Category Archives: church life

A Season of Watching and Waiting

pregnant belly copyIt seems I am surrounded by pregnant women on all sides – which is not a bad thing. Women in our family – both my family and my wife’s family – are expecting in 2014. A young lady in our congregation along with another who is connected to and a regular visitor with our congregation just put out the news that they are awaiting the arrival of a baby in May. Then there are the ones connected to the families in our church, which means we have grandparents who anxiously await a newborn – including one set of grandparents-to-be headed to the hospital the morning this blog was written.

Pregnancy is a great image for this season in the life of the church – the season of Advent. During this time before Christmas we might think this image of expectant mothers points toward Mary who was at this time awaiting the birth of her first child (yes, assuming December 25th was the day – that debate is another blog for another day). It is partially what Advent has become for us – the waiting for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. And yet, it really is more than that. It is truly a season of expectancy – a time of waiting and watching for the dawn of new life, but it is about more than the birth of the Christ-child.

You see, pregnant families are not the only ones living through a time of waiting and watching. I know others who are facing the diagnosis of some form of cancer or about to enter into another round of cancer treatment (and for the record, I hate cancer). They wait to hear results. They wait to see if the treatment works. They wait and watch and wonder what the future holds.

Still others are waiting to find out other aspects of their future – what school will I go to when I move past high school? Will my job be one of the ones eliminated in the latest cutbacks? Will we have enough money to buy our children presents for Christmas? Will we have enough food to feed our families this week?

There is much waiting and watching and hoping in the face of unknown futures – some are waiting with exceedingly great joy. Some are waiting while holding their breath. And for those of us who know the truth behind the season of Advent, we encourage one another to wait and watch in faith.

The word Advent means “coming.” The Church celebrates this season not just as a pre-Christmas ritual, but as a reminder that Christ will come – again. Yes, Jesus Christ was born to Mary, humbly among the animals. But, our faith is not just based on this belief that God came near to us. Our faith is that this child would live courageously, and boldly declare that God has a bigger plan. He would go to the cross and become the sacrifice for all our sins as a way to show that the grace of God is at work to reconcile us back to our heavenly Father and restore our true life. And he promised that he would come again, that he would bring about the Kingdom of God in its fullness – a Kingdom of joy and peace where issues like cancer no longer haunt us in our nightmares.

That’s the joy we celebrate this season. That’s the reason we wait and watch. Just as a pregnant woman knows there is a day coming when the physical challenge of nurturing her child will result in the birth of new life, so we, the ones who believe in God’s promises revealed to us in Jesus Christ, await the birth of God’s Kingdom in all its glory.

So we wait and we watch and we say – “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

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Keys to Church Fitness

iron cross image copyFor those who know me, I have been on a weight-loss, health-improvement quest for the past 15 months. I am down a net of about 75 pounds and even running on a sporadic basis (one thing I have NEVER done). I have found myself struggling to lose the other 15 pounds I want to lose. I had been down a total of 83 pounds at one point but bounced back up a bit. It has been a real challenge to maintain my regular weight-loss progression.

At the same time I have been thinking about that issue, I have been pondering the work of the church. It seems that we run into the same cyclical issues in our life as the church. In my personal fitness I know there are certain keys to being as healthy as possible and making progress toward my goals. I may not always be attentive to them, but when I am change can happen. So, I thought, what might be the keys to “church fitness?” What are some things we can focus on that will help us make progress toward our goals?

Well, number one is just that – SET A CLEAR GOAL.

Stating that as number one on the list presents a bit of a dilemma for me. The problem is that while I see that as the first essential key, I am not certain I have helped make that happen well in the church I serve. Having made that confession, I still believe it is key.

So, what’s my struggle? Well, if I equate it to my health, the issue is this: Losing weight and looking trim is not the same as being healthy. Ask anyone who struggles with eating disorders. Ask your doctor. Ask me how healthy I was when I was younger and I lost 50 pounds due to methamphetamine usage. What appears to be healthy is not always healthy. My goals in personal fitness must be more about my internal systems working at their most effective and efficient. It’s why I don’t drink Diet Coke anymore – it inhibits my liver from being as effective as it can be because with Diet Coke it has to give too much attention to filtering out the artificial chemical stuff.

