As the LORD Lives

Elisha Raises the Son of the Woman of Shunem by Benjamin West, 1765

2 Kings 4:18-31 (NRSV)

 18 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” 27 When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” 

This phrase echoes across the first few chapters of 2 Kings. In chapter 2, Elisha is told three times by Elijah to stay behind as Elijah journeys toward his chariot ride to heaven and three times, Elisha responds with those words. Between the taking up of Elijah into heaven (2:1-14) and this moment with the Shunammite woman and her child, quite a bit happens. 

Elisha is commissioned to follow Elijah (2:15-25); Israel defeats the rebellious Moab (3:1-27); the LORD provides oil for a widow through Elisha (4:1-7); and a childless Shunammite woman graciously provides for Elisha and then the LORD gives her a precious son in response to her prayer (4:8-17). 

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

Elisha’s life has certainly provided moments of triumph and fullness as well as rebellion and loss. During these extremes, Elisha is the embodiment of the presence of the LORD. When the Shunammite woman has her prayer answered for a child, the child becomes to her a great blessing. When that blessing is threatened by illness, her world falls apart. Amid her trial, when her son has seemingly died, she responds, “All is well.” However, the story doesn’t seem to be well. With her son amidst illness and death, she travels to Elisha because he represents the very presence and blessing she has received from the LORD. Though her circumstances weren’t well, her reality was well—not because of she felt well—but because of the presence of the LORD.

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” 

These are the words of faith. The words that we have as our confession. These are not empty words of weak soothing. These are the realities we have in Christ. Just as Elisha and this Shunammite woman have uttered these words, Christ has guaranteed them in his word: “I will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

May you be filled this day with this faith as you serve Jesus. May you be filled with the reality that regardless of your circumstances, all is well—because Christ is alive and present in your life.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for this day. Give me strength and vision to see your presence in my life as I live to serve you. Help me to see that though things around me appear to be falling apart, that all is well. Thank you for your word and never forsaking me. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Church Calendar: Ordinary Time (or better yet, The Growing Season)

We have entered into what is called by some “regular time” on the church calendar. But this time is anything but “regular” (at least it should be). Our liturgical color for the next several months will be green, which represents Christian growth in knowledge, faith, grace, and service. To me, the word regular connotes a sense of blandness—of routine. But it should be a time of life and for life. The important factor that nurtures growth in the Christian is gratitude. So, allow me to share what I am thankful for as we begin what I will now call, “The Growing Season”.

I have been blessed in life to meet faithful Christians who love Jesus enough to be obedient to his command to love others. These Christians form an important network for me as I go about serving Jesus as a disciple, husband, father, friend, and pastor. This community is vital to my life. As Bonhoeffer describes it, God blesses Christians with community. During this “Growing Season”, then, should be a time for renewal in our lives and growth in the faith. My hope is that each person at HCPC will allow God to work mightily in his or her respective lives. Allow God to encourage others through you. Work actively to restore broken relationships. Give up the things that divide your family and dedicate time and your presence with those that you love. Be a blessing to others by speaking words of life instead of selfish criticism. Inspire one another and keep from burdening others with guilt. Above all, seek to worship Christ genuinely with your whole heart, mind, and body.

It is by grace that we are able to experience the family of faith, so let’s not neglect one another. Let us submit to Christ as we enter this “growing season.”

A Year of Growth at HCPC


Not only will be begin Advent this Sunday, we will embark on an exciting journey as a church family this Sunday, as well. We made 2018 “A Year of Worship” at HCPC in order to understand our mission as a church more clearly. During this last year, we have worshipped together in special services, regular Sunday services, and by faithfully looking at how worship is a life-giving adventure. We have hopefully added opportunities for worship that will continue in the future.

This Sunday will mark the beginning of “A Year of Growth”. I need to explain what I mean by growth at Homewood CPC. Growth is a multi-dimensional undertaking if we are doing it faithfully. Faithful church growth encompasses numerical growth, spiritual growth, and maturity in the faith. In order to be obedient with the calling on our lives, we must not forsake the gifts of God. Therefore, Sherrad and I announce that there are some new things we will pursue together as a church as we seek to grow in Christ.

New Bible Reading Plan – We begin this endeavor together by using a new daily Bible reading plan for your daily reading of Scripture. Our former Bible reading plan was excellent and I have had many conversations with our members who have faithfully followed the plan and enjoyed God’s Word everyday. Each day will consist of five short passages a day and we encourage you to make special moments throughout the day to reflect and pray upon God’s Word.

