Thursday, June 18, 2009

What can you learn from a sunburn? ...

Having lived in Hawaii, California, and Arizona, I know how to be out in the sun and avoid the dreaded sunburn.

Granted it means keeping yourself slathered in sunblock, but it can be done. And being the beachbum that I am, I'm good at it.

But right now I'm not real comfortable with this sunburn I'm experiencing! And last night was "unpleasant."

I haven't been to the beach in almost four years. An insane amount of time for a real beach lover. So yesterday I crammed a lot of work into the morning and gave myself permission to go to the beach. I refused to entertain feelings of false guilt about taking the time, so off to Limantour Beach I went.

I've just recently relocated back to northern California, and where I'm staying at the moment isn't far from one of my favorite beaches anywhere. However, this being the bay area, the weather is rarely warm enough to have a really good (warm) "beach day." But yesterday's weather was a good beach day!

I enjoyed being back at "my beach" so much that I put off adding on the sunblock. It felt so good to be out there, and I rationalized that if I hiked the trails enough, and turned often enough, I could manage the sun. Maybe a little red, but nothing bad.

That was irrational.

By the time I finally gave in and started rubbing in the sunblock, my shoulders were already stinging ... a clear sign there's a sunburn going on. Turns out there was quite a sunburn!

It was a foolish thing to do. I knew better. I just wanted to enjoy things my way and rationalized I could control it and make it work. I couldn't and now I sorely (literally!) regret the pain I've caused myself.

That's often how we face life in general. We think we can do things our way, control things, and avoid getting hurt in the process. But that attitude, in the end, causes a great deal of pain.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "12 There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death."

If I would have done what I knew worked, I would have had a much better experience at the beach. I enjoyed it while I was there, but the outcome was not good for me. Being self-indulgent hurt me.

It's the same with life. If we follow what we know works, which is obedience to Christ in all things, then we will have the best that's possible for us. It doesn't mean we won't experience pain, but it does mean we won't be inflicting pain on ourselves!

Is there an area of your life that you're indulging in? Something that you're trying to do your way, and might even know better? Let me encourage you to turn around, find God's direction for you, and stay that course.

It will save you a great deal of pain!


The most amazing man alive ...

Father's Day is just a few days away. This video is posted as a tribute to all the dads out there ...

Unoriginal preaching ...

Where's the originality in today's sermons?

A disturbing trend I've seen among some pastors and church teachers is that, when preparing for a new sermon or sermon series, the preacher runs out and buys the hottest, latest book on the subject they're thinking about, reads it, and then regurgitates it to their congregation.

Sometimes that repeat is veiled by slightly rewording what they read, or sometimes it's a blatant accrediting of the author and a direct laying out of the points the writer made.

Such preaching or teaching is a cop-out.

If you want to be relevant, persuasive, and authentic in your preaching and teaching and reach people with a message that can change lives, then it needs to be "original." It's by the preacher praying and wrestling through the scriptures, learning and actualizing the lessons for himself, that he can best relate the message to his listeners.

Preaching and teaching is work. It takes study, and it takes time with the Lord. And out of that communing with God, you'll best have something to say.

I'm an avid proponent of reading and being a life-long learner. Pastors can broaden their knowledge and understanding by being a student. But learn the lesson, then teach what you've learned.

And do it with a little originality.


God is not a means to an end ...

One of the ways many Christians disappoint themselves --- and create a disappointment with God --- is putting upon God inappropriate and unbiblical expectations.

"If I do this, then God will do this" is the fallacy of the thinking:

"If I am faithful, then God will ..."

"If I serve in the church, then God will ..."

"If I tithe, then God will ..."

"If I put God first, then God will ..."

"If ... if ... if ..."

We think if we do all the things we know God would desire of us, then God will do certain things for us.


But not always.

Sometimes even the most faithful suffer.

Moses hung in there with the griping, complaining people of Israel, only to be denied the blessing of entering the Promised Land.

God allowed Joseph to be thrown into a pit, falsely accused, and thrown into prison.

David's family fell apart ... big time!

Paul was beaten, stoned, imprisoned and killed.

Sometimes, when we do everything God wants, the outcome isn't always what we want. But it will always be what God wants!

It's important to remember that God is not a means to an end!

God loves us without end, and cares for us more than any human ever could. Yet His ways are His ways, and they are designed to bring glory to Him with a final outcome of being in our best interest as well. However, that may not be what we want, when we want, or even in this lifetime.

