Archive for September, 2010

My time in the car yesterday gave me time to catch up on listening to some podcasts.  I listened to Andy Stanley and Francis Chan.  I also listened to Nancy Ortberg and Ed Stetzer.  All of these talks challenged me and gave me much to think about on my long journey home.

But the one that provoked the most thought in me was a talk by Reggie McNeal.  i have mentioned him before.  I don’t know that I have ever heard him speak, whether in person or recorded, that I was not moved.

One of the things he discussed is the way the church has become program centered when she should be more focused on people development.

He referenced a church he has worked with and the experience this particular church encountered after hurricane Katrina.  The church building was severely damaged by the storm and in the weeks that followed the storm, the church had to redefine who they were and God’s calling for them.

Without a building, they could not do their programs.  The result was that, in the pastor’s words, “we just had to go hang out with people.”

What a great look at the church.  Reggie made the point that we have been engrained to accept that the church is a place when in reality it is a person – it is you and it is me.  If we are to be the church, we must realize that being the church is not about programs but rather about empowering people to be the church where they work and live.

So here is a question for you to think about today:  How is your church developing people to be the church in real life?

I would love to hear your feed back!

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God’s First Language

I am packing up this morning to head back home.  I took three days of vacation to escort my wife to Houston for a conference.  It has given us time to be together – just the two of us and I thought it would give me some down time to catch up on some reading and to spend some time in prayer.

Unfortunately, one afternoon of “downtime” hardly seems enough.  But it was good to be able to unplug even for an afternoon.

Now I start the 11 hour drive home – alone.  Yeah!

At any rate, I wanted to share with you an experience I had yesterday in my reading and prayer time.  As I sat and prayed and read, I was hoping for a revelation from God – an answer to my prayer.

Have you ever had the experience of feeling like your prayers go unheard?  That maybe your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling?

I read this quote and it reminded me of something.  I am reading through Ben Johnson’s book, Time Away, and in the book he quotes John of the Cross.  The quote is this, “Silence is God’s first language.”  Ben goes on to elaborate on this quote by saying that if we are going to hear God, we first “must learn to turn down the noise in our lives.”

In other words, we must learn to become comfortable sitting in silence before God.  It is in resting in God that we experience peace – and that just might be the answer we are looking for.

Be blessed today!

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Yesterday, I briefly preached on the importance of doing more in your faith community than just sit for an hour on Sunday morning.

In most churches, the next step is becoming involved in a small group.  It is in this smaller group that you will really dig into Bible study and begin to understand what God has given us in the Word.  It is also here that you will become part of a real community – not a perfect community but a real community.  You will begin to build relationships with these people and learn what it means to do life together.  In a small group you will also have opportunity to minister to one another and hopefully, outside your group as well, meeting needs and impacting the world.

So it is probably not hard to see that I am a big proponent of the small group ministry in churches.

But today, I want you to think “next step.”  I want you to think, “today.”

I ended the sermon yesterday with a quote from Ed Stetzer:  “the biggest sin in the church today is that we have made it OK to come and sit for an hour on Sunday and call that Christianity.”  If this quote hits you like it does me, what are you going to do with it – today?

How will you live out your faith on Monday . . . Tuesday . . . Thursday?

Think about it today – I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Today is Friday and on Friday, everyone starts thinking about some time off – the weekend.

Here are three musts to ensure you have a great weekend.

  1. Spend it with family. Time away from work or school is best spent with those you love.  Take advantage of this time this weekend to do something with your kids, your spouse or your parents.  You won’t always have this time.
  2. Take a Sabbath. The book of Genesis tells us that when God created the earth, the seventh day was set aside for rest.  God knows we need our rest – so make sure and make it a priority.
  3. Spend time with your faith community.  Most churches meet on Saturday or Sunday.  Make spending some time at church a priority this weekend.  If you don’t have a faith community and you are in the area, I would love to see you at our place this Sunday – I’ll be preaching on “Something More.”

I pray that your weekend is amazing!

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Radical Faith

I have had a little booklet sitting on my desk for a few months.  It is on a stack of books – my “To Read” stack.  I have had good intentions – it didn’t get chunked or shelved – its still in my stack of things I know I need to read.

This little booklet came in the mail and I thought, “Cool, a free book!”  But as I looked it over, I got the impression that it was just a teaser to get you to buy the real book.  So that turned me off and I put it on my stack.

Last weekend, I had a long conversation with a friend who is currently reading through the book and based on our discussion, I decided I needed to get the book and read it for myself.

Before I give you the title, let me warn you, it should be  rated MCA – Mature Christian Audience only.  Why you might ask?  Because it will mess you up if you are not willing to have the church you grew up with analyzed and dissected.

I believe that David Platt, in his book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream, is on the right track.  I have not finished the book (just picked it up yesterday afternoon), but it doesn’t take long to figure out what David is trying to say.  He says that we have taken the American Dream and approach to life and applied it to the church.  Here is what he says in one section of the book,

We Christians are living out the American dream in the context of our communities of faith.  We have convinced ourselves that if we can position our resources and organize our strategies, then in church as in every other sphere of life, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to.

But what is strangely lacking in the picture of performances, personalities, programs, and professionals is desperation for the power of God.

