20Feb

Within the Body of Christ: Exploring the Different Belief Systems within Christianity (Session 5 - Lutheranism)

On Tuesday, February 19, at 6:30 p.m., we started a new series entitled “Within the Body of Christ: Exploring the Different Belief Systems within Christianity.” During each session we’ll consider what makes each Christian denomination or group distinct. We’ll discuss their basic theology, their interpretation of scripture and how their understanding of faith shapes their lives. This week we focused on Lutheranism. A podcast of the discussion is at the bottom of the page, and an outline of the session is below.

 

The History

  • Lutheranism is based on the teachings of Martin Luther. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Roman Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation. Beginning with the 95 Theses, Luther's writings disseminated internationally, spreading the ideas of the Reformation beyond the ability of governmental and churchly authorities to control it. 
  • The name "Lutheran" originated as a derogatory term used against Luther by Johann Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519. Eck and other Roman Catholics followed the traditional practice of naming a heresy after its leader, thus labeling all who identified with the theology of Martin Luther as Lutherans. Martin Luther always disliked the term, preferring instead to describe the reform movement with the term "Evangelical", which was derived from euangelion, a Greek word meaning "good news", i.e. "Gospel." Lutherans themselves began to use the term in the middle of the 16th century in order to identify themselves from other groups, such as Philippists and Calvinists. In 1597, theologians in Wittenberg used the title "Lutheran" to describe their church. 
  • The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics began with the Edict of Worms in 1521, which officially excommunicated Luther and all of his followers. The divide centered over the doctrine of Justification. Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone" which went against the Roman view of "faith formed by love", or "faith and works".
  • Lutheranism rose in Germany and Scandinavia.
Doctrine
  • The Bible - Traditionally, Lutherans hold the Bible of the Old and New Testaments to be the only divinely inspired book, the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and the only norm for Christian teaching. Scripture alone is the formal principle of the faith, the final authority for all matters of faith and morals because of its inspiration, authority, clarity, efficacy, and sufficiency.
  • Lutheran Confessions - The Book of Concord, published in 1580, contains ten documents which some Lutherans believe are faithful and authoritative explanations of Holy Scripture. Besides the three Ecumenical Creeds, which date to Roman times, the Book of Concord contains seven credal documents articulating Lutheran theology in the Reformation era. 
  • Justification - The key doctrine, or material principle, of Lutheranism is the doctrine of justification. Lutherans believe that humans are saved from their sins by God's grace alone (Sola Gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide).
  • Trinity - Lutherans believe in the Trinity
  • Sacraments 
    • Lutherans hold that sacraments are sacred acts of divine institution. Whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component. He earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. He also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession. 
    • Lutherans are not dogmatic about the number of the sacraments. In line with Luther's initial statement in his Large Catechism some speak of only two sacraments, Baptism and Holy Communion, although later in the same work he calls Confession and Absolution "the third sacrament."
  • Conversion - In Lutheranism, conversion or regeneration in the strict sense of the term is the work of divine grace and power by which man, born of the flesh, and void of all power to think, to will, or to do any good thing, and dead in sin is, through the gospel and holy baptism, taken from a state of sin and spiritual death under God's wrath into a state of spiritual life of faith and grace, rendered able to will and to do what is spiritually good and, especially, made to trust in the benefits of the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
  • Predestination 
    • Lutherans adhere to divine monergism, the teaching that salvation is by God's act alone, and therefore reject the idea that humans in their fallen state have a free will concerning spiritual matters. 
    • Lutherans believe that although humans have free will concerning civil righteousness, they cannot work spiritual righteousness in the heart without the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit. Lutherans believe Christians are "saved"; that all who trust in Christ alone and his promises can be certain of their salvation
  • Good Works 
    • Lutherans believe that good works are the fruit of faith, always and in every instance. Good works have their origin in God, not in the fallen human heart or in human striving; their absence would demonstrate that faith, too, is absent. Lutherans do not believe that good works are a factor in obtaining salvation; they believe that we are saved by the grace of God - based on the merit of Christ in his suffering and death - and faith in the Triune God. 
    • Good works are the natural result of faith, not the cause of salvation. Although Christians are no longer compelled to keep God's law, they freely and willingly serve God and their neighbors.
  • Judgment and eternal life 
    • Lutherans do not believe in any sort of earthly millennial kingdom of Christ either before or after his second coming on the last day. Lutherans teach that, at death, the souls of Christians are immediately taken into the presence of Jesus, where they await the second coming of Jesus on the last day. On the last day, all the bodies of the dead will be resurrected. Their souls will then be reunited with the same bodies they had before dying. The bodies will then be changed, those of the wicked to a state of everlasting shame and torment, those of the righteous to an everlasting state of celestial glory. 
    • After the resurrection of all the dead, and the change of those still living, all nations shall be gathered before Christ, and he will separate the righteous from the wicked. Christ will publicly judge all people by the testimony of their deeds, the good works of the righteous in evidence of their faith, and the evil works of the wicked in evidence of their unbelief. He will judge in righteousness in the presence of all people and angels, and his final judgment will be just damnation to everlasting punishment for the wicked and a gracious gift of life everlasting to the righteous. 
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19Feb

