12.09.2010

Faith, Hope, & Love

I often talk to people struggling through difficult circumstances. Relational, moral, occupational, financial, or health issues. Generally speaking, this is true--one of the greatest statements of faith in the wake of difficult circumstances is to claim the truth that "for those who love God all things work together for good." God loves us so much, that he will take the tough times of those who place their faith in him and use those tough times as a catalyst for hope, and ultimately good.

The next time you're faced with a trial or a failure, claim that truth. What seems like a failure now, will soon be transformed into a good thing--a victory--by the God who loves you. It could be the thing you were so sure was the best plan for your life, was actually less than best. Trust that God knows what's best for you and loves you enough to work out the best for you even before you know it's the best!

12.05.2010

Searching For God Knows What

I'm a big fan of Donald Miller's book, Blue Like Jazz. So when I picked up his book, Searching For God Knows What, I expected a similar reading experience. BLJ was raw, honest, humorous, and just resounded with my soul. SFGKW came off as if Miller was trying too hard to be clever. There was just something missing. It wasn't awful. It just didn't strike the strong chord that Jazz did. So I guess this is a mixed review. I'm not saying it's not worth reading; but if you haven't read Jazz, read that instead.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

12.02.2010

Contentment (and the blog lives!)

I haven't posted anything to the blog in about 6 months. I needed a break from it, but lately I've been feeling the urge to share again.

Last Sunday I started a new series called AVOIDING THE NIGHTMARE AFTER CHRISTMAS. We're just looking at some sound Biblical financial principles. Last week I talked about contentment. I really do believe that contentment is one of the strongest indicators of spiritual maturity.

Sunday we looked at 4 ways to cultivate contentment in our lives, but now I wanted to bring up a counter-point. Buying stuff is not always wrong! In fact, often, it's necessary or helpful. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make a purchase:

  1. Do I have the money for this?
  2. Do I only want it because it's shiny and new?
  3. How will this item improve my work/life?
  4. Have I shopped for the best deal or read user reviews?
  5. Is there anything more important I should be spending this money on?
  6. Is this purchase good stewardship of the money God has entrusted to me?
There's nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while. After all, you work hard for your money. Just remember, that it's called a "treat" because it's something different/special. If you never say no to your shopping urges, it's not a treat -- it's just undisciplined, unwise discontent.

6.03.2010

Into Thin Air

I finished another book last night -- Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. This is the story of the deadliest single day and year in Mt. Everest's climbing history. On May 10, 1996, 8 climbers lost their lives (and a total of 15 for the entire '96 climbing season). Krakauer was on assignment from Outside Magazine to write about the commercialization of Everest expeditions. Due to a deadly storm that hit on their summit day, the content of his article and subsequent book changed dramatically. Of the 11 expedition members on Krakauer's team, 5 lost their lives.

I loved this book as much or more as I loved Richard Preston's The Wild Trees. It was truly a page-turner. I have to admit I'm somewhat fascinated with the whole Everest thing and mountaineering, though I've never attempted it myself. I've actually set a goal to climb a fourteener in the next couple of years. I want to climb something like Shasta to see if it's a sport I'd actually enjoy (or if I just enjoy reading about it). Don't know that I'd ever attempt Everest, but I totally understand it.

One of the aspects of Into Thin Air I found interesting was the way Krakauer depicted the loneliness of climbing Everest. Krakauer is an experienced climber and all his previous expeditions were very team-oriented. But evidently there's something about the nature of climbing Everest that forces the climber to really depend on themselves and overcome their own mental and physical anguish, despite the fact that their supported by a team of dozens. It honestly made me think of church work.

In church we definitely have a team of people to rely on as we follow Jesus and tackle different missions, but sometimes I experience crushing loneliness in ministry. Maybe it's the nature of ministry, maybe it's a ploy of our enemy... Whatever it is, it can easily be crippling. I've often described discipleship as a team sport that requires incredible individual effort. My point is that no one can do discipleship for you. They can encourage you, support you, equip you... But ultimately, like Everest, it requires you making the decision to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

Part of this incredible story was a man named Beck Weathers. Who was twice left for dead on the mountain. He had been stranded, exposed overnight, severely frostbitten, and more. No one on his team could conceive a reality where he would be able to recover and make it down the mountain. He was once assumed dead, then found alive, and then abandoned as a lost cause -- left for dead (which is the title of his own book). To everyone's surprise though, he came walking on his own power, mummy-like, into camp. After another brutal night on the mountain he was even closer to death. His team decided to leave him on the mountain a second time! Beck was able to rally though and get down the mountain.

It's just a reminder to me that in this process of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, whether you feel left for dead, or are considering leaving someone behind that seems to be a lost cause --- I don't believe "lost cause" is in God's dictionary. Ask and allow the Holy Spirit to give you the extra power to keep going (or to help someone else keep going).

6.02.2010

Jesus Manifesto

Last night I finished reading Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola. The subtitle of this book is "Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ." I REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK! Jesus Manifesto is equal parts guidance for Christian living and layman's theology. It's been a while since I read a book that was more singularly focused on Jesus that this book. Jesus Manifesto does a great job of connecting the dots of our faith. Sweet & Viola are able to write in a style that seamlessly weaves Scripture throughout this narrative of salvation, Kingdom, and Christo-centric living. I seriously wish I could get every person in my church to read this book. I think they would have a much clearer view of Jesus, atonement, justification, and what their response to all of this should be.

I'm going to give this little book the highest praise I can think of by saying, if it catches on, Jesus Manifesto has the potential to be the 21st century answer to C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Please read this book! It'll be a priceless investment of your time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Faithful

Last night Jamie and I were laying in bed talking and she asked me how I was feeling about the church. I told her I felt very good about Living Hope. I still love this church almost as much as my own family and love being her pastor. I also told Jamie that sometimes it's easy to feel impatient, though. I know for some pastors things move lightening-fast. We hear stories of churches that grow from 4 to 4,000 in 4 years, or churches that had a vision for a big mission or ministry and God dropped a $4,000,000 gift in their laps and it moved from dream to reality overnight. But for the other 99.9% of us, ministry moves a little slower.

Even though I'm a big dreamer and fully expect God to blow us away with all that he'll accomplish in and through Living Hope Church, I told Jamie last night that I'm not at all discouraged by the slow pace. The reason is that I have this overwhelming sense that we're being faithful. I believe we are seeking the face of Jesus earnestly. I believe we are loving each other sincerely. I believe that we are serving this community and the rest of the world humbly. And I believe we give of ourselves and our resources sacrificially. In the end, that's what we're called to do. The question will be, "Were you faithful?"

That's not to say, that we couldn't write a 200 page book on all the ways we could improve our ministries and all the people that we're not reaching that we could and should be reaching. But I feel like we're serving God faithfully. We'll continue to allow him to change and improve us and we'll trust him for the increase. I would rather us be a healthy, faithful church that grows according to God's timeline, than for us to manufacture unnatural growth because we covet what other churches have.

I write all this to say, Living Hopers, if you're serving God faithfully, keep it up. Keep serving, loving, worshipping, giving, praying, studying, sharing, and dreaming! If you're not, then get on board, because we need you!

5.13.2010

Plan B

There has been a decent amount of hype around Pete Wilson's new book Plan B. Wilson is, I believe, a first-time author and pastor of the Cross Point Church in Nashville. The subtitle of Plan B is "What do you do when God doesn't show up the way you thought he would?" The short of it, from my view, is that Plan B reads like an awesome sermon series and an okay book on how to deal with disappointment, grief, etc...

Plan B really is an encouraging book. I would definitely give it to anyone dealing with tough circumstances in their life. Wilson does a good job of giving Biblical and real-life examples to support his topics/chapters. If I'm honest, though, I felt like there was too much time spent re-telling Biblical stories. That may sound like horrible criticism for a Christian book, but there's a fine line between content that makes a good sermon and content that makes a good book.

Honestly, though, I'm not sure why I'm coming across as critical as I am, because I found much of the book to be very encouraging. My favorite line of the whole book is:

"Your dreams may not be happening, and things aren't turning out the way you expected, but that doesn't mean your life is spinning out of control. It just means you're not in control."

That one's a keeper!

4.20.2010

Change Your Lenses

So yesterday I got new glasses for my birthday. I needed them really bad. My dog had chewed all the plastic off of one arm of my old pair and it was down to the pointy wire and I stabbed myself in the head every time I put them on.

I've had that old pair for about 7 years. I felt like my prescription was probably the same, but did the eye exam anyway to make sure. Sure enough, my eyes had held steady for the last seven years and my prescription was exactly the same. So I wasn't expecting a big difference in my vision when I put on the new pair. Boy, was I wrong!

What I didn't realize was that my old lenses were plastic and had turned a pretty significant shade of yellow. When I put on the new pair I felt like I stepped into a completely different world. The effect of the old pair was similar to viewing the whole world through a sort of sepia tone--all the colors were dull and I didn't realize it. Now I'm seeing bright, vibrant, vivid colors and it's amazing! Who knows how many years I'd been viewing a duller version of the world.

I wonder if there's some area of your life that you need to view through new lenses? Maybe it's your family or your job or your church. Maybe bitterness or familiarity or pessimism has caused you to miss out on the vibrant beauty that's right in front of your eyes. Try to change your lenses and allow yourself to remember why you loved those people in the first place. Allow yourself to hope and dream good things for those people again.

If you really have the guts, try seeing yourself through a new lens! How would we look if we could see ourselves through the lenses that God sees us through?

1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

4.17.2010

A Couple More John Muir Quotes

No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening--still all is Beauty!

And regarding the damming of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley, considered by many second only in beauty to the Yosemite Valley itself:

The temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and, instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.

The Hetch Hetchy was dammed in the 1920's and is now the Hetch Hetchy Resevoir which provides water to the city of San Francisco. Ironic that a city that probably has a higher percentage of bleeding-heart liberals and conservationists than any other city on the planet, drink from the travesty that is Hetch Hetchy Resevoir.

4.16.2010

The Wilderness World of John Muir

I've been reading The Wilderness World of John Muir: a selection of his collected work edited by Edwin Way Teale. I have thoroughly enjoyed this. I was kind of turned on to Muir by the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks. Muir is viewed by most as the original conservationist, but he was so much more than that. John Muir was also a worship leader! He led this nation in worshipping God alongside of his creation. He showed us the rocks and the hills crying out to their maker and challenged us to get out there with them and join in.

I highly recommend this book! Here's an excerpt I read today from Muir's essay titled "Shadow Lake". Early in the history of Yosemite NP, shepherds grazing their herds in the park was a big problem. They decimated the landscape and Muir fought hard (along with the soldiers stationed in the park) to keep them out. One of Muir's favorite spots was Shadow Lake (now Lake Washburn) about 8 miles from the Valley. In his essay, Muir describes the beauty of this lake in the fall. All the colors of the turning leaves and wildflowers were stunning. Few people knew about this spot, and Muir didn't tell many about it, hoping to keep it pure. Then...

On my last visit, as I was sauntering along the shore on the
strip of sand between the water and sod, reading the tracks of the wild animals that live here, I was startled by a human track, which I at once saw belonged to some shepherd;...and after tracing it a few minutes I began to fear that he might be seeking pasturage; for what else could he be seeking? Returning from the glaciers shortly afterward, my worst fears were realized. A trail had been made down the mountain-side from the north, and all the gardens and meadows were destroyed by a horde of hoofed locusts, as if swept by a fire. The money-changers were in the temple.

4.12.2010

The Story I'm In

Chris Brogan, author of Trust Agents, is giving away 100 copies of Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (here). All you have to do is blog about the impact of story in your own life. (By the way, if you're a reader, one of the best reasons to set up a Twitter account and follow authors and publishers, is they're constantly giving away books. I seriously get tons of free books this way.)

