Monday, December 20, 2010

The Season for Getting

Christmas is the season for giving! At least that's what we are told. But really? Well really... it's not. Now I like giving and recieving gifts as much as anyone. But Christmas doesn't begin with what we give, it begins by getting. Christmas is really the season for getting (receiving). This is not a call for unbridled greed nor is it a grinch like stiffling of the family gift exchange. What it is, is a call to a humble acknowledgement that we need what God came to offer - the way for reconciliation with God. God gave first. We recieve. The mandate of the gospel is “Get it!” Get what God gave through the incarnation of Jesus.

The pressure to give is largely to blame for the anxiety (and debt) that drains the joy of this season. Receiving what money could not buy, but what Jesus purchased by giving his own life, that is the gift humanity gets through Christmas. Christmas is about getting the good we did not, indeed could not earn nor deserve. Christmas is about getting grace. That’s what it’s all about. So by all means, if you haven't, get it!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My 100 Words on 100 Years

My hundred words on a hundred years…

- a pastor giving his boutonniere to a little girl
- a boy invited to stand on a pew to sing "This Little Light of Mine"
- a dollar given a young man for a 'good job' singing a song he couldn't finish

Reaching out while encouraging within. It feels right to celebrate our past when our future burns bright with promise. Dozens of young leaders receiving batons Sunday morning assure us of that! Should Jesus tarry, they will celebrate the 150th, and their children the Bi-Centennial. Find us faithful, God we pray.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sin Cheats

In 2 Samuel 12 Nathan the prophet, confronts King David regarding his adultery and murder. Nathan makes the point to show David how much God had graciously given him. David had been blessed. Nathan declares that God was willing to give him even more. But instead of seeking God, David chose to have his desires met outside the will of God. The results (as always) were devestating.

This text makes me wonder how often sin is the result of greed and selfishness. Like a spoiled child David wanted more and he wanted it now. He was unwilling to wait or seek God for what he needed. Greed and selfishness led to his sin.

Sin is often our attempt to meet our own wants/needs outside the will of God. Sin not only cheats us, it also cheats God. Selfishness, impatience, and greed cheats the "God who wants to give us more". Sin provides what we want but adds destruction. Conversely, God's Will provides what we need, multiplies joy and takes away the (minus) destruction.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Man Up = Serve God

The Scripture indicates that King David's middle son, Abonijah, was raised to do his own thing (1Kngs 1.6) without direction or correction from his father. This left Adonijah with a squishy middle, without the strength and depth of a godly man. What C.S. Lewis would call "a man without a chest." Abonijah's chestlessness plays out when David is near his final days. Abonijah takes the opportunity to crown himself king of Judah and Israel. With partying, celebration, and self-indulgence he proclaims his paper crown. It was all done without God, by a man without a chest. And it all failed miserably. When Solomon, the rightful heir calls Abonijah to the mat Abonijah quickly wilts and cries in fear because he (to his credit) realized he acted thoughtlessly and without God. In humilitaion he bows before Solomon and spares his own (miserable) life.

The Bible shows that men (and women) who serve God prosper. Those who 'man-up' succeed. In Biblical terms to "man up" is to be a man with a chest, a strong man who serves God.

Shortly before his death, King David gave Solomon this advise. "Be strong, show yourself a man (man-up) and observe what the Lord your God that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go." (1 Kings 2.2-4)

The Bible is clear, Man up = serve God.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Proximity is not Reconciliation

God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him" (2 Samuel 14.14)

From this text I am reminded of how much God values genuine reconciliation. King David, for all his success as a military and political leader, was not an exemplary father. In fact, he stunk! Absalom, David's son, murdered his brother. David forgave him, but never communicated that forgiveness. In place of the confrontation that might have led to genuine reconciliation, he merely ignored the sin. He allowed Absalom back in Jerusalem but never addressed anything to do with Absalom's bloody offense. The guilt of Absalom, and the silent treatment of David combined to create an explosive mix that would rip a family and kingdom apart.