Cove’s Celebration Service - Sunday, February 17, 2019

The members and friends of Cove gathered to worship on Sunday, February 10. Since we had a dinner after the service, we met in the Fellowship Hall. Our worship is intended to be a free expression of our love for God and the joy we feel when we accept that love. Of course, there are many ways for us to express that love and joy. 

 

This morning we continued our series entitled “Plowing Through the Dog Days: Overcoming the Winter Blues.” During six weeks, we’re going to look at how we might deal with the winter time blues. During this fourth message, we discussed how we can deal with sadness by reaching out to others. 

 

We opened the service with music from Cove's Bell Choir. Following the bells, we sang “Blest Be the Tie That Binds.” When we finished the song, we joined in the baptism of Jocelyn Waugh. Then we shared prayer concerns, prayed together and closed with the Lord’s Prayer and the Gloria Patri. We collected the offering while a video below played. During the message, we discussed how reaching our to others is important when we're struggling with sadness. After the sermon, we sang “Even When It Hurts."

 

A podcast of the entire service is below. Next week, we’ll continue our sermon series dealing with how we might deal with the blues. We'll discuss the importance of becoming active and involved

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19Feb

Sunday’s Sermon - Reaching Out to Others

On Sunday, we continued our series entitled “Plowing Through the Dog Days: Overcoming the Winter Blues.” During the next six weeks, we’re going to look at how we might deal with the winter time blues. During this fourth message we talked about why it's important for sad people to reach out to others. A copy of the message and a podcast is below.

 

Now, this morning we’ve turned the corner and we’re heading home. You see, last week we passed the mid-point in this six-week series on what we can do when we’re feeling the blues. And even though I’ve connected these feelings with winter, I think what we’ve talked about can be applied all year around. And over these past few weeks, we’ve looked at three different things we might want to do. 

 

For example, when we’re down, first, we considered how important it is for us to understand that we’re not alone. I mean, not only are there all kinds of folks dealing with the same sort of stuff we’re facing, some of the greatest figures in the Bible got discouraged and frustrated. And then second, we talked about the importance of our deciding to trust God, and in particular, to trust that God loves us and to trust that there’s nothing we can do to stop it. And then last week, we looked at how we can share our feelings with God through prayer, something that we can see all over the place in the psalms. My gosh, remember how the Psalmists were constantly whining and complaining and blaming God for their problems. But instead of doing it among themselves, they offered their laments directly to God himself, knowing that in spite of what they might say, God was never going to leave them isolated and alone because God just, plain loved them. And this is something we can do too. And so, that kind of brings us up to date.

