Advent Calendar 2015

Advent is the time in the church calendar when we wait for the coming of the Christ child. It is marked by the observation of the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Each Sunday of Advent the church observes a different theme of this journey: hope, peace, love and joy. Candles are lit as the light of the world (Christ) is drawing closer to us.

During this time, we are called not to run to the manger but to wait… that’s right…. wait… for Christmas. Sure some people have decorated their entire house on November 1 but Advent calls us to slow down, be more reflective and wait. It is through this intentionality that we begin to see and experience the message of hope, peace, love and joy in our own lives and the world around us

There is something freeing, however, in slowing down. We are able to take in all that is around us and see how God is moving in our lives in ways that we would have looked right over had we not taken a moment to be reflective and aware.

How are we using this time of Advent to prepare and to wait? Are we rushing from store to store buying mountains of gifts, trying to equate our love for someone by how big the price tag is?

Don’t we want Christmas to be something more than lights, too much food, elves on the shelf and Santa? Why can’t this time of Advent propel us into a deeper sense of the Divine around us and with us? Where are the places God is leading us to? These are the thoughts that we take with us during this journey to the manger.

Use this calendar each day of Advent to prepare yourself for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Each day has a scripture and something to pray for or to reflect on. Let us journey to together to find the Christ-child, the source of all hope, peace, joy and love this Advent.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

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Advent Calendar 2015 PDF

Advent Calendar 2015 word


Creative Commons LicenseAdvent Calendar 2015 by Rev. Evan M. Dolive, M.Div. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Love is a Piece of Cake

My latest for Sojourners


 

A cake shop has been in the news lately. Sweet Cakes in Oregon made national headlines when a same-sex couple levied a lawsuit against it for refusal of service.

This is where the story gets interesting.

In the state of Oregon, same-sex marriages are legal. The couple went to the cake shop to order a wedding cake for their upcoming union. The cake shop said no on the ground of their religious beliefs — or as they put it, “standing on the word of God.”

This sparked raging debates on whether a business has the legal right to discriminate solely based on their religious beliefs. Investigations have been held, feelings have been hurt, Scripture has been quoted and misquoted, and Facebook rants have been posted.

Franklin Graham has now added his two cents, starting an online donation campaign to help with the bakery’s looming legal fines — its actions violated the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which states that persons cannot be denied service based on their sexual orientation.

In Graham’s plea he stated that the shop owners were being “persecuted” for their religious beliefs. But this is not called persecution — this is called being held to a standard of decency, tolerance, and love. These are tenants Christ wanted his followers to imitate.

Most Christians would throw a fit if a bakery, store, or other business denied them service because of the owner’s religious beliefs. There would be lawyers on the phone, news crews outside the establishment, and more Facebook rants about how our society is slowing losing its “Christian heritage.”

Isn’t interesting that some Christians are ok with denial of service to this same-sex couple in the name of business/religious liberty, but wouldn’t want to the tables to be turned on them?

Just because 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian does not mean we all see eye to eye. But is Christianity truly “persecuted” if it comprises more than three out of every four people in a society?
What people are mad about is that their version of Christianity is not the norm or the most accepted one anymore. Many Christians see same-sex marriage as a nonissue. Many church denominations have had intense and productive conversations about homosexuality in the church. Some are still divided. Many people, churches, and denominations need to hold more conversations, prayer, and discernment. The United States and the Church have a long way to go until full equality is achieved.

The issue with regards to this bakery is not their religious liberty, Christian persecution, or even the right to practice one’s faith. It is the notion that discrimination is wrong.

In this war of words many are not seeing the real issue, which is this — discrimination, even under the guise of religion, is still discrimination, and it is against the most basic and fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ.

