Sunday, April 30, 2006

Military Chaplains

Since I've got a former student working as a chaplain's assistant overseas, I was intrigued by this article in the WP about the life of a military chaplain. Thought you might enjoy it. Go HERE.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Individualism and the Church

One of the scariest trends in the American evangelical church movement confronted me again this week at the church planting conference. I'm afraid that individualism sits at the heart of much of what is happening in the church today. While God is using many new church planters to reach people for the kingdom, I'm a little nervous about the proliferation of individual church planting movements and all-alone church planters. I think we are seeing in our lifetime the natural progression of a fully developed philosophy of individualism. No one wants to work within denominations or established systems and so they naturally create new systems. Ironically, as Barna points out in his new book, Revolution, many Christians are beginning to say the same things about the church - "why do I need the church and leaders to help me grow spiritually? I can grow more and become more like Christ on my own." More and more people are following the lead of church leaders and separating from church "systems" and doing church on their own. This progression is fascinating to me, and even seems to be driving some of my peers (who feels this and desire deep historical roots and systems of authority) toward ancient forms of faith (Catholicism and Orthodoxy). I am not anywhere near that extreme, but I do think it shows our need as church leaders to incarnationally lead in the area of submission to authority and life in community. How can we expect people in our churches to submit to our leadership and commit themselves to the living community of believers if we are not modeling those values ourselves?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Process & People

Point #1: I've been reminded this week of a key for church-planting and investing our lives in the kingdom of God. There are something like 50 exhibitors here with all kinds of church planting products, from leadership development to networking to web-site hosting to marketing & outreach. All of them are offering great products that will be helpful for planters, but they illustrate an amazing struggle for modern planters: if I just have the right strategies and steps and programs, then I will surely build a healthy church. But I think too many new church leaders will struggle with forgetting that people are the priority, not the process. I am a detailed kind of leader, and I could see myself working hard at checking the boxes and making sure tasks were completed, that awesome programs and processes were in place. But I believe (and have been reminded this week) that church planting (and all ministry) is ultimately about people. Are we connecting with unchurched people intentionally and are we connecting with our church family authentically? With all the right programs and processes in place, I am convinced that the church will not grow without passionate focus on connecting with people. More later...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Book Review: Tipping Point

Just finished reading Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point yesterday afternoon. Gladwell is a regular writer for the New Yorker, but has a background in the sciences and writes a very interesting book based on his take of how ideas work in culture. I heard Gladwell speak at the Catalyst conference last October, and while he wasn't the most dynamic speaker, he did bring some fresh ideas to the table. Gladwell's main premise is that the way ideas tip (or gain critical momentum to become widespread) is through the kinds of people who interact with an idea and the stickiness of the idea itself. As far as church-planting, I actually thought the afterword to the paperback edition had the most to offer. He states that many people have asked him how to find the Mavens, Connectors, and Salesmen for a certain idea (you'll have to read the book to understand the full context of his lingo). He adds in the afterword that many people can become immune to communication whenever that medium becomes saturated. In other words, in the same way that no one likes to get sales calls today (because of the over-saturation of the sales technique), most people become immune to marketing strategies when overused. Today, I see this happening with email, direct mail, and television advertising. Basically, Gladwell returns us to the common sense that his research revealed: ideas tip most effectively by word of mouth. When people are authentically excited about something they have personally experienced, and share that with others, trends begin to tip. Just a good reminder of the primary place of personal life change and testimony in the growth of the church. Overall, very good read. I've got his book Blink on deck, so we'll see if he can go two for two. Gotta run...Barie just finished a roast - sweet!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Movie Review: Luther

