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Lenten Lessons

Posted in Christian, Community, Devotion, Faith, Global, God, Holiday, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Lent, Life, Prayer, Real Talk, Resurrection, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2015 by BigPhatPastor

Although I do not participate in Ash Wednesday, as many did this past week, I do acknowledge the purpose of Lent.  In the 4th century the early Church believers wanted to dedicate a time leading up to Resurrection Sunday to focusing on what Jesus Christ did for us by giving His life so that we might have life.  They decided to start that time of focus 40 days before Resurrection Sunday since Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days before jump starting His ministry.

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I get the people that give up things for Lent as a way of fasting and focusing on God’s love, goodness, and grace.  What I don’t get are people who just go through the motions.  I have talked to people who gave up meat for Lent and when I ask them why they literally just say “Because we are supposed to…aren’t we?”  Why would you engage in a 40 day long practice without knowing what you are doing or why you are doing it?  I’m not trying to judge, ridicule, or criticize anyone but here are a few suggestions,  #IMHO, to get the most out of Lent.

  1. DON’T give up anything for Lent if you don’t know why you are doing it.  That isn’t called fasting, it’s foolishness.
  2. DON’T give up anything for Lent without spending time that would normally be used engaging in what you are fasting from drawing closer to Christ by reflecting on what He gave up for you.
  1. DON’T spend the 40 days of Lent griping and moaning about what you gave up. That just shows you don’t really understand what’s going on.
  2. DO celebrate and rejoice in the fact that whatever you gave up pales in comparison to what Jesus Christ gave up for you and that He loves you with a never ending love. Rejoice in that for eternity.
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Blessings in a Bottle

Posted in Apps, Bible, Christian, Devotion, Digital, Electronics, Faith, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Life, Pastors, Pittsburgh, Prayer, Real Talk with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2015 by BigPhatPastor

At the beginning of every year people are always trying to list out new things to try and do for the coming year.  I don’t do resolutions but I do try to implement things into my life that will make it better and make me a better person.  This year I saw a post regarding a jar of blessings.  It may have been around for a while but this is the 1st year I took notice of it.

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The idea is to take a jar and fill it with little notes about blessings that take place in your life; little things that happen throughout the day and big things that occur on certain days.  Well, since one of my wife’s motto’s is “Let’s not put things on display, they add to clutter.” I decided that instead of a jar of blessings I would keep an online notebook.  This way I have access to it no matter where I am and no matter which device is nearby.  I can also look at the blessings that occurred within a given week, month, or other specified time frame.

To date, I’ve filled it with some funny stuff, some light hearted stuff, tiny things about people I’ve met and other things God has blessed me with; some pretty huge.

If there was an app that would let me tweet these things out that would be even better; if anyone knows of one let me know.  Until then I will just have to keep blowing up my notebook because God is blessing my pants off.

How about you?  Anything special God is doing in your life?  And when He does do something do you share it with others?

Law and Order

Posted in Bible, Christian, Culture, Digital, Faith, God, Jesus Christ, New Testament, Old Testament, The Church, The Law, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2014 by BigPhatPastor

I find it amazing how many people try to discount the Old Testament even though it is the foundation for our faith in the New Testament.  The most alarming thing is when people try to discount the Law that God revealed to the Israelites.

In the book of Exodus from chapter 20 on God is revealing Himself to the people of Israel who have been living in a land devotedLawandorder01 to worship of idols and living there as slaves.  God begins to teach former slaves how to interact with Him, with each other, and with foreigners who don’t know Him or them.  To accomplish this God introduces the Law.  In the same way we educate our children today, God begins educating the Israelites.  God reveals several aspects of the law:

– The Ceremonial portions of the Law: These are the feasts and celebrations that point to Jesus Christ and are now fulfilled in Him.  They are all about worshipping God and living in His presence.  These laws are eternal, not bound by time.  Jesus did not do away with these laws, He fulfilled them.

-The Moral portions of the Law are grounded in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  They reveal the nature and will of God for His people and all of humanity.  They stress how we interact with each other (those of similar belief), others, and even our enemies.  These laws are the epitome of what is good and right and still apply today and exist for all time.  For example, since the beginning of time and until the end of time murder will always be considered wrong.

