Friday, June 30, 2006

Moving to a New Location

I've moved my blog thoughts to a new site on Wordpress. Wordpress offered a few new bells and whistles that I like. It doesn't seem to have as many skins or templates, but seems to work a bit more regularly. They probably don't have the big bucks and support that Blogger gets from the Google shop, but, for now it just works. So, loyal readership (which is now up to 7 I think), please bookmark the new site. I've still got lots of random musings ... and I might even get my lovely bride to post more often.

Three Helpful Thoughts

It is a human tendency to attribute the worst possible motives for behavior in others that we do not undestand. - Wayne Rice, Junior High Ministry. I worked with teenagers for 25 years so I have a fairly large collection of insights from youth ministry "gurus". Reviewing my journal, this was a very timely reminder. God alone knows the ture, deepest, motives of others. When I put this thought with yesterday's post I get some helpful insight! Years ago while reading Rebuilding Your Broken World by confessed sinner Gordon MacDonald I was struck by his offhanded comment about how when we are in the midst of sin, or when we are covering up sin, we will usually call it something else - indescretion, poor judgement, etc. We will diminish it at every chance. At least that was my interpretation of his parenthecal comment on p. 48). Been there, done that, the T-shirt wasn't worth it. "There are two books that will give into the state of an individual Christian -- his checkbook and his appointment book. Both demontrate his commitments." My pastor said this over 15 years ago, and I have to believe that it is still true. These two (usually secret) things probably say more about my heart than just about anything else.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Little Understanding About Motives

"We judge ourselves by our motives. Other judge us by our actions." I jotted this on a napkin yesterday, but can't remember who wrote it (I've been reading and researching multiple books this week). I think it was from Dan Allender's Leading with a Limp. It is a great insight. It helps me see why, even when I don't do well, I think I've done the right thing. I know my motives (at least to a degree). The only thing those outside can see are my actions. To the degree my motives are unclear, or that my actions are not perceived to be in harmony with my motives, I will be misunderstood. For example, as a leader I hope to make wise choices that are the best even when someone is hurt by that choice. I know my motives, but the action taken feels like an attack to the one hurt, no matter my motive. That's probably why I feel like I need to apologize a lot! As I turn this around and look at other's behavior towards me, I sense the need to work harder at understanding the motives of those who seem to act against me. Of course, maybe they are out to get me ..., but probably not! It is amazing that anyone really gets along. This will be an interesting insight to learn more deeply.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Friend on an Adventure

Tami Dale is a friend, and co-worker. Right now she is on a leave of absence serving Jesus in Kenya. You might find it interesting to see what God is teaching her about thankfulness, prayer, and even mosquitos.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Future Trust

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." These words, which I believe are from Corrie Ten Boom, are true. So much time is wasted trying make our future safe and secure -- OK, I want to make my future a bit more risk-free -- but I've run into a bunch of others that have the same issues. God rarely shows us what our future life and ministry might contain. I am encouraged by the attitude of my wife and many of the hurting women she works with. They have adopted the principle behind God's promise to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (ESV). God re-affirms to His people that despite the terrible situation in which they find themselves - even if due to their failure - He has plans for them that are not evil. A promise that can only be believed if we believe in the goodness and faithfulness of God. There are days when the future looks unclear, and all the choices seem to be poor. There are times that others choices seem to destroy and disrupt our lives. There are days that seem to be "foggy" rather than clear and the destination is unclear. But if we know our God we can boldly walk into the unknown despite the risk.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Wasted Life

Pastors often get discouraged thinking they could be 'more useful with more people'. Many Christians (pastor or otherwise) feel that they would be of much more effect if they could serve God somewhere that their gifts might make a greater impact. No one wants to waste their life. In that light I find this quote a powerful reminder that I am but a servant: Notice God's unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say--God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts his saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is (Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest). In light of all the purpose-driven madness in the church, it might be good to edit Chambers and note that the "judgement of the world" may now include "judgement of church growth experts."

