Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Won't be posting to my blog for several days...

We're going out of town until the 30th. So, if you post a comment and I don't reply, please forgive me. I'm not trying to be rude. :) Have a Merry Christmas everyone and God Bless you!!

"Consumerism" Revisted


Last week I promised I would offer the positive aspect of consumerism as it relates to the Church and people. To many, there is no positive side to this. I think there is. I guess the first thing that we need to look at is, what does this word "consumerism" mean?

Consumerism is defined as: "the promotion of the consumer's interests".

You and I being the "consumers".

So if I understand this correctly, the grievances expressed over consumerism relates to the idea that the church has become to closely aligned with a capitalistic and consumeristic society in the way it "markets" itself to society. The other wrench in the wheel is the idea that the church has somehow become nothing more than just another distribution center of goods and services that self seeking people use for their own gain and advantage.

While I don't deny that there are some truths to these thoughts and that some of the church marketing that is going on today seems a bit extreme and that there are people who aren't truly interested in giving their lives in service to God but would rather just keep taking and getting from God and the local church, I think some of the ills toward "consumerism" is too extreme as well.

I like what Mark Batterson says, "The Church has the greatest story ever told and the greatest story deserves the greatest marketing." I agree with that.

Here is what many churches advertise....

Some churches advertise relevant preaching/teaching, exciting contemporary worship/traditional worship, youth and children's ministries and the list goes on. What's wrong with this? Nothing, absolutely nothing.

One of the greatest agents of advertisement was John the Baptist. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

When John Baptized Jesus in the Jordon River another great advertisement took place, this is what happened.

Mat 17:5 "While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." Talk about advertisement overkill! That was some kind of "display" just to say, "Hey! This is my son, I'm happy with him and you should hear what he has to say!"

Wow, did God strike a deal with Hollywood to pull off this huge theatrical display? I'm afraid that many today would minimize this event as just another advertising campaign to cater to a consumeristic society. They would be wrong or would they be right?

Why did Jesus come to this big ball we call earth anyway? Well, if I believe the Scripture, it was to "seek and to save that which was lost". To identify with them the realities of who God is, to make known to the average person the person of God. If this is his prime objective, should ours be any different? Of course not. I think we can all agree on that. How does this objective get carried out and what does it look like is the real question at hand. I think the honest answer is, it looks different to many people depending upon where you are, geographically and demographically.

A Jesus Follower in China has to "advertise" or promote the gospel in a manner that is different than I would do here in South Texas. A little closer to home, Pastor Phil, Pastor of The Gathering posted on his blog "One Big Sorry Church". During the week of Halloween events, they made signs and posted them, advertising a "confessional booth", this wasn't an ordinary confessional booth like you might think. No, it was a booth where you would go in and not confess, but be confessed to. Apologies were made to those who came in for the many failings of the people who misrepresented God and His church. It was creative advertisement and a well thought out marketing plan that really got the point across. But, given the difference in his demographics and mine, and the meaning behind the "confessional booth", it fits much better there than it would here. People here would simply miss the point of it.

My point is, consumerism has to take place where ever we represent God and His church. Remembering that consumerism means: "the promotion of the consumer's interests".

If you have an interest in Big Macs, then McDonalds is going to advertise and market to that interest and promote the product that you are interested in. If you are interested in a new Ford Pick-up truck, then Ford Motor Company is going to advertise and market to that interest. If you have an interest in God, then the local church is going to advertise and market to that interest. There is nothing wrong with this and it's quite acceptable in fact.

Jesus was in such demand that he often sought secret places and quite times where he could withdraw from the crowds who were so interested in what He was advertising. Jesus was advertising a new way to look at God, a new way to approach God and a new way to touch God. He presented God as approachable, touchable and vulnerable. This was a new marketing plan that the religious didn't understand and quite frankly fought against. Jesus said things like, "Come and dine, Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Jesus offered peace, hope, love, forgiveness, healing, deliverance, food, sight, hearing, friendship and a host of other things to those who came to him seeking something they so desperately needed.

It would appear that Jesus was the most used, taken advantage of, under appreciated person that ever lived. Very few came to Jesus and offered Him anything. By far and large, they came to Him expecting to receive from him. The thing that is astonishing to me is that Jesus never complained about it. He never says, "Why can't you people leave me alone? You're all like a bunch of leeches that suck the life out of me! You're interest in me is based solely on what I can do for you or give you!" Those are things I would likely have said though :)

Why didn't Jesus say things like this? Because that is the reason He came....He came to give, give to whomever would be willing to receive. Churches and those people in churches should be the same. Give and be willing to give every time someone is in need. And churches should and must market and advertise their church/ministry so that those interested can readily identify with them and benefit from what is being "advertised".

Just my humble thoughts on it.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A simple Christmas poem...

Charity begins where interest ends,
Having little interest but in giving,
Removing self from self, that there be space
In which a much-loved guest might feel at home.
So might one find delight, though ravens rend
The unembroidered fabric of one's being:
Miracle of unrequited grace,
A wave of wonder welling up from stone,
Singing as it breaks of selfless grieving.

I love this!

I was visiting Ben Arment's blog today and was reading some comments on a recent post he made. One of the comments was as follows:

"I'm a church planter in Spartanburg, SC and we're about to embark on a similar journey of refocusing and retraining. Got any advice?"

To which Ben replied, " The ideas you say 'no' to this year because they're too big will be the ideas you say 'yes' to in 5 years because you'll realize you've got nothing to lose."

I love this quote from Ben! This is what excites me. Looking at things that are humanly impossible and accepting the challenge!

Monday, December 18, 2006

It all started with a .10 cent RC Cola


This past Friday and Saturday my family and I were at my wife's Grandparent's house for an early Christmas celebration. This is an annual gathering of family and friends the week before Christmas. We always have great fun, food and the company of each other.

This year, as Grandma and Grandpa were opening their gifts, something special happened. Earlier in the day, Grandpa shared the story on how all this happened, that is, how the family came to be what it is today. He started by saying, "It all started with a .10 cent RC Cola". He went on to say that while at the skating rink in their youth, Grandma was ordering an RC Cola and Grandpa decided to pay for the drink which cost him a staggering .10 cents. As I understand it, this was the point when their friendship began and it has lasted through 56 years of marriage. Well, when Grandma was opening one of their gifts, she found an antique bottle of Royal Crown Cola and a note from one of her grandsons. In short, he said in the note that he had remembered Grandpa sharing this story on a few occasions and with a little math be was able to conclude that this would have likely been the type of bottle Grandpa purchased that day at the skating rink. He wished for them that every time they looked at this bottle they would remember that day and the significance of the past 56 years of marriage. It was a touching tribute and I'm not sure all of the ladies weren't crying in the room and all of us men weren't holding back the tears. Later I told my wife that I was very close to letting a tear or two fall...it was truly a special moment that I'll remember for a long time.

I was sitting next to Grandpa when this was happening and after a moment or two of silence, he slapped me on the knee and said, "Well, what do you think about all this?" I replied, "I'm just glad to be part of it somehow."

It all started with a .10 cent RC Cola and I truly am just glad to be part of a such a wonderful legacy as Grandma and Grandpa Click have established in our family.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Consumerism and Syncretism at it's best...


Has anyone or anything ever been more "consumerized" than Jesus? The answer to that question has to be a resounding no. Here's why...Well, I'll have to leave this for later. My family and I are going to Houston for the weekend to celebrate an early Christmas at her Grandmother's house. Have a great weekend everyone ;)

Do check back as in this post I'm going to speak on the positive aspects of "consumerism" and "syncretism". I'm really looking forward to writing this piece! :-)

Grace and UIL

My 7 year old daughter, Grace, was selected to be on the UIL team for Creative Writing. Creative Writing consists of the competitors being given a paper with 4 images on it and the students then have to write a story based on the images in a 30 minute time limit. She did very well and placed 3rd! We're so proud of her and today was the awards ceremony at her school. I've posted a few pictures of her. :)

Grace is the 3rd from left. (the only one not holding up her ribbon) :0)




Excuse me while I vent....



Just a bit though :)

I've been blogging now for 4 months. And just recently I've, within the last month and a half or so I've read and viewed a great deal of blogs. Most of which I thoroughly enjoy and get a lot out of. Oh no, there goes the consumerism mindset again....sorry. As I was saying, I've benefited from the wisdom of many of these blogs and the writers behind them. I won't begin naming them as I don't want to show "favortism" in this. My point is, I'm am up to here ^^^----^^^ with hearing about all of the screwed up things with "church"!! I mean what in the world is going on? If it's not consumerism, syncretism or some other "ism", It's something else that is wrong with the church. What the heck are we doing about it other than crying and moaning about it the blogosphere? Blog about it all day long, cry about it all day long, (would you like some cheese with that whine?), talk of how the church is all screwed up but at the end of the day tell me what YOU have done to bring it closer to what Jesus had in mind! I'm just sick and tired of it all....I've posted some of my concerns with the church but it seems that every site you go to it's all being re-hashed day in and day out. Tell me something funny, share with me something that will glorify God and not verbally abuse His church, tell me what you did today to make a difference in someones life TODAY. I could write a very long post about how I took an exorbitant amount of my time today to make a difference in 5 strangers' lives but it would probably go unnoticed because all we're interested in reading and commenting on seems like is where the church is screwed something up and cheapened the message to promote consumerism and syncretism or you add the "ism" here ______________.<<<<<<<<<<<<<

I hereby pledge to NOT read or post on any blog that is doing nothing more than revisiting a negative aspect of the church without offering a real solution to the problem. I mean, is it any wonder the church is faulty? She's comprised of HUMANS!! Faulty, fallible humans...like me! And you. Tell me something good about the church or don't talk to me! I'm much too positive of a person to always hear the negative. It's like telling a non-believer what's so screwed up about them...they don't need to hear that from you...they already know it themselves. What they want to hear from you is "how can I get out of this mess?"!

That is all.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Staff/Board Banquet

In Romans 13, Paul instructs us to give honor to whom honor is due. Tonight we held our Staff/Board Christmas Banquet Dinner in honor of the leaders of our church to express appreciation to them for their selfless acts of love that have helped make Living Springs a wonderful Church. I believe we are to show honor to those who minister in the things of God on our behalf. I know these people very well and see the hard work and dedication they bring to their ministry in our Church and am humbled to be their Pastor. Tonight we went to a wonderful restaurant called, The Creek. The Creek is a fine dining restaurant situated on the Guadalupe River which runs through Boerne, Texas. It is a very quaint restaurant which gave a very personal setting for this banquet. The staff, waitress and food were all superb!

What is so important about events like this? Well, for one, we all are very busy in our lives with different things that it's not often we spend much time with each other outside the context of church. We see one another often but we seldom just sit down and eat together outside of the fellowship hall of our church building. Going to a neutral place helps us to relax and not think about budgets, ministry strategy and so forth. It was really a nice evening just relaxing and enjoying the company of those you work so closely with but often fail to get close to. Here are a few pictures of our evening. :)























This last picture shows my wife and I. Isn't she pretty?!?!

Patty, our Secretary was without her husband Ken tonight as he was sick and our Youth Pastors Paul and Dennine are in Florida so we missed them all not being with us tonight! To you, the viewer, these look like ordinary people, but I must tell you these are extraordinary individuals who really put themselves out in many ways to love and care for others! For this, I'm so thankful to God!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Foundation Fractures


Paramount to everything built upon it is, foundational integrity. Being in the construction business for 15 years as a contractor/owner, I know very well the value of a good foundation. The integrity of the foundation will serve as a structural strength barometer for the rest of the house or building. If the foundation is weak, it compromises the complete structure.

Jesus spoke very candidly about the type of foundation we should and should not build upon in Matthew 7.

Jesus said,

24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

So, according to Jesus, a strong foundation is a mixture of 2 ingredients.