New Children’s Sunday School Classes – We have reached that time when our little children aren’t so little anymore. With that comes a great need to provide more age appropriate classes for our children. It is our duty to raise up our precious children knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you pray for this effort as we will need a couple new teachers for our various classes.

Church Visioning Retreat – We will be announcing a church visioning retreat for members who are passionate about being faithful to God’s calling as a church. We have been placed here together for a reason, and we will take time in 2019 to join together (if you are interested, of course) and prayerfully seek God’s wisdom for growing as a church. More information will be released regarding our retreat.

Regular Devotional Series – We will be posting on more devotional writing to aide our spiritual growth and prayer lives. We will begin our first series this Sunday with “Advent with Barth”. More information about our “Advent with Barth” series to come.

These are just a few of the things we are planning to help us make the “Year of Growth”. We invite you to come find your place at Homewood CPC. Bring a friend, coworker, or neighbor and let them experience God’s love at HCPC.



P.S. – Remember, we will have our fellowship breakfast this Sunday morning at 9:00 am. We will also have our Advent Vesper Service at 6:00 pm.





The Angst and Peace of the Psalms

The Psalms reveal to us how we are to pray and how God answers our prayers.

The prayer book of the Bible contains the requests and praises from God’s people as they travel the road of life. As we encounter the Psalms, we become aware of the joys and tumults of life—things that open the mouths of God’s people to praise him as well as things that open those same mouths in lament and frustration. The Psalms stand as the open invitation to all to call upon the Lord with raw reality and unfettered hope.

One of the most difficult things for some to do is pray. What should we say to God and how should we say it to him? The Psalms give us a beautiful testament to the freedom we have in our approach to God. Furthermore, the Psalms show us that even during the angst we have in our lives, the peace of God in Christ is always present with us.

Take for example Psalm 69. The psalmist David begins his plea to God with what sounds like hopelessness. He is in danger of drowning. He is weary. His throat is parched. His eyes grow dim. This all happens as he waits for God to save him. David’s situation doesn’t relent. He is aware of the multitude of his enemies and how they attack him to destroy him. He recounts his weeping and humility. He even asserts his consuming zeal to serve the Lord. In all theses situations, his spirit is filled with uncertainty and angst.

Does this sound familiar to you? Do life’s anxieties, pains, and sufferings cause you to question the presence of God in your life? Do you sometimes feel as if your prayers during these trials are going unheard? Do you ever wonder what the point is to pray if God doesn’t seem interested in giving you an answer, a hope, or salvation? All of this can be compounded when we are doing our best to be faithful and obedient to God and his call on our lives.

If we were to stop here, we would certainly be overcome by our angst. But in this same Psalm, we see David grapple with his angst and not stop until peace prevails. The peace of God resounds throughout the Psalm. As David seems to be filled with despair, his constant cry to God is filled with reminders of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. God is the only one who can deliver him from his tribulation. He looks to no other for his rescue. As the Psalm ends, David is filled with the assurance of God’s power and ability to rescue him. At one point, he cries, “But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!” Ultimately, in the throes of affliction and with the hope of salvation, David rejoices and worships God for his mighty strength to save. God has given David his word and David trusts in that word regardless of his situation.

In our celebration of the birth of Christ, we must remember that God has given us his Word in the flesh. As we live, we have the hope, love, joy, and peace that can only be given by Christ. May we not neglect to keep our eyes upon Christ no matter how dire our situations. We will have times when we are under attack and seemingly ignored by God. But remember, we are never ignored by God. Jesus is the proof that God is always with us. He took on flesh and encountered the very enemies and angst that we battle. He defeated these threats and gives us his peace. So, as we end one year and begin another, may we never give into our angst and instead embrace the peace we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. “For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.” In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Advent Sandals

“Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Joshua 5:15)

My friend Tal has a long-standing tradition of refusing to listen to the song “Christmas Shoes”. He measures the greatness of the Christmas season by whether he has had to endure listening to the song. It is quite humorous seeing Tal take precautions and setting up his guard against hearing it. (I have heeded my brother’s warning about this song and I myself have avoided it.)

The scene in Joshua 5 when Joshua stands before the Commander of the LORD’s Army is a familiar scene. Joshua is told to remove his sandals because he is on holy ground. In Exodus 3:5, the same words are uttered by God in the burning bush to Moses as Moses is being commissioned to go announce freedom to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. One other mention of sandals in the Bible is intriguing. In Mark 1:7, John the Baptist announces that he is preparing the way for one “mightier than he, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie”. When we see sandals mentioned in the Bible, it appears, at least in these three accounts, that God calls people to humbly and reverently be about His mission on earth.

Moses, Joshua, and John. Men called by God to declare His mission on earth. What strikes me about the encounter with the Commander of the LORD’s Army in Joshua 5 is that Joshua is preparing to lead God’s people, the Hebrews, into the promised land. One would think God was mightily on their side, right? But when Joshua asks this Commander whose side he’s on, either Joshua’s side or the side of their opponents, this Commander responds with a resounding, “NO!” This Commander was not on either side of the conflict between men. The Commander’s loyalty was to God. Joshua’s response, along with Moses’s response and John’s response to this truth was a response of faithful worship. They realized very quickly that they should never ask if God is on their side, but instead, “Am I on the side of God?”

Advent is a season where the people of God should reflect upon that question. We just endured a contentious special election in Alabama and I believe that many people wanted their vote to reflect God’s will. The conversations I heard among faithful Christians seemed to echo concern about choosing the correct candidate because we did not want to vote for the candidate that God had not chosen. Advent is when we take time to reset and remember—Christ is King. Our loyalty as Christians is first and foremost to him. We should be a reflective people who take time to discern whose side we are on. Ephesians tells us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

In other words, we cannot just assume that because we as Christian individuals assume the right course of action is the actual right course of action. Humility, sobriety, and discernment are essential to obedience. The true question for us as believers isn’t, “God, are you on our side?”. Rather, it isn’t a question at all. It is a plea–“Have mercy on me, O God, for I am a sinner. Create in me a clean heart and renew the right spirit within me!”

All of this is to remind us about who we are as Christians. As Tal avoids at all costs the “threat” of listening to the song “Christmas Shoes”, we should avoid at all costs false understandings of who Christ is. Christ is God for us. He has made it possible for us to be at peace with God. So, as we are on mission for God, I pray that we remember the message of the Advent Sandals. Humility, reverence, and service for the glory of God is our task. May we prepare the way for the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Commander of the LORD’s Army. “Take off your sandals, you are on holy ground.” Amen.

Meditating on the Word

The spiritual discipline of meditating on Scripture can be intimidating. Why should we do it? What comes from it? How do we do it? How do I overcome the difficulties of meditation on Scripture? These are certainly four pressing questions to anyone who desires to dwell in the Word of God faithfully and hear God’s voice each day.

First things first. You do not need a bunch of books or education to begin meditating on Scripture. All you need to begin a daily routine of meditation on Scripture is time, a bible, and perhaps a journal. A final important aspect one will need for meditation on Scripture is a community to walk through God’s Word faithfully with you. This final component is neglected many times when we begin to meditate upon Scripture. However, it is of immense importance because it creates a relationship built upon a common reflection on God’s Word and it can help prevent faulty readings and interpretations of Scripture.

Bonhoeffer answered the four questions I listed above by sharing how he meditated upon Scripture and offered up prayers each day.

Bonhoeffer believed that Christians should meditate upon Scripture first and foremost because they are Christians. If we say we follow Jesus Christ, then it is imperative for us to know how Christ calls us to obedience. It is in Holy Scripture that we hear God’s will for our lives—how we are to love God and love others.

He also believed that we should expect transformation from our meditation on Scripture. As the people of God read and allow God’s Word to penetrate their souls, they understand the reality of Christ living within them. When we meet with Christ each day before we meet others in the world, we will be strengthened by the grace of Christ for what we will experience.

The final two questions help us to understand how we are to go about meditating upon Scripture. Bonhoeffer believed that the Christian should be concerned with the quality of their time with Scripture over the sheer quantity of reading a text. For Bonhoeffer, a Christian should spend an entire week meditating upon the same ten to fifteen verses of Scripture for at least thirty minutes a day. This repetition may not make sense to us, but for Bonhoeffer, when we allow our hearts to meditate upon the individual words of a small set of verses, then we would be more aware of their power and meaning for our lives. One may begin to feel their heart or mind wander as they meditate upon those texts, but we should engage that wandering and allow it to be the fertile ground for our prayer life. We may perceive that our wandering mind is a problem—but it is not a problem. It is the occasion for prayer. As you read and ponder a text, a family member or a friend may appear in our mind. We must take that opportunity to pray specifically for them as we meditate upon the text. Through this discipline, we are understanding the grace of God and seeking it for our lives and the lives of others.

