Friday, August 27, 2010

A new year at McNamara Elementary

We are entering the third year of our partnership with McNamara Elementary School. For those of you who are new to WBC, McNamara is an "at risk" Elementary School just across Braeswood from our church. The principal, Tiffany Chenier, is a wonderful Christian woman and a strong leader. They have some amazing teachers and staff, and we've been with them as they achieved Recognized status. Meanwhile, we've been able to minister to families in crisis in a variety of ways:

--Campus beautification projects.

--Extending benevolence help to families who would otherwise lose their homes or have utilities shut off.

--Purchasing school uniforms and donating school supplies for families who cannot afford them.

--Volunteering at PTO fundraisers.

--Bringing gifts to underprivileged families at Christmas.

--Boosting morale with snacks for teachers.

--Volunteering on campus as tutors, mentors, and office aides.

If you are interested in participating as a regular volunteer, we'll be having a meeting September 7 at 10 PM in C109. If you cannot make this meeting, please let me know.

The Fruits of the Spirit: Peace Rules

Many years ago, I took a defensive driving course. I'm sure many of you assume I did this because I had acquired a traffic ticket, and not because I am passionate about being a safe, conscientious driver. Hmm. Don't you feel judgmental now?

Moving along...

What I took from the courase is that to drive defensively means driving under the assumption that everyone else on the road is an idiot. You, and you alone, are responsible for ensuring that you don't have a wreck. You never assume that the oncoming car will slow down when you pull out in front of him at that intersection. You take it for granted that when you pass that eighteen-wheeler on the Gulf Freeway, he can't see you and is likely to swerve suddenly to the left, crushing you out of existence. You take responsibility for staying out of trouble.

This week, as we study the Spiritual Fruit that is Peace, I think we need to consider having a "defensive driving" mindset in all of our relationships. Instead of blaming others for the conflict that exists in our lives, we take responsibility for ensuring that there is peace. After all, Romans 12:18 commands, If possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. How do we do that, practically speaking? That's what we'll discuss this Sunday. Peace out!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Importance of Joy

This is a true story: A certain pastor had a man in his church who was taking an extended business trip. It was going to happen at the time his family would be driving across country for a vacation; it couldn’t be helped. But after the man flew to his business trip, the whole thing got cut short. So he had choices. He could fly back home early, and enjoy the peace and quiet of having the home to himself. He could switch his return ticket for a ticket to the place his family was headed for. But he chose a third, rather bizarre, option. He flew to a city on the road his family would be traveling. Then he paid a cab driver to take him to a lonely spot on the highway, where he waited for his family to drive by and see him.

Can you imagine how long he must have waited? Can you imagine the scene in the car as they recognize him? Can you imagine the screams in that car as mom stomps on the brakes? The incredulous questions, “What in the world are you doing out here?” Imagine, after the shock has passed, the laughter in that car: “Man, I told you it was dad!” “You should have seen her face when she saw you!” Anyway, this guy’s plan worked to perfection. Later on, he was telling his pastor the story. And the pastor said, “Are you crazy? What if they’d passed out and driven off the road? What if they didn’t see you and just kept driving? Why would you do that?” The man’s response was, “Someday I’m going to be dead. I hope when my kids think about me, they’ll say, ‘ol’ dad was a really fun guy.’” That made the pastor think. “How will my kids remember me? ‘Ol’ dad, he really was into his work. He was in that office all day, every day.’ ‘Ol’ dad, he was all about keeping that yard mowed, nice and neat.’ ‘Ol’ dad, he really ran a tight ship. Remember what he did to me that time I got a D in physics?’”

Now I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it, too: Being a fun guy doesn’t put food on the table, doesn’t teach those kids respect for what’s right. I agree. Being “fun” is no substitute for responsibility, hard work, and discipline. Those are things the Bible talks extensively about, and they are essential. But guess what? The Bible also talks extensively about joy. In fact, the Old Testament contains 23 different Hebrew words for joy. It, too, is essential to life. And as we continue our study of the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-26), we don’t see responsibility, hard work, or discipline. But we do see joy. What I want us all to see this Sunday is that if we are holy people, we will be people of joy. I hope to see you Sunday...and I hope you enjoy every minute until then.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Faith in Action Day--the Sequel

Last year, WBC participated for the first time in an event called Faith in Action Day. For one Sunday in October, we canceled worship and Sunday School so that everyone could engage in acts of service to our local community. We had over 300 people sharing God's love with our neighbors in a practical way...on a Sunday morning! Afterward, we ate lunch together in the gym and shared stories. I heard, over and over that day and in the days to come, "We've got to do this again!"

Well, that's the plan.

This year, Faith in Action Day is scheduled for October 10. That's right, 10/10/10, which should be easy to remember. We'll do many of the same projects we did last year (and pray for a sunny day this time around). We're also planning some new opportunities. Here's what we're working on so far:

Project at McNamara Elementary
Women's Pregnancy Center
Westbury Square Cleanup
Handing out water bottles on Braes Bayou jogging trail
Worship services at a local nursing home
Serving the homeless at the Beacon
Repairing a local home
Helping out at Braes Interfaith Ministries resale shop
An outreach-focused prayer meeting in our sanctuary

There will be more projects added to that list. For now, be in prayer for the event.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Mark God Leaves on His People

In his book, The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg tells about a guy named Bill in a church he pastored years ago. Bill was one of the pillars of the church. He was always present in Bible study and worship, tithed faithfully, knew his Bible, didn't cuss, get drunk, or cheat on his wife. But he was cranky. And not endearingly cranky, either. Bill's son had a great story about how he had met his wife at a dance, but he couldn't tell his dad because Bill would've just been angry to hear that his son had been to a dance. He complained constantly. Once he called OSHA to report that the music in worship was so loud, it was a safety hazard. A befuddled OSHA employee came to investigate, then quickly left when he found out there was nothing to it. Everyone avoided Bill, because it was so easy to get on his bad side, and life was so miserable when that happened. Yet the astonishing thing about Bill wasn't that he was cranky; it's that no one expected him to change.

Ortberg points out that if all we have is religion--just rules and rituals--then no one should expect us to change. But if God really is present and active in our lives, like Scripture claims, then we should be constantly growing. And how, pray tell, will we be able to measure that growth? Not simply with church attendance, Bible knowledge, and avoidance of certain vices. Bill had those in spades. No, the real mark that God leaves on His people is found in one of the foundational passages in all of Scripture: Galatians 5:16-25. Over the coming weeks, we'll be studying "The Fruits of the Spirit" to test and challenge ourselves to a better, more God-centered and God-honoring lifestyle. We begin this Sunday with the most important fruit of all, in a message entitled True Love. What does it mean to truly love? It's a lot more than what the songs say...