 

And this morning, we’re going to look at how important it is for us to reach out to others when we’re feeling frustrated and discouraged. Of course, this isn’t as easy as it might sound and sometimes the reason it’s so tough has nothing to do with us. Let me give you an example. 

 

Back when I was teaching American History, I really enjoyed showing movies to my classes. And in my opinion, the best movies were the ones made during the time period we were discussing, because they offered a little insight into what people were thinking and how they were feeling. And every year, when we got to the Cold War, I’d show a movie called Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Now it’s kind of considered a classic. In fact, it’s been remade three times, but I think the best one is the original. Now the story’s about a man who gets caught up in an alien invasion where the aliens assume the bodies and minds of ordinary people...almost. You see, when they change, the new people suddenly have no emotions. And that’s what happens to one character after another. And by the end of the movie, they’ve completely taken over this small town with the exception of one man. Now, like I said, this is a great Cold War movie. I mean, communists could be anywhere and anybody, and if we weren’t careful, they’ll take over. I’ll tell you, this was one of my favor movies, and if I had time, I’d usually show this along with The Manchurian Candidate, another movie with pretty much the same message.

 

But you know, I think there’s something else going on here that’s pretty frightening. and it’s the extreme isolation a person can feel when he or she starts to question everybody. I mean, it’s almost impossible to reach out to the people who surround you, if you’re afraid of what they might say or do. And I’ll tell you, I think that happens an awful lot when we’re feeling sad. You see, even though we may really want to share what we’re feeling with someone else, we don’t do it simply because we’re afraid. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. 

 

Suppose something happens this afternoon that emotionally brings me down. Now it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, in some ways it’s even worse when it’s something most people consider insignificance, but it really causes me to feel discouraged and disappointed. Of course, I know I’d feel better sharing it with someone else, but I’m not going to do it, not if I feel that I’m going to judged for feeling down. “I mean, he’s a minister for crying out loud. He better get his act together.” And I’m sure not going to do it, if I think I’m going to be talked about later. “Oh I’m so glad you answered your phone. Now don’t tell anybody you got it from me, but I heard Ed is cracking up.” And I’m sure as heck not going to share anything with anyone, if I believe that I’m going to be treated as some kind of emotional leper. “Oh that poor man. I’d talk with him, but I wouldn’t know what to say. Anyway, what he has may be contagious.” I’m telling you, it’s like all of a sudden I’m surrounded by pod people. And even if they’ve never done it to me personally in the past, I’ve seen it happen to others. In fact, I may have even shared in the judgement and been part of the gossip and went along with the exclusion. And so, when the exact same thing happens to me, what do you believe I’m going to think and do? 

 

Well, I’ll tell you, if I were a betting man, I’d give you odds that I’m going to feel pretty much alone, not unlike Kevin McCarthy, there in the middle of the highway, with cars whizzing by and no one listening to him. Now, a few weeks ago we talked about feeling alone and what it does to us when we’re down. Let’s just say, it ain’t pretty. But more than that, if I feel like I may be either the butt of some demeaning joke or the recipient of some disingenuous pity, well, I don’t know about y’all, but I’m going to push that sadness, that discouragement, those frustrations so far down I’ll be able to feel the stress in my ankles. And just so no one will ever get any idea that something may be wrong, I’m going to put on a happy face and be what, “in-right, out-right, up-right, down-right, happy all the time.”  And so, instead of doing something I know will help, I’m going isolate myself a little more and I’m going to repress those feelings and I’m going to fake it, all because I’m afraid, something to which I may be even more sensitive than usual because I’m down. Makes sense, doesn’t it? And frankly, I don’t think this is something that applies only to me.

 

And I’ll tell you, because it doesn’t, I mean, because sadness and fear may be little like having a losing season and firing the coach, they go together, I believe it’s crucially important to build the kind of communities within which people feel comfortable reaching out. You see, it’s really up to us to become a place where folks can do with us the same sort of thing they can also do with God, and I’m talking about whining and complaining and even blaming without being afraid they’re going to be judged and talked about and isolated. Now that’s the kind of community we can become, and I think it happens when we decide to do three things that are firmly grounded in the Bible. 

