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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone!

“And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.'”

– Luke 2:10-11

Enjoy the day… and remember what it is really all about!

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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Getting Into the Christmas Spirit

I have to confess that Advent/Christmas is my favorite time of the year. ?I love Christmas — the music (the old, traditional carols and worship hymns, not the secular and new stuff), the message, the meaning and the magnitude of it.

Because I am from a Jewish family and still celebrate the Jewish holidays with them, I escape all the pressure of Christmas shopping, hosting, decorating, parties and such.?Growing up, our Christmas tradition was a movie and Chinese food.?For me, it is a time of reflection, devotion and celebration of Christ. ?So I experience none of the stress, pressure and debt many people associate with the holiday. ?For me, I just get to enjoy it.

In the past, when I was a pastor, the Christmas season was really a journey — and I loved it. ?I would usually settle on an Advent theme for preaching sometime in July or August. ?We would start planning our Christmas services concept in September or October. ?Writing, message prep, and all the logistics that go along with promoting the Advent series, planning a major Christmas service event like "Imagine Christmas", etc… those were top of my to-do list throughout November and December. ?Christmas was always on my mind and it meant that when it finally arrived, I had been thinking about, praying about and planning for Christmas for months.

(After Christmas, we went through the same process preparing for Lent and Easter… planning Ash Wednesday, special prayer nights, Lenten devotionals and preaching series, Holy Week — Good Friday services, Easter Services, post-Easter series and follow-up, etc. So my year was very much balanced around the church calendar… and balanced around the incarnation and passion of Christ.)

Now, that is not true. And I am feeling less engaged and prepared for Christmas.

Working in the restaurant business, we are incredibly busy right now. And that is good. ?But in the kitchen, it doesn't feel "Christmasy". And while my devotions and scripture reading have been focused on Advent, and now Christmas, it feels like it has just sprung on me… no months of meditation and study and planning and preparing for the Christ child. ?He is just here! Now!

And maybe that is okay.

The Wise Men spent a lifetime seeking after God.

But the Shepherds just stumbled upon Him.

Mary was able to prepare and pray and reflect for months.

But the Innkeeper had little time to plan or prepare at all.

But either way, Christ the Savior is born!

And that is really the only thing that actually matters about Christmas.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Looking for some Awesome People to Join Me

Here is the deal… I am looking for 9 awesome individuals (or couples/families) to join me to start a small local foundation that gives away $1000 grants every month!

Here is how it works…

We create a chapter of The Awesome Foundation by gathering ten people (couples/families) each commit to giving $100 per month.  That committment makes you a “Trustee” in the foundation.  Then, each month, we meet (I am thinking over a good dinner) and decide where to give a $1000 grant.  We can solicit applications or look at general applications made through The Awesome Foundation website.

In one year, together, we will be investing $12,000 in our community.  I think that is pretty awesome!

You can find out more about how this all works here.

Let me know in the comments or by direct email (benjamin dot dubow at gmail dot com) if you are interested or want more info.

Depending on who the Trustees are, we can decide to focus geographically (Central/Eastern CT for example) or, if we have a broader geographical participation, we can do it by purpose/cause.  As trustees, we have total discretion.  The only thing is we all need to contribute financially and make grants monthly.

Pretty Awesome!

Excited about the possibilities… 

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Sunday Service Analysis: When It Works

I love my church. ?For a lot of reasons.

I love the church's vision, values and mission.
I love the way God is working in people's lives in our church.
I love the diversity within our church.
I love our pastor and her leadership.
I love being part of a church plant and a movement of God.

Having been a pastor for ten years — and a church planter for almost half of that time — I am both very sensitive to and critical of almost everything churches do. ?This is especially true sitting in the weekend service (the same is true when I eat out in a good restaurant!)

I have to say that the Sunday services at my church are consistently excellent. But today was extraordinary. ?So I was reflecting on what made it such a special experience this morning.

The preaching was great — though we are blessed with great preaching every week.
The music was excellent and seasonal — but that is consistently true.

Those two ingredients are essential for an excellent service — but not quite enough for extraordinary. ?But add in the use of creativity and the arts, and you have something very special. ?In addition to great preaching and worship music this morning, we also had some of the best special music I have ever heard in church — and it connected directly to the message. ?Also, great use of video, projected images, etc.

In other words, the entire 60 minute experience worked together to create a place and space for people to experience and encounter God — and it was awesome!

Now I don't believe that weekend services are all about my experience… but it is nice when it all comes together.

When I was lead pastor at my last church, much of the planning for our weekend services began as much as a month or two prior. ?Tons of prayer, planning, study, etc, went into planning those services. ?And when it all came together, it was a powerful and life-changing experience for people.