  • Hearing His words
  • Doing His words

Also, according to Jesus, a weak foundation consists of 2 ingredients as well.

  • Hearing His words
  • NOT Doing His words

So in both scenarios, there is hearing involved but the success of a strong foundation rests in doing his words, not hearing alone. I think this is precisely the truth James was reiterating to the Church in James 1: 22-25,

22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.

24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

Foundations are fractured because there is no action involved with the hearing. Churches are filled every week with hearers only. It is deeply rooted in the consumer mentality. They come to church and hear the preacher speak words of action. They are encouraged to “get out” and impact someone’s life with the truth of God’s word but do they? More often than not, many don’t. As a result, their own foundations are fractured and falling apart and yet they wonder what is going on. Doing involves feeding, clothing, giving, listening, visiting and other things that have become inconvenient in many of today’s Christians. Sadly, helping someone isn’t our prime objective for the day. Conversely, helping ourselves is. What a waste of Time, Talent and Treasure that God has so graciously given to all of us. Even if you don’t have much, you have enough to share with someone the things God has blessed you with.

I grow weary of the seemingly idle discussions about what we should be doing for those that are hurting, dying and starving, and I believe action needs to take it’s place. Do you need strength? Help someone who is weak. Do you need a financial miracle? Give to someone out of your lack. Do you need healing in your body? Pray for someone who is sick. Take action upon the words of Jesus Christ in obedience and I believe God will bless you in return. Forget about yourself for just a little bit and focus on the needs of others. Strengthen your own foundations by helping to strengthen the foundation of someone else who is weak. We can talk and blog about it until the Sun shines no more but what good have we really done? None!

If you comment on this post, please do so with an idea of what this looks like, i.e., putting action to Jesus words. What are some of the things you are doing right now not what you want to do but what you are doing! God bless you as you DO his words after hearing them!



I'm not sure how to play it in my post, but click here to watch a video that I believe touches the heart of this post.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Lesbianism in Church


Several weeks ago I preached a sermon titled: Becoming a Messy Church
In this sermon, I pointed out that naturally we're taught and inclined to avoid messes. They are inconvenient and time consuming so it's best to avoid them. Well, in relating that concept of "mess avoidance" in the context of the church, what does that leave us with? Ah yes...a nicely groomed, well kept church that doesn't have the least little sign of messiness! Everyone is like us and there are no messes here. We have everything figured out in our lives and it's nice and orderly, just the way we like it. Pfft! Whatever, right?

Well, I happen to believe that church should be the messiest place on the planet. What do I mean? I mean that we shouldn't avoid people because of the messiness in their lives. We're good at that though, aren't we? We tend to navigate away from messy people. They want something from us. They expect something from us. They're going to contaminate our sterile environment where we offer "holy" worship to God. It's a shame but in many instances a reality. I don't want to Pastor that kind of church. We're a church that is geared toward messes. Our building is clean but our church (people) is messy!

Jesus not only welcomed messes, he invited them! The invitation, "Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." MATTHEW 11:28

Sinners, tax-collectors, prostitutes, beggars, the lame, the possessed, the dying, the hungry and so many more all had 1 thing in common. They had messy lives! Jesus sat with a woman at Jacobs well and helped her work through her mess until she saw God. He waited with a prostitute until all of her condemners were gone and she was able to see God's forgiveness. He took 5 loaves and 2 fish and created a hillside banquet for the hungry. Messy people are worth the involvement.

Well, when I preached this sermon, a couple in my church came to me and said, "We have a neighbor lady. She's a "lesbian" and if you don't mind, I'd like to invite her to church."

What?!? Invite her? You're asking me for permission to invite a messy person to church? By all means ask her to come!! Well, they asked and she did. She came to church the last Sunday of November, was sick the first Sunday of December and was back in church with us this past Sunday! Man, I tell you....I was so excited to see her come into the church this past Sunday! I'm honest, out of all the people that were there this past Sunday, I was most excited about seeing her! She was the special guest. I'm hoping and praying that she'll continue to come back to worship with us and learn the ways of Jesus. I'm not going to call her into my office and say, "If you don't change the way you're living, you can't come here." No way, I'm going to tell her you're welcome here just like anyone else and that we'll love you just like anyone else. I believe in leaving God's work to God. I'll let him deal with the issues of her heart. While he does, we'll just love her!

Signed,

Pastor of a Messy Church!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Choosing Slavery over Freedom


A comment posted by Colin on the topic of: Don't be shy, tell us how you REALLY feel..., got me to thinking. He said, "I have never been to the point of giving up on God (in fact that smacks of complete immature junior high - or even kindergarten behaviour..."

While I commend Colin for never entertaining the idea of going back on God, however, millions of others have done just that. As a matter of fact, they've retreated so far that they no longer even believe the God they once "worshiped" even exists now. How can such a dramatic 180 degree turn happen in the life of a Christian? I have a theory. It may take me a few moments to fully articulate this theory so please keep reading... :)

First of all, let me say that though I understand there are countless people that once called lived for Jesus, they no longer do. And for some, they have what they believe are valid reasons for such a departure. I however, cannot understand any reason to walk away from Jesus as being a valid reason. Having said that, here is my theory.

God has come to the world and invited his people into a new realm of existence. Remember the Israelites in Egypt? They groaned and complained to God about being slaves, and rehearsed to him the terrible treatment they received at the hands of the Egyptians. They thought God was as cruel as their Egyptian masters since he had allowed them to become slaves. But when the good news came that God had appointed a deliverer for them, and that they were to leave Egypt, putting their slavery behind them, they were not so sure they wanted to leave. After Moses’ first visit to Pharaoh, the people wanted Moses to stop asking him to let them go. They discovered that leaving was difficult. Once they finally left, they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." NUMBERS 14:4

In the book of Acts, Stephen retells the story. God had said: “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. . . . But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, "Make us gods who will go before us." ACTS 7:34-40 Remember, that which they were asking of Aaron, in making the golden calf, was one of the gods of the Egyptians.

Why is it many prefer slavery to freedom?

This question is at the heart of the matter. How many times have I seen someone whose life is in shambles? Their life story is one of despair and ruin, yet when the opportunity for a new life is presented to them, they turn away — not because they are not in need of help, but because they cannot imagine what a life of freedom would be like. How many times have I seen someone come to Christ and experience his presence and the glory of forgiveness, only to see them turn back to their old life of bondage because they were familiar with slavery, and freedom carried with it responsibilities and work?

Leaving a life of slavery seems harder than being a slave. The Israelites found their new life difficult and said, "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost - also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic." NUMBERS 11:5

Can you imagine? Fish and food at no cost? And of all the things to remember and long for! They were thinking of their appetites and remembering the food of Egypt, and forgetting the taskmaster’s whip and back-breaking labor!

I think the best term for this is, NOSTALGIE DE LA BOUE which is a French term meaning, “To yearn for mud: attraction to what is unworthy, crude or degrading.

The Israelites became nostalgic over going to back to the crude and degrading existence they grew weary of in Egypt! Somehow and somewhere down the road, the life of slavery began to appeal to them. In 9 years of pastoring and 22 years of following Jesus, I've seen many people start down the path of freedom only to turn around, give up and go back into the bondage of slavery they came out of! Why? I can't accept the argument that somehow the Church failed them all and that they were so sorely mistreated by "Christians" that they no longer wanted to be part of it anymore. In my own personal experiences of working with people facing difficult issues in life, I have found that 100% of the ones that no longer live for God or even question his existence "went back" because they didn't want to take responsibility and work through their issues.

Going back to the old addictions, the old way, the familiar slavery was more appetizing and much easier than working through those addictions and old ways.

You see, if we're not willing to be honest with ourselves and do the hard work of enduring through persecution, withdraws, temptations and such, we'll find it much easier to just revert back to the bondage we so desperately wanted escape from. It's easy to fall back, it takes effort to push forward.

So why do people walk away from God? Dress it anyway you want, but ultimately we become nostalgie de la boue...

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Trouble Posting a Comment?


Colin Lamm brought to my attention yesterday that he had a bit of trouble posting a comment on my blog. I don't think it's just mine as a blog I frequent at Moved Mountains also hosted by Blogspot is doing the same whenever I post a comment on his site. I'll be contacting tech support to see if I can find an explanation and a fix to this issue. So, if you tried to post a comment and found that you couldn't, I apologize. I have found that if you try 3 times, it generally accepts the comment. Sorry for the inconvenience. :)

Don't be shy, tell us how you REALLY feel...


I came across a website today that really got me thinking. It's a site dedicated to Ex Christians. I warn you in advance, if your sensitive and tend to wear feelings on your sleeves, don't click HERE.

I came across a post on their forums board titled:
Christianity Is...

... the imagination stifler.

... the anxiety provoker.

... the community fracturer.

... the chain letter.

... the mind virus.

... a new kind of fear.

... the energy sapper.

... the mind churner.

... the emotional self-destructor.

... the ghost story.

... the macabre horror story.

... the ghoulish bad news.

... the dysfunction generator.

... the obsession mill.

... the light shrouder.

... the star quencher.

... the culture wiper.

... the myth slayer.

... the joy quencher.

... the creeping shadow.

... the deadening infection.

... the brain cancer.

... crap.

A fairy tale.................

for those who cannot bear to hear the truth.............

for those afraid to think...........

for those afraid to work towards self-awareness...........

for the weak minded who can easily believe in fantasies..............

for those happy with vapid platitudes in place of the answers to questions that mean so much to life.................

for those happy to take truth and force it into categories of their own design....................

...a bunch of promises and excuses.

...one of several forms of morontheism

...Bigoted. Really, really, bigoted.

...regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

Does the above really describe Christianity? It's important to remember that the vast majority of the people on this site are Ex-Christians turned Atheist. They no longer even believe there is a God. What happened that caused them to walk away from their faith? Was Christianity so bad? Christianity is based on the person of Jesus Christ and the word of God. You know, when I was younger, I used to ask myself this question. How has believing in Jesus ever hurt anyone? Well, I still ask that question and I still don't have a satisfactory answer either. I guess it's all in WHO you ask the question too, isn't it? Reading this kind of thing makes my heart break because I know the love that God has for each of these people and for whatever reason, they've given up on it. This should motivate us who do serve Jesus to live as we should so that we would never be the "stumbling block" which causes another to lose faith in Jesus Christ!

God Forbid!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Only what’s done for Christ will last


Two little lines I heard one day,
Travelling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in that day my Lord to meet,
And stand before His judgment seat;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me, Father, a purpose deep,
In joy, or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life and it will soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

This poem helps to remind me of the most important things in this life. I firmly believe that God's work is the most important work but there are times when I forget this truth and substitute what is divine for my own ideas, plans and goals....How silly of me!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Everybody's got a Story


The more blogs I read and the more people I talk with I see this prevailing truth in it all. Everybody's God A Story! This is something that I've come to really work on in my personal walk. That is to learn about others and the stories of their lives that they are willing to share. People are amazing and if we'll just listen to their words, we'll hear their heart. It's become an active part of my thinking now when talking with someone. I'm actually "interested" in what they're sharing because I see the value of what they're telling me. I know you've never done this, "While listening to someone share something about themselves, you're mind is on picking your dry-cleaning up." Right? I know you're not guilty of such things as I am. :-)

There is so much hurt in peoples lives that when they do open up and disclose some personal information to us, we should be very attentive and interested in what they are sharing. After all, they wouldn't be sharing such things with you if they didn't feel a connection of some sort with you. It's easy to think our story trumps and thereby minimize the story of others. To them, their story is just as important as yours...and guess what, it is! Everyday we have the opportunity to listen to some one's story. At least whatever part of the story they're offering us.

I received a call last week from a gentlemen that just needed someone to talk with. I arrived at his house and we sat in his kitchen and just talked. He began to share some personal things with me about his life and how he was struggling at this particular time in his life. I didn't offer to share with him my story, because he didn't need to hear "my story". He simply needed someone to hear his. That's all. Nothing more and nothing less. Just sit down and listen to where I am at in this place of my life. I'm struggling and I'm hurting. I just need someone that will listen to me. By the time I left, he said, "Thank you for coming out and talking to me, I feel much better now." The truth is, I said very little but that was just enough. I drove 30 min one way to listen to a gentlemen share his story. It was the best use of my time that day!

There will be many opportunities to share our story, but let's be aware of the fact that everybody has a story and they're all worth hearing! I will leave you with this challenge. Find someone who is willing to share their story and just listen!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Immutable Law of Sowing and Reaping


Which is harder, Sowing or Reaping? Neither! The hardest part of this combination is the space that exists between the sowing and reaping. I believe this is why Paul told the Galatians, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." After the sowing comes cultivating and caring for the soil in which the seed has been planted. If proper care isn't administered through this time, the seed may not germinate and if it doesn't, their most definitely won't be a harvest.

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."
ICorinthians 3:6 ESV

Paul sows the seed and Apollos waters (cares) for the seed and in the right season, God gives the necessary growth. Our jobs are to sow and water, not manufacture an increase on our work. The "big thought" of this post is this. In the process of sowing and reaping it's easy to succumb to the pressures of "making" something happen. Many times we rush the process of sowing and reaping because we fear that if it takes too long, we've done an inadequate job somewhere down the line. "Don't become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up!"

I see this impatience as the greatest threat to a healthy harvest. We grow impatient in the process and in frustration we either give up or become tempted to create a counterfeit harvest. We try to make something happen and in our futile attempts we damage the seed we were supposed to nurture to a harvest.

I see this in Ministry all too often. We think in terms of pre-defined time lines. We give this person "X" amount of days, weeks or months to show signs of real change and growth. If after this pre-defined time they aren't showing the outward signs we seek, we give up on them because the seed must have fallen on "bad" soil. We'll give this new ministry model, idea or new way of doing it 2 months....if after the 2 months there isn't noticeable growth, we'll cut it. These are all short-circuiting the "germination" process. We circumvent the process that is , to us, clearly failing and manufacture our way of doing it...only to find out that our way doesn't work.

One of the many things I've learned in my 9 years of pastoring...don't give up before the harvest is ripe! This, being my first attempt at pastoring, I could have given up many times. But, I wouldn't have seen the great harvest that God has brought about thus far! I'm learning everyday the importance of simply caring for the soil in which the seeds are being planted and waiting on God to bring about growth....when He thinks it's time. I don't want to be guilty of attempting to reap prematurely.

Whatever season of life God has you in right now, take confidence in the Immutable Law of Sowing and Reaping. Don't rush yourself or anyone else into a premature harvest or no harvest at all!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

26 Days left


I don't know why but the fact that this year is winding down and after tomorrow, Monday the 4th, there will only be 26 days left in this year to make 2006 an unforgettable year has engrossed my mind. Generally speaking, this is the time of year when many people are actually breathing a collective sigh of relief. We're almost ready to "close" the books on 06 and go head first into 07. I'm not sure what 06 has meant for you but for me it has been many things.

To name a few:
  • Personal Spiritual Awakening has taken place in my life this year and it all started with a trip to Mexico to do missions work. I came back with a new outlook on "Christianity" and how we are to relate the greatest story ever told to everyone we meet.
  • My Church has experienced wonderful growth in our congregation. Not just numerically but in every way. 2006 has definitely stood out as the greatest year in the history of Living Springs. I feel like our Church is really beginning to fire on all cylinders and 2007 will not know what hit it! I can honestly say I have never looked more forward to a brand new year as I do right now.
  • 2006 has brought about a season of personal healing in my life as well. For the first time, my Dad met my wife and his Grandchildren. We stopped to visit with him this past July. My kids still ask about him. We'll definitely be going back to visit with Dad.
  • 2006 has seen the emergence of a side of me that I'm beginning to become very comfortable with. The side of me that is willing to look foolish for God, risk what I would never have considered before, dare to believe what I would have never believed before, and willing to go where I might have never thought to go before. Late in this year I visited one of our local bars and sort of "hung out" with some of the guys there. I look forward to visiting more often in the coming year. Not being a drinker, I would have NEVER gone to the bar or even thought that I should. That is, until God asked me to go.
There are so many things that 2006 has meant to me that I could go on and on.

As I started to say in this post, there are yet 26 days left. What am I going to do with them? Will I sit back and just cruise the rest of the year? I think not! I will engage everyday in search of opportunities to bring honor to God. I will spend the next 26 days hoping to add value to someone who may have had a rather messed up year. My plate is full from now to the end of the year with banquets and dinners and family gatherings but I don't want to become so inward focused that I fail to see the opportunity to help someone else. Make the last 26 days something to remember 2006 by. Let's really go out with a bang for God. Find a problem and help solve it! Find a hurt and help heal it! Find a tear and wipe it away! Find laughter and join in! Find sorrow and mend it. Find hunger and feed it. Find nakedness and clothe it! Find thirst and quench it! Find the unlovely and love them!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Community Christmas Dinner


On the 17th of this month we'll be hosting our 1st Annual Community Christmas Dinner. This dinner is another way that we are extending ourselves to the community in which we live. There will be no charge and we won't be "preaching" to them, we'll just eat, laugh and get to know them and they'll get to know us. I'm praying for a great turn out and that we'll be able to show the community that we really do care about them and their families. Also on this night we'll be doing our Angel Tree Outreach. Every year we contact the Elementary Schools in our area and gather names of families that may be interested in participating in this event. We'll take the children's information and families in our church will "adopt" these children for Christmas. We purchase them gifts and give those to them on this night. It's really a great opportunity to bring the church and real people in our community together! It's a great time to not only say we love them but to show them in a tangible way.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Church done right...


The past week or so, I've seen a great deal on where the Church has messed up. No one can deny that there are issues with today's church that needs to be addressed and fixed. It's important to remember the church is only as effect as the people she is comprised of. If we want to fix the issues with the church, then is stands to reason, we MUST look at ourselves. Where are WE failing people? Where can we do better? Where can we be more sensitive? What is it in our own life that is lacking? What are we doing to make the Church a place non-believers would like to come?

The church is a wonderful thing. If done right, it gives healing, wholeness, encouragement, acceptance, strength and so much more to those who are willing to engage her. So, instead of what we view as lacking in today's Churches, what are some of those things we find good about it?

I will give a few and leave room for others...surely, even if you've been hurt from someone in the "Church" you had great experiences too.

Why I love the church (God's People)

1. I love the Church because when done right, it is the most powerful force on the planet! People's lives are genuinely changed when they come into contact with God's Church. Their lives are better as a result.
2. I love the Church because the time spent with God's people is the best time in the world. To have a community of believers gather in one place all for the same reason, there is nothing like it!
3. I love the Church because Jesus gave himself for her!

Why do you love the Church?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Inward Focus Stifles Outward Focus

A few days ago I alluded to the idea that Church should be more OUTWARD FOCUSED rather than INWARD FOCUSED. Over the course of the last few days some pretty interesting topics have surfaced. Andrew at Moved Mountains and Jaime at MoreThanStone have both contributed great posts on the topic, "Church-The New Exodus?". I don't pretend to have all the answers but the more I think about this, the more I get extremely frustrated about it. There is a reason that millions have the left the church in recent years. Probably more reasons than we'll ever know but I think those of us willing to be honest about "Church", could name a few of those reasons. Let me say first of all, I love the Church. I love what she represents and I believe she is a wonderful work of God's Kingdom established on this earth. I do however become extremely disheartened with the way "Church" is done most of the time. My heart aches when the greatest message on the planet is rejected because "Church" has screwed something up for so many people.

I believe in organizational structure but I believe more in being led by the Spirit of God. Agendas, programs, models and the like are mostly tools to help give more to those who have been "getting" from the Church for years and years. The most oppressed of souls seem to be overlooked for what is best for the frequent attenders of the Church. There are entrance requirements and membership has its privileges. There those who are “in” and those who are “out” and the distinctions are made clear by the “ins”.
There are secret passwords and dress codes. (Service times, music styles, acceptable dress). The focus is on member services. (Most of the focus is on improving member services so we can attract more people like us.) This is due to the church being INWARD FOCUSED. When we continually strategize how we can make our "services" better for the member, we've lost touch with the heart of Jesus. We've become Pharisaical to the worst degree. We have allowed the consumer mentality to infiltrate our ranks and poison the true mission of the Church Jesus said he would build. We've sought conformity and in seeking it we've achieved it. We've conformed rather than having been transformed. The elitist mindset that many Christians have is so very opposite of what Jesus demonstrated. [end rant]

So, how do we become Outward Focused...Missional in our thinking? God knows we need it. I have some thoughts on it...

  1. Study Jesus! WWJD isn't just a catchy acronym. We must learn what Jesus would really do in today's culture. It is a must. The Bible is very clear about how Jesus went about doing ministry. If we don't love, accept, teach, care for, listen to, etc...we can forget ever being what God has called us to be in our world.
  2. Throw away the hoops! There came a time in Jesus' ministry where He could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. Why? Because word spread around that Jesus would accept anyone who came to Him. He did not have a list of hoops that they had to jump through first. Membership requires pre-qualification. If you do this or meet this standard, you can belong. If not, forget it.
  3. Become Missional in our Methods! I love the concept of Missional. It's active and it's at work doing those things Jesus would really do. It's like living, on purpose. It's about realizing that the best "church" happens far from the proximity of a building. Why? Because the building isn't the church!
  4. Seeing God in everyone and everything! Ok, I may loose some here...I believe God exists in everything and everyone. I believe even the worst of people have God's goodness deep inside somewhere. Somewhere hidden deep within is a beautiful creation that God knows is in there! Many times we compare ourselves to non-believers and highlight their bad and our "good". We never consider the fact that we're more alike than we are different. We're both loved unconditionally by God. And as hard as it is for some to believe, God doesn't love you more.
  5. Admit we're not perfect! One of the greatest threats to Christianity is people who think they're perfect when in reality they are as screwed up as the neighbor they don't like.
  6. Seek Connectivity! We must connect with the non-believer. It's not likely to happen in our buildings so we must take it to them. Jesus took ministry to the people. He didn't have a come and get it attitude.
  7. Non-believer's matter most! Money we spend, expansions we make, ministry we do should be first and foremost geared to the non-believer or un-churched. This cuts across the grain for the consumer minded person. They thought all along it was about them! No it is not!
  8. Let People work through their problems! There is a great deal of hurt in peoples lives and most of the time it isn't resolved quickly. People need time and room to wrestle with issues and figure out who they are in God. It's our responsibility to just be there when they need us.
  9. No Perfect People Allowed! If you think you're perfect, you won't fit in here. If you think you're perfect, you won't like us.
  10. Accommodate the imperfect! Go out of your way to welcome and develop relationship with messy people. A messy church is the greatest church!
These are just a few of the ways I think any church can become more outward focused than inward focused. Perhaps if the church were more outward focused, we wouldn't be even discussing the issue of "Church-The New Exodus?"

I would also like to add that Living Springs is a Church committed to being a Church that God is glorified in and where the lost are valued, cared for and sought after. We are really working on being a greater church in our area. We have been able to accomplish great things with God's direction and we're excited about what He has in store...I'm honored to be the Lead Pastor of such a Church.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Where would I be without her?

As Lead Pastor, I know that there are so many people that contribute to the success of the Ministry. Usually the Pastor gets all of the recognition for things done right. The downside to that is the Pastor gets the blame for things done wrong. But most of the time it's the praise for things done right :) My point is, there are a lot of people that make the success of the church happen. Not just the pastor. In this post, I want to give praise to my wife. She is absolutely amazing. We've been pastoring Living Springs for 9 years and I don't think I could have done it without her. She doesn't know it all of the time but I look to her when I'm not sure what to do. I tell her about something and she'll give me her insight and I'm able to see things more clearly. She is the Supreme Administration Executive. It doesn't matter what it is, she's there. If she's not heading it up, she's in the mix in a big way. She's really the go-to person in the ministry. Every announcement made is followed by something like this...."If you need any additional information, see Tiff." Tiff has a wonderful singing voice and she leads the worship in our church. I think if one of us had to go, the church would keep her and let me go. :-) She's invaluable. I only hope I let her know that and that I tell her often enough how much I appreciate her dedication to me our family and our ministry. In many ways she is what keeps me going. I am in no way disillusioned in thinking that any success I've had is singular to me. We are a team and she is in many ways, the captain!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Is The Bible Central To All Life's Problems....continued


Jamie Swann has picked this conversation up on her blog.

She really put the question to the test when she said, "I think perhaps that the question we should be asking is “Is God Central To All Life’s Problems?" I love that!

Here's how I would respond to that.

Being a pastor, I am called on to counsel with individuals, families, friends, etc...quite frequently. Without fail, before every meeting I ask myself what can I share with them about their situation/problem that will really make a lasting impact in their lives? The fact is, only one thing will make a lasting change in our lives, God. I always point people to God's word for clarity and direction on their issue. The Bible speaks if we'll choose to listen. But it isn't just the text of the Bible that we should be steering them toward. Greater than the text is the author of the text. The connection with God's word is necessary but connection with God is more necessary. Though I essentially hold that the God and His word are inseparable, I agree fully with Jamie's question...I believe God Is Central To All Life's Problems!

Missional or Traditional??


I've been wrestling with traditional "Church" for quite sometime now. I don't have a traditional mindset but sometimes I feel trapped in traditional thinking. I'm more missional in my mind but I'm not sure how to escape some of the tradition of "church". I feel like my church has got to begin a missional journey that will connect us to what really needs connecting to. The people outside our walls. We have to realize that Christ has to be taken and shared with people in our community. We send missionaries all over the world to take the gospel message to the lost but in our home communities it would seem that we feel they should come to us in our "church" building. I mean, after all, we're there every week. The lights are on, the doors are unlocked and the breakfast tacos are in the kitchen. But, they're not coming! We have our core group and frequent guests but we're missing something. I'm convinced that which we're missing is waiting to be discovered outside the doors and walls of our building.

I consider Jesus and how he did ministry. I don't see him holed up in a synagogue to just graciously receive all who would enter. Rather the majority of his ministry was outside where the people lived. The church was wherever he went, wherever he was. I told my church tonight that we have to realize the church is not a building; it's an individual, unit or body of Christ-Followers. Where we are, the Church is! I so deeply feel that we must merge into our community to make the kind of impact that God deserves from our lives. We must make a greater impact!

More on this later...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

ITF Getting Geared Up!


Tonight I established my 2007 ITF team. ITF stands for Invent The Future. I feel like I've selected 3 very creative minds to help me in strategizing how we will do ministry in 2007. With this year closing fast, it's time to begin gearing up for the new. I want to hit the new year running wide open. I truly believe this year is going to be a hallmark year for Living Springs Church.

The task of my ITF team is to invent means of ministry. I no longer want to just wait for things to come our way, we're going to make things happen. We'll be considering where we are as a church and inventing ways to bring our church and our community together like never before. I am so excited about what this team is going to be able to accomplish for God!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Christmas Wish List...

Every year my kids will write out a Christmas Wish List. Because Chase is only 4 and hasn't learned to write yet, Grace will write down whatever he tells her to. Inevitably, Grace will have a list of about 20 or so things while Chase will have a list of about 2 things. I'm not quite sure how that works yet.

I haven't made a Christmas Wish List since I was just a boy but this year I think I'll slip into child mode and wish. Who knows, it may just come true!


~Shannon's 2006 Christmas Wish List~
  1. That the birth of Jesus be remembered and celebrated in my heart and family!
  2. That I can share this wonderful gift with someone else.
  3. That the idea of getting would be dismissed from my mind and the desire to give would fill my heart.
  4. That I would cherish every moment of enthusiastic surprise when my children open their gifts!
  5. That our Community Christmas Dinner and Angel Tree Outreach would change the way some in my community view church and Christians.
  6. That when the "Season" is past, I'll continue to celebrate!

Is The Bible Central To All Life's Problems?



  • Is there a place that exists in our world, communities, or lives where the Bible has little or no effect?
  • Is there such a problem in existence that the Bible does not have the answer for?
  • Do Christians put too much or too little emphasis and reliability on God's written word?
There is an interesting article by Rusty Benson that I ran across today at Christian.com

I for one have always held that the Bible is the ultimate answer for the ultimate problem. Throughout the ancient text we can find every problem that has ever been known to man.

Relational
Emotional
Physical
Spiritual

Wrapped in these 4 one can easily conjure up a host of dilemmas that we all have dealt with at some point in our existence. I know many Pastors who have sought out Professional Counseling to help them deal with personal issues. As a matter of fact, they openly encourage other Pastors to do the same. I haven't, yet. :) I don't think it's wrong to seek such help, I just don't understand it I guess. I think the Bible has answers to life's problems and if sought for, we will find the answer. I know I have had my fair share of problematic issues in life. However, I have always been able to go to God's word and get the strength, encouragement, desire, understanding, etc...that I needed.

"A lot of Christians seem to think that the Gospel is good for all the normal troubles of life, but when you get to the real complicated stuff, you need a more precise science." ~Tim Lane (CCEF)

What say you?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How close is too close?





Jesus was very often accused of associating with sinners and even being their friends! What a tragedy! Right? I mean to be called the friend of sinners is a horrible description of the "Son of God". Or is it? I feel that many Christians today forget the fact that Jesus is our supreme example for life and living. I believe what He did, we should do. If Jesus was hanging around sinners, shouldn't we have a friends list that includes many of the forbidden types? You know, those that DON'T come to church. When is the last time you went out to eat with family that isn't following Christ? When is the last time you held a conversation with someone that doesn't appear to be interested in God? Have you engaged in any way a non-believer in the last month? Have I?

I've always believed that relationships leads to conversions. It's next to impossible to lead someone to Christ that you haven't developed some level of trust and confidence with. Loving the Unlovely isn't just a good title for a Sunday morning sermon, it must become a way of life for all Christ Followers! Love those that we would naturally not want anything to do with. Showing interest in the lives of non-believers is what Jesus did so well. He noticed them and they noticed it!

So, how close is too close? We've all been told that a little leaven ruins the whole lump, cast not your pearls before the swine and others like evil communications corrupt good manners. All of these are true but I also believe there is more to be said of these than what's easily pulled off the top.

I believe the Church has got to be outward focused. I fear that many times church is too inward focused to be of any outward good. We have to remember it's not about us....anymore. Jesus said that he didn't come to call the righteous but the sinner.

I want to solicit some feedback on this so here's the question I offer to you.

What does an outward focused church look like to you?

Monday, November 20, 2006

OOPS...

I forgot about my board meeting tonight!! 0_O
All day I had plans of watching the movie "Cars" with my kids so I totally spaced my meeting that was scheduled for tonight. I have never done that before. I felt so bad because when I got my phone, they had tried to contact me several times. On a funny note, all of us fell asleep during the movie :) So I'll have to watch it again. I won't watch it on a board meeting night though :)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm HOME!!

I'll blog about my last two weeks on the road soon! All I can say right now is, I love home! I had a great time and great visits but Dorothy was right, there's no place like home... :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On the road again...

Ok, I had a great couple of days with my brother in Lexington, Ky! I arrived on Saturday night. We went to church on Sunday at his church. Incredible church at Southland Christian. On Monday, I helped him on his remodel. He's currently remodeling his entire TaeKwonDo Academy. It's quite an undertaking. Monday night we went to a UK Basketball game. UK basketball is HUGE in Kentucky. It was a great time! Today I left and am now in Evansville, Indiana with another brother of mine, Shane. I'll be here for a couple of days. I'm going to enjoy my time here wrestling with my nephew and kissing on my niece :) and visiting with Shane and Christa. I'll be leaving here on Thursday morning on my way to Rockford where I was raised. On my way through Chicago I'm going to go to El Faro...they are said to have the BEST Burritos in the WORLD!! I can't wait :) I'll check back in later! BTW, I reserved a Chevrolet Malibu for my road trip from Lexington and they were out. They had a Cadillac CTS...can you say Luxury and Style!!??!! I love it. This car is amazing. I loved them when they came out and I'm loving it now for sure! I'll post a pic of it later. I may have to get rid of my Ford F-150 Super Crew for one of these bad boys :)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ready, Set, Go!

Well it's almost midnight and I'm all packed and ready to fly out tomorrow. I'll be gone for two weeks and I'm already missing my family, incredibly. I was in Alaska for 10 days last summer and I thought it was going to kill me :) I have an itinerary full of things to do while I'm away. It seems to change from day to day though. I guess once I get to Lexington tomorrow I can focus more and get some things in concrete. Being I have no "pressing" engagements to fulfill, the 2 weeks is really going to be off-the-cuff. Part of me likes that and the other part craves structure. I guess I'll have to find my way the next two weeks. I'll definitely be asking God to guide me. Especially when I get to Wisconsin and Rockford, Ill.

I'll be visiting my brothers in Kentucky and Indiana before heading on to Wisconsin and Illinois. I'm looking forward to seeing them both and my two nieces and nephew.

I have to leave for the airport tomorrow at 2:00p.m. so I'll be spending some quality time with my kids before I go. My wife won't be here though. Our church is hosting the San Antonio Women's Ministries Event for our Section tomorrow and being the "Pastor's" wife, she's in charge. I'll swing in and get a kiss and a hug before I leave. =)

Did I mention I'm going to miss my family?

STUPID FAITH

A conversation I had last week reminded me of something. I was sharing our church story with a gentleman I had just met. In short, we purchased land to build a new church on 4 years ago. A year later, now three years ago we began building our new church facilities. Though we're near complete, we're still working. We've done all of it ourselves to save money and reduce the cost of construction. I have many pros and cons to this approach having been through it now. If you're considering it, ask me! I'll tell you no lies :) Anyway, I was sharing a story with him how that one day I was out on the church property and we had just finished our site work. A gentleman, who is a dear man, asked me this question. "How large is this building going to be?" I responded, "17,000 sq.ft. Upon hearing that he asked me, "Well, how many people do you have in your church?" I said, "25". This is where he looked at me with an amazing face of confusion. He looked at me as said, "I don't know if that's FAITH or STUPIDITY".

I didn't hesitate to answer, "Faith!" This is a faith effort. We're not building 17,000 square feet because we need it today, we're building it because we're going to need it tomorrow! Faith always sees past today into the future. To simply live for the here and now doesn't take any real degree of faith. What does require real faith is to engage in something that doesn't make sense. To do something illogical and plain stupid. So here's what I've come to believe and this is now a core conviction of mine. "Stupid Faith" To live in stupid faith. The vast majority of the time when you tell someone what God has asked you to do and you're doing it, it appears stupid in the natural. It's always illogical and almost NEVER makes any sense. I've come to believe that if it makes sense to me, it's not God and I should look real hard at what it is I'm doing. Since January of 1998, my wife and I have been living STUPID FAITH. Believing God to do amazing things through a small community church with God-sized vision and faith! We're no longer at 25 people....we're 80+ on our way to 500 or more! For a town with a population of only 950 something, it's sounds pretty stupid to think Living Springs can become a 500+ member church.

I'll take stupid faith over logic any day!

Whatever it is God is asking you to do, step out in stupid faith. It makes much more sense than you could ever imagine!