So, Barie and I finally got sucked into Netflix for two reasons. First, they now have an option where you pay only $9.99 a month and you keep one movie at a time instead of the original three. We figure if we were going to Blockbuster twice a month, we will break even because of not having to drive to the store to rent a movie (I mean, what's up with gas?). And second, Upromise was offering a promotional where they would donate $12 to your account if you signed up. We've been using Upromise for a while to raise some extra money to help with the boys' college. So, all that prep to say we watched Luther this week. Actually, that's not completely accurate; I watched it while Barie slept through it. I don't blame her, though. If I was 6 months pregnant and chasing two boys all day, I don't think I'd make it past 8:00 PM. Again, I digress. We watched Luther, and since I've done some research on his life in the last couple of years, I was really excited to see what they did with his life. Of course, they took a few artistic liberties with the history, but for the most part, the film was captivating. I was moved by the movie's depiction of the violence that was done throughout the Reformation period in the name of Christ. As someone who deeply appreciates the theological underpinnings of the Reformers, I am still deeply saddened by the violent acts committed during this time of history. I think the whole period is an excellent demonstration of how the "deep" things of the faith may not be doctrinal minutiae that we fixate on, but the reality of living out the life of Jesus. I mean, what is deeper than "love and pray for your enemy"? I would propose that it is possible for us to be completely 'biblical' people and still not live out the simple and radical teachings of Christ. I am thankful to Martin Luther for his convictions on the truth, his teachings on justification by faith alone in Christ alone, and his desire for the common man to read the Word in his mother tongue. But in some crazy way, I am also saddened by the division and individualism that are also natural descendents of the Protestant Reformation.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

aBeLOG

I would love to share with you Abe Kuruvilla, one of my favorite profs at DTS. Dr. Kuruvilla (right now a medical doctor [dermatology]) was one of my preaching profs at school, and I enjoyed getting to learn under him and work with him (as a teaching assistant for one of his classes). Abe is now studying for his theological Ph.D. at Aberdeen University in Scotland, and he will be back in the states full time in a couple years to teach again. He posts weekly on his blog, which he calls the aBe Log. You can check out some of his insights about life, preaching, and ministry on the aBeLog. I know Abe appreciates your prayers for his continued health and focus as he completes his graduate work overseas.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Weekend

Many of you haven't seen the family in a while so I thought I would post a few shots from Easter Weekend. Here the boys are trying to figure out how to grab one of these colored chicks at the Georgetown feed store...















Here, Kade is excited to have created a blue egg of his own...















Here, the boys are showing off their Sunday best...


















And finally, the whole family on Easter Sunday...














Online Sermons

Several online items I would recommend to you...

First, our church (HCBC) has started a series called, Searching for Truth in the Da Vinci Code. Pastor Tim did an awesome job yesterday morning talking about the novel and relating the truth about the person of Jesus. I would encourage you to go HERE to listen to his sermon. It is the first in a three week series. Next Sunday will be about the reliability of the Bible, and week three about the church's historical relationship with women - very interesting stuff.

Second, I would encourage you to listen to Andy Stanley's sermon (he is the pastor of Northpoint Community Church in suburban Atlanta) called Imagine. He is another DTS grad who has a real heart for those disenfranchised from the church. His major premise is that the church should reflect Jesus in the way we relate to sinners - bringing them to God, not pushing them away from God. His second sermon in the series is called House - one of the best I've listened to in a long time. Listen HERE.

Finally, my sermon from Stillpoint last night (on responding to the passion of God - the death & resurrection of Jesus) will be posted some time this week HERE. I hope you enjoy. It was a life-changing message for me to prepare. I hope it blesses you.

May God richly bless you this Easter season 2006 as you meditate on the fact that He is not here, for He has risen.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Uplogix

Props to my new friend from HCBC NW, Barry Cox, for snagging the front page of the Technology section of today's Austin paper. Read here about Barry's start-up company, Uplogix, which just grabbed another $7 million in venture capital to expand their business. Praise God for a committed Christ-follower excelling in the corporate world and maintaing an awesome witness for Christ.

Two Priorities

In my personal time with God, I've been thinking a lot about prayer lately. In Mark 1, Jesus begins His public ministry with such authority (in His teachings, over illness and demonic forces), and the author takes time to make sure that we know the source of Jesus' power - his intimate time alone with the Father (see Mark 1:35-37). In my own experience, I have found that two of the most central tasks of the church - prayer and evangelism - are also the two hardest disciplines to keep our eyes focused on. I think most people don't believe that prayer actually works (and thus, don't do it), and I think most people don't want to do evangelism (for a myriad of reasons that usually center of self-absorption). I have been asking the Lord lately to help me as a church planter keep prayer and evangelism as the heart-beat of our church (by specifically making them my heart-beat - not quite there yet!). May our intimacy with the Father drive us to share our life-changing faith with those around us.

Walking on Ice, part II

As many of you have noted, there has been lots in the news this last week about Jesus - from the newly translated gospel of Judas to the scientists who tried to explain the miracle of walking on water by showing how ice can form on the surface of the Sea of Galilee during certain times of the year. I received this review of that story from the editor of the Dallas Morning News Religion Section, and I couldn't say it better myself:

"The second report was by three researchers who I think have not enough real work to do. Fourteen years ago, they offered a weather- and geology-related explanation for how the Israelites might have walked dry-shod over the Reed Sea, as Exodus reports. Now they're offering a "paleolimnological explanation for 'walking on water' in the Sea of Galilee."

They're taking aim at the story in Matthew 14 where the disciples spot Jesus walking out on the sea and Peter tries to join him for a stroll.

Again the abstract is available for free viewing in the Journal of Paleolimnology.

And again, I read the whole thing as a sacrifice for you listenors. We're talking 23 blankety-blank pages of science. Page upon page of the kinds of formulas that scream "really complex." Maps, charts and footnotes.

What can the scientists say: Climate is such that, once in a great while, spring weather is cold enough to produce ice on the surface of the Sea of Galilee thick enough to bear a person's weight.

Assume all the turning of the scientific cranks is true. For the story in Matthew to be true, Jesus,– but not the disciples or others on shore,– would have known about the ice. He would have known exactly where the good ice was and not slipped or fallen through a thin patch. Nobody nearby could have seen the ice, including Peter, who was directly next to Jesus.

If all that were true, wouldn't that be,– sorry about this,– a miracle?"

Responding to God's Character

I shared last Sunday at Stillpoint about what an authentic response to God's nature (who He is) looks like. Last night, I shared from Isaiah 6 about what an authentic response to God's character (what He is like) looks like. God's holiness shapes the way we approach Him as sinful people. The audio should be posted some time today. I hope it blesses you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bucky over Mandisa?

I've gotten sucked into American Idol this year for the first time (maybe it's not having school work every night), but I was really disappointed last night with Mandisa getting the boot, and not just because of her testimony of faith in Jesus. She might not have been the best vocalist in the group, but she is way better than several who are still in the group. I mean - you're gonna tell me Bucky "you can't understand a word I sing" Covington is better than Mandisa? Please! I don't know if I can make it to the end, now. But if I do, it will only be to support Chris - rock on!

Jesus Walked on Ice?

Check out this garbage on WP this morning. I've got a better possibility: maybe it actually happened. This rhetoric passes as research? The attempts to explain away the miraculous life and works of Jesus Christ will never cease. I'm glad my faith is not dependent on the understanding of researchers today, but on the life-changing reality of Jesus.

Monday, April 03, 2006

StillPoint

I had a great time preaching last night at Stillpoint (HCBC's young singles' ministry that meets on Sunday nights). I'm preaching a four-week series called worship: our response. The whole idea is that we need to be careful not to seek a certain experience and then attempt to attach that experience to some part of God, but to seek God first, learn who He really is (not what we want Him to be), and then ask what an appropriate, authentic response to the true God would look like. You can visit the Stillpoint website to listen to each sermon during April, and I'll post some additional devotional thoughts on each sermon on my devotional blog.