So, from a church fitness perspective, just having the appearance of being a “vibrant church” is not the best goal. There has to be something more, something deeper that makes the church healthier, not just better looking.

Our goal – the purpose that drives us at our church – is “Helping people experience the HOPE of Jesus Christ.” That is a great mission driver. However, it implies internal work and may not give us the greater clarity needed as a goal to pursue. In conversations with other leaders in our church I am coming around to the idea that we need to have some sense of outward goals – developing our church in regard to what people see when they look at us and developing a strategy for increasing the spiritual fitness of the community of faith.

I plan to do more praying about and wrestling with this aspect of our church. And again, it may seem odd to point this out as the number one key. But, just because I am working through this doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just as physical fitness truths are true even when told by someone who is not yet fully fit.

The second key to church fitness is CONVERSATION

I thought about naming the second key “communication.” But that is too broad a word for what I think is vital. What can often be lacking among the church (not IN the church because we are the church – we don’t GO to church) is real conversation. So often we tend to avoid real conversations – you know, the kind where we hash out our differences and yet remain close friends? I have been struck by the number of people I know who drift away from the church, from their small group, or even from their leadership position simply because they disagree with something that’s happening within the church community or leadership. Many times the issue only surfaces well after the relationship has grown apart. The problem with having a healthy church is that sometimes the unresolved issues remain just that, unresolved. People leave and don’t say anything because they don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings, or they say, “Well, if others wanted to go that way it’s fine, but it didn’t work for me.” The problem is they never said so.

It seems we fear conversations that are real and honest. We fear vulnerability. And I guess the reason for that is we don’t think others will understand? Maybe? Is it that we don’t feel safe having real conversations and trying to work through the challenges?

The downside to the issue is that when people drift off, those who remain are left to wonder what went wrong. And if they later find out they’re hurt because they never had a chance to try to resolve the problem.

In my opinion having honest, real, meaningful conversations are key to church fitness. But, it must have one last key ingredient.

LOVE – love is the real key to church fitness.

It begins with love of God and love for all things that are of God. It is having a love for God that we live into daily through acts of worship and prayer and service. It is having a love for the Kingdom of God and seeking to make that a reality in our world. It is having a love for the people who were created in God’s image – yes, that means all people.

How often is our love mostly for ourselves and what makes us happy? Or how often is our love first and foremost for our family and then beyond that we try to figure out how to make God a part of what we do?

Do our children know how much we love God and seek to live into the joy and peace of God? Do our parents? Our friends? When I fell in love with my wife, Jan, people knew it. Is it the same with my love for Jesus? My love for the Holy Spirit?

Love, deeply felt and urgently pursued, is the love we need as the people called to be the church. As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to love God, the Kingdom of God, and the people of the world in the same way he did – with our whole being and even our very lives. Can we say that we, as the church, love this way?

Again, these are essential keys to a healthy church. We may be much like I am physically – healthier than we have been, but not yet where we could be. We may be like I was, not caring about our health and just living and enjoying life any way we want. Maybe as a Church we’re mostly busy “doing what feels good.” Well, eventually that will prove to be misguided. We will be out of shape, possibly sick, and even potentially dead. I, for one, would rather not see us go there.

So, let me know. Is your church “fit?” What might be the main essential key to focus on right now? Maybe the first question is this – do you want the church to be healthy? Each one of us will need to answer that one for ourselves.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

It’s time to stop focusing on the church

group unfocused church copySpecial parking in nearby spaces. Greeters at the door. Helpful signs in strategic places. A plan for helping people have a good experience and thereby want to return again. A plan for building a reputation in the community. A way to meet the needs of the people who come – from people with children to those who struggle with getting around.

These are things I have found myself talking about in various settings with church leaders and pastors and consultants. It also seems to be what Wal-Mart or Bass Pro Shop might be working on in their meetings. It makes sense for Wal-Mart – theirs is a business with customers who spend money and allow the business to continue growing and serving the community. The more people they can get into their store and buying what they’re selling, the more successful they are. It doesn’t make as much sense for the church. The church is not a business. The church isn’t even an organization – at least I don’t think it’s meant to be.

