Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Brain cramp


the well is dry.
the cupboard is bare.
creativity has vanished.
the mind is preoccupied.
the slurpee has done it's deed.
the thinking mechanism is completely frozen.
elvis has left the building.
the return is forthcoming.
joy comes in the morning.
it's friday...but sunday's coming.
you can't keep a good man down.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sunday attendance

i don't know exactly how to say this without appearing ungrateful, but here goes. as a pastor, two of the most difficult sundays of the year for me to face are the sundays on either side of thanksgiving. they usually represent two of the lowest attended sundays of the year because people leave to visit their families.

don't get me wrong. i'm not a family killjoy. i love my big thanksgiving dinner and sitting around watching bad football on television with the best of you. even though loading up the fam in the minivan to visit grandma and grandpa has never been my thing, i know the holidays wouldn't be the same without it for many. but the sundays? they are usually weak, a little depressing and...let's just say the offerings are less than stellar. (for the record, things were a little better around here than most years.)

that's not my issue. here's my monday morning insight... i was pretty stunned yesterday. the sunday after the thanksgiving sundays had fewer people than the holidays! i know there were as many different reasons as there were people missing, but it was still a little shocking.

the good news? church attendance does not punch our ticket to heaven. it's not even a healthy way to evaluate our commitment to christ. it's a horrible way to get rid of guilt. i'm so grateful we don't live by rules, traditions, laws and requirements. it's a awesome reality to know that following the master is so much more than coming to a building on sunday mornings.

with that said, i wonder if people really have any idea how pumped i am when the building is full and the excitement in worship is ready to bust the walls out? i wonder if people knew how inspired and motivated i am when i see the house full and the looks of expectation...would it make a difference on saturday nights or sunday mornings when they are deciding whether or not to join us? i wonder if people realize how much their simple presence makes in the lives of people they are sitting next to in worship?

why not give someone a call and have them join you next sunday?

Monday, November 26, 2007

A moment of thanks...a few days late

here's a story that moved me today:

Several years ago I ran into a pastor at a store while shopping. I had preached for him a decade earlier and asked how his church was doing. Here is the conversation that followed.

“Well Clayton, I really can’t say how the church is doing because they fired me 2 years ago and I have not been back, or even heard from anyone since I left. I was there for 13 years. Attendance doubled, we built a new sanctuary and added 4 new staff positions. But what I did not realize is that I let church work become my life. It came before time with my family and it even became more important to me than Jesus.”

“I figured out who the power players were in the church, and a deacon told me to make sure I did not make any of them mad because they had the 2 things that mattered most; family and money. So I made every decision based on them. I preached for them, made sure I did not offend them, and made special efforts to cater to them and their families. This brought short-term success, but I was burning out. I had no passion left. I was just working for a paycheck and health insurance for my family.”

“I did not realize how much I had neglected my kids until one became a drug addict and the other one slipped into deep physical sin. I did not even know my own children, and it was my fault. Then one day I came home from a deacon’s meeting, and my wife had taken all of her stuff and left a note on the table that said she was tired of it. She hated me for ignoring my family and she blamed me for everything, for putting the church before them.”

You can imagine the lump in my throat as I stood there and listened to this grown man choke back tears over the family he lost. He was broken; a ghost of the leader, pastor, and shepherd I had met 10 years earlier. Then the saddest words to ever leave his lips landed on my ears.

“So what did my church do when all of this happened? The people I had served and pastored called a business meeting and they fired me. They said they could not have a divorced pastor with rebellious kids leading their congregation. They gave me 2 months salary and wished me luck.”

No grace. No counseling. No support. Maybe they felt he was unable to lead them any further. Fine. But not even a reception with cupcakes and coffee to say thanks for 13 years? This is way too common. I see it more than most anyone else because my calling carries me so many places, and when I hear these stories, I cry out to God to protect pastors, and the churches they serve, from shooting our own wounded. Of course not every church is like this and not every pastor suffers such a fate, but this man did. God help him, his wife, and his kids. And God help the Body of Christ to offer mercy and compassion to our own wounded who lay on the side of the road, in a ditch, waiting on anyone, even a Samaritan, to come to our aid.

i am so grateful to serve in a church that treats me like a friend and not an employee...a church that values my time with my wife and my family...a church that supports and encourages and forgives me and does not place unrealistic expectations on me...a church that has patiently waited for me to grow into the position that i hold...a church that holds to the biblical model of a pastor and not one that has been unfairly and unspiritually created by church tradition and modern culture...

we may not be the biggest or baddest church in the city, but i wouldn't trade places with anybody.

hope you are continuing to experience a life that is worth being grateful for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Relationships with skin

this afternoon, i was reading an article about the rise of instant messaging throughout our society...with both kids and adults. there's some pretty amazing figures about how many "im" and how much they do it.

(ok...i'm just now getting back to writing because i was just answering a text from one of the kids in our youth group. talk about current...)

anyway, one of the things the article says is that 43% of teenagers use it to say things to people that they wouldn't say in person. accepting dates, turning down dates, breaking up, "facing" conflict, expressing anger. this doesn't surprise me. but a comment by a 34 year old adult is the one that leaves me frustrated:

Danny Hitt, 34, a real estate agent in Riverside, Calif., says he has chatted with four or five IM buddies at once — a number some teens would consider embarrassingly low. He prefers the telephone for important communications. "To me, a significant conversation takes a phone call," Hitt said. "The inflection in the voice, you lose that" with instant messages.

significant conversations take place on the phone? you gotta be kidding me. what is happening to us? my frustration with the comment is that it's true. and he's not even telling the half of it. we have become people that hide behind phone calls and emails and text messages and fake handshakes and distant smiles and unresolved conflicts and fear that speaking the truth will draw us into relationships that will demand more of us than we want to give.

i'm with danny...you lose the inflection of the voice with instant messages. and you lose connection with no eye contact...and you lose conviction with no body language...and you lose trust with no smile and confidence with no heart.

i like relationship with skin. even if there's bad news. being part of a body demands it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

snicker, snicker



like i've always said...it's better to be lucky than good.

go chargers.

The virtual church, part two

i don't know all the reasons why i'm stuck on this right now, but i just can't let it go...

i read an article in usa today this morning talking about the rise in church websites. it said that over 88% of churches over 200 have websites and many of them are using their sites as a way to recruit new members.

the article, just like the ongoing discussion among church leaders, debates some of the pros and cons building cyber connections. the fear is that people are already disconnected enough...and don't need an even easier way of keeping their distance. the upside is the willingness to face the reality that this is a digital age and people will simply use the most convenient and efficient way possible to make good decisions.

apparently, smart churches are using the web to showcase who they are and give discriminating church shoppers a clear and appealing look at their product. the truth is, i don't particularly want to be a pastor of a dumb church, so we are rethinking our website...since we are part of the 88%. here's what i'm also thinking:

i believe that jesus is the son of God, incarnate, sinless, killed, buried, raised from the dead, the perfect atonement for my pathetic life, giver of purpose, the key to the mystery of life and the king who will return and reign for eternity. i also believe that the church is his holy bride, his body, God's chosen for the purpose of living out his priorities and message for all of history.

with that said, it kind of hacks me off that there are people who say they believe this stuff, but don't care enough to invest themselves particularly deep into friendships with others who believe this stuff. consequently, we shop for churches.

hey...it's only monday!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Virtual church

i was doing some online reading the other morning and i came across this website. it's an internet church. you can sit in the confines of your comfortable recliner and do church. you can watch and listen to the music. you can watch and hear the preacher. you can give your offering online. you can even go into the virtual lobby and meet people by having live chats with others you are doing church with. amazing.

at first glance, it seems so wrong. but times have changed. people have changed. we live in a culture of people that connect through their computers. myspace. facebook. personal websites. bloggers who have their own private audiences. i'm still processing this, but i can't help but think that this could be the perfect front door for a disconnected digital generation.

while i'm thinking, here's a question: why do people come to church buildings on sundays if they have no real intention of entering into meaningful, honest, committed friendships? what's the point? if all you are looking for is a sermon, some music, and a place to give your money, why bother wasting the gas? maybe the internet church is just what you're looking for...