When is the last time you saw the power of God evidenced in your church?  My fear is that, as ministers and leaders in our churches, we have done just as David describes here – we have bought into the idea that God has gifted us with the ability to “grow” the church and by building structures and strategies and programs, we are serving God.  While, there is truth to that idea, what we have so often left out is any room for God to show up.  It is the attitude that we can do it.

David also says that along the way we have “missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.”   He goes on to say that we are “settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”

How radical is your faith?  Are you completely dependent on God – or is your faith more safe, more sterile?

Jesus said “if you will follow me, you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily.”  Is that your faith?

I’m not convinced it describes mine – but I want it to.

Think about it today!

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Stand Up For Your Faith

Today is a cool day!  All over the country, students are meeting around the flag pole at their schools to pray for their teachers, their schools, their communities and one another.  What makes this event even more special is that it is completely student lead.  In other words, this is all their effort.

As a pastor, I never know what to expect each year as to how many students will make the effort and when they are there, how many will take it seriously.  But today, at both our middle school and high school, there were great groups – singing and praying and standing up for their faith.  It was an amazing sight.

I am proud of our kids!  But just as importantly, I am challenged by them.  How am I going to stand up for my faith today?

I’ll ask you the same question – how will you stand up for your faith today?

Be blessed!

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Enduring With Hope

During my prayer and reading time this morning I was drawn back to a verse I read last week and never fully internalized.  Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

There is a lot to think about in this one verse.  We could focus on the importance of all those who have gone before us and the wisdom they left behind and how that can help us.  We could also think about the teaching aspect of scripture.

But my focus today is on our part in the process of having hope.  The apostle Paul (author of Romans) tells us that scripture has been written to instruct us on how we should live.  It is also filled with insight into the nature and character of God.  But also in this verse, we see Paul telling us that we must have endurance.

What I take from this verse is that life is not always going to be easy.  Things aren’t always going to happen on my time schedule.  But I must endure – I must carry on and never give up!

Instead, in the process of enduring we are to look to scripture for guidance and encouragement for there in we will find hope.  Jeremiah 29:11 always gives me encouragement – especially during times I am having to “endure.”

No matter what you may be going through today, hang on – endure – and look to scripture for your hope.

What scriptures do you turn to?

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Last Friday and Saturday, my youngest son and I made the trek over to the Guadalupe Mountains and then made the hike up to the top of Guadalupe Peak, the tallest peak in Texas.  We made it up in time to set up camp and then make it on to the summit for the sun set.  It was breath taking!

At the top of the mountain, a monument has been erected to commemorate the transportation and mail industries because the mountain sits along a prominent stage and pony express route from the 1800’s.

At any rate, at the base of the monument is a metal ammunition box and inside the box is a register.  All who make their way to the top get to sign the book – pretty cool.

We both signed the book, took pictures and then prayed together before heading back down to camp – one of those father – son moments I will always cherish.

The next morning we packed up our tent and sleeping bags and all our stuff and headed back down to the base to drive home.  As we were hiking down, the thought entered my head of how proud I am that my son’s name is in the book.  He has joined a handful of people who can say they made it to the top of Texas.

As I reflected on that fact, I became even more moved to think that not only is my son’s name in the Guadalupe Peak register, it is actually inscribed on a much more important book.  In the Bible, Revelation 3 talks about a book of life where the names of all the followers of Jesus will be recorded.  Bryson’s name is there along with my other two sons’ names as well!  What an incredible thought for a dad!

God is good!

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Hike the Peak

Last Year’s Trip

Tomorrow I am doing something I don’t do nearly enough.  I am taking my boys on a backpacking trip.  We do it occasionally but not frequently enough.

About 12 years ago, I took my oldest two to the Guadalupe Mountains to hike Guadalupe Peak (the tallest mountain in Texas).  It was a great experience, but my youngest was only 2 so not quite old enough to make that hike.

Ever since, we have wanted to go and hike the mountain again.  We tried last year but got there too late and all the camp sites on the summit trail were taken so we had to hike another mountain.  So tomorrow we are going to try it again.

I can’t wait to hit the trail with my boys!

I’ll tell you all about it next week.

What will you do with your family this weekend?

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I Am Amazed!

Today, as I waited on my youngest to finish cross country practice, I listened to the Pray-As-You-Go devotional podcast.

The scripture reading was familiar from the Gospel of Luke chapter 2.  You can read it here.

As I listened to these words read, I pictured Simeon in the temple, meeting Jesus, the Messiah, as an infant.  I thought about the overwhelming joy he must have felt – the wonder and amazement that the chosen One of God was in his very arms.

In the translation read on the podcast, the word “amazed” was used to describe the reaction of Joseph and Mary at what they were hearing about Jesus.

Then the question came from the guide, “Are you amazed by Jesus?”

That question has been lingering in my mind ever since.

As I have thought about that question, there are many things that have come to mind as to the amazement I feel because of Jesus.

The most amazing thing is that he has called me out – that he chose me and gave me a new life – I would be wandering through life with no direction and no purpose if not for Jesus’ amazing and magnificent grace!

What about you – do you find Jesus amazing?

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