Don’t misunderstand: the church – the community of faithful followers of Jesus Christ – should be organized, but the community of the faithful was meant to be just that – a community. The problem is that the church, for decades if not centuries, has been more organization than community. The focus has been on measuring and considering how the organization is working and flourishing. The idea has been that by focusing on “the church” we would foster a greater sense of community. But, that idea has not borne out as valid.

I propose that we stop focusing on the church. Instead, let’s focus on community. I propose we develop a deeper sense of community in smaller, more intimate groups, and then bring those groups together to share, rejoice, celebrate, pray, and sing.  I propose that we see ourselves as families who grow together (discipling home groups) and who gather for regular reunions with our extended family. Just like families work together in the day-to-day to help one another, so can discipling groups. And, just like those families feel connected to their extended family, so too can we feel that sense of community together. I propose that we gather together AS the church and worship together with great joy and gusto. I propose that we utilize the resources we have together and impact our world in real ways. And I propose that we begin by making discipleship the greater focus of our energy.

The change is subtle, but it requires a significant shift in focus. It requires us to focus on our “family,” our community of disciples – the faithful followers of Jesus Christ who strive to live out their life with Christ every day and who want to know God at a more intimate level. It requires a purposeful engagement with the Holy Spirit. It requires a willingness to go deep in prayer and to confess our sins and to seek a more righteous life in Jesus. It requires more personal intimacy and vulnerability.

The shift in focus will take real effort and must be intentional, but I believe the result of this change will be a brighter source of light in a dark world. I believe the result will be a stronger church.

The idea in recent times has been that by focusing on making a stronger church we will foster a greater sense of community. I believe the opposite is true – focusing on a greater sense of community in “families” (small groups) and focusing on the gathering of those “families” for times of worship and fellowship will foster a stronger church.

It is the harder work. It is not as easy as parking spaces, signage, and good programs (although, those are NOT irrelevant). It is the harder work of loving one another deeply. But, if I remember what I read in a good book, it seems that this is the work to which we are called – to love one another, to serve one another, to disciple.

For those who follow Jesus and attend Asbury UMC, we are moving this direction. It may happen in fits and starts, but we are determined to make it happen. I hope you will join us and see the powerful work of God that is yet to come.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

The Church beyond Starbucks

wendys workI saw this picture posted on Facebook the other day. The woman is opening up a restaurant in her neighborhood – realizing a dream of being a small business owner and serving the people she loves most. This picture was posted by a friend of mine who is doing great work in helping communities revive and thrive. Wendy, and those who work with her, are walking alongside others and encouraging them to live their dreams – together as a neighborhood and as a community. As far as I can tell, their main work is to nurture the idea that together they can elevate their community. They believe that if they invest in one another they can infuse a greater sense of love and hope in the place where they live.

Through the magic of Facebook I had a short conversation with Wendy the other day. We talked about how difficult it can be for pastors and worship leaders and even church leaders to worship on Sunday when other things are on their minds. In making my response to her question about this difficulty I said this:

 …yes, it is hard to worship, at times, inside the church walls. But, when I live out of the reality that the church is not the walls and I am not a salesman in a God-franchise, then I am able to live into worship differently. It means trusting the Spirit when I am not fully ready and accepting grace when things don’t go smoothly. It means looking at the gathered people with a goal to love and be loved, not just the goal of doing a good job. If I can live into those things, then worship becomes more lively.

She then responded with this:

I love your statement, “It means looking at the gathered people with a goal to love and be loved.” … I think I have that posture in my work [with a local community] but I am not sure I have that same way of being when I am in the walls of the church…

I knew from what I had read that my friend does have a great sense of community and personal investment in her work. Truly her work has inspired me to nurture that same spirit in the church. I see and read the stories of how people are living their lives TOGETHER and seeing things change for the better, and I think to myself, “that’s what the church should be about. That’s the light that’s needed in the darkness of the world – a real and deeply connected community offering a real sense of peace and hope in a world that tends to pull us apart.”

I think one of our greatest challenges in the Church is to recapture the idea of being a “community of believers.” As it is right now, I find many churches to be more of a “collection of believers.” We are people with a common interest who meet in a common space to learn about a common way of living as people known as Christians. We live our lives in proximity to one another more than we live life together.