Most importantly, be patient and faithful in your meditation. One may believe that thirty minutes is too much time to devote to such an exercise, but as we all know, time in God’s word is never a waste. Don’t let the frustrations of life cause you to miss hearing the life-giving word of life that we have through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Importance of Sunday School (or Awesome Sauce Life Group)

It's back to school time! As teachers and students begin a new  school year, we all get a reminder of the joys of learning, friendship, and early bedtimes. I am grateful that my three kids are much more successful at making friends than I was when I was their age. Ava, Braden, and Drew were happy to go to school today in large part because of their friendships and the value they see in what they learn in school. It is amazing how elementary school children understand, in their own ways, of course, relationships and the value of what they are learning. What's more amazing is how we adults forget both of those aspects as we live our lives.

Since its back to school time, I was pondering the importance of Sunday school to my life as a pastor. I know that, in general,  over the last few years, Sunday school has fallen out of fashion in favor of "life groups", "small groups", "home groups", or other inspiring groupings of people. Be it Sunday school or "awesome sauce life group", the purpose remains hopefully the same–a faith community for people to gather around the Word of God in order to deepen relationships with one another and understand the eternal truth of Jesus Christ. This is called discipleship. Usually people will stop attending Sunday school if it doesn't provide meaningful, Christ-centered relationships or if it doesn't contribute any type of meaning or purpose to our lives. When this occurs, it is a mournful thing because the community of Christ should be built around the relationships that God has knit together focused upon the testimony of God for us in our world. We need each other more than we realize.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer believed heavily in Christian community. For him, it was not a social club. It was not an activity group. It was not something to be attended to whenever we felt like we should. It was communion. It's purposes were plenty, but central to this purpose was the presence of Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." What an incredible promise! Sadly, this is a promise that never gets experienced by so many in our churches. Bonhoeffer tells us in his classic Life Together,

"God has put this word (the Gospel) in the mouth of men in order that it be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God's Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother's is sure."

Sunday school (or Awesome Sauce LG) provides us with the opportunity to come together as brothers and sisters who are navigating through life clinging to Christ and needing to hear that someone else is trodding that same path with us. In our discipleship we can encourage one another, rejoice together, pray together, mourn together, work together, sing together, and commune together. And with this communion in the name of Christ, we get Jesus. 

So, may we always understand the importance of our relationships and the value of our fellowship each week as we meet together for worship and discipleship. For when we gather each Sunday, Christ is present with us and nourishes us for the lives we've been called to live. Amen.

Wish You Were Here

This morning as I was driving to the church I heard a song that I had heard many times in my life, but it was like this morning was the first time I REALLY listened to the song. The band Incubus is a hard rock band that I am sure most of you have never heard of, but their song “Wish You Were Here” intrigued me for some reason. 

When I arrived at the office and opened my Bible to read the sermon text for this coming Sunday (we will be in Acts 10 for those interested). Acts 10 tells us the story of Jesus correcting Peter about matters of cleanliness and gospel proclamation. As I read this text, that song that I listened to anew as if for the first time earlier echoed in my mind. And then I decided to look up an explaination of the meaning and the context of that song by Incubus. Vocalist Brandon Boyd told several years ago that the song “was about (him) acknowledging a very brief moment in (his) life and in (the shared) experiences with (his band) as they made their (“Morning View”) album.” He further said, “I wish that I had somebody to (say), ‘I love you, man.’ I was wishing that there was someone there to share that moment with.”

Boyd longed for a connected community with substantive friendships that celebrated their time together making that album. He was reflecting what so many people desire: joy-filled hope within a community of people with shared experiences and life together.

As we prepare for Sunday, know that God will be placing you this week in places surrounded by people who long for a genuine relationship. The Holy Spirit stirred within Cornelius a desire to belong in the fellowship of God. Had Peter maintained his stubbornness about who was worthy of hearing the Gospel, Cornelius and other Gentiles in Caesarea Maritima may never had heard the Gospel (or maybe they would have, who knows?). But it is not a question we have to answer because Peter was obedient to God’s call and faithfully went where the Lord led him to carry the Gospel to all the world. As a result, people were added to the family of the Lord and all had the community gifted to them by God so that they could all share the joy-filled hope of Christ Jesus.

Are you obeying the call of Christ and faithfully pointing those entrusted to you by God himself to know Christ and enjoy him forever?  