 

For example, first, we can decide that we are going to love one another. Remember, it was Jesus Christ himself who said this to his disciples: “Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and he will bring glory to God. Then, after God is given glory because of him, God will bring glory to him, and God will do it very soon. My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won’t find me. I tell you just as I told the people, ‘You cannot go where I am going.’ But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” [John 13:31b-35, CEV] And later, John wrote the same thing in his first letter: “From the beginning you were told that we must love each other. Don’t be like Cain, who belonged to the devil and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? He did it because his brother was good, and he was evil. My friends, don’t be surprised if the people of this world hate you. Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life. But if you don’t love each other, you are still under the power of death. If you hate each other, you are murderers, and we know that murderers do not have eternal life. We know what love is because Jesus gave his life for us. That’s why we must give our lives for each other. If we have all we need and see one of our own people in need, we must have pity on that person, or else we cannot say we love God. Children, you show love for others by truly helping them, and not merely by talking about it.” [1 John 3:11-18, CEV] If we want to be the kind of community where people can share their feelings without fear, good night, where we can share our feelings without fear, we need to love one another. That’s the first thing we can do.

 

And second, we can also recognize that God has called us to be the Body of Christ. In other words, God has called us here, to this place at this time. And through the Holy Spirit he has connected us to one another. t’s like Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Now I want you to know that if you are led by God’s Spirit, you will say that Jesus is Lord, and you will never curse Jesus. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.” [1 Corinthians 12:3-6, CEV] And he wrote this to the Romans: “A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another. God has also given each of us different gifts to use. If we can prophesy, we should do it according to the amount of faith we have. If we can serve others, we should serve. If we can teach, we should teach. If we can encourage others, we should encourage them. If we can give, we should be generous. If we are leaders, we should do our best. If we are good to others, we should do it cheerfully.” [Romans 12:4-4, CEV] You see, when we see ourselves as one body, filled with the same Holy Spirit, then we’re building connections and relationships that are stronger than any kind of fear. And that’s the second thing we can do.

 

And third, if we’re serious about being a community where people can share their disappointments and frustrations, we can accept that within this Body of Christ, our job is to build one another up, not tear one another down. It’s like Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “God doesn’t intend to punish us, but wants us to be saved by our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ died for us, so that we could live with him, whether we are alive or dead when he comes. That’s why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.” [1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, CEV] And to do that, we probably should follow the suggestion Paul made to the Romans. He wrote, “Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord. Let your hope make you glad. Be patient in time of trouble and never stop praying. Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home. Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don’t mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.” [Romans 12:9-18, CEV] I’ll guarantee you, if we decide that we’re going to love one another and recognize that God has called us to be the Body of Christ and accept that within the Body, our job is to build one another up, if we do these three things, we’ll be well on the way to becoming the kind of community we’ve been called to be.

 

And I’ll tell you, I believe the results will be immediate and wonderful. You see, as our community becomes open to and accepting of emotions, and I’m talking about emotions that most people would rather avoid and ignore, we’ll be letting the very folks who desperately need us know that they are most definitely not alone. But more than that, rather than encouraging tem to repress and to fake, we’ll be freeing our brothers and sisters and our friends and neighbors, we’ll be freeing them to share their feelings, to let go of their disappointments and frustrations and sadness, and to do it even if it comes out as whining and complaining and self-pity. And finally, and maybe most important of all, we’ll be challenging them to look forward. You know, a lot of folks end up getting stuck in their sadness. Discouragement can become a blindfold and hopelessness can seem like a anchor. But that doesn’t have to be the case, not when those sad, those discouraged, those hopeless people have friends to help them move into the future. I’ll tell you, people become a whole stronger when they can share some of their burdens. And that’s exactly what we, as the church, can do and should do.

