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Monday, March 30, 2009

When did the Christian life become so complicated?

Read my review tomorrow. Here's a summary of the book:

When did the Christian life become so complicated?

Your greatest desire is to please God, but with each passing week, your spiritual to-do list grows longer. As you strive to fulfill a never-ending inventory of requirements for being a godly parent, spouse, voter, employee, and more, you feel increasingly disconnected from the God you’re trying to serve.

It’s time to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of what it means to please God. In this liberating look at the core principles of faith, Dr. Robert Jeffress reveals the truth about what God really wants from you–and what He wants to do for you.

Through solid biblical teaching and practical insights, Dr. Jeffress points you toward a revitalized faith centered on becoming more like Jesus in action, attitude, and affection. You’ll learn how to partner with God in the process of spiritual transformation as you choose to follow Christ in forgiveness, obedience, trust, contentment, service, and prayer.

Through a renewed focus on experiencing the kingdom of God right now, you’ll find your to-do list shrinking and your spiritual life deepening. It all comes with embracing Clutter-Free Christianity.


Includes a Bible study guide for personal growth and group discussion.

Author Bio:

Dr. Robert Jeffress is the senior pastor of First Baptist Dallas, one of the most historic churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. The author of sixteen books, he is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition, live broadcasts of Dr. Jeffress’ weekly messages reach millions of listeners and viewers each week, while his daily sermon series airs on 1,100 television stations and cable systems nationwide. Dr. Jeffress and his wife, Amy, are the parents of two adult daughters.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Conversions or Conversations?

I love this time of year as we see nature wake-up from her wintry sleep and yield new life through blooms, blossoms and leaves. What a great visual of the new birth. (John 3:16)

This Easter season I hope you'll be praying about how you can help bring new life to someone in your home town. I hope you'll be about "conversations" that point to Christ. 

In church we tend to talk more about conversion than conversation. After all, we want people to be converted from death to life; from the old to the new; from slavery to freedom. 

If we focus more on listening to people instead of trying to change them we're likely to see more opportunities to talk about God's love to us and them. Listening communicates love because you're taking the time to hear what they think and feel about life. What a gift!

So instead of counting conversions let's count conversations. Just talk and listen to people. Don't feel like you have to direct the conversation. Just let God's Spirit do that. Just enjoy the ride! 

Who will you talk to this week? Start praying and you'll find out soon!

Because He lives!
Darien

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hiking w/ Jesus

Spiritual Formation = Hiking behind (following) Jesus  

What & who do you hike with? 

Map (Word of God) 
Trail Guide (Spirit of God) 
Fellow hikers (People of God) 
---------------------------------- 
Result of Hike (become like the Son of God)  

I like the hiking mentality because it reminds me that there are many people ahead of me on the trail. But, there are also many people behind me. And my job (1 Cor 11:1) is to tell them to "Follow me as I follow Christ."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greatest Man book - summary

I'm still reading this book. It's so packed with good stuff that I don't want to rush it. I've already tried some of Scott's processes to improve my effectiveness in ministry. So far, so good! Check back for my review. Here's the summary for now:

Book:  The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived

Author:  Steven K. Scott

Summary:  

In The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, Scott guides readers in a step-by-step application of the life-changing principles, skills, and methods that Jesus used throughout his earthly life. Although believers may spend a lifetime learning from Jesus’ teachings, it’s easy to overlook the powerful lessons demonstrated in His life. But when these incomparable lessons are learned and put to use, they enable ordinary people to achieve extraordinary success and happiness.

 

From Jesus’ earthly life readers will learn:

  • How to break through the barriers that prevent them from achieving extraordinary success at work and relational success at home.
  • How to experience a level of happiness and fulfillment that nothing the world offers can duplicate.
  • How to use adversity and opposition as a springboard for greater success.
  • How to love others in a way that increases their love as well.

 

No matter what a person’s area of expertise and in what setting a person influences others, living by the principles of Jesus’ life on earth produces extraordinary success, unprecedented achievements, personal fulfillment, and blessings for others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don't Let Me Go-the review

I loved this book.

The subtitle is "What my daughter taught me about the journey every parent must make" which is a good synopsis of the book. 