Friday, June 16, 2006

World Christians

Twenty years ago Paul Borthwick made the following distinction in A Mind for Missions: A Worldly Christian is motivated from a basically selfish preoccupation. He looks to Scripture for personal blessing. Looks to God and the Bible primarily for personal fulfillment. Sees the Christian faith as a way to ‘get God on his or her side.’ World Christians are day-to-day disciples for whom Christ’s global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that he is to them. I liked - still do - the term “world Christian” (or “global Christian”) and I used it regularly in the youth ministries I developed. Students, along with adults, seemed to capture the vision and passionately engaged in the cause. This is more than just supporting missionaries. Or being missions-minded. It is a priority commitment to bringing the power of the gospel to those places and peoples who have not heard. It is a commitment to affirm and strengthen local churches and leaders all around the world – helping them bring the truth of Christ to their own people. It is the recognition that the world begins right outside our own homes and churches and that we have a mission field right there. The term may not be meaningful any longer (or so I'm told), but the concept is still true. And each of us should discover the part God would have us play in his world-sized drama.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Target of Opportunity?

Leadership has been described as wearing a bulls-eye on your chest during hunting season.” I’ve heard this quote before, most recently by Dan Allender in Leading with a Limp. Some days it seems quite true me. Not always because someone in my circle is out to take me out, or someone in our church, but because we have a very real enemy who would love for me to be less than effective. Of course, the enemy, aka Satan, often uses people and circumstances to bring discouragement or confusion or something worse. He can also just make sure that I begin to second guess the grace of God and His strength made perfect in my weakness. The easiest thing to do would be to get out of the forest, away from the danger of being hunted. Some days that might even be best. I think that I’m called to the forest though, hunters or not, and I need to keep my eyes open and trust God to cover me, and pray that my friends will help watch my back.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Four Things to Think About

Most Christians today seem to desire sentimentality rather than sacrifice – from the Wittenburg Door, October 1986. Sadly, twenty years later, I think this is still true. You can’t convince people that you are wonderful and that Jesus is wonderful in the same sermon – Tony Campolo. However, the temptation to do so is great every time we teach. Some people invest in the flesh all week long, then they go to church on Sunday praying for a crop failure – J. Vernon McGee in a sermon at Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles. Tradition is the living faith of saints now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those now living. Chuck Swindoll

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eclectic Thoughts

Eclectic Thoughts for Reflection

If you make people think they’re thinking they’ll love you. If you make them think they’ll hate you – Howard Hendricks (at an unremembered seminar).

The average pagan is interested in hearing more of the gospel than most of us aren’t sharing – Hendricks again.

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man – C.S. Lewis.

It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God – Robert Murray McCheynne.

I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence – Publius.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Two More Thoughts

The problems with taking ourselves too seriously are countless. Afraid to fail, we no longer risk. Afraid that someone will see behind our image, we no longer share. Afraid that we will appear to need help, we can no longer be vulnerable. Afraid to not appear religious enough to some, we can no longer confess. We withdraw into a petty world consumed with emptiness and fear, covered with a thick shell, worshiping an impotent god. The tragic result of taking ourselves too seriously is that in our fear of becoming childlike, in our fear of becoming a fool for Christ, in our fear of being seen as we are, we discover all too late it's impossible to be fully human and fully alive. Tim Hansel, When I Relax I Feel Guilty. The more we clamor to be in charge the more we squeeze the life out of everything that is precious to us. Ignoring Jesus' mandate that he be glorified in our weaknesses, we try to glorify God in the worldlinesss of our strengths by being in control .... sometimes God must wound us to teach us relinquishment. There is a welcome relief when we realize that we don't have to be God. thought from Becky Pippert quoted in The Power Delusion

Friday, June 02, 2006

Quotes Recorded in My Journals Past

I collect quotes from my reading in my journal. It is often helpful, encouraging, or convicting to re-read those notes and quotes. “The finest test of the consecration of a minister of Christ is not in his public performances, but in what he does when the world is not looking” – Charles Jefferson, The Minister as Shepherd. I read this as a much younger leader when it was given to me by John MacArthur. An older book but one I’ve re-read at least a dozen times. The principles are timeless. “To measure the size of a man one needs merely to measure the size of the things that irritate him.” Unknown. I am often smaller than I would wish.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chaos of the Cognitive

Chaos of the Cognitive is a surprise. I didn't know it existed until I found a link on another blog. This writer is creative, enjoyable, authentic, encouraging, and related to me! There are some great insights here from a very wonderful young woman. She has another blog as well that demonstrates even more of her creative side. All this from someone who keeps pretty active and busy. As her profile says: "I am quite the busy girl--between working at Starbucks, attending school at Imago Dei Institute for a Biblical Studies degree, working with the Junior High girls at my church, and holding on to some remnent of a social life. I still dream of someday being a rock star or nascar driver though :)." I'm kinda hoping the Nascar stuff doesn't come through ... but this sweetheart is making a difference in lives already. A lot like her friend and mentor (and my fellow-servant on staff at Crossroads Bible Church) Tami.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Some New Heroes

Sometimes the best intentions can be taken off track. I attempted to log on to the internet while in Moscow for most of the past week but it is something of a complicated process – especially when the only instructions are in Russian. From what I understand, even when you get it all set up you never really know if it will work – and if it does, for how long. So time to store something to the flash drive and upload when we get to Glasgow. Anyway … This ministry time has been interesting and not quite as challenging as I anticipated. Thankfully we allowed a day of recovery after the long hours in two very crowded planes. On our first day in Moscow, we were able to enjoy some time getting a feel for the city of Moscow … wandering around the Museum for the Great Patriotic War (WWII) and enjoying the sights of Red Square and the Kremlin. Sunday included worship at the International Baptist Church, lunch at the Hard Rock CafĂ©, and a very scenic cruise along the Moscow River. Great weather … warm and sunny! Since this is our first visit to this country we found everything interesting, though the “rules” are a bit strange. Of course, every culture seems a bit odd to those who are just visiting. Our visit is fairly protected and short so we have not run into anything too complicated or annoying. Then off for five days of ministry at a conference center an hour outside of Moscow. Over 50 pastors, church leaders and wives gathered for a week of encouragement, continued training, and worship. These wonderful Christians came from all over Russia and the former Soviet Union and the stories the tell were often astounding to us as American pastors. They are willing to sacrifice so much to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have some new heroes of the faith! These men and women make do on so little. The ministries can barely keep up with the rent much less pay the preacher. I do not understand how they are able to live on what they receive in support. Some live in one room houses with multiple kids (yep, bedroom, kitchen, living room all in one – bathroom outside). Few would have more than 3 rooms (maybe 400 s.f.) Yet the all seem to serve with a joyful and hopeful heart even though under-supported according to our standards. None have a relative level of support that any pastor in our church receives. Yet we did not hear one complaint – ever! It was our privilege to serve these servants. I can’t tell if we encouraged or helped them much, but they seemed pleased to have us here. Our topics were focused on practical issues in church leadership -- building teams, developing leaders, planning effective meetings, even the importance of financial planning. Linda and Carol had a great time connecting with many of the leaders’ wives – who are truly the unsung heroes! John and Naomi work hard to make these conferences special for these alumni of the New Life Bible College. The conference center was very nice, the food excellent, the opportunities for fellowship were well thought out, and there was plenty of laughter. Things we take for granted, they still appreciate. As always this has been something of a humbling time for us.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Davinci Cod and Moscow

No, there is really no connection between fish, Leonardo, and/or our trip to Russia but I might get ranked higher in a Google search. I guess it also reminds me of the silly ways that the enemy will go about distracting people from truth. Conspiracy theories about Jesus along with not-really-all-that-great novels can seem to take on bigger than life reality for some people - especially the media. It also causes me to reflect on the lengths that Devil will go to to disrupt our mission - before and during the adventure. Last minute crises, discouragement for little reason, and subtle, but direct, attack all seem to be at work even as time to prepare runs out. Of course the Savior is greater than our enemy, and he will do His work through us, so I'm confident. Nothing fishy about that. Nothing fishy about that!