 

You see, we can become the kind of place where people are willing to reach out to others. And that’s good because no one should feel the need to keep their sadness to themselves. Instead, let them come here, a place where we’ve decided to love one another and where we recognize that God has called us to be the Body of Christ and where we accept that within the Body, our job is to build one another up. In fact, let us be a place where brothers and sisters can become active and involved. And the importance of that, well, that will be the topic next week.

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19Feb

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - When Prayer Is Challenging

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion at the bottom of the page. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

1 Timothy 2:1-8

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

For 

     there is one God; 

          there is also one mediator between God and humankind, 

     Christ Jesus, himself human, 

        who gave himself a ransom for all 

— this was attested at the right time. For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

 

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument...

 

When Prayer Is Challenging

 

You know, it’s easy to pray for people we like. I mean, it’s just not difficult to ask God to bless those whom we support and to direct men and women who are already moving in the direction we think they should be moving. In fact, it actually feels good to challenge others to ask that God help leaders who think like us and condemn those whom we think are neglecting these prayers. Of course, this is easy to do.

 

What’s not easy is asking God to bless those who are on the other side of the divide and to guide them to do the will of God and not just what we want them to do. As a matter of fact, in this divided nation, where people only listen to those who say what they already believe and who demonize those all those who disagree, offering prayers that are free from manipulation are not easy to make.

 

And yet, this is exactly what Paul challenges us to do. We’re called to pray for everyone and to ask that God to lead them into lives of peace, godliness and dignity. Now that’s what he wrote to Timothy. And you know, if we claim this as a guide, maybe God can use our supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving to close some of the gaps that have developed.

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16Feb

The Memorial Service for Derek Hill - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Below is the message I shared at Derek Hill's memorial service and some of the memories which I read. A podcast of the entire service is at the bottom of the page.

 

You know, we shouldn’t be here today, saying good-bye to Derek. No, we should be doing what we usually do on a Wednesday afternoon. I should be over at the church, trying to get a little bit ahead so I don’t have to work tomorrow evening. And y’all should be going about your business either around here or back in Oklahoma. And Derek, well if Derek were home, he jamming out on his guitar or drums or maybe hanging our with his friends or his pets Sienna and Sophie. Of course, more than likely he’d be out on the road, doing exactly what he loved doing, driving a truck. I’m telling you, that’s what we should be doing this afternoon. But instead, I’m here leading a memorial service for a guy whom nobody was ready to see go. No, we shouldn’t be here. It doesn’t make. And as I look at Don and Yun ki and Kim, man, it just plain hurts, doesn’t it? I’m not sure there’s anything worst than losing a son or daughter. We shouldn’t be here. But here we are, because when you get right down to it, neither life nor death is fair. And often it doesn’t make sense. And losing someone you love, man, it hurts.

 

But you know, even though that’s just the way it is, I still think there are a few things that y’all can remember, and I’m talking about stuff that just might help y’all get through this unfairness. And let me share with you, what they are. 

 

You see, first, in the face of all this, you can remember that God just plain loves us. Of course, it probably doesn’t feel like it right now, but he does. In fact, he loved us before we were born, and he’ll love us after we’re gone. And I’m telling you, you don’t have to be all religious for that to be true. God loves us for one simple reason: God is love. And because this is something we can believe, we can trust that he loved and loves Derek. In fact, he was and is and all of us were and are and will always be in the hands of God, in his loving and gracious and merciful hands. Man, we’re his children, and he couldn’t love us more than he does right this minute. And I’ll tell you, we can believe this because of what he did for us. I mean, we know that Jesus Christ came, that he entered our time and space, and that he showed over and over again the freedom and love of God. And we know that he was crucified for our sakes, for all our sakes, which means that he died on a cross to save the people who drove the nails. And we know that this same person, this same Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, reminding everyone of us that finish line’s been crossed, the race is over and the death lost. Now, remember the Psalm we read a little while ago. Well, that God who like a shepherd takes such good care of his sheep, man, he’s already led Derek through the valley of the shadow of death, just like one day he’ll lead us. You see, first, I want you to remember that we are loved by God.