What this book did for me is simple: It inspired me to make the most of my time with my 4 girls. The lessons learned were really nothing new. They varied from profound to basic. But the story of their journey together was worth every moment in the book. 

I'd write more but that says it all. Now comes the hard part--and the fun part--doing it.

Congrats to Susan who won the free copy of the book. Watch for more giveaways soon!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Shamrocks and Pantone 295

Helping set the record straight on who St. Patrick was, Ken Glassmeyer writes the following article. I only wish he'd included how he shared the gospel using a shamrock! dg

Hold onto to your Donegal tweed hat, I am going to tell you something many of you don't know.  The real St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was way more fond of the color blue than green: "Pantone 295" to be exact.  It is the same shade on the original national flags, coat of arms, and St. Paddy's favorite vestiges.  The "wearing of the green" actually had nothing at all to do with wearing green clothing.  It had to do with pinning a shamrock leaf to your vest.  St. Patrick did this as he traveled from village to village, not as fashion statement, but rather as a way to explain the gospel to non-believers.

See 
Naomh Pádraig, as his kinfolk knew him by, was not actually Irish.  He was more Roman, than British, and it is believed he was born in Cumbria, not too far from where King Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, grew up.  

Ironically, he was kidnapped by Raiders and forced into slavery in the tin islands, and as such was called 
Patricius Daorbae, which loosely translated means, the boy taken from the land of his father.  This happened while he was a teenager.  He eventually escaped, but decided to return to the land of his captors later in life as a missionary to SERVE them!

At that time in the church, it was not unusual for an educated young man to become a missionary, but all too often in that region it had nothing to do with serving your fellow man.  More times than not, it was very much about being an entrepreneur.  There was a great deal of money to be made selling indulgences, blessing chieftains, baptizing babies, marrying new couples, and ordaining village leaders.  Patrick reversed all of that.  He served at every opportunity, and refused any payment.  In fact, he was widely known as a gift giver.  This is a far cry from Patrick "The Fighting Irish" saint of legend that was known for boxing druids and brawling with pagans, drawn mostly from the folklore written far after the death of Patrick by Tírechán and Muirchu.  When we look at the actual correspondence that he and others wrote during the times of his life, we find he had his greatest impact by working with the poor.  He was, after all, from the Franciscan order.  It probably did take a rough and ready man to carve kingdom expansion out of the harsh Irish landscape, but, as we have often asserted at Serve, more times than not, your best weapons are field tools and a cup to serve water out of for the thirsty.  

Some of the legends are pretty fun to examine however.  For instance, it is not believed by historians that he literally drove poisonous snakes away from the island, since the environment actually would not have supported them anyway, but rather it had to do with his ability to drive darkness form the land through kindness.  Another interesting tale is about his persistence.  During his evangelizing journeys he was known to carry a thick walking staff made of heart ash.  It was said he would drive this stick in the ground in the middle of each village he went to serve at, and leave it in the mud until he had converted the whole region.  There is still a town today in Ireland known as Aspatria (ash of Patrick).  It is a testament to Patrick's perseverance.  It is claimed  that it took so long to get through to the people there that the stick had taken root and become a groove of ash trees before he was able to move on.

Forget the green beer and singing of sad songs. . .the best way to celebrate St. Paddy's day is to go out and serve somebody!
 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free book? "Don't Let Me Go" (summary)

I plan to blog my reaction to this book later this week. I'm also giving away a copy of this book to someone who comments on one of my posts this week (Mar. 16-20). After that I'll draw a name out of a hat and then send a copy of the book to the winner. Limit 1 entry per person. 

Here's the summary. 
Book:  Don’t Let Me Go    
Author By David Pierce

One day after reading a book about a wilderness adventurer, David Pierce’s fifteen-year-old daughter Chera announced that she wanted to climb a mountain. What David heard behind that wish was a bold declaration: “I’m growing up, Dad—what are you going to do about it?” A few weeks later they bought matching backpacks.

Over a three-year period they climbed five mountains and ran in two marathons. Together they suffered sore muscles, bitter cold, sprung knees, shin splints, and broken spirits. But they also reveled in blazing sunsets, glissaded on a glacier, and celebrated numerous victories great and small. And in the process, they built an unshakable father-daughter bond that will stand the tests of time.