I understand that these are the bakery owners’ deeply held religious beliefs, but they are not applying this theological hermeneutic equally. Do they sell cakes to people who are going to be remarried? Jesus actually spoke about this as a sin in the Gospels. Do we turn a blind eye to this because the remarriage might be a heterosexual couple? What about people of other religions? Jesus said that no one comes to God but through him — this would lead one to believe that all other religious expressions could be wrong and thus if this bakery made a cake for a Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist wedding, wouldn’t they be ‘endorsing’ the religion?

Do we ignore this command from Christ completely, or do we pick and choose the commands and teachings we want to fit our own theological worldview?

In the end, the fact remains that Christ’s love was not shown to the couple wanting the wedding cake. Can we learn from hymnody, and be reminded that they will know we are Christians by our love?
Can you love someone and disagree with them? Sure, this is evident at most family get-togethers. Can you show the love of Christ and still bake a cake? You bet you can. And this bakery should have.
The couple wanted a cake to celebrate their life together, not to be turned away and be told they have to go somewhere else. One would think in a society such as ours that this would not be an issue in 2015 — but alas, it is. We have come a long way, and we still have more to do.

Christ said, “Come all who are heavy burdened and I will given you rest.” All means all. Jesus the Christ decided that he wanted to be with people and did not turn anyone way. He did, however, take issue with people who put their own religiosity over the needs of others.

At the heart of the Gospel is the notion of loving God and loving each other. Love cannot have conditions attached to it — First John reminds us that we love because God first loved us. If unconditional love is given to us and we do not give it others, then we are squandering a free gift and that is akin to blasphemy. If we claim that all of humanity is created in the Image of God, then we better start treating each other like it.

All means all.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 

Tweet of the Week: Wait… What?

I know that a lot of people do not like the President’s policies or whatever, but this type of criticism is a new one for me.  I have heard people in passing joke about the fact that they think the President is the “Anti-Christ” (a word not even used in the book of Revelation but that is topic for another day) but never anything like this.

Happy Friday and happy tweeting!

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

Finding Religion In A Fortune Cookie?

Fortune Cookie Deep Faith

Can you find religion in the American made tradition of a fortune cookie?  After church we went out for Chinese by request from my now 5-year-old; I opened my fortune cookie and found this message.

Generally these fortunes aren’t really fortunes at all but often cliché sayings that are supposed to make you feel better for eating too many egg rolls.  They have become so silly that people have even started making games out of these feeble sayings.

This one, however, was different; maybe it was different because I needed to hear it.  We all need a reminder from time to time that our faith is something that is not static but ever-changing and growing.

We turn to it in our times of need and in our times of sorrow.

Can faith really drive out fear?  I think so if we remember that it is there to begin with.

This little piece of paper reminded me that while the future is always uncertain, my reaction to it is not.

My faith might be shaken or even shrink to the point of non-existence but there is something that will always call me back, something that will point to something greater than myself.  In a world of 10,000 emails, productivity software apps, deadlines and commitments, we can forget that the simplest thing is to have faith like a child.  We don’t have to have all the answers, run around with an “I love Jesus” t-shirt on or even attend a local congregation.  The faith that we have can be simple or it can be great; all that matters that we have that faith.

Every person as a part of their faith journey has some reason why they keep coming back to God even when facing adversity or doubt. There is something that calls us back into communion or relation with God that undeniable. There is a moment in every person’s life when the Divine was so real, so tangible, you felt as if you could almost reach out and touch God. Our hearts our filled, they are overwhelmed with God and God’s grace or mercy or love or forgiveness. That is that calls us back… that is where we find our wholeness and completeness. This faith drives out our doubt and fear; this faith is undeniable and the bed rock of our understanding of God.

Over time we can lost sight of it or think that we should be doing more, but more times than not we will return this place to recharge and reconnect.

So yes maybe you can find religion in a fortune cookie. The next time you stuff your face with Lo Mein and spring rolls and before you learn your lucky numbers and how to say “sugar” in Chinese, be sure to look for the message that awaits you, you never know what you might find.

Keep the faith.

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan


“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”– Saint Augustine, taken from The Confessions

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 Common English Bible

Stop Taking Attendance!

