Excluding Jesus

2015-05-17 17.19.22

Abbie helping make Guacamole at our local Men’s Shelter.

Our oldest daughter, Abbie, spent one year in pre-school before moving on to Kindergarten. Her preschool was not a typical preschool experience. Our school district has a county wide school for children with special needs. It’s a school where my wife, Andrea, taught for about 9 years. This is the school that Abbie went to preschool at. She was one of a handful of typical students integrated with more students with special needs at a varying degree of severity. This year of preschool was a year long glimpse of the Kingdom of God. Children of all colors, cognitive and physical abilities formed a community and a bond with one another. I remember standing with some of the parents of children with special needs and one remark how beautiful the class was because it may be the last time that their child was integrated with “typical children” and given a high level of acceptance.

Jesus was present in that class. That year, I saw so many examples of love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness that came through the children learning to live together in community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, writing on community says this:

“The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother Christ is knocking at the door. We must, therefore, be very careful at this point” (Life Together, 38)

When we look around at our churches and our faith communities- have we made room for the poor and the homeless? Have we made room for those of bad reputations? Do we look at the margins of our community and invite those very people into our communities? Our social circles? Our families?

If we do not, we may actually be excluding Jesus from our church, our communities, and our families. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 25:45, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did no do for me.”

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Bonhoeffer to Pastors: Don’t Complain!

I reread chapter one of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning. While there was a lot that stood out about how we are to live in community, what stuck out the most was Bonhoeffer’s advice to clergy in regards to their congregations.

“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order the he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.”

As pastors, we are called to shepherd and lead people. To encourage them in the path of discipleship. It is, however, very tempting (and easy) to complain about a congregation who is stubborn, immature, or dysfunctional when, as pastors, we should take responsibility for our calling to lead such people and to be their shepherd. We are to recognize our own shortcomings, intercede for our flock, and commit to shepherding our congregations for the glory of God.

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How Do We Go On?

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I’ve been preaching through the Book of Acts this spring/summer. It’s been a lot of fun seeing how the Holy Spirit called and equipped ordinary men and women to spread the Good News of Jesus. Yesterday, while I was studying I was forced to stop and consider a scripture that is easy to move past. Luke records in Acts 14:19-20

“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconic and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

Opponents came from miles around to oppose Paul. They stoned him and dragged him outside of the city. The stoning was so bad, so severe that the crowd believed that Paul was dead. So they left. I assume that Paul was unconscious for the crowds to believe he was dead. The disciples in the area gather around Paul- and he was able to get up and go back (!) into the city.

Isn’t this a picture of how the church should live in the world? This is a picture of community. We have so many brothers and sisters who are physically, mentally, and spiritually abused and beaten- yet we will often leave them behind because ministry takes a lot of time. But the believers show us how to care for the one in our midst who is left for dead. When we feel like we can no longer go on, it is our fellow brothers and sisters who surround us, gather us up, and help us put one foot in front of the other.

If you read this- meditate on this text today. How must have Paul felt to be opposed like this? How would it change his ministry? His outlook? What would his response to the beating be? Do we surround those who appear defeated? Or do we gather them up to bring healing into their world?

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Change Is In The Air

This Sunday, I shared with Hope Church some changes that are being made in my life in regards to my ministry with The United Methodist Church, and I want to share some of that with you here.

Andrea and I have spent a great deal of time over the last 8 months talking and praying through our life, our priorities, and our goals. Part of the process was that my passion is with the local church. I love serving the people of the church and community and seeing them connect and grow in their faith. One of the difficulties during the past three years was that as a pastor and campus minister/chaplain I felt like to couldn’t do either job to the level that I wanted to. So last Wednesday, I turned in my resignation as campus minister/chaplain at Wesley College, effective June 30th. I have enjoyed my three years serving Wesley College. I can think of many great conversations, times of pray, and ministry here at the college. I am grateful for the many great students, faculty, and administration members who encouraged me during my time here.

While I resigned from Wesley College, I will continue to be the pastor at Hope United Methodist Church. We have been through a lot together over the past five years and I am looking forward to the next five (Lord, willing!). I believe that Hope is in the right place to be a vital congregation in downtown Dover.

