new logo, etc. But, we need to get something out there. Plus, I didn’t realize until the other day that the template I chose, plus the picture, uses Psi Mu colors. Psi Mu lives!
“Ummm…don’t you remember when God wrote the Bible and made everything, He didn’t say anything about making leprechauns, so they don’t exist.”—4 year old outside my office (my office is located in the same hallway as our Christian School - I hear many debates and discussions from preschoolers)