This is what I think of as the Starbucks way of being church. People who go to Starbucks (or other food/drink places) on a regular basis do so because they like something about what they experience there – what they “get.” When they meet others who are also “Starbucks people” they feel a sense of camaraderie with them and they high-five each other and talk about the things they love most (okay, the high-five may be a bit much, but I think you get the point). If these “Starbucks people” go to the same location on a regular basis they may even get familiar with other regulars. They might have conversations about their families and their jobs. Many of them develop an understanding of who the other people are, and they’re glad to see most of them.

To me, that sounds like what we often see on Sunday mornings in our church buildings. People go to the church they do because they like something about what they experience – what they “get.” They feel a camaraderie with others who also like that place. They talk about how much they enjoy the place, they get to know something about one another, and they are glad to see one another in that place each week.

Now, is there something wrong or bad about such a church? Not on the surface, no. It all seems good and nice. We go to a place where we have something in common with others who are there. We’re friendly and we talk to one another. Then we go our separate ways figuring we’ll see each other again soon. And therein lies the rub.

The church was never meant to be a place where people of like interests meet. As a matter of fact, the Church did not begin as a “place.” The Church began as a community. The Church began as people seeking to live into this new life found in Jesus and empowered by the life of the Holy Spirit within them and among them. They shared life together. They not only knew the stories of the other followers of Jesus around them, they were part of the stories of their brothers and sisters in the faith. They didn’t go their separate ways hoping to run into each other once a week, they sought each other out and nurtured their life together – just like Jesus had done with the people who traveled with him.

So, what do we do now?

Well, as a pastor I often think I need to figure out how to move the church in the right direction to be who we are called to be. What kind of campaign can we launch? What program or process can we implement to make this happen? What’s the plan for making us that kind of church? And then I realize, I can’t make it happen. I can only live into what I know to be good and right. If I want to see this become a reality in the church then it first has to become a reality in my life. I need to begin living life WITH others rather than living my life in proximity to others.

Our “Growth & Nurture” team will soon be living into the work of developing small groups where people will learn and live life together – hopefully. I am going to be one of the small group leaders gathering to pray and work on plans for building up a “community” that meets together and lives life together.

My hope is this: first, that we build real community; and second, that we show others what being the Church outside church walls can look like. I also hope that somewhere along the way we might even help those who don’t follow Jesus see that there is a treasure to be found in the midst of those who do. Maybe, just maybe, they will look at our community and say, “see how they love one another…” And then, beyond that, they might desire to know such peace and joy in their lives as well.

What about you? Are you ready to be the Church rather than just go to church? Are you willing to find other believers and live life WITH them and not just around them?

I hope so. I hope I can and I hope you can, because together we might just see God working in us and through us to change the world.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

P.S. If you want to read more about my friend’s ministry check out her blog: http://wendymccaig.com

A Changing (and challenging) Preposition

Yes, that title correctly says “preposition,” though you may think it means to say “proposition.” I want to talk to you about changing prepositions as a way to reclaim or fully claim our life as followers of Jesus. I want to encourage you in what God has been speaking to me.

Our greatest possibility for impacting the lives of others and helping people experience the HOPE of Jesus Christ comes in changing from “FOR” to “WITH.”

with cautionNow, before I get to the meat of that change the “Spiritual Health Association” (or the SHA) requires that I offer this cautionary warning first. If you are wondering what the SHA is, simply put, it is something I just made up. But, that does not diminish the validity of the warning I am about to give.

CAUTION: “with” is much messier than “for”

Okay, now that you’ve been so warned, let’s talk about what it means.

“FOR” is a very common word in our Christian vocabulary – and not a bad word. When needs arise around us we often try to think about what we can do “for” the person or entity in need. And again, it’s not a bad thing. When we hear about a village in Nicaragua where people do not have regular access to good, clean water, we want to do something “for” them. And we do. Our church, for example, is working to raise money to send a team to Nicaragua to help drill a water well and hoping to raise enough money to pay for the costs of drilling that well. Now, in fairness to our efforts, we are going there to work “with” the people of Nicaragua and that village. But, in the end, it will be something we have done “for” them.

Let’s bring it a bit closer to home. When we have people in our community who have needs – they struggle to have food on the table – our hearts go out to them and we want to do something “for” them. And we do. We give money to the food bank, we put together holiday food baskets, etc. Again, not a bad thing to do something “for” someone else.

