Pastor’s Paragraph, 2-26-13

“My oh my what a wonderful day!”  That’s a line from an old Disney song, of course, but it’s what comes to mind when I try to describe the day we had Sunday.  You are such a great and special group!  We made a major, major change in how we do things Sunday, and you handled it beautifully!  You were there.  You worshipped.  You were kind and complementary about the new arrangement.  You took things in stride where we aren’t quite finished putting it all together.  All in all you helped us have a terrific first Sunday in our new worship center.  And Bible study classes went great in their new rooms too.

We will continue to “tweak” a few things in the worship area over the next week or two, but basically I think we have an excellent arrangement for our new look.  Many thanks to the many folk who worked so hard to get us to the point where we could have a terrific time together in “the other end of the building.”  We had 31 (at least) people present for our Work Day Saturday and we were incredibly productive.  What a blessing!

Take note that we are going to be distributing name tags every Sunday for awhile.  It will be good for us to see one another’s names, but it will also be a very good thing for us to be easily identified as NorthPointe people when the Nueva Vida congregation joins us in the building on the 17th and thereafter.  Remember, we will all be hosts to our new neighbors.

The two most common comments I heard after the service Sunday morning were, “It was so warm and cozy feeling!” and “I could actually hear people singing!”

So, come early (9:45) for Bible Study this week, and then bring a spirit of anticipation and enthusiasm into the new Worship Center with you at 11:00.  And remember, the coffee is always on in there.

Praise God for all His blessing!

Bro. Linn

Pastor’s Paragraph, 2-19-13

OK folks, this is the week of the “Big Move!” When you come Sunday morning you will find your Bible study class in a different room and our worship service moved to the Fellowship Hall!

New Life Fellowship will not be meeting in our building yet, but we wanted to get relocated before they needed to move in, so be alert — everything is moved!  You might want to practice entering under the blue awning this week.  It doesn’t really matter how you come into the building this week, but in a couple of weeks, when we are sharing the building with New Life, it will be less confusing if NorthPointe people use the “blue awning” entrance.

At the Bible Study time our adult classes and our elementary children are now meeting upstairs.  Preschoolers are still meeting downstairs in rooms 103 and 105.Many, many thanks to all who have worked so hard to make the physical adjustments that had to be made!

Our new neighbors will be New Life Fellowship.  They are not with us in the building now, but will be moving in over the next couple of weeks.  Watch for opportunities to welcome their members and get acquainted. It’s going to be different, but it’s going to be good, because God will still find us!  Come Sunday morning expecting a blessing and ready to share a great new experience with the same NorthPointe friends.

I, for one, am anticipating a blowout Sunday!

In His love,

Bro. Linn

The Launch

On February 24th, the Space Shuttle Discovery took off on its final flight. I always try and follow the Shuttle launches because for many years my dad has worked as a contracted programmer for NASA. The Space Program was an important part of my life. I grew up in Clear Lake, a community populated with many NASA folks and “space people,” as I like to call them. And how cool is this: I had a Sunday School teacher that was an Astronaut. No offense to any of my other teachers, but his examples and stories were just a bit more interesting than anyone else’s.  In 2nd grade, I went to see a Shuttle launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida. When the Shuttle launched, you could see all the flames, and with binoculars, you could see the Shuttle itself, but it was still tiny and far away. It was amazing, but I remember feeling far away from the action.

Today I read a fascinating article which helped me remember this experience, and it explained to me why it was a fairly good idea to have the audience 6 plus miles away from the launch pad.[1]  In a Shuttle launch, the Shuttle’s three main engines fire first, releasing 37 million horsepower with a temperature of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  The two white Solid Rocket Boosters then fire, releasing an extra little boost of 44 million horsepower.  The sound pressure energy level at the launch pad is 220 decibels. At a mile away it is 135 decibels. Human death by sound (the intense vibration) would occur at around 200 decibels. At 400 feet away, the heat would kill you. For perspective, most major league baseball parks have a distance from home plate to the centerfield wall of about 400 feet. At 800 feet, the sound and its vibrations would be fatal. Ok, I admit I should have been a lot more thankful for my beach spot 6 miles from the launch pad. I think that worked out best.

There is a fascinating Scripture in Exodus describing an encounter between Moses and God. Earlier, the text has told us that God and Moses would speak intimately and personally like friends. Here, we are reminded of God’s eternal power and holiness:

And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But he said, ‘You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’ And the LORD said, ‘Behold there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.’[2]

Basically: Moses, you have no idea what you’re asking for. 

This is such an intriguingly detailed account of Moses’ intimate encounter with God. The message seems to be that God is so powerful and glorious that even in our most personal encounters with Him, we still have no grasp for His true glory. He reveals Himself to us, but if we really fully glimpsed His beauty, our heads would go ‘poof.’  We are reminded of this at the beginning of the Gospel of John: No one has ever seen God… (John 1.18a)

 But this is the beauty and glory of Christ Jesus. In Him, God fully reveals Himself in a way which we can see, and we encounter God in the most intimate way, face to face. Jesus is not merely a teacher, or thinker, but he is the revelation of God’s truth and grace. Jesus responds to his disciple Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say ‘show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his work” (John 14.9b-10). Paul speaks to this in his writings as well: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1.19). He also states it this way, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4.6, [emphasis mine]).  Here Paul seems to be comparing Moses’ encounter and his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.

Our greatest promise from God is His covenant and revelation in Christ Jesus. God is certainly beyond our understanding, but in Christ, we know Him and have communion with Him. Christ reveals God even beyond the dangerously close encounter Moses experienced. Christ is the fullness of God. He is Lord of all. The Space Shuttle might be one of our greatest and most impressive innovations. And God of course is so much more powerful than the greatest of our creations. But he has invited us to Him, closer to His glory than we could know and would even dare to go.     


