Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Mission Of Faith Comes By Hearing #missions #bible

I met with Rob Thomas several months ago in a booth at Chick-fil-a to hear what Faith Comes By Hearing was doing around the world. What I learned was staggering. Take a couple minutes and get a glimpse. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lessons in Pastoral Ministry

He could pass for a Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes but he's the pastor of The Journey in St. Louis, MO. He shares some lessons he's learned in pastoral ministry that's sure to encourage. 

I also highly recommend his book The Church Planter. A challenging and helpful book for all pastors and those considering church planting.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Rest Should be in My Work Routine

Sabbath = Hebrew for "rest"

We need to rest regularly and often. We are limited and to live as if we're not is not only sinful--it's stupid.

It's also disobedient. God commanded that we rest. It's one of his top 10 (See the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20).

We should rest daily. Daily time alone with God. This was Jesus' practice. (Mark 1:35)

We should rest weekly. A day of "not creating" is consistent with God's example after the creation of the world. (Day 7) Also, 10 Commandments: Heard of them!

We should pull away monthly. Perhaps half a day away from the hustle and bustle to think about life and work from a higher altitude would give us better perspective. Maybe this falls more into the category of 'working-on' instead of 'working-in' and therefore is still work. It's still worth considering as a part of the rhythm of your life.

We should retreat regularly with others. Jesus did this with his disciples. A time to debrief and learn from life lessons before re-engaging. Time to pray and take a deep breath. This is a key way to develop your team as disciples. It's what Jesus did with his disciples after he sent them out in two's. (as the 12 and the 70) They came back, retreated, rested, celebrated and learned from Jesus as he answered their questions and shared his observations.

I would also add that personal solo retreats are also very helpful. Part of this depends on how you are refueled. If people drain you, this will serve you well. If they fuel you, you'll not be inclined to do this. And that's okay.

We should vacation annually. When you have family, it's easy to run them like another business and relate to them as young employees who's job it is is to make good grades, succeed in extra-curricular and get scholarships. You can treat your spouse as a partner in the corporation ("family" business-no pun intended) instead of as the love of your life and your best friend. That usually happens when you never step back from the intense flow of life and take an extended break.

Larger chunks are better. 

They help us come off of our adrenaline addiction (or treadmill depending on how you work) and workaholic tendencies and loosen up. It takes us guys several days to do this. A carefree, low stress vacation is often better than a go-go-go one because you're just exchanging one kind of adrenaline for another. I'm not suggesting a trip to a county library is necessarily the best vacation, but a relaxed schedule helps a great deal here. 

Get outdoors and take in sunshine (unless you do that all the time-maybe a movie theater is better). Get out of town to get out of your routine, away from your chores and projects, and away from your to-do lists.

And make sure that time alone with God is a regular part of your vacation too. If you feel like you need to vacation from God, then something is wrong with how you relate to God. 

Vacationing from church, on the other hand, is sometimes a good move. God refreshes us--church can but doesn't always. And you may need to vacation from your routine way of spending time alone with God. Some of the best prayer times I've had were walking down a beach with my New Testament in my hand, no time constraint, no reading plan and no real agenda other than to be with God. This is much different from my normal Bible, journal, reading plan, desk/table environment. (which works well for me) I usually try to mix it up on these retreats and vacations since I'm out of my routine anyway. 

While we all benefit from the principle of rest, everybody is a little different. Experiment and figure out what works best for you. The key is to build rest into the rhythm of your life. 

At the end of the day, you're going to be more fulfilled, creative, relationally stable, full of God's Spirit, likable, and productive if you build into your life times of refreshment and rest. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

In this Power Up! Gridiron Edition: Book Review

"In this Power Up! Gridiron Edition, you'll find the opportunity to tie what you know about football with what you should also know about some of the most important matters of life." (back cover)

The subtitle, Devotional Thoughts for Football Fans, nicely sums up what this book is all about.

This book of bite-sized trivia and truth invites the passionate football fan to sink their teeth into morsels of truth that are sure to satisfy.

There are 100 daily entries that include a "Scrimmage line" of summary, verse of Scripture from the Bible, "Fast fact" about football, and all-time player rankings by position. The "Point After" follows the heart of the daily reading with practical application for the Christ-follower.

A great gift for any football fan, it's easy to read without dumbing down the message. I found it fun to learn which athletes contributed and how they expressed their Christian faith. This changed how I watched the game I love.

I think it would have been helpful to add some passages for further reading on that day's topic for the reader who is eager for more. I found myself reading multiple days at a time when I could have been reading deeper on that days topic. 

Also, would have loved to see links or references to the foundations and ministries of players who have one as a way to encourage the reader to invest actively in making a difference. Perhaps this would be a great way to leverage ebooks providing hyperlinks along the way.

I recommend this for the football fans in your life who may need some gentle prodding in the area of spiritual thinking. It's also an encouraging read for the Christian who struggles reading in general. A gift to football fans and Christ-followers everywhere.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher with the understanding that I would read it and write a thoughtful and honest review of it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Hunger Games & Sacrifice

The buzz in my house over The Hunger Games (books and film) is growing this spring. My wife and daughters encouraged me to read the book over and over again. So I did!

I finished Suzanne Collins' thriller novel not long ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. And, yes, it was a book about teenagers killing each other. And, well yes, I'm a pastor...

Here's a quick summary of the book from Wikipedia:

The Hunger Games is a young adult novel written by American television writer and novelist Suzanne Collins. It was first published on September 14, 2008, by Scholastic, in hardcover.[1] It is written in the voice of sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives in apost-apocalyptic world in the country of Panem where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol, a highly advanced metropolis, holds absolute power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl aged 12 to 18 from each of the 12 districts surrounding the Capitol are selected by lottery to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive.


The one scene that is burned in my mind is the "reaping" scene where they choose Katniss' sister, Prim, for a fight-to-the-death match she has no chance to win. So Katniss (curious name) volunteers for what will most likely result in her death. But because of her great love for her sister, she volunteers nonetheless. 

This sacrifice rooted in love is a picture of what Jesus did for us. He willingly took our place on the cross for the punishment we deserve-for our sin. Yet Jesus went even though he had never sinned. 

Well, this makes him the only acceptable substitutionary sacrifice available. God the Father accepts him as our substitute making atonement for our sins. 

How do we know that Jesus was acceptable? Because God raised him from the dead. He resurrected him not only back to life--but to live forever! You'll have to read the book to find out how Katniss faired in her substitutionary role for her sister. Regardless of how it ends up, though, she demonstrated incredible self-sacrifice and love for her sister. And that is a picture of God's kingdom that is to come.

There are many other themes (freedom, loyalty, rebellion, civil disobedience, justice/injustice, mercy, war/peace, purpose, grace, vengeance) in this book (as well as the two sequels that follow) that make this a must-read series. So many people are talking about these stories and there surely will be at least two more movies based on the success of the first movie and the books. Great conversations with all kinds of people await us if we'll just give a little time to these well-written stories. 

If you've read the books or seen the movie, would you recommend others see/read this story or not? Why/why not?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Are You Listening?

We hunger and thirst daily. 

And not just for food and drink. We hunger for affection, approval, control, and comfort. We thirst for unconditional love, adventure and power. God knows how to truly satisfy us. He is the source of true and complete satisfaction.

And that's the point. He's the source. That's why his application is so rich: "Listen to me."

How do you listen? You get away, get quiet and get with his word. You listen to him speak to you through his word with a heart bent and ready to obey swiftly and completely by faith.

Are you making time to listen to God? Do you realize that you have a "Listening Matrix" (J. E. White, A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom, p. 65) through which God speaks (whether you listen or not)? Are you cultivating a heart that leans into God and is eager to hear from him?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Atheist says: Not Evangelizing = Hating People

Penn Jillette of comic duo Penn & Teller shares about an encounter he has with a Christian. 

Do we communicate love or hate when we shy away from sharing how people who are far from God are doomed unless they turn back to Him through Jesus? Penn nails it here!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leadership According to Tebow: Love. Passion. Sacrifice.

I had a great time at this year's Chick-fil-a Leadercast! I was a part of the Seacoast Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC) venue where 250 of us watched fantastic leaders via simulcast pour out their hearts on being great leaders wherever you are. Both Chick-fil-a and Seacoast were fantastic hosts. You shouldn't miss next years!

One leader that stood out was Tim Tebow. I've been following him since he came on the scene at the University of Florida. But I really started paying attention to what he was saying when he became a Denver Bronco. Why? Because he was popular, controversial, a back-up and a Christian. 

I love to see how Christians react to the pressures and trials of life. Sometimes they disappoint me. Other times they inspire me. I learn a lot in both cases (and I have a lot to learn). I'll have to say, I was as impressed with him off the field as I was on (and that's saying something!). 

So I came with high expectations when I attended the Leadercast. I wanted to see how Tebow handled himself in this environment. And I was curious about what he would say. He didn't disappoint.

Sitting next to Soledad O'Brien of CNN who was between Tebow and his former college coach, Urban Meyer, he handled himself with wit, confidence, humility and grace. He wasn't the best speaker I've heard by a long shot. He was a solid interview. But what he had to say was profound and delivered well. We needed to hear what he had to say on this day.

A wrote down a couple of things as my personal takeaways...

"Don't worry about what you can't control." 

He said this over and over. It was in the context of all the controversy and craziness that happened over last season, as well as, his trade to the Jets. Meyer indicated that this is how Tebow lived while at Florida and has been personally impacted by Tebow. That's powerful when your head coach says that about you!

Love. Passion. Sacrifice.

When O'Brien asked Tebow about summing up his leadership advice, he gave three things to think about:

1. Love what you do. This fuels your passion. 

2. Be passionate about what you love to do. You'd think this would follow naturally but we allow all kinds of things to prevent us from passionately doing what we love to do. 

3. Be willing to sacrifice for what you love to do. To me, this is his most profound statement. Everyone has things they love to do. People even pursue things they love passionately. But how many are willing to sacrifice for something (or someone) they love? 