Monday, May 08, 2006

A New Adventure

This Thursday, Linda and I will be off on an new adventure … ministry in Moscow. This is a new destination for us. We’ll be working with John and Naomi Musgrave - friends and “professional encouragers” to pastors and leaders scattered all over Russia and the former states of the Soviet Union. Along with Mark and Carol Wheeler (neighbors, friends, former colleagues, and current pastor of United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle) we’ll be assisting John with a leadership conference designed to encourage church leaders in the midst of their ministries. As we understand it most of these people are graduates of Bible College but are very much in need of additional practical training and skills – along with encouragement in the midst of tough ministry. We feel a bit overwhelmed at being asked to help. Everyone from our church who has gone before us has been moved by the commitment on the part of these leaders. And the commitment of John and Naomi. We’ll let our three readers know how it unfolds!

Monday, May 01, 2006

So what do you do ...

… when things leak out of your brain? It seems like I have very little bandwidth left in my mind. It’s one of those weeks when I have just too many high priority tasks that all seem to take brain cells to accomplish and I am usually running out of them. I am trying to remember some key truths about busy times:
  • It really is God who does His work. All I can do is pursue faithfulness with the time I have. Of course, it has to be God’s work. And the assumption is that I work hard, I labor, when it is time to work.
"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1, ESV)
  • God gives to his own even in their sleep. I tend to want to stay up late and get more work done. Sleep is usually a better choice.
"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:2, ESV)
  • Watch the anxiety. Unfortunately I tend to be slower than I would wish in following the divine prescription.
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6, ESV)
  • The priority of my life must not waver from the fundamental mission given by our Chief Shepherd. It is His kingdom that matters, not mine. I think it safe to say that the principle given by Jesus applies here. I seek his kingdom first, and he will take care of the things that seem to be undone.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:33-34, ESV) I feel better now. Thanks.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Playing With Children

jenny jack aka, my oldest daughter, has a wonderful insight into both children and adults. I'm pretty sure that she gets her ability to make these connections from her mom and the Holy Spirit. I just get to enjoy the result.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How Do We Distort the Gospel?

C. J. Mahaney at Together for the Gospel, clearly reminds us of the true nature of the gospel and the greatest threats to it. As to the first point - it is clear that Jesus must be at the center. As to the second, Mahaney refers us to J. C. Ryle: “You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to faith--Jesus Christ--and to substitute another object in His place… and the mischief is done. “You may spoil the gospel by addition. You have only to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honor, and the mischief is done. “You may spoil the gospel by disproportion. You have only to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. “Lastly, but not least, you may completely spoil the gospel by confused and contradictory directions… Confused and disorderly statements about Christianity are almost as bad as no statement at all. Religion of this sort is not evangelical.” Amen!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Bad Form in Ministry? - Youth minister smites dodgeball opponent - Mar 31, 2006. I'm pretty sure that there must be something else going on in this guy's life for him to snap. Youth ministry can be pretty tough - you have to be ready for the ball that comes from nowhere to surprise you. More importantly, we need to remember that it is when surprised that our true inner character seems to be on display. See Matthew 12:33-37. Preach Someone Else? Ripping off another Pastor's message is nothing new. A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I was travelling with John MacArthur in the midwest listening to a local pastor on Christian radio. After a few minutes John caught that it was his sermon being "re-preached." I appreciated John's humility ... he was pleased that the Word was getting out. I also appreciated his reminder that there is great power in first hand study of the Scripture - power that is lost when merely repeating the words and work of another. While he is not the only one, Rick Warren has a resource for Pastors in writing their Sermons: "When I was planting Saddleback Church, other pastors’ sermons fed my soul – and eased my preparation! I hope the sermons here will do the same for you. Whether you use the outlines and transcripts for sermon ideas or listen to the preaching to fine-tune your delivery, I’ll be thrilled if your ministry becomes more effective. And if you have a sermon idea that might be helpful to me, feel free to share it! As pastors, we’re all on the same team. Let’s help each other out – and when we get to Heaven, we can rejoice together over the people who were saved as a result! " I can't speak to the motives of Pastor Warren. I'm sure that they are pure. But I do find myself concerned with what he is encouraging. Skipping some of the hard work of sermon prep. Preaching is hard ... good messages take time ... and the week-in week-out routine has to be tough (I preach at Crossroads only a few times a year and know how much that takes!). This may be as large a pastoral character issue as kicking a kid in the groin ... then again, maybe I'm in trouble.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Create Your Own Motivational Poster!

