Sometimes you just see something great and need to stop to celebrate it. Well I had one of those moments this past Sunday morning after worship. Our church has entered a season where God is sending visitors our way, entrusting us with new, precious individuals and couples with teenagers and children. It is so humbling to see these new faces walk through our doors again and again because they sense that God is a work in this community of people. “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
These precious souls, old and young, are not just visiting once or twice never to be seen again. They are visiting and returning. They are trying out Sunday school, Children’s Church, Sisters groups, Big Gig and Songaze. They are joining us in deliberative dialogues, service projects and work days. They are beginning to join committees and care teams. Again, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord!”
Why are these new folks coming and staying? Is it because of the beautiful music offered every Sunday? Perhaps. Is it because of a thoughtful and engaging sermon? Maybe. Is it because of our core values of love, not judgment, extravagant welcome and inclusion, open-minded conversations and compassionate service? Probably. But what is the primary reason we are seeing more and more new faces joining our church family? It is because of what I saw on Sunday morning. I saw easily 20-25 of our members, new and old, actively engaging and befriending our visitors. Literally, our visitors were late for lunch because so many of our folks wanted to say “Hi,” shake their hand, be friendly, hear about them and let them know how glad we were that they joined us in worship. Once more,”Hallelujah, praise the Lord.”
Let me just tell you. That sight made this pastor’s heart swell with gratitude and pride. Church family, we are reaching new neighbors and growing because of God’s Spirit at work inside of you. You inspire me!
In my devotions this morning, I came across a provocative and powerful prayer based on the writings of Saint Francis that I offer to you as a focus for meditation. Allow its challenging sentiment to speak to you as make your way through the day.
Creator God, give us ears, make us rich soil like the rich soil in the Gospel parable of the seeds (Matthew 13). Fill us with life so that we can receive the words of life that you offer. We thank you for loving us and for leading us to this moment of life.
This day, allow us to hear anew. Allow us to receive afresh. Allow us to become all that you want us to become, for your sake, for the coming of the Kingdom.
Teach us to be poor. We don’t know how. We only know how to be rich. We’ve had everything. We do not know how to live without. We do not know how to trust you Lord.
Renew our world with the love of Jesus. Give us hearts in fire for Jesus so we can look and see nothing else. In the name of Christ we ask these good things. Amen
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor (in Spirit), for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” May we be people who embrace our poverty, our need for God that we might be like fertile, receptive soil for the Kingdom to flourish in us and through us.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
It is my fervent belief that God is constantly at work bringing resurrection, calling “new things,” renewed life out of dried up wasteland. That wasteland might be internal, within people whose hearts are bound by hate, sadness or addiction. That dry wilderness might be collective, as churches lie dormant, complacent having lost sight of their greater calling to serve and bless their neighbors, especially the poor and those in need.
The agent through which God moves, awakens and ignites people of faith is the Spirit. Often, we forget that it was through this forgotten part of God that the church was born. The church did not exist before the outpouring of the Spirit and would not exist without it. The Spirit brings energy, courage, wisdom and vision to the church. The Spirit or Pneuma (Greek feminine), like the wind that blew at Pentecost, is uncontrollable moving when and where she desires. She seems to thrive on the nurturing surprise, cultivating new and unexpected things in and among us.
As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, embracing the Spirit means living in a state of perpetual expectation of “new things.” When we no longer expect new things from life, we are for all practical purposes atheists. When we are longer open to do something new, to see and feel in new ways about old things, you might was well hang it up. There is always more of the Spirit for us to receive.
We are in a season where God is calling us into something new, new energy, new visions, new expressions. In the wake of a very productive Board meeting and budget discussion, we are “finally” ready to present a new 2018 budget to the congregation in the coming weeks. If approved, we will be searching for new staff members, starting new services and planning new initiatives to grow and bless our community. This is handiwork of the Spirit. Though it might be unsettling, it is in these precious seasons of Spirit movement that God’s most exciting and transformative work is accomplished. Friends, may we embrace this season with positivity, with openness, with resolve and above all faith that God it with us and will provide for us each step of the way.
Forward Together, -Chad
Why should you not miss this Sunday? Let me count the reasons. First, it is a pity to miss an opportunity to gather with such a wonderful, kind and authentic group of Christ followers as you’ll find at Kingwood Christian Church. Secondly, the worship service, both in spoken word and song, is sure to be inspiring, thoughtful and life-giving. Thirdly, Bill Cowsar is, for a limited time only, offering free rocking chair test drives in his stunning, hand crafted marvel.
Finally, following worship on Sunday you are invited to join the KCC Staff and Board in the fellowship hall for lunch and an important presentation. This presentation will include a full report from the Evangelism Task Force on our visits to three of the Christian Church (DOC) most vibrant and growing congregations. Our team is filled with new insights and inspiration that we want to share with you.
The second half of the presentation will include an update from the Board on our congregational, strategic goals and budget for 2018. We are making some significant steps forward and want to keep you informed. Following the presentations, we will offer time for questions and comments, but plan to conclude by 1:30pm. PLEASE, Don’t Miss This Sunday. Don’t miss this opportunity to listen, learn and find your place to serve.
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to Lazarus’ tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus, said, “Take away the stone.” Martha said, Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed,
you would see the glory of God.”
This morning in one of my devotional readings Richard Rohr offered these enlightening and inspiring thoughts. I hope they are living water for you as well.
Jesus taught us about resurrection not long before his own resurrection, when he called his friend Lazarus back from death. In John’s telling of the story, Jesus comes before the tomb, the tomb symbolizing the deadness, the coldness, the hard-heartedness in all of us. He stands as the victor, the one holding all power over that deadness.
Then Jesus does something unexpected. After asking the family to roll away the stone, he requires a further sign of faith. He asks, “Do you believe that I can do it? Can you be with me as I do it? Jesus is calling the people to step out in faith. Make a bit of a fool of yourself, “Move away the stone, never mind the smell. Untie him and let him go free. Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the wonders of God?”
Notice, John may well be saying something revolutionary to the community. Though Jesus brings us to life, he needs us, the Body of Christ. He needs the church to believe in Him and respond faithfully in unbinding Lazarus. Yes, we (the church) are invited to cultivate and participate in the resurrection stories of our friends and neighbors. Make no mistake church, Jesus calls us to believe in him, to go into the tombs of the dead and dying, to get our hands dirty in the Lord’s healing work and we will see the wonders of God. May it be so.
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. Exodus 3:5
If you imagine a land cleared and cultivated, prepared and blessed with new growth, Holy Week is the time of its consecration. The word consecration means to claim or set aside for holy purposes. Remember with me the extraordinary scene where Moses encounters the burning bush. He stumbles into a cave, seemingly by accident, and finds a bush that is burning, but not consumed. Then a voice emanating from the bush calls his name, “Moses, Moses! Come no closer. Remove you sandals, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” The voice identified itself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Overwhelmed with fear, Moses hid his face in reverence for God. With the act of removing his sandals and closing his eyes, Moses claimed this cave as a holy meeting space with God. It was in that holy space that God revealed an extraordinary calling to Moses.
This week, I encourage you to claim your holy ground, your sacred meeting place with God somewhere in your home. You might use an entire room or just a corner or alcove. Design the space so it feels comfortable and welcoming, include furniture or pillows to sit on. Bring into the space any objects you regard as sacred – books, photos, candles, nature objects, icons, or other sacred symbols. Display them in such a way that you feel surrounded by them.
Enter this space each day and allow yourself to rest in it. As you enter, remove your shoes and close your eyes. Imagine yourself and the space filled with holiness, the very Spirit of God. Pray, using words if you like, or pray without words by sitting quietly in the presence of God. Perhaps on Thursday, commemorate the Last Supper by taking communion in your holy space. And on Friday, read the scriptures and mediate on the Passion of Christ’s crucifixion. Then on Easter morning, claim your holy space as the empty tomb.
Friends, please know that God yearns to meet with you. So claim your Holy Ground, then listen for the still, small voice of the Spirit to whisper God’s hopes and dreams for your life.
Holy Week is upon us. Can you believe it? Beginning with Palm Sunday, we retrace the steps of Jesus through that fateful week from the upper room and Last Supper, to the garden, to the trial, to the cross and finally to the empty tomb on Easter morning.
Each year we offer a special service to remember the events of Holy Week. This year we celebrate the Christian Seder Meal. What is the Christian Seder Meal? It all starts with Passover. Passover is the oldest and most important of Jewish religious festivals and marks the beginning of the Jewish religious year. It is based on the rituals of ancient Israel preserved in Exodus 12 to 14 in which Israelites celebrated their deliverance by God from slavery in Egypt.
The focal point of Passover is a communal meal, called the Seder (meaning order). It is a time of rejoicing and celebration at the deliverance for the Hebrews that God accomplished in the Exodus. Unlike most Holy Days of Christianity that are observed in Church, Passover has been celebrated in the home with family and friends as they eat a meal together. The Seder is more than a festival. It is a teaching experience, especially for the children, using all the senses.
Jesus adopted the Passover service as a symbol to help his followers remember and understand God’s new work of deliverance through Himself. So we, alongside Jewish communities all over the world, will gather next Thursday (March 29) at 7 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall around tables for this really fun, interactive and informative meal for the whole family.
And do remember, it is a symbolic meal so eat dinner before you come;)
Something happened last night in the Fellowship Hall of Kingwood Christian Church that most might claim was improbable, if not impossible. Despite our polarized political landscape, ten highly engaged Republican leaders and ten passionate Democratic leaders from our community gathered for a dialogue seeking a “fix” for our broken political system. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Perhaps so, or could gathering the seemingly entrenched sides for respectful conversations be the key to breaking our political gridlock.
Dr. Jay Theis, the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Lone Star College in Kingwood, believes that the way forward will require gathering for difficult conversations that foster cooperation. Theis believes that the significant issues that divide our country cannot be understood or resolved in two minute sound bites, but in respectful gatherings of people with diverse views. For this reason, Theis reached out to a cross-section of community leaders and invited them to participate in a deliberative dialogue hosted by Kingwood Christian Church.
The Deliberative Dialogues construct used by Theis’ team at Lone Star provides a way for community members of diverse views and experiences to seek a shared understanding of a problem and to search for common ground for action. Dialogues are led by trained moderators, and use an issue discussion guide that frames the issue by presenting the overall problem, followed by three or four broad approaches to the problem. Dialogue participants work through the issue by considering each approach; examining what appeals to them or concerns them; and also what costs, consequences, and tradeoffs may be incurred in following that approach.
What was the result of our conversation? After a two hour discussion, the groups agreed on three areas of common ground. Yes, I will say it again. Three significant areas of agreement were identified that, if addressed, could really improve our political dysfunction. The group plans to reconvene in May and present these points at a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Kingwood Area Republican Women and Kingwood Area Democrats. How is that for a night’s work? The tried and true art of respectful, open-minded conversation prevails again. And I could not be more pleased that Kingwood Christian Church was the host.
For more information on deliberative dialogues click below:
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Ephesians 4:14-15
As a dad, one my favorite things to do is pick on my kids. I think it is in some Mattingly family contract somewhere. “Thou shalt picketh on thy children every day.” I find immense satisfaction in pulling a prank or joke on my son or daughter. They are just so gullible. Sadly, I have pulled so many jokes on them through the years that they question the truthfulness of many things I say. Alas, they are growing up and becoming wiser.
Paul makes it very clear that we, as followers of Jesus, must grow up in faith as well. Young Christ followers are easily tossed to and fro, distracted, manipulated and taken advantage of. But each day presents a new opportunity to take another step toward maturity in our Christ-likeness. This is what spiritual growth is all about… becoming more like Jesus. Throughout history, Christians have used different spiritual practices as catalysts for growth and anchors for faithfulness.
Over the past several weeks, I have challenged you to identify a spiritual practice for Lent. Many of you have done this, which is great, but perhaps you are struggling to find a practice that is right for you. Some practices work for one person, but not for another. For that reason, I attached below a simple Spiritual Pathways Assessment. It only takes about 10 minutes to complete and will help you identify your “pathways,” how you naturally connect with God. If you have any questions, please contact the church office.
For the PDF version click below and print:
For the Excel version click below:
Spiritual Pathway Assessment
Tuesday night is quickly becoming my favorite night of the week. It is the night that Peyton and I make our weekly trek down to Humble Middle School for his Special Olympics basketball practice. Upon entering the gym, the warmth of these wonderful athletes and their families is felt immediately with a barrage of “hellos or great to see you,” smiles and hugs. Peyton and I counted 10 hugs last night before I could find a place to sit.
The athletes on Peyton’s team have various skill levels and range in age from 12-56. Though agility and stamina levels vary, there is no shortage of effort or competitiveness on the court with athletes diving for balls on a regular basis. There is also no shortage of sportsmanship and kindness. There is always a ready, “Good job,” or high five, or extra pass to make sure that everyone gets a chance to shoot. The parents always offer a tireless source of encouragement celebrating every achievement and player as essential to the team.
I sat there watching the controlled chaos last night thinking, “What a gift. I can learn so much from these beautiful friends.” On display in front of me was kindness, compassion, gentleness, humility, wisdom, sacrificial giving, joy, hope, community, desire and love. Some label these individuals with Downs Syndrome, Mental Retardation, Aspergers Syndrome or Autism as disabled. I would suggest that they are differently abled. These differently abled friends remind me of who I am. I often live under the illusion that I am not disabled or handicapped in different ways, that I have it all together.
Our society has a tendency of pushing aside the weak, the old, the simple, the uneducated or unaccomplished, the differently abled, abnormal or ugly (whatever that means). Yet a closer look at these “differently abled” others reveals a bounty of gifts, blessings, insights and contributions to offer. Each Tuesday night I am reminded of these undeniable truths. I challenge you to find some way to be in immediate contact with the differently abled neighbors in our community. You will be blessed.