In addition to Hope, I will become the pastor at Magnolia United Methodist Church in Magnolia, DE beginning June 28th. Magnolia Church is at the epicenter of a small but growing community just south of Dover. I am excited to get to know the people of Magnolia and to see how both Hope and Magnolia can make famous the name of Jesus in Kent County!

As you read this update, please keep me and our family in your prayers as we make this transition. Pray for Hope and Magnolia Church that we would be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus. Pray for Wesley College and their search for a new chaplain that spiritual growth and development will continue to be part of the Wesley College experience.

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Praying Through the News

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The other day, I had the evening news on. The kids were home, so the evening news on the TV is worse than not having the TV on. Abbie, our oldest, asks, “Why do you watch the news?” There are a lot of potential answers:

  • To stay up-to-date with what is happening in the world.
  • Because I don’t have enough negativity in my life

But the answer I gave Abbie was this: I watch the news so I know how to pray and who to pray for. Just then, a story about the recent earthquake in Nepal came on and we discussed how to pray: for the families of those who died, for the rescue workers, for the aid that would be arriving, and so on. We could watch the stories about the protest in Baltimore and pray for the safety of the law enforcement men and woman as well as the protestors. We could pray that those acting in violence would be filled with a peace that passes all understanding. We can pray that those experiencing injustice, racism, poverty would experience justice, reconciliation and provision.

The early church, when they heard Peter and John’s story of what happened fell on their knees and prayed. They did not, however, pray for safety in the midst of persecution. Instead, they prayed for boldness.

 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servant to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30

The early church prayed for boldness. The boldness to speak. The boldness to withstand persecution. The boldness to asked God to perform signs and wonders in order to point people to Jesus. As we live in a world with great unrest and injustice, we must follow the lead of the early church and pray for boldness. We must pray for the boldness to

  1. Listen- It takes boldness to listen- especially to those who are different than us. We must listen to others in order to seek understanding. In understanding we can properly advocate and act in concert with our brothers and sisters in need. I overheard a guy say, “I haven’t been following the events in Baltimore on TV” and then he proceeded to talk to his conversation partner for nearly 10 minutes on what he thought was the problem in Baltimore. When we listen, and put faces and names to the problems over the world, we realize that we can no longer rely on simplistic answers as these problems are very complex and nuanced. We must listen to those around us. This takes boldness to listen because our first inclination is often to speak.
  2. Once we listen, to God and to others, then the Spirit empowers us to SPEAK. But what the Spirit empowers us to speak is not our opinion on a matter. When we listen and understand, the Spirit empowers us to speak the word of God. We speak life, hope, and grace. We speak the name of the resurrected Jesus as the only hope for the world. We speak out against injustice and oppression and we speak up for the voiceless in our society. Most importantly, we are to tell people about redemption and reconcilliaation through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
  1. Pray for the Boldness to ACT: After this time of prayer, Luke records that the early believers were United; shared everything so there was no one in need, and tells us about Barnabas- whose name means encourager. The disciples acted by continuing to be united in their thinking. The acted by pooling their resources to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. This action led to Luke being able to write that there was no one in need! Barnabas sold a field and gave the money to the Apostles to use as they saw fit and led Barnabas to be called the “Son of Encouragement.” Do your actions encourage others? Do they help others consider God’s love for them? How is God calling you to act in regards to the needs of the world?

We live at an intersection of the past, the present, and the future. The past creates the conditions we live in today. We live in the consequences of our ancestors actions and our own. The past creates the circumstances of today. How we choose to live today, in the midst of those circumstances creates all of our tomorrows. Sometimes this intersection of time can leave us uneasy and even fearful. The events of life should not cause fear, but should focus our prayers. As our prayers come into focus, the Holy Spirit calls us to listen, to speak, and to act with the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.

