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Unintentionally Living a Life of Crime

I want to talk about a few things.  Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday, Lent, and parking this Sunday for worship.  But before we get there…

I don’t usually try to commit crimes or do illegal things…but sometimes it happens.

The other day I was waiting at a stoplight behind another large car trying to turn out on 98.  I couldn’t actually see the light around this massive vehicle, but my car has one of those fancy sensors that tells you when the car in front of you drives off.  I think it’s to help you when you are not paying attention and missing a green light because you were distracted by your phone, your kids, or daydreaming.  So instead of the person behind you honking since you aren’t paying attention, your car beeps at you since you aren’t paying attention.

So as I’m sitting there, car full of my family, coming down from the emotional and relational high of worship that morning, the car in front of me pulls out and turns left, my notification tells me they are going, so I follow their lead and pull out and turn, crossing the usually busy road.  It is when I am half way through the intersection and the large vehicle in front of me has cleared the view that I see…the light is still red!

The car in front of me either wasn’t paying attention, got tired of waiting, or was driving a very slow getaway from a crime.  Worst getaway ever.  I was now a participant in a string of moving violations and low level criminal activity for illegally turning left on a red light.  I had unknowingly unintentionally done something illegal and was wading into a life of crime.  Next thing you know I’ll follow a crowd and I’ll be jay-walking…

This is when the question, “would you jump off a cliff if everyone else was” applies…if I didn’t know it was a cliff and the crowd was headed in that direction, apparently, yes I would.

Now of course when you are in the middle of the intersection…you can’t exactly stop and you certainly can’t back up because there were other cars following me in my illegal endeavor.  I am no longer just a criminal, I have led others astray.  I’m a pusher…or more accurately a leader to the dark side.

Once I finally made it safely on the main road every car in the rearview mirror looked like a potential police officer.  I assumed everyone was potentially an undercover officer from the sheriffs department.  I was going to get a ticket and the news story would be, “Local pastor breaks the law and leads others astray.”  Enough time passed with no obvious tails following me…now I know what a spy, a criminal and a celebrity feels like all the time…and I felt like I was free and clear.

I wonder, sometimes are we paying more attention to the car in front of us, the people honking behind us, or even the fancy sensors beeping at us, instead of paying attention to our surroundings?

See all those things didn’t actually tell me if it was okay to turn or not, it was letting others, culture, influence, and pressure lead me, instead of what was actually the situation.  I didn’t even look to see if any cars were coming…I just was following the leader.

This can happen in our faith and life as well.  You can see what others are doing, pay attention to how you measure up to them and how you follow them, you can listen to the push notifications on your phone, or email announcements, or networking apps about every seemingly “important” thing you have to know right now, and miss what is actually happening around you.

In the very busy and chaotic world that we all live in, it is easy to miss seeing the signs that are God guiding us.  It is simply much easier or simpler or maybe just more obvious to follow suit, stick to the status quo, don’t rock the boat and stick to the script…but it seems like throughout the scriptures and in the history of our faith, the people who seem to make some of the greatest impact chose to pay attention to God, pay attention to the movement of the Spirit, pay attention to the life and teachings of Jesus, and they were aware of what surrounded them, but they didn’t let that discourage them.  They didn’t keep their head in the sand, but actually were guided by God to make a difference in the world around them.

As followers of Jesus, if we pay attention to the right things, we will not foolishly head in a potentially destructive direction.  If we have our eyes open and we’re listening to the right signals, heeding the right counsel, and being present in all we do, we will likely experience so much more in life and avoid some of the destructive endeavors that can easily entangle us.

This week is a big week in the life of the Christian Church, The Chapel, and Seaside.  If we just paid attention to what’s happening around us and not looking to the one who created, redeemed and sustained us, we miss really important things and end up heading in the wrong direction.  Sometimes following the crowd will not lead us in the right direction…unless you are running a race…that is a good time to just follow the crowd…

So, with that in mind, here are a few tips to help you navigate this week.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  If you didn’t know that…good news, you have a few hours to make plans.  And even though it is Valentine’s Day, it is also Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the season of Lent.  It is a time to turn our hearts and minds toward Easter knowing we will experience drastic highs and lows along that journey.  We will have an Ash Wednesday Service at 6pm at The Chapel.  It will be less than an hour and will conclude with us putting ash on your forehead or the back of your hand if you so choose.  I think it’s important to know a few things.  The ashes traditionally are from the palm branches that were waved at the previous years Palm Sunday.  They are saved, dried, and burnt to ashes.  As we put the ash on you and say, “From dust you came and dust you shall return, repent and believe in the gospel.”  We are reminded that we are cyclical people.  We will worship God one day and turn our back the next.  We sing hallelujah on Sunday and crucify him on Friday.  But our God will continue to offer grace and forgiveness over and over again.

So as we begin this season of Lent, a season of reflection and refinement, I hope you will join us for the kick off tomorrow at 6pm at The Chapel.

Lent Guides will also be available.  These are free devotional guides created by us, with beautiful photography from an incredible artist who worships with us at The Chapel.  The guide is challenging and comforting and I believe a great companion on the journey to Easter.  Digital versions are also available here or you can go to for more info.

Online we have a whole lot of information about Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the whole season.  Just go to to get all the information you need as well as a Lent Playlist curated by our worship leader Daniel Pratt.

Finally, this weekend is the Seaside Race.  It is happening on Sunday morning and 30A will be closed from about 6am to 10am.  Good news though, we still have worship at 10am and there are lots of fun things happening as a part of the race.  So no matter if you are running in the race, walking in the race, coming to cheer people on, or just want to come to worship, here are the best ways to get to Seaside on Sunday.

Walk or bike.  If you can walk or ride your bike, there is no better day than on Sunday to do so.  Similarly, if you live outside of Seaside, but within walking distance, maybe consider inviting others to park at your house and walk with you.

Drop off.  If someone is able to drop you off near Seaside and you can walk the rest of the way, that is a great option as well.

Shuttle in.  We encourage everyone to take the shuttle from Emerald Coast Middle School at 4019 US-98 #6024, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459.  Two shuttles will run on a continuous loop between ECMS and Quincy Circle in Seaside from 5:00am – 2:00pm on Sunday.

It is such a great day to come to Seaside and to worship, so ride the shuttle and enjoy worship and the fun of the morning.  We’ll have so many guests and runners in addition to our normal crowd, so come and be a part of the fun this Sunday.  It will also be the most casual Sunday of the year, so come in your own jugging clothes if you want to.

Our service will be live-streamed like normal, so if you can’t join us in person for whatever reason, worship with us online.

We can certainly get distracted by all the things going on around us, but when we fix our eyes on what truly matters, we can see everything else clearly.  A great way to do this is to continue to fix your eyes on Jesus.  Through community, through times of prayer and scripture reading, through moments of silence and solitude, through times of rest and sabbath, through times of celebrating and feasting, through times of worship with others and quiet study through the Lent guide.  This season can be one of great growth and refinement if you so choose.  I hope you will join us Wednesday and on Sunday as we begin a great season in the life of the church.