 Posted by Picasa

Have You Read About the Emergent Church

"Emerging" or "emergent"? Two words, often used to describe what is happening on the edges of the Christian Church world. Two words, often confused and confusing. Two words, that leaders my age think they understand - but often do not. This article from the Criswell Theological Review, written by Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is very helpful in understanding the movement. The sociological analysis of church 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is helpful. He notes that there are at least three developing threads in the 3.0 version of church, not all of which are good nor helpful but all of which are in the conversation - a conversation that Mark finds to bring mixed emotions: As a pastor I find the entire conversation encouraging, stimulating, and frightening. What I find encouraging is the groundswell of interest among Christians who do not want to separate from culture like fundamentalists, or simply baptize culture like liberals, but want to earnestly wrestle over the nature of the gospel and how can it be most faithfully contextualized in culture. What I find stimulating is the growing focus on doctrine and the way it forces people to reconsider their doctrinal positions and dig more deeply since pat answers to tough questions are no longer sufficient. But, what I find frightening is the trend among some to drift from what I consider to be faithful conservative evangelical theological convictions in favor of a less distinctively Christian spirituality. The result is a trip around the same cul-de-sac of false doctrine that a previous generation spent their life driving around while touting their progress. [note - emphasis added]. Maybe it is the old youth pastor in my, but I appreciate what is happening in the Relevant Emerging Church ... great preaching, commitment to biblical teaching and preaching, and a commitment to the gospel with Jesus at the very center ... all with an eye to being used by the Holy Spirit to communicate meaningfully to the world as it is -- not as we wish it were. But we need to heed Driscoll's warning: The only hope is a return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. The gospel must be unleashed in the world through the Church for the transforming salvation of sinners and their cultures. If the gospel is lost, as I fear it already has been among some Revisionists, then tomorrow will be a dark day for the truth about Jesus. By the way, I know that some think I'm selling out my John MacArthur heritage when I speak well of Driscoll or others similar to Mars Hill. I encourage you to actually listen to his messages first. Read what he has to say and evaluate it all in light of the Scriptures. I think you'll find that all right functions of the church are there ... though the forms are different. But you know, we had the same battle when we did church in the 60's.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

something to think about...

I'm not the writer Tim is, but I thought I'd like to share something that I read that encouraged me. God is working on helping me learn to trust in His love for me, not just intellectually, but from my heart. To understand that I am Linda Jack, a woman Jesus loves. Rick McKinley in his book "Jesus in the Margins says" ... we need to believe that God's love for us is truer than the lies that our pain taught us. Of course this means we have to face the pain and deal honestly with it, which is not something enjoyable, but necessary in learing to trust completly in His love.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Something You Don't Find on the Web Everyday

Apologies are hard. Public apologies harder. Agree with Mark or not, his heart is right. He listened. He acted. Good man. Good heart. 'nuff said.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Now Here's Something Fun . . .