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At a church I used to serve there was a well-intentioned person who after every service would tell me how many people were in attendance. “We had 47 today, Preacher,” he would say. I could hear the disappointment in his voice when he would have to tell me a low number like 35. A smile beamed across his face when we had more than 50. No matter the number, he would tell me without fail.

In every church that I have ever visited or served there has been an emphasis on the number of people that attend the morning worship services.
After years in the ministry I have come to the conclusion that the church needs to stop taking attendance, immediately.

For many churches the process of collecting attendance is to get an accurate account of people in worship, to measure how many people occupy space in a pew. Some churches have note pads in the pews so people can fill out their information and place it in a designated area. Others have a volunteer to manually count the people in attendance. No matter how small or big the faith community is an attendance is taken. Some congregations publish the number of people in their church bulletins or have it on a sign in the sanctuary to compare last week to this week.

For too long churches have measured their ‘success’ and ‘failures’ on the number of people that darken the door on 11am on Sunday morning. The quickest way to get people to wring their hands in worry is to tell them that numbers in worship have dropped. Visions of the church closing its doors will run through people’s minds inciting more and more anxiety.

It’s no secret that the church in the American culture is not where most Christians would like it to be. The church was once the central hub of the community is now a place where people go on Sunday mornings if they want to. The church has been in a decline for some time and I believe this has caused us to become more inward focused. As the church began to experience decline numerically the church’s reaction was to try making everyone left happy including the ministers, elders, deacons, lay ministers, organist and even the custodial staff. The boat was not rocked, things stayed the same, a course was laid in and no deviation would be acceptable.

I believe that this is the wrong approach. One time when I was interviewing with a church for a position they inquired if I had any plans that would help the church grow numerically. The answer I told them I believe with all my heart and prompted a bevy of puzzled looks. I told them that I was not a ‘numbers guy.’ I did not measure the success of the church in how many people showed up on Sunday morning. Is Lakewood in Houston, the largest church in America, a “more successful church” because they average several thousand people each week? No. Most churches just want bodies in the pews and babies in the nursery but this is the wrong approach.

I would rather have fifty people in church on Sundays that went out and touched a hundred people’s lives, than have a hundred people in church that only touched fifty.

The church has become too worried about having more people than the other churches in town. The church needs to stop looking inward and start looking outward. There is a world that is in desperate need of a Savior right outside the walls of the church. The time we spend in meetings or around the pot luck lunch table talking about how big the church was in 1947 is wasting everyone’s time.

I have to admit that even I can fall into this number trap. It can be disheartening when a minister prepares a sermon or the choir works diligently on a piece and only a handful of people are there to experience it. I have to remind myself that the people who are in attendance are there to experience God and worship and that is it. God can use all sizes of churches and faith communities to promote God’s message of love, peace, joy and reconciliation.

I want people to experience God in the same way that I do but I am not beholden to a number.

Let’s start taking a new kind of attendance, one that is centered on the other, not bodies in the pew.

In Christ,

Rev. Evan


Photo Credit: “Checked_tick” by Oliver Tacke via Flickr. Used Under The Creative Commons License 2.0.

Redemption In Christ

Redemption in Christ (Taken at FUMC- Orange, Tx)

Published via Pressgram

The Battle of Two Due Dates: 100 Days And Counting

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As the old saying goes, “when it rains it pours.”  I have a lot going on in my life and honestly there isn’t anything that I would change.  I am coming up on one year at the hospital where I serve as chaplain, I am still preaching every Sunday at a small DOC congregation, I have two wonderful kids with one on the way and on top of all of that… I am writing a book, something that I have always wanted to do.

Needless to say things can be a bit hectic… schedules overlap, the daylight runs out and the to-do list is ever growing; there are plans to be made, commitments to keep and life to live.  I have been working feverishly on the book.  Thanks to the internet I can access my manuscript from anywhere.  I have been organizing my thoughts and ideas on the fly thanks to Evernote.