Tebow nailed it here and models it as well. That's what makes him such an inspiring role model (which he embraces contrary to the Charles Barkley's of the world).

In summary, I'll continue to monitor the airwaves for comments from Tim Tebow. I'll watch how he handles himself on and off the field. Is he perfect? No. And he'll likely stumble from time to time. But we don't need perfect role models or heros. Just those with grace and truth. Tebow gets that.

As for his leadership advice? My prayer is that God will help me connect what and who I love with a passion for Him and His church that is so strong that I'll be willing to make any sacrifice He calls me to make.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Book Review

"His reflections, written from places of Christian significance around the world, give a sense, as the author puts it, of what it means to have a life in Christ." (back book cover of A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life)

James Emery White, author of popular blog Church & Culture, offers his newest contribution to the conversation of one's journey with God from a Biblical, Christian perspective. This pastor, author and adjunct professor from North Carolina combines his love of history, clear thinking and refreshing spirituality taking the reader on a journey about the journey called the Christian life.

Literally writing "on the road", White writes about places with rich religious and historical significance bringing it into contemporary relevance with apparent ease. You can tell he really enjoyed writing this book!

His insights are extremely helpful as well. I found myself dog-earring pages (cringe, I know) so that I wouldn't forget his insights and applications both for myself personally as well as for those I teach and lead.

Places White writes from and about include:

The Eagle and Child Pub, Oxford, England - favorite watering hole for C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien

Iona Abbey, Iona, Scotland

The Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa - Home and prison of Nelson Mandela

The Billy Graham Library, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany

Thoughts that made impressions on me

My marked page (p. 38) was a list of symptoms you might be experiencing if you are not attending to yourself spiritually. This is worth the book alone. But there's more...

On page 63 he talks about what he calls the "Listening matrix": "A simple but effective set of pursuits that you can take into your tent and with them cultivate a sensitive hearing of the voice of God." This is particularly important to me as I teach about the activities of the disciple-maker. That journey must begin with listening to God.

His discussion about "Shalom" (p. 82) is not just important but added some new thoughts I hadn't ever considered. I had no idea, for example, that in addition to carrying the ideas of peace, health and prosperity, shalom also carries the idea of "completeness." Great stuff here!

One more of my many marked pages was White's discussion on community (particularly in the church). He spends time sharing how and why true community breaks down. Very helpful to those trying to build (or facilitate the growth of) authentic community.

This easy-to-read, yet challenging work is a great read as you build your summer reading list. Add it on and take a journey through the past. It has great potential to impact your future journey. I highly recommend it!

Disclaimer: I received this book from White's assistant with the promise that I would read and write an honest review of the book. I am also distantly related to the author, although we have never corresponded or met.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Walk with God - Do what you want! (2 Samuel 7:3)

"Nathan replied to the king (David), 'Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.'" 2 Samuel 7:3 NLT

King David (c. 1000 B.C.) had been talking with Nathan the Prophet about building a temple for the LORD. This was after David had finally risen to be king of a united Israel, established his capital in Jerusalem and enjoy God's favor as His chosen people. They were truly a free and secure nation under God. This verse tells us a lot about the freedom we have in Christ.

Nathan responds, in the above verse, to David's heart-felt and passionate desire to build an awesome temple for the Ark of the Covenant (which represents God's presence). Up to this point, the Ark has always 'lived' in a tent. (God initiated this, by the way) Now that David lives in a palace, he apparently is uncomfortable looking out his window at God's tent. And who wouldn't.

I imagine David realized that God really lives in the heavens: But the Ark is a significant manifestation of God's presence with his people. So he feels moved to build a temple. This from David, "A man after God's own heart."

Nathan makes a huge statement here: "The LORD is with you." Nathan points out the obvious to David. God clearly loves and favors you, David. You are, like, his favorite! He listens to you and you two seem inseparable and undefeatable. As a result of this, Nathan reasons that David is so aligned with God that he should go with whatever he wants to do. Go ahead and do whatever you have in mind.

So what?

This is huge for us and our application should seem clear--but controversial. Surely we can't say this (much less do this).

Walk with God; Do what you want.

It almost feels like we're cheating or that it's too good to be true. 

But think about it...when we walk with God as David did, we will live with a freedom to do what we desire. Why? Because when we walk with God, we desire what He desires. We want what He wants. We're on the same page about what is wise and what is good. The key, of course, is keeping in step with God so that our desires will continue to flow from His.

The branches and the Vine come to mind here. (John 15) When we "remain" or "abide" in Christ, we will bear "much fruit". His desires become our desires. And like a child who wants to please her daddy, we will freely do all we desire with a heart bent towards pleasing Him.

So to say, "Walk with God and then do whatever you desire" seems to tempt one to irresponsible and self-absorbed living--and it can. But to succumb to that temptation is to settle for much less than God intends for us. 

As we walk with God daily, trusting and obeying Him along the way, our desires come in line with His and we just naturally do what Jesus would do if He were in our shoes. So please--walk with God! (Galatians 5:16) But then do what you want to do. As long as you are in step with God, you will do His will and He'll be pleased.