We can move even closer and talk about our life in the church. How many of us volunteer to do something “for” the church? We usher at the worship service, we sing in the choir or praise band, we teach a class, we fix the broken things around the building. We do things “for” the sake of the church and the activities of the church – not bad.

But what if we decided to purposely shift from “for” to “with?” What if we decided to walk “with” people in our community who are struggling to make ends meet? What if we purposely decided to live in their neighborhood “with” them? What if instead of providing a meal at the holidays we invited them to eat “with” us in our home? What if we invited a struggling family to live “with” us for a time as we walk “with” them into a more hopeful future?

What if we decided that serving the church is not about doing a job “for” the church but instead is about serving “with” others? What if the work of ushering became a means of loving our brothers and sisters so much that we want to make their time of worship meaningful? What if singing in the choir was about worshiping “with” our brothers and sisters more than singing a song “for” them? What if going to church each week was not about doing something “for” ourselves or “for” God and instead became a way that we join “with” our fellow disciples to spend time “with” God?

I know, I am rambling and many of you reading this may be thinking you already have this mindset. The good news for me is that these blogs are my musings more than a treatise, so it may not be completely clear. The bad news for us is that I don’t think we live “with” each other as much as we could. Living “with” each other means we open ourselves up to one another. Living “with” each other happens not as a congregation, but as a small band of disciples living and growing together. Living “with” each other means we come together to share meals and share our lives and confess our sins. Living “with” each other means when a brother or sister falls into a pit, we jump in to help them out. It means sharing all we have “with” brothers and sisters in need without hesitation. It means that our desire to help others overcome issues of poverty and prejudice goes from doing something help “for” them to opening up our lives to walk “with” them.

“With” is messier than “for,” no doubt. It means taking a risk and knowing others whom you try to love more deeply will take advantage of you. It means giving up your own comfort in order to make HOPE more real for someone else. It means making a commitment to a small group of disciples and connecting with them as family. It even means disconnecting from family and friends in order to connect with others. You may have to forget what is behind and reach for what God has put ahead of us.

And here is the most significant lesson we need to learn about life “with” others – especially those who we seek to do things “for”: We need to learn to accept that others who are “in need” have much to teach us. We need to learn that we don’t have it all right just because our life is alright. There was a day when a woman of questionable reputation came to Jesus when he was at the home of a church-going religious leader. She began to weep in his presence and washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. The religious man was appalled that Jesus would let this happen. Jesus used it to teach the man about what it means to worship God and give thanks for the grace God gives. This woman knew the grace of God in such a way that she offered an act of worship. It wasn’t that she went to church or said all her prayers, it was simply an honest act of gratitude. Jesus said that her act was a greater work than the moral life this man was living. Where he lived his life “for” God, this woman wanted to live her life “with” Jesus.

Again, I wish I had a greater clarity of what this could mean. But all I know right now is that Jesus came as “God with us” – Emmanuel. He gave up the power and comfort of heaven to enter into this life in order to help us know a greater HOPE than we could find anywhere else. Yes, he did something “for” us in dying on the cross, but his greatest promise was this: “I will be WITH you always…” He spent his time not with the religious people, but with sinners and prostitutes and those most in need of HOPE. He also spent time with a small band of disciples walking with them and helping them grow as he lived among the poor and outcast. So, ultimately, for me, it comes down to this – if I am a follower of Jesus Christ how is he calling me to walk “with” and live “with” others, especially those who need HOPE the most? How am I living and learning “with” a small band of disciples?

Maybe I will eventually make more sense of this and I can post another blog entry. But for now, this will have to do. I look forward to your help in working through this.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

P.S. Soon after the day when I was pondering this “with” idea on a walk and talk with my son, another friend posted this link to a lengthy but more theologically astute article about this same idea. I do not deny that some of my thoughts in writing this blog post were also influenced by this article. However, the ideas in the article simply joined the thoughts already in progress inside my brain:
http://thecresset.org/2013/Easter/Wells_E2013.html

Life Together

group together crpd
Life is good. Life together is better.

Life can be hard. Life together can be harder.

I sound double minded, I know. But I’m betting you can nod your head at both statements.

Life can be good. We can know a sense of joy and peace within that passes understanding. We also know that sharing life with others is better than always being alone. It’s good to have people around you to hold you up and walk with you.

