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August 28, 2013

You know, sometimes it's painfully difficult to be a Christian.  In a life that doesn't revolve around a serious dedication to Christ, his teachings, his example, and his calling upon our hearts, our evil tendencies are free to run wild.  When someone is getting on my nerves, I could be mean enough to them to make them go away.  When someone says something hurtful to me, I could respond with insults.  When a person turns on me, I could find ways to make their life miserable.  When someone acts out to harm me, I could let my vengeance flow. 

Paul says, in that famous passage about love from 1 Corinthians 13, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; but when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways."  This theme of maturity blends well with Jesus teaching us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, and forgive freely.  Life revolving around the Gospel is a life of real maturity, but no one said such a life would be easy.

The longer we practice childish ways, the harder it is to put them to an end.  Nevertheless putting them to an end is necessary, considering that our childish ways of tit-for-tat never solve anything, they only make things worse.  Arguments become fights, anger becomes hate, and revenge- eventually, in one way or another- becomes regret.  Nobody wants to swallow their pride, feel shame, feel bullied, or worse.  Rather, we want to let our childish, evil responses run wild.  It's painfully difficult to take the higher road when faced with the ugliness of the world. 

Likewise it's painfully difficult to be introspective, to look within and consider how you may have contributed to the problem in the first place.  Admitting fault is a critical part of taking the higher road and being a mature follower of Christ.  

Despite Paul differentiating between childish ways and being an adult, maturity in Christ is not a matter of age.  Remember Jesus encouraging his disciples to have the faith of a child, and picture a child you've met who sets a fine example of what it means to be a mature person of faith.  A friendly face, kind words, an innocent perspective, a desire for fairness, and a lack of ability to hide guilt- such a person is a model for all of us.

Sometimes it is painfully difficult to be Christian.  I struggle with these issues just like anybody else, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so.  As Christians, we are called to be living solutions to the problems of the world, never providing opportunities for evil tendencies to run free, but providing opportunities to let the love of God flow like healing waters.  No matter how difficult it may be, this is who we are, people whose lives revolve around a serious dedication to Jesus Christ.  As we sing in that beautiful hymn, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

May the peace of Christ be with you and with us all,         Travis 

 

 

February 6, 2013

I've been thinking recently about the topic of "purpose." I'm one of those people who need a purpose to be movtivated into action. And working with no sense of purpose leaves leaves me feeling a lack of worth.

My daughter asked a great question the other day (as she does often), "What would you be doing if you weren't a minister?" "Well," I responded, "hmmm. I don't know." That runs a lot deeper than not having thought about it. It's tough for me to answer because I have long feared ending up in an occupation that made me miserable- which I've found in previous jobs was especially true when I've felt a lack of purpose.

Most every job I've had was that way, other than working as a life guard at a pool (not what you might expect, but a pool known for lots of little kids being out of control). I felt a sense of purpose there, safeguarding human life. The greatest day I've spent at any job growing up was the day when an elementary age girl with Down Syndrome and Crohn's Disease was saved and revived from drowning. Especially after that, there was no going back to Radio Shack or delivering pizzas.

In college I studied political science, and thought of pursuing that to have some kind of positive impact on the world. That is until I learned enough about the reality of politics to conclude that I wanted nothing to do with it. I came to fear that I would lose purpose in order to clime the ladder. So, my course then led toward seminary and ministry.

What would I do if not in ministry now? I still don't know. Ministry has incredible downfalls, but thus far in my experiences they are far outweighed by blessings, and I have not lost (and don't expect to lose) my sense of purpose.

I thank the Lord for ministry, not just as a career, but as an opportunity for anybody to receive. I give thanks that you can work in any field, yet find time in life to devote to God and the work of the Kingdom. I give thanks for purpose, for the call of God to each one of us to put in work for the well-being of humanity and all of creation.

And I give thanks for scriptures that provide guidance, such as that from Jeremiah 9:22-23, "Thus said the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the strong man glory in his strength; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But only in this should one glory: In his earnest devotion to Me. For I the LORD act with kindness, justice, and equity in the world; for in these I delight -declares the LORD."

Peace be with you, Travis

January 23, 2013

I am not a great "blogger." This is probably painfully obvious to you as you see this page and notice that I haven't written a blog for almost two years. As I am now turning in my resistance, I can't help but to be reminded of the grace of God. Despite my resistance, the website continues to look at me with it's outdated blog page as if saying, "I'm right here, come on back!"

As I have been very resistant to coming back and updating this page, there are times that we all can be very resistant to doing things we should be doing, and stopping those things we should not be doing. Yet God is always among us, looking and saying, "I'm right here, come on back!" That is the grace of God, never giving up on us, always calling us home. You all are in my prayers, may every one of us hear God's voice and return as called.