G-TRAX Devo's Book 1: What's in a Leader is cool. Ron Fast is a co-worker and friend. Ron has a unique background in that he was born in India to missionary parents.. He lived in India until he entered 7th grade when his family moved to Dallas, Oregon. Ron worked for Microsoft where he did database testing. Sensing the call of God to move into the youth ministries, he left the land of the Golden Handcuffs to become Director of Junior High Ministries at Crossroads Bible Church. Currently Ron is the Director of Technology at Crossroads - but many of us think he's still a Junior Higher still! One of the things he did best was G-Trax, really creative Bible Study devotionals for kids. He is now publishing these as e-books. Junior High kids are wonderful and mysterious all at once. They are just beginning the wild ride of adolescence and discovering the new insights that come with abstract reasoning. And they need teachers that can bring the deep truthes of Scripture to them accurately, simply, and appropriately. Their attention span is usually short. They tend to learn even when we think they are distracted. They need heroes who care about them. Their parents are important but most kids are beginning to look for someone other than mom and dad to understand life. (That's why church youth group leaders can be so powerful - competent adults that reinforce the same biblical values that are not their parents). Anyway, Ron's stuff might help a Junior Higher you know. Check it out. Digital books at Amazon are also a pretty cool idea.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Make Your Point, Look Good, Forget the Facts

You can use to create some great statistical research that looks authoritative. And it only takes a few minutes. Sure its a total lie, but who would know -- it just looks really good. Put it in a nice report with lots of lorem ipsum text, and a really cool, professional cover and no one will know. Kind of reminds me of the way some people live their lives. OK, how I sometimes live my life. The funny thing is that someone will eventually read the chart and see the fake and toss that really cool report in the recycle bin. I've found the same thing happens with posers and others who take of the look and feel, but not the real. But have some fun with esolutions. I don't think they created it so that bloggers reflecting on life late at night would have something to say.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

...Without a Shepherd

I've seen this news article from Turkey on a couple of blogs this week so I'm guessing that it will become a well used illustration in numerous sermons across the decades. It does make a point ... one that church leaders across America need to take to heart. We would be wise to take a moment to ponder our call and reflect on God's concern: "“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:1, ESV) "The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them. “Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord:" (Ezekiel 34:1-9, ESV) "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36, ESV) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11, ESV) Shepherds! Keep your eyes on the flock! "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:1-4, ESV)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Have you ever wished ...

... that you could start over and have everything still ahead of you? Some days that sounds like fun ... but then I remember that it would mean doing EVERYTHING over again. I guess it would be pretty cool to start again knowing everything I know now, but then it wouldn't be quite as fun. Watching little ones discover the world is great. Sometimes they just enjoy the same thing over and over (ever had a kid with a book he loves?!) A walk with a little guy is pretty instructive. They seem enamored of things we take for granted - like a flower. They find "insignificant things" interesting. They notice bugs and birds. And they even seem to notice little things about people that us big folks miss. My grandson is aware of whether you came into the room wearing your glasses. If you take them off, he wants you to put them on. He notices if your sleeves are rolled up or not. I think God would like us (me) to notice more little things just to enjoy them. It was Jesus who told us to consider the lilies of the field ... Nothing really significant, but maybe that's the point. The simple thought? Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 11, 2006

An Easier Way to Read?