I think David mistook proximity for reconciliation. People can live in the same town and still be estranged from each other. Shoot, I've known people who slept in the same bed but could not have been further apart. The Scriptures reveal to us the God who devises plans to reconcile people. And as his followers, he leads us away from estrangement toward reconciliation. God is a master reconciler! He devised a plan of reconciliation for sinful people to be reunited with their Holy Heavenly Father- the plan of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. The Bible is filled with stories of reconciliation. A few examples- Jacob and Esau, Jesus and Peter, Paul and John Mark.

I guess I am just reminded today that closeness is not intimacy, proximity is not reconciliation. And ignoring a persons problem (sin) is not the same a offering forgiveness. Ignoring leads to destruction, forgiveness leads to healing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Preparing to Hear a Sermon

How to Listen to a Sermon
by George Whitefield

Keys for getting the most out of what the preacher says

Jesus said, 'Therefore consider carefully how you listen' (Luke 8:18). Here are some cautions and directions, in order to help you hear sermons with profit and advantage.

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.

Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. And though we should even hear a person teaching others to do what he has not learned himself, yet that is no reason for rejecting his doctrine. For ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, even though they did not do themselves what they said (see Matt. 23:1-3).

4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians: 'For whereas one said, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are you not carnal, says he? For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?' (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5).

Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?

5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, 'Lord, is it I?' (Matt. 26:22).

Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, 'This was intended for such and such a one!' instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, 'Lord, is it I?' How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!

6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.
No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: 'Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel' (Eph. 6:19-20). And if so great an apostle as St. Paul needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!

This excerpt is adapted from Sermon 28 from The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield. Published by E. and C. Dilly, 1771-1772, London. George Whitefield (1714-1770) was a British Methodist evangelist whose powerful sermons fanned the flames of the First Great Awakening in the American colonies.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Reflections for BoB (Blessing of the Bikes)

Last Sunday (May 30) was an amazing day. Such unity, love and Kingdom impact. Here are just some of my quick reflections on the day. When God does great things I too rarely take time to physically note it, and too often forget God's amazing work. This is a way to just give God praise for a breakthrough day.

What I noticed...
1. God clearly had a plan.
2. Visitors felt embraced and welcomed BECAUSE the church (we) looked outward.
3. Our church family invited their friends and family members.
4. There was Tangible (you could feel it) unity and love for each other that welcomed (and fanned) the Holy Spirit.
3. Christ followers from every generation served side by side. Beautiful sight!
4. Powerful worship in both services. Did I mention God was there!
5. We celebrated with freedom in Christ. It was a time free from that stifling religious spirit of dos-don'ts and judgement.
6. God stretched our outreach bandwidth. God helped us see we could reach even more types of people with the good news.
7. We met some amazing Christian brothers and sisters in the motorcycling community.

If you were there, I'd love to hear your reflections. If you're up to it, feel free to add how God blessed you last Sunday and what God might have been teaching you and/or our church.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Church, the Soil is Ready for Planting

Breiel, the soil has been turned over. A hardened layer has been broken, the moist soil beneath has been brought to light. The work before us now is remove the weeds that have held us back, and in their place plant God's good seed. Last Sunday, God moved powerfully at Breiel Church. Because we confessed and repented, God turned over the soil. It was painful, but incredibly refreshing. Everyone there knew that God had done a work. Now is not the time to remain idle, instead we must get busy planting the seeds of unity, peace, righteousness.. you know, all the Galatians 5 - Fruit of the Spirit stuff. Remember that turned soil left untended will quickly be over run with aggressive weeds and thorns.

We plant the Fruit of the Spirit through prayer and through righteous actions. To see the harvest God has dreamed for us, we each must understand who we are- Commissioned Holy Spirit farm hands called and equipped to tend this field. God has done the hard work, now let us each do ours for the glory of His name. You in? I am.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Choosing and Leading Wisely

I journal occassionally. Several times each month. I find it helps me process what God is speaking into my life. And it serves as documented proof, that I do actually pray :-)

Many months back we (our leadership team) were facing a series of tough decisions. The desired outcome was the will of God and ultimately the glory of Jesus. While still on the front end of those decisions, I reflectively wrote down the following three questions and statement. God must have provided this insight, because I don't think I'm smart enough to have thought of this on my own.

Three Questions
1. What are the various outcomes of this decision?
2. What is the worst outcome of this decision?
3. What is the best outcome of this decision?