I love to think of my life in terms of story. Doing so is in itself an act of faith I think. If I admit that I'm in the middle of a story, it's also admitting that there is an Author of my life who knows how the story ends. Of course, as a Christ-follower, I'm aware that my story isn't really my story. I'm not the star. I'm just a bit player in His story.

But when I think back through my life it is definitely the more dramatic parts that have shaped who I am today and continue to shape who I'll be. I think a perfect example of this is all the different churches I've served in. I've stated before that I've served on staff at several different churches. A few were great; most were dysfunctional. Through the years I often wondered why I had to endure all those experiences. But it all became crystal-clear when I was interviewing for my current position as pastor of Living Hope Church. The elders asked me to share my philosophy of pastoring and ministry. As I began to speak and share different qualities that were important to me, the faces of all the pastors I had previously served under started flashing through my mind. I realized I was sharing things that each of these men had taught me. Even the guys that I didn't see eye-to-eye with about everything! Suddenly, I had this moment of clarity. God had lessons for me to learn from each of them before I was ready to take the lead myself. I'm sure each of them had pastors that taught them, they taught me, I'll teach others, and the story goes on.

I hope that my story is really just the middle chapter of a larger story that will continue in the people's lives that I've touched.

If you are bored with your story, maybe it's because you're not doing anything. Even though I believe God is the Author, I also believe that he won't force his story on you. Make some decisions in your life that require faith or growth or courage. You'll start to see your story come to life again!

4.09.2010

Cultivate Generosity

I recently read one of the saddest reports I've ever read. It stated that only 3-5% of U.S. Christians actually tithe on their income. The Biblical definition of tithing is to give 10% of your income to support the work of the Lord. (A much higher percentage gives a lesser amount though.) However, we're called throughout the Bible to give a tenth.

Let me ask you a personal question. What's your attitude about tithing or charitable giving? 2 Corinthians 9 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. Why is this important? Can't he just be happy that we're giving regardless of our attitude? Actually, no.

I think too many Christians view tithing as just another duty to God. But God's intent is not to collect dues, it is to help us cultivate a spirit of generosity and grow our faith. This is something that I think we can all get behind. Nobody wants to be stingy. We would all like to think of ourselves as generous people, right? And who doesn't want to be MORE faithful?

April 15 is coming up and the IRS is busy collecting taxes. Can I admit something? I have NEVER written a check to the IRS with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart! In fact, the emotional response is usually pretty negative. I hate paying taxes! Don't get me wrong--I understand the benefit of paying taxes. I know that we get many great services and our quality of life is better because of our taxes. But that doesn't change the fact that it still feels like highway robbery.

On the other hand, I've never written a tithe check in anger. Why? Because it feels good to support what God is doing around the world! In fact, I love getting that giving report from the church at the end of the year. Not because of pride, but because I'm always amazed that we were able to give away so much on so little! That report is a tangible reminder of God's faithfulness. When we bless God, he blesses us! The money goes a little further. The appliances last a little longer. Bargains occasionally land in our laps. God provides!

We don't suffer a lot of persecution in the U.S. and I believe a result of that is that our faith is untested and weak. However, I think one of the best ways you can test and grow your faith is to grow your generosity! Take the abundance that God has blessed you with, and turn it into an exercise in faith. Make a commitment to live with less, so God's Kingdom can do more. You'll never regret it. It may not be easy or comfortable, but you'll never regret it!

Proverbs 11:24-25 (ESV)
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.

4.08.2010

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

I'm reviewing a copy of John C. Maxwell's new book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect for Thomas Nelson Publisher's Booksneeze blogger review program. If you have a blog it's a great way to get free books.

I've always been a fan of Maxwell's leadership books. I especially enjoyed his last two: Put Your Dream to the Test and Talent is Never Enough. Regretfully, that was not the case with this latest book. I seriously couldn't finish it and just skimmed the last 3/4 of it.

When writing this book, Maxwell posted chapters online and invited stories and feedback from the public. This book is so bloated with that content and quotes from other books it is almost unbearable. It feels like there is very little original content here. In fact, if you removed all the outside stories, quotes, anecdotes...if feels like Maxwell's original content wouldn't amount to more than a pamphlet.

I realize that Maxwell's writing style has always leaned heavily on anecdotal material, but this somehow felt over the top. John Maxwell has written dozens of truly excellent books, but you can probably pass on this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

4.07.2010

Christ is Risen...Now What?

I've been hearing great reports from churches all over about great Easter services. Living Hope had a fun, record-breaking day as well. So two questions:

1) Pastors/Churches: What are you doing to follow up Easter this weekend?

2) Church-goers: Will you re-invite your friends again this weekend? (I say hit'em up again. Don't wait till Christmas to invite them back!)

4.05.2010

Deep Church

I recently finished reading Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher. If you're a pastor, get this book and read it. You won't regret it.

I've been fascinated with the whole emerging church movement for several years now. I've read tons of books about it, been on the bandwagon, off the bandwagon, etc... Like everyone in the emerging church camp, I've always struggled with feelings of disappointment in the state of the modern/traditional church. Most of the time whenever I would read an emergent author or hear a speaker, they were writing/speaking about things I was already thinking and/or trying or, at least, considering trying.

But what initially started as a conversation about changing church methodology, changed into a conversation about changing theology. That's when the emergents jumped the shark (or "nuked the fridge" I believe is the newer terminology).

In Deep Church, Belcher gives the best analysis of the emerging/traditional debate and offers great solutions for those who feel the ecclesiastical angst, but aren't interested in becoming heretics. The chapters "Deep Truth", "Deep Evangelism", and "Deep Gospel" are alone worth the price of the book. Belcher advances the philosophical points of the debate by attempting to encourage both sides to make nice and find common ground. But he also offers great practical guidance on how to develop your own "deep church".

Best book I've read on this topic and I'll be re-reading sections of it over and over I'm sure.

(One caviat: Belcher writes from a Presbyterian point of view. So you may need to think through translating some of his advice into your own tradition.)

4.04.2010

The Wisdom of Risk

I've been reading some of John Muir's writings from The Wilderness World of John Muir. I came across a great quote from his essay "On the Brink of Yosemite Falls".

Muir is in Yosemite Valley and decides to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls (which is almost 2,500 feet tall). Of course this is before all the improvements and railings and such that you'll find there now. He literally crawls to the edge of one side of the falls to look down and finds that it's not a sheer cliff. There's a slight slope to it so he can't see all the way to the bottom like he hoped. But he also sees just a little ways below there's a 3-inch-wide ledge that he might be able to shimmy down to get a better view. Weighing whether or not the view of a lifetime was worth the danger of free-climbing on to a 3-inch-wide ledge 2,500 feet in the air, he writes this:

"If I was to get down to the brink at all that rough edge, which might offer slight finger holds, was the only way. But the slope beside it looked dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture farther, but did nevertheless."

He later writes that the view and the thrill were so overwhelming that he couldn't sleep for two nights afterward.

I believe God calls us to similar risks often, but generally we look over the precipice and "conclude not to venture farther". Faith doesn't always make sense or feel comfortable. Muir also added this thought about that experience:

"...I was not distinctly conscious of danger. The tremendous grandeur of the fall...smothered the sense of fear..."

Translation: The reward crushed the risk! When was the last time you took a step of faith in your life and experienced a victory that left you sleepless for two nights?!

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.

4.03.2010

4.02.2010

Remodeling the Temple

I wanted to give an update to my Demons & Donuts post from several weeks ago. I became convicted that my poor health, over-eating, and lack of exercise were at it's core a spiritual issue for me. I really believe this is not just a temptation, but an attempt by the enemy to cut my ministry short.

So here's the update. In 4 weeks, I've made 3 changes. 1) I'm seriously monitoring my carb intake. This is not an Atkin's thing. It's a necessity thing because of my type-2 diabetes. 2)I've been walking with my buddy L.C. about 3 times a week and riding my bike to work once or twice a week. 3) I've put a halt to the late night snacks/meals.

The result is that for the first time since I was diagnosed diabetic I've had some normal blood sugar readings. I also had a blood pressure check today and that was normal. And I've lost about 15 lbs. This is the first time that weight loss hasn't really been my goal. My focus has been almost totally on improving my health. I feel more focused than in the past.

Thanks to Jamie for encouraging me and the menu adjustments. Thanks to L.C. for holding me accountable and the encouragement. And thanks to so many of you that have told me you've been praying for me. I'm literally just getting started and have a long way to go. I'd appreciate your continued prayers.

3.28.2010

Why You Should Invite Someone to Church This Week

We played this in church this morning. Can't watch it without tearing up! Watch as Maria shares what a difference an Easter invitation to LHC made in her life last year.


3.25.2010

Churches & Video

I think the use of projection systems in modern churches has been both one of the greatest tools used in worship and one of the most distracting tools used in worship. When done right, the video can really enhance the worship and teaching experience. When done wrong, it distracts from worship and the message. Churches implementing video and projection would be wise to get some training in this area to make sure they're not using it in such a way that defeats the purpose.

This photo I found online today cracks me up a little. Note to churches: If you're considering featuring live video on your big screen, make sure you're meeting in a room that's big enough that it's actually needed. If the actual band looks bigger than the band on screen, it's not needed. Also, if your live video is making your band look shorter and fatter---not good, either!

3.18.2010

Action Method Notebooks

I recently purchased a couple of The Action Method Notebooks from The Behance Network and I really love them. This has quickly become one of my favorite leadership/organizational tools. The whole point of The Action Method is to help move from "idea" to "action". I've had hundreds of meetings where great ideas were tossed around, but in the end nothing happens. The Action Method Notebook is one of their solutions. It's great for use in meetings.


There's space at the top to write down your agenda. Instead of lined paper to take notes, it incorporates dots to easier facilitate sketches and such. Along the right-hand side of the page are areas to record action steps after all the brainstorming has taken place. And finally there's an area at the bottom to record backburner items (good ideas to revisit later). It's helped me to focus on making sure the result of meetings is getting things done, instead of just meeting. Plus, the notebooks are on high-quality recycled materials, very attractive, and the suede-like cover feels great in your hands. The notebook is $15. Worth trying!

(They also offer a network-style online version of the Action Method and and iPhone app. Both look like they would be valuable tools.)

3.15.2010

AWAKE(NING)

I want to put a couple of new worship albums on your radar. These are seriously the best worship albums I've heard in a while. Check them out!

North Point Live: Awake


Passion: Awakening

3.13.2010

Consider Them Given

1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
  • little league games/practices
  • diabetes
  • a new baby on the way
  • the food I should be eating
  • the food I shouldn't be eating
  • fighting kids
  • a growing church
  • struggling marriages
  • hurting teens
  • terrible 2's
  • exercise
  • office work
  • housework
  • yard work
  • bills/debt
  • the economy
  • worrying about my kids
  • parents
  • hurting friends
  • high-maintenance people
  • the dog
  • upkeep of the house
  • broke-down cars
  • wanting to keep people happy
  • time with God
  • putting off life-goals
  • home-schooling
  • being the man Jamie needs
  • being the dad the kids need
  • being the pastor LHC needs
  • serving the community
  • unwatched shows on the DVR
  • unread books on the shelf
  • list of people to talk to
  • helping people become stronger disciples
  • the lost
  • the poor
  • the sick
  • the victims
  • the forgotten
  • fat belly
  • need to shave
  • stuff I need
  • stuff I want
  • stuff I want that I don't need
  • taxes
  • stupid people
  • how can they possibly answer all my questions about LOST in the handful of episodes that are left?
(I'm sure I could come up with more, but that's enough for now.)

3.12.2010

Manchester Orchestra and PKs

Had a great time with Isaiah at the Manchester Orchestra concert at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It might be my favorite concert ever. They're such a great band. I don't mean great as in "I like them", but great as in there is "greatness" upon them.

