If you go to The Outpost, you know we just finished Sermon #2 in our version of the "EveryONE Counts" sermon series. Last Sunday, we kicked off this series by talking about how God's people are stewards of God's stuff. This Sunday we dealt with us being stewards of God's grace

In the past couple of weeks we've also talked about some issues of disconnectedness at The Outpost. Many people feel a lack of connection to a location. Many feel a lack of connection to each other. And many feel a lack of connection to a vision that speaks to the needs of Weaverville and The Outpost's role in meeting those needs. 

So here is the question: How can 'being a good steward of God's grace' bring about greater connectedness within our church family? How can this particular kind of stewardship unite us to a greater degree?
I'd love to hear your feedback in response to this question; it would be fantastic to get a whole conversation going about how our connectedness is affected by this kind of stewardship, as well as the stewardship of 'stuff' that we talked about last Sunday. What are your thoughts? Let's talk! To leave a comment below, click on the word "comment" and follow the directions to say what you want to say. Then keep checking back in to follow the conversation.

Surrounded By Grace,

BUCK ZOMBIE ~ 10/21/10

“Let’s gooo, Cookie Monsterrrrr!!!” whooped the man behind me in a thick Hispanic accent. His 6 year-old grandson joggled past our enclave of onlookers at that very moment and flashed a crooked smile, a small bundle of uncoordinated joy trying to dodge grass tufts and flying high-kicks while at the same time move the soccer ball up-field without tripping over it. It was a heartwarming scene filled with laughter and goodwill and crotchety parents that I normally would have spent a whole morning writing about, especially since one of my own sons was also playing in the game—“Gooo Nathan!”— but I admit to being incredibly distracted. Buck fever is a hard thing to shake.

Hunting is a passion of mine, but it’s a hard thing to explain to a non-hunter. I tried explaining its allure to my wife once in terms of shopping and sales after she asked me to stay home on a prime hunting weather day. “That’s like me telling you not to go shopping on Black Friday” I blurted out, and then added for good measure (since she never actually shops on Black Friday)—“and there were no lines and they were giving out espresso machines as door prizes!” She frowned and looked at me like I was wearing diaper on my head. Which is when I remembered that coffee was another of my obsessions, not hers. Drat.

I’ve tried other ways of explaining hunting, of explaining the itch and the scratching satisfaction it brings to hike, to scour hillsides for antlers, to don camouflage and hoist a weapon of deadly force with intent to… to… And anyway, none of those ways seemed to adequately convey the thrill either. “It’s like looking for the perfect garage sale,” I’ve tried—“you know it’s out there, somewhere—that treasure you don’t know you need until you find it, until you see it and know you must have it...”
“It’s like a successful, last second hail-Mary pass to win the championship game,” I’ve tried. No luck.
“It’s like baking the perfect turkey,” I’ve even tried— “on Thanksgiving Day. When your in-laws are visiting.” Nothing. Nobody gets it. Blank stares.

And so, with a sigh of resignation that comes from accepting that you’ll never truly understand, let it suffice to say there’s a desire, a fierce hunger that exists in the world of hunting, that only grows stronger as the season wanes and huntable weekends disappear from the calendar like prime shopable hours in the first indulgant light of Black Friday. It’s a gnawing sensation that comes in waves. At its least intrusive consistency in the days and weeks directly following the closing day of the season, it’s ravenous power thickens and slowly gains in force as it begins to draw strength from magazine racks and random camouflage sightings in the early months of Spring. Then, oddly enough, there’s a lull. This occurs during the peaceful, optimistic haze of opening weekend, when most hunters trick themselves into believing that successfully scratching the itch is just a matter of getting out of bed and taking a gun into the woods. Do not be fooled; this haze is the calm before the storm. This is when the worst of the fever begins to eat at your intestines from the inside out— when opening weekend success eludes you. From that point on, until you shoot your buck, it’s a mouthful of chocolate-chip cookies in a world devoid of milk.