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Adoption Update: Malachi is Iron Man

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When we entered the adoption process, we chose the route of adopting a minor-correctable special needs program. When we adopted Malachi, we knew that he had a few minor medical conditions that were treated and are irrelevant after being in the states for the last eight months. What wasn’t on any of his medical files was that fact that Malachi is bow-legged. Our doctors wanted to see if they would straighten out with better nutrition. But after 8 months they actually look worse. Which led us to the orthopedic specialist at AI DuPont Children’s Hospital here in Delaware.

Malachi has Bilateral Blount’s Disease, which is a  growth disorder of the tibia (shin bone) that causes the lower leg to angle inward, resembling a bowleg. The disease is sometimes attributed to weight, small stature, and/or early walking. It is a progressive condition that will continue to get worse if not treated.

As of last week, Malachi started the most common form of early intervention- which is wearing leg braces in an attempt to curve the legs back inward to their proper alignment. By later this week, he will be wearing the braces for 8-12 hours a day. If the braces do not work (or bring enough correction) then there are some surgical possibilities for Malachi.

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I can imagine that leg braces are not fun at any age- but especially at an age where you cannot fully understand why you are having to wear braces! The first several days were quite draining emotionally as Malachi would cry and scream about the braces. He made a bit of a turn on Sunday and seemed to be more accepting of the braces and is walking some on his own. At this point, his braces are locked and he cannot bend his knee while wearing the brace- which does make walking difficult and getting up off the floor near impossible without help.

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If you have been around Malachi, you know how happy he is- and the reality is that he is still just as happy, even with the braces. Our prayer is that the leg braces that Malachi wears would be part of the healing process for his legs. So Malachi is the Bionic Man or perhaps Ironman, ready to save the world!

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A Week In Guatemala



Last week, I had the privilege of leading a team of students and faculty from Wesley College to Guatemala for a week of ministry. This was my second time in Guatemala working with Lauren Pupchick- a missionary and friend. Our team consisted of four Wesley College Nursing Students and two Wesley Nursing Faculty members. 



The majority of our time was spent at Saber y Gracias (Wisdom and Grace) Christian School outside of the city of Antigua. Two years ago, Lauren visited the church I pastor at and brought the school’s principal, Rudi, with her. Rudi is a great brother-in-Christ who has a passion for ministry, for his students, and for seeing transformation in Guatemala. Rudi’s story, along with the school, is one that I cannot do justice with on this blog- but it is a story you need to hear because God’s hands are throughout the story. Hearing Rudi’s story and how God is using the school to make a difference in the community was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Our nursing students essentially taught health classes on fetal development (conception-birth), general nutrition, and dental hygeine. They did an excellent job of presenting the material in appropriate ways, adjusting to the different grade levels, and overcoming a language barrier. One of our faculty members who attended the trip grew up in Panama and was a blessing in her ability to translate and help connect with the students and staff.

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I had the honor of teaching two Bible classes on Wednesday. I taught on our adoption by God, as told by the Apostle Paul, and through the lens of our adoption of Malachi. The overall take away from the lesson (I hope) is that even when we feel adandoned- that God chooses us and invites us to be part of God’s Family- full heirs with our brother- Jesus. Wednesday evening, Rudi invited me to preach- which I did from John 4:43-54 on the Royal Official who sought out Jesus to heal his son. The take away was that we are to seek a relationship with Jesus. That faith moves us to put energy into our relationship with Jesus.

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On Friday, we met with a local doctor and was given a tour of his clinic and a larger clinic in the community. Let’s say that we shouldn’t complain about our hospitals here in America! That said, these doctors do what they do because the love their community and the people in them.



 Of course, there was a lot of fun throughout the week. Guatemalan coffee, trips to Anitgua, great food, coffee, erupting volcanoes, coffee, evidently an earthquake that none of us felt, coffee tour, Canopy tour, and more coffee.



 I will be writing more on the trip this week- and probably posting more pictures.

In the meantime, one of the greatest needs of the school is for people to sponsor a student. It cost the school $40/student per month to provide an education and faith foundation that can transform their lives and their communities. There are currently 52 students who are attending but who need sponsors (our team sponsored 8 children as a result of the trip). Prayerfully consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala. I would also be happy to answer any questions you have about the school or to tell you more about child sponsorship!

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