Christian Book Summaries is a cool place, with a great mission and purpose, and they hit the target most of the time. With all the books there are to read, the readers and summarizers try to provide a helpful service of summarizing the essential thoughts and key themes of some of the major books addressing Christian living, thought, and action. (Not commentary or Bible reference oriented that I can see). They have a helpful notification service that lets you know when they have a new book summary available, and each summary can be printed out in an attractive format - especially if you download the pdf format. So ... now you can develop your thinking in less time. And you might even be able to make pithy, smart comments when hanging out with the pastors at church. This month's summary is Shattered Dreams, by Larry Crabb. Many in my circles might find Running on Empty by Fil Anderson to be a lifesaver. I can't discern a theological bent and some of the books would not make my recommended list due to viewpoint or theology. But it's nice to be able to check them out without spending the money.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Happiest Flower

What a great day! The first daffodil in the yard has opened -- spring is just around the corner! I'm not sure which of my kids decided to call them "Laffodils" but it made sense. As my daughter says, they are a very happy flower. As a family, we always look forwared to "laffodil season". Spring is a great season - it kind or reminds us of the newness of life in Christ that comes after the darkness of Sin. So "Happy Laffodil Day!"

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Counseling Methodology

Al Mohler made the following comment at the Shepherds' Conference tonight (I know this thanks to coffeeswirls who is "live blogging" the sessions):
"We live in an age where the ministry is misperceived as a profession. The world wants statistics and we show up with a message. That is one reason why the culture is so drawn to the therapeutic. Everything then becomes a subjective question. My counseling method is short. 1. what is your problem? 2. what would God have you do about it? 3. why are we having this conversation?"
The message was not about counseling but Dr. Mohler's comment on counseling reminds me that much of counseling is teaching people what the absolutely true Word of God says. What his method leaves out is the connection, the community, the relationship, that deepens the redemptive nature of our churches. I tend to believe that what most people need instead of professional counseling is an authentic Christian community where truth is valued and taught in the context of relationship. Of course that would require that people - even 'non-professional' people - keep growing deeply in their knowledge of the Scriptures so that there is biblical truth to be applied.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Race is On Again

The Amazing Race has returned for its 9th season and it would appear that it has shaken the malaise of last season. The family race was an interesting experiment, but just too many people to watch - and who wants to hear teenagers whine. With 11 interesting teams of two there should be some worth rooting for. Already getting out of the USA (Sao Paulo, Brazil) the locations should be much more exciting and fun. As a former youth pastor, I'm thinking this might be a cool game to re-create in some church ... maybe a race to all sorts of missions projects around the world. OK, probably not since the fund raising would be a real bear.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Velvet Elvis : Repainting the Christian Faith

Rob Bell is a pastor. A young pastor. Younger than me. By a lot of years. I've been in the ministry for 35 years. I'm not sure Rob is that old. So, I have to confess that reading his first book, Velvet Elvis, was intended to be something of a critical chore. Find out what he has to say, critique it, use the little that will be good and discard the rest. That was the intent. I read a lot of books that way. The result ... I found myself liking the young pastor Bell ... a lot more than I thought I might. He is honest - especially about how he has not yet arrived at perfection -- especially as a pastor. I especially liked the call to kill "superpastor." Maybe I liked it because it is something I must remember (i've met superpastor), or maybe because I tend to wrestle with letting "superpastor" drive me, or maybe because I'm seeing more and more how the church (and we as leaders) can get wrapped up with its own "success" to the detriment of the truth, justice and God's way. Bell goes as far as saying that trying to be "superwhatever" will ultimately kill our spirit. Lot's of people don't like Bell. Apparently he's drawing fire from non-christians, liberal christians, conservative christians, small church pastors, large church pastors, purpose driven christians, and probably a lot of my friends. Pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he doesn't seem to completely fit anyone's box - kind of like the guys at Mars Hill here in Seattle area. Even if you don't like Bell, don't like anything that seems to be "emergent", don't like what he thinks about marketing the church (read him, you might be surprised!) ... I hope you'll consider his warning about the superwhatever. I'm glad that Rob met "him", and started to deal with him, while he's still young. I wish I had.
I meet so many people who have superwhatever rattling around in their head, They have this person they are convinced they are supposed to be, and their superwhatever is killing them. They have this image they picked up over the years of how they are supposed to look and act and work and play and talk, and it's like a voice that never stops shouting in their ear. And the only way to not be killed by it is to shoot first. Yes, that is what I meant to write. You have to kill your superwhatever. And you have to do it right now. Because your superwhatever will rob you of today and tomorrow and the next day until you take it out back and end its life. Go do it. The book will be here when you get back.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The sad thing about this ...

