Friday, May 29, 2009

Top 5 Reasons to Not Blog

I wrote a newsletter article a while ago that encouraged people to blog.  Just as a general principle, I think blogging is a good idea.  I'm sure there are lots of reasons to not blog, however, so here I'll share a handful.  

If any of these apply to you, you probably should not blog:

5. You can't manage to keep an online life integrated with the offline one you've been living.

4. You can't string words together into anything resembling a sentence.

3. You're in the witness protection program.

2. Hooked on phonics didn't work for you.

1. God is not working in your life.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Roadside Cleanup

Last night about a dozen of us went out and cleaned up trash on the roadside. We were assigned a stretch of road that actually includes the area right out in front of the church property, so that was pretty convenient. It's a funny thing, picking up someone else's trash.
I didn't make the mess...
It's not my responsibility...
No one picks up after me...

I'm challenging our students to look for practical ways to be useful in the community. It's not enough for us to just say that Jesus cares about people. We have to show them that we care. In the stretch of road that we covered we picked up a whole bunch of evidence that people don't care. People don't care what the community looks like - so they throw their garbage out the car window. There are so many other ways that people say they don't care about each other, about God, about even themselves.

To a world that doesn't care about anything, what does it say when the church says "We care."?

A Statement of Intent

Several years ago, I had my first marathon running experience. It hurt. The first half was great - the second half felt like bone on bone every step. Since running my marathon, I have run pretty sporadically, but known that I would eventually take up the running torch again. It seems that one thing or another always seems to derail my efforts, though. A couple weeks ago a softball strain derailed the uptake a little bit, which may make me seem very old and maybe even a little decrepit, but I am making a statement here and now that I am going to run another marathon. There, now it's public. I have to.

Now where are my shoes?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pastor Perfect?

I've liked what I've read from Craig Groeschel's Confessions of a Pastor so far.  The transparent honesty is encouraging.  The very first few pages describe the making of an impostor out of his own life, and he describes what he calls the "pastor's mystique" - a mistaken notion of church leadership that he bought into.  It's the idea that people want to see their pastor "as superhuman, better than the average person.  Church members want to believe your marriage is always strong, your faith never falters, and you are virtually without sin."

Believing that, Groeschel and many pastors like him have been led to be overly guarded, careful not to reveal any cracks or deficiencies in their lives.  The problem is we all do have cracks and we all do have deficiencies.  We need other people to help us through a lot of the crap that comes with the business of living.  The advice, "Don't let them know the real you.  Always dress the part.  Always talk the part." is good advice for self-protection.  The pain of being hurt by someone we love can be avoided if we never allow anyone close enough to love.

But it leaves us alone, and it leaves us with no footing for real leadership.  If I am hiding myself from you, how will I lead you?  How can I follow a leader I don't even know?  We can't lead the church of Jesus to conquer the gates of hell from within a shell of our own making.  

Groeschel notes that,  "Somewhere on my journey, though, I forgot that God called me... not to be like a pastor, but to be like Christ."  If you're one of my ministry friends who reads this - be encouraged to lead your ministry as Christ leads you, not as some poser who fits flawlessly into a role or position or system.  Learn to trust the right people with your life.
You'll probably get hurt more - but it's worth it.  
You'll have to give up that shiny image you've worked so hard to keep polished - but let's be honest, the polish is wearing pretty thin anyway.  
You'll eventually be betrayed by someone you love who'll use their understanding of you for their own advantage - which ironically puts you in company with Jesus.

He's pretty good company...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Like Rocks in a Pond

Reading through Matthew 10, you find Jesus sending His disciples out with a message: "The kingdom in near."  They were given authority by Jesus to drive out demons, heal the sick and even raise the dead back to life!  It's important to notice that they were sent to "the lost sheep of Israel" with their message, not yet to the uttermost parts.

They were sent to proclaim THE kingdom to a people who were awaiting THE kingdom - people who should have known their own history and had numerous festivals and observances geared to remind them of God's rescue and provision and promise.  And yet, Jesus knew that when it really came down to it, when "the kingdom of heaven has come near", when more than they could have ever hoped or dreamed of was finally being given - they were going to reject it.

He warned His disciples that they'd feel the brunt of this rejection.  Phrases like "sheep among wolves", "be on your guard", & "when they arrest you..." don't exactly paint a very welcoming picture for those who were bringing good news!  Jesus warned of brothers betraying brothers and fathers turning over their sons to be put to death because of Him.

I wonder if the church has forgotten the "sheep among wolves" nature of why we are here.  When we complain that the world doesn't make room for us or show us the proper respect a religious institution like the church deserves ("They even schedule baseball on Sunday!"), is that even a little bit shrewd or innocent?  Or is it more selfish and pouty?  Instead of going "like sheep among wolves", are we merely planting ourselves like rocks in a pond then complaining that it's wet and mossy?

Let's not forget that even though we have been given the greatest news any man could ever share, it is news that requires sacrifice - so many will not want to hear it.  We have to give them a reason to listen - and the courage to live the truth even when they don't.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Story in Progress...

A couple months ago, I made this video to talk about the vision for our student ministry. I used a song from The Glorious Unseen as background music, but when I put the video on facebook it got dumped for copyright violation.

I did some checking and learned that there really was no violation, but fb never responded to my contesting of the violation. The process, though, led me to e-mail Ben Crist, the writer of the song and lead singer of the band. I figured, hey, it's his song - if he doesn't want me to use it, I won't.

He was fine with me using it though, and in e-mailing back and forth he mentioned playing here sometime. I found out that they will be in Denver in August, so I asked if they may be able to come here after Heavenfest (where they'll be playing).

Just got an e-mail from Ben today that we're trying to work out everything to bring them here on the Sunday right after the festival. This would be awesome, and would let us have a worship concert with them that night as a send off for coldwater, a mission trip I'll be leading some students on this summer. I'm excited about this confluence of events a week into August. The week following August 8th could have HUGE implications for the future of this ministry. coldwater will be unlike anything else we've ever done, and has the potential to lead us to seek the heart of God more deeply than we ever have before. Please be praying that God would lead as we spend the summer gearing up for coldwater.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Glory from Rubble

Last night, I was perhaps more disappointed/discouraged with ministry than I've ever been before.  If it weren't for some awesome stuff that's happened over the past couple months, a renewed sense of the incredible potential here, and an awareness of how Satan is so deceptive... I'd probably have been drafting a resignation letter last night.

I've been trying to rationalize what happened and come up with excuses for my students, but I still am at a loss to explain it.  In ten years of ministry, I've never seen anything like last night.  I tend to question myself anyway, but last night brought the "what am I doing wrong?" question to a whole new level.

Then this morning, reading Haggai, I came across God's words to Zerubbabel and Joshua as they began to rebuild the temple - and was encouraged (It's a short book, you should click the link and read it now).  The city had been ruined and these guys were part of the restoration crew.  But, the people were not making God a priority.  They'd rebuilt their own houses, but totally neglected the Temple.  Things were not well in Jerusalem - their work was not being rewarded because they were thinking of themselves first.  But God drew them back to Himself.  He reminded them that He was with them to strengthen them for the work at hand - work that would bring glory from the rubble of their day.

It reminded me that I'm not here because of my own will.  God has brought me to this place with a purpose in mind - to draw people to Himself.  He has brought me here and He is with me.  I can lose sight of that if I let myself focus on all that I need to do to build this ministry.  But this ministry isn't about me or what I can or can't do.  It's about Jesus, and I know that if I keep lifting Him up and pointing people's attention to Him - He will keep drawing them to Himself.

To do so, I have to make sure He's given priority in my own life first, then work with great expectation as He builds something from the rubble that will bring Him glory.  He is building His church, and hell will not win!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

1 Million Being Served!

My wife and I have been sponsoring children through Compassion since we were on Ramen noodle rations in college.  Several times, the kids have grown out of the program while we sponsored them and we started over with another child.  I've also encouraged several of my students and others that I know to help Compassion give hope to children all over the world.

Today, I just read on Compassion's blog, they started a sponsorship that means 1,000,000 children are right now being sponsored!  In villages and cities all across the globe, hope has been found and is being shared right now with a million young people!

Visit Compassion and see what it's all about.  Maybe it's time for you to sponsor the first of the second million...

Actions Speak Loudly

Paul had some pretty serious mettle to say what he said in 1 Cor. 11:1.  After dealing with some pretty touchy issues that had to do with actions that may be offensive to somebody, he said "Follow my examply...  Imitate me, as I imitate Christ."  The only way he could say that is that he knew he was living like Christ.

A recent article from Francis Chan has some great, challenging thoughts along these lines.  Go read the whole article, but here's a quote that stood out to me: "Let's make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus."  What does it mean to "live like Jesus" in our world today?  The way we answer this question is more than critical to the future of humanity.

Have we forgotten that the very essence of discipleship is to become like the leader?  Our culture allows for us to look like 'good Christian people' without actually living very much like Jesus at all.  Are we really ok with that?

We like to think it would sound arrogant to tell someone to "Imitate me."  We don't say it because we don't want to sound prideful.  There's a difference, however, between arrogance and a confidence that is born of grace and humility.  I can take no credit for what I am.  The very air I breathe is a gift from God.  Am I doing all I can to use that gift to become more like Him?  The truth is, it's probably not a fear of sounding arrogant that keeps us from making the call to be like us - it's just easier to say "Do as I say, not as I do."

May the people you're with today see Jesus.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

3rd Grade Track Day

As part of winding down of the school year, Emily had her first track meet today.  Kids from 5 or 6 of the elementary schools in the area come to the Middle School and get to run on the track.  They're all excited (maybe just because they're not stuck in a classroom and they know the year's almost done), parents are excited, teachers are a little frazzled trying to get everyone where they need to be at the right time - but they're excited too!

Emily was one of the kids not so much excited by the running and racing as by the fact that she was getting to be outside all day.  She likes to be active, but hasn't ever really shown too much interest in being athletically competitive.  The thrill of winning never seemed to interest her as much as the chatting on the sidelines with her friends.  That may have just changed...

I have to be honest and say that I didn't have high expectations of 3rd grade track and field glory today.  She tried to convince us to let her run in her canvas flats (that would fall off if they were run in) because she didn't run that fast anyway and her tennis shoes made her feet too hot.  The 50 meter dash was her race of choice - because they had to choose something and it was the shortest choice available.  As we headed for a shady spot, I told her to get her tennis shoes back on when the girls were running the 100m.  "Why do I have to put them on that early?"  I explained to her that each heat of the 400 would be a minute and a half or so, the 100 would only take about 20 seconds and then she was up.  "So how long will the 50 take?"  I said, "You'll only have to run for about 10 seconds, so run as hard as you can."  She got a huge grin at the realization that her "running" task would be so brief and the satisfaction of knowing she had chosen "well"!

I've been emphasizing to her that I didn't care if she won or lost or was stuck in the middle somewhere, I just wanted her to do her best.  That's all I ever really want from my kids - the best effort they can muster up.  At the realization of the brevity of her run, she finally agreed that she would do her best.  When the whistle blew, she took off and ran her best for 50 meters.  Today, her best was enough to win the race!  I know it's only third grade and it's only one short race, but today I'm very proud of my oldest child.

Not because she won, but because she did her best.  She tried as hard as she could to run as fast as she could.  I love how she got excited at the end.  There was something in her eyes that wasn't there before - or at least not as brightly.  When it finally dawned on her that she won  (which wasn't for several seconds after she'd walked off the track) she had this huge grin and a look of disbelief.  I could see the thoughts forming in her mind "I actually won!  If I can win this, what else can I do?  What dreams can I achieve?"

Her imagination is running wild with possibilities.  And she's just learned that great effort can create great outcomes.  My little girl surprised me today - reminded me to never write off the unexpected.  I have a feeling she's going to surprise a lot of people for the rest of her life - not necessarily on the track - as she imagines her way into a tomorrow very different from today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Love Me Stupidly

Last Christmas, I bought my wife several different gifts.  None of them were really needed, but I wanted to get them anyway.  Nothing really extravagant, but the total was... uh... more than necessary.  We were already getting a computer as a family gift, so money was a little scarce.  Still, I'd been paying attention and noticed a number of things she wanted in the months leading up to Christmas.  LuAnn has a knack for using her 'Christmas money' to buy herself whatever I have wrapped up for her, so I figured this year at least I'd have some backups!  But that wasn't really what motivated me to buy so many things, despite the many reasons not to.

Even though we didn't have enough money to buy these things 'comfortably'... 
Even though LuAnn's not all that into getting things...
Even though I know that she already knows I love her... 
Even though no amount of gift giving is adequate...
Even though the sum total of my efforts may look a little stupid...

I bought gifts for LuAnn because I love her.  I love her in amounts and ways that look stupid.  But she loves me back, and I don't mind looking stupid.

As I was reading Margaret Feinberg's the Sacred echo last night, I came across a perspective on the widow who gave her last bit of money to God that opened my eyes just a little wider.  I'd always read the story and thought of generosity, making God priority, trusting God to provide, etc.  Maybe the simple fact is that this widow was so crazy about God that she did something stupid (at least stupid in the eyes of the people around her).  It makes no sense to give away your last few cents when you don't know where your next meal is coming from.  Widows of that day were
 basically at a fixed income of ZERO + whatever the people around would part with.  She wasn't just trusting God, she was extravagantly, stupidly in love with Him.

Even though she didn't have enough money to give 'comfortably'... 
Even though God's not all that into getting things...
Even though she knew that God already knew she loved Him...
Even though no amount of giving is adequate...
Even though the sum total of her efforts looked pretty stupid...

She gave because she loved God.  And she knew God loved her back, so she didn't mind looking stupid.

Francis Chan hits on this same chord in Crazy Love.  He contrasts the profile of 'the lukewarm' with that of 'the obsessed'.  It makes me wonder if I've been loving God as I should?  What is my love for Him pushing me to do even if it looks stupid or crazy?  Am I really obsessed with knowing God?

Maybe it's time for you to wrestle with these questions as well?  Are you loving God stupidly or from a safe, comfortable distance?  Do you dare to give your last dollar just to tell Him you love Him?  Do you dare to dive deeply into the center of His heart, no matter what you may find you'll want to sacrifice there?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Coldwater Mission

Exciting things are happening in our student ministry. God is motivating leaders and students alike to reveal His kingdom to those around us. Reading through Matthew 10 this morning (thanks Jimmy), I noticed something that really got me thinking. Jesus was sending His disciples away from Him on a mission. He gave them some pretty amazing authority to back up the message they were carrying: that "the kingdom of heaven has come near."
The thing that sparks my curiosity this morning is how he sent them out with no provisions aside from the mission itself and the ability to carry it out. They weren't supposed to just go shout on the street corners - they were actually to do useful things to benefit the people of the region: things like getting rid of demons and illnesses and bringing people back to life (pretty useful if you're dead, I'd say!).  They were not to take extra money or clothes or shoes, etc. because "workers are worth their keep." They were to rely on the hospitality of the strangers they'd be serving!

I wonder today... There are those of us who are still tasked with the mission of proclaiming that the kingdom has come near. (Just in case you're a little unclear, that's you church!) How are we benefiting the people we've been sent to? What are we doing to reveal the kingdom of God here on earth? What are we doing to deserve the hospitality of our communities?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekend Movies...

Friday night, while my dad was in town, we headed to the theater to see Star Trek...  One of the first movie-memories I have is of going to "The Wrath of Khan" with my dad, so this was a little bit of nostalgia to witness the launching of what will presumably be another generation of the franchise.  Unfortunately, the tickets were sold down to 1, so we went to Wolverine instead.

I couldn't help but think of my own brother as I watched the drama unfold between Victor and Logan.  Especially with lines like, "No one kills you but me."  Growing up, my brother and I fought like crazy, but if either of us was ever 'in trouble' we always defended each other.  I got in more fights defending my brother than about anything else in our earlier school days.  He was small (as was I) which made him an easy target, but had a mouth that wouldn't back down.  I often found my brother face to chest with some bully that he wouldn't cower to, or some perceived enemy that he'd slighted.  I was always compelled to come to his side and de-escalate the situation - often verbally, but sometimes we just had to smack some sense into those other guys!  I wish it was still that simple.  I still know, though, that my brother and I (as well as the third of the trio who came a little too late to fight with) would still stand up for each other in any given situation.

Anyway, the movie was pretty good despite a few lines that felt really awkward.  I expected the comic book dialogue, but a couple times I just wondered which writer let his 5 year old write the lines...

Sunday brought better luck.  A friend and I ditched our wives and kids on Mother's Day to go see the new Star Trek (which unexpectedly had some great maternal moments).  [Before I am castigated too intensely, I'll just say that our wives got together and hung out at our house and had no problem whatsoever with being without us for a couple hours - BECAUSE WE LOVE OUR WIVES AND APPRECIATE THEM ALL YEAR LONG.]

I really liked Star Trek and hope it is only the beginning of another incarnation of the bold exploration of humanity and our place in the universe in the face of uncertainty.  It's still a great story, and this rendition is well told.  I don't want to ruin anything, but I love the thought that runs throughout the film: "I don't believe in a no-win situation."  Faced with their own mortality and great peril, the crew is forced, time and again to find solutions - sometimes impetuously, sometimes with pure logic.  But because Kirk refuses to give up - great things happen.

It's interesting to think of how a leader gathers his tribe, and sets course into 'strange new worlds'.  It leaves me asking, who is my tribe?  What makes me worth following?  And where am I leading them?

After helping a friend move a couple large items into an apartment, I spent a couple hours watching "Bedtime Story" with LuAnn.  She had already watched it with the kids, but I hadn't got to see it yet.  It was pretty much hilarious - all the way through - and another reminder that convention isn't always the best way to where you really want to be.

I haven't been watching many movies lately, but went 3 for 3 this weekend!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

I wish...

A couple weeks ago, we did an exercise with our Jr. High and High school students to get them dreaming about 'what could be' in the church.  Each person received an index card with the words "I wish WestWay..." printed across the top (beautifully printed by Missi & a blue marker I might add).  

There were no boundaries - just wishes.

I anticipated some pretty good responses (we have some pretty sharp students) sprinkled with a few less helpful thoughts (they have a sense of humor, too).  We're in the process, over the next couple weeks, of breaking these thoughts down and sifting through to determine some next steps.  Here were the responses of our teens:

I wish WestWay...
-and the community would become one
-would bring more members to the church
-would awaken from her slumber and move to change the world
-could have a heart for God and reach out to the lost instead of waiting for them to find us
-would be able to get our church to go out and speak to the ghetto because the Mexicans are cool in school and if they will be with God then everyone will
-would have some sort of a "good deed group"
-in the future would be able, under some circumstance, convert millions of poeple to God - and may God have it happen
-would grow bigger out to the community
-could travel out of town to minister to other teens in other towns
-would do more mission trips - save the whole world
-could help a person to have a healthy life and we could support that one person for 2 or 3 years
-could stay strong and get more people to fill the seats that are empty on Sunday mornings.  I also wish we could get mroe students to come Wednesdays
-would do something.  I don't think anyone has thought about the Spring Thing message.  I want people to take it to heart
-would have more opportunities to reach out by community service
-would be able to bring people to Christ
-would make more things for teenagers to do
-would get a bowling alley
-would grow more spiritually and closer together, and that we would grow more as a body and not just keep going on through life without stopping and looking at what God is doing
-would make more things for teens to do
-had a pet chimp named Joe
-had a youth ministry on Sunday, not just an adult one and you children
-would only change in a good way
-would have a time where we can connect with others, I used to feel on the outside until I started feeling comfortable in front of everyone here.
-It would be cool if we had a prayer altar where we can go pray humbly in front of Him like in one of the side rooms.  People need to listen and learn
-no hypocrites
-could be more of a free talking place, like discussing personal things
-would expand its members and we would gain more people
-would come with me to college or I could bring some of the rest of the church back when I visit
-would get more one on one with each other
-would have more youth Sundays maybe

The bold answers are the ones that groups of 4 or 5 students selected last night as priorities out of the list.  I love where this is pointing.  God is at work in our student ministry - calling students out of themselves and into Him, where He is shaping a mission oriented work force with more energy than GE could ever imagine!  There's a ton of potential energy that's about to go kinetic!

Links on a Thursday

I just wanted to share a couple links to some stuff I read recently.

The first is a concise little summer of Perry Noble's optimism.  I can't help but be excited about the future of the church when I think about these things...

Also, Knotter offers some thoughts about CatalystWestCoast here and here on his blog.  I really like the quote from Dan Kimball about the missional church not recalibrating theology, but recalibrating how we talk about theology.

If you missed it, by the way, some of my 'processing notes' from Catalyst are here and here and here and here and here.  (Each 'here' links to a different page, but you can also just scroll down on my main page and find the entries from the end of April.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

This isn't just riding, it's art.

Found this on Knotter's blog. Amazing.

Don't run away from me...

Lizzy is 2.  Very 2.  She has a stubbornness that I suppose we have to blame on genetics: it seems to be a dominant trait all the way around in our household!  Lately, she's testing the limits of her own free will and figuring out how that plays into relationships within the family...  "I CAN say no to Siah - I CANNOT say no to Daddy."

Yesterday, she had told me "NO" very emphatically when I told her to do something, then immediately realized her stubbornness had very deep roots - in me.  She knew she was in trouble before I said anything else, so she ran.  (Actually, this scenario played out a couple times yesterday.)

As she recovered from her *cough, cough* reprimand, I brought her face close to mine and said "Lizzie, when you know you're in trouble, don't run away from me."

Immediately, I wondered how often God has longed to pull me close and tell me to stop running...  How often do we hide from God as we struggle with trouble that only He is able to handle?  Burying ourselves in work or play or even relationships that let us distract ourselves from the Truth that is waiting for us... Let's stop repeating the folly of Adam and Eve, hiding in the garden, and run to our Father, who is more than able to correct us, heal us, and rebuild us for service in His Kingdom.

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