The publisher set the deadline for the final manuscript for September 30; I have pushed that timeline up to September 1 to give myself most of the month of September to edit, refine, tweak and run spell check about 76 times.  Did I mention that my beautiful wife is pregnant and is due at the end of August?  Yep… I’m battling two due dates.

Today marks 100 days until September 1 and things are going well.

It’s starting to become a bit more real; I have been working on table of contents, getting various permissions, setting up interviews taking head shots and the like.

It will be a busy and exciting time.  I will be posting updates here and on Twitter (and maybe Facebook… an author page might be in the works).

 

Thanks for your support and happy reading!

 

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

 

 

[tweet 470279518121234432]

#BringBackOurGirls

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Hundreds of girls have been kidnapped in Nigeria because they had the audacity to want to get an education.

Be in prayer for these girls and that they might be brought back to their families safely.  It’s hard to imagine that so many girls could be taken away.  Social media as been buzzing trying to draw attention to this problem.

Sadly this problem is not just located in Africa but every day women, men and children are sold into modern day slavery and sex trafficking.

Despite all of the rhetoric and differences that get thrown around Christian circles there should be a united front from all followers of Christ.  These girls (or any person for that matter) are not property to be bought and sold and exchanged for goods.  If we truly believe in the divine presence of God indwells within all of humanity then we should be outraged at the actions of this terrorist group in Africa. Not just because they are a terrorist group but because they are stealing the innocence of these girls.

Pray for their safety, prayer for their families who struggle to cling to hope and pray that peace will come to earth and this never happens again.

 

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

In Christ,

 

Rev. Evan

 


Follow the story on Twitter by searching the hastag #bringbackourgirls

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT

Baby, you're a firework

A little over two years ago I started this blog.  I had started writing a religious column for the local paper and I wanted to share those posts with people outside of Southeast Texas.  Over time I began to add my sermons in audio form and even write more article that were only ever published on this site.  Every once and a while someone would comment or like my post which was nice but it was for my own edification and sharing my understanding of the faith I hold so dear.  I loved hearing from people (even people who disagreed with me); it was a good outlet for me.

In March 2013, evandolive.com got a little busier when my open letter to Victoria’s Secret went viral (to the tune of 4 million+ people).   It was during this time that I had the idea for a book.  I began thinking about how in all of marketing there is an element of fantasy and perfection and somewhere along the line society began to blur the two together. Don’t believe me? Try to find a Middle School aged boy who does not think that Axe Body Spray will attract the opposite sex.  Why?  Because this is the core of their marketing campaign. On top of that, how do people of faith respond when the image of God is being distorted to only encapsulate one body type or the so called “ideal body type”?

After working on a proposal, a detailed outline, numerous sample pages and various edits, I am happy to announce that I have entered into a contract with the Pilgrim Press, the publishing house for the United Church of Christ, to publish my first book!

I am very happy, excited, nervous and scared all at the same time.

As of now, the working title is The Distortion of the Imago Dei.

I have been busy getting my idea down on paper (via Google Drive) trying to synthesize it all.

I want to thank you for all of the support you have shown me over this past year; if my letter had not gone viral I am not sure I would be making this announcement today.

Thank you for all your support as I embark on this new journey!

Stay tuned for more updates!

OK… back to writing… I have a deadline to keep.

 

In Christ,

Rev. Evan

 


Photo Credit: “Baby You’re A Firework: Fireworks at Disneyland, Anaheim, California” by Kevin Dooley via Flickr. Used Under Creative Commons License 2.0

Sermon: “Blessings For All”

Below is a link to a sermon I preached on February 2, 2014 entitled “Blessings For All” based on Matthew 5:1-12

http://k007.kiwi6.com/hotlink/dnfs7b7rna/blessings_for_all.mp3%20
(Recorded by Voice Record Pro by Bej Bej Apps for iOS)

In Christ,

Rev. Evan