... is that many will believe that this "MegaChurch video game" is real. Then again, it seems like there may be churches already playing the game in real life ... church just the way you like it! (For those a bit slower than others - this is a parody).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Monday, January 23, 2006

Its more than the Cliched Speech

Lauren Winner provides a great insight in her blog today. As a pastor & teacher I wrestle with this in all my communication. Without losing the meaning of the Scripture we have to think through what we say to an increasingly post-Christian world. I'm not one that feels we need to toss out all the "off-beat" words in the Bible - like propitiation, but we do need to make certain that the words make sense to our audience - whether Christian or not. In fact, I've been noticing that some Christians don't fully understand the terms we use either. And it seems that when we use words we don't really understand, or turn them into cliches, it becomes harder to be truly authentic. As one redeemed, uh, purchased, uh, bought, uh ... saved; hmm. Anyway - let us keep our communication true.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel

Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel is somewhat refreshing in a day of church growth books mainly focused on programs. I mentioned Mark Dever before, and this is the book I hoped to read. Hope fulfilled today. Not a flashy book. Not a whole lot of new insights. Just some key reminders that it is the Gospel that matters. A few quotes: "Our power is not in having small groups, or meeting the felt needs of our target audience, or using the right evangelism program, or having funny skits, or providing plenteous parking, or targeting our ministry to post-moderns. Our power is in our unique message -- the Gospel" (p. 27). "We should be cultivating among our congregations a deep concern over the fame of God's name to extend to other parts of the globe throughout the preaching of His Gospel to all the nations and for the corporate testimony of our own local church to functions as a manifestation of God's wisdom and power to the authorities that hold sway under his sovereignty in the spiritual real" (p. 201). "We need to be teaching people that a biblical church is about much more than simply meeting our felt needs for purpose, significance, fellowship, and mutual understanding. It is about the Glory of God in the Gospel of Christ" (p. 201)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Green Pigs and other Oddities

So, now we can create green pigs. Something tells me that while this is an oddity for today, it might be a much larger ethical concern in the near future. Then again, maybe we need pets that can do double duty as a nightlight. Phil Johnson takes on another worship trend today - Worship Karaoke. His reasons why entertainment doesn't belong in worship make sense and apply far beyond this topic. How about Scripture Poker Chips? I used to think that the doggie t-shirts ("Let everything that has breath praise the Lord"), and "The Lord is my shepherd" pocket knifes were pushing the limits of Christian propriety in the name of making a buck. I'm not sure what to think of the Talking Bible Dolls! Finally, there's The Porpoise Driven Life -- obviously tongue in cheek ... I think? As Douglas Adams might say "So long, and thanks for all the fish". Makes as much sense as some of the stuff we Christians seem to get distracted by.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

On Being Real

Jesus taught using parables. Often. Sometimes they obscured truth from those who would not listen. Sometimes the point was clear. But something tells me that the selected listener did not hear even then. In at least one case, just in case his readers might miss Jesus’ point, Luke provides a clear statement of intent: He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 ESV) It is interesting that the one who ‘trusted in himself’ was a Pharisee – a religious man – one who had the reputation for being Godly. He had an external image that looked great that was well taken care of, but inside he was just as much a mess as the tax collector. Why do Christians so often play this “game” – pretending that they have everything together, even when they are before God himself! The truth will always become known. Over the past months I’ve talked with a number of Christian leaders who struggle with this issue. The biggest problem we find is that when once you begin to pretend you also lose something – you have to deaden yourself to the truth of God’s wonderful grace. To admit we need Grace, like the Pharisee, is to admit we are really more like the tax collector.