We benefit by having those people around us because sometimes life is hard – internal struggles and anxieties creep in. Illnesses, job situations, money struggles – these are all things that can make life difficult. Oh, I forgot to mention relationships. Life together. That can be hard as well. Sure it’s good to have people around you, but what do you do when people are the  problem? What do you do when you have differences of opinion and differing priorities?

Life together can be good. It can also be a real challenge. So it helps to remember what Jesus said about how others will see us as witnesses to his love and grace. He didn’t say, “They will know you are my disciples by the way you plan your life together.” He did not say, “They will know you are my followers by the way you are all of one mind without any disagreement or difference of opinion.” No, he said this as a command, which would be a sign to others around us:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
(John 13:34-35 NRSV)

Love one another. In spite of your differences, in the midst of the good times and the bad times, whether you agree or disagree, love one another just as Jesus loves.

Therein lies the key to life together. Love.

But what is love? Well, love is TIME spent intentionally with others just to be with them. While it’s easy to spend time with the people we like and know well, it takes more effort to give our time to others to whom God has connected us (I am thinking specifically of the local church and small groups). Love is GENEROSITY. Not only do we give our time to others, but we give them our best efforts and we give them time we could spend doing other things. Love is LISTENING. I hate even putting that one down because this is where I find myself least loving. I don’t always listen well.

I’m sure you can add your own ideas to this list. But let me offer a challenge to you as you do – who are the people, the other followers of Jesus Christ with whom God has called you to live together in love? How are you spending time with other believers? How is your love for them a witness to the world of how love can happen even among people of different stripes, different ethnicities, and differing political opinions? That’s the witness I think the world needs most.

Life together – it is good, it is hard, it is the way God helps others see the truth and the possibilities of His love and grace.

That’s my musing for this Monday.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

To Hell in a Hand-puppet

I sat there with my mind racing… Children’s time on Palm Sunday. We had made a grand procession around the room – so many little ones and it was such a good moment. And then we put the palm branches in the vases at the front of the church and I had the children sit down so we could have our “children’s time.” And I sat there with my mind racing…

Palm Sunday is an easy children’s message. It’s a parade. It’s a celebration. We love Jesus and so did the people of Jerusalem way back then. They waved their branches and shouted “Hosanna!” They celebrated Jesus much like we do. Palm Sunday is an easy children’s message – as long as you don’t think too hard about what comes next.

It is a detriment to our faith and our life in Christ when we move from the triumphal entry straight on into Easter. We have to deal with the fact that Jesus suffered and died on the cross – death MUST precede resurrection. At least by the definition I know. This is what I was going to preach in just a matter of minutes. I was going to speak as grown-ups do about difficult things and the realities of the world we live in – which is just like the one Jesus lived in. We must look to the cross if we are to see the power of the empty tomb.

That’s a message I preach to the church. But yesterday my struggle came as I faced the children.

Most of the time I like doing children’s messages. I enjoy getting a little silly in order to help them understand God’s great love for them. I try to have a real message to teach them. Some moments are better than others, but I try. However, yesterday we paraded around the room with palm branches and had lots of fun doing it. And as we sat down I realized I needed to say something about the cross. I just struggled to find a good way to do it.

I’m not sure you can use object lessons to teach the crucifixion. I can’t figure a way to use a hand-puppet to show the hell Jesus went through. It’s something I must get better at doing. Not using hand-puppets. Communicating the cross to the children. It’s a careful balance between the reality of violence and death and the tenderness of childhood. It’s a balance I tend to teach in an unbalanced way.

Maybe my thought is that there will be time enough to teach the children about the truth of Jesus’ brutal death – an important piece of our historical faith. Maybe my thought is that having the children know Jesus as one who is alive and worthy of praise is the more important lesson to begin with.

For whatever reason it may be, I guess I just can’t take our kids to hell in a hand-puppet. But, at the same time, I can’t NOT take youth and adults there in some manner or another.

This is Holy Week. This is the week we will remember the “passion” or suffering of Jesus. He will willingly go and die at the hands of sinners in  order to be the final sacrifice for all sinners. He will die our death. That we must remember this week. Only then will the new life of Easter Sunday be made real in us.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike