Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The following is my column for this Sunday morning:
Prayer is conversation with God. It is speaking, pleading, asking, confessing, talking, and sharing. It is also discerning, listening, and discovering.
- Sometimes you can just sit silently without a clue what to say. That is prayer.
- Sometimes you can unload everything on your in your hectic life. That is also prayer.
- Sometimes you cry because you or somebody you love is hurting. That is prayer.
- Sometimes you are laughing because you realize who God is. That is also prayer.
You can pray while running around a lake early in the morning. You can pray at a desk full of papers and a computer that is ready to overheat because it has been so busy. You can pray in a church or when you are driving by a church. You can pray on your knees or laying down on your back. You can pray alone or in a large group.
I pray a lot. I have learned that I am not too effective of a pastor, husband, or parent if I don’t pray. Some of the time is spent listening. This isn’t the easiest for me, but I do my best. I pray to our church and the people in our church. I pray for our boys. I seem to do that more as they get older. As the seasons of my life change, my prayer life changes as well.
One change is going to start next Sunday, May 10th. Although I pray regularly for people in the church, God has led me to be more specific and intentional in this ministry. Each week, I will pray for five individuals / families. Over the course of a year this will be 260 individuals / families. About a week before I pray for you and / or your family, you will receive a letter from me asking you to submit prayer requests to me. If you have a family, I encourage your family to sit down and write up a list of prayer requests together. This will be a great family activity. If you don’t want to share specific prayer requests, know that I will be praying for you anyway! If you do share prayer requests with me, know that everything you share is confidential.
I am so excited about this new ministry. I look forward to getting to know many of you more and praying for you! I want also note how grateful I am to Marion Hanneld for being the administrator of this ministry.
This morning I also want to mention a resource that we have available. In January and February of 2008, I did a five message series on prayer called, iGod: little i. BIG GOD. I looked at The Prayer of Jabez (iDream), Paul’s Prayer (iConnect), David’s Prayer (iConfess), Solomon’s Prayer (iVote), and The Lord’s Prayer (iLive). If you enjoy listening to recorded messages and want to grow in your prayer life, I encourage you to pick up this resource this morning.
I sincerely hope that we all grow in our prayer lives during the days that are ahead.
When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God. -Charles L. Allen
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock with him in the boat. He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede. –Genesis 8:1
Hope is the dream of a soul awake. -French Proverb
As we pray to our God and Father about you, we think of your faithful work, your loving deeds, and the enduring hope you have because of our Lord Jesus Christ. -Thessalonians 1:3
Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. -Dale Carnegie
Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible. -William Sloan Coffin
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:13
Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up. -Anne Lamott
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. -1 Peter 1:3-6
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. –Oscar Wilde
Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. –Albert Einstein
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. -Romans 15:4
In all things it is better to hope than to despair” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Hope never abandons you; you abandon it. -George Weinberg
I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” -Lamentations 3:20-24
Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. -George Iles
Dum spiro, spero. While I breath, I hope. -Latin Proverb
But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the LORD their God. -Psalm 146:5
Hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn't permanent. -Jean Kerr
What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life. -Emil Brunner
Monday, April 27, 2009
It seemed a little awkward at first. I was probably over thinking my injury and listening too carefully for any signs of weakness in my groin area / lower abdominal area. I just ran on the trail in my neighborhood. Each loop is 1.45 miles. I figured I would do three loops, but knew I could back out after one or two loops, if needed. After a while, I got into a nice rhythm and was running without thinking about the injury.
I gained some weight during the last month and never ran or cross-trained once, so I was worried I would be pretty out of shape. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I did have a little soreness in my groin and hip, but nothing in my lower abs. I'll keep it short and easy for a while and keep doing my stretching and strengthening excercises.
I've learned a number of lessons in the last month:
- I should always be thankful for days of health and strength.
- I run more for my mind than I run for my body or for competition.
- Rest and patience are virtues in running and in life.
- I'm just as happy and content without running in my life. I'm more well-adjusted when I am able to run. Running is a time that I spend with God and a time when I can dream and be most creative.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Rejection is a natural and normal part of life.
The goal shouldn’t be to live a life absent of rejection, the appropriate aim is to overcome, learn, and grow from rejection so we can flourish and thrive.
Sometimes rejection comes because of things we have no control over.
Now Jephthah of Gilead was a great warrior. He was the son of Gilead, but his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also had several sons, and when these half brothers grew up, they chased Jephthah off the land. “You will not get any of our father’s inheritance,” they said, “for you are the son of a prostitute.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Soon he had a band of worthless rebels following him. –Judges 11:1-3
Jesus experienced rejection.
When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. -Matthew 13:53-55
Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him. -Matthew 26:63-67
Rejection hurts the most from those we love the most.
Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” -Matthew 26:69-75
Don’t fear rejection because fear will keep us from allowing ourselves to take the risks necessary to move forward in life.
Sometime later, the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.” -Genesis 15:1
Don’t face rejection alone.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. –Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Don’t avoid necessary conflict for too long.
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. –Matthew 18:15-17
Rejection may be God’s way of saying that He has a better plan. We can embrace rejection as an opportunity to develop.
Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, was obviously the favorite. Hated by his brothers for this, Joseph was sold to slave traders only to emerge as the ruler of all Egypt. Through Joseph, we learn how suffering, no matter how unfair, develops strong character and deep wisdom. Joseph’s story is found in Genesis 37:1-50:26
Don’t allow rejection to turn into failure.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. -Philippians 3:13
Live for an Audience of One.
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. -Galatians 1:10
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I was greatly impressed with their level of discipleship and giving. They are not the biggest church around, but I think you would be hard pressed to find too many churches where people are more committed.
- Get a large team who will join the leadership of both churches in praying for strategic and specific matters regarding the mother church, the daughter church, and the combined efforts of both churches. Send out weekly updates to this team. Celebrate wins. Keep high priority items on the top.
- Embrace the following premise: Healthy Christians birth healthy Christians. Healthy small groups birth healthy small groups. Healthy churches birth healthy churches.
- Embrace that it takes different kinds of churches to reach different kinds of people.
- Get ownership from as many people as possible in the mother church. Get buy-in from whoever is left over. If anybody is left over, listen to them and love them, but be faithful to the vision.
- Know the target area / population that you are trying to reach. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be something special to some people. Share this with the denomination and neighboring churches in your denomination.
- Don’t forget that life goes on at the mother church. In real life the best way for a mother to care for her baby is care for herself.
- Find a church planter. Look for an apostle. Apostolos in the Greek means: one sent forth. If you can’t find one, keep looking. Look for a spiritual entrepreneur. Have the planter assessed. Make sure the planter will thrive in your local area. In addition to denominational and other assessments, do your own. Have the person meet with a life insurance agent or somebody similar in your church. After the conversation, ask the agent if he would hire the person. Invite the pastor to speak at your church. Get a focus group together and ask people if they would likely being willing to follow this person.
- Define success and set realistic expectations.
- Develop a small group ministry for the daughter church. At first this small group ministry must be outward focused. Develop leaders as fast as you can. Multiply the groups as fast as you can.
- Develop a leadership team. Give the planter a “fishing license”. Have a few families that are already informally committed to the leadership team. Have the planter find people from the community as well. Look for at least 12 to 15 families / individuals.
- Develop a simple and clear vision for the new church.
- Love your city. www.servantevangelism.com
- Celebrate wins along the way.
- Set a launch date for some preview services and the worship launch. Secure a place to worship. Balance being realistic and proactive.
- Get ministry team leaders in place. A) Set-up and tear-down, B) Kids, C) Connections (greeting, food and beverage, assimilation), and D) Media / Music / Worship. Find recruiters who can do a little organizing rather than organizers who can do a little recruiting.
- Invest and Invite. When you can’t do that, just invite. Figure out ways to make sure that everybody in the target area gets invited to the worship experiences in the first few months. Don’t focus so much on the launch Sunday as much as the weeks and months that follow. Gather people and train / encourage them to gather people.
- Act your age
- Don’t forget about the second Sunday. And the third one too. Perfect the systems. Develop new leaders. Connect people however you can connect them. Give them ownership. Create a simple culture: invest, invite, and include.
- Don’t play the comparison game.
- The most important thing for church leaders of any church of any age or size is ethos. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- The next most important thing is interpersonal solidarity. People will come back for brilliant teaching or amazing music for a while. They will return to be with their friends for a lifetime.
- Don’t forget to laugh. Humor isn’t the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair. It is an expression of joy.
- Sell yourself wherever you are. Know who you are, who you are not, and who you are becoming.
- Do something for hurting people. Feed the poor, cloth the naked, visit the prisoner, etc…
- Return to step #1.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I’m guilty as charged for being busy. I have 26 minutes to write this column. It’s late Thursday afternoon. I’m leaving early in the morning to Oklahoma City to speak at a conference about church planting and church leadership tomorrow night and Saturday. I just finished up the sermon. I had a meeting earlier today. I pick up David in 24 minutes and then we get Benjamin after that. Wednesday I did my best to answer all my email. I got my haircut and some of the grey magically disappeared as well. I’m not going to bore you with the rest of my schedule but I spent time in Lincoln at the University with a statistics professor who is helping me with my dissertation. I led a couple meetings. I tried to do some forward thinking, visionary stuff this week, and did a decent job, but wasn’t quite as creative or long-term as I wanted to be. The rest of my week involved soccer games, diapers, cleaning, cooking, driving, etc…
I know some of you very well. (I just got a phone call that took 7 minutes and now have about 11 minutes to finish.) I don’t know some of you at all – although I hope that changes! But I do know this: many of you are busy too. Some of you work longer hours than I do. Some of you have more kids than I have. Many of us find ourselves in a similar boat.
I find the times in my life when I am most busy are generally the times in my life when I am most disconnected from God. Trying to be a good spouse or a good parent or a good employee or a good volunteer – these are all good things. But there can always be too much of a good thing and our lives can easily get out of balance. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
A simple truth of life is that we rely on our resources and our strength and our power—we will accomplish what we can accomplish as a spouse, a parent, a worker, a volunteer, a whatever. When we connect to the Vine and His resources, strength, and power, we open ourselves up to the power of God and will produce much fruit.
Think about this Scripture this week:
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28
I pray for all of us this week and every week that we find rest in God and that because of His strength and power that our lives will bear much fruit.
The best is yet to come…
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
We took care of the apartment. We kept it clean and didn’t do any damage. It was quite some time ago, but I don’t think we were allowed to paint the walls. No putting up or taking down ceiling fans or light fixtures would have been tolerated. It wasn’t my responsibility to paint the white fence that bordered the edge of the property. And we certainly didn’t make any renovations. It would be quite silly to invest too much time and money in a place that we didn’t own.
The first house we owned was in Dallas, Texas when I served at Lover’s Lane United Methodist Church. The house was about 40 years old. Only one family had ever lived there. After the previous owners moved out and we moved in, they occasionally came back to visit us (although I think they were much more interested in visiting the house since we didn’t know them). The house was well taken care of, but needed some updating. We tore up the carpets and finished the hardwood floors. We tore up the linoleum and laid down new tile. We peeled off the wall paper and painted the walls. Amber, Benjamin, and I spent an inordinate amount of time at Home Depot discussing (or arguing, depending on your worldview of the English language) wall colors. I stained our fence. And, I even joined a homeowners group because I wanted to improve the neighborhood we lived in.
I know, and I know that you know, that there is a big difference between a renter and an owner of real property. The same principle applies to the church. I think we have renters and owners. Most of us start out as renters. It is understandable how the renter isn’t willing to invest too much time and energy into a ministry that they don’t own. God meets us where we are.
But God loves us so much that He doesn’t want to leave us where we are. His desire is that we become owners of His church. I pray and I hope that you see the church as yours! I pray and I hope that together we are students of Jesus, laborers in God’s vineyard, and investors in the Kingdom of Heaven. I passionately believe that if we all acted as owners of the church that we would be different, our families would be different, and our world would be a little different. I encourage you to invest in the church, invite others to worship with us, serve each other and serve hurting people, and grow closer to God and to others.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The following is my column from this morning:
So what is different about tomorrow?
Our kids, some who will still be on a high from too many Easter eggs, will return to school. Most of us will go to work at the same job we did last Monday. A few of us might want to investigate about the possibility of getting our taxes done. We will be busy. The weather will be about the same, hopefully a little warmer and a little less windy. We will live in the same houses. The stock market will have good days and not-so-good days.
So what will be different? Well, for some the answer is absolutely nothing. For others, something will be different.
Death is natural. Loss is natural. Grief is natural. Pain is natural. But Jesus came to the world to trade places with us. Our sin became his sin. His life becomes our life. We have trouble with our life. Jesus is the carpenter who can construct us into the wonderful image of God that we are created to be.
When the stones were rolled away from the tomb, something really unnatural happened. On that day, the dead came to life. God planted a seed of life in us that cannot be killed and if we are blessed enough to have figured this out, there is not a whole lot that we can’t do: move the mountains in front of us, banish fear, love our enemies, forgive somebody who has hurt us, hope for a better tomorrow, get a good night’s sleep, laugh, experience joy, serve the hurting, grow closer to the One who wants nothing more than for you to grow closer to him.
I believe that living has very little to do with a heart that beats and lungs that breath. The Greeks call the beating heart and breathing lungs bios. I believe that living has to do with relating, serving, caring, sharing, daring, dreaming, and loving. The Greeks have a word for this kind of life: zoe. Bios appears in the New Testament 5 times. Zoe appears in the New Testament 133 times. As God’s creation we are granted bios at our birth. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, we are given zoe.
So take God up on giving you another chance. Know that today, because our God lives, can be the first day of the rest of your life. My prayer for all of us tomorrow is more zoe. I pray we live as we have never lived before. I pray for us lives full of faith, hope, and love.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back--in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.
Envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else be just as unsuccessful and miserable as you are.
A glutton is one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.
Greed is based on the mathematical truism that the more you get, the more you have. The remark of Jesus that it is more blessed to give than to recieve is based on the human truth that the more you give away in love, the more you are. It is not just for the sake of other people that Jesus tells us to give rather than get, but for our own sakes too.
Craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst.
Self-love or pride is a sin when, instead of leading you to share with others the self that you love, it leads you to keep yourself in perpetual safe deposit. You don't accrue any interest that way, but become less and less interesting every day.
Sloth is not to be confused with laziness. A lazy man, a man who sits around and watches the grass grow, may be a man at peace. His sun-drenched, bumblebee dreaming may be the prelude to action or itself an act well worth the acting.
A slothful man, on the other hand, may be a very busy man. He is a man who goes through the motions, who flies on automatic pilot. Like a man with a bad head cold, he has mostly lost his sense of taste and smell. He knows something’s wrong with him, but not wrong enough to do anything about. Other people come and go, but through glazed eyes he hardly notices them. He is letting things run their course. He is getting through his life.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I am out of Boston for sure. No running until at least May 1st.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
The recommendation is a month of physical therapy and rest. Probably no Boston.
Going to see the physical therapist tomorrow.
Sadly, this is no April Fool's joke.