In Don’t Let Me Go, David Pierce—the husband of popular Christian comedienne Chonda Pierce—offers a down-to-earth, funny-yet-serious book for parents with the same universal appeal as Bob Carlisle’s heart-tugging song, “Butterfly Kisses,” only with well-worn running shoes and an ice axe.

You can purchase at:
 www.Amazon.com  
 www.ChristianBook.com 
 www.FamilyChristian.com com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not For Sale in SC?

When I went to the NotForSaleCampaign.com website I noticed that there was no state director for this in SC. If it's happening in Atlanta, GA, then it's happening in Columbia, Greenville...and Charleston. What are we going to do about it?

Georgians Advocate
to Fund Services for Survivors

Not For Sale - Georgia has teamed up with State Senators Jack Murphy & Renee Untermann to fund needed services for children who have been victims of sex slavery on the streets of Atlanta and around the state.Volunteers representing Not For Sale - Georgia were at the Gold Dome last week passing out white roses and reminding legislators that it is time to stand up for Georgians who are victims of modern-day slavery. Sen. Murphy introduced legislation that would add a $5 surcharge to those who enter the numerous strip clubs in the state. All of the money would go to fund counseling, educational, and restorative services for sexually exploited children.

Check out Not For Sale Georgia reps Brendan Horgan, Cara Holland, Liz Hibbard and Faith Riley in this week's CNN piece on advocating for victims' rights. Click here to watch the clip!

If you'd like to help Not For Sale - Georgia pass SB 91, please take three quick steps:

  1. Sign your name to the petition at www.weurgeyou.com
  2. Call Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's office (404.656.5030) and tell him you'd like him to support the bill
  3. Contact our Georgia State Director at markh@notforsalecampaign.org

Monday, March 09, 2009

Did you call me $#&%@!?

I love this quote by Craig Groeschel:

Most people will see you as a pastor first. I want people to see me as a follower of Jesus who happens to be a pastor. (In my mind, the difference is big!)

Me too! When people call me "Pastor" I have mixed feelings. It's not that I think it's a bad word but I do struggle with this.

I appreciate that they want to honor me as a pastor/elder (which is biblical) but I also cringe because it kind of sounds like I'm in a different class of people (I'm really not). 

Jesus discouraged the disciples from allowing people to call them Rabbis. Seems to me we ought to just call each other by our names. That would be my preference anyway.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

5 Ways to Improve Your 5K Speed

I'm hoping to help you and I improve our training for our next run. Not running, you say? Maybe it's time to start...Darien

One of the primary goals among runners is to run faster.

Whether yearning to spend less time running around the block or striving to be the best age-group runner in the area, most who put one foot in front of the other wish they could be a bit quicker. Here is a proven program to improve 5K speed.

Long Run

Every two weeks, increase the length of your long run. This will extend endurance limits, improve mental concentration at the end of races and enhance your physiological infrastructure.

Long runs improve your cardiovascular plumbing system so that you can better deliver blood to the exercising muscles and withdraw the waste more effectively. Long run pace should be three to four minutes slower than you can currently run per mile in a 5K.

Walk breaks should be inserted from the beginning of each long one according to the chart at JeffGalloway.com and in my book 5K/10K Running, which is available from that site.

The Speed Workout

The single component that most improves pace in races, according to my experience, is a weekly speed session. Most runners choose Tuesday or Wednesday as a speed day.

At the track, start with 4 to 6 x 400. Increase the number of 400s every week by two more until, 10 days before the race, the final workout is: 14 x 400. Each 400 (one lap around a track) should be run eight seconds faster than you want to average per quarter mile in your 5K race.

For example, if you wanted to run eight minutes per mile, your quarter-mile race pace would need to be two minutes. The workout pace per lap should in this case be 1 minute, 52 seconds. Walk for half a lap between the 400s.

Warm Up

Prepare for the faster running with a thorough warm-up. Walk for two to five minutes at first to get the blood flowing. Then, run half a mile using more frequent walk breaks than you usually use.