Do you remember the first song or album that you really connected with the lyrics? Like do you remember the first time a song or album moved you or really resonated within you? It may sound silly, but for me it was this Michael W. Smith Christmas album that he released in the 80s. There was something about the music and those lyrics that just filled me up. I think Manchester Orchestra's Mean Everything to Nothing is that album for Isaiah. Andy Hull, the lead man, is a pastor's kid. His lyrics often speak to that, his rocky relationship with his dad, his jaded attitude toward church, and his struggle with faith.

After the concert, Isaiah and I had a good talk about all of this. I asked him what he thought of M.O.'s lyrics. He said he really liked them and he said "I really think I understand them". We talked about how it's actually very common for PKs to grow up hating church and eventually abandoning their faith. I told Isaiah that it's actually a flippin' miracle that both my brothers and I are pastors. Not that I didn't fight against it.

I really did grow up bitter at church, partly because of my perception that my dad cared more for the church than he did for us (I don't think that's true anymore), and partly because of the way I saw churches treat my dad. I really rejected the notion of being a pastor for several years, because I didn't want that to be my family's experience. I think the key thing for me eventually coming around to embracing God's calling for me, was that I was able to separate my dysfunctional church experiences from my relationship with Christ. One was screwed up and even abusive, and the other was meaningful and personal. I've since been able to leave all that baggage behind and learn to genuinely love the Church. But it literally took a decade to do it.

That's my goal for my kids. I won't always be able to control their church experience or perceptions of me and my ministry. But I hope they come away with a deep-rooted relationship with Jesus. If that happens, that will be enough to carry them through.

Isaiah and I were able to talk about all of this and he assured me that, so far, he doesn't have any of that bitterness toward God or the church. (I think he identifies more with the lyrics about not getting along with his dad.) He also promised me that if he ever felt any of that bitterness, he would talk to me about it so I could make changes if necessary. It ended up being a great night and a meaningful conversation with my son.

Some people might ask why I would intentionally expose him to bands with these kind of lyrics. My answer is so I can create environments where I can have the conversation I had with him last night. I don't like listening to music where the lyrics are overtly anti-God or offensive to the faith. But I have no problem appreciating artists who share their struggle with their faith. Artists are able to do this in a way that most of the rest us can't quite give a voice to. It's sad, but beautiful all at once.

3.10.2010

Chronological Guide to the Bible

I think one of the most valuable things you can study about the Bible is the chronology of it. Most people know bits and pieces of Scripture, but few really get the story. In fact, I would suggest that knowing the story of the Bible is equally as important as knowing the theology of the Bible, and you really can't fully appreciate one without an understanding of the other.

A few years ago, Thomas Nelson Publishers released the Chronological Study Bible. It was a valuable tool, but released only in the New King James Version. The Chronological Guide to the Bible takes all the study tools from that Bible plus the tools found in The Life and Times Historical Reference Bible and compiles them into one volume that you can use with whatever is your preferred version of the Bible.

This is a very attractive, full-color reference book with tons of information on world history during certain sections of the Bible, archaeological evidence, and cultural background info. If you're looking to gain a better understanding of the story of the Bible, this is an excellent reference work. Highly recommended and useful!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Interruptions

Sunday I preached from Mark 5 where Jesus is on his way to heal a little girl close to death and stops to offer life and healing to a woman with a bleeding disease. The main point I focused on was a point I first heard from Rob Morgan of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville a few years ago -- "Ministry happens in the interruptions of life."

I love that statement and it has stuck with me. It's so true. When I allow my agenda to be flexible, notice people, then I end up doing God's work and not just my own. I know God can work through our agendas too, but divine appointments are rarely scheduled.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I really notice people and listen to them, or do I just use people to accomplish the things I need to do?
  • Am I solely focused on my own agenda, or do I give God enough access to my life to let him set the agenda?
  • Is there time in your week for helping others, or have you maxed out you day so much that you couldn't serve someone even if you wanted to? What does that communicate to your kids?
Give your day and your agenda to God. Be present in the lives of the people you interact with. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see the people that need your attention, encouragement, and hope.

3.05.2010

Satan Laughs While I Mow

I finally mowed my lawn today. It was bad. There were sections so tall that the dog would actually disappear except the tip of her tail. It normally takes me about 30 minutes to mow my little lawn, but today it took about two hours.

For me to say I hate mowing and yard work would be a huge understatement. If I had to choose between yard work and a minor heart attack...I just don't know.

I know there are some people who get into it and even find it relaxing, but seriously, if that's you, you're sick and twisted. I'm pretty sure that Genesis 3 says that yard work is the result of sin entering the world (my loose paraphrase). So if you enjoy that sort of thing, you're actually embracing the product of sin and the fall! Just sayin'...

3.02.2010

Trust Agents

I've been reading Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. The subtitle is Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.

I know a lot of people really like this book. I thought it was okay. It's a great book to read if you're clueless about social media. Trust Agents builds a great case for the value of using social media to improve your brand and it does a great job of teaching social media etiquette. However, if you're very savvy when it comes to social media, you might feel like you're not getting much new info here. I found some great principles here, especially when it came to web etiquette, but I found myself skimming a lot. If you don't know, read it. If you're experienced, maybe read it.

By the way, when it comes to Living Hope Church using social media: we have a Twitter account, and Facebook fan page, a YouTube channel, church website, a church blog, women's ministry blog, and my blog. I will say that it can be daunting keeping up with all of this, but I feel they are all valuable tools. If you're a Living Hoper and you're crazy about social media, let me know because I would love to have your help keeping all our social media accounts current and interesting!

Demons & Donuts

In my last sermon as I was teaching on spiritual warfare, I mentioned that I had been strongly convicted about something while I was preparing for that message. I was teaching that one of the primary goals of satan and demonic forces is our death. Death entered the world because of sin and satan simply wants us dead. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy."

I've blogged in the past about my struggle with my weight and health. I'm literally about 100 lbs overweight. I love food and hate most exercise. I'm a type-2 diabetic and I'm not consistent at monitoring my sugar levels or taking my meds. I have a family history of heart disease. Honestly, I'm a walking time bomb! And there are days I can really feel it.

So the thing I was really convicted about this week was that, for me, this is not simply a health issue. I truly believe it's a major spiritual issue. I believe satan would be thrilled if he could take me out and cut my ministry short and I believe that's exactly what he's trying to do.

On top of that, as a pastor I feel a great responsibility to be the best example of Christian living that I can be. It really bothers me that this is an area of my life that I can't be that example. It's really the biggest area of my life that I'm not just struggling in, but defeated in.

So here's the deal. I'm going to sincerely try, with God's help, to turn this around. I'm not talking about a crash diet or anything. I'm talking about my health. I'm sure I'll lose weight, but that's not really my goal. My goal is healthy living. I want to reverse my diabetes and have a stronger heart. A couple of things:
  • First of all to God, my family, and to Living Hope Church...I'm sorry that I've allowed myself to be defeated by this and live irresponsibly. I want to be disciple/husband/father/pastor for as long as God wants me to be and not a day less.
  • Second...I've asked Living Hope's elders to hold me accountable in this issue. To ask me or Jamie if I've actually been eating right and exercising. And to chew my butt if I haven't.
  • Third...A good friend has committed to come alongside of me and serve as a trainer/coach to push me harder than I naturally push myself. I'm so grateful for this!
I know this will be difficult but it's got to change. I can't continue to allow our enemy to handcuff me like this. Please pray for me. GOD IS GOOD AND VICTORIOUS!

2.28.2010

My Bible "Reading" Plan

For the past few years I try to read completely through the Bible over the course of the year. I've read The Message, the TNIV, and the ESV (in chronological order). Part of me liked the chronological thing because I got a real sense of the story of the Bible. But honestly, it was hard to stick with it because it was fall before I got to read anything from the New Testament.

Anyway, this year I decided to read through the ESV again using one of the reading plans from the ESV website. (http://www.esv.org/biblereadingplans) There are several to choose from and I chose the ESV Study Bible reading plan. Each day includes a reading from a psalm or wisdom literature, Pentateuch or history of Israel, Chronicles or Prophets, and Gospels or Epistles. It's usually about 5 chapters and only takes about 15-20 minutes. So far, I've enjoyed the daily sampling from different parts of the Bible.

The other thing I like about the ESV reading plans is that the daily readings are sent to my iCal calendar on my MacBook. The complete text and audio also comes to my email through an RSS feed. I LOVE THIS! Now every time I check email, I'm reminded to read my Bible and I do it right there in my email feed.

ALL THAT TO SAY THIS: A few weeks ago, I got several days behind in my reading. I decided to get caught up by taking advantage of the audio of the reading that is also sent to my email each day. I started listening when I went to bed or when I was doing mindless office work. I've enjoyed it so much that I've decided to finish the year listening to the Bible instead of reading it. It's a whole different experience and I'm finding it to be a refreshing way to have my devotional time!

2.23.2010

A Lion Among Men

Last night I finished reading A Lion Among Men. It's the third book in Gregory Maguire's Wicked Years series. I enjoyed it. I only write about it because this book received so many disappointing reviews. Many thought that it was a waste of time and that it didn't advance the overall storyline at all. I completely disagree. I felt it tied up several loose ends, increased the depth of the story, and left me with a strong sense of direction as to where Maguire would take the story next. This book centers around the story of the Cowardly Lion. If you're looking for a fictional escape, this one's not bad.

I will say this about Maguire's books. Inevitably there's a good-sized chunk in the middle that I find myself skimming instead of reading. If he has any writing flaws, one of them is to overdevelop a story a bit.

2.18.2010

Lessons from the deYoung Museum

Today we took the kids on a field trip to see the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharoahs exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. The exhibit was really great, but it was one of the worst museum experiences I've ever had.

From the moment we arrived it was evident that the entire deYoung staff interpreted their role as being cranky rule-enforcers. We were rarely smiled at and for 2+ hours suffered a barage of "no"s and "don't"s. Our group was very well-behaved, but these are the statements I can remember that were either said to me or I overheard being said to someone else:
  • No strollers
  • No food or drinks
  • No sippy cups or bottles
  • Don't stand there
  • Don't touch anything
  • No running
  • Stay behind the ropes
  • No cameras
  • No flash photography
  • No chewing gum
  • No video
  • Shhhhhh!
  • You can't carry your backpack on your back. You must carry it at your side like a suitcase.
  • No re-entry
  • Don't carry your daughter on your shoulders
  • No boys, no!
  • Don't do that, girls!
What the deYoung needs to realize is that no matter how great your product is, if you're customer's every interaction with your staff is negative, it leaves a very sour taste in their mouth.

In the churches I've served in, I find great joy in reminding the finger-waggers that "This is a church, not a museum." I don't know how many times I've said that over the years. It's a great reminder to not take ourselves too seriously and enjoy life as it comes. But inevitably there will be some that insist on treating their church like a museum.
  • Don't run!
  • No food in the sanctuary!
  • You can't say that.
  • Don't go there.
  • You can't wear that.
...and on and on it can go. Churches who couldn't abide having children act like children in their church, now have no young families with children. Churches who wouldn't show grace to teens going through their rebellious stages, now have no teens to worry about.

The bottom line is this: Museums are made to house old stuff and dead things. Churches are made to give life and live life together in Christ. A museum is an organization; a church is an organism. It's the choice between death and life. Which would you rather be a part of?

2.17.2010

Wicked & Son of a Witch

I don't do a lot of fiction reading. Probably only a couple of fictional books each year. But I generally enjoy it when I do. Last fall I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire and I just finished his follow-up to it, Son of a Witch. These books are based on Frank Baum's OZ books for children. However, Maguire's books are meant for adult readers.

First off, Maguire is a serious wordsmith. His writing
style is incredible and almost seems like it belongs in the 19th century more than the 21st. He has an amazing writing gift. For the most part, I really enjoyed both of these books. Wicked was amazing and tells the story of
Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, before Dorothy came to Oz. While it's a great story, it's a dark story and was at times a little too "adult" for my taste. As for Son of a Witch, I also enjoyed it. It centered around Elphaba's son, Liir. The central character in Son of a Witch was not as interesting as in Wicked, but the story moved along well and kept my attention. The middle of the book got a bit boring and I had to plow through, but it was worth it. It's a tamer story than Wicked.

There are heavy spiritual overtones to both of these stories. Some of Oz's population claim to be worshippers of the Unnamed God. There are churches to the Unnamed God and convents and missionaries. Many Ozians are annoyed at attempts to save their souls. The Unnamed God is often revered or feared. He is portrayed as distant and uninvolved in the lives of his worshippers. To me, it was an obvious reference to the Christian faith. While some of these depictions were true, what is never seen is any character with an active relationship -- just religion. It was just another reminder to me of how we must reject religion and embrace relationship. Religion turns people off, but a relationship with God is world-changing!

Obviously the broadway musical, Wicked, is based on the first of these books, but many changes were made to the musical version. The musical isn't as dark as the novel and has a much different ending. They are both good, but should not be compared too much. (I get to take Mollie to see Wicked in San Francisco next Wednesday as a Daddy/daughter date for her 13 birthday. Can't wait to see it again!)

A Lion Among Men is the third book in Maguire's The Wicked Years series. It tells the story of the Cowardly Lion after Dorothy leaves Oz. I look forward to reading it in my spare time soon.

2.08.2010

Book Review: Fearless

I used to enjoy Max Lucado's books regularly. I still remember lessons I learned from He Still Moves Stones and In the Grip of Grace. But this is the first Lucado book I've read in quite some time. Fearless is honestly Lucado in prime form. In this book he leads the reader through a process of vanquishing all of our personal fears no matter how big or small. Fears about acceptance, disappointment, our children, challenges, catastrophes, violence, lack of faith, global warming and everything in between. Reading a Max Lucado is a little like settling into a conversation with a trusted friend. His writing voice is one that you quickly feel like you can trust. The illustrations are memorable, the lessons are profound. He has a great way of providing an "ah-ha" moment in every chapter. As a pastor, I would love to preach some of the lessons in this book. Good stuff. Definitely worth the read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

6 Things to Consider in Ministry Interviews

I've had this conversation with several friends over the last few years and I thought it would be good to share with everyone. As a pastor or pastoral staff member, there's an art to interviewing with a church. You need to interview them more than they interview you. I've been a part of 7 or 8 ministries over the years and learned a little more with each interview.

1. Don't be afraid to ask the search committee hard questions. This is a rookie error. When you're young, you just want a job. But this is not like applying at McDonald's or Target. The goal is NOT to get through the interview as quickly as possible. In fact, if both sides are doing their due diligence, this process will take several months. Don't be afraid to ask very direct questions. You want to go into this position as well-informed as possible. (Side note: I personally think one of the LAST questions that should be dealt with is salary. Seek God's direction before you seek your checkbook's direction.)

2. Dial down beyond philosophy to implementation. What I mean by this is every church is going to say "we want to grow" or "we want to see change" or "we want someone young to help us reach our community". If you're not careful, you'll get so excited about these statements that you'll start thinking, "Great! We're on the same page." This is a huge mistake! Take it a few steps further and start asking "Are you willing to do ____________, to see the church grow?" or "What kind of things would you NOT want to see change in your church?" Many smaller, established churches will talk a big game about change and growth, but what they really mean is, "We want you to attract new families to our church, but don't change our building, our music, our structure, or our priorities." Dial down hard on this. Get detailed. Ask if, in the interest of church growth, they'd be willing to change their style of music, their service times, the church decor, the church location or name, kill some ineffective programs and start some new ones, be comfortable with really reaching out to "the least of these", etc... Not that you plan on changing ALL of that, but how far are they willing to go?

3. Find out if the leadership and the congregation are on the same page. This is extremely important if you're interviewing for a staff position. The pastor might be a great man with a great vision, but it's good to find out if the church shares his vision. This might not change your decision, but at least you'll be better prepared for potential battles.

4. Be yourself in the interview process. Don't put on your best face or, worse, a fake one. Just share your heart. Share what kind of ministry really gets you excited -- even if it's weird. It's in everyone's best interest if the church knows exactly what they're getting when they hire you. If you're not a coat and tie kind of guy, then don't wear one in the interview. Present yourself in the interview or sermon you give the same way you want to work/minister if you get the position.

5. Don't settle because you're trying to leave a bad situation. If you're currently in a dead-end church or miserable in your current position, don't settle for a less-than-ideal church just to quickly get out of the less-than-ideal church you're currently in. Be patient. God's timing is perfect. If he hasn't moved you on to a different ministry, it's because he still has something for you to learn in the current one.

6. "God's will" is not a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. People will want to know why you're leaving them. Rookies always say the same thing -- "I really felt it was God's will to move on." If that is not definitively true, then don't say it. You're confusing everyone. You also told those same people that you felt it was God's will to be their pastor or youth pastor or whatever. If we're not careful, we make God look indecisive. Reserve the "God's will" label for those decisions that you REALLY, genuinely feel like were His will. I've said before, I've only had two decisions in my life that I knew were God's will -- answering the call to preach at age 16 and accepting the call to be Living Hope's pastor two years ago. That's it. Every other decision was made out of convenience, fear, because it made sense for our family, exploration, emotion, etc... Be honest about why you're leaving, but don't be hurtful. It's always a bad idea to burn your bridges. Leave gracefully.

2.05.2010

Are You Thinking SMALL Enough?

This is a great little 1 minute video that Seth Godin put out today in conjunction with his new book, Linchpin. GaryVee reminds us that maybe our idea is too broad or vague and we need to dial down on it a little further. Good stuff!

Linchpin: GaryVee from Seth Godin on Vimeo.

1.31.2010

Recent Random Reflections

A few thoughts/updates from the last several days:
  • We held our first annual leadership retreat for Living Hope Church this weekend. It was great! I loved the interaction. Loved the opportunity to do some leader training. Loved the location (Occidental, CA). I love the leaders we've been blessed with and if we can accomplish even a quarter of the things we discussed this weekend, we're going to be one heckuva church!
  • Phil Lockwood led us in a concert of prayer to kick off the retreat on Friday night. The first part of it was about 15 minutes of us vocalizing 1-sentence prayers just loving on God saying our favorite attributes of His. I don't know any other way to describe it, but God immediately entered that room and I was weeping like a baby. It was really a powerful moment!
  • Of all God's creations, the coast redwood is my favorite!
  • Jamie turned 38 yesterday, so for the next 3 months she's a cradle-robber.
  • We welcomed two new Living Hope babies into the world this last week! Love that "natural" church growth!
  • Great worship service this morning. That song "Mighty to Save" slays me every time!
  • Borrowed from Ron Hunter's book, Toy Box Leadership, and taught lessons on leadership by using a slinky dog and a weeble. Awesome!
  • Learned that the weebles I played with as a kid are considered dangerous and they don't make them anymore. So I got on eBay and purchased a vintage Goofy weeble for $5. (Kinda makes me want to start collecting them!)
  • The final season of LOST starts Tuesday. So excited!
  • Mollie becomes a teenager on Saturday. So not excited.

1.25.2010

Christian Generosity 2

Now that I got that angry tirade out of my system, I thought I'd post some Biblical reasons why Christians need to be responding to brothers and sisters in need around the world.

This is Paul's comments to the Christians in Corinth about the Macedonian believers who responded to the need of hurting Christians in another part of the world. Even though the Macedonians didn't have extra to be giving.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (ESV)

We want you to know, brothers, [1] about the grace of God that has beenh given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and i their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave j according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly k for the favor [2] of taking part in l the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they m gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.6 Accordingly, n we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you o this act of grace. 7 But as p you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you [3]q see that you excel in this act of grace also.

8 r I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, thats though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter t I give my judgment: u this benefits you, who v a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable w according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply x their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, y “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

1.24.2010

Christian Generosity

I've been blown away by the generosity that many Christians and churches have shown toward the people in Haiti. This is a beautiful example of the church being the church. I've also been equally blown away by the number of Christians I see posting ignorant, close-minded, and hateful things online expressing disapproval of giving money to Haiti when we have people in need in our own communities. People who do this unknowingly reveal way too much about themselves. I know people well enough to know that those who gripe the loudest are the ones who never do, never give, and never listen. In most cases, those who have responded to the Holy Spirit's leading to give to the Haitians, are the same ones who also respond when the Holy Spirit leads them to give to people in their community or their local church.

Which has brought me to respond to the following gripes (Caution: Heavy Sarcasm Zone):
  • We shouldn't be giving to Haiti when we have people foreclosing on homes right next door! --- Yes, you're probably right. Even though millions of people in Haiti just had their homes and the few possessions they owned reduced to a literal pile of dust, it's much sadder that my neighbor has to downgrade from a 5 bed/3 bath/3 car garage home with A/C, satellite TV, a hot tub, and a pool, to a 3 bed/1 bath/2 car garage home with A/C and satellite TV.
  • It makes me mad that my tax dollars are going to help people in foreign countries! --- Me too! Please stop this insanity and resume spending my tax dollars on abortions and offensive "art" and war and congressional slush funds and...
  • Why would you want to adopt an orphan from Haiti when we have orphans right here in the U.S.? --- Oh yeah, we should all love on orphans the way you're currently doing it. Oh wait, I forgot, you don't give a CRAP about orphans! You just enjoy sounding intelligent and topical at their expense!
This is the bottom line. If you barely give 1% of your income to anything other than yourself, you haven't earned the right to have an opinion so keep your selfish, foolish mouth shut! If you haven't reached out to orphans here or in other countries, your heart is evil if you criticize those who do! People who sit back and criticize those who are ACTUALLY doing God's work when they are doing NOTHING themselves are pathetic and lead by Satan instead of the Holy Spirit.

For those of you who are actually responding to God's leading and helping those in need, both here and abroad--don't let ignorant people deter you from serving God.

1.18.2010

Repost: I HAVE A DREAM!

Originally posted this 2 years ago. Still can't watch it without tearing up.
-----------------------
As we come up on this MLKJr. Day weekend, I wanted to post Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I listened to this speech in its entirety for the first time a little over a year ago and it just knocked me out. It is truly one of the greatest speeches of all time. In fact, I would probably rank it second only to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. This may be a little forward, but I seriously have to believe that if you can listen to this speech and not, at least, get a little lump in your throat, there's something wrong in your soul.

1.11.2010

Tithing

Tithing is an unnecessarily controversial topic. If you don't know, tithing is a Biblical concept of giving 10% to God. Some people don't like talking about money so they get all offended when a pastor does. But as I remind Living Hope often, tithing is NOT about money. It's about faith. Hebrews 11:4 says "By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain." It wasn't the gift, it was the faith required to give the gift.

When we tithe:
  • our faith increases.
  • we care more about the Kingdom, because we've invested in it.
  • we are exercising a muscle that most of don't exercise enough -- generosity.
  • we communicate to God that He is a priority in our lives.
  • the Kingdom advances.
  • the church can grow.
  • missionaries can be sent.
  • the hungry can be fed.
  • the "least of these" of the world are served.
  • GOD IS GLORIFIED!
Today I was sharing some of my life goals with my 11-yr-old son, Isaiah. I told him that one of my goals was to eventually become a reverse tither (give God 90% and live off of 10%). He got this shocked/scared look on his face and said, "Is that going to be just for you or does the whole family have to do that?" I didn't think Jamie would ever stop laughing. Gotta love the honesty!