Peter asked Jesus directly what was "in it for him" regarding following Jesus:

"27 Then Peter said to him, 'We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?' 28 Jesus replied, 'I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then," Matthew 19:27-30.

Applying human expectations to a perfect, limitless God will lead to disappointment. Instead, let God be fully God in your life, embrace the blessings He gives, and know for certain that the end result will be far greater than you could have ever hoped for!

"20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen," Ephesians 3:20-21.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Treasuring Him ...

A Twitter friend recommended this video and it's awesome!

Do you treasure Jesus Christ?


Is there anything in your life you treasure more than Christ?

If so, what are you going to do about it?

" 7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him ..." Philippians 3:7-9a.


How cellphones, Facebook, Twitter can make history ...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Cause no harm ...

This evening I saw a dad leaving a store, his son directly behind him.

What I couldn't hear was an obvious disagreeable conversation going on between them. The son (probably no older than 10) looked both sad and emotional, the father somewhat stern.

Suddenly the father stopped and turned toward the son. The son stopped, flinched, and for a brief second raised his hands toward his face in a protecting manner.

I've seen that flinch before. But only in humans and animals that have been hit.

I don't want to read anything into a few seconds of observation, but honestly, my heart sank.

I've seen that flinch.

Parents --- and men in particular --- it's one thing to have your children respect you, and to "fear" discipline, but it's another thing entirely for them to be scared of physical harm from you.

I lived my childhood terrified of physical harm from my father. Fortunately, I escaped without physical abuse, but not without a lot of emotional abuse from him. Near the end of my mother's life, she endured a beating from him.

It is a cowardly thing, and not the act of a man, to harm a child. I will leave that as enough said.

But men, take a close look at your relationship with your children and make sure your children are not scared of you. That is not respect, that is not a form of discipline, and that is no way to treat any child.

Let me encourage you that if you find you have been treating your children in a frightening way, to immediately change your relationship with your child, and get help on how to do so if you need it.

Love your children, discipline them appropriately, correct and guide them, but by no means harm them.


Remember this thing called truth? ...

Philosophy is not biblical truth.

Neither is "positive thinking" or any of the tidbits routinely thrown out for achieving "success."

Just because you "believe it" doesn't mean you can achieve it, or even that you should.

If you think you're a success, you still might be wrong!

Just because you can "dream it" doesn't mean it's God's will for you.

Unfortunately, much of what is blasted around various media for business and "personal growth" reasons are now all too often spouted as being something biblical. Some church leaders and some Christians in general "back into" scripture by looking at what they want to achieve, and then searching out a Bible verse to try to support their goal. The result is that you increasingly hear from some church leaders a whole lot of what sounds like motivational prose and positive thinking mantras rather than sound biblical teaching.

Truth is not a bumper sticker, a 140-character tweet, a quote in a best seller, a business concept, or a coaching lesson. It's not a story in a "chicken soup" book, something you find in a horoscope, or something you simply "feel." Here's what Jesus said about truth: "6 Jesus told him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" John 14:6.

Instead of turning to every kind of human source around --- of which there seems to be a multitude of options --- if we want truth for living then we must turn to Jesus Christ. We need to get past the prose and platitudes spewed so readily today to the substance of God's Word. That is where we will find the only reliable guide for living out this great adventure called life. Instead of "backing into" scripture to get out of it what we want, let's look at it straightforwardly, the way God gave it to us, see what it says, and allow the truth to set us free.

31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, 'You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'," John 8:31-32.


Copy cat ...

Give me directions and I can usually find any place I need to go. And if I drive there once, doing so again is usually no problem.

Show me something once and usually I can do it myself after that. Sometimes I'll say, "Show me that again" so I can really absorb what I'm learning so I can achieve the desired results.

Most of us can find our destination with directions, a map, or a guide like GPS.

Most of us can repeat, at least to some degree, what's been demonstrated to us.

With those thoughts in mind, how gracious was our God to not simply reveal Himself in written word so that He could be studied, but to put Himself on full display in the embodiment of Jesus Christ.

God didn't just tell us to do something, He showed us how!

He wrapped Himself in flesh and illustrated life for us.

So, like children imitating the good lessons from a parent, let us imitate that which has been taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

"1 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ ..." Ephesians 5:1-2a.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Penetrating lives ...

More than half of all Christians feel like they are not growing spiritually, according to the results of a couple researchers studying issues Christians face.

Bad news!

That thought may have fed into another thought I had. I often hear church leaders, when talking about rehearsals or services, say with great enthusiasm how off the hook the service was.

Then why are more than half of all Christians feeling like they aren't growing spiritually?

Could be a lot of reasons not pertaining to that off-the-hook service, but I think it gives us reason to pause for a moment.

I think sometimes those of us who "do ministry for a living" don't always adequately think about those we're serving when putting together some of the things we do. Sometimes we're so intent on creating a great "moment" that we don't consider it takes more than a great moment to feed the flock. It takes something that will take them beyond the moment and into their week, their lives.

Some things we do for the moment. That's cool.

Some things we do for the service.

But some things we do need to be done for the life. When we gather together, we need to be leaving and returning better than when we first arrived. Otherwise, we have a whole lot of Christians not growing spiritually.

Some of that has to be done in personal study and prayer and service, etc. But each service we pull together needs to make as much contribution to the lives of those we lead as is possible.

It's not a show. It is not a production. It's the people of God coming together to worship, to Commune, to give, to be buried in the waters of baptism, to be enlightened by the living word of God, to be pierced by the word of God, to be repentant, to be encouraged, to be challenged ...

... to be a lot of things that linger beyond just that moment.

Achieving that is really when things are off the hook!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Big sins, little sins ...

Keyboards have been blazing with new blog posts and tweets have been flying about the latest pastor who had an affair.

Yes, it's a terrible thing. Not something I'm going to specifically get into here.

But maybe there were some signs. Perhaps some things that so many pastors not only don't notice, but practice with regularity.

You see, when we marginalize the "smaller" things about obedience to God's Word, it makes it so much easier to violate the "larger" things.

For example, how many times have I heard a pastor joke from the pulpit that he has a "led foot"? And just recently I had an elder of a church cause me to swerve because of his dangerous, speeding maneuver to pass me on the road.

What about some of the language that comes out of the mouths of pastors, not just in private settings but also from the pulpit? (see my post, "You said what?!?" for thoughts about this).

What about some of the heavy social drinking habits of a number of pastors?

Doesn't scripture teach us to obey the laws of the government that oversees us (including speed limits)? Doesn't scripture talk about not letting any unwholesome word come out of our mouths? Doesn't scripture talk about not being drunk with wine, but suggest something much better?

It seems to me we allow a lot of "little things" as acceptable parts of our lives ... even blatantly from the pulpit. So as we begin to chip away at excusing all the "little" stuff, we make the "big" stuff not so big, and more within our reach.

So where is the outrage of the pastor who speeds to a bar and cusses at the guy who is driving too slow while he swerves around him and speeds on?

You don't think that matters?

It only matters when the "big guys" with "big congregations" cheat on their wives ... then the righteous indignation flows? Then all the talk about accountability pours forth?

There's a book called, "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" and a saying of "it's all small stuff."

In my experience, real achievement comes by sweating the small stuff because that's where the details are, and without attention to detail, you have failure.

Without attention to our daily life in Jesus Christ we have failure ... and that starts with the small stuff!

Maybe if church leaders start sobering up, cleaning up their mouths, and stop dismissing the "little things," we'll see fewer moral failures of the "big" type. I would suggest that those who have fallen hard didn't start with an affair. It started by telling their kids to say they weren't at home when they were; it started when they thought nothing of establishing in front of their congregation that they regularly speed (and laughing about it); it started when they consistently use some of the same language the world uses in their sermons; it started when we participated in the gossip along with others; it started when one "little" thing, upon another "little" thing, slowly ate away at the person's character like erosion slowly destroys a mighty rock. Our character isn't just about the "grand things" we do for God, it's about all the little, seemingly insignificant steps of obedience together that begin to reflect Christ in us.

Instead of thinking we have to build fortresses of accountability around "giant" sins, maybe we need to think about how to get all sin out of our lives. NO! I'm not saying become perfect, none of us will while wrapped in this flesh. But perhaps it's high time we took God's Word a little more seriously with regard to our moral behavior overall.

It's a harsh thing to a whole community when a pastor falls. But don't marginalize the effects on that teenager --- or adult --- sitting listening to the pastor he thinks is cool because he cusses, speeds, and drinks (by the way, I'm not picking on those three issues, they're just simplistic examples, so don't get hung up on them). What kind of "disciple" are we making in that situation?!

To me, the issue is bigger than the whirlwind around adultery. It's about genuinely letting the Holy Spirit renew our minds. In Christ, the old has passed, and we have become new. Let's live that way, today, tomorrow, and as long as the Lord gives us, through His power, to His glory!

Let's hear from Paul through his writing in Ephesians 4:17-32, "17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. 25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. 28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. 30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The source of annoyance ...

While living in Hawaii I made a visit back to the mainland to the northern California area where I had lived previously.

Since I was in the area over a weekend, I attended services at a church I had been involved with, and enjoyed seeing and worshiping with old friends.

Some time during the service, a long, loud, slow "chirping" was heard ... someone's cell phone was sounding an alarm! It continued for a minute, and then seemed to fade. My pastor friend did a great job of preaching right through it. It was an awkward moment, people were looking all around for the source of annoyance. I was happy I had turned off my BlackBerry (yes, my pre- iPhone days) before service started.

As the message went on, so did the cell phone alarm. Once again it sounded, slowing rising in pitch and volume, and then lowering as it again faded out. This happened a couple more times during the service. I watched as one of the men of the church walked around the outskirts of the congregation, trying to find the source of the annoyance. The guy behind me even leaned forward and asked me if it was my phone, but I assured him I had turned my BlackBerry off before service.

Finally, the service concluded without additional interruption, and I reached into my pocket to power up my BlackBerry to check messages.

But I didn't have to.

The phone was on.

The source of annoyance was found.

It was me!

Really, I actually had turned off my BlackBerry before services began. I had no idea how the phone got turned on, but without a doubt, it had been my own alarm on my own phone that had been the source of annoyance during the service.

Sometimes, we look all around us, at everyone else, for what's bothering us. Sometimes we think we've taken care of our own matters when we really haven't. Sometimes we've only taken partial steps instead of whole steps, and the results are annoying to everyone.

Be careful where you look when searching out the source of annoyance. You may want to start ... with you!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Longevity v. Legacy ...

What's more important, the longevity of a church or its legacy?

That was a question posed by a pastor in some reading I was doing some time back. His answer was legacy.

I disagree!

I think it's both!

I do not believe that God desires any local church to fail and die. So the longevity of a church is important: it shouldn't cease until Christ returns!

But it's legacy is also important. The church exists primarily for those who are not yet part of it, so we need to be making a difference in the world around us ... and the world!

However, in the United States, 4,000 churches close their doors each year, and only 1,000 churches are started. Often people are initially startled by those numbers. Mathematically, it could quickly spell extinction for the church if that trend continues.

But let me suggest some of that may not be quite as bad as the numbers indicate.

Many of those churches are dying because they have, for many years, been places of strife, contention, bitterness, legalism, liberalism, and as much worldliness as the world they claim they want to serve. Many are indistinguishable from the world around them. And the lack of their repentance is driving their slow death.

That's the situation for some of those churches. And, in all honesty, if those churches refuse to repent, it would be better they close their doors. That kind of "church" gives a negative, false view of what the church really is to the unbelieving world. A "weeding out" of some of these "churches" that sometimes do more harm than good isn't such a bad thing.

So how do we handle this situation so that the church in America doesn't become extinct?

A few thoughts:

1. Save dying churches. Some of those "dying" churches want to live, and could with some help. They may have fallen far enough they need the support, assistance, encouragement, and care of other, healthier churches around them. God can breathe new life into some of these struggling congregations, and other churches should be prepared to help our brothers and sisters in a time of real need.

2. Plant new churches. Adding impact to the American church is a strong new interest and energy in planting churches, being "missional" churches, and developing multi-site churches, with multiple new movements feeding all of these ideas. It's exciting to see the efforts of building new churches that are committed to parenting additional churches. Birthing healthy new communities of faith may reinvigorate the mission of the church more than we've seen in some decades.

3. Be the church. People are looking for real answers for the real issues to life. The church has the answer for them! It's Jesus Christ. And like Jesus, who came to "seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10), we need to be sharply focused on sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with a lost world, and discipling those who embrace His free gift of salvation.

Every Christian church matters, not just for a while. For what kind of legacy does a church really have if it so fails to be the body of Christ that it dies?

Let's commit to save every church we can so that the church can be used to save every soul we can, so we can grow whole new vibrant communities of faith.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

What did you say?!? ...

For some time I have been bothered by some of the language used by Christians. Today, I saw this video posted on the site of a new Twitter friend, and it captures much of my thinking about the issue. Take just a minute to listen to Ed Young ...

Before you cement your thoughts, consider these words of Jesus:

Matthew 10:10-11, "Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. 'Listen,' he said, 'and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth'."

Matthew 10:16-18, "
16 'Don’t you understand yet?' Jesus asked. 17 'Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you'."

Our words can lead to sin, and sin keeps us from relating to, and serving God as we should. Look close at Isaiah 6:1-7. This is the call of Isaiah by God. The first thing that hits Isaiah is his inability to adequately serve God because of his foul language! That had to be taken care of before Isaiah could be used effectively in service to God ...

1 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other,

'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
The whole earth is filled with his glory!'

4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, 'It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.' 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, 'See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven'.”

Do you struggle with the use of improper language? Do you want to eliminate that problem so you can be used more effectively for God? Then take the issue to Him, ask Him to cleanse you from this plaguing sin, and bless your lips for the sharing of the Good News of Jesus Christ!


An option to whacking them in the head ...

My emotional desire was to smack my friend upside the head!

But I didn't.

Since I moved back to the San Francisco bay area just over a week ago, I've started contacting friends here to let them know I'm back. As I work through the contacts, I find that some have remained faithful to Christ, and have even thrived spiritually.


And some have turned from Christ and are living in sin.

How sad!

While I was with a good friend who is now living in sin, within our first hour together I turned to him and said, " Okay, as a friend, as a Christian, and as a pastor, I have something to ask you: What in the world are you doing ..." and proceeded to ask him directly about the specific, glaring sin in his life. He certainly was aware he wasn't living right, and made some muddled comments about wanting to change some things, but he doesn't intend to change everything. Not right now, anyway.

My directly bringing up the issue of the sin in my friend's life was one of the best things I could do for him as a real friend. Too often people stand aside and watch their friends perish because they're afraid of offending them, angering them, or losing their friendship.

If I offend, anger, or lose the friendship of someone but can help call them back to Christ, I will pay that price!

Proverbs 27:5-6 says, "An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy," and Galatians 6:1 says, "Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself."

It breaks my heart to see my friends drift away from God and allow the enemy to have his empty way in their lives. I will do anything to help them back.

Most Christians probably have either family or friends --- or, more likely, both! --- who have fallen away from their faith. Let me encourage you, don't let them stay out there without trying to call them back. Be that humble, gentle voice who helps them see the error of their ways. You may be the only one on this earth who cares enough about their soul to lovingly challenge them to turn back to God. Your gentle rebuke gives reality to Proverbs 17:17, which says, "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need."


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Without hope? ...

In the news today was a story about actor David Carradine being found dead in Thailand.

The story went on to say it appeared the 75-year-old actor had hanged himself using a cord from the curtains in his hotel suite.

How do you come to a place where you become a household name from making famous a fictional character on television, with all the hopes of Hollywood stardom, to taking your own life in a place like Thailand?

Dreams abound --- and are dashed daily --- in Hollywood, but Carradine had reasonable success in his stint as an actor.

Perhaps that was the problem: at the end of worldly dreams we discover the false allure really leads to emptiness.

Nothing --- absolutely nothing --- fulfills the life of any human being other than our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ!

We may try many, many things, but nothing can quench the soul, bless us with genuine fulfillment, and bring us peace other than knowing, loving, and serving God.

There are a lot of David Carradine's out there ... people who have run out of hope. Or they may have chased, and gotten their "dream," only to be deeply disappointed.

The single greatest need of all humanity is to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

What are doing to help those who, like Carradine was, are hurting and losing hope?

What can you do?

What will you do?


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Water ...

We had a little rain last night, which made for a beautifully fresh morning.

I'm not much of a "rain guy" but when I lived in Hawaii I used to love the gentle mists that would bless the land.

As Americans ---as Christians --- when do we really ever think about water (unless you live in the desert Southwest)? We take this precious resource for granted, when there are parts of the world in dire need of it.

God has used water in many ways, perhaps the most profound being Christian baptism, when we are buried with Christ and raised to walk in newness of life.

Take just a minute to watch this video, and I think something as simple as water will give you a fresh take on the greatness, and goodness, of God.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Map your way to success ...

Simple ideas sketched on cafe napkins have turned into great business realities that have made industry giants.

Often when we have ideas that we need to work out, we reach for a piece of paper and pen. Sometimes we draw out our ideas; sometimes we journal our thoughts. Others boot up their computer and capture their thinking while their fingers run across the keyboard.

But many people, when working out concepts, ideas, or a series of thoughts, often need and benefit from a visual diagram of their thoughts. It helps to "flesh out" all of the elements and even provides for enhanced creativity.

Yet so few actually use tools developed for "mapping" such thought processes.

Years ago John Trent wrote a book called "Life Mapping" with the concept being how you can get a bigger picture, and better context, of your life by "mapping" it.

Business persons and groups have been using "mind mapping" for years, and technology increasingly is adding ways to share those thoughts in real-time and more collaborative ways.

Following are some simplistic (very!) samples of what can be done to map out personal life, professional life, or even ministry thoughts, ideas, concepts, projects, etc.
Many people could benefit significantly by mapping out a variety of issues in their personal lives, professional lives, or in the ministry work they are responsible for. There are a variety of free and paid online resources to provide you with mapping tools beyond what can sometimes be the messiness of paper and pencil. Most have the means to share with other users, or even work collaboratively, to send their work to others and to post their work online.

Let me encourage you to give "life mapping" or "mind mapping" a try. See if it helps you personally improve your thought or planning processes. Consider how such mapping could be done collaboratively to benefit your work or ministry teams. I think you will find the mapping processes to be greatly beneficial, especially for all you visual learners! And you'll likely find the process to be fun as well.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Give your life away ...

Famous failures ...

Electronic friends ...

Recently during an exchange of emails with a fellow pastor, I asked if he was on Twitter. He replied no, and added, "MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube ... at some point you have to put these down and just interact face to face."

I couldn't agree more!

I use a variety of technology to keep in touch with various people and to interact and communicate, but nothing is as rich as personal interaction.

While I am a proponent of many of the uses of technology, I also think it can be all too easy to become very shallow in our interactions with people if they are largely limited to sightless, electronic exchanges. While these electronic tools can sometimes expand our opportunity to pray for and support each other, they can also dramatically limit them --- you cannot share your life in 140 characters! We're less inclined to really dig beyond the surface of each other's lives and really learn about, appreciate, and serve one another if we don't take time to be with others. There's so much we can miss when we cannot see the subtle facial clues when someone is speaking. And there is no replacement for the satisfaction of "good company."

There are both benefits and negatives to electronic interactions. Use them for the benefits, but don't replace the real thing for an enhancement!


Keep acting like that, I'm gonna call you Fido! ...

It's the only Christian conference I ever walked out of.

Years ago I was attending a Christian conference for men and had heard a lot of hype about how good the speaker was. So I looked forward to the speaker finally taking to the podium. Until he opened his talk with a dirty joke.

That's when I left.

A little clarification. The joke wasn't quite so raw as what a lot of men hear at work, but almost. The final couple words were left out for you to fill in, but there was only one way to fill it in.

I was disgusted.

I left because that was the perfect example of what we don't need going on when we gather together as Christian men. All week long we battle the ways of the world at work, and men specifically are bombarded with sexual conversation and humor that not only doesn't glorify Christ, but let's call it what it is: sinful.

It's sad that I have heard some church leaders even make excuses by saying things as stupid as "Well, men are men ..." blah, blah, blah.

You're right, men are men, created in the image of God. They are lost and need a Savior, and without a Redeemer they can sometimes act like dogs when it comes to sexuality.

BUT ...

"12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace," Romans 6:12-14.

"19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right. 21 And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. 22 But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life." Romans 6:19-22.

"19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another." Galatians 5:19-26.

"3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people," Ephesians 5:3.

"29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them," Ephesians 4:29.

The world not only makes a lot of excuses for sin, it especially makes excuses for men's sexually-oriented sin. I've heard wives say about and to their own husbands, "It's okay to look as long as you don't touch."

No it isn't!

"27 You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell," Matthew 5:27-30.

It's time for Christian men to stop using the excuses out there and separate themselves from the worldliness of sexual inuendo. By the power of the Holy Spirit, clean up your minds and mouths and set a holy example of what it is to be a man set free from sin and made whole through Jesus Christ.

That will NOT include telling the dirty jokes and laughing along with the guys at the office, the shop, or down the street. It doesn't mean you cannot have fun, laugh, and enjoy life, but it does mean you do so on God's terms, not the world's.

Time to stop acting like dogs and starting being righteous men!