Another Sinner Just like you!

4Dec/111

Soujourn Church Huntsville, AL (2nd Visit) Review

I took both my kids for a visit to Soujourn Church in Huntsville, AL today (12/4/11). The church is currently meeting in the old 1st National Bank in downtown Huntsville- right on the square- which is pretty cool actually. They are meeting twice on Sunday morning: 9am & 11am. We went to the later service. Soujourn seems to be heavily focused on small groups that meet in homes during the week. I don't know how those go but I'm sure they vary from group to group.

This was actually my 2nd visit to this church in the past two months (that's a good sign) and both were similar experiences. I haven't hit the early riser phase of life yet so both my visits were to the 11am service.  There were about 30 to 40 people in attendance but I didn't get that awkward, singled-out feeling that sometimes comes from a small gathering. Maybe because this church is still so young and they're used to seeing new faces drift in? Either way, I kind of appreciate not being love bombed or completely ignored (both extremes bother me but I'd rather be ignored if I had to choose).

Overall, I think this is a scrappy and sincere group of believers. I felt very comfortable there.

The Service
Everything kicked off with some very good contemporary-style worship music.  The music, for both my visits, was great and the song selection fit perfectly- both reverent & worshipful. Instruments were: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar and a very interesting & effective percussion instrument. The worship leader was unobtrusive and the whole music portion seemed very genuine and refreshing.

After the music, there was a short break and then the teaching portion of the service began. I say "teaching" because it wasn't what most people would call "preaching" in the south. The lesson was on a section in Ecclesiastes (part of a series) and it wasn't bad... it could have been 15 minutes shorter though. I have a bad attention span unless the speaker is truly phenomenal. I didn't really get hit in the face with a proclamation of the gospel (which I happen to need on a regular basis) but I didn't get beat over the head with pure law either. And the gospel did permeate all aspects of the service in general so that criticism probably isn't fair.

Next came communion time, which they have every week. I'm all for weekly communion! It was handled with reverence but a little different than I'm used to- the elements were on two tables at the front of the room and people got up and went at their own pace. Most gathered in groups to pray during communion (my kids & I were invited into a small circle of people by a nice couple that sat in front of us).

After communion, some more singing, offering, announcements & a blessing before the end. The entire service clocked in at 1 hour and 45 minutes. A bit longer than what I've been used to lately but I really didn't mind the way most of the time was used. There was no "alter call" and no high-pressure, you're-probably-headed-straight-to-hell atmosphere.

For The Kids
There was a children's church that began after the worship music. My kids are old enough for the service though so I don't know much about that part. There weren't many young kids there though (unless you could 20-somethings as young). They also have a youth group for older kids that meets in the same building on Sunday night.

Dress
Very casual. I don't think I saw one tie in either service (but I did see some sandals). I definitely don't miss ties. If you want to visit this church, jeans are fine. You'll feel weird if you show up in a suit.

Doctrine
Soujourn appears pretty typical on the doctrine front. I guess if I had to figure out a label I would go with something like contemporary-reformed. They go into a bit more detail on their website. I didn't see anything shocking or extreme. But, to be fair, if I had seen something I disagreed with deeply, I never would've visited in the first place.

If the camera on my phone wasn't broke, I would've posted some pictures to go along with this... maybe that can happen if I make it for a third visit?

You can learn more about this church from their official page: http://sojournhsv.org

 

27Nov/110

Missing Church…

I missed church again this morning. I actually meant to go (had my alarm set & everything) but didn't sleep well and... I didn't wake up in time at all! So I caught some David Jermiah on the TV this afternoon. Now, I don't agree with everything he says but today he was pretty spot on. The message was about (surprise) being thankful. I like the way he usually sticks to the text and doesn't make everything a self-help lecture. Well, this one did kind of have that "success in life" aura but it was completely true and Biblical so, I can't complain. It is amazing how unthankful we can be and how that directly affects our perception of reality.  Gratitude is ridiculously simple and powerful yet it's so easily forgotten! It also just happens to be a command echoed over and over throughout the old and new testaments. I would add some references here but really? Would that even be necessary?