 

And second, you can remember that you’re going to see D-rock again. Now, I know that may just seem like a lot of words right now, but I’ll tell you, this is something I believe to the core of my being. We’re going to see Derek and all those who’ve gone before us again. Which means, right now, we’re entering a time of separation, and even though I’m not saying that’s fair or it’s going to easy, that’s all it is; a time of separation. But one day, one day, we’re going to see Derek again and we’re going to see him in a new heaven and new earth. And he’s going to be there and he’s going to be there in his pumas, complaining about either the Steelers or the Dolphins or OSU. And I’ll tell you, if in this new heaven and new earth, if there are some young ladies wearing yoga pants... I’m telling you, y’all are going to see him again, and that’s the second thing you can remember.

 

And third, starting this evening, y’all can simply remember Derek. Now I’m going to be straight with y’all; I didn’t know him. But y’all did; y’all knew him. And so y’all can remember the kind of man he was, you know, how he generous he was with his time and skills.  And y’all can remember just how dedicated he was to his family and friends, especially around the holiday season and just how much he loved his nephews and nieces, and I’m talking about Ayden, Taylor, Kayleigh, and Wyatt. And y’all can remember that in spite of the health issues he had, he followed his own philosophy to the very end by living his best life, something that I’m telling you, we can do too. You see, y’all can remember who he was. And you can do that by telling and retelling all the stories, especially the funny ones, and I’ve got to believe there are quite a few of those. You see, y’all can remember all this, and of course, pass it on to the children so they can know just how special Derek was. And although this won’t bring him back, I think it will make him feel a little closer until y’all you see him again. And that’s the third thing you can do.

 

Now like I said, I don’t think any of us want to be here, and yet here we are. It’s not fair. It doesn’t make sense. And it just plain hurts. I don’t think any of us want to be here, and yet here we are. But as we leave, I hope y’all can remember these three things: that God loves us and that you’re going to see Derek again and that until that time comes, your lives changed by having Derek in it. And even though that won’t make the anger and the confusion and the sadness go away, it just might help y’all carry a little more hope into the future.

 

*********

 

What makes a Hill? A Hill is strong. Determined. Out-going. Opinionated. Charismatic. Clever. Generous. Intelligent. Dependable. Talented. Honest, sometimes brutally when you need it. Loyal. So very loyal. A Hill is a best friend.

 

Looking back, I can not tell you who I became friends with first. Derek or Kim. But for as long as I can remember, there was always a Hill around.

 

The loss of Derek still doesn’t seem believable. I cant wrap my head around it. He was “That Guy". The guy that you wanted to be friends with. The one you always wanted to be around. He elevated you. Made you a better person. He never met a stranger. When you met him for the first time, you left as his friend.

 

When we lost Jeff in 2008, I was lost. I asked Derek if I could come out on the road with him. He didn’t hesitate. Those months on the road with him were some of the best of my life. We traveled the US together All four corners of the states and everywhere in between. Every time we were close to Oklahoma or West Virginia, we always seemed to be able to find a route home. No matter how far we were. He lived for those surprises on the faces of friends and family. I gained a great appreciation of Godsmack. And whether he would admit it or not, he for country. Would catch him singing along sometimes.

 

Derek loved life. I cant tell you how many times we sang “Its My Life" at karaoke. What I can tell you is that he believed every word he sang. He was always a grab life by the horns type of person. If you want something, go for it. Whatever it takes. You never give up. You were your own limit.

 

God, I’m going to miss him. My heart is just broken. Doesn’t seem to be real. All I want is to wake up from this nightmare. We may not have talked every day. Or every week. But he was always there. Just a phone call or text away. And we would pick up like no time had passed. If I ever had an issue with my car, he was my first phone call. Issue with a girl. Just having a bad day. He was there. He always had time for you. Our yearly debate on who is better Big 12 offense or Sec defense. I will forever be a dolphins fan. I remember when I told him I was gay. His response, “Well, yea. What took you so long?” Who you were didn’t matter. Just the type of person you were on the inside. He was your best friend. Your brother.

