Sunday, December 31, 2006

Getting ready to preach

I'm preaching this Sunday and next Sunday at HCBC Pflugerville on life-changing relationships. I'm talking this week about how we are created in the image of a relational God (Triune), and we most reflect our Maker when we live in self-giving, forgiving community. I hope to communicate the why behind living in authentic community today. Next Sunday, I'll be preaching on how life-change actually happens as we invite biblical feedback into our lives from others around us. I hope to communicate using biblical examples how honest, godly feedback can transform our paradigms for life.

Both of these messages are close to my heart since I am constantly ministering to people who are living disconnected lives, or as Randy Frazee describes it, lives of crowded loneliness. We have lots of acquaintances, but very few (if any) close friends who know us deeply and authentically. I would add to Frazee's diagnosis the fact that we live in a world of wired isolation. I think we feel good about our connectedness because we have lots of names in our palm pilots, lots of numbers in our cell phone, lots of friends on MySpace, but again can feel very lonely in the midst of all that. Gallup has said that 2/3 of Americans have intense feelings of loneliness from time to time. We are wired to crowds of people, but again, know very few of them at a deep, personal level.

My prayer is that we can move beyond the religion of individualism that impacts so many of us and actually connect at a personal level with others in the church and the community.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blood Diamond

I went with my dad and Mike, another member of our family, to see the movie Blood Diamond last night. It was gripping and terrifying and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I had heard that the movie was powerful, but even with high expectations, I was impressed. The story is set during the civil conflict in Sierra Leone during the late 90's. Of course, the story is fictional, but the circumstances that the story is set in actually happened. It is a chilling reminder of the darkness that envelopes our world and the darkness that treads deep in our own hearts. The movie is also a snapshot of how the American consumer drives many conflicts around the world without even knowing about it. Our global economy is really something.

You can read more about the current situation with conflict diamonds HERE.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Symbolic for Some, Life-Changing for Others

Merry Christmas from the Ferguson home 2006. We had a wonderful morning full of wide-eyed kids, new toys, new clothes, and a birthday cake for Jesus. The boys especially liked the fact that Jesus' birthday called for a slice of cake after breakfast. This must be something special if they get to eat cake after breakfast. As with all Christmas days, many will say how the symbols of the days are trans-cultural and even trans-religions, reminding us that the message of the Savior's birth is really an ancient metaphor for the hope that exists for all ordinary people. The story of His birth is claimed by all people as a reminder of how humble beginnings can lead to exalted status in the end.

However, the truth of Christmas is life-changing for those who have trusted in the baby born this day. No other God who is worshiped in this world cared enough to step out of eternity, enter our darkness, and invade our depravity so that we could have eternal fellowship with Father God. Today is not just a time to remember the symbol of the Christian holiday, but a time to encounter the living Jesus. He really came, He really died, He really rose again. The baby who grew into a man lives today, not just in an ancient book that points back to His life, but in reality. He sits at the right hand of the Father today, ready to come back to claim His creation for His eternal glory.

May Your Christmas be more that a day off work, a day between shopping days, or a time to simply give and receive. May it be a time to think on the Living One who was and is and is to come. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Missio Dei

Dr. Mark Young, a professor of missions at DTS, preached a four day message series in chapel in October called Mission Dei, or Mission of God, where he explored the idea that the foundational theological framework of the early church was missional. In other words, the apostles and early church fathers never considered the fact that Christianity would become a "state" religion, but rather that as missionaries of Jesus Christ, they were called to speak the truth of the gospel to a hostile world. The mission of God to bring worshipers to Himself from all peoples, tribes, and tongues through the message of Jesus was the central understanding behind their lifestyles and theology. In other words, if our churches and personal lives are not being lived on mission with God in the world, then we will get bogged down in internal debates among the troops and forget about the central biblical framework of the early church.

I see and feel this all the time as I interact with other pastors and lay people from other churches. The decision of church leadership to center the life of the local church around the mission of God changes everything that a church does. It impacts the way we spend money, the way we use our time, the way we raise our families. In other words, a church without a clear understanding of God's work in the world will end up wasting time and energy and money on their own agenda. Personally, I feel blessed to be in an environment where the leadership of the Hill Country Bible Church understands the mission of God and feels the weight of the immanent return of Jesus in how we respond to this mission. My prayer for all of us is that we will return to a missional theology that drives us to ask the right questions to engage a lost and hurting world and missional living that drives us to sacrifice our personal comfort for the glory of God.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

God's Guidelines So Out of Date

This news report on new research related to premarital sex shows that very few people actually wait until their wedding night to have sex (around 5%). As a youth pastor who has worked with students for years and a father of three boys, this saddens my heart at a deep level. Our culture does not help our young men and women obey the Lord in this area. The pressure to be sexually active before marriage is strong. I can't remember the last time a TV or movie character was championed because of their obedience to God in this area. But beyond culture, our own depravity makes obedience in this area extremely hard. I know the struggles that young people face in this area; Barie and I dated for four years before we were married in college. However, God has blessed our marriage relationship because we reserved sex for our wedding night. I know that God gives us grace and forgives couples who stumble in this area, but I also know the rewards that go with waiting. May God help more of our young people follow this "out-of-date" biblical guideline so that they can celebrate increased sexual intimacy in their marriage.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Time magazine, really?

So this year's person of the year from Time Magazine is You. You read it right - they are (as many have done for years now) recognizing the exalted place of the individual in our technical age. And so we have another excuse to buy into the lie that the universe revolves around me and my desires. How we can live in a universe as vast as ours and still believe that we are the star in the show amazes me. I interact with people all day who have bought into that kind of thinking and ended up destroying their lives. They are dieing because of living for the their own glory and fulfillment. I like how John Piper says it:

"The point is this: we were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. The sun of God's glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. When it does, all the planets for our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center. We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding the splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world."

Sorry, Time - You is just a poser of the One who really deserves all the glory.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Great Christmas Party

We invited our new neighbors over to our house last night for a two-hour get-to-know-ya Christmas party. There are 12 homes on our street, and 8 of the families were here. It was awesome to get to know everyone. Everybody seemed really excited to get to know each other and find out who was living next to them. We gave everyone a copy of Piper's book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, as a Christmas gift in the hope that they would be encouraged to think on Christ during the craziness that is the American commercial Christmas season. Both Barie and I hope that this is the beginning of some great new friendships on our street. Looks promising!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Life-Change

I had the unique opportunity to lead a lady named Julie to faith in Christ this week. She came into our offices needing some marriage counseling on Tuesday morning, and I was set up to help her out. She had attended the church only a few times, but God was really moving in her life to draw her to Jesus. She was searching for meaning and purpose in her life. She said that she had grown up around church, but that it had been so long since she had been. I told her I didn't want to assume that she had heard or understood the gospel, so I took some time to walk her through the meaning of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. I shared the bridge illustration of how faith in Christ could connect her to God for the first time. She said she had never heard what I was sharing with her. It was amazing to watch God work on her heart as she prayed to receive Christ right there in my office. We gave her a Bible and are getting her connected to long-term discipleship. It is days like these that keep me going - seeing real life-change happen before my eyes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Kyle Lake Family Settles

Some of you had kept up with the story of Kyle Lake, the young pastor in Waco who suddenly went to be the Lord because of a terrible accident during a baptism at the church. Barie and I were at UBC for a year while we were at Baylor. I just saw this note today in the Waco paper that his family had settled with the electrical company that installed the baptistery heaters. I'm glad to see that they settled, & I hope that his family has been taken care of by the company. My prayers continue to be with his wife and three kids.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

fun times...

I've been terrible about blogging over the last week. Life is going at a pace that is too fast right now. I guess everyone struggles to find time during the Holiday season. We had our second vision meeting on Sunday evening for the church plant, and it went really well. We had a neat time of worship and time to start building new relationships in the group. I'll post more on the church plant blog later this week.

In personal news, some of our heroes, Horace and Retta Heathman (a couple we know from our days back at Mt. Calm), came to see us yesterday. It had been too long since we had time together with them. They are one of those couples who simply walks with God and encourages all those around them. Just as we have been busy with our kids and ministry, they have been extremely busy with a project God has laid on their hearts: to build a Christian retreat center on their land outside of Waco. It has been amazing to see how they have been faithful to pursue the Lord's will for them later in their life. I pray that I am running hard after God in my later years and not simply sitting around enjoying what I did when I was young. They are a testimony to perseverance in ministry and faithfulness to the call over many, many years. We had a great time catching up with them yesterday afternoon.

We also enjoyed getting some time together with my parents this weekend. They came down on Saturday so that Mom could go with Barie to the women's Christmas event at our church in Pflugerville. One of our old neighbors, Callie, also went with Barie. They had a great time. Dad and I took the boys (all 3!) to Gatti-land, a local Round Rock pizza place that has a pizza buffet and tons of games for the kids. You have never seen so many people in one restaurant as we saw on Saturday night. We braved the elements so that the boys could enjoy the games, but I doubt that my dad will ever venture to the "pizza place" again. ;)

On Sunday afternoon (before the vision meeting), we took the boys to what our association called a "winter wonderland." They brought in two and a half truckloads of ice and made enough snow on this hill in our neighborhood for the kids to sled down. Let's just say that we were not prepared for the cold wind, the cold snow, or the amount of mud at the bottom of the hill. Another fun memory...but not so much wanting to ever do it again. It took Barie a whole load of laundry and a whole bottle of spray and wash to get the mud out of my clothes and the boys clothes.