But back to church absence... Surely going to church doesn't make you a Christian but missing it doesn't help usually (unless it's the type of church that just tries to convince you you're not a Christian the whole time anyway- stay away from those negative, manipulative, cancerous congregations!)

Since I'm in "church visiting mode," a sinful but believing nomad, I want to start writing church reviews based on my visits. I'm sure this will generate lots of angry emails!  I still think it would be cool to do (and it would be valuable for a lot of congregations to see just what they're doing looks like through the eyes of a visitor). Maybe I can get on that next week? In the mean time, my immediate goal is to try writing a song of thankfulness to highlight a bunch of stuff that we take for granted. Actually having a church where you feel like you belong could be one thing- even though no church is perfect, I do miss feeling connected with people that genuinely care about what happens to me & my family.

25Nov/110

Thanksgiving 2011

It's late (I should be in bed) but, even though it's technically November 25th, it's still Thanksgiving day in my mind.

In a way, every day is "Thanksgiving"- and that's as it ought to be. But a special, government sanctioned holiday, complete with all the promotional buzz, does help to crystallize and condense the gut and heart... maybe I should've left "gut" out of this? 🙂

I am thankful, first and foremost, for existence. I guess it was a few years ago- maybe 5?- when it finally dawned on me that I didn't HAVE to exist at all. And to be conscious of it? Well, there's a second weird thanks! We take so much for granted. For example, if you can read this: 1. Your eyes are working in harmony and your brain is processing very complex, abstract concepts in an amazing way 2. you have the luxury of an internet connection for leisure (even if that's coffee shop wifi) 3. You're alive (this might be the biggest one of all... not sure) 4. Just putting all the previous facts together is a recipe for the possibility of awesome love & adventure 5. You also exist and know it! You didn't have to exist you know. The world would spin just fine without you and I...

Today I'm especially thankful for my family. My children and my wife, my parents and my sister. They really are the glue that keeps my shabby model together on a day-to-day basis. Our little Thanksgiving dinner tonight will make me cry for years to come I'm sure (if I get the blessing of existence in this world for that long!).  I hope they know how much they mean to me. I definitely try to communicate that to my wife & kids. Dang. I need to be more vocal about it with my mom, dad & sister. Why don't we tell the people who mean so much to us that they do? Why? The reasons must be horribly boring and stupid! I don't think I even have reasons... just uncomfortable, imagined scenarios. Be bold, sinner!!

I'm also thankful for the fact that God did everything for me to bring me to Him forever (even though that's an everyday thankfulness). Even more than my family, God is a never-changing anchor in these turbulent waters. I constantly find myself clinging to the base of the cross of Christ with no hope outside of Jesus alone. If you don't have this thankfulness in your heart also, don't try praying some formula for salvation! Usually those formulaic salvation plans have strings attached! My sinful advice is... check out a Bible and read around in it... then ask the God of all creation if He/She/It was really behind this awkward compilation... then lay it all out on the line, expecting no response of course- fire all your guns of discontent and angst, unload... and once you've fired that salvo into the unknown, be still. I know that also sounds kind of formulaic but I really was shooting from the hip- might be bad advice actually (maybe the tract was what you really needed? I don't know, I'm not God!). OK,  a shorter version just popped in my head: ask, seek, knock. Interpret those three for yourself and comment on this post with the results. But... can't help it... allow for some time. It's been said "God works in mysterious ways" but I think a more helpful quote would be "God seems too slow sometimes- just ask Lazarus!" Of course, in the eyes of a skeptic, this is just another delay-reinterpret-reality-meme (but, for the true skeptic, reality is almost as shady as God so it's all nonsense), but you're not a complete skeptic. No one is.

Wow, I got way off topic there! That's pretty normal for me though and I'm thankful for that too! 🙂 I'm just glad I didn't start talking about the poor native americans!

I hope you had a happy, thoughtful, gut-full Thanksgiving!

3Nov/1111

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace!