My opening weekend hunting experience was a disaster. A storm blew into my honey hole with fog so thick I half expected an ‘80’s classic rock band to spandex dance their way out of it. Gratefully I was spared such a horror, but after two days of rain followed by a third morning sans antlers, I was defeated. The next two months only produced more of the same: long hikes, long hours, no bucks. Soon I became a walking buck zombie. Sitting at the dinner table, last year’s buck-ghetti taunted me. Hits on the radio all began sounding like the theme song from Wild America. Watching my son’s soccer game, the children became a field full of dandy, dancing bucks, galloping by me in gaudy fluorescent jerseys. “Let’s gooo, Cookie Monsterrrrr!!!”
Snap out of it Josh.

This weekend is closing weekend. It’s our last hope. For all of the Buck Fever-ridden, camouflage-clad volunteer army of deer population control experts, this weekend is the last chance to bring home the bac— err, the venison. It’s the last chance for countless men and women in northern California who simply can’t explain to you the thrill of the chase and frankly, have given up trying. And it’s my last chance too. I’ll be out there, in those dappled, magical woods this weekend, I’ll be out there, questing after the defeat of my own mythical monster. I’ll be out there, because, after all… I’m just another preacher after a fast buck.


I think we tend to look at certain characters in the Bible as "God's favorites," and we secretly label modern Christians with the same title. King David always made my list of heavenly brown-nosers; with a title like "man after God's own heart," he's kinda hard to ignore. After all, he was God's anointed king, so it's no wonder he's so well loved. Now admit it-- you've thought the same things about other Christians you know-- their lives seem 'anointed by God,' like they must be His special favorites. The truth is, if you are God's child, you are His anointed. The Holy Spirit rests on you. But I'm betting you don't feel like it.

My pastor says, "we live on planet trouble." Maybe that resonates with you today? I've found that trouble is something like a rolling quarter. On one side, there's opportunity- let's just be super spiritual and say that every time trouble rolls into our lives, it brings with it the opportunity to fall on God and prove His faithfulness yet again. Then there's the other side of trouble. Let's call that side discouragement. If trouble coasts along nicely until it bumps into us and then falls over on the side of discouragement, we're in a pickle. We're like upside-down turtles at that point-- we can't right ourselves. We need someone else to come along and flip us over so we can see the light, see the sun again, see the side of trouble that is opportunity. Someone did that for me recently, and his words were so encouraging, I wanted to share them with you. 

What he sent me was a list of troubles that rolled into the life of God's anointed king, the brown-noser himself, King David. I suppose it's a wee bit sadistic of me, but oddly enough, I felt a 'misery-loves-company' sort of glow as I read this list. Here were his observations from Scripture on that anointed life:
1) Even after he was anointed to be the next King of Israel by Samuel, Israel's great prophet, David's family continued to belittle him--even aftery King Saul's advisors invited him to come and sing at the palace and play his harp.

2) When the Philistines threatened Israel with their champion Goliath, the newly anointed heir to the throne was left to tend the sheep. When he brought his brothers food and expressed indignation that no one in Israel had the faith to challenge Goliath, his brothers severely and publicly rebuked him.

3) After David killed Goliath, Saul became jealous of him without any justification, even though he had named him the commander of his army.

4) When David succeeded in everything that he did because God blessed him in so much, King Saul tried to kill him. David had to leave his wife and home and live as a fugitive for the next 12 years. Even the King's son and his best friend Jonathan could not save him.

5) During those 12 years, David lived outdoors, or in caves, or among Israel's enemies with his wives and children. He was often betrayed by his own people, was nearly killed multiple times, and had to move every few days or weeks with only the belongings he could carry with him.

6) Once he had to pretend he was crazy to avoid arrest and execution by the Philistines.

7) When Nabal insulted David and his men, despite all that they had done to protect and bless him, God stopped David from killing Nabal and gave him a wise wife.  For accepting that honor, she earned the privilege of becoming a fugitive too.

8) David could not fully trust his most capable commander, Joab.