 

You never forget a Derek. They are a once in a lifetime. He had talked about coming home so often. Hate that it’s like this.

 

Sunflower seeds. Roundabouts. Yoga Pants. “What? You have never seen a couple twelve year olds drive a truck" “Switch me seats". Pumas. Wooden Rooster. “What’s up, man?” “Get your feet out of my face ….Get your face out of my feet" Slow pumpkin.

 

Ohio/West Virginia weeps. Oklahoma weeps. I weep. His family weeps.

 

“…For DROCK and Sheena, who never backed down…”

 

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There are people that come in to your life, if even for the shortest periods of time, that will impact you profoundly. Derek was one of those people that touched your soul. The news of his passing is as shocking as it is heartbreaking. His smile was penetrating and his heart was as pure as I’ve known. Life is so short, unpredictable and certainly unfair as those left behind scramble to make sense of this tragedy and attempt to fill his void. Friends....love as hard and wholly as you possibly can and then love some more. Godspeed my dear friend. Until we meet again we will celebrate your life.

 

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I still can’t believe your gone one of the best friend and bother to me and lot of people you was there when I needed somebody to talk to when my wife left me and always gave me shit and help me out in so many ways myself and my kids thought of you as family and an uncle to my kids we share and bought lot of beef jerky together you will always be in my heart and prayers for the rest of my life and my Memories for ever my bother Rest In Peace taken way to early love you always and prayers for your family thanks for being a great friend

 

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I'm still in complete shock over this, I think everyone is. So many memories have come flooding back over the last couple days.. going to your house in the middle of the night almost every night to eat steak, watch scary movies, play saw, and eat a whole bag of salt and vinegar chips together.. me skipping class to go to cadiz to look at a car with you that you decided you didn't even want lol.. randomly sending you pictures of a naked Jake Gyllenhaal just to make you mad lol.. finally perfecting your bulgogi recipe together after several failed attempts.. Steve taking 3 hours to lay 3 rows of new flooring in our dining room just for you to show up and call him an idiot for doing it wrong then showed him the easy way to do it.. and millions more. I wish you were still here but I know you're up there with mema, bop bop, and uncle ronnie watching over us. I love you and miss you so much Derek

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16Feb

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - What and How

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion at the bottom of the page. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

2 Timothy 4:1-8

 

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

 

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

 

What and How

 

In his letter to his young protege, Paul was very clear about what he expected Timothy to do. He told him to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ and to continue to do it regardless of how that message was received. You see, according to what he wrote, Paul didn’t pull any punches; he expected that sharing a message of unconditional love and irresistible grace was going to be challenging, because his audience no longer cared about the truth. Instead, they wanted a comfortable message that conformed to what they already believed, one that would neatly fit into cultural values of the time and that would condemn certain people while excusing others. This would be the kind of audience he’d face. And for that reason, Paul was clear about how difficult it would be to present the truth. And yet that’s exactly what Timothy was called to share.

 

But Paul didn’t stop with the telling him what; he was also clear about how Timothy should do it. You see, instead of either making treats or promises, he should simply share the truth of the gospel and to do it in a way that was convincing and rebuking, encouraging and patient. And this message shouldn’t be compromised by appealing to Hell fire or Heavenly blessings either to scare or entice folks into acceptance. Rather Timothy should be sincere and sober in conveying the word. And that’s how it was to be done.

 

And so, with Timothy, Paul was clear about the what and how. And you know, if he were writing now, I believe he’d be just as clear with us.