If you are reading this and are looking for a genuine community of faith, we wish you were here. We have a place for you at Homewood CPC!

A Place For You

We have a place for you at Homewood CPC. That is not just a nifty catch phrase. It is the reality in which we live. Homewood CPC is a place that literally has a place for you. In so many ways, churches and organizations want you to come in and adapt to their standards and guidelines. At Homewood CPC, we truly believe that God has knit this community together knowing that every person who comes to Homewood CPC has a place to exercise the gifts given them by Christ Jesus. We are a place that values the gifts of God in the people of God.

This is the standard to which we all hope to live–we have been blessed to be a blessing to others. So our question each week at Homewood CPC is, “How can we as individuals be a blessing to the world around us?”

This means that we need you. It is so easy for us all to forget this reality. Whenever we have a worship service and you are not in attendance, the body lacks. Whenever we have a bible study or fellowship dinner, we truly miss those who are absent. God created us to be the body of Christ and to live fully together to the glory of His name. Let us never neglect this calling, for when we neglect it, we neglect God and His Word.

Sherrad and I hope to see you all this Sunday. We both know that life can be busy. But we also know that the life rightly ordered is anchored in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Should we all not make it our priority to encourage one another as we follow Christ together? As we encounter the busyness of life, may we encounter it together.

The witness of Acts is clear: when the Christian community faithfully gathers with one heart and one mind to study the scriptures, to break bread together, to pray with and encourage one another, and to care for one another in our times of need, God adds to the number of that community. If you don’t believe me, check out Acts 2 and Acts 4.

This is our call. This is our desire. This is our purpose. At Homewood CPC, we have a place for you. If you haven’t attended in a while, we invite to come claim your place and let’s see how God grows us for the glory of Christ Jesus.

Defining Moments

Defining moments in sporting events are critical. During the 2016 World Series, the Cubs and Indians played a classic series that led to something no one ever thought possible–the Cubs won the World Series. As a lifelong Cubs fan, I had endured 32 years of disappointment and jokes directed toward the “lovable losers” of baseball. But 2016 was different. A team filled with young talent and wise leadership made the most of their opportunity and took charge of the moment at hand.

When Game 7 began, the Cubs opened the game with a lead off home run by Dexter Fowler. Later in the game, the old veteran David Ross cracked a home run. As big as those two moments were, they were not the defining moments of the game. No, the defining moment of the game came not because of a stellar play on the field, but instead, when the rain began to fall after the 9th inning ended with the game tied 6-6. I truly believe that the Indians would have won the World Series had that rain delay not happened. What was the defining moment? During the rain delay, another veteran who had struggled with his bat during the entire postseason, Jason Heyward entered the locker room with his Cub teammates and delivered and impassioned speech that reminded the team of who they were and what was on the line in that game. He appealed to the team’s sense of purpose and talent. He reminded them that they had what it took to finish the game and end a 108 drought for the “lovable losers”.

When the game resumed around 20 minutes later, the Cubs came out and scored two runs in the 10th and held on to win the series 8-7 over the Indians.

The defining moment of the World Series was a speech during a rain delay from a struggling veteran. Incredible.

As we live our lives, we have defining moments. These moments are important for us as we attempt to navigate this life of faith. On Sunday mornings at Homewood CPC, we have opportunities to come to church and hear a message from God’s Holy Word reminding us of who we are, who God is, and what God has done for us and called us to.

The sermon each and every week hopefully provides each of us with the truth of Jesus Christ in order for us to finish well. Paul often times refers to life as a race, and he encourages us all to finish well. If we want to finish this life well, we must focus upon Christ and his call for all our lives. Any person who stands in the pulpit at Homewood CPC is aware of the importance of the centrality of the defining moment in all of creation. This defining moment is Jesus Christ. How do we respond to him?

I think I can speak for both Sherrad and myself here, but we know and understand that every sermon cannot be “the greatest sermon ever preached”. We wrestle and struggle each week with obediently proclaiming the Gospel to a community of faith in an imperfect world. Through all our weaknesses and limitations, we always strive to proclaim the only thing worth proclaiming–Jesus Christ and him crucified. As a result of that truth, we hope to lead and equip the members of HCPC in the faithful execution of Christ’s commands. We are called to love one another more and more.

We are called to share the love of Christ with all we meet. We are called to worship and know our place in this world. And we are called to trust in Christ alone for our salvation, our purpose, our strength, and our all.

What will we do with the defining moments on Sundays? Only you can answer that question.