– The Civil/Cultural portions of the Law were instructions on how to live with each other, with others, and with God in that particular day.  Although some were based on solid morals and can be applied today others were only applicable for that particular time and season (with the introduction of indoor plumbing it is no longer required to build latrines away from where one lives…still a great idea for camping though).  The consequences for failing to fulfill these portions of the law were also for a particular time and season.  To put this in perspective think of keeping a child safe.  You tell your child to look both ways before crossing the street.  If you see them dart out into the street and you don’t see them look both ways you may reprimand or punish them.  If this occurs with your teenager or young adult, although the same desire to keep them safe applies,  you may be less likely to reprimand or punish them as you might deem them to be more aware of their surroundings.

One of the best examples of this is seen in the latter part of Exodus 23: 19.  Many people use this verse to claim how irrelevant or invalid the Old Testament is to the Church today.  However, God has a very valid reason for advising the people of Israel not to cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.  The Egyptians did this and then used the broth to sprinkle on their gardens and fields as a magic potion they hoped would bring a good harvest.  However, most of chapter 23 is God telling the people of Israel that He would provide a bountiful harvest for them.  So although God is saying don’t cook a goat in its mothers milk, He is telling the Isralites then and us today, don’t depend upon false tricks or magic for your resources.  He is able to provide all we need.  Although the civil law does not apply today, the moral principle upon which it is based, God is able to provide for His people, is still applicable today.

As you read through the Old Testament don’t just write off things that don’t seem to make sense in today’s culture.  Pull out a commentary (or bring up the app) and read the why and how of each thing.  Also ask your pastor about it or even start a Bible study around a list of questions you and others have.  God’s desire is not to confuse or mislead us, but to provide substantial written documentation that reveals His timeless love for us.

What Christ Followers Can Learn From Comics

Posted in Christian, Comics, Culture, DC, Devotion, Digital, Entertainment, Fantasy, Geek, Jesus Christ, Leadership, Life, Marvel, Movies, Nerd, Real Talk, Sci Fi, Superheroes, The Church, TV, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2014 by BigPhatPastor

My top 3 movies of all time are 7 Brides for 7 Brothers, The Matrix, with Ultra Violet, Aeon Flux, and the Bollywood hit movie Bride and Prejudice all in a tie for third place (don’t judge me if you haven’t seen them).  But the super hero movies fromBlack Logo4V Marvel Comics are definitely edging their way into my top 10.  The Avengers movie from 2012, which grossed close to 2
billion dollars worldwide, was probably my favorite and sits nicely as my fourth favorite.  I went to see it with my son and some friends who were also comic book fans.  My son and I were the only ones who were actually brought to tears (yes, real tears).  Mainly because we were watching comic book heroes we were fond of brought to life on the big screen…together.

Although many of the characters appeared in movies of their own prior to the Avengers movie, seeing them overcome their differences and issues to come together for a greater cause to fight a common enemy made the movie hit home.  Marvel did the same thing with the recent hit Guardians of the Galaxy.  As a comic book fan I had a passing idea of the comic book group on which the movie was based.  However, many people who did not know the group still loved the movie.  Why?  Well (no spoilers for those who have not yet seen it), in addition to the great comedic factor, and the extremely awesome soundtrack (which any fan or child of the 1980’s will love), the movie again focused on bringing people together.  Individuals who each had different ideas of how to achieve a common goal put their differences aside to overcome a common enemy.  This hasn’t escaped the notice of DC Comics who are planning on bringing several superheroes together in the upcoming Batman v Superman movie and the Justice League movie.  Somehow Hollywood has taken notice that unity is the key to success.

Hero2So for those who have not quite caught on to where this is going I will ask the obvious question…why hasn’t the Church taken notice?  Today, depending upon your definition of the word denomination, there are close to 400,000 different denominations that exist on the planet.  These span the three major world views: Theism which holds that there is a God over all who made all; Pantheism which holds that God is all and everyone and everything is a part of that all; and Atheism which holds that there is no God at all.  Within the Christian denominations most hold to a common belief system:  there is one God who manifests Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit;   that God the Father loved humanity so much that He sent God the Son to die for the sins of humanity in the place of humanity and then was resurrected; that evidence for this exists via God the Son sending God the Holy Spirit residing within all those who believe as the promised seal of God the Father.  Many denominations have different structures and ways of worshipping God.  But of the ones who hold the above in common, and who believe that the most important role of the Church, the body of Christ, is to reveal this truth to the world, the question still remains, why are they not coming together?