Statement: If God is leading then go courageously.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Big Switch of Easter

If a person were to change religions, say from Islam to Judaism it makes sense that one would willingly change from worshipping on Friday to Saturday. However, one would have to have an incredible powerful revelation (knowledge) to remain a Muslim yet change to a different day of worship. For a religious person to make such a change would make an interesting yet isolated story. But now consider hundreds of people simultaneously changing, not their religion mind you, but the day of worship. This would be a bit more than interesting.

And this is exactly what the early Jewish followers of Jesus did, practically overnight. Shortly after the death of Jesus, they instantaneously began to gather to worship the same God (still very much Jewish) on a different day. From Saturday to the first day of the week (Sunday).

To make matters more interesting, it was not as if those Jewish Jesus followers had joined a group that was already worshipping God on Sunday. No such group existed. No, they continued believing in the same God, but the Empty Tomb had proven to them (given them knowledge) something so powerful about their God that they instantly began worshipping Him on a different day (They would come to call it the Lord's Day).

Isn't it reasonable to believe that something incredibly powerful must have occurred after the death of Jesus to cause this monumental change? There is only one logical conclusion to explain how hundreds and then 1000s of devoted Jewish believers could have changed a sacredly held, 4,000 year old worship practice overnight. They witnessed God do something so astonishing on the first day of the week, shortly after the death of Jesus, that it warranted a new day of worship. Only seeing first hand the Empty Tomb and the Resurrected Jesus would have had that kind of power. From Saturday to Sunday, this is the Big Switch.

He is alive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Life Cycle of a Church or Christian Movement

Remember: The curve is common but not inevitable. Both growth and decline can be stopped at any time.

1. Birth- Begins with a founder and/or founding group who burns with passion to make a difference in the lives of others.
2. Infancy - Group expands it's external focus and almost exclusively works to bring others into the cause.
3. Adolescence - Programs and services are added to take the strain off the Founder and founding group.
4. Prime - ministry and action is being done through a variety of people. The movement is "in the zone." Ephesians 4.
5. Maturity - Movement/church begins to lose momentum and begins to develop an "our way of doing things." Subtly becomes more inwardly (us) focused.
6. Aristocracy - Momentum takes an even greater hit, marked by less energy and less effectiveness. Status quo is maintained. Cliques form. Turf is protected.
7. Bureaucracy - The birth story and accompanying passion are forgotten. The activity of administration substitutes the accomplishment of the real mission. Disgruntled members begin to look for someone to blame for ineffectiveness.
8. Death - The skeleton is all that remains. Survival continues until the door is locked for the last time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jesus' Three Habits

Jesus had three simple habits. He "stood up to read the Scripture" as was his custom. Second, he "went into the mountain to pray" as was his custom. Third, "he taught them" as was his custom.

1. Daily Read the Bible. Spiritually mature people know the Bible and apply the truth of the Bible. Knowing the Bible comes from reading and hearing it. If you don't know much about the Bible you don't know much about Jesus.

2. Get Alone with God and Pray. The depth of one's relationship with God will remain shallow without private prayer. Intimacy with God grows through conversation with Him.

3. Pass it on. A proven way to retain a lesson is to teach it to someone else. A lesson learned but not taught is often forgotten. And therefore must be relearned.

(adopted from E. Stanley Jones, Conversations)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Have you ever tried to search the web on an old computer. It can be pretty annoying. Webpages half loaded. You know the look. Content illedgible. Boxes with little red x's litter the screen. The hour glass is laid out in the "infinity" position. It's stuck. You get frustrated. So maybe you wait (some can wait much longer than others) until you can take it no longer then you click refresh or renew. And if you're lucky the page displays, the content is ledgible, the hour glass disappears. Happy surfer.

People get stuck. Christians get stuck. Churches get stuck. Stale. Frustrating. Renewal is usually what's needed. But for renewal to happen the page has to be cleared. Yes, I know it's scary, but what other option do you have? Merely staring at 'stuck' doesn't 'unstuck' it.

That's what God was telling Israel through the prophet. You're stuck, time to refresh.