Peace be with you, Travis

 

March 8, 2011

You may have noticed the opening statement on our website. The Church's history has been plagued deeply by people judging one another, by pointing fingers at one another, and by dividing over the assumption, "I am right and you are wrong." This is an example of our human brokenness that has led to churches requiring creeds and doctrines to define who is "right" and who is "wrong." In Christ there is no east or west, male or female, Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28), but in the Church there is Protestant vs. Catholic, Protestant vs. Protestant, white vs. black vs. hispanic vs. whatever, conservative vs. liberal, and so on. In the Church, we are torn apart by issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and worse yet, subjects such as how to be baptized or receive Communion.

Our opening statement has everything to do with this problem of division, which most often is a result of us judging one another as being either "right" or "wrong" (Matthew 7:1-5). Many who flock to Disciples churches (or sadly, give up on churches completely) do so in response to feeling judged by Christians or witnessing Christians judge each other, pointing the finger and saying (or implying), "you are destined for hell because of the incorrect way you believe in God." I know many people who have done one of the two for exactly that reason. Honestly I can't say I would ever have accepted the call to ministry if it weren't for the Disciples tradition and its bold emphasis on unity.

I feel strongly about this because I have felt and witnessed judgement and division within the Church. Actually I was judged and condemned yesterday! Someone called to quiz me about my beliefs (for being a Disciples minister- Disciples catch a lot of finger pointing for not prescribing to a particular doctrine or creed- he asked if I was a Disciples minister before proceeding). My response was not one considered "right" by the caller, therefore he called me a heretic and said I need to repent and step down from my position.

There are reasons for my own need to repent, as is the case for all human beings, which is why we confess our sins together each Sunday morning in prayer, and why we each need to do so individually every day, perhaps every hour and more. However, disagreeing with a particular human-made doctrine, (in other words, being a heretic), is not a reason to repent.

Heresy is a "controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heresy & http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heresy). It's a new idea that does not fit within an accepted belief system. Concerning Christianity specifically, the Protestant Reformation took place in response to new beliefs, developing among many believers, that did not conform to the dogma of the Catholic Church. These heretics joined in protest against certain points of Catholic doctrine, only to part ways and lead multiple versions of church in different directions. This paragraph is a long way of saying that every Protestant is a heretic.

This caller was obviously not Catholic (my wife is Catholic and I respect the Catholic faith very deeply). This caller's doctrine and theological emphasis comes directly from Protestant belief systems. Strangely enough, many Protestants came to adopt the word "heretic" and apply it to anyone who does not agree with their own doctrine completely. It's a word people use to judge each other and to say "I am right and you are wrong," and much damage has come from it. People judge each other because of human brokenness and sin. As it happened in Europe and beyond by the Catholic Church, it happened in America and beyond by Protestant churches.

The lingering question in my mind is, how does one Protestant judge and point fingers at another Protestant for being a heretic? I understand it's an effort to say there is one valid interpretation of the Bible, so either you are "in" or you are "out," but shouldn't Protestants understand that as the problem in the first place? Our Protestant forefathers were labeled heretics and made into targets. Isn't theirs the mantle we carry?

Yes, I am a heretic, along with all other Protestants. The word took root in early Church history to describe those who didn't adhere to Catholic doctrine, long before Protestants existed. Protestants have never been able to agree on much, so of course we don't prescribe to any one doctrine. Nevertheless, many Protestant churches have come to believe their own doctrine is the only one that can possibly be "right," and have made worse the divisions within the whole Church.

This is why the Disciples were formed, to recognize and honor our differences, proclaiming "no creed but Christ" in order to bind us together in Christ's name. Disciples tradition points to a God who cannot be boxed in by human limitations. I'm very proud to be part of such a movement. I would argue that this intentional (and reasonable) quest for unity in the Body of Christ is inspired by God, and is crucial for the integrity of the Church as a whole.

All this really goes to say to those of you struggling with human judgment within the Church, hold fast to your faith (2 Thessalonians 2:15-17), even if you are judged and condemned by another human being, Christian or not. Be led in your beliefs by reading/studying scripture, by praying, and by conversing with like-minded people along with those who believe differently. Please contribute to the unity of the whole Church by refusing to engage in the destructive finger-pointing that tears us apart. May God's love and peace accompany you- Travis

 

March 1, 2011
Lent

The season of Lent begins this month to help us prepare for Christ's death and resurrection. During this time many of us participate in the practice of giving something up for 6 weeks in honor of Jesus' 40 days and 40 nights spent fasting in the desert.

I was once a dedicated video game player. Not a bad habit, unless it goes overboard and gets in the way of what's more important in life. A few years ago I gave up video games for Lent. I was very surprised at the impact this simple, seemingly insignificant sacrifice had on me. Ever since then I have not been nearly as interested in continuing my virtual quests, and I have been much more interested in my real-life quests.

I still play these days, but I devote much less of my time to gaming than I did before that Lenten experience. So, do you have any plans for Lent this year? Is there anything in your life that may be worth giving up for 6 weeks? May God be with you in your discernment.

Peace Be With You - Travis