Isn’t there more strength in numbers? Yes.  Wouldn’t the Church be more effective at reaching people with this truth if they combined resources? Possibly.  Has coming together to achieve a common goal proven effective for more than just comic book heroes?  Most definitely!  No matter where one stands on same sex marriage it cannot be denied that the overwhelming accomplishment of 19 states approving same sex marriage has come about because those who are proponents of it have banded together, inside and outside of the church, putting their differences aside to achieve a common goal.  The same is true of the legalization of marijuana.  Proponents of the legal use of marijuana have banded together for a common goal and currently over 20 states have laws allowing either medical use of marijuana or use for recreational purposes.  I am not trying to be negative but if “potheads” can come together, surely the Spirit filled people of God can as well.

If the Church believes the message and truth of the gospel is a more important and more life changing message than that of same sex legislation or marijuana legalization then why aren’t they banding together?  Why aren’t larger congregations and smaller congregation sharing resources?  Why are disagreements over hymns and traditional music still being debated?  Why are there still predominantly white or black congregations in communities with diversity when we are all one in Christ? Why aren’t fundamentalists and charismatics acknowledging God’s Spirit exists in all true believers and coming together to share that good news?

Just recently, over 25,000 people came together for the three day Franklin Graham Three Rivers of Hope Festival in the city of Pittsburgh. 3 Rivers2  Hundreds of churches came together for a common goal and thousands upon thousands of people put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.  How would our congregations benefit if instead of bringing congregations together every few decades when a member of the Graham family came to town, we brought them together every few months?  What would it say to our communities if they consistently and regularly saw various denominations coming together to worship Jesus Christ?  How much more would the message of true transformation be heard by those in our circles of influence if the focus of all of our congregations was on inviting people into our lives and into God’s kingdom instead of just into our buildings on Sunday mornings?

As Stan Lee, comic book icon, is quoted as saying, “With great power must also come…greater responsibility,”  Since the Church, the body of Christ is filled with the greatest power known to exist on the planet, the Spirit of the Living God, we BigPhatChecklisthave a greater responsibility to come together to see God’s purposes fulfilled through His Church.   Plan a meeting with your pastor, ministry team, and then with other local pastors and/or their ministry teams within your community to see how you can start coming together to plan a community worship celebration, a praise in the park event, a community Thanksgiving celebration or to meet a community need. #wearethechurch

Equipment Failure

Posted in Bible, Christian, Community, Country, Devotion, Digital, Faith, Family, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Life, Real Talk, The Church, Uncategorized, worship with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2014 by BigPhatPastor

It may seem like we are in the midst of some huge struggles and battles.  Sometimes it may even seem like we are in it alone; there is no one supporting us or who has our back.  Sometimes it may seem like even God doesn’t know what we are going through…honestly, been there, felt like that, got the t-shirt then returned it because it was useless to me…and I love t-shirts.

MaintenanceBut this is why reading, understanding, and dwelling on God’s word is so important.  In chapters three and four of the book of Exodus when Moses was called by God to the overwhelmingly impossible task of going to the head of the most powerful nation on the planet, from which he fled as a fugitive wanted for murder, and tell him to let go all the foreigners he was abusing and enslaving…he gave God excuse after excuse for why he couldn’t do it.  Finally Moses just admitted: God send anyone else.  Many of us feel like that when facing overwhelming odds or tasks that seem out of our ability to respond to our out of our control.  Whether daily tasks at work, or at home, or huge projects, or just stepping out in faith and sharing the truth of God’s word with people many times we respond, if we respond at all, with: God, send anyone else.

However, despite the task, God will always prepare us and equip us to do whatever he has called us to do.  When Moses said “Who am I to handle this task” God said “I will go with you”.  When Moses said “They won’t believe me” God told Moses they would believe what God was going to do through Moses.  And even when Moses fudged the truth a little and said he was not nor had ever been an eloquent speaker (according to Acts 7 when Moses spoke he was able to win friends and influence people), God responded with someone who would speak for Moses just as Moses was speaking for God.

In every circumstance, in every situation, in every trial where we put God first, God puts His authority and power on our side so that we are up to the task.  Although we may feel as though we are unequipped for the task at hand, God never fails to equip His people to accomplish His purposes.  The question is what tasks are we facing and trying to accomplish without God instead of with God.

Just Another Day In Paradise

Posted in Celebration, Christian, Culture, Digital, Entertainment, Fun, God, Leadership, Life, Pastors, Pittsburgh, Real Talk, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2014 by BigPhatPastor

I know many people think and joke that pastors only work one day a week, and on that day literally only 90 minutes. However, I and most pastors I know put in untold hours for the kingdom…or so I thought. I actually sat down one day and chronicled a regular Tuesday for me, which is a little different from most other days but not much….

