June 27, 2007

600

Is the 600th post some sort of milestone?

If it is, then consider this an excuse to party!

June 26, 2007

Religion vs. Gospel

I found this on the Act20network.org site.

The Difference between Religion and the Gospel

Religion says, if I obey, God will love me. Gospel says, because God loves me, I can obey.

Religion has good people & bad people. Gospel has only repentant and unrepentant people.

Religion values a birth family. Gospel values a new birth.

Religion depends on what I do. Gospel depends on what Jesus has done.

Religion claims that sanctification justifies me. Gospel claims that justification enables sanctification.

Religion has the goal to get from God. Gospel has the goal to get God.

Religion sees hardships as punishment for sin. Gospel sees hardship as sanctified affliction.

Religion is about me. Gospel is about Jesus.

Religion believes appearing as a good person is the key. Gospel believes that being honest is the key.

Religion has an uncertainty of standing before God. Gospel has certainty based upon Jesus' work.

Religion sees Jesus as the means. Gospel sees Jesus as the end.

Religion ends in pride or despair. Gospel ends in humble joy.


This was written by Mark Driscoll. Despite what some of you might think of him, what do you think of his summation of the difference between Religion and Gospel? Would you add any?

June 21, 2007

Positive and Negative

Let me open with a little confession...I can be very critical and negative. I try hard no to be, but it seems to run in my genetic code.

Last week I had something of an awakening. A person, whom I respect, said, "You tend to be very critical." I know this. I admit this. I try to work on this. But having this person say it made it more real to me somehow.

To be honest my training, and being a Christian, hasn't helped. I automatically tend to view things and ask, "What do I NOT like about this? What would I change? Is this right?" I look at everything as through a magnifying glass. These questions, while not necessarily bad tend to lead me down the road of picking apart all the bad characteristics. I don't mean to ignore the positive things, but it is easier to figure out what I am against.

We all do that, if we are honest. We are more willing to define ourselves by what we are against than what we are for. We find it easier to see the fault in other people than to see the faults in ourselves. And Lord help the person who tries to point out our flaws and faults to us.

Today I listened to an online message from pastor of a large and growing church. I found myself unable to concentrate on what he was saying because I disagree with the premise and theology of his sermon. I won't say that it is damnable; I just didn't agree.

Then it hit me between the eyes like a 2x4...I was the one with the problem. I wasn't even hearing the positive things much less the voice of God through him because I was busy picking apart what was wrong and what I wouldn't do. So I forced myself to make a list of all the positive things I saw and heard and to think of nothing but the positive things. I made a list of 6-7 things and found my whole demeanor changing.

I think it is a good exercise...to force myself to make a list of all the positive things before I list any of the bad, if I list the bad at all. Because really, I am only responsible for me. I cannot make someone else change their stance. Only God can change a person. I can, however, learn from them and find the value in what they are saying, and then apply that to my own life.

When has God smacked you upside the head to get you to listen?

June 20, 2007

Only the Kingdom of God can Change the World

Christians must be active politically. Christians living in the United States have a responsibility to be involved in electing people to lead our country because we are part of a democracy. Our system gives us a voice and we should use that voice.

We have a responsibility to be involved in politics, but we should never...
...think that God is not in control of who is leading our nation (Check out these verse). He is ultimately in control of who is leading.

...Nor should we think that the political world will save us or the people around us.

I stumbled upon this article. It is written by an atheist, but catch these last two paragraphs:

"In short, despite all their political successes they have failed to acquire the power necessary to change American culture. It hasn’t occurred to them yet that they won’t be able to achieve their goals simply by acquiring political power in a democracy like America. If they could acquire undemocratic power, like through a dictatorial takeover, they could, but not in a pluralistic and diverse society governed by a democracy.

Thus, unless the Christian Right intends some sort of takeover, they have been wasting the resources all these years. They should have been investing time, money, and effort into changing people and setting a better example that people would want to follow. Instead, they dove into politics and, in the process, demonstrated that they weren’t any better than any other interest group out there."
I especially found that last sentence telling. Politics will not change people, only God's Kingdom can make a difference. We are called to live out a transformed life in front of other people and help them experience the transforming power of God for themselves. The writer of the article gets it, now we just need more Christians to get it.

Perspective

Do you remember this picture where the old woman and the young woman are combined in the same image?

If you were told it is a young woman, you will see a young woman. If you were told it is an old woman, you will see an old woman. It will take some time (and possibly a lot of brain strain) to see it from the other perspective.

God has been dealing with my perspective of things. There are certain things I feel need or should take place, but they aren't. I complain to God about my current situation, because I can't seem to gain his perspective.

In fact, it has not been a matter of my inability to gain His perspective. Rather it has been my unwillingness to see things from His perspective.

Philip Yancy says the most important part of learning to pray is learning to align ourselves with God's perspective. It is a matter of seeing how everything fits into the grand scheme of what God is doing. What may seem like a major catastrophe could have implications for my growth and God's Kingdom that I just cannot see.

God is currently changing my perspective on some major things. In what areas do you need your perspective changed? How is God dealing with you lately?

June 19, 2007

Scammed by WLI and Classmates

I log in to my bank account on a regular basis to keep tabs of things. I logged in this morning, and discovered two charges from an unauthorized company. It was listed as WLI*SHOPPERDISCOUNT and as WLI*RESERVATIONREWARDS.CO. This group also goes by the name Webloyalty.com

Come to find out this is a company that gathers information about your account via your online purchases and then puts their information in the small print. Then they charge you once, several times, or even on a "subscription" basis. We got it because of a Classmates.com order. Classmates.com scams their subscribers with this "small print" trick.

Here are some additional articles about it Here (this site names some of the culprit websites) and Here.

If you have made an online purchase, you might want to check out your history of charges.

June 18, 2007

Intersting Quotes on Church Leadership

In seminary, I had the privilege of working with Darius Salter on one of his books. I finally got around to reading it. America's Bishop: The Life of Francis Asbury is an important look at one of American Christianity's most influential figures.

Francis Asbury led American Methodism from a small, disdained sect to the leading religious movement of its time. He was more travelled than any other person in his time, and he was more recognized by face than the President of the United States. His leadership set the standard for much of what we see, even now, in American Christianity.

Reading this book reminded me of the commitment it takes to accomplish God's will and call on our lives. Asbury's sole drive in life was to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few quotes:

"Prophets usually alienate their hearers, but a prophetic message does not play well in a revivalistic and rapidly growing church" (pp 310-311). (The prophetic, in this instance, means the role of the church to stand against the wrongs of the culture and world around it.)

"The paradox of leadership is that almost every virtue of the leader can be misconstrued as a vice" (p 348).

Talking about the itinerant ministers of early Methodism: "The surprise is not that men of such uncommon sacrifice would make such a difference; they always do. The wonder is that they would make such a sacrifice" (p 356).

What I found, as I read, is that Asbury and early Methodism faced many of the challenges and problems we still face in the church.

Can a church be both discipleship focused and still reach the lost? Is it possible that we overstep our bounds when we say, "We exist to reach the lost!"? Is that really all the church is about? Reaching the lost?

Is there some place where the two can be combined in a wonderful way...where discipleship grows and thrives, and those disciples see their responsibility to bring the lost to Jesus?

What do you think?

June 15, 2007

Dedication

I could easily have called this post stick-to-it-ness, but that seemed a little long. Today my daughter, Brianna, and I spent the day together. We went out to breakfast, to the store, and then to the park. I seem to learn a ton of things just by watching her.

Every time she goes to the park, she wants to try the monkey bars. You know the ones that you have to swing from bar to bar, hand-over-hand, to get to the other side. She can go along the side rail just fine, but she hasn't mastered the swinging part yet.

Today I watched as she attempted again and again and again to make it across. She would try one approach to getting across, and then another approach until things started to work. Then she would push herself to go that one bar farther. She would take a short break, walk across the balance beam, and then try again.

After easily 30 tries and one attempt that got her across 6 bars, she said, "My arms were hurting, but I wanted to get across."

I admire her determination and willingness to fight through the temporal pain in order to achieve what she wanted to achieve. She didn't make it all the way across, but she certainly proved her determination to me.

Think this has any application to leadership and church planting?

What is the greatest lesson you have every learned from a child?

June 13, 2007

King (Lebron) James Leadership

Despite living outside my home state of Ohio for ten years, I kept track of Ohio sports news. I remember watching Lebron James, as a high school senior, play in one of the few ESPN aired high school games. He was a phenom.

I have been even more impressed with him as I watched his demeanor before reporters and how he has handled the fame. He exhibits a maturity beyond his years. He can score with flash, but he can also look to make his teammates better.

I found this article on Fast Company that discusses leadership Lebron style.

Here are the three main points:
1. Lead by example. Unlike many others in the NBA, Lebron knows how to share. He gives his teammates the ball, trusts them, and, in the process, makes them better. As a church planter/pastor our job is to make the people around us better. We can't do that if we try to do everything ourselves. (Lifechurch blog has a great article about sharing leadership.)

2. Do what it takes. While Lebron does share the ball, he also knows when to drive hard to the basket and when to take the shot himself. The tasks of a leader are not always easy. You have to be willing to confront people when necessary, fire people when necessary, and also get your hands dirty with the "menial" work when necessary. If you want to succeed and actually lead rather than manage, you have to be willing to do what it takes to get to where you are going. Things will not just happen on their own. You can't sit back and expect the core group to form on their own or the difficult board member to "just go away."

3. Live your values. Despite earning millions of dollars right out of high school, Lebron has had no scandals and no jail time. Despite a rough upbringing, he seems to have his head screwed on tight. He seems to know what he values, and then lives out those values in his every day life and his style of play. As leaders, we have to know what we value and then live out of those values. There are shortcuts to stardom and success, but there is no shortcut to good character.

What "philosophical" statements would you use to define your way of leadership?

You might also like these Looks at Leadership: Jim Tressel and Maj. Richard Winters

June 12, 2007

Salvation is More...Part 2

The other day I posted a quote from Donald Miller. The question I posed focuses on the fullness of the Gospel. Can the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Salvation) be reduced to four simple steps?

Jesus said, "Come, follow me." He didn't ask his disciples to sign a statement of beliefs or say a Sinner's prayer. In fact, some of the people Jesus forgave didn't even ask Him for forgiveness. I don't believe the Gospel can be boiled down into four quick components.

Scot McKnight recently posted an article on the Out of Ur blog.

He believes that a Four Spiritual Law approach creates several problems:
1. No one in the New Testament really preaches this gospel.
2. This gospel is about one thing: humans gaining access to God’s presence.
3. This gospel creates and individualist Christian life.
4. This gospel sets the tone for the entire evangelical movement.
5. This gospel leads to spiritual formation being entirely about “me and God.”
6. The evangelical gospel has created a need for evangelical monasteries.
7. The evangelical gospels turns the local church into a volunteer society that is unnecessary.
8. The evangelical gospel is rooted in Theism or Deism, but not the Trinity.

Instead, McKnight wants us to seek out a Gospel presentation that does the following:
1. A robust gospel cannot be “tractified.”
2. God made you as an eikon (Greek for “image”) to relate in love to God, to self, to others, and to the world.
3. The “fall” cracked the eikon in all for directions.
4. Bible readers cannot skip from Genesis 3 to Romans 3.
5. Genesis 4-11 reveals the “problem” of sin: the climax is a society of eikons trying to build their way to God.
6. Genesis 12 begins to restore the eikon by a covenantal commitment and forming the family of faith. The rest of the bible is about this elected family of faith.
7. The “problem” is finally resolved in “four atoning moments”: the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
8. The “locus” of resolution is the family of faith: three big words in the bible that describe this family of faith are Israel, the Kingdom, and the Church.

What do you think? Is Scot's analysis correct? Can his ideas for a "presentation" of the Gospel be accomplished?

A Soldier's Tale

I just read this article from the Washington Post.

I felt humbled to be an American with such brave men (and women) protecting and fighting. But I was also struck by the power of redemption and a story that reminded me of the Good Samaritan.

Whatever your thoughts on the war, I think this is a powerful story.

Jesus Joke

There have been a lot of comments on the blogosphere lately about pastors who have gone to seminary. Out of 15 or so, only 1 of 2 have been anything close to positive. I for one believe that Seminary was a positive experience. It wasn't meant to teach us the practics of leadership (though that should be part of it). It was meant to teach pastors how to study the Bible and find out what it really means and to think theologically. (Check out Paul Peterson's post on the topic).

Anyways...

I found this joke at A Tentative Quaker (via: Creative Think) which illustrates how building theological complex structures can actually get in the way.

And Jesus said unto them, "And whom do you say that I am?"
They replied,
"You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”
"You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”
"You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming roughness’ in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”
“You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”
And Jesus replied, "Huh?"
What do you think?

June 11, 2007

thirteen

Today, it has been thirteen years since Lori and I married. We were young when we got married so a lot of people were concerned about if it would last. I am glad to say that it has. I was lucky enough to find someone to love, and who love me. Despite finding a person to love, it has been a lot of hard work as all marriage commitments are.

Here is to another 13+

June 5, 2007

New Perspective on Leadership

An article at Fast Company, discussing an article by Roger Martin in the Harvard Business Review, says:
The secret, according to Martin, is not what a leader does but how he thinks.

Martin’s leaders don’t approach decisions as most of us do as a series of mutually exclusive options: Pick option A and forget about option B. Like a creative strategist, they integrate seemingly contradictory options and in doing so create a new perspective. Think of the idea of selling software for free but making money on the services. That's the synthesis of two contradictory ideas -- free products but a profitable service component.

Ultimately, Martin’s leaders are not content to settle. Rather than accept “unattractive trade-offs,” they welcome the challenge to make the world better. They’re drivers of change.

This got me thinking about how some people view theology, seminary training, and the practice of ministry. They seem to think that they are contradictory. Seminary trained ministers can't possibly be good at ministry and innovative. Theological thinkers can be good at the practics. Those who are good at the practics can't be good at the other two.

So here is what I am thinking...What if we somehow created a ministry training program that allowed people to be both theologically trained AND good at the practics? What if we had pastors who really were good at both?

I am unwilling to accept the "unattractive trade-offs" of being just a good practician or just a seminary trained minister. I want them both. I always have. That is why I worked in the local church at the same time I earned my degrees. I want to integrate the two in such a way as to create a "new perspective."

Salvation is More Than Four Spiritual Laws...Isn't It?

About a year ago I read by Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller. I was blown away to say the least. Then I readTo Own A Dragon, and again I was blown away. His reflection of growing up without a father was spot on, and help me see myself in a different light.

Be sure to check out this article about him on ChristianityToday.com. But in the meantime, here is a quote about the "Four Spiritual Laws" from Searching for God Knows What:
Millions, perhaps, have come to know Jesus through these efficient presentations of the gospel. But I did begin to wonder if there were better ways of explaining it than these pamphlets. After all, the pamphlets have been around for only the last fifty years or so (along with our formulaic presentation of the gospel), and the church has shrunk, not grown, in Western countries in which these tools have been used. But the greater trouble with these reduced ideas is that modern evangelical culture is so accustomed to this summation that it is difficult for us to see the gospel as anything other than a list of true statements with which a person must agree.
What do you think about this quote? Do formulaic expressions of the Christian faith distract people from the FULL meaning of what it means to live for Jesus? Can becoming a Christian be reduced to only four spiritual laws (steps)? Is becoming a Christian only about having the right intellectual beliefs?

June 4, 2007

The Dip

This afternoon, I went in to Barnes and Nobles to spend a gift certificate that has been burning a hole in my pocket. As I perused the stacks and racks of books, I saw Seth Godin's new book The Dip.

I thought I would sit down and read a few pages to see if it interested me. An hour later I had read the entire book.

I found this short book to be a very good read, and a worthwhile read for any church planter. Here is the gist:
1. Discover what you can do best.
2. Know when to quite and when to persevere.
3. Quit everything that distracts you from becoming the best.
4. Quit everything that you cannot become the best at doing.
5. If you can become the best at it, keep pushing through the dip!

The take away for me is that in order for a person to be the very best or for a business or team to be the very best they have to stop doing a lot of things. They may do those things very well, but if they cannot become the best at it, they need to focus on the things that they can be the best at doing. They need to specialize.

I have always been a generalist. I like lots of things, but this book has challenged me to discover what it is that I can be the best at, and then pursue it with passion.

My only reservation about his book, is that sometimes persevering through the hard times does not make you the best. During the first few years of planting the church, I hit the dip. Everything became a struggle, and I definitely wanted to quit. I tried to quit, but God refused to let me.

I sent out resumes. I called people. I tried to leave, but NOTHING happened. I stuck it out, and God ended up changed me in the process. If I had not gone through that dark time, I would not be who I am today. But on the other end, I was no more successful as a church planter than when I started.

As I consider planting the new church in Huber Heights, I want to be the best church in the northland area. Not in a way that is a competition between us and other churches, but in a way that we are constantly challenging ourselves to grow and do things better. I don't want to steal people from the other churches, I want to steal them from the clutches of sin. I want us to be the best at turning people who are far from God into fully devoted, mature Christ-followers.

I think Seth Godin would say that my dip was sticking to church planting, but pushing through to find the right location and tactic.

June 1, 2007

The Role of Women

When I first started seminary there was an influx of young, unmarried women preparing for the ministry. Most were wonderful, but some were very angry and every male was target. I have always been supportive of developing a strong biblical understanding of the sexes without forcing the other be something they are not.

Men and women are different. We were created that way. My friend Shawna has a great post about the original Hebrew word often translated "helpmate" in the Creation story. Just for the record, she wasn't one of the angry ones.

Probably because of the focus of her post, she didn't talk about the role of Adam naming Eve following the Fall. Dr. Coleson pointed out that for one person to name the other person was to take power over them. Adam naming Eve was an act of taking power over her following the Fall. It was man's fall into sinfulness that started the marked attempts to lord the power over women.

Let me reiterate. Men and women are equal in purpose, ability, and standing before God. I do not believe we are meant to be the same. Physically we are different. Emotionally and psychologically we are different. We were meant to be different. And, while I believe that a person can be single and in the ministry. I also believe that God most often intends for man and women to complement each other under the marriage covenant.

June 11 will be my 13 year wedding anniversary. Lori and I are very different. But we complement each other. She has gifting that I don't have...like being able to listen before speaking...like being able to be the thoughtful one...the list goes on and on.

Be sure to check out Shawna's post.

I Should Have Worn Pants!

I didn't intend to go hiking. I met someone at Panera for breakfast, and then thought I would go to the Taylorsville Dam. I knew there were some picnic tables in the reserve, and the Great Miami River provides a great back drop to spend time with God.

When I arrived, I spotted a trail I hadn't seen before, and decided to follow it for a little ways. The sun was peeking in and out from behind a cloud, and there was a nice breeze along the river. I stopped about 1/4 of a mile down the trail on a sand bar. I read a few chapters from Esther, but was more taken with the wildlife that had gone unnoticed a few minutes earlier (my ADD).

Soon I was following the bank of the river until I ran out of space, and the bank became too steep and muddy. Then I found a small deer path and began following that. That worked until the path disappeared. The nettles began scrapping my legs, and I noticed large patches of poison ivy. It was then that I thought, "I should have worn pants!"

How could I have known to wear pants? I hadn't planned on hiking at all. My intention was to sit at the picnic table and enjoy the scenery. Instead, I was trying to find the scenery that is only available when you leave the beaten path.

In leadership, church planting, and life in general, we can plan, but sometimes we get hit with the unexpected. When that happens, we have to be willing to just move ahead. You never know what is going to happen, or what is going to change. I wasn't planning on going hiking. I wasn't prepared. But if I hadn't gone ahead, there would have been a lot of things I would have missed. I had the opportunity to see some wildlife that I could not have seen from the "regular" trail.

I think part of leadership is being prepared, but also being prepared to not be prepared. There are people who try to plan for every possible contingency. I don't know that you can plan for everything. You can plan for many things, and you should plan for most things. But there will always come a time when something happens or an opportunity arises that you were not prepared for. You can either quite and try to return when you are better equipped and prepared. Or, you can press forward, and endure the problems for what exciting things lay ahead.

What kind of person are you? A planner? Spontaneous? Are you willing to share about a time you were caught off guard, but pressed ahead and found something great at the other end?