February 27, 2008

a great light has gone out

One of my parishioners died this last weekend. I was driving up to our clergy retreat when I got the call. Sweet Bea Hernandez had passed away over the weekend.

Bea was an incredible woman and my friend. She lived her life with joy and great passion. She was quick with a smile and always ready to laugh. Whenever we were in worship she was often the only one who laughed at my bad jokes – and it wasn’t a pity laugh either! When Mark would tell the congregation to dance, Bea would start her wheelchair spinning in circles and just laugh and sing.

Bea worked with the youth, with our special needs kids, in our worship ministry. She went to UP and traditional worship too. Bea didn’t have much in the way of money, but she was kind and generous. She gave to the church budget and contributed to helping build the new building. Oh, she was so excited about the building opening. She asked that any memorials be directed to our Imagine Building Campaign. I wish I could have seen her rolling across that bridge.

My friend Vicki and I were consoling one another and she said, “A great light has gone out.” That is how I feel too. Bea carried the light of the Holy Spirit inside of her an generated a luminosity all her own. I sure will miss her.

Services will be at University at 2 pm on Thursday.

February 25, 2008

new sanctuary set to open

So the long wait looks to finally be over! We are going to open our new facility on Saturday, March 8. Just a few months after I arrived at the U, I was placed on a Building Committee to help shepherd the building process. I'm not sure that I did that, but I did learn a lot and pray a lot. We were led by Jesse Minor, who God has given the broadest shoulders of any man I’ve ever met (spiritually speaking – he’s not a pro-wrestler or anything). Our little team has met and made decisions – then changed our minds – then made decisions – then changed our minds – then, well you get what I’m saying. After four years, we’ve all grown quite close. At any rate, we’re set to open our youth building, the sky bridge, and our new sanctuary and recreation facility. If you are interested in checking it out, here is our worship schedule for opening events:

March 8
5:30 pm: Opening Worship (Begins in the McCreless Gym in South Campus)

March 9
9:30 & 11:00 am: Sunday Worship (North Campus Sanctuary)
5:30 pm: Consecration Worship (North Campus Sanctuary – Guest Preacher: Mike Lowry)

March 16
5:30 pm: Heritage & Hope Worship (North Campus Sanctuary – Guest Preacher: Steve Wende)

February 23, 2008


I am admittedly a political junky. I worked in politics for a number of years and always planned to run for public office. I watch CNN and go online to research candidates and to listen to them in their own words. Sound bites cheat the democratic process. Having worked on local, state, and presidential campaigns, I enjoy observing the drama and intricate movement of the political machine.

We are currently in the midst of a presidential race that is extremely competitive and will likely remain so through the general election. The candidates will parse each other’s statements and exchange sharp words. The campaign workers will cross the line, they just get too caught up in it all and lose perspective. The media will work to take any event, large or small and blow it way out of proportion – especially if it is controversial. All kinds of special interest groups on the fringes of their party will spew hatred from the shadows.

For all that, we will have a change in government and no one will die. No one’s home will be burnt to the ground. The army won’t be mobilized. Armed factions won’t square off. In many places around the world a change in government is accompanied by desperate times and horrible violence. The quest for power and control often flings nations into chaos. In countries around the world, they are bleeding for the right to be counted. This has been true throughout human history and continues to be true today.

Every 4 years, our people have the chance to peacefully overthrow the government and start anew. Absolutely remarkable.

February 7, 2008


The following was originally written and published in the February edition of our uzine: The Encourager.

A good friend of mine, and a dynamic lay leader here at the U recently shared this quote as an opening to our Pastor Parish Relations Committee meeting. It is taken from Andy Stanley’s book, Visioneering.

"Whenever you attempt to bring about change, it plays on the insecurities of those who have grown accustomed to the way things are and have always been. In this way, a vision is often seen as a threat. Consequently, it is not uncommon for the negative emotions a vision stirs up in people to be unleashed in the form of criticism. What you are convinced 'should be' will be perceived by others as the very thing that 'should not be.'

To make matters worse, the critics appear to be armed with the 'facts.' Often they have history and experience on their side. And understandably so. A vision is about the future, not the past. A vision has no history. And yet history and experience are what gives birth to a vision. It is past experience that makes the visionary discontent with the way things are. It is from an understanding of history that a picture of could be and should be takes shape. It is unfortunate that the fertile soil of history and experience is the very soil often used to bury a vision. The birthplace of a vision can become its burial ground as well

As I reflect on Stanley’s words, I cannot help but consider how aptly it captures the entire spirit of God’s work in Jesus Christ. In his son, God gave humanity a vision for the future – a glorious picture of things seen and unseen; a picture of hope and new birth; a picture of life and life eternal.

Yet, there were those whose experience precluded them from embracing the magnitude of God’s vision and plan for the future. It was inconceivable that Jesus should bear the sin of humanity, freeing us from the burden of the law. It was beyond the bounds of history to believe that the God-Man should die and rise again, bringing salvation not through a mighty force of arms, but through the self-surrender of a repentant heart.

When Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, “the birthplace of a vision became its burial ground as well.” Then God turned history upside down when on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where he sat down at God’s mighty right hand. Where human beings are bound by the rigors of time and the turning clock, God is eternal and experiences no such limitations. Where human beings are bound by what they experience and record in their history, God is able to re-author history and make the impossible a glorious reality.

This work in Jesus Christ continues today in his body: the Church. We are no more bound by our history than Jesus was by his death on a cross. Even as he overcame, by his spirit and will, we also overcome. God is giving birth to vision and impossible dreams. What is impossible for man is possible for God.

Our responsibility as a church is to remember our history in such a way that brings forth new visions and new life. Any prayerful reflection on the history of University should yield enormous praise for the supernatural acts of God accomplished through the obedience of a trusting and God fearing people. Again and again, God has birthed new visions among us. He has brought them to fruition through changes that defy experience or tradition.

As we complete construction and open our North Campus, God is once again demonstrating his ability to do the impossible through the sacrificial obedience of people sold out to a vision of expanding Christ’s Kingdom on earth. This should be a season of celebration – a time to thank God for all his work among us.

Likewise, this should be a season of vision-casting. We should be dreaming dreams together of what God will call us to next. The question which should be on our lips this next year isn’t “what have we done,” rather, “what are we called to do?” Let us be a people who celebrate God’s work in our history while eagerly anticipating the glorious changes he is longing to work in our future.