Tuesday2-06:17 – Alarm went off. It’s normally set for 06:07 but I was trying a new app called Sleep Cycle to monitor my sleeping habits. I average about 5 hours of sleep a night.

-06:37 – Finished checking news and social media happenings, checked calendar and emails, posted an inspiring pic and started cleaning kitchen whilst listening to preaching podcast (today was John Ortberg).

07:20 – Began personal Bible study (studies unrelated to sermon or small group preparation, one chapter in Jeremiah)

07:27 – Stopped to take blood pressure (not good) and drink maté (an herbal tea with twice the kick of coffee and half the caffeine).

07:35 – Continue Bible Study (one chapter in Acts and one in 2 Kings)

08:20 – Prayer (I use prayer cards and straight conversation with God…He hears me and believe me I hear Him)

09:00 – Posted updates to congregational online group. Responded to emails. Scheduled some inspirational posts and tweets.

NOTE: The time I spend in prayer and Bible study are the most important things I do all day. The Bible study is not related to any teaching or small group study, but my personal time spent digging into and understanding the Word of God. My prayer time enhances my understanding of everything I study and allows me some one on One time with God.

download_20140326_12254109:15 –  Begin stretching to begin workout (gotta stay on top of that high blood pressure)

09:20 – Cardio workout (whilst watching and catching up on Marvel’s Agents of Shield…it’s called multi-tasking for a reason).

10:00 – Post workout stretching (and yes some Yoga…don’t judge me)

10:30 – Brunch with my wife.

11:15 – Updated a few items on my ToDo list for the day, checked calendar and emails, posted information regarding events for the week in congregational online group.

11:30 – Shower (I know some of you were worried about that).

12:15 – Began working on Digital Devotion for YouTube channel (editing, rendering, etc…)

14:00 – Lunch

14:25 – Update order and flow of the Sunday Celebration (this is documenting the prayerful consideration of what will happen in the Sunday Celebration: music, announcements, communion and any other elements; copies are provided to the Praise Team and the Tech Team)

15:30 – Bible Words With Friends Small Group preparation (prayerful preparation of items for discussion and study)

17:05 – Prepare and posting of a discussion topic in a chat room I moderate.

17:40 – Scrounge for pre-dinner.

19:07 – Bible Words With Friends Small Group

20:30 – Planet Fitness to work out with friends; this week: The Batman Workout (Google it or see the picture above, I’m at the Alfred level…a work in progress)

21:50 – Dinner with my wife (late I know but that is why we do pre-dinners)
NOTE 2: Sprinkled throughout the day is time spent checking texts, Facebook, Google plus and other online venues as I sometimes receive notifications, requests for help or prayer, etc…via these venues. In addition, I consistently view some online communities to review questions from people and to post answers to questions. The ones I frequent most often are ones regarding anti-bullying, anti-suicide, and theists and anti-theists conversations.

Note 3: In January my wife completed her degree in Diagnostic Sonography. However, she is still studying to complete  two of four total certifications that are required in her field (she has already completed two of the certifications, both within 60 days of graduating whereas most do so within 18 months). So when I am working from home she is sometimes at home studying. So also sprinkled throughout the day are comments from her whilst studying: “Turn the music down. Please stop talking to yourself out loud. Are you talking to me? Who are you talking to now? Do you have to sing out loud? How is dancing related to whatever you are working on? Honey, I absolutely love being married to you.”

 

Twas the Night Before A Pretty Geeky Christmas

Posted in Apps, Christmas, Christmas Party, Culture, Digital, Entertainment, Family, Fun, Holiday, Social Media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2013 by BigPhatPastor

Christmas Geek

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house;

The geeks home was wired both inside and out.

The dropcams were hung, motion sensors were on,

To catch children peeking before Christmas morn.

And I on my nexus had just made some time,

To shop with the missus via Amazon Prime.

When up on the roof we heard something amiss,

We stopped all our shopping and paused the Netflix.

Whilst voice dialing the police who should appear,

But a young hipster Santa and digital reindeer.

Sup” he said smoothly as he swaggered our way,

Then he winked at the missus, nodded to me and said “Hey“.

He began laying batteries neath our digital tree;

Double A, triple A, some C’s and some D’s.

He laid out some chargers, wireless docks and some mats,

And spread out some gift cards to purchase free apps.

He gave the missus a smart watch and I with a gasp,

Accepted from Santa my first Google Glass.

Then he acknowledged the digital fireplace;

He said “It almost looks real.”

I said “It should, it’s 4K.”

In a flash he was gone but I heard him profess;

Merry Christmas to all! Peace out and God bless!

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