[1] http://www.roadandtrack.com/special-report/space-shuttle-test-nasa-endeavour-ov-105

[2] Exodus 33.19-23

Valentine’s Day

Oh no. It’s here. Valentine’s Day… Let’s just be completely honest; it’s a thorn in most of our sides, and the thorn probably comes from the expensive bouquet of roses that are bought out of necessity. I know that I am completely sounding like a grump, and I apologize. And I do wish my wife a very happy Valentine’s Day, and she is the love of my life. Listen, I’m certainly not anti-romance, it just seems like V-Day is a little bit forced upon us. In light of the Hallmark Conspiracy theories that I’ve heard, I thought I’d research a bit and drop some knowledge about the origins of the day and why we celebrate.

The history of Valentine’s Day is an odd mixture of two completely polar opposite things. We’ll start with the pagan side of things and then discuss the more saintly aspect. In ancient Rome, there was a festival called Lupercalia. It lasted from February 13th to 15th and was about the most debaucherous party you could possibly imagine. Basically it was like a crazy fraternity toga party times 100. For three days, people would get completely inebriated and then randomly paired off together. No more explaining is necessary. This misguided “romantic” festival was celebrated for centuries but would eventually take on a different aspect.  

In the meantime, in ancient Rome the martyrdom of Christians was a common practice. Some emperors were more brutal and violent than others, but it was a fairly consistent threat. Claudius II, continuing the practice of persecution in the 3rd century, put to death two men. One was a priest and one was a bishop. They were both named Valentine.  There are various legends as to exactly why they were put to death, but it was most certainly because of their Christian faith in a country which at the time was very hostile to the church. 

Let’s fast forward to the 5th century where many things in the Roman world had changed. Under the reign of Constantine, Rome had become accepting of Christianity, to the point where it was actually quite popular. There has been much debate about the faithful sincerity of this popular Christian movement, but regardless, it was rapidly becoming the faith of the empire. Due to this movement, some of the pagan practices were transformed or altered. Instead of getting rid of all of the festivals, some of them were modified in honor of Christian figures and ideals. So it was no surprise when Pope Gelasius I placed the celebration and remembrance of the two Valentine martyrs upon the pagan festival of Lupercalia. The dates of the festival remained, but the pagan activities were mostly removed.  Thus, Valentine’s Day began, as a remembrance of two men martyred for faith. One of the martyred Valentines was claimed to have performed wedding ceremonies for young men soon to go off to war. So, St. Valentine became the patron saint of lovers, and the day kept its emphasis on love.

Now, obviously our modern adaptation has changed a lot and has little to do with the two men named Valentine. For any men reading this, I trust you’ve bought you’re flowers and chocolates for the lady in your life. Otherwise you could end up being another tragic Valentine.

Highs and Lows

I’ve noticed that life can easily take the form of a constant series of highs and lows. For instance, during the 2011 Snowpocalypse here in North Texas, I experienced the ups and downs.  I felt the momentary elation of having a snow day bringing with it the joys of being stuck inside: extended breakfast and newspaper reading, a little afternoon TV, and maybe even a nap. Within about 12 hours, this joy quickly melted into the anxiety of cabin fever and knowing that the week’s schedule was now completely topsy-turvy.  I realized how pathetically quickly I wanted or needed to get out of the house, feeling like my sanity was on the line, when I had only been in for a day or so.

I’ve noticed this feeling in ministry as well. Some Sundays one is left with the feeling that the worship service was a wonderful head on collision with the divine. Then, maybe even on the next Sunday, one is left wondering if anyone was challenged or convicted by anything that occurred. This is the nature of faith, though. Relationship with God is complicated, and He works at a level beyond our emotions and our definitions of success. Truly neither the high nor the low defines God’s presence or absence. Our highs and lows are most often defined by our unstable emotions and insecurities. God is neither unstable nor insecure. He is steady and present, and he works through us despite our capricious nature. And the highs and lows are healthy reminders that the Gospel message is not about how good you feel and how smoothly something goes. The Gospel message is about God intervening in His world through His Word, Jesus Christ. The Gospel message is for co-dependent, insecure, emotional, anxious people- like you and me.

I’m willing to bet you know plenty about highs and lows. You’ve had them in the practical and relational aspects of life. You’ve probably experienced how life can feel like The Superman Ride at Six Flags. You might connect with this feeling spiritually as well. You know what it is to feel the intimacy of God and the forgiveness of grace. You also may know the feeling of insignificance and loneliness in a giant universe. The people whom God worked through in Scripture knew these feelings as well, though. I’ve heard pastors point out how in the Psalms, David moves between the emotions of feeling God being frighteningly close to God being mysteriously distant. And if you read the Old Testament prophets, they weren’t exactly poster-boys for coping skills and emotional stability.

Psalm 130.1-2: Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

Psalm 139.7: Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?

But the blessing is that God is good, and that He is writing a story of redemption. We see in Scriptures that He has always been working through covenant to redeem, and it is a beautiful thing. As neurotic as we can be, it is a blessing know there is a constant, a God who is loving, just, and glorious.  So I’m challenging myself not to judge life day by day or week by week, but truly see it as God’s invitation to join Him in the narrative of creation being redeemed in Christ. That breaks down the pressure and the anxiety and brings a nice dose of true humility. Life isn’t defined by my tenuous evaluations, and I’m glad about that… I’ll let you know how I feel tomorrow!

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