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14Feb

Within the Body of Christ: Exploring the Different Belief Systems within Christianity (Session 4 - The Protestant Reformation)

On Tuesday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m., we started a new series entitled “Within the Body of Christ: Exploring the Different Belief Systems within Christianity.” During each session we’ll consider what makes each Christian denomination or group distinct. We’ll discuss their basic theology, their interpretation of scripture and how their understanding of faith shapes their lives. This week we focused on the Protestant Reformation.

A podcast of the discussion is at the bottom of the page, and an outline of the session is below.

 

The Causes

  • The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, by priests who opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice—especially the teaching and the sale of indulgences or the abuses thereof, and simony, the selling and buying of clerical offices—that the reformers saw as evidence of the systemic corruption of the Church's Roman hierarchy, which included the Pope. 
  • The Reformation was a triumph of literacy and the new printing press. Luther's translation of the Bible into German was a decisive moment in the spread of literacy, and stimulated as well the printing and distribution of religious books and pamphlets. From 1517 onward religious pamphlets flooded Germany and much of Europe. 
  • The frustrated reformism of the humanists, ushered in by the Renaissance, contributed to a growing impatience among reformers.
  • The rise of the nation state fostered and encouraged the Reformation.
 
Theological Strands 
  • Lutherans
  • Calvinists/Reformed
  • Anglicanism
  • Anabaptists

 

 

 

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14Feb

Cove’s Celebration Service - Sunday, February 10, 2019

The members and friends of Cove gathered to worship on Sunday, February 10. Since we had a dinner after the service, we met in the Fellowship Hall. Our worship is intended to be a free expression of our love for God and the joy we feel when we accept that love. Of course, there are many ways for us to express that love and joy. 

 

This morning we continued our series entitled “Plowing Through the Dog Days: Overcoming the Winter Blues.” During six weeks, we’re going to look at how we might deal with the winter time blues. During this third message, we discussed how we can deal with sadness by sharing our feelings with God through prayer. We opened the service with a video, and then we sang “Trust and Obey.” When we finished the song, we shared prayer concerns, prayed together and closed with the Lord’s Prayer and the Gloria Patri. We collected the offering. During the message, we discussed how trusting God is important when we're struggling with sadness. After the sermon, we sang “When We Pray” by Tauren Wells.

 

A podcast of the entire service is below. Next week, we’ll continue our sermon series dealing with how we might deal with the blues. We'll discuss the importance of sharing our sadness with one another.

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14Feb

The Wedding Service for Damon Ellis and Jennifer Horstman, Saturday, February 9, 2019

On Saturday, February 9, I officiated the wedding of Damon Ellis and Jennifer Horstman at Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. Below is a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.

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14Feb

A New Devotion on Cove’s Prayer Line - What Are We Willing to Give?

Below is a new devotion I just left on the Cove Presbyterian Church prayer line. You can find a recording of this devotion at the bottom of the page. 

 

If you find this meaningful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.

 

Mark 10:17-27

 

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

 

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

 

What Are We Willing to Give?

 

I’ve got to tell you, this passage has always made me uncomfortable. You see, early on, my faith what shaped by Christians who talked a lot about giving God stuff that’s a little less tangible than all your money. For example, they’d challenge us to give our lives to God or to Jesus, something that’s vague enough to make it relatively easy to do. I mean, how do you actually give someone your life? And let’s face it, when push comes to shove, it’s doubtful that God would actually collect it anytime soon. And so I found that I could give God my life every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And even though it sounded very spiritually impressive, it really didn’t involve me doing much of anything beyond saying the words.

 

But here, Jesus demanded more from the rich man than lip service. He commanded him to “sell what you own, and give the money to the poor.” Now that’s a lot different than giving God our lives. As a matter of fact, it sounds more like being told to give God our cars or our televisions or our smart phones, and by giving, I mean packing the stuff up and taking it the Union Mission. You see, when I’m completely honest with myself, it’s actually easier to give my life than my stuff. And frankly that makes me uncomfortable. But suppose that command really does apply to us? Well, that just might force us all ask ourselves this simple yet profound question: what are we willing to give?

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