For example, if you usually run three minutes and walk a minute, during the half mile (two laps around a track) you should run a minute/walk a minute. Next, jog very slowly for a lap. Finally, do four to eight acceleration-gliders (these are explained in 5K/10K).

Start each with a slow jog for 10 steps, then a faster jog for 10 steps. Over the next 15 steps, gradually speed up to what you feel is your 5K race pace and then gradually glide back to a jog over the next 30 to 40 steps. Gliding is similar to coasting off of momentum gained as you go down a hill and onto the flat.

If you practice this at least once a week, you will learn how to save the running muscles while you are running. Walk for 30 seconds between each glider, and walk for two to three minutes between the last one and the start of your first 400-meter repetition.

Cool Down

After your workout, don't stop. Jog slowly, using as many walk breaks as you need for the next 10 minutes, and then walk for three to five minutes. You're done!

Injury Risk

Whenever you run faster than you've been running, there's an increased risk of injury. This can be reduced by choosing a realistic goal, warming up even more on days when this is needed, and never pushing through pain, loss of function or swelling in a running body part. Continuing to run fast when there is damage can increase the time needed for repair.

It is also important to have enough rest after each workout to allow the muscles, tendons and the rest of your body to rebuild stronger. Most of my runners have improved more quickly on an every-other-day running program than when running more frequently.

Olympian Jeff Galloway has helped over a million runners through his running schools, training programs, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs—which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. To subscribe to his free newsletter visit JeffGalloway.com.

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Day with a Perfect Stranger

Reading this right behind the prequel, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, had me wrongly predicting how it would go. Appropriately Gregory did a good job of relating to a woman versus a man in this continuation of the first book. And as God often is did so in an unpredictable manner.

The book did start out a bit slow. But it soon picked up and ended with quite a finish. While the first book was strong on it's apologetic content (apologetics =  defending the faith), this one was much more instructive in how to relate to a more emotional decision maker. 

Both books make great gifts for friends who need encouraging in their faith or honest skeptics who are asking questions about spiritual things.

See my review of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger too.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The conversation continues...

The conversation continues. . .

New from the author of the breakout bestseller
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

A devoted mother who feels abandoned by her workaholic husband, Mattie Cominsky gives her life meaning by investing herself in her two-year-old daughter and her graphic-arts business. Exasperated by her husband’s sudden new obsession with Jesus, she views an out-of-town business trip as a welcome opportunity to reflect on her marriage—and to decide if it’s time to put an end to this painfully unrewarding relationship.

Aboard the plane, Mattie is relieved to find herself seated next to a passenger who shares her scorn for religion. After she confides her husband’s unexpected turn, their conversation soon leads to a fascinating exploration of spirituality, God, and the quest for meaningful connection.

As Mattie’s skepticism warms to the perceptive insights of this stranger she finds herself confronting the unspoken longings of her soul for true intimacy and lasting fulfillment. And when his comments touch on personal issues he couldn’t possibly know about, she begins to wonder if she’s misjudged not only Nick but also the God he now claims to believe in.

See my review of this book tomorrow.

See my review of the prequel Dinner with a Perfect Stranger on March 3.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Dinner w/ A Perfect Stranger

Dinner with Jesus. How cool would that be?

Your questions might include:

* So when did the dinosaurs live?
* Why is there pain and suffering in the world you created?
* How loud was the "Big Bang" anyway?
* So, did Adam and Even have belly buttons or not?
* How can I find true satisfaction in life?

You could ask him anything! And Nick does in this fast-moving encounter with Jesus at an Italian restaurant.

In the meantime, they cover theology, world religions, eternity, marriage, work and, well, life. Questions that we've all asked at one time or another are wrestled with openly and honestly. 

The author does a good job of making Nick a believable cynic too. He responds much like you'd expect a cynic to respond to some of "Jesus'" more predictable answers. But the way "Jesus" answers his questions had me at times laughing at loud or going "ooh, that was good" teaching me things I hadn't learned in seminary or since.

It's a little too nice and neat at times in that they get through this whole unlikely conversation in spite of the fact that many would not have lasted through the whole meal. But the author creates a plausible scenario that held my attention through the less than 2-hour read.