9) When David forgot his loyalties and agreed to fight against Saul and his army with the Philistines, God stopped him--and allowed the Amelikites to capture and run off with his family and belongings and the families and belongings of all his mens' families.  When his men were ready to stone him, David alone had the faith to pray to God for the miracle rescue that followed.

10) When Saul was killed by the Philistines, at last freeing David from a life as a fugitive, so was David's best friend Jonathan killed.

11) After Saul and Jonathan were killed, even though God had anointed David to be the next King 12 years before, David had to wait several more years before his own tribe would agree to make him their king.  Then he had to rely on Joab--the commander he despised--to help him fight and win a war against Saul's descendants.

12) When David had finally united all 12 of Israel's tribes, was experiencing success on every side, was admired by everyone, criticized by no one, and had triumphed over his worst enemies, he made the worst mistake of his life, a mistake that would haunt him until he died--he took his eyes off of God and decided he needed Bathsheba. That mistake led to the rape of one of his daughters by her brother, fratricide by his oldest son, and that son's eventual rebellion against him, an event that took the lives of thousands of innocent Israelis and his own life.

And yet, even after all of this trouble, we know King David, God's anointed, as 'a man after God's own heart.'

"The point is, whatever discouragement you're facing, THE LORD WILL BRING YOU THROUGH THIS!  He is the same God who loved David so much that he put him through 12 years of nail-biting stress, danger, poverty, and hardship.  The result was that David learned to find his strength, not in himself, not in his friends and fellow soldiers, but in God alone.  That is the place where God is taking you, and He will watch over you with love and tenderness--as you travel with Him--until you're there."

Be Encouraged.

Surrounded By Grace,

BROTHER 'ASS' ~ 10/5/10

I remember being happy with my body until one humid day in 7th grade when a Senior in high school asked me why my belly stuck out. Thus began my own self-conscious obsession with image.
The human body is a funny thing. Venerated and despised, abased and exalted, it is tent and temple, all in one.

C.S. Lewis had this to say of the human body.
"Man has held three views of his body. First there is that of those ascetic Pagans who called it the prison or the 'tomb' of the soul, and of Christians like Fisher to whom it was a 'sack of dung,' food for worms, filthy, shameful, a source of nothing but temptation to bad men and humiliation to good ones. Then there are the Neo-Pagans (they seldom know Greek), the nudists and the sufferers from Dark Gods, to whom the body is glorious. But thirdly we have the view which St. Francis expressed by calling his body 'Brother Ass.' All three may be—I am not sure—defensible; but give me St. Francis for my money.
         Ass is exquisitely right because no one in his senses can either revere or hate a donkey. It is a useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body.”

So the body. I read this quote and suddenly understand with renewed clarity why it is God chooses the human body so many times as His object lesson for explaining what His Church is like.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

There are many who love to criticize the Church, who make into sport the art of church-bashing. To these, the Church is described like a ‘tomb,’ a travesty of nature, a sham. The way I hear some people talk about the Church, it might as well be a ‘sack of dung.’ And so, with such trite talk the people of God and the world alike critique His bride to His face. I think this neither a good idea nor a fair view.

There are also those who would over-spiritualize Christ’s bride, making the Church out to be an air-brushed supermodel on the cover of Vogue or Rolling Stone Magazine.
It’s all ‘glorious,’ everything’s glorious. This Church gets placed on quite the high pedestal, like a trophy on the mantel over a roaring fireplace, never touched by the everyday world unless picked up and dusted off by the passing housemaid. But… I wonder about those who think this way—do they actually attend a church steadily? As much as I love Christ’s church, I think this neither a good idea nor a fair view.

No, “give me St. Francis for my money.” The truth is somewhere in-between I think. Not the positional truth, mind you, but the practical truth. Because in practice, the Church “is a 
useful, sturdy, lazy, obstinate, patient, lovable and infuriating beast; deserving now the stick and now a carrot; both pathetically and absurdly beautiful. So the body.

And of that absurdly beautiful body, I am a part.

Surrounded By Grace,
*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~