Habakkuk 3.2 Lord I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. RENEW them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Indecisiveness is Failure

I was a boy scout in Troop 456. Once during a Scout-a-rama relay, my tenderfeet carried me up a 20' repelling tower. I was the most novice in the troup. When I reached the top, I took one look down at the earth below and froze with fear. We lost the relay. An early lesson that indecisiveness is failure. Patience and sober judgement- good. Indecisiveness (especially when the clock is ticking)- bad.

Frozen? Then decide, and the thaw will begin.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

About that Sex Talk Pastor

When you talk about Sex from the pulpit you get guaranteed feedback. One of the widows of the church met me at my office yesterday (Monday) morning. The Sunday talk was on her mind, and she had something to 'share.' Surely I had offended her. At least that's what I thought at first. But then she expressed how much she appreciated the sermon. She told me in precious terms how much she missed her late husband. The words are too dear, too sacred for me to disclose here. She just said how she missed everything about him. About how greatful to God she was for their love, for the many years they shared it. How she missed everything they did together. It was very touching. We both shed tears. God bless those who long for the special touch of their beloved.

I bought my wife flowers yesterday.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I'm an Artist that Can't Draw

I encountered this notion in a book I'm reading by Seth Godin called Linchpin. You see, I have never been able to draw very well. I suck at spelling too. But that's beside the point, back to drawing. Stick figures with smiley faces is about it for me. Ok, maybe a house too (a simple square with a triangle on top with a chimney, with squiggly lines for smoke). So I never considered myself very artistic. I can't really sing and sure can't dance. The Zumba class I attend with my wife on Thursdays is humilating proof of that. But not all artists draw. But they do all see. They see the world, they see people, they see hope, they see pain, they see how things are. They see how things could be better or at least that they need to be better. The artist's art is the ability to communicate what they see, to others. Conversing, painting, writing, singing, building, dancing, giving, serving- all canvases used by artists.

Are you an artist? Jesus came to open our eyes. He also said, he who has "eyes to see let him see." And he who can see let him draw or dance or speak or give or build or sing... It seems then, that Jesus came to make artists of us all.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Graduating from Trials

If you've ever been through an extended period of trial and testing, then you know the indescribable joy that breaks through when you see that first ray of light at the end of the tunnel. The wash of relief and joy at the end of a long trial soaks all the way through you. Not only when we personally experience it, but we feel this vicariously as friends come through trials. We feel their joy, we taste their relief. We smile too.

I have a friend who's been in a good 2-3 year period of trial. It has been hard for him. All of 'trials' companions were there -frustration, disillusionment, saddness, loneliness, emptiness, even cameos of dispair. But recently God has opened up an adventure for him, a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a calling that, if it works out, will bless many lives. He is now entering that place where the the fear of missing out is stronger than the fear of staying put.

I think trials and tests are part of the basic training God uses to prepare us for life's next adventure. They are transitions where we are cleansed, healed from the past and equipped for the future. When trials have done their work we are ready, even excited for the next challenge. It feels like a graduation because it is. So even you've just come through a trail go ahead- wave to your mom, move your tassel and throw your cap.

Friday, January 01, 2010

BIG Institutions are in BIG Trouble.

In 2010 institutions are in trouble.
Don't believe me? When's the last time you waited until ABC Worldnews Tonight to find out the latest headlines? Been a while? Or if you want to know the score of the game from last night do you wait until the sports segment of the evening news (remember those)? What about the institution of the music industry? I can't remember the last time I bought a CD, how about you? What about the institution of education? More people are learning online (from home) than ever before. Many schools have twice as many 'distance learners' as on campus students. Do I even need to mention what has happened in recent years to big financial institions? Big Institutions are in big trouble. What about the Church. Ummm, here's what I think and here is what the facts seems to suggest. Churches that function as institions are in BIG TROUBLE TOO. The more a church or denomination functions and feels like an istitution the more trouble it is in. Big institutions, secular or 'sacred' are in big trouble too.

What does an institution feel like? Here's a few.
Centralized power and committed to preserving it (own power/control).
Status Quo
Resources disproportionally spent on survival (us) rather than mission (others).
Slow to Change and often Fearful of It.

Some might be surprised to discover that when Jesus called 12 men to follow him he wasn't beginning an institution (people built that). Jesus started a movement. Unlike institutions, the future of movements looks good, real good. More about this later (this Sunday).