Friday, November 02, 2007

A mere 27 days

ok, i took a month off of writing. so sue me...

there is so much that i could write about. the last 27 days have been so full. i could give you my perspective on fire and displacement and loss. or car wrecks and death and unspeakable sadness. or tumors and cancer and life change. broken bones, hip replacement, financial stress, marriage trouble, broken friendships, lost dreams, theological confusion, poverty, depression, fear, emotional paralysis, and hopelessness. but that's far from the whole story.

the last month has also been about hope and change and faith and courage and determination and real friendship and commitment. it's been about love. it's been about priorities. it's been about spiritual growth...growing up and growing deeper. it's been about fun and laughter and sarcasm (the good kind) and practical jokes and honest conversation and music. good music. cooler nights and an even cooler snow storm. and baseball.

and, oh yeah, the chargers are back.

it's amazing how much can be packed into the short span of 27 days.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Back from the mountains

i'll let you in on some of the life lessons i learned on my six-day journey in the colorado wilderness over the next few days. in the midst of the profound, though, let me give you a small dose of my reality...

on the plane ride home, as we approached dfw airport, the pilot comes on the speaker and echoes these wonderful words: "ladies and gentlemen, let me be the first one to welcome you dallas. it is cloudy and winds are from the southwest at 15 mph. there is a slight chance of thunderstorms and it is a brisk 94 degrees."

a brisk 94 degrees? you gotta be kidding me! texas in october...sheesh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Life lessons

like most athletes who compete on a high level, my son has been going through a difficult period of competition, performance, defeat, frustration, disappointment, and confusion. it's just part of the game, as they say.

we talked on the phone and told me that god had reached down and used his difficulties to teach him (again) some of the basic life lessons that we wrestle with every day of our existence...whether we are athletes or wannabes. it happened to come from an unexpected source of truth: espn.

most sports fans are aware of the fate that was dropped on the university of michigan football team the first week of the season. they were beaten by 1-aa appalachian state university in an epic battle that became an instant classic and sent sports writers and fans around the globe looking for a greater upset in the history of sport. i'm pretty sure nobody has found one.

the following week they were beaten, again. this time by a team of their stature, but certainly not of their reputation. come on...oregon makes us think of hippies and rain. unlike the land of the fooball gods in michigan!

needless to say, the coach of michigan has had an onslaught of attacks from the michigan faithful, as well well as every sports pundit this side of vince Lombardi's tombstone. but in the midst of incredible opposition and criticism, lloyd carr has remained solid. in an interview, he said some words that inspired my son to remember some simple principles to live by:
  • Don't blame others.
  • Don't make excuses.
  • Get up and do something.

i don't think i've ever heard a preacher say it better. you know, living the spiritual life isn't really all that spiritual...

on another note, i will be heading to the great land of texas haters for the next week on my yearly journey to the colorado wilderness with boat load of younger youth ministers for mentoring and encouragement. no technology for a week...anybody want to join the "fast"?

one final note...my son is back on top of his game.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday night exhale

i gotta tell you, sundays are no day of rest for me.

it is really good to be tired at the end of the day...the kind of tired you feel when you have had good, meaningful work. that's how I feel.

i am completely indebted to my church upbringing...the good people, the committed sunday school teachers, the traditions that fueled church life in my childhood...but i don't miss the church music of my past.

here, i'm going to tell you something you probably know already: i like loud music. i like loud rock and roll on my ipod. i like loud, energetic worship. i like the driving beats of drums and the creative sounds of electric guitars. i like to feel my music. for me, the volume of the worship draws me to the greatness of god.

everybody doesn't agree with me. i can still sleep at night.

i really want to see people who are far from god come close to him.

i really want to lead a church that wants to see people who are far from god come close to him.

i really want to lead a church that cares more about seeing people who are far from god come close to him...than they do about pleasing people who are already close to god.

i am totally and completely infatuated with the potential of north point becoming a church that really cares about seeing people who are far from god come close to him.

what do you think is the next step for us?

what do you think is the next step for you?

i am so impressed by the commitment and hard work of the college kids who are running underground (our sunday night youth thing).

it is so great to see a room full of teenagers again.

we are getting really close to my favorite day of the year...the first day that temperatures drop and we can break out the sweatshirts!

this was a bad week for my san diego teams. it may be time to break out the lucky underwear.

speaking of sports...the first night of the adult bowling league was a winner. we have ten teams. can you imagine that? 40 adults bowling! sheesh.

i need to get my own bowling ball.

no matter how old i get, i won't ever stop being a dad.

three more days until rubios.

this is going to be a huge week. are you ready for it?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The revolution of the Internet in 1993

this is crazy. can you remember the first time you used email? it blows me away to think where we will be with computer technology in the next ten years! what should it mean for the church? what will it mean for the progress of the gospel?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Different kinds of christians

if you've ever wondered about the difference between different kinds of christians these days, i think this is a pretty good picture...


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who would have thought...

first night of the fall adult bowling league...


sweet.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday night exhale

i think this is one of those sundays that i'm not going to forget any time soon.

it is an amazing and humbling experience to speak to people about the realities of life and death and struggle and the detours of our life journeys.

as i preached today, i was more aware...more connected to the moment...and feeling more of the weight and responsibility to speak words of life than i normally do. i'm not sure how i feel about that.

every time i preach, i know that i am carrying out a sacred act...one that connects me to thousands of years and hundreds of thousands of god's heralds that have gone before me. it's overwhelming to know that i have the privilege to do something so significant.

to preach to human sadness and loss and to have the opportunity to point people to hope and faith is the greatest experience that a person can have.

today, singing was passionate, emotional, expressive, healing, hopeful, and courageous. to sing words that express what we feel when words escape us is incredible.

i love how our people linger after the service. i love watching the relationships grow.

i think that there is a group of people that are really beginning to connect to our first service. this is great news, because there isn't a whole lot of room left in the second service. this is a good problem.

underground was good tonight. i am so impressed with the heart for ministry that i see in our college young people. they really care about our younger kids. the energy and excitement that the whole group had when they entered the auditorium was awesome.

bowling starts this week. we have forty adults that are ready roll. hah! i think the newbies are going to be surprised. i hope the veterans keep their trash talking to a minimum on the first night.

i'm still a charger fan, but i need to take a short hiatus on my attention to football. the padres are in a pennant race and i think they really need me to focus. besides, watching the new england debacle on tv tonight has left me with a stomach ache.

i'm exhausted from today...mentally and emotionally. it starts all over again tomorrow. peace.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I don't know what's going on

i love reading what other pastors have to say about their lives and their churches. i am challenged, encouraged, frustrated, enlightened, inspired, and sometimes just entertained. i have this one guy that i read pretty often and this week he wrote something that really resonated with me. you can read all of what he wrote right here.

here's one of the things he said:

"When a pastor knows everything about what’s going on, their ministry will have a distinct ceiling. Sometimes the more you know, the slower you’ll grow."

although that frustrates me, i know that it's true. the good news is that is changing around our church family. more and more things are happening and i have no clue they are happening. small groups are meeting. bible studies are happening. people are being cared for. ministries are springing up. serving is happening. ideas are becoming realities. and these things don't start with me...end with me...require my assistance...look for my approval...or need my blessing.

it's great when i know i'm not needed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday night exhale

this was a good sunday. it was great to start this new preaching series on living life at the intersection. i am really pumped about continuing this next sunday. all i gotta say is watch out for detours when you come to intersections...

it sounds like we are off to a great start at underground. they had 60 show up for the first night! it's been a while since we had that many and it's only going to get better.

i really like the sound of the underground band. their hard work has really paid off.

i was all excited for it to rain today. all we got was a bunch of stinking humidity. what's up with that?

i thought it was pretty cool when the loud crash of thunder exploded right when we went into the silent prayer time at communion. i'm still wondering how debbie arranged for that to happen.

i know it doesn't make us better than anybody else, but i am really grateful that we are a church family that takes communion every sunday. i just don't get it when other say that it loses its meaning when we take it so often. pardon my language, but those people are nuts.

the chargers are off to a good start. 14-3 over the nfc champion bears is a good victory. some will say the bears played poorly and that's why the bolts won. i say that sounds like an excuse that losers give.

i just got through watching the cowboys win their first game, also. romo is the real deal. the cows defense is suspect. cow fans should be concerned.

one last football comment. it must really suck to be a michigan fan today. just thought i'd let you know.

looking forward to starting our romans study this week. i think this study is really going to make a difference in the lives of our adults. if you're reading this, you better have a good reason for not being there if i don't see you wednesday.

i ate at cabana and chipotle today. bad for my health, but good for my stomach...

"my glorious" is a great worship song. i'm glad we get to sing it.

we're going to be doing two new worship songs in the next month that are amazing. huge energy. fun to sing. you may have new favorites after we do these songs.

we will officially cancel our landline phone at home this week. we are going totally cell phone. it seems wierd. no home phone. man, have times changed.

do you like watching "flip that house"? it is some of the best stuff to watch on tv. that and 24. for the record, the countdown has begun. four months and counting.

have a great week at your intersections.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Check this out

ok, this is the real deal... i think i have a new hero.



now here's what i'm thinking. you may or may not get into the style of music. that's not the point. this is a guy who has absolutely no formal training. what he has is a gift. it's simply what he's wired to do. it's in his blood. it's his purpose and his passion. it flows out of him. he is who he is. he's comfortable in his own skin. what about you? what has god wired you to do? what's in your blood? what were you created for? what do you throw yourself into with reckless abandon? check out this next video. he is for real. i think i'm addicted to his videos...



still think he's not for real? this one will seal the deal. go check out ronald jenkees videos on youtube. i love this guy!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday night exhale...

this was a really good sunday at north point.

it was awesome to listen to the singing in the second service today! the energy while we were singing wholly was pretty incredible. i don't think i've ever heard us sing like that before.

i was a little nervous about labor day attendance, but what was i thinking?

i really like eating at raising canes. best chicken fingers around.

i watched the appalachian state - michigan football game yesterday. it would suck to be a michigan fan today. david conquered goliath in an epic battle. unbelievable. it reminded me again why we love sports so much.

i heard some people talk about the episode where miss south carolina made a name for herself. i finally saw it on the internet. take a look for yourself. bless heart little heart...

i have been looking forward to september 9th for the past five or six weeks. i can't believe it's just a week away. underground is going to be awesome! it makes me miss youth ministry more than i want to tell you.

in spite of that, i am even more excited to begin my new sermon series, living life at the intersection. i don't think i have ever looked forward to a series more than this one. i am praying that god will use it to change the life of our church family!

if you are not planning to be at the wednesday night bible study through the book of romans, i promise you are going to miss out! this book of the bible is so amazing. i can't imagine how a follower of christ could ever be faithful to kingdom living without understanding it.

nobody invited me to join their fantasy football league this year. i really feel left out. so i joined one on my own. i guess i'm just going to have to kick some butts of people i don't know.

tomorrow i start drinking two liters of water everyday for a month to get ready for my yearly trip to the colorado wilderness. i hate the taste of lewisville water in the fall.

i gotta finish painting the outside of my house this week. it's only taken all summer.

the adult fall bowling league starts in 16 days. anybody else counting?

can't wait to see what our song set will be for this sunday morning. i really love the way we do music and worship at north point.

hope you enjoy your labor day. or if you're a slacker and don't read this until thursday...well, i don't know what to say. just joking.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wow

this morning, i was reading about a church leader who went to a particular restaurant (more expensive than he normally would go to) and was really impressed by the service he received. he made the following observation:

"...beyond the meal, the experience made me wonder what we can do in the church that hasn't been thought of yet that would "wow" our guests and help drive home how much they matter to God."

it made made me think about how we do things at church. many of us are leaders in particular areas of ministry in our church family, and i'm wondering what it would be like if each one of us approached our areas of responsibility with the same kind of attitude? are we driven to show people (regulars and newcomers) how much they matter to God? are we constantly looking for new and creative ways to communicate how much God matters to us? are we doing our best...even in the smallest details of our ministries? are we always looking for ways to improve what we do? what are some of your ideas for how we can raise our "wow" factor in our ministries?

trust me. i'm not into impressing people. but i am into people being impressed with the God we worship!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Indian food

don chapman, a worship leader and fellow-blogger wrote:

"I love Indian food. There's an Indian restaurant here in town that has the best Indian food I've ever had, and I've had Indian on both sides of the planet.However, most Indian restaurants I've been to have a lunch buffet, and I love buffets of all shapes and sizes. This one does not. For years I've told the owner he needs a buffet, but he staunchly maintains that Indian food is not good sitting around in a buffet tray and must be prepared fresh.

Two months ago a brand new Indian buffet opened in town. It's packed. You can't find a parking spot. I go there at noon and it's packed. I went there today at 1:30 and it's packed [on Memorial Day, no less!]I went to the non-buffet Indian restaurant last week. Empty. My buddy Cliff asked the owner "how's business since the new place opened?""Terrible!" he replied. "Look at this place! It's usually filled at lunch and no one is here." He also reiterated how Indian food must be freshly prepared.

Well, I can see his point, but I do love buffets. I suppose a lot of people like buffets. And the new Indian buffet sure tastes fresh to me, especially when the place is packed and they're continually bringing out new food.So I guess the non-buffet owner will go out of business, sticking true to his principles of freshly prepared Indian food. A shame, really - Greenville is big enough to support two Indian buffets."

it makes me think...what kinds of dumb things do we hold on to in the church, that are obstacles to growth? i'm not talking doctrines of the faith here, but man-made rules or unstated (but very real) expectations that turn off new people that are looking for a place to belong when they walk through the door of our church building. better yet, what do you hold on to??

You are who you want to be

fred smith was a businessman, a church leader and a mentor to countless other christian leaders. he was an author and a speaker who has passed on his wisdom and sage advice to multiple generations. he died this past week at the age of 91. even in his advanced age, he was still writing and operating a web site call "breakfast with fred"...inspiring a new generation of church leaders to excellence.

i would like to grow old as he has. here is a quote that he wrote recently:

I have learned that people are the way they are because they want to be that way. Now, I haven't always believed this. In fact, when I started out in life I wanted to be a social worker and I became extremely disillusioned with people. Now I am totally convinced that each of us is the way we are because we want to be that way. We rationalize and give all kinds of reasons that this isn't true, but bottom line ---you are choosing to be who you are. When you have an opportunity to change and you don't take it, you are deciding to be who you are. And, of course, when you grow through challenging yourself, you are becoming who you want to be. People want to be the way they are.

do you agree? after all my years of pastoring, counseling, people helping, team building and watching people become the people they are, i am convinced that fred is right. i realize that our sinful nature and the battle of the inner man that paul writes about in romans 7 is a profound and powerful mystery, but this simple quote is legitimate and real. raw...but real.

this is one of the greatest quotes...and greatest truths...of all time.

Monday, August 13, 2007

That question...

i had an interesting interaction yesterday with a former member of the church i serve in. after saying "hi" and some of the customary small talk, he cut right to the chase. "so, how many people are you running at your church these days?"

after all these years of being a pastor, this is still the one question that never sets well with me. there were a hundred other questions he could have asked. ones that feel kinder. ones that show genuine concern or interest in the real life of my church family. ones that are not delivered with a smugness or a judgmental smirk.

or received with a defensive attitude or a need for explanation...

i gotta admit that i have always had a "love-hate" affair with church numbers. there is no doubt in my heart that jesus cares about numbers. come on...he died for the world. he didn't die for a handful. he died for everyone.

we live in a culture that grew up on the philosophy that bigger means better. this is how were taught to evaluate the worth of just about everything. how many? how big? how much? how much more? to aspire increase in size, in speed, in capacity, in productivity...was the necessary first step in gaining worth, value, significance and influence. in just about anything...including church.

as a young youth pastor, i was constantly asked, "how big is your youth group?", "how many kids did you take to camp?", "did you take a big group to mexico?". i remember the pressure to project numbers that were bigger than they really were because my worth as a youth pastor was being evaluated, being judged by size.

this game never ends.

for the record, i'm convinced that churches get large for a variety of reasons. likewise, some churches are smaller for a variety of reasons. and even though a full room and a full bus and a full class and a full offering plate are really cool (and usually reflective of good things happening), i know there is always more to the story.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Of vick, dogs, and race

this whole michael vick dog fighting thing has kind of captured my attention. i know most of the sporting world is tired of it...i know i am weary of seeing images of tortured dogs and federal court buildings and the blah, blah, blah of sports radio talking heads predicting the outcome and discussing when, or if, vick will be back on the field.

the whole time this has been going on, there has been this uncomfortable feeling that there was a deeper story line...one i didn't really understand. it's getting clearer now. at the risk of being immediately discounted, i want to say that i really do believe that there is a race issue going on.

don't get me wrong. i believe crimes have been committed. horrible, disgusting crimes. i wouldn't exactly call myself a dog lover...if you've ever been around me and my little yappers, you'd know that, at best, i carry on a love-hate affair with them...but i do believe that how we treat these creatures that show innocent, unconditional love and acceptance and who bring such incredible companionship, says alot about the condition of our hearts.

when i looked at the grotesque footage of dogs bred for fighting and horrible conditions they lived and died in, my stomach ached and my heart was wounded. no. wrongs were done and the guilty must pay. is mike vick guilty? he sure looks like it to me. and that's where this thing gets a little clouded to me.

i view things from my perspective...from my history...from my point of view...from how i have been raised to view things. i am free to see things through the lenses that have been given to me. but they are not the only lenses. there are others.

i'm going to give you a link to an article on the vick situation that really resonated with me. it was not written from my point of view. it was written from a totally different perspective...looking at the situation through entirely different lenses. why don't you read it and see if there is anything that touches your heart.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=vicksatlanta

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Visiting church

my wife and i visited a couple of church services last week. we don't get to do this very often, so we were more than interested in the kind of experience we would have. its been over 30 years since we visited a church to see if we would like to make it our church home. (side note: in the past 30 years, i've been a pastor in three churches...)

when we walked in the door of the first church building...actually, it was the front door of a middle school cafeteria...we were greeted by a really friendly woman. she was obviously the designated greeter. outgoing, gregarious, huge smile, syrupy sweet, over-the-top chipper. i was still trying to figure out if i was fully awake... oh, well.

she did everything right...at least according to what the training manual for church greeters mandates. firm handshake and good eye contact. she introduced herself and paused appropriately to let us introduce ourselves. she asked us what brought us to their church that morning and told us how glad she was that we had chosen their church to come to. she pointed us to the auditorium and wished us a good morning experience. as we parted, she told us that she hoped to see us again.

like i said, she did everything the way the book says. but for me, it didn't seem particularly real. it felt like she was doing her job. don't get me wrong. i think we need people to welcome new people and try to make a good first impression and give them a warm introduction and all that. but it was what i didn't get that made the biggest impact on me.

after the initial greeting from the designated handshaker, nobody said much of anything to us. people walked right by us to talk to their friends, catch up on the past week, and make plans for where they were going for lunch after the service. it was a church of about 150, so it wasn't like we were lost in the crowd.

they had a nice service. the band wasn't slick, but they were well prepared. the worship leader was sincere. they lead four or five songs. they had communion and offering. they had a sermon that was understandable and challenging. even tho he was a guest preacher, i got the feeling that it was similar to what the regular guy was like. like i said...it was a nice service. the people obviously liked each other. it was casual. it wasn't real churchy.

if i lived there, i don't think i would choose to make it my church home. i'm not too sure i would even give it a second chance. i know this sounds critical, but it just felt like everybody was going through the motions...letting the designated people do their designated responsibilities. the greeter, the children's pastor, the worship leader, the preacher. i didn't sense anything particularly real.

i don't think i was looking for friendly. i was looking for friends. i was looking for genuine connection. or at least the potential for that kind of connection to happen. i wasn't looking for a friendly designated greeter. i was looking for undesignated, genuine people who would really show an interest in me and who really...i mean really... loved their church. i found neither.

i know people ought to be coming to worship god. trust me, i can worship god anywhere. it's just that i would choose to go anywhere else to do it.

any thoughts? does this sound like any church you are familiar with?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My love affair with music

for my birthday this summer, my son decided to give me his ipod...the one that i had given to him last christmas. he says its too big and he'd rather have a smaller one. i'm ok with the deal.
over the past month, i've grown more fond of it everyday.

i love music. in my freshman year of college, back in the dark ages, i was a music major. i started playing a trumpet when i was in fourth grade and kept playing it all the way through high school. in college, my original dream was to be a concert french horn player. no joke.

in my second year of college, god really got ahold of my heart and things began to change. one of those changes had to do with music. it was the early seventies, and rock and roll was changing the landscape where young people were living. that included me.

in the midst of my personal spiritual journey, i began to be captured by the new music styles that were creeping into my traditional church experience. my life was a fixture in the worship wars that were beginning to be fought in sanctuaries around the country. i didn't mean to cause problems, but i'm sure my love of new music (and its entrance into the worship experience of my home church) was very threatening and extremely uncomfortable to the older folks.

anyway, i quickly learned that it was a whole lot easier to lead worship around a campfire with a guitar, instead of a trumpet. so i eschewed my beloved olds recorder (trumpet) and purchased my first guitar and began my lifelong process of teaching myself how to play it.

there's a lot more to this story. a lot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Life is unfair

i have a good friend of mine who lost his 40k -plus full benefits job recently. unexpected. unplanned for. no discussion. no debate. no recourse. his place of employment just decided not to renew his contract. severed relationships. broken hearts and broken promises. just cruel business as usual.

he owns a home. drives a car. married. two little boys. food expenses. doctor bills. insurance premiums. utilities. just a normal guy trying to live a normal life. lover of god. lover of people. a huge lover of life.

denial. depression. frustration. anger. retaliation. worry. fear. deep sadness. anxiety. doubt. sarcasm. cynicism. vulnerability. hope. faith. determination. resolve. he's felt it all.

i hurt deeply for him, but i trust god even more. i know he does, also. but it's still tough. i wonder what i would do if that happened to me. i wonder what you would do if it happened to you. would you remain true? would your faith sustain you? would you remain resolved to do the right thing and stay faithful to your commitment to the kingdom?

i'm grateful it didn't happen to me. i'm grateful that i have the example of my friend's life of faithfulness and determination. i still wish this would have never happened to him.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Complaining

there is an interesting side bar to my sermon today. paul wrote to the church in philippi that they were to "do everything without complaining or arguing". everything. not some things. all things. all the time. everywhere. no matter what. no complaining.

now here's what i've been thinking about. we all complain. it's part of our dna. we are descendants of the children of israel. grumblers. complainers. murmurers. doubters. whiners. we're all part of the same family. but that's not what i'm thinking about. what concerns me is our apparent willingness to live in denial over our disobedience.

we all complain and seem to accept it as a natural and unavoidable part of our existence. we do it without thinking and go on as if nothing is wrong with it. and that's what has me bothered. why do we accept this? why do we act like nothings wrong?

more than that, why is it that we are so quick to say that certain things are bad, wrong, sinful, disobedient all the time, and something like complaining is casually overlooked without even an eyebrow being raised? we get up in arms about lying and fighting and cussing and stealing and homosexuality and meanness and a list of other things...but whine away our petty disappointments and frustrations without a confession of the sin or a drop of remorse. worse yet, i'm pretty sure it doesn't even bother us much, now that we know. come on people...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Important questions

i've been thinking a lot about how well we do what God is calling us to do...as a church...as individual parts of the body...and wondering about how we can improve. there is no doubt that God's call is clear. unless you're asleep, the needs of people and systems and organizations and families and culture are screaming out loud and clear. so what will we do?

an area of spiritual formation that we don't spend enough time addressing is the role of spiritual gifts in the life of the believer. here's a starting point: ask yourself the following questions and see what you come up with...

  • describe your personal, spiritual pilgrimage. what led to your conversion to christ? what formal and informal training has contributed to your growth? what crises have you weathered? what have been your experiences in ministry? what individuals have influenced you significantly?
  • is God "cultivating a concern" in you for ministry? what specific needs, issues, or situations particularly touch your heart? what concerns make you want to roll up your sleeves and go to work?
  • up to now, what concrete steps have you taken to address these needs or get involved in these issues?
  • specifically identify several things you expect to accomplish through this process.
  • set aside these expectations for the moment and dream. assume you had all the resources you wanted and needed, and that God would guarantee your success in anything you wanted to do. describe what your life would look like ten years from now. who would you be? what would you be doing?
  • identify several resources God has entrusted to you (spiritual gifts, natural talents, acquired skills, experiences).
  • what is your greatest strength?
  • are there any present barriers keeping you from living up to your God-given potential? If so, identify them.
  • where do you need to grow the most?

(thanks to mark oertli at bear valley church in denver, colorado for these questions)

we'll talk some more about this stuff. it's more important than you realize.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Big Week

my apologies to the faithful blog readers. i took a hiatus. i hope you understand. the tank was empty, but it's starting to refill. i'll be back.

ok, in the past week, i got to experience my yearly festival of celebration...father's day, my anniversary, and my birthday. think about it. a week that's all about me. here are my numbers:
  • 25...years as a dad
  • 32...years of marriage
  • 53...years inhabiting the planet

i think it's time to break out the party favors.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pastoral counseling

i really don't want to be insensitive to the deep problems and complicated histories that people have, or to the damaging effects of sinful behavior, but there are some days i feel like the best thing i can say to people is...well, see for yourself:


glumbert.com - Stop It!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Comfort and conviction

i read a quote this afternoon that really made me think...

"If you have courage, you will influence people based on your convictions. If you lack courage, you will influence people based on your comfort zones. Courage will take you anywhere you believe God is leading you. Without courage, you will go where you are comfortable."

courage is a virtue that i want to have. i know that i have convictions. i know that i want to influence people. i know that influencing people is a difficult road...if i stick to my convictions. the problem is that i will frequently run back to my comfort zones of wanting people to like me or wanting to stay out of conflict or not wanting people to be hurt.

if i really believe that god is leading me, courage is the only thing that will allow me to follow... because when god is leading, he is never concerned with my comfort. he is only concerned with truth and what is best for his kingdom.

that should be a comforting thought...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ability quotients

alan nelson is a writer with group publishing and he posted an article about healthy churches recently:

One goal of healthy churches is to maximize people’s strengths and to minimize their weaknesses, and it’s best accomplished by matching people with jobs that take full advantage of their strengths. This goal requires leaders to be excellent judges of their churches’ needs as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their people. I have found the following seven ability quotients to be helpful in aligning people’s strengths with organizational needs.

1) Intelligence quotient. People with high IQs enjoy complex, conceptual projects, whereas those with lower IQs are best suited for concrete, task-oriented roles.
2) People quotient. Folks with high PQs are good with others, excel in customer service, and enjoy highly visible roles. Those with low PQs work best behind the scenes, often at task-oriented jobs.
3) Energy quotient. People with high EQs (rabbits) enjoy having plenty to do. Those with low EQs (turtles) are not necessarily lazy, but they resist being pressured or asked to do more.
4) Resource quotient. People with high RQs generously give their time, talent, or treasure. Those with low RQs may be sincere and dedicated, but they aren’t eager to share their personal resources.
5) Attitude quotient. Attitudes are contagious, so put people with positive AQs where they’ll influence others. Steer those with negative AQ’s away from influential roles.
6) Motivational quotient. Motivation is the engine that drives all the other quotients. People with high MQs are eager to commit to organizational goals, whereas those with low MQs resist. (Leaders are MQ raisers.)
7) Spirituality quotient. It should go without saying that churches must be lead by folks who have achieved high levels of spiritual maturity. People with high SQs are solid and mature. Those with low SQs often vacillate in their spiritual commitments and become defeated quickly.


Many, if not most, organizational problems arise when people are placed in positions that demand more than their quotients allow. A careful evaluation of both people and expectations is therefore critical to the success of any church.


i'm curious. are you where you need to be? are you doing what you should be doing? what quotients do you excel in? which ones do you feel are holding you back? what should you be doing about it?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The pain of leadership

i read an article this morning that challenged me to evaluate my leadership by asking the question, “what do i need to stop doing?”. this is a good question. the worth of our leadership (maybe our entire lives, also) is defined not just by what we do, but also by what we don’t do.

as i read about the lives and impact of great men and women throughout the ages, especially great leaders, one of the characteristics they share is the ability to stay focused on the goal…to strip away the things that keep them from achieving their dreams and forge ahead with singlemindedness.

the apostle paul lived this kind of life.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

now, here’s where my struggle is this morning… great leaders, in order to achieve great outcomes, must make difficult decisions where relationships (sometimes significant relationships) are the casualties.

this is obvious in the corporate world. ceo’s are hired for their ability to make strong and swift assessments and are rewarded for their resolve and determination to be decisive when it comes to the success of the organization. a company that exceeds expectations and rises above the riff raff of mediocrity almost always points to leadership that has had to come in and make the “tough decisions”.

in my experience, that means people are hurt, relationships are severed, dreams are squashed, and friendships are sent packing…all for the good of the corporation.

don’t get me wrong. i understand the need. baseball coaches have to cut players that are not good enough and replace them with better ones if they want to win. businesses must get rid of poor producers and raise up more successful sales people if they want to turn a profit. bosses need to be bosses…and employees need to know that their jobs are not safe just because their superiors are “nice guys” or “nice women”. i get it.

but what is supposed to happen in the church? what are we to do when the workers are late or sloppy or ineffective or careless or thoughtless or inconsiderate or unconcerned? what are we to do when the product we present is second-rate or offensive? what if the ministry we perform is substandard or even harmful to the mission? what if there is disagreement with the direction of organization or a challenge to the leadership position?

what if, in our effort to fix the problem, people get hurt and relationships get torn and friendships get shattered? what if, in spite of our best effort, decisions result in people leaving?

apparently, a strong leader says that the greater good has been served. what do you say?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Prayer

this past sunday, i talked about prayer. even doing my post-sunday, armchair-quarterback analysis of the event is still difficult. prayer is the most dramatic, intimate, mysterious, and defining moment in a disciple's life. it says more about who we are and about who god is (to us) than anything else we do on our journey. prayer is hallowed ground. prayer is the secret place.
  • prayer is an act of remembrance...
  • prayer is refocus...
  • prayer is an expression of faith...that which i cannot see (or feel) is non-the-less real...
  • prayer is realignment...
  • prayer is a command...it puts me in the right place!
  • prayer reprioritizes...it puts my issues in the right place...underneath the umbrella of god's greater issues.

more than anything else, prayer is recognizing that i am not in control. no matter how hard i try, i can’t do it! prayer is acknowledging that i cannot do it on my own…no matter what “it” is. prayer is where i willingly admit that i don’t know what’s best for my life (or anybody else’s life, for that matter), but god does. prayer is admitting that am human, that am weak, and that i’m really not too bright.

i am reminded, everyday, that people make bad decisions. decisions that hurt others and mess up lives and make mockery of god's grace and god's law. i see the effects of people living "out of control". god help us. amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Giving our money 4

here's another thought about giving money from paul's second letter to the christians in corinth...

the churches in macedonia had collected money to give to struggling christians in jersusalem. in this passage, paul expresses what the real motive is for giving money:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little." 2 Corinthians 8:13-15

as foreign as it sounds, the desire is for equality among believers. sometimes, god blesses people with a great deal of resources...while at the same time, there may be others that are in great need. the goal is for everybody to have their needs met (equality). sometimes, you will give out of your supply. sometimes, others will give out of their supply...maybe even to you!

it's kind of fascinating to me that paul's first goal is not to meet needs, but to experience equality. do you realize that the great "equalizer" is not what you make, but what you give?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Giving our money 3

i hear he's a free agent...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Giving our money 2

the apostle paul writes some amazing things about generosity in his second letter to the followers of christ in corinth. the macedonian churches had stepped up to financially provide for the church in jerusalem. paul uses that situation to teach us about giving in chapters eight and nine. here's one of his lessons:

Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 2 Corinthians 8:10-12

wow! can you imagine being the first one to give? and not just to do it, but to really want to do it? more than anything else, giving is a matter of the heart. but it isn't just a good intention or a willingness to do it, but it is actually the completion of it. we aren't to talk about giving. we aren't to hope to give. it's not enough to want to do it. we've got to do it!

the cool part about giving, though, is that it is to be done according to our means. god doesn't ask us to give what we don't have. he doesn't ask us to give above our income. he just says to do it in relationship to what we do have. if there is good heart, the worth of gift is judged by what we have...not by what we don't have or what our neighbors have or by what the person sitting next to you in worship has.

i think it's pretty comforting to know that, even though giving is required, it is never burdensome, never unfair, never taxing, and never unrealistic. god would never do it that way.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Giving our money

This past Sunday, I talked about why giving my money matters to me. Here's a look back...

It’s part of our heritage. God’s people have always taken care of God’s business. In the OT, God required it. In the NT, Jesus modeled it. I am a direct descendant of a giving God. I am related to those who left all behind to follow. I pursue the path of those who lived lives of generosity.

It reaffirms that it’s all God’s anyway. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:11

It has always been a tangible way to teach our kids (and anyone else’s) where our priorities really are. It put our money where our mouth was. We showed them that our faith meant business. When we said that we would seek God’s Kingdom first, they knew what that meant, because they saw how we directed our money. Giving our money showed them one of the most important ways we shared in the responsibility of being part of the family!

It has trained us to live on less…and put us in a place to give more. Giving our money to God (through the ministry of our church family) has always been a planned decision. Often, we have had to go without things we wanted, because we made a commitment. But, because it was planned, we did it. And we've always been able to give beyond…and God has always taken care of us!

Giving our money puts us in a place where we have to trust God. We (all of us)are an educated, talented, privileged people. It is easy to trust our ingenuity, our hard work, our training, our instincts, our experience, our abilities. But we are to trust God. One of the most tangible and life-changing ways to do that is to give enough of our money that we really have to trust God for something!

The best of all…When we give, we are blessed. All of those things we talk about and preach about and dream about and wish were happening in our spiritual lives begin to happen. Giving our money is powerful.

Check back in the days ahead. I promise I'll give you more to think about...

Monday, April 30, 2007

Confronting uneasiness

this morning, i read this quote in a daily devotion i subscribe to:

It is not what happens to us in any day that gives content to our lives, but whether or not we let its experience sink into us. ... It is one of the highest powers given to anyone. In reflection I come upon feelings that I had been too afraid to experience in the moment. In the quiet of reflection I take the risk and the time to let censored thoughts as well as feelings into consciousness, to discover what is causing the uneasiness in me. - Elizabeth O' Conner

when she writes that in moments of reflection, she comes upon feelings that she was too afraid to experience in the moment...well, that resonates with me. i think there are things we go through...conflicts, temptations, challenges, memories, or even simple life events...that are overwhelming. sometimes it's just for the moment and other times those feelings seem to linger forever!

have you ever had censored thoughts? those things that you push down and away from your daily consciousness so that you don't have to deal with them. i think we all have. that's why daily quiet and reflection is so important. if we don't slow down, if we don't listen, if we don't take time to stop talking and doing and running and planning and chasing the experience, we will never hear the whisper of god.

it's only in the whisper of god that we can confront the uneasiness we live with. it is only in the quietness of listening that we can truly be honest about what hurts and scares and concerns and belittles and depresses us. and without that honesty, we will never know the joy that god breathes into our existence when he whispers.

why not carve out some time to be quiet so you can listen. i think i will.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Church membership...again

i can't stop thinking about this church membership thing...

on sunday, i said that church membership (at least as we have come to know and love it) is not really talked about in the bible. amazing. something that important and it's not addressed in the book?

well, that's not entirely true. even though church membership is not talked about specifically, there is enough said indirectly that we can get the picture...

when paul says in the roman letter that, as members of one body, we belong to each other, we get our most vivid glimpse of what god intends. we belong to each other. you belong to me and i belong to you. you're mine. i'm yours. we're stuck. or at least we should be if we are members.

i guess that's why the church as a family means so much to me and why we have to get our understanding of church membership from that image. if we don't, we run the risk of creating a faulty expectation for membership. paul talks about the church as a family in his letter to the ephesians:

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22

households (or families) are complex, but it doesn't take a degree to understand what god expects! members of families belong to each other. they don't run away. they work out their problems. they share the responsibility. they own up to mistakes. when the dust settles, they are for each other, with each other, and connected to each other.

the church better wake up.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Some more thoughts on college life

we have a really good college group. i am really proud of them. they are hard working and have really begun to understand god's calling to a servant lifestyle. they are spiritually aware and have a deep awareness of god's presence and kingdom priorities. they have had good modeling and are well taught in the fundamentals of christian discipleship. and i like them. but i am painfully aware that they are not necessarily the norm, nor does having a good college group ensure that new kids will follow in their footsteps in years to come.

the college years are difficult and navigating through them is a treacherous journey where many, even most, fall flat on their face after they leave the protective womb of adolescence and the safety of the church youth group they have grown accustomed to. did i say treacherous? yeah.

there are a number of possible reasons for the drop off in church attendance (or the abandoning of christian lifestyle) once a kid enters college:

the new-found freedom is tough to handle... there is no question that adulthood and the post-high school lifestyle is one full of amazing opportunities for both good and danger. with freedom comes responsibility. unfortunately, that new-found freedom usually lacks the component of accountability. nobody even makes you get up on sunday mornings anymore!

new social circles... the high school youth group is a pretty cool entity. you don't have to think much. you don't have to plan much. you don't have to initiate stepping outside your comfort zone. it's full of familiarity, fun, tradition, and a ready-made group of safe, similar friends...even for the most edgy of kids. trips are planned. meetings are planned. friendships are orchestrated. spiritual experiences are blueprinted. life is good. when a kid goes to college, it is full of new possibilities and new friends and new circles. and nobody scripts out spiritual experiences.

the tidal wave of education... if high school kids think their faith is challenged now, just wait until their first philosophy or ethics class! or what about the first microbiology lecture? biblical faith is assaulted from the moment a kid sets foot on the campus of most any of our nations institutions of higher learning. defense of the faith can only be done by those that have built a defense. that leads to the next problem:

our youth ministries are not necessarily preparing our young people for what's ahead... kids are all about having fun, hanging out with their friends, pursuing their own dreams, developing strong and nimble digit motor skills (for effective computer gaming), and, did i already say...having fun? it's incredibly easy to play to the lowest common denominator when it comes to attracting a crowd of young people. just ask them what they want to do! often, church youth groups are nothing more than glorified boys and girls clubs with a spiritual veneer...and then they are left to face that reality as they naively wander off to college.

finally, our kids have watched the adults at church for years (often, their own parents) and have concluded "what's the point?"... they see adults who claim allegiance to christ and loyalty to the kingdom and, at a minimum, are confused. they see adults who are consumed with their own lives, their own homes, their own vacations, their own money, their own time, their own reputations, their own rise up the ladder, their own petty jealousies, their own unresolved anger, their own legalism, their own abuse of freedom, their own worries, their own fears, their own inconsistencies, and their own empty spiritual lives. what do we expect our young people to do with that?

what will you do to help change this trend?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Some thoughts on easter sunday

some thoughts on easter 2007...

i really liked the change in our service times! it was awesome to have nearly 70 people in our first service. i think we have something to build on now.

it was great to have my whole family together for easter. even tho wanda couldn't eat (don't ask), we enjoyed our traditional easter foodfest at baja fresh anyway.

i loved seeing all the new faces.

watching the logjam at the rear doors between the two services was very cool.

over $5700 was put in the kingdomsales jar. wow.

i know there are always going to be people that are in a hurry to leave right after the service is over, but they are really missing something by not hanging around and experiencing the expressions of friendship that go on...long after the band has packed it up and the lights have been turned off. even tho it was easter, it was business as usual for a lot of people...

the band sounded really good. and the new song ("by his wounds") is a winner.

there is no topic better to preach on than the resurrection of jesus. nothing.

the warmth of relationship in our building was powerful. i wish you could have seen what i saw during our welcome time. it was genuine. it was moving.

i hope people feel as convicted to invite a friend this coming week as they did yesterday. our responsibility is to offer the invitation. it the holy spirit's job to do the rest.

it was a good easter, but now i am really looking forward to this sunday. and i'm not even going to baja fresh.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mexico, again

it is good to be home. the older i get, the harder it is to be gone. don't get me wrong, though. there are not a whole lot of things more fun, more fulfilling, more revealing...than spending five days with a bunch of men. really.

i love our men's mission trip to mexico. i'm so impressed with the group of men who choose to take time away from work and family and house chores and making money and recreational pursuits to join with other men to build a house for family in mexico. it's hard work, time consuming, costly, exhausting, and risky.

the work is painful. especially for the old guys. like me. two long days of mixing cement by hand in wheel barrows. sawing lumber with hand saws. gripping twenty-eight ounce hammers and swinging them until our forearms burn. for some of us, that's about fifteen swings and a whack on a thumb. pulling wire. shoveling sand and gravel. lifting plywood on a roof. lifting five gallon buckets of water. stretching chicken wire. mixing and spreading stucco. the hardest physical labor that i do anymore is mowing the lawn and running the snake through my plugged plumbing.

the men have to pay $275 to go on the trip, plus all of their travel money. that's not chump change. i'm sure that money could go for a lot of other things. but it doesn't. it goes to giving a family a new house. amazing. a whole new house. for about the cost of a new car stereo or a new callaway driver or new power spray washer, a family gets a new house. did i say amazing?

the best part of the trip, though, is where the greatest risk is. it's not the long hours of travel. it's not crossing the border. it's not drinking the water. it's being trapped for five days with other men and having to be honest and open and real. and having to talk. oh, there's a lot of groaning and whining and sarcasm and suspicious story telling. but, more importantly, there is good conversation. we get to know each other. we become better friends. we have been in the trenches together and we are deeper and stronger because of it. and god is pleased.

sign me up for next year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mexico 2007

i'm always consumed with our spring break mexico trip for a couple of weeks. here's a few thoughts from this year's trip...
  • after all these years, i still love to hear singing around the campfire
  • work trips bring out the best...and sometimes the worst...in people
  • i love the people of mexico
  • i am always reminded that mexico is a "work in progress". unlike our country, where people have to have things right now, the people there are content to build with what they have and are willing to wait until they have a little more to continue. the patience and contentment blows me away!
  • there's a lot of nothing between dallas and el paso
  • bucket showers get easier with age
  • leaving wanda for a week at a time does not get easier with age
  • i wish i were in a place that required me to learn to speak spanish
  • there is something really empowering about serving
  • it was awesome to see our college young people step up into leadership on this trip
  • there is much that the rich can learn from the poor
  • it's fun to listen to middle school kids pray out loud for meals
  • road markers are much easier to drive by than street signs
  • there was more dust than ever
  • it is an incredible experience to build an entire house by hand
  • everybody should have the experience
  • deep life change for young people begins on trips like these
  • it's always good to get home!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rules

who decides what the ground rules are for church? in the old testament, god says for his people to remember the sabbath and keep it holy. ultimately, this is a command about resting and trusting and acknowledging that god is in total control. at a minimum, though, this command defined the day that god's people set aside for special worship...for thousands of years.

after jesus was raised from the dead, it appears (from both historical records and the tradition of the church) that the special day of worship for the church shifted from saturdays to sundays. i grew up believing that sundays were "the lord's day", and that sunday mornings were the most important time of the week for god's people.

not only were sunday mornings sacred, but so were the times. my family would be at the church building at 9:00 for "opening exercises" before sunday school...a time where we would sing a couple of choruses to get our minds and hearts prepared for study and then we would be dismissed to our classes. at 10:20, we would finish our classes and then begin moving back over to the sanctuary to prepare for our worship service at 10:45. on good days (when the preacher wouldn't preach too long), we would conclude with a rousing chorus of "blest be the tie that binds"...not one of my all-time favorites...and we would all be pulling out of the church parking lot by 12:15.

that was 40 years ago. and i still go to a church that keeps the same schedule!

i know it's ok for the church to gather for worship on friday nights or saturday afternoons or sunday mornings or whenever. there is no rule that says we must meet at a particular time. i know this...and so do all of you!

in three weeks, we are going to change our sunday morning schedule. we are doing away with the 9:00 hour...mainly because we are a church family that functions a little better a little later. we are going to have a 10:00 service and an 11:15 service. and even though i am totally convinced this is an awesome decision for all the right reasons and...there is absolutely nothing wrong, bad, unlawful, illegal, immoral, unscriptural, or unspiritual about the decision...i am still a little uneasy about how people are going to respond.

but not uneasy enough to change the decision. i mean, come on...who wouldn't want an extra hour of sleep on sunday morning?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Friendship

i was talking with a friend of mine recently and he was telling me about the death of a friendship that he had experienced in his world. somebody that he thought was a true friend and valued coworker turned out to be the exact opposite. i was incredibly impressed by my friend's determination to work out the difficulties, see things from the other guy's point of view, take responsibility for mistakes that he had made, and, more than anything else, the value my friend placed on relationship, teamwork, and kingdom priorities. he really wanted to work things out, but the other guy had already made up his mind and had walked away...with no reconciliation.

in return for his effort, my friend received rejection, slander, and the severing of communication. it makes me think about the relationships that all of us experience. i gotta tell you, good relationships are hard. they seem to be harder in the church than anywhere else in all of society.

i have seen this story again and again: someone makes a mistake, says a thoughtless word, or breaks a promise and another person is left to interpret. rather than going right to the person and asking for clarification, they just shrug their shoulders and breathe out a hearty "whatever" and they move on.

the problem is whenever this kind of pattern begins, it becomes easier and easier to avoid talking about it and then grow comfortable with assumptions. over time, relationships erode, fake smiles replace genuine friendship, gossip begins and the search for people who will validate the assumptions takes over. and pretty soon, people just walk away...without ever giving us a chance to work out the problem.

let me give you this advice: if you get your feelings hurt or if someone is doing something you think is wrong, go talk to them!!! give them the opportunity to listen and change. give the holy spirit the opportunity to do what you can't. for crying out loud (which i want to do sometimes), don't walk away from this church family, from a friendship, from a work relationship...without giving people a realistic chance to make things right.

the power of reconciliation is so much greater, so much better, so much more life-changing than the temporary pursuit of the personal comfort we gain by running away.

if you've got relationships that have grown stale or empty or fake or purposeless, go back and try again. ask the holy spirit to prepare the way and give you wisdom and depth. the world needs to see us act differently. they already see enough running away.

for the record, i am deeply grateful to be surrounded by some tremendous people who don't run away from conflict. i need more of them. so do you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

You gotta check this out!

my friend bill passed on a story to me tonight that i think is amazing and needs to be shared with as many as possible.

his daughter has a close friend who has a cousin who lives in australia (did you get all of that?) his name is nick and he has no arms and no legs. it is a truly amazing story and he tells some of it at a televised church service in southern california. here's the link to the broadcast:

http://hourofpower.org/video/video.cfm

his name is nick vujicic and you need to scroll down to where his name appears as a special guest.

you need to set aside a few minutes to listen to his story and be inspired. all i'll say right now is that it's time to stop whining and get busy serving the god of wonders...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Church membership

i started thinking about church membership yesterday. i grew up in an era where membership meant something different than it does today. and i can't say that it really bothers me. don't get me wrong, though...

when i study about the church, there is no question that relationships mean something. the bible writers talk about the church as a family and a good family is where commitment is lived out, intimacy is forged, conflict is resolved, tasks are shared, trust is built, backs are covered and responsibilities are not optional. it is also where the essence of membership is defined.

i read recently that it's getting progressively more difficult to define a church member, but you definitely know one when you see one. i think i agree with that.

i like it when i hear people say, "this is my church!" i like it when i hear ownership and pride (the good kind) and heart when they talk about their church family. i like it when i hear folks say, "these are my people!" it really means something to me when i learn of people who are willing to lay down their opinions and tastes and wants and differences in favor of friendship and warmth and load sharing and bigger vision.

church membership is all about none of us being as strong as all of us.

i guess there will always be people who say they are members of particular churches. maybe even ours. but don't you think that if you have to wonder whether someone is a member or not, maybe there's a problem? most of us know...instinctivley...whether we are part of the family or part of the team. the same should be true of church.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The college group and the 9:00 service

i had some great discussion this past sunday night with some of our college students. their insights into scripture are profound. their pursuit of truth is admirable. their love of north point is obvious. their desire to have an honest and life-changing connection with god is what keeps them coming. they are a really good group.

in our discussion, we beat around the topic of worship service times on sunday mornings. we've been trying, for months, to grow our 9:00 service (another post...another day), but we are not quite "there" yet. one possible solution would be to have an entire group...like the college group...make a commitment to that service and help it grow. the problem is there is no way, no how, not in my lifetime or yours, that our college group would make the decision to come at 9:00 on a regular basis. but not for the reasons you might think...

it is true that most of them stay out too late on saturday nights. many of them don't have mama to wake them up in the morning anymore. a lot of them probably get up early every day of the week to go to work or classes...and the thought of losing a "sleep in" day doesn't sound too appetizing. but those are not the reasons why they don't want to come at 9:00.

the best part of sunday mornings for our college students is not the sermon. hard to believe, but it's not. (i'm over it.) it's not the opportunity for communion...nor is it the nifty music we play as we worship. the new padded chairs are sweet and really comfortable, but they aren't the best part. no...the best part of sunday mornings for our college group is when it's over.

as soon as the service ends, our college young people go right back to doing what they were doing when the service started. enjoying each other. talking...laughing...poking fun...comparing notes about their weeks and school work and jobs and music and fantasy sports and relationships and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.

if you watch them, they take over the room. their relationships spill over. most weeks they have to be kicked out of the auditorium, so they begin to slowly file out and continue the fun at their restaurant of choice.

the reason they won't come to 9:00? they couldn't hang out afterwards. they would get a sermon and sing songs and pray and take communion and experience all of the other components of the service. but it just wouldn't be the same. and it's ok with me.