The truth is that while Sundays aren't everything, Sundays matter a lot. ?Great weekend services are like a greenhouse for spiritual growth. ?It is worth the time, energy and prayer that it takes to make them great. ?And I am thankful for this morning's service and for a church that takes weekend services so seriously. ?(and not only that, but you should see what they do for the Familytime/Children's service… but that is another post altogether…)
 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

War, 9 Years Later

Iraq-war

Late last night, the last U.S. troops exited Iraq signaling the official end of the U.S. – Iraqi War after 9 years of fighting.

The cost?

  • Over 4,000 U.S. troops killed.
  • Over $8 billion spent.
  • Over 30,000 U.S. soldiers injured.
  • Over 100,000 Iraqis killed.

For what? Nothing. A total waste of human life and capital.

I have total respect for our military and our troops and they (or, at least, the vast majority) did everything their government asked of them with honor and skill. I honor, respect and support our troops; and I mourn for those who died and for those who have their lives forever altered by both psychological and physical injury.

But this war was a travesty and a tragedy.

I opposed the war from the beginning — but have to admit that I was kind of wish washy in that opposition.

I remember that I was interim pastor at a small church when the war began. That week, I gave a sermon about what the Bible says about war. I presented a balanced view of what the Bible says on the topic, raised important questions about the implications of modern warfare for Christians, and then left it at that.  I decided not to weigh in strongly on my own view.  I actually had two conclusions written and brought both into the pulpit.  I decided to go with the less controversial, less bold and less open to criticism conclusion.

Not that it makes any real difference (no one in Washington is listening to me), but I regret that decision.  I wish I had stood up and called it what it was then: a travesty and a tragedy.

I hope when faced with similar issues in the future, I do not fail again.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Discipleship

I think there is often a lot of confusion about what the word disciple means in the context of the Christian faith.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.

And I am unabashedly bold in my belief that life as a disciple of Jesus is simply better than life not as a disciple — and I believe that is true for every person ever born.

And I believe that being a disciple of Jesus — at its core — entails three things: (1) an acknowledgement of who He is; (2) a decision to follow Him; and (2) a desire to become more like Him.

WHO IS HE?

Well, in terms of what I believe, here is a pretty good summary:

[I] believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, 
the only Son of God, 
eternally begotten of the Father, 
God from God, Light from Light, 
true God from true God, 
begotten, not made, 
of one Being with the Father. 

Through him all things were made. 
For us and for our salvation 
he came down from heaven: 
by the power of the Holy Spirit 
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, 
and was made man. 
 

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; 
he suffered death and was buried. 
 

On the third day he rose again 
in accordance with the Scriptures; 
he ascended into heaven 
and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 
 

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, 
and his kingdom will have no end. 

(NIcene Creed)

Perhaps, more simply: Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Almighty God, Savior of the World, Jewish Messiah.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO FOLLOW HIM?

We throw that phrase around a lot, at least in evangelical Christianity. What does it actually look like?

I think it is as simple as going where He goes, doing what he does.  

Now this isn’t as hard as it sounds?

Where does He go?  We know that God is everywhere.  So wherever we go, He is there already.

And what does He do?

Well we could make a list of things he did in the Gospel… feed the hungry, heal the sick, teach his followers, challenge religious and political leaders, etc etc.

But more simply, we know from the Bible that all of these things fall under a simple overarching theme: LOVE.

Jesus loved every person He came into contact with. He brought light and life into every situation. He injected grace and goodness wherever he went.

And do should we.

That is why Jesus taught about love so much.

In summary, He says, “love God, love others.”  And in case I wasn’t clear, “love each other… for that is how the world will know that you are my disciples.”

And if you aren’t sure what live really looks like, it is this: to lay your life down for your friend.

For your friend… your neighbor… and even your enemy.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE TO BECOME MORE LIKE HIM?

 

“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

— 1 John 2:6

While we can never become god, we can be godly.  And while we will never be perfect like Christ, we can become increasingly Christ-like in our character.

And that is the key word: character.

God is much more interested in our character than our importance, careers, success, failures, etc.  When we talk about sanctification, we are talking about character formation.  It is not about becoming less like ourselves.  The best me is the me God created me to be.  In other words, I most glorify God when I live into the fullness and uiqueness of who He made me.  God doesn’t want to change my personality, quirks or things that make me uniquely who I am.  But He does want tio help me to develop my character into full maturity.  And he wants to help me heal my hurts, overcome my bad habits, and get past my hang-ups.

He wants me to develop Christ-like characteristics in my life: grace, generorosity, self-sacrifice, purpose.  In short, he wants me to become more loving — of God, of my brothers and sisters in Christ, my neighbors, and even my enemies.

SO WHAT IS DISCIPLESHIP?

In short, it is RESPONDING TO THE LOVE OF CHRIST BY LOVING OTHERS THE WAY HE DID AND STRIVING TO BECOME BETTER LOVERS — of God, brother/sister, neighor… and even my enemies.

And that is what it means to be a DISCIPLE OF CHRIST (imho).

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Which Video Resonates With You More?

Watch both and let me know your thoughts:

THOUGHTS?

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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