Here's my suggested reading for this November (or any month really). I first read it at a critical point in my life- when I was trying to figure out how Christianity could have good news for me- and I'm re-reading it now. Some of the sections are a bit dense but I think it's worth wading through. Just the scriptures referenced in the back make it worth the purchase imop. It recently became available for the Kindle too!

Putting Amazing Back Into Grace - Michael Horton

For a lighter version (but not quite as mind blowing) Philip Yancey has a good book out there with a similar title. It's worth reading for the stories that illustrate his points along the way.

 
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Oh, and don't forget to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning! That should be required reading in fact!

3Nov/110

The Last Days According to Jesus

Click Here Now for more information or to place an order -

What did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples that some of them would not taste death until they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom? What is meant when the book of Revelation says that the things prophesied therein “must soon take place”? Comments such as these have raised many questions, causing some to conclude that Jesus was wrong about the time of His second coming. In this series, R.C. Sproul examines the time-texts associated with the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation, demonstrating that when properly understood, they are actually strong evidence for the truthfulness of Scripture.

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!

3Nov/110

Sammy and His Shepherd

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FAQs about eBooks

In Sammy and His Shepherd, veteran children’s writer Susan Hunt takes youngsters on a delightful trip through Psalm 23 from the point of view of a sheep named Sammy. 

Sammy lives happily under the care of his faithful shepherd. But one day he meets a sheep from another flock, one who lives in misery because her shepherd is not so caring. Eventually, to the delight of both of them, Sammy’s shepherd buys the needy little sheep for his flock and gives her a name—Precious. Thereafter, Sammy tells Precious all the wonderful things about their shepherd. At first, Precious has a hard time believing that the shepherd can be so good. But eventually, as she sees the shepherd pouring out his energies for the good of his flock, she comes to trust him, for she sees that he loves his sheep unconditionally and sacrificially. 

Each chapter of Sammy and His Shepherd is an exploration of a passage from Psalm 23. As they work through the book, children will grow in their understanding of the metaphors the psalmist used in composing this beloved poem. But more important, they will gain a deeper appreciation for the one who is the subject of the psalm: the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Captivating illustrations by Corey Godbey help Sammy and Precious come to life for children. A special section in the back of the book provides Bible passages, discussion questions, and activities to reinforce the lessons of each chapter.

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!

3Nov/110

Themes from Deuteronomy

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In this series, Dr. Sproul discusses the major ideas found in Deuteronomy, one of the most frequently quoted Old Testament books in the New Testament. Deuteronomy sums up the books of Moses, with themes of apostasy, obedience, promise, and blessing.

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!

3Nov/116872

The Last Days According to Jesus

Click Here Now for more information or to place an order -

What did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples that some of them would not taste death until they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom? What is meant when the book of Revelation says that the things prophesied therein “must soon take place”? Comments such as these have raised many questions, causing some to conclude that Jesus was wrong about the time of His second coming. In this series, R.C. Sproul examines the time-texts associated with the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation, demonstrating that when properly understood, they are actually strong evidence for the truthfulness of Scripture.

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!

3Nov/110

Let’s Study Galatians

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Paul's letter to the churches of Galatia seems to burst on the reader like a sudden storm. The issues it raises still generate controversy, even after two thousand years of church history. In large measure this is because what was at stake when Paul wrote was the gospel itself. The question of whether human works were to play any part in the justification of sinners had to be answered clearly if the fledgling Christian movement was to prosper. And Paul was determined to answer it with total clarity. This explains the vigour and energy of his language, and the impact the letter has had down the centuries.

Derek Thomas explains the issues dealt with in the letter and refutes the contentions of the so-called 'new perspective' on Paul. His book is an important addition to this expanding series of study guides.

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!

3Nov/110

The Life of Jesus

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R.C. Sproul teaches the eternal significance these events played in Christ's work of redemption. From His birth and baptism to His resurrection and promised return, The Life of Jesus captures the uniqueness and power of the Savior's life. 

*** Click Here Now for more information or to place an order! *** Another valuable resource from R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries!