Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Music Doesn't Appeal to Me

You probably hat me for writing that, but it's true.  I really don't like Christmas music.  I don't have a strong reason why except that it's a little too mushy and sentimental for me.  I don't have any deep theological reasons for it other than that. 

I do have one exception though.  I absolutely love Michael W. Smith's first Christmas CD.  That peice of work is awesome!  It's the only one for me that captures the majesty of the moment without being so sentimental.  It rests on the glory of the incarnation and not that "look at the cute little baby Jesus" syndrome like you see in the movie Talledaga Nights.

I guess writing this out I stumbled on something meaningful though.  I think Christians miss the glory of the moment that we call incarnation.  We fail to see the majesty of babe.  Many of us celebrate it but few of us are like the wise men and bend our knee to him.

That would be my Christmas present to you.  May you see the majesty of Jesus in the manger this Christmas.

If Christmas music helps you do that, more power to ya!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Items You Will Not Find in the Bible, Part 1

Item #1: The Sinners Prayer

    Nowhere in the Bible will you find the prayer that many people are taught to say to intiate their faith in Jesus Christ.  Peter didn't do it in Acts 2 when the people asked how to place their faith in Jesus.  He didn't ask the crowd to bow their head and raise their hand and say a prayer stating that "I'm a sinner, that I need God, and I invite him into my heart."  Instead he said, "Repent and be baptized."  In Acts 22 when Paul shares what Annaias said to him to initiate his faith in Christ.  Ananais didn't have Paul repeat the sinners prayer after him.  Instead, Annais said to Paul, "What are you waiting for?  Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."  For that matter, no one was asked to come down to the front of the church either and announce their faith to all.  That's an invention of early American revivalism.

How did, the "Sinners Prayer" come about then?  It really is an American invention.  Somehow, it came to replace the role of baptism in the New Testament.  D.L. Moody was the first to employ it back in the 1800's.  It was not popularized though until the 1950's with Billiy Graham and the Campus Crusade for Christ.  The phrase personal Savior is a late invention as well.  It's not in the Bible either.  This phrase was made popular by Charles Fuller during the 19th century revivalism.  This phrase has led to a intensely individualized expression of faith.  The New Testament doesn't teach just a me and Jesus routine.  Christianity is a life lived out among believers who know Christ together as Lord and Savior.

In the early church baptism was part of the initiation of faith.  Certainly, God responds to prayers of faith, but just as circumcision initaited Abrahams faith in God so does baptism initiate our faith in God (Colossians 2:11-12).  In the New Testament, as soon as someone said they believed in Jesus they were baptized.

Is their something wrong with the sinners prayer?  No, not of itself.  It is a prayer of faith, but it certainly does not replace the role baptism was intended to have in the New Testament.  Baptism and faith belong together.  Those who believed and repented were baptized.  This is the pattern of scripture.  It is how someone came to faith.

You may ask, isn't baptism a work?  How can it initate faith?  Doesn't Paul say we are saved by faith and not by works?  Yes, he does, and rightly so.  The New Testament though doesn't see baptism as a work.  That came later.  In the early second century influential teachers said that before someone could get baptized the person had to go through a period of instruction, prayer, and fasting.  In the 3rd century converts had to wait three years before they were baptized!  Suddenly, baptism became something you had to work in order to experience.  It was no longer perceived as part of grace, but as a work.

Okay, are we not saved by the blood of Jesus, and not baptism? Emphatically yes! This doesn't negate the role of baptism though.  The two are actually linked together.  Romans 6:3-4 shows how.  Listen, "Don't you know that all of us who were baptized ino Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we to omay live a new life."  (NIV)

What about the thief on the cross?  He wasn't baptized and Jesus said he would see him in paradise.  The thief wasn't baptized.  Well, did the thief say a sinners prayer?  Did he repent even?  Did he say he was sorry for his sins?  Understand, Jesus often forgave sins in his ministry on earth.  He did it to the man who came through the ceiling too.  He didn't come to ask Jesus to forgive his sins.  He wanted to walk again, but Jesus forgave him anyway.  Jesus can forgive anyone he wants to any way he wants too.  He's God.  He is the perfect judge over all.

It doesn't negate the pattern that was set down by Jesus to the apostles before he ascended into heaven.  He told them to go into all the nations and to baptize people in the name of the Trinity.  He didn't tell them to say a sinners prayer.  That's why Peter said what he said in Acts 2, repent and be baptized.  Jesus instituted it, and the early church practiced it as the intitiation of faith. 
Can we do the same?

So if you are person that has said the sinners prayer but have not been baptized then you need to complete the initiation of your conversion (and be baptized)!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stuck in Growth

Can I share something with you?  I feel stuck!

Our church is really maxing out the Y facility, so it would be good to go to a bigger facility with better classrooms for our children.  The problem the building in Suffolk are so limited and the price range to build on some land is way out there.

We need room to grow but we do not have the resources to take the next step.

I hear a big word calling... FAITH!  I think our congregation this next year is going to have to take a huge step of faith to go to the next level.  The question I have is this, Am I willing to do it?  Is the church I serve willing to do it?

We have some options before us though.  All require faith...

1. The downtown jazz building, $539,000.  Will it fit our church?  Will it be good for growth?  Can we afford the payments?  What about the heat bill and the renovations that will have to be made?

2.Buy land and build... but land prices are steep with new businesses coming into town.

3. Go to two services at the Y.  This looks like the suicide option to me.  It would require coming in at 6:30 AM and not getting done until 12:30 PM.  Plus I've never heard a church of about 125 going to two services.  That seems a little CRAZY to me!

Whatever the case... we're going to have FAITH this year.  I think when i came here we started out on hope, and we developed a community of love, and now for the final piece- FAITH.

God, help me see what I don't see!


A Thought About Christian Leadership and Tiger Woods

I've heard a lot of talk about how Tiger Woods as a role model has let so many people down, especially the kids that look up to him.  What kind of role model is he playing out before them?  The whole debate arises again on the idea that role models should be people we emulate.  We know Charles Barkley answer to that question.

I also found it interesting about how Tiger wanted to be so private.  I can understand that as a mega world star.  I think I would be fighting for my privacy as well.

But in the midst of the argument I was hearing on the ESPN radio I had this thought.

Christian leaders do not have the luxury of privacy.  As my grandmother said being a christian leader is like living in a fishbowl.  Why is that?

Simple.  Paul gave us the model of leadership when he said to his followers, "Follow me as I follow Christ."

When someone is following you you kinda lose that privacy virtue.  It requires you to be open and authentic not just with your faith, but your life.  Jesus said himself a student is not above his teacher.

That's my thought on Tiger Woods, I wish I could argue for his luxury sometimes, but I have a higher calling than a golf pro.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Christians forgiving Christians

It has been my experience that many times Chritians have the hardest time forgiving other Christians.  We're quick to forgive the sins of non-Christians, but Christians?  That's another story.

Wonder why?

You who have been foriven much, forgive much.


Erring on the Side of Grace

Celebration has a value that I want to communicate to you.

If we err, and we will, we will seek to err on the side of grace.

I hear all the time of such horror stories of churches who treated people with such rigidity. 

Here is my value stustem.  If I err I will seek to err on the side of grace, faith, hope, and love.

After all ever hear of church that had too much grace, too much faith, too much love, too much hope.

I'd love being part of a church that makes these kind or errors.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Forgiving the Church

Yesterday I spoke on forgiveness.  My hope was to get you to move from your perspective on forgiveness to God's perspective on forgiveness.  God's perspective on forgiveness is this: You have been forgiven much, so you forgive much.

Not long ago I was introduced to a great guy.  As our conversation progressed he proceeded to tell me that he was not interested in attending church.  He said he believed in God, Jesus, and was a faithful follower.  The church though, was not part of his faith.  He said that he had been been hung out to dry too many times.  He and his wife had been deeply wounded by this experience.  So he was through with church.  He wasn't going to do that again.

He loved Jesus. He just didn't love the church Jesus died for.  Well, I take that back.  It's not that he didn't love the church as an institution, but the people in it, that's another story.

This conversation, plus preaching about forgiveness Sunday, brought this thought to mind.  First, why do church people hurt other church people?  Then second, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving other Christians?

First, why do Christians hurt each other?  Well, the answer in front of our nose is we have a mission we are very passionate about and those passions can lead to confrontations.  Those confrontations can lead to power plays, turf wars, and personal insults.  It just ends up that people hurt each other.

I think another factor the equation is spiritual immaturity.    When people have issues of pride, immorality, do not speak the truth in love, and are self-centered problems can easitly arise.

You see this other relational based organizations too, such as sports teams.  It seems though for a sports team we will allow coaches and other players to taunt and humiliate in the name of the game.  If I treated my church family like a lot of coaches treated their teams I would be fired.

I always wondered about that.  I always thought eternity was more critical than a game.  You would think we would invite criticism and push each other harder so we can see faith, hope, and love triumph over all.  Sorry, gotta little diverted there.

Secondly, why do Christians have such a hard time forgiving each other?  I thought to myself, after talking to my new friend, that he will never get over the hurt he had at church unless he learns to forgive those people.  He will carry that pain around all his life until he does so.  He probably knows that.  He just isn't practicing it.

I don't have an answer for that.  We are to be the ones that demonstrate Christ's forgiveness to the world by our forgiveness towards each other.  We have been forgiven much, so why don't we forgive much?

Here is my conclusion (After I said I don't have an answer, ha!): most Christians are not all that close to Jesus.  I heard the wonderful Timothy Keller speak about this in August.  He spoke on the parable of the prodigal son.  In it he said Jesus gives out two paths to God.  The son who left home and the son who stayed home. 

Both were rebellious.  The youngest son was rebellious outwardly.  The older son rebelled at home.

Mr. Keller made the point that most Christians are like the older brother.  Why did he rebel?  He rebelled because he thought he deserved the big party and not the the younger brother.  After all, he earned it.  Because of this attitude the older brother never had a relationship with his father at all.  Therefore he wasn't able to show grace to his younger brother.  He never knew the grace of his father.

That is why I believe Christians have a hard time with forgiveness.  They really don't know their heavenly Father, who has forgiven them so much!!!!

Like I said yesterday, if you're going to have the ability to forgive, you gotta know the Forgiver!  I just hope churches are the place where people practiced forgiveness in incredibly gracious ways.


Friday, November 13, 2009

The Drudgery and Excitement of Church Budgets

For many people church budgets are a boring bunch of numbers that people came up with, but for those that came up with the budget numbers it represents so much more.  It represents hope, opportunity, ministry, and life change.

For example, the internet team's budget will totally revemp our website and make it more user friendly for all who contact it.  I'm excited about the overhaul.

For the youth it represents the resources needed to make a difference in teen's lives, like a place to meet.

For marketing it represents the ability to get out in our community and share the love of Jesus.

In benelovence it means changing people's lives who need a little help.

The budget is so much more than numbers, it's people.  Those numbers represent people.  Let's never forget that!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wesley's Discipleship

Heather Zempel had this post on her blog about discipleship. I liked some of the thoughts...

John Wesley had a pretty hard-hitting approach to discipleship. In many small groups today, structuring the meeting time around the following questions would be frightening to many members. But if you want to challenge your people to deeper community and more focused discipleship, try these questions:
Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am a better person than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
Do I confidentially pass on what was told to me in confidence?
Can I be trusted?
Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habit?
Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
Did the Bible live in me today?
Do I give God time to speak to me everyday?
Am I enjoying prayer?
When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
Do I pray about the money I spend?
Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
Do I disobey God in anything?
Do I insist on doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
Am I defeated in any part of my life?
Am I jealous, impure, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
How do I spend my spare time?
Am I proud?
Do I thank God I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the publican?
Is there anyone I fear, or dislike, or criticize, or resent? If so, what am I doing about it?
Do I grumble and complain constantly?
Is Christ real to me?

Virginia Vision Meeting Today

Today I went to Richmond for the quaterly Virginia Vision meeting. In case you don't know VV is the organization that planted our church.

At the meeting I met and talked with people who are busy planting churches all over VA. This is a vital ministry. Did you know that the majority of church goers 25 years from now will be going to church that started today? That's why it is so important to start new churches!

Many of the churches are actively involved in the community and I learned something from them. The community will not think we are here for them unles we keep at it for at least 3-4 years. Now, you might say our church is 7 years old so this is good. We are on course.

But the question is have we been involved IN the community that long doing ministry? The answer to that is no. Just last year we started being involved with 4 Kids and Meals on Wheels. This year we are partnering with Oakland Elementry School. They will not see us as part of the school until 3-4 years from now. Neither will 4 Kids or Meals on Wheels.

So what I learned is that if we are going to seriously minister in this community then we need to be committed for the long run, not just hit and runs.


Monday, November 2, 2009

There are some things that are right about Halloween

Reggie Joiner, in his excellent book on family called, Think Orange, gives some interesting thoughts about the church and Halloween. He writes,

"Have you ever considered that the problem with Halloween may be that we (the church) have thought so much about what is wrong about it instead of thinking what is right about it? This isn't a statement about whether Halloween is right or wrong. I want to make a point about family.

Consider these stats:
  • An estimated 47% of households decorate for Halloween
  • Halloween is second only to Christmas in terms of decorations sold
  • Over 790 million jack-o-laterns and pumpkin pies will be bought.
  • Candy sales will exceed $2 billion
  • More than 93 percent of children go trick or treating every year. ( I wonder how many of those families go to your church?)

Most families love Halloween. Watch your neighborhood this fall (or this past weekend).

  • Listen to the laughter
  • Take a look at the generosity
  • Taste the sugar
  • Feel the energy
  • See the glow in the children's eyes
  • Notice the parents walking with thier kids
  • And observe how families connect with other families
  • It seems kind of ... magical

Why can't church be more like that?"

Good Question, Reggie!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

An interesting day off this past Sunday

Last week I took a Sunday off and actually attended another church. This was a first experience for me. Generally speaking, when i take a Sunday off, I'm taveling to see my parents, something like that. I've never taken a Sunday off and just stayed at home before.

I decided to go to another church for a number of reasons:
  1. I am always told this is good to do for rest and relaxation.
  2. It was interesting to be a regular guy in a church. I don't get to experience that too often.
  3. Get some new ideas for our church, maybe... cause we do everyting right, right?

Saturday night I was stressed by this whole gogoing to another church thing. one, my kids didn't want to go. So we decided to have our kids dropped off at our church. That was a weird position to be in. Then, all week I kept thinking I was preaching Sunday, thenI would have to remind myself I wasn't. That was stressing me for some reason. Out of routine I guess. Then I felt guilty for not going to my church.

Well, we went to Forefront church in Virginia Beach and once I went there it was really relaxing. It was nice to go and not have to worry about anything. It was a great experience.

What did i get from this church that might help our church? We could do a lot better and making sure our service is open to new people who don't know anything about church. We also could do a lot better at tailoring our service to reaching to people who know vary little about church.

Why? Well think about it. Non-churched people don't miss going to church. if I missed a Sunday i would miss going to church. Non-churched people don't miss it. They are very happy to do what they are doing now, golfing, sleeping, hunting, whatever.

We've got amake our service so good that if a non-churched person came to our service they would not want to miss out what's going to happen next week.

Friday, October 23, 2009

SPARK Evaluation

Last night we had our monthly staff meeting and we spent the time evaluating the SPARK series we just finished. Everyone said they liked it and they wanted to do it next year, but as always there is room for improvement. here is what we found, see if you agree....

1. What needs to be repeated?
* The extended worship at the end of the service
* Having eveyone, adults, youth, and children looking at the same topic each week
* The prayer chairs
* The Generosity buckets

2. What are some things we liked, but don't neccesarily need to be repeated?
* Might not do it for six weeks, maybe four
* We don't have to start it in September, maybe October

3. What can be improved?
* Need to be more collabrative in the next session across ministries
* Have specific Life group Leader training for the series
* Suspend traditional Life groups for SPARK groups during the six weeks
* The generosity bucket could use something more novel next time (Possibly themed with
whoever we are helping

4. What doesn't need to be repeated?
* There was some confusion between what was in the Life Group lessins and what was said
in the messages.
* Starting it in September
* The Life Group Lessons could take the topic of the messge a little deeper

There you go!

What did you think?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A great quote

I was listening to a Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast the other day and he said a great quote by Craig Groeschel.

"If we are going to reach people nobody else is reaching then we are going have to do what no one else is doing."

Think about that. Where do church people get ideas on how to reach people? Often, they get thier ideas from other church people, not the people they are trying to reach. The churches in this area are already doing a good job reaching the people they reach, but there are thousands of people in Suffolk who still don't have an active faith in Jesus Christ. Who is going to reach those people?

We are.

That means if we are going to reach them we are going to have to do some things that no other church is doing. We're going to have to make mistakes. We're going to have to risk some things. One thing is for sure. we have to do something different. We might do some things that make the traditional church cringe. Good.

This brings up another thought concerning new church work. Many times a new church will attract people from other churches because of the freshness, or the cause, or whatever. What happens many times is they bring along the ideas from their other church to place on the new church. What they don't understand is the church was not started to reach people like them, church people. It was started to reach preople the other churches in our community are not reaching. Church ideas will not work in our church.

What does this mean? For example, if you are thinking that once we get into a building that we are going to become a traditional church with Sunday evening services, Wednesday night dinners and other traditional church programs you are going down the wrong track. We're thinking inthe direction as our church building as being a safe place for homeless people, victims of domestic violence, and the like. We want it to be a place where the community truly comes to, and not just church people.


If we are going to reach who no one else is reaching we will have to things that no one else is doing.

Thiings I Hate about God

Ever hear people complain about God?

How could we do that? He is God.

So that has led to our new series for November...

4 Things I Hate About God.

What are some things you hate about God?


Deacons in the church carry an important role in the church. The role is loosely based on the men in the Jewish synagogues who were charged with taking care of the physical matters of the synagogue building. In the Bible we first see Deacons as a role created to solve a problem concerning the feeding of widows. Later on, in 1 Timothy, we see the role of Deacon as a formalized part of the structure of the church.

Deacon means servant. Literally it means "dirty feet people" as in the slaves who cleaned the dirty feet of ancient sandal wearing people. It has become popular to say that if you are serving in the church then you are a deacon. I have some concerns about this populist thought. Here are a couple comments concerning Deacons.

One, they serve under the authority of the elders. The elders appointed the deacons who were full of the Spirit to administer food to the elderly in Acts 6.

Secondly, it is an appointed office that carries authority. The authority isn't about spiritual matters or policy decisions, that's the elder's role. The authority concerns the allocation and distribution of the resources of the church so the congregation is well cared for.

Thirdly, it is a position that requires good character. The requirements in 1 Timothy are not an exhaustive list, after all, do you want a Deacon that doesn't show the Fruit of the Spirit? It is an emphasis on the character of the person. You need to be able to trust the people in charge of the resources of the church.

Being a Deacon is more than just taking care of the physical matters of the church. They are the front lines to making sure people in the congregation are being taken care of. It can be much more pastoral in nature than we realize. After all, isn't taking the food to the widows a pastoral ministry? They are responsible for developing systems so the congregation can be healthy and give a thriving testimony of God's community here on earth.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Concerning the Nobel Peace Prize...

I wonder if historical figures can receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I have a nominee.. Jesus Christ... who made mercy and justice kiss eachother on the cross so that we might know freedom.

PEACE in Christ

Fun at the Peanutfest

Hi everyone!

I just got back from doing a couple shifts at Celebration's booth at the Suffolk Peanutfest. It was a lot of fun. People like it when you give out free water after they ate some hot peanuts from a table down the way!

I had a couple of thoughts as I met all kinds of people. One was this: We're offering water, but Jesus offers living water, that will eternally quench our thirst in life. I sure hope that somehow, someway, through our effort that connection is made.

Then, concerning that effort, I thought this is a lot like the parable of the seeds. Some people are thorny ground, others rocky, others on a well beaten path, and other fertile soil. I pray that our brochures found some fertile soil for God's word this weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Come on, Live a little

I had a thought the other day. Why is it when we say, "Come on, live a little," it's about an activity that leads to death? Come on, have another drink, live a little! Go ahead, jump with the bungee cord, live a little!" Come on, take a toke, live a little! What's your problem, go 110 mph, live a little!"

But when Jesus, "Follow me and find eternal life," we think of it as being like a funeral service?

When did the roles get reversed?

Thoughts on Raising the Dead

I came across a video of a colleague stating that Christians can have the ability to raise the dead. He cited the passage in Matthew where Jesus sent out the disciples as his proof text. He said God wants us to raise people from the dead.

I don't know if I agree. For one thing, why would the dead want to come back to this earth? If I was in heaven I think I would be quite content. I don't think I would have a desire to come back. Rather, I would want the people back on earth to join me!

Whenever I hear about the raising of the dead in our time I have questions like the one I just posed. I have questions like that because I look at these facts from the Bible.

Before Jesus died on the cross the Old Testament describes the place of the dead as Sheol. Your King James translates Sheol as hell. But the Hebrew meaning is simply the place of the dead. It wasn't a pleasent place, but it wasn't viewed as a torturous place either, at least to my understanding.

Of course, if you were in Sheol, you would long to be back on earth, alive again. But after Jesus died and rose again things changed. Paul writes that to die is to be with Christ. I take that to mean that when we die we are in heaven with God. The alternative, then is hell. If you are in hell then God's judgement is already cast upon you, you cannot get back out! So when we raise someone from the dead then why pratel (sp?) do we think we can bring them back, or they would want to come back?

Of course, this does not answer the instances where Paul brought the young man back to life who fell out the window or other instances. This is a theological puzzle for me. If I die and find myself in heaven, then why would I come back? If I was in hell, and God's judgement already given, then how could I be brought back? For a second chance? That doesn't make sense because after you are in hell there are no second chances.

So my theological question is... when Paul rose that young man from the dead, from where did he raise him from? When we say we can raise people fromthe dead, from which dead place do they come from?

Why do I write this? We are told to test the teaching of others with the word of God, to question, to probe for ourselves the truths of God's word. This is what I am attempting to do. So, anyway, what do you think is the answer to this theological dilemma?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Church Government

How is the church to be organized and governed? This is a thought that has occured to me over the last few months as I have sought to deal with how our church is organized and how it gets activities accopmplished.

I have always desired to have a pretty flat church. What I mean by that is I believe the church is here to set people free to do ministry in Jesus name. I like to show a loot of trust in the people that volunteer at our church that they can handle challenges that God has laid before them. i ama firm believe that if we are going to grow you have to make the decision to let go of control and trust people.

I also say flat in that I don't want to have a lot of heiarchy and red tape in the church's organization.

With that being said the Bible does lay out a certain hiearchy and order in how the church is to be governed.

1. Of course, Jesus Christ is the leader of the church.
2. Then secondly, the Bible is pretty clear that the elders are the overseers of the local church. They are in charge of the church and oversee the activities of the church. They are called to hold people accountable to the faith and to see the church is God honoring.

3. The Elders fulfill four functions in the chruch
A. They establish church policy (Acts 15)
B. They have oversight of pastoral matters (Acts 15)
C. They are called to a ministry of prayer (Acts 6:1-7)
D. They are involved in the ministry of word (Acts 20)

Next week, we'll talk about the role of the Deacon.

Why do people get upset at church?

I've been in church work for 20 years and the one of many things that baffles me (emphasis many, I'm easily baffled) is how get people in the church, who are to display faith, hope, and love, can get so upset and over emotional with each other. Why is that?

I've heard many reasons why. One of them is Christianity is something that is close to one's heart and thus can blossom into a very strong emotional issue. I can understand that. After all, the cliche' says it's the one's closest to you that hurts the most.

I beleive James, the brother of Jesus, has a more accurate answer. He writes, "Jas 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? Jas 4:2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. Jas 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

So many times we look to the people inthe church to give us what we want. We expect church people to "act' a certain way and when they don't we get upset and mad. James here says we do not have because we do not ask God. Wow! What a condemning statement. In other words we need to be patient and wait on the Lord to provide for us and not expect the church to meet all our needs. This desire to have the church act in a certain gets in the way of faith. As a minister I have seen this time and time again. Many people drop out of church because the church did not act like like they thought it should. Also, as a minister I have to remind myself of this time and time again.

As the minister of the church I have expectations I want our congregation to live up to. I strongly desire to see people working out their salvation and when I don't see this happening it really breaks my heart. The issue is whether I let this dissappointment change how I treat my brothers and sisters in Christ. Do I let my anger get in the way of communicating with that person? Do I let my disappointed hope lower my standards for me and others?

True, the church is called to care for each other and we should obey that command. That is obvious. But the moment we look to the church to meet our needs and not God then I believe we are making a mistake. Humans will fail us, God will not. Paul writes in Colossians 3:2, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Moved In!

Hi everyone, I'm finally back and have the church office set up in it's new digs. I'm lovin' it! I haven't had a formal office in two years! This is so cool.

To get the new office I had to do some painting and remodeling to get it. I had to put up a wall which was a lot of work, but fun too. I haven't done that in a while.

One thing I learned in all the remodeling and painting is this, details matter! I can paint the middle of the wall really well, but it's on the edges that make a break a great paint job. Same thing with putting up drywall. Putting it up in the middle is easy, it's the edges that show's the difference between a shoemaker and a pro.

I thought this was true in the Christian life too. Being a generally good person, pay taxes, go to work, being a responsible parent, is something a lot of people do. But it's in the edges of our life that Christianity genuninely shows up. For example:

Do you have peace when there is no peace around you?
Do you have gentleness when you are treated roughly?
Do you love when you are hated?
Do you have patience when it seems so urgent?

The list could go on... like a good paint job, Christianity is seen best when lived out on the edge.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Does Suffolk Need another church building and other thoughts...

The seminar with Heather Zempel about Life groups was awesome! Several of our life Group leaders went to hear her. it was worth the time. Although it was for leading a Life Group her words challenged me another area of our church- our goals.

She stated that most of us have wishes and not goals. Wanting to lose 25 pounds is a wish- exercising 30 minutes a day for three months is a goal.

That made me realize the goal we have for our church (300 in attendance, 20 life groups, abuilding to be in) are wishes- good wishes, great wishes- but not goals. We need to change our wishes into goals. That's something I'm working on right now.

Then after listiening to her church situation it got me thinking about ours. Her church is in Washington DC and they meet in five movie theatres across the region with a bout 1500 in attendance. Isn't that amazing! here is this thriving church and they don't even have a church building. THey have no plans to build either. hmmm...

THat got me to thinking... church people generally want a church building.. the person who doesn't go to church could care less. And while I am tired of having a church in a box, not having a place to practice, etc, or youth to meet, etc.. I had to ask the question. Does Suffolk need another church building.

Our goal is to rech people and not build a building. i think of th opportunity we could have in Holland to reach that community. i thought of the Harborview movie theater and how we could reach northern Suffolk. How wold we do that...

What if we, instead of having a central building with 300 people, we had 3 locations with 100 people each? What about a place in Windsor or North Carloina. A lot of people like a small church. Why couldn't we be a church of little churches? We could get together for large experiences 3-4 times a year.

This is something I'm really praying about. I can't help but wonder is the reason we are not finding a place is because we are not looking at the opportunity right there in front of us. i have to rememebr God is more interested in reaching people than he is in a building. After all, there are all kinds of little venues in Suffolk to meet in all over the place. That gets me to thinking...

What resources would that take?
What administratively would this require?
How would we start it?
Is this the route God wants us to go?

Hard words for me... and queations, but I can't help but ask.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Back

I'm back! And I'm sorry I left. I felt I wasn't being a good blogger so I hung it up for awhile, so i am up for another spin.

I have a couple of thoughts for you tonight. One is Saturday I went to a Small group Leders Seminar and the speaker said something that really hit me. She said when it came to goals is most people don't set goals, they just have wishes. Saying my goal is to lose 20 pounds this year is not a goal, it a wish. Saying I will run on a treadmill 30 minutes a day for three months is a goal.

That got me to thinking about our church goals. They are not goals. They are wishes. We said we would be at 300 by this month. That is a wish. What is a real goal? We need SMART goals. I am going to praying and discerning this issue. I think it's important for me as a minister of the church. I think goals are important. A ship without a plan is lost at sea.

The other thought I had is today was awesome. I was really hoping God would move and boy did he show up. I'm excited to see what God will do next week.

Trust in God!


Friday, January 9, 2009

Why talk about giving...

This week I am doing a first. I am doing an entire sermon series around giving. I've haven't done tis in my preaching career and I'm doing it in the middle of this economic crisis. But I really led by God to go through with this and so I shall. Why talk about money in the church?

Well the obvious reason is the church needs to pay the bills. Duh? But the church does not exist to sustain itself. It exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ. And to that end money gives the church ability to function towards it's purpose. We should never lose focus of that.

And thn secondly, it really is a discipleship issue. Where your money foes so ogoes your attention. God wants your heart so he has to get the money under control so it will not control your heart. (As often it does.)

That's a big reason. So I am praying that the next few weeks will be a time of incredible spiritual growth in the church as we learn how to let go of our money and let in God.


Friday, January 2, 2009

The New Year!

The New Year.... holds so many possibilities for our church! Just look at the goals we have laid out for ourselves. 150 in Attendance by March and 300 by September. I must confess i feel the pressure to "produce the numbers." It comes witht he territory of being the minister of the church. Plus, I am very goal oriented person and I face the danger of feeling like a failure if we don't reach those numbers and the other goals.

I shouldn't, but I know the temptation is there. How can I, and more importnatly, the churchh avoid this temptation. I have a few suggestions. I just hope I can follow my own advice.

First, I need to pray, and pray even more. I must lean on God like I have never before done. These goals will not be accomplished by him. For this purpose I have decided to schedule prayer retreats each month. I need to be with God for power, wisdom, and confidence. For my confidence will not come from me, but from God! I need to be like John in the Bible.

Secondly, I need to do my part. That means I need to work hard, and to work smart. I need to place my energies into what will bring about the results God wants. I am part f god's plan to bring heaven to earth.

Thirdly, I must let God do his part. I can't do the miracles. God is in the miracle business. I must also be open to when God interupts what I am doing too! Jesus makes the food. i just pass it out.

Fourthly, the goals are not about reaching them as much as the journey of getting there. Yes, we might have to revise them over time, but the vision will remain the same. 10,000 disciples. We are now in the process of thinking ow to reach 300 people. For example, how are we going to have 30 small groups? Right now we don't have enough chairs to seat 300 people. How will we serve communion? Things will change! The process of thinking this way helps our church keep moving forward!

Lastly, I ask you to pray for me and the leaders of our church. We need it! i know the leaders and I are praying for you too. We are in this together.

Looking forward to an incredible year!