Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blessings, Cursings and Chess

This last Sunday we played Chess during the service. While worship was going, during the times of prayer for the world, and during the teaching on the subject of blessing, a chess board in the middle of the room was the center of our attention. We talked about the mount of Blessing - Gerazim, and the mount of Cursing - Ebal. The black players represented Ebal, and the white players represented Gerazim. Anybody who knew how to play chess was invited to join the game, and make a move for their team during the service.

It was on these two mountains that Moses commanded the children of Israel to stand once they entered the promised land. Six tribes on each mount, and the Levites reciting the law in the valley below. When the curses were pronounced, the tribes on Ebal responded, "Amen." When the blessings were pronounced the tribes on Gerazim responded, "Amen."

Since Chess is like life itself, we discovered a number of illustrations in the game which relate to blessing, and cursing.

The most simple of these illustrations came from the beginning of the Bible, and the beginning of the chess game. White goes first - always. Blessing came first as well. Blessings are given by God before any curse falls upon the earth. We believe this illustrates God's heart toward us - it is a heart of blessing, which is shown by his first contact with life. It was the contact of blessing.

Other illustrations of spirituality came from the game: often blessings and curses do not occur all at once. Like a chess game which has forethought, and preparation, some moves planned for many moves ahead, blessing and cursing are granted on the basis of our action - our set up moves as it were. This law of reciprocation is found in many faith paths. As followers of Jesus we call this the law of Sowing and Reaping. Some people have called this law the three-fold law believing that things would come back to us three-fold.

Are there illustrations in Chess which speak to you about walking with God?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thanks to the Minstrels

Below is a list of all the musicians who joined us to help make the Halloween Stage a great event. We can't thank all of you enough - you are way too cool!

Up the Octave (Brandeis University Singing Group)
Robin Lore
The Fran McConville Band
Cocofeesh (Steve Brandi, and Carl Nystedt)
Paul Duffy
The Starving Artists (Brandeis University)
Peter Mercier
Laura Bullock
Dave and Kirsten
Josh Sturgeon
ARRRRRRRRR (Pirate Sea Chanties)
Casey Abrams
Mike Beaulieu and 3:16
El Rancho
The Grateful Ted Project
Judy C
Jim Trick
Elysian Sky Unplugged
Mamadou Diop
Brooke Wilcox
Laurel Grove

Dear musicy groups and peoples - We could not do the things we do over the Hallween season without your help, and talent. Thanks in really big piles of ooey gooey drippy thanks.

If you have a note of thanks to give to them, click the little comment button below and leave thanks. Follow their links and buy their stuff, if they have stuff to sell.

Pastor Phil

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Boams - Reho and Jero: A lesson in Leadership

Last week I taught on the division of Israel into two nations.

Rehoboam was set to become the king of Israel after Solomon's death. Rehoboam decided to neglect the advice of his father Solomon's wise counsellors. Instead of offering a kind hand to the people who were looking for tax relief, and a kinder, gentler government than Solomon offered, he took the advice of his friends, and told the nation that they would experience far more harshness under his rule.

Now of course, it is probable that Rehoboam was afraid that Jeroboam had returned from his exile to rebel against him. His strong stand was probably an act of defence against the perception that ease would give the people opportunity to rise up against him. Instead they rose up immediately, and broke away from Rehoboam. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel beat feet, and left for a gentler government under Jeroboam.

We can guarantee that a harsh manner of leading people will lead to those people living in rebellion. The heart of man has fled cruel standards since history began to speak. Our Lord Jesus freed us from the bondage of legalism under the law. Yet somehow we feel that harsh leadership is occassionally warranted in churchlife today. How is it that we do not learn?

Jeroboam came along to deliver the people from this harsh manner of government. He took the ten tribes to the north, and broke away from Rehoboam's cruel hand. Yet Rehoboam still had a trump card. He held Jerusalem - the religious center of Israel. So Jeroboam concocted a plan to keep the heart of his people with him in the north. Two golden calves were forged, and set up in high places to be worshiped. Then the lowlifes were brought in to be the priests - can you read between the lines here? We're talking the party dudes. Okay, not such a smart plan, but perhaps he never read about Moses and Aaron, and Israel wandering in the wilderness.

So one king attempts to navigate difficult leadership moments with cruelty, and the next provides his people with entertainments in the form of false gods and festivals around those dieties. These two styles of leadership are found in every generation of of history. Sometimes they are married together under a despot who provides sensational festival holidays.

These two styles of ruling are a picture of a deeper struggle in our own hearts. We tend to migrate toward legalism or licentious behavior, and sometimes bounce between the two over the course of our lives. Somewhere between the two is a land of grace and self-control. It is a land of love which views service to another as a higher goal than service to self. It is a land of freedom which allows people to grow, and progress gently despite the messiness of that freedom. Of course, this is a simplified view of the subject as can only be provided in short blog.

This story perhaps gives us a picture of the religious persuasions in the U.S. No wonder many people have fled Christianity for freer, more fun religious experiences. The Christian church has been perceived as cruel, and unbending by many people today - sometimes deservedly, sometimes unfairly. We are the Rehoboam of religion today, Jeroboam is waiting outside the doors of the church to take people to a land of festival fun. Should we be surprised that they have gone off with him?

I have had many people say to me, "I love Jesus, but I hate the church." At least they understand that Jesus is not the cruel dictator they have experienced through the harsh leadership of churches they attended.

May we all grow in grace, and learn to live balanced between Rehoboam, and Jeroboam.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

All the Help, All the Excitement, All the Friends

Another Halloween is over, and all the work has been worth it once again. There were a number of people who experienced an intimate interaction with the Person of Jesus, and even took steps to move toward Him. Pray that these interactions would bring the new life promised by Jesus to those who experienced His grace.

All the gang at The Gathering was so wonderful in all their efforts to make this year happen - Thanks all.

Some pictures from our Children's Day, and our Haunted Happenings Outreach events can be viewed in slide-shows on our website:
  • Haunted Happenings Outreach

  • Children's Day

  • Special Thanks has to be given to the following people and groups:
  • Streams Ministries Internship

  • Our Buddies from Sinners and Saints

  • Pastor Steve Pate from Church on the Coast

  • Jobey McGinty and Jamie

  • Josh Rivera - the Floridian Crazy Guy (See you soon bro!)
    John Psiakis - Yeah for the Sausage Man!
    The Rev. Allen Henninger - Thanks for being here bro.

    I will say more thanks in another post, but this is a beginning. All you musicans come next!

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Three Cheers for Suzanne! or, Yeah! We Made the Wall Street Journal

    I like Suzanne Sataline. She talked with me for days, followed me around Salem, and discussed theology into the wee hours with me.

    The story can be found here.

    Maybe in the near future it will become evident that living like Jesus, and loving people like He did will result in good things.

    The following places are where stories and blogs about us can be found:

    There are a few more out there. If you want to find them you can google search Phil Wyman, Wall Street Journal, and Salem.

    Thanks Suzanne