Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Have you ever...

...Done something that you never thought you would? I'm doing it right now! I'm driving a school bus. Yes, I'm driving a school bus. I had thought about this on different occasions in the past and well this summer I decided it would serve beneficial in our adaptation to this new area we're now in. It allows me to meet many new people while also helping to make ends meet financially. Being a Contractor for all my adult life I know I could go out and build a business in this area as construction is everywhere but we didn't move here to build a business, we came here to build a church.

Another benefit to driving a school bus is the route I'm on. Others in the transportation department would argue with me but I think God has uniquely placed me where I am on my route. I transport the JJAEP Students. JJAEP stands for, Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program. Yes, I transport the "bad" kids. But you know what? Over the last month since school started here I believe God has really let me see these kids in a way other than the way many see them..."convicts". When others are referring to the students I transport, they say things like "You got those convict kids on your bus, you better watch them". I don't see "convicts", I see lives. Lives that are full of potential and lives that God loves and Christ died for. I refuse to label these kids as "convicts".

Last week I loaded an ice chest up with ice and filled it up with bottled water. When my students boarded the bus, they were amazed that I had thought of them in this way to bring them cold water. The first student on the bus asked me, "Is this on you man?" I said, yes it's on me...enjoy. He replied, "Man, not everyone would do that, thanks!". He made certain that everyone who boarded the bus thanked me for bringing cold water for them to drink.

My prayer is that this bus route would be more than a job but an avenue to do ministry even if those receiving it aren't aware it's "ministry". The vast majority of these kids are from single parent homes and are struggling at best to understand life and the hand that has been dealt them. I hope that over the course of my time as their bus driver I'll be able to have a positive influence in their lives.

Our new church work is going well and I'll be writing more about what's taking place soon! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Gearing up!


I've been relatively quiet on matters concerning our new ministry here in Dickinson, Texas. The reason for this silence is that there was a transition in place and I didn't feel like it would be appropriate to divulge too much information. That has now changed. As of last Sunday, September 02, Tiff and I are formally the Lead Pastors of Bayou Community Church. Along with this comes the liberty to share more of where the ministry is and where we hope it will go. We're approaching "church" from a little different perspective in comparison to our last church which we pastored for the last 9.5 years; Living Springs in Bandera, Texas. We still very much love Living Springs and the wonderful people there but our hearts were beginning to be removed from the ministry there and God has now placed us here. Living Springs, having been our first pastorate had to put up with a great deal of inexperience with us. We think that this new work will benefit in that we have grown and matured a great deal since 1998. :)

We enter into this new work considering what it means to be the "church" in a more holistic manner. I pray that will translate into many coming to know Jesus as Savior.

This Thursday is our first midweek meeting in which we will have an open dialog about what it means to be the church and how the church should influence and impact our community. It's an ITF (Invent The Future) brainstorming session where we'll talk over many ideas that we can create into ministry. Another approach to ministry that we're going to consider as a young church plant is what I'm going to call Community3 or C3 which simply means community to the 3rd power. I'll be sharing more on this as it develops.

Needless to say, we're very excited about what God is preparing to do through BCC! Already we're seeing new faces come in and expressing a willingness to become part of this work! I think God is up to good things!

More to come :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Chi Alpha Campus Ministries



















A friend of mine, Will Robinson is a Campus Missionary at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and I thought I would highlight the positive things he and his group are doing there for my Thumbs Up! post this week.

As you may know, when a High School student makes the transition from home life to Dorm/Campus/College life, it can be very overwhelming and extremely intimidating. One of the things that Will and Chi Alpha do in Corpus Christi for the new Freshman coming into the University for fall classes is to assist them with help moving into their new homes. They offer them cold water, a helping hand and a smiling face willing and eager to help them . For many, Chi Alpha is the first or only welcoming they'll receive as they enter this new world. It's amazing to me how every year the members of Chi Alpha will give of themselves in this positive manner to make the uncertainties of college life fade to the background with a helping hand. For that, I applaud my good friends, Will and Jennifer Robinson and their Chi Alpha team! Pray for them and their ministry to the students and staff of Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.




Monday, August 20, 2007

Brownie

Too often we fail to heed the words of Jesus, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;"

It's all too easy to pass quick judgment upon others, all the while minimizing our own failures. This little video illustrates judging too quickly pretty well. :0)

Edit: After I posted this, I watched it to make sure I embedded the file correctly and my son walked up and saw it. He said, "Dad? What did he do?" I said, "What do you think he did? He said, "eat poop!"

Yes, he needs to learn to not judge too quickly as well. :)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mike Yaconelli

I saw this on Glenn Hagar's site and thought I'd share it here.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Super Charged!

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for our District's Annual Honor Bound Men's Retreat.

Looking forward to it!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Help us!

I could go on and write a lengthy post on the parallels here to the church/christians, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. :)

Positive Influence




When I read Rodney's challenge for Thumbs Up!, I was encouraged and immediately wanted to be part of it. As Colin stated in one of his comments on his inaugural Thumbs Up! post, "Already I find with this Thumbs Up! initiative, that I am being forced to think of positives. I'm liking it".

Like Colin, I find myself looking for the positives in everything. You know what? They're out there, ready to be highlighted and pointed out. As I was considering what I would post positively on this week, I just looked around and watched people. I knew none of those that I was watching but I watched and I saw some amazing things, many of which we often take for granted. I saw smiles shared between strangers, hellos exchanged and have a great day was wished to others. I noticed others helping to carry things that would have been too heavy for one to carry alone. I witnessed a concerned neighbor help a stranded motorist. I watched as so many gave of themselves for the benefit of another.

To me, that is "positive influence" at work. It happens all the time but unfortunately many times we fail to recognize it for the true beauty it is. A simple Hello accompanied by a smile could make someones other wise rotten morning brighten up and help them to say, "Today is going to be great day"! We do well to not minimize the power of positive influence.

I remember just this past November I was alone and in Chicago. I knew no one and I was in the middle of downtown. I thought I would catch a cab and visit the Sears Tower. I hailed my cab and got in. As the driver left the curb, he turned, looked at me with a smile and an African accent said, Where would you like to go?" His smile put me at ease.

We began making small talk as he drove me to my destination. As it turns out, he and his wife were Christians and when he found out that I was a pastor, he was extra excited to have me in his cab. If a taxi ride could ever be delightful, this was the one.

As I exited the cab, I offered to this gentleman $20.00 which would have been plenty for my fare and a nice tip for himself. He looked at me with a smile and said, "No sir! You're a pastor and this one is on me!" I often think about my downtown Chicago taxi ride and the "cabby" who made it so enjoyable. The only thing he did was drive me to the Sears Tower! No, he made me feel at ease and shared his taxi and his life with me for a few minutes which has left, to this day, a positive influence on me. Whenever I think about him I pray for he and his wife.

What positives are we missing out on every day? You never know just the kind of positive impact you can have on someone by simply being nice and sharing a smile with them. The little things count too...don't overlook them where you live!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Accentuating the Positive...



As I was making the blogroll rounds today I read an interesting blog written by Rodney over at The Journey. Rodney has come up with a way to highlight the positive in the blogosphere. It's no secret that all one has to do to hear negativity is to turn on their television or chat with the neighbor or sadly, simply read some blogs. We're bombarded with negative communications from every side.

Join the positive discussion and link to Rodney's site via the badge code you will find at his site. Simply put it in your sidebar and post positively on someone or something every week!

There's enough people blogging about the negative aspects of life, Christianity and everything in between so let's mix it up a bit with some positive!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Alone...

Here I am alone again tonight in this old empty house...

Those are the first words to an old Alan Jackson song about going crazy after the one/s you love have left. Well, that's kind of the way I feel tonight as I write this blog. I don't want to get too mushy on you tonight but I'm missing my family terribly and they've only been gone for about 9 hours. My wife and children are with Tiff's mother and two sisters on a vacation to the beach for the next week.

It's funny, the silence you crave in moments of constant noise isn't so desirable when the noise has faded. I want to hear my children laughing or even fussing about having to brush their teeth; at this point, even that would be welcome. I want noise because noise is an indication of normalcy around our house. For the next week, it won't be normal around here. Just me and the noise I make. Yes, I may begin talking to myself just to hear some noise. :)

When they were pulling out of the driveway, my wife asked me if I was alright and like any strong man would do, I said, "Yeah, I'm fine". Honestly, it sucked watching my family leave.

So now I have a week and 1 day to find something to do with myself. Oh I'll find something to do. Actually, I have plenty to do that will keep me busy during the day, but it's the night time that gets to you, ya know?

I think the bond that we all develop as a family is Godly. I believe that God creates that bond within our hearts that when we're away from those we hold dear, it hurts. We long for their voice and their laughter but all we have until they return is the memory of those sounds. If it's true what they say, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", I'll be so fond of them when they get back I may never let them leave again! ;-)

Friday, July 27, 2007

New blog links



I love to read blogs and have a few that I recommend for your reading in my blog roll on the right margin of my blog. All of them are there for unique reasons to myself. I've added two more today that I should have added a good while back but failed to.

Rodney Olsen- The Journey

and

Michael Morehart- Morehart

Stop by and join the conversation with these guys. You'll be glad you did. :)

Blog Addiction?

No way I'm 71% addicted to blogging! Is denial the first sign? ;)

71%
How addicted are you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How much do I have to change before you'll like me?

Interesting indeed how often those of us who call ourselves Christians demand a change in others before we'll let our guard down and accept people just the way they are. As I read through the Gospels, I don't recall Jesus saying to the twelve he chose; to change and then come follow him. He simply invited them to "follow him". I love the way Rob Bell put it in his book titled, "Velvet Elvis". He likens the Christian journey to that of jumping on a trampoline. "We jump and simply invite people to jump with us, to live the way of Jesus and see what happens".

The radical hope of the gospel is that if we follow Jesus, change will then happen.

Perhaps if we were more "tolerant" of others as they are, they would be more tolerant in listening to our gospel and thereby be more inclined to accept an invitation to jump with us.

What are your thoughts?

1. How are you in this area? Do you typically want to see change before you accept people or are you willing to let them be themselves and allow God to effectuate change?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Have you ever done the Stupid?

















I have...Shortly after moving to Texas City, Texas from Bandera, Texas, I changed the address on my Driver's License to reflect my new address. $11.00 and 3 weeks later, they arrived in the mail. I took my old license from my wallet and compared the new information to the old and everything was satisfactory. So, I put what I "thought" was my new license in my wallet and placed what I "thought" was my old license on my desk for discard later. Later came and I took the license that was lying on my desk and proceeded to my kitchen. You have a junk drawer in your house right? The drawer where all of the odd things end up. We do too. The scissors are in this particular drawer. I grabbed them with confidence and began cutting up my license that had previously been lying on my desk. All is well. That is until I go to the bank to cash a check and they want to see identification. Beaming with confidence, I pull out my long, black leather wallet and extract my new license. Just because I like the look of my new address, I glanced down to see it again and what I saw stopped me in my tracks. I mumbled something under my breath. It was something like, O CRAP, NO I DIDN'T! I had cut up my NEW Driver's License not my OLD Drivers License.

I felt sooo stupid! So now I have to pay another $11.00 to get another Driver's License which will take another 3 weeks! Whoever said stupidity doesn't cost, never met me. :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cultural Intimacy


Depending upon whom you are asking, the question of cultural intimacy will yield a positive or negative response. Should the church or Jesus Followers be intimate with their culture? Intimate as in marked by very close association, contact, or familiarity. I think if one studies the life of Jesus they will notice a very close association with culture or the world. Ah, there's the real dirty word, the world. Have you ever noticed how many Christians insist that we are "IN" the world but not "OF" of the world? They go on to claim that if you're a friend of the world, you're an enemy of God. Could God be his own worst enemy?

I think the Scripture is clear that, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life." John 3:16.

Doesn't sound much like God hates the world to me. Does it to you? I hear so many preachers preach this sort of contorted doctrine as if we are to have no alliance with the world whatsoever. This may stand to reason why their ministries are failing and the only ones that are attending their meetings are those that don't have anything better to do anyway or habit simply gets the better of them.

Jesus spent much more time in the "world" arena than he did the "religious" arena. He was always mixing it up with "sinners" and avoiding the "saints". He spent so much time with the heathen that he was referred to as the "Friend of sinners". The shame of it all!

The problem herein is that too often we misunderstand the real meaning of the word, world. We carelessly define this word to mean "lost humanity". While there are certainly biblical passages that would support that definition, we must be careful not to use that definition in every instance the word is used. How is it Jesus could say in John 3:16 that God loved the world and then in 1John 2:15 "Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." It would appear that God is confused and really isn't sure of what our feelings toward the world should be. But we would be wrong to think that. The words are different in use and context.

In John 3:16-17, the world would represent the whole of humanity. The word in the original Greek is Kosmos, from which we derive, world. Though this word has other meanings such as ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts', as the ornament of the heavens, in the context of John 3:16 it represents you and I and countless others like us.

In 1John 2:15, the world would represent world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly. The word here in the original Greek is also Kosmos but within the context it calls for a separate definition, "The whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ." John is saying that we must be crucified to the world and the lusts that fill it. Our hearts are not capable of holding love for God and a love for the things of this life. The things of this life are the weeds that come up and choke us.

So then where does this idea that we should be enemies of God if we are friends with the world come from? I think it comes from a lack of proper attention and willingness to search God's heart. I cringe when I hear Preachers say we musn't fellowship with the world (sinners) because what fellowship does light have with darkness?!? Are we afraid to be like Jesus? Are we afraid to love our Kosmos and participate in its life and function within its arena? Are we afraid to be like Jesus and become deeply intimate within our culture?

A quick test will determine where we are in this. Write down on a piece of paper all the names of your friends. You know, those you go to dinner with or have over to your home for dinner or would go to their home for dinner. You know, your friends. Now, how many of those friends are sinners or un-believers? If our list has more believers than non-believers, I wonder just how intimate we are with our Kosmos.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cooperation with God


"Whatever God's dream about man may be, it seems certain it cannot come true unless man cooperates."

~Stella Terrill Mann

I love this quote because it reminds me that God and I are a team. Though God can do anything and really doesn't need my involvement, He desires my involvement. Many times we dismiss the successes in our lives or the lack thereof to the idea that "God is God and his will will be done regardless of anything else."
Perhaps the goals we have set for our lives depends very much on our cooperation with God. To work without God or against God is like swimming upstream or cutting against the grain. Both feel unnatural. We were created to work in unison with God.

Where is God trying to work in your life to bring about a dream that you have? Where are you resisting God's work? Consider how well you work with Him or against Him. It could make the difference of whether or not you see the dream accomplished!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A favorite quote of mine...

“Isn’t it the task of the Holy Spirit to introduce some madness and intoxication into the world? Why this propensity for balance and safety? Don’t we all long for one moment of raw risk, one moment of divine madness?”

~Ron Rolheiser

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Kids...

I'm walking past my kids' bathroom this morning and as I walk past, I glance in. I see my son standing at the sink with this "stuff" all over his face. He's shaving and he's 5!

Don't get alarmed, it's a "play" shaving kit that Grandma bought him some time ago. I'm going to have to teach him that there is no need to shave one's forehead. :)


Friday, June 29, 2007

**WARNING** Random Thought Ahead

I've had this on my mind for some time now and though I'm going to just put it out there, I'm not prepared to fully blog on the thought yet. Though I hope to do so soon. Anyway, I look around my world and I see so many people that are just so disinterested in church or anything the church has to offer. I have to ask myself why? What is it about church that people don't want or don't need? I think a great deal but I digress for now. I will leave you with my thought now. Stew over it, wrestle with it. I am.

Here it is, "Church, The Great Disconnect"

Thursday, June 28, 2007

So much has taken place...


In the last few weeks that I don't know where to start.

On June 1st we left Bandera and headed for Texas City, Texas where we now live. We're taking the task of a new church plant in Dickinson, Texas and were very excited about it. After getting our uhaul unloaded into our garage, we headed for Alabama for a week and a half. It was a great visit. We arrive back in Texas City to begin unpacking and settling in our new home and things were going quite nicely. It had been one week in our new home and we had one service in our new church when I got a call from my sister in Alabama telling me our dad had died earlier that morning. I cried. We packed up and headed for Memphis for my dad's funeral. On Sunday, June 24th we buried him. Without going into the long history of the relationship my dad had or didn't have with his seven children I'll just say it was a difficult time. Dad was only 58 years old. We arrived back home on Monday the 25th.

We're trying to get settled in to this new area of ministry that God has called us to but it seems that we just can't get connected like we want to. I know it's only been 2 weeks but I'm anxious to get busy doing what I came here to do. I know God's plan is in place and He's executing it as he has purposed so I have to learn to go with him and be led by him rather than try and jump in front of him. This Sunday will be our second Sunday. I'm excited about it. I have so many things that are stirring in my heart for this church. I know God is going to do so many amazing things in so many lives!

When you pray, can you say a word of prayer for us? Also, could you pray for God's direction for Bayou Community Church? We have come to build a community of believers for him, not ourselves. The new work is a step of faith for us financially. We didn't come to a huge salary. We're trusting God to provide and I'm amazed at how we've seen God do so thus far!

Well, today I've finally got connected back to the Internet and it's funny how much you miss it when it's gone :) I'll be posting much more regularly as things progress here at BCC. By the way, in case I've confused you between Texas City and Dickinson, we live in Texas City, Texas but the church is in Dickinson, Texas about 15 minutes from our home. :)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Saying Goodbye...



As of today May 28th, 2007, I am no longer the lead pastor of Living Springs Church. It is still a bit surreal to me but it's my new reality. Even in the midst of packing up our house to move to a new city I find myself longing to be in my office reading or preparing a sermon. It's odd, this way I feel. I'm not sure how to express the emotions I feel inside. On the one hand I'm so incredibly excited about moving to Dickinson, Texas to begin working in this new church plant and then on the other hand I'm incredibly sad to see nine and a half years of pastoring this wonderful congregation of people come to an end. Nothing has changed yet everything has changed. I'm torn on the inside. However, I'm certain of God's call to Dickinson.

Yesterday was our farewell service. I don't think I've ever had a more difficult time speaking than when I was saying goodbye to my church. I fear I didn't properly express my sincerest feelings of love I have for them. I hope they heard my heart through my broken words.

Also, yesterday afternoon we had a dedication service. My board of advisors requested that I dedicate our new building before I leave. It was such a high honor to dedicate to God's work the wonderful building that he gave us to worship in. So much ministry is now happening and taking place that we were never able to do before God allowed us to build. I'll forever be grateful for God's direction in that. It was a wonderful dedication and farewell service. The people were kind, thoughtful and sincere in their expression of love for me and my family.

So, Friday we're leaving town with our Uhaul fully packed and ready to go we head off to our new assignment, Dickinson, Texas. I'm not afraid. I'm excited. I've seen the hand of God move so wonderfully in Bandera that I'm certain this new mission will prove to be a testament to God's goodness again. Our first Sunday will be June 17th. When we leave Bandera on the 1st of June, we'll be headed toward Dickinson and we'll arrive that night to begin unloading the Uhaul. Sunday the 3rd I'm scheduled to stop by a dear friends church in Beaumont, Texas to preach on our way to spend a couple of weeks with my folks in Alabama. After a short vacation/rejuvenation, we'll arrive back in Dickinson ready to begin work!

I'll be without an Internet connection for several weeks during the move and transition time but once we get settled in I'll be blogging on all that God is doing in our new work and lives. Pray for us and the wonderful people of both Living Springs and Dickinson (Bayou Community Church).

See ya in a few weeks!

Peace...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Reality is setting in...


I took one and my wife took the other. We had to split up yesterday as Chase had T-ball practice at one place and Grace had softball practice at another. I was with Grace at hers when my wife calls me and says, "There's a surprise for you when you get home". I didn't have a clue what it could be. I still had about 30 minutes left at Grace's practice so I forgot about the "surprise". When I get home and pull into my drive way I saw it..."FOR RENT". Yes, there was a for rent sign in the front yard of the home that I had rented for the past 8.5 years. You see, we're moving. Big deal huh? Well, it is to us.

We're moving to a city just southeast of Houston about 28 miles to begin pastoring a new church plant. We're very excited about this new season that God is bringing us into but so many things have been going on in the last 2 months that I forgot to tell myself that we're going to be moving...I mean, I knew that we were but when I drove into my driveway yesterday evening, it was all too clear and reality really set in. "FOR RENT" seemed to jump off that sign as if to say, "GET OUT"! This is the home that we began our family with children 8 years ago. On the back of the house I built a 400sq. ft. deck so we could celebrate Grace's first birthday with family and friends. Now, 8 years later my two children have their teeter-totter set up on it and we still enjoy it out there. My kids both learned how to ride their bicycles in the street just a couple of feet from where the sign is methodically placed. I'm going to miss this house but we'll carry with us the many wonderful memories of our happy family.

Sunday, I'll be announcing to our church at Living Springs that we're resigning. It's going to be incredibly difficult to do! I'll post more about this later and the new work that God is calling us into. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

This will make a grown man cry...



I certainly don't pretend to know all that is going on in Iraq but of this one thing I'm sure, Mommys and Daddys are called away from their children for the sake of defending liberty and it's a sad day in America when we forget the sacrifices they make. Whether we agree with the war in Iraq or not, we must be thankful for the men and women who defend our freedoms while putting themselves at grave risk. God bless our Troops and God bless America!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Chaser!!

Tonight we celebrated my son's 5th birthday at Peter Piper's Pizza. He had a great time and received a lot of great gifts from everyone. Thanks to all who were able to be there. Your presence meant a great deal to us. It's hard to believe my little buddy is 5 and will be starting Kindergarten this year! I just can't believe it. I look at him and still see my baby boy in so many ways then other times I look at him and see the little boy he is coming to be. It's bitter sweet really. On one hand you want them to stay small and dependant upon you but you know the natural order of things is that he grows and becomes less dependant upon you. It's hard though! I thought after gowing through that stage with Gracie that it would be easier with Chase....I was wrong!



I tried to post this Mosaic of Chase's party on my new blog but it wouldn't accept the html code so I put it here. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

To Go Or Not To Go....That is the question.

There's quite a conversation taking place over at
Glenn's blog. Glenn's post is dealing with a book titled, "They like Jesus but not the Church".

In the comment section, I stated I don't like the name of that book. I still don't. I might feel better if it was, "They LOVE Jesus but not the Church." Oh Shannon, you're getting tripped up over a book title. Perhaps.

What I really want to bring out is a comment that was made that really got my mind going.

Jason said, "When people ask where I go on Sunday, I say oh about 10 feet to my couch where I take what is rightfully given to me by God, that is my Sabbath. A day of rest and rejuvenation with my family. I love it, and hope it never changes."

I have to admit, my first thought was, "What a lazy christian!" But, forget about that. Is there really a need to "attend" church? A church as in a gathering of people for the purpose of corporately worshiping God and edifying one another? Is this something that's been done away with and the Bible no longer holds any instruction in regards to this? Is it OK to not participate in a regular gatherings of God's people?

Scriptures like Hbr 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Has this scripture been mis-understood and mis-represented all these years? Has the meaning of this scripture somehow lost it's value in our post modern society? Would Jesus attend gatherings if he were living in 2007?

I'll be honest. I don't believe a person HAS to be in "church" every time the doors are open but I do believe a Jesus-Follower should be actively engaged in corporate worship often. You've heard the saying, "No man is an island to himself." That is the feeling I get when I hear someone say they don't need church or they can get as much from God sitting at home.

A key to spiritual growth is communion with other believers as we worship our God together. I wonder just how much a person grows when they aren't helping others get closer to God. When they aren't serving others, I wonder who they are serving?

Someone has said that being a Christian without being faithful to church is like:

- A student who will not go to school
- A soldier who will not join the army
- A citizen who will not vote
- A salesman without customers
- A seaman without a ship
- An author without readers
- A parent without a family
- A football player without a team
- A bee without a hive

You see, it may be possible to be a Christian without going to church but can you be a good, growing and godly Christian without participation? I don't see how. We need one another.

R. A. Torrey said it well,

"There is nothing more important in the Christian life than beginning right. If we begin right, we can go on right. And, one way we begin right is by being faithful to the house of God."

The day of Pentecost wouldn't have been the same if 119 of the people didn't participate in prayer in the upper room.

So, what do you think?

Is Church overrated and there is no Biblical mandate for such interaction with other believers?

Are you half-awake or half-asleep?


William James said, "Compared to what we ought to be, most of us are half-awake?"

Half-awake, half-asleep...same thing. I love this quote and I think about it often. I'm a firm believer in that God presents opportunity to us and if we're not awake, we'll miss them.

Sometimes we're so busy with our own lives that we miss God-opportunities. Sometimes we're so busy messing up other people's lives that we miss God-opportunities. Sometimes we're just not spiritually tuned into what God is doing and we become totally disconnected so that everything God would do just flies right over our heads.

The danger in this is that a missed opportunity is just that, missed. You may never get it back again. How many God-op's have I missed because I wasn't aware? How many opportunities to help someone? How many opportunities have I let slip right through my hands because I was too busy with my own agenda? How many times have I failed others because I was so self-focused? Where has God tried to bless me but because I wasn't aware, I failed to recognize His hand in it?

God sends opportunities often so we must have our "spiritual antennas" up so that we will be able to detect what God is attempting to do through and for us. Don't miss out on what God wants to do for you and through you because you're not alert.

How do you become alert? Prayer! Pray, because when you're praying, you're alert and you're expecting God to move in your life. If you're not praying, then your spiritual antenna is not up!

1Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

I pray that God will lead you into greater and greater opportunities that will bring Glory and Honor to His name!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Take it to the next level


So often in church circles, especially "Pentecostal" ones, you'll hear phrases like this,

  • We need God to pour out His anointing
  • We need the Holy Spirit to move
  • Our worship service needs to go to the next level
  • Our church needs to go to the next level
There are more but I think the point is understood. I want to say first of all, I'm not against any of these things. Actually I think they're all needed in every local church. But, what I don't get is why many people saying these things act as if it's the "churches" responsibility that these things are taken to the next level. I think God will pour out His anointing. I think the Holy Spirit will move. I think worship service can go to the next level. I think churches can go to the next level. I also think we miss it many times when we stand on the outside peering in without any change or advancement in ourselves.

Here's what I think needs to happen. I think people need to go to the next level. Not the "church". Let's not forget WE are the church so if the church is lacking, that can only be indicitive of our own lack. If we want the church or worship to go to the next level, then we first must go to the next level. Quit playing church and get serious about God's work; that is reaching the lost. Not maintaining what we have only. God will pour out His anointing, the Holy Spirit will move, worship will go to the next level and our church will go to the next level when WE go to the next level in God.

When we get out of our comfort zones and advance the kingdom of God like never before, God will be there like never before. I'm concerned that many I know have this fixed mentality of how church and God are and they're waiting on them to go to the next level but they do not understand that God is waiting on them....not them waiting on God!

We must come to the place where God is all we want. Nothing else. Just God. He is the most important need of my life!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So much to do and so little time...


This is one of the busiest times of the year for me. We're preparing to have our Annual Business Meeting at Living Springs and there is so much to do and get ready for. This year we're presenting new ideas to help us achieve what God has called us to do as a church in addition to reviewing where God has brought us from last year. 2006 was a tremendous year for me personally as well as for our entire church. As I look back and consider all that God has done, I'm simply amazed. He is so good and so faithful to us. Even with all of the wonderful blessings of God throughout last year, I'm so excited about what God is doing this year. We're almost through the first quarter of the year and there's yet so much I feel God wants to lead us in that it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. I need to sit down and prioritize what are the most urgent and needed steps to take. What God is doing will certainly take everyones passion and participation. That to me is what's most exciting. Uniting with His body to bring glory and honor to His name. We're going forward with a deep thankfulness for what He has accomplished through us over the past year!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bridge to where?


My wife is out of town at a conference so it's just me and the kiddos. Last night we all went to see the movie, Bridge to Terabithia. I must admit, I was not impressed at all. The movie was very slow to get into and once it did finally become interesting, you were busy chasing the scenes in an attempt to figure out where they fit into the overall theme of the film....to be honest, I never discovered the overarching theme of the film. After leaving the theater on the way home I kept trying to put it all together but I just couldn't. The good side is, I spent some quality time with my children and ate nachos and popcorn to my hearts content. :) So it wasn't a total loss. ;)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Compelled by Eternity



Today in the Assemblies of God is National Women's Ministries Day. In honor of all the women who are so very vital in Living Springs, the entire church service this morning was lead by the women in our church. They did everything from the worship service to the preaching. What an awesome job they did! It was good for me to simply sit down and be ministered to rather than being the one preaching. I'm proud of the rich ministry that our ladies bring to our church and for all that they do to share Jesus with our community! They're the best!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Feelings of Disconnect


These are the feelings I often get when I haven't been able to do what I love for any length of time. Blogging has become one of those things I love to do. However, over the past couple of weeks, it hasn't been one of those things I've been able to do. Immediately after my wife and I got back from our short getaway, I got sick with the flu. It was rough to say the least and I'm still not back to myself. The mens group of my church has planned a fishing trip for this weekend and I really want to go but I'm not sure my body is ready for it. I feel like they're really wanting me to be there which makes me feel good. I think I'm going to give it a shot. Everyone says that salty air is good for me right now. I guess we shall see. We'll be leaving bright and early tomorrow morning and coming back Saturday evening. Prayerfully next week I'll begin to reconnect with my regular life. :) I miss regular life....life without medication to simply help you get through the day.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Where have I been?!?


Seems like an eternity has passed since my last post. My wife and I got away for a few days and came back refreshed. I was gearing up to go to Mexico on a missions trip this weekend. That's where I should be now but I got the flu!! Yuk! I have felt horrible for the last 4 days and it seems it is hanging on. Hopefully next week I'll get back to blogging more. I've missed it really.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Going, going, gone!

I'm taking my wife away for a few days. :) Cya!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Radical Optimism of the Cross


A few days ago I blogged about a video David produced from "In Rejection of Mediocrity". The video was titled, "It's about the Cross". I asked the question in my title, "Have we forgotten anything?" I've been thinking a lot about this and wanted to go a little deeper into this question. I think some of the deep spiritual significance of the Cross has been lost in our post-modern world. This is troubling to me and I hope to you. The Cross holds in it two very opposite truths and realities.
  1. The Cross demonstrates some of the most sinful actions of men.
  2. The Cross demonstrates that God can work through even the most sinful actions to accomplish his perfect plan.
There is a radical optimism found in the very ugly reality of the Cross. What is this radical optimism? Let's discuss this...

To begin with, we read in Hebrews
12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured thecross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

To the one who endured the Cross, the radical optimism was the joy awaiting him on the other side of it.
Jesus no more wanted to be nailed to this cross anymore than we would want to. He pleaded with His father in the garden of Gethsemane that he would allow the plan to be diverted. Let's take plan B as I don't think I can do this! We all know that God had no plan B. The way for all men to be reconciled to God was through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Because of the joy that was before Him, Christ found radical optimism in the Cross.

Another part of the radical optimism of the cross rests in the what Jesus said in
John 12:32 "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me."
Jesus knew He was the answer to man's sin problem. And He still is today. Remove from the Christian faith the Cross and we have no faith at all. It is foundational to our faith.

The radical optimism of the cross was that we would accept the
substitutionary death of Christ and pick up our own cross to carry.
Matthew 16:24 issues the challenge, "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
, and follow me."

The radical optimism of the Cross beckons us to a life of service unto God. Paul writing to the Corinthians in his first letter to them writes in 2:2, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

I think what Paul was interested in knowing with this statement is, "Has the radical optimism of the cross changed your life? That was the important factor for Paul. Has the power and glory of the Cross, changed you?

Today some consider the Cross of Jesus Christ as something too gory to talk about at church. It's just too ugly of an event to spend much time on. Somehow the Cross has become offensive to many Christians. It's
ok if it's reduced to a piece of ornamental jewelry we showcase around our neckline but that's it.

What happened to telling the story of a Savior who died a horrible death for all of humanity? Why have many churches steered away from preaching the cross? Paul even said in 1Corinthians 1:18,
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."

Could this be true? Is the power of God held in whether or not the cross is preached? I think it is. The power of God is demonstrated in the Cross.
God took such horrible acts of sin and made it a wonderful gift to all humanity! Only God could do that and it demonstrates to us all the radical optimism God saw in the cross!

Do you see the radical optimism of the cross?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Does my REALITY match my THEOLOGY?


Over the last year I've been really doing some thinking on Reality Vs. Theology. It's been heavily on my mind for the last couple of days due to some posts I've made and those made by many others that I appreciate so very much in the blogosphere.

So, the question I raise today is this. Is my Reality and my Theology in sync? Does one affect the other and is one supposed to over power the other? I think this is true for all of us, that many times our reality is much lower than our theology. The reality, where we really live, isn't matching our theology.

Our theology says something like this (I think this is true for most of us anyway).
  • God loves everyone
  • Jesus was a fan of the marginalized
  • Jesus touched the filth of humanities worst people.
  • Jesus honored the small gifts of a humble widow woman and gave no honor to the riches of the proud
  • Jesus partied with sinners...religious people hate when the word Jesus and partied are used in the same sentence. It makes them feel dirty.
  • Jesus calls me his friend
  • Jesus died on the cross so I could live free from the law of sin and death
  • God's word says I can do all things through Christ Jesus
  • God heals
I could go on and on and on but I think you get the point.

If my theology is correct and I think it is, why is it hard so many times to get my reality to reflect my theology? Yeah I believe God loves everyone....BUT! Yes Jesus touched filthy people but I won't. In my life and in so many others that I see around me, I sense this great disconnect between what I believe and what I do; my reality isn't matching my theology. If I believe the Bible, why can't I simply live it. Why is my reality so much lower than my theology. I believe God is unlimited in power and might but my reality isn't reflecting that at all. I believe God loves the poor, marginalized, broken, deserted, hurting, busted and disgusted people of the world but my reality is too many times disconnected from that truth. Why?!? Would it be a gross misstatement to suggest that if my reality isn't matching my theology then I must really not believe too strongly in that theology? If my understanding of God's word to us is that he wants us to feed the hungry, clothe those that are naked, give water to those that are thirsty, visit those that are imprisoned, defend the fatherless, support the widow and I don't, my reality is far below my theology and doesn't that somehow cheapen the theology I hold so dear? I think it does. What are your thoughts on this? I think this is something I'm going to be wrestling with until I get a closer match between my reality and my theology. The truth of the matter, I think, is that if my reality isn't matching my theology then my theology is worthless.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Church Lingo Translated


A friend of mine emailed this to me. I thought it was funny :)

Church Lingo Translated

In a never-ending effort to attract the unchurched, some churches have considered translating their unfamiliar terminology into familiar football phrases. Although these definitions are not the best football and certainly not the best theology, they would help initiate football fans into the complexities of church life.

  • EXTRA POINT: What you receive when you tell the preacher his sermon was too short.
  • FACE MASK: Smiling and saying everything is fine when it isn't.
  • BLOCKING: Talking endlessly to the pastor at the church door and keeping everyone else from exiting.
  • DRAFT CHOICE: The decision to sit close to an air-conditioning vent.
  • DRAW PLAY: What restless children do during a long sermon.
  • END AROUND: Diaper-changing time in the nursery.
  • END ZONE: The pews.
  • FORWARD MOTION: The invitation at an evangelistic service.
  • FULLBACK: What the choir sees while the sermon is delivered.
  • HALFBACK: What the organist sees.
  • HASH MARKS: Stains left on the tablecloth after a potluck.
  • HEAD LINESMAN: The one who changes the overhead projector transparencies. (Now we have power point!)
  • ILLEGAL USE OF HANDS: Clapping at an inappropriate point in the service.
  • ILLEGAL MOTION: Leaving before the benediction.
  • IN THE POCKET: Where some church members keep God's tithe.
  • INCOMPLETE PASS: A dropped offering plate.
  • INTERFERENCE: Talking during the prelude.
  • LINEBACKER: A statistic used by a preacher to support a point just made.
  • PASSING GAME: The maneuver required of latecomers when the person sitting at the end of the pew won't slide to the middle.
  • QUARTERBACK: What tightwads want after putting 50 cents in the offering.
  • RUNNING BACKS: Those who make repeated trips to the rest- room.
  • THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS: Getting things done via the elders or church board.
  • TOUCHBACK: The laying on of hands.
  • TWO-MINUTE WARNING: The chairman of the board looking at his watch in full view of the preacher.

William Ellis, Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 3.

Is Black Still Black and White Still White? Is Right Still Right and Wrong Still Wrong?


I made a comment on Jamie's post at (e)mergent Voyaguers on his post titled: Homosexuality: A Personal Reflection.

My comment was this:
Jamie,

Vulnerability with this post could almost be an understatement. I commend your willingness to share such difficult things with us all. It has only been in the last year that I have really been willing to open myself up as a person that really wants to understand the homosexual community. Admittedly, I was a hard line critic of such a life. All the while using the Bible as my hammer. God has helped me in this greatly. I have a practicing homosexual woman that comes to my church and I want her to know she is as welcomed as anyone else and she won't be "judged" by us because of the way she chooses to live. I don't think she needs to be told she's wrong, I think she needs to be understood and encouraged in finding God's love for her.

______________________________________________

A reader, whom I don't know and for her confidentiality I'll leave unnamed, emailed me this:

Dear Shannon (and Jamie),

You (neither one of you, as I lurk on Jamie's blog and only found your blog today Shannon) do not know me from anyone. But your post on (e)mergent Voyageurs
has just really prompted me to write. You say...

I have a practicing homosexual woman that comes to my church and I want her to know she is as welcomed as anyone else and she won't be "judged" by us because of the way she chooses to live. I don't think she needs to be told she's wrong, I think she needs to be understood and encouraged in finding God's love for her.

The hurt is in being told that we (I am a gay person, bi-identified, living in a committed lesbian marraige) "choose" to live as a homosexual. Not all homosexuals have this "choice" as not all homosexuals identify bi-sexual or various types of trans-persons.

While you may not agree with her practice, maybe you should get to know that "woman at the well" and see her as Jesus does. And IS she welcomed as anyone else, will she be invited to serve in leadership, and will she, should the call come, be allowed to discern her path to ordination (like Jamie was able to)? Where will her glass ceiling be? I pray there will not be one, and that she will be truly welcomed in your church and is able to discover who God is shaping her to be.

Your last sentence indicates that she has not yet discovered God's love for her. You have a wonderful and beautiful gift in your church, someone who has decided that the church may just be a place where she can find God. I don't need to tell you how many people, especially the marginalized, are NOT looking to the church to provide answers to spiritual questions. They are happy to be "spiritual not religious." I pray that when we welcome these spiritual seekers, we can truly understand them, walk with them and hear what God has been up to in each of their journeys so far.

God Bless and be with you.


_____________________________________________

I responded to her email with grace, I hope.

Some of her points, however got me thinking. She asks if the woman attending my church would be truly welcome and able to serve in leadership or pursue ordination and to what extend will her glass ceiling be?

Let me first say, I believe homosexuality is contrary to God's word and His plan for mankind. I believe it is sin, plain and simple. But, I don't believe homosexuality is anymore of a sin than I believe lying, stealing, adultery, etc... is sin. If I hold such things to be sin according to scripture, am I bound to tolerate it in such a way that would compromise my convictions? I certainly hope not. I mean these are not preferences I'm talking about here, they're convictions based on God's inspired word. I can change a preference, no problem....I'd prefer scrambled eggs over sunny side up but it's not a conviction of mine. I will eat eggs prepared sunny side up, I just prefer scrambled. I can no more have a practicing adulterer in a leadership position in my church than I can a thief, liar, murderer or homosexual. Can I?!? God forbid. This is not prejudice, this is convictions from which I cannot waver. This particular woman that has begun coming to my church is as welcomed as anyone else. God knows that is the truth, but given her "chosen" lifestyle, I could not accept her in "leadership".

Jesus with the woman at the well truly had compassion. I think this is key. He also gave her a wake up call. He called her to the attention of her sin. Sin is at the center of the encounter. Through compassion, Jesus was able to get this woman to not only consider her complete and utter failings, her sin, but his compassion motivated her to change the way she lived. She no longer bounced around from man to man. She was changed.

Complexity is an understatement when dealing with homosexuality. I have a dear elderly couple in my church who's son is in the battle of his life with AIDS. He lived a homosexual lifestyle for quite sometime. He no longer is active in that lifestyle and is very committed to God. I'm not suggesting that God is meting out punishment on him, simply stating facts. I've talked with him and though he is very compassionate toward homosexuals, he wouldn't agree with the emailer's position I'm sure.

Have we become too soft in our convictions that we're afraid to call Right, right and Wrong, wrong or White, white and Black, black? When did this grey demilitarized zone come into play?
Though Jesus was abundantly compassionate, he never wavered in his convictions. Why should we?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Missional Living


Ok, this is NOT a rant, Smulo ;)

What is "missional living"? Sometimes in an attempt to gain a better understanding of what something is, it's best to look at what it's not.

Missional Living is NOT:
  1. About you. Living Missionally means you aren't self focused on your own needs as much as you are on the needs of those around you; namely those who may not be Christ-followers.
  2. About a Denomination. Does it really matter what "church" we attend? I don't think so. Denominations can never nurture a relationship with anyone only people can do that.
  3. A Standardized System. It is alive and as such it seeks to bring a fresh awakening to those brave enough to live missionally. Not just talk missionally.
  4. Rebellion. It is not rebellion toward a movement that worked so well for so long but it is a realization that cultural shifts are taking place and the church and those who comprise her must shift with it or run the risk of losing connectivity within said culture.
  5. The Answer. But lends to it. Missional Living is a catalyst in helping us consider what it means to live out our faith in this world.
  6. For Everyone. Quite frankly, some folks don't have to wear the button pin of "Missional" to feel like their doing something great for God. They're actively engaged in living out their faith and never even heard the world "Missional".
Would you like to add or take away from my short list of what Missional Living is NOT?

Again, this is not a rant, just my thoughts as I surf from blog to blog about missional living. I see a great deal of ideas floating around in here but I only see very few actually demonstrating that they are living missionally in their real lives. We post about the church we would love to see and the work in our communities we would love to do but I don't see many coming back to their blogs saying...HEY!! Here's what I did to demonstrate missional living today!!

I want to issue a Global Missional Challenge otherwise known as the GMC :) If you do something to demonstrate what it means to live missionally, share it with us. Tell us about your reaching out to someone. Tell us how you shared Jesus today. Share with us how you followed Jesus today. Tell us about your "missional living". Not just your apparent dissatisfaction with it all. I know, I know, I know....there is a place for expressing dissatisfaction and all that good stuff. Frustration needs to be vented and released or it will kill us. Literally perhaps ;)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Have we forgotten anything?

How do we connect to Christ? There is but one way, the Cross. The cross is the connection point between us and God. If this connection point is done away with, there is no other alternative.

Has the reality of the cross and our utmost need for it lost it's place in our Traditional, Emergent and Missional minds? Sometimes I fear this is the case. We're trying to figure out a way to get to God without the traditional church system, we're trying to lead people to Christ via their own "personal" journey but have we forgot to lead them by the way of the Cross? This video is interesting in considering that question. David over at "In Rejection of Mediocrity" has produced a video with this in mind.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Maze of Life

Have you ever felt like life is just one big maze that you cannot find your way through? You know there is a way through this crazy thing but it seems there are countless dead ends...and you seem to find all of them. It would seem that just when you feel things are going right, you hit a wall. That job doesn't pan out, the relationship you thought was "the one", isn't, the health issue you're dealing with doesn't seem to be getting any better. You're overall outlook on the future seems to diminish a little more with every passing day. As a result, you find yourself simply meandering in the maze of mediocrity. You're tired of trying anymore. You’re convinced this life is as good as it gets. Ever had one of these days? Ever had one of these weeks, months or years? I certainly have. How do we get back on "track"? I want to give a few ideas that will help when life just doesn't seem to be working out for us.


I think the first thing to do is re-trace our decisions. Where ever we are in life, pleasant or unpleasant, may be as a result of a decision we made. If we're in a rather unsatisfactory place in our life, we may have made a poor decision. Everything we do as individuals is decision based. The down side to this is a bad decision will result in a bad consequence. Ah, yes, those pesky consequences. Don't you wish we didn't have to worry about those things? Well, we do. The really bad thing about bad decisions is that you don't get to choose the consequence that follows. The poor decision dictates the consequence. It would be nice to eat all the "junk" food I wanted and say, "My consequence is going to be health and wellness." But guess what, it isn't. The poor decision to eat poorly already dictates to me what will be the consequences of that poor decision. I'll be over weight and miserable trying to tie my shoes. :) The point is decisions should be carefully thought out in relation to the likely consequences to follow.

I understand that not all of our struggles in life are as a result of our own poor choices. Perhaps you're going through something right now that is the result of someone else’s poor decision. This can be a very difficult situation to work through; especially if that person is close to you. I think the thing we have to remember when someone else’s bad choices negatively affect our lives is to take a long look in the mirror. Yes it hurts and yes it's difficult to deal with but haven't we all been on the other side of this before? I mean at the very core of the matter rests the fact our bad choices sent Jesus to the Cross to die a substitutionary death that wasn't His to die. It was ours. The point is someone always pays for bad decisions. Ask God to help you forgive and to give you power to get through this ordeal...my guess is God will be there for you even if the other person isn't.

Then, preparation precedes blessings many times. I don't think this is always the case but I do believe that in many situations, we have to position ourselves for blessing. I guess this would run parallel to making good choices but I think there is another aspect involved. Keeping God in slot #1 in our lives is a good way to prepare for blessings. Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things will be added to you." Matthew 6:33
I believe God wants nothing more for us, His children, than to bless us by leading us to the fulfillment of our dreams. I think the prerequisite is that God does the leading. I have an "older" gentleman in my church that once told me, "95% of the time when people's lives head toward ruin, they've gotten in front of God." We've begun trying to lead God in the way we want Him to go rather than submissively following in the way He wants us to go. Are you following Him or are you trying to lead Him? Success and blessing comes to the follower.

What do you think? Any advice on this crazy thing we call life? Would you add something that has helped you in your personal struggles?