Honest skeptics will learn some things here. Don't let the easy reading style cause you to think it's simplistic. The answers that come out are deceptively simple being profound but easy to pass over. Give yourself time to reflect as you read this book.

If you're looking to strengthen your faith, help out a friend asking questions or just want to see what Jesus might order at a restaurant, give this book a try. 

Watch for my next post on the sequel: A Day with a Perfect Stranger

Monday, March 02, 2009

What would you discuss over dinner with Jesus?

I'll be reviewing both this book and it's sequel this week. I hope you'll check back in to read. Here's the summary from the book's jacket:

What would you discuss over dinner with Jesus?

That's the dilemma facing cynical but successful businessman Nick Cominsky when he accepts an invitation to join Jesus of Nazareth for dinner at a local restaurant. Nick is convinced that his friends at work are pulling a prank. But the man sitting across from him appears to be quite serious, introducing himself as "Jesus. My family called me Yeshua."

Nick accepts hi dinner companion's suggestion to suspend his disbelief and "proceed as if I am Jesus." What follows is a fascinating conversation that covers family relationships, world religions, and the afterlife, among other topics. Along the way, Nick confronts his own unfulfilled longings, spiritual uncertainties, and anger with God--and he begins to wonder if the man across from him holds the answers to his deepest questions.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Sin" no longer in dictionary?

This is a great piece on sin and the little known fact that words of Christianity are disappearing from our dictionaries...

“Whatever Became of Sin” Redux by James Emery White
 
In 1973, psychiatrist Karl Menninger published a book with the provocative title, Whatever Became of Sin?  His point was that sociology and psychology tend to avoid terms like “evil,” or “immorality,” and “wrongdoing.”  Menninger detailed how the theological notion of sin became the legal idea of crime and then slid further from its true meaning when it was relegated to the psychological category of sickness.
 
Sin is now regarded as little more than a set of emotions that can be explained through genetics.
So something like lust is not a wrong that threatens our own health and the well-being of others; it’s simply an emotional urge that is rooted in the need to propagate the human species.  It’s fixed in our genes. 
 
We’ve become so uncomfortable with the idea of sin and evil, particularly in our own life, that we’ve even tried to turn it into a virtue; lust just becomes “sensuality,” and anger just means being honest with your emotions.
 
An example of Menninger’s prescience can be found in the news that broke this week regarding major league baseball’s highest paid player, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who admitted he took performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003.
 
In an interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons, Rodriguez spoke candidly about why he took the drugs which are, of course, illegal.  A-Rod said he felt pressured to take them; that the culture was loose; he was young, stupid, and naïve.  He even said he was sorry for doing it.  So what was he guilty of?  Being negligent, naïve, and not asking the right questions.
 
When he was asked about whether he had, at least, lied when in an earlier interview with Katie Couric he denied using steroids, human growth hormones, or other performance-enhancing substances, he replied, “At the time...I wasn’t even being truthful with myself.  How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS?”
 
Huh?
 
Oh well, there’s no point in dancing around this “sin” thing.  Either it exists, or it doesn’t.  Either there is true culpability, or not.  We are either “mistakers” or “sinners.”  Pay your quarter and take your choice.
 
The latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary for children did just that.  In a sweeping revision, “crucial words used to describe…traditional topics have been stripped…in favour of more ‘modern’ terms.”  One analyst was more forthcoming, noting that over six editions, dating back to the 1970’s, there seemed to be an increasing and systematic purging of all words related to Christianity.
 
Among the entries which have vanished in the most recent edition:  disciple, saint, abbey, bishop, altar, chapel, christen, monk, and, yes, sin. 
 
So whatever became of sin in our culture?
 
Future generations may never know that such a word even existed.
 
James Emery White
 
 
Sources
 
Karl Menninger, Whatever Became of Sin?  (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1973).
 
For a video and full transcript of the Gammons interview:  http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3895281
 
James Tozer, “Is it a sin?  Christian words deleted from Oxford dictionary,” Daily Mail, December 7, 2008, online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1092668/Is-sin-Christian-words-deleted-Oxford-dictionary.html#