Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Super Bowl Coaches

Great article here about the character of the two coaches in the Super Bowl. More surprising than their race is their Christian character. I love stories like this - good men of God who do their work with excellence and without compromising their walk with the Lord. Great to read that they understand that the game is not their whole life...I could learn a lot from these guys.

Prayer Retreat Recap

I was gone Monday and Tuesday to a pastors' prayer retreat that was hosted by Dan Davis' group called Pastors in Covenant. Dan has a real heart for the pastors in the city to love each other and pray for each other, knowing that none of us can complete the mission alone. I agree with His conviction that though there are many different expressions & styles, there is only one church in the city - the church of Jesus Christ.

I had a great time getting to know some other church planters & church leaders who are praying and working to move the kingdom forward in the city. I'll post some information later about the interesting leaders that I met at the prayer retreat. You all should check out their blogs and their churches. Very cool stuff.

Overall, I came away with a greater respect for the Infinite Worth and Power of our God. He is at work all over our city (and our world) in ways we cannot even imagine. My prayer throughout the weekend was a real passion for the pastors in the city to be consumed with the fame of Jesus Christ, not our own fame. God is at work drawing men, women, and children to Himself, and we have the honor of being a part of that movement. I walked away from the prayer retreat truly humbled and encouraged by the church leaders and church planters I met.

I was also reminded of the beautiful diversity that is displayed in the church of Jesus Christ in the city. May God continue to bless His church in the city of Austin.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Wise Man's View

During my time in the Word the last two weeks, I've been reading through Proverbs again. Proverbs is one of those books that you can't read quickly because every verse has a different application, and usually the application pierces to the heart. Solomon has a way of getting directly to the point, and shares with us the way of wisdom. Before I get into one of the consistent themes of the book that continues to challenge me, I want to make the interesting observation that though Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, there seems to be a disconnect between the wisdom he wrote for his sons & the way his sons actually lived. In other words, many chapters in Proverbs start with the phrase, "Son, listen to your father's commands & heed your mother's instruction." But if you read the historical books of the Old Testament, you can see that very soon after Solomon's death, the wheels start coming off the bus for the nation of Israel. Solomon starts his reign as king with devotion and commitment to God, but soon after that, his marriages to many foreign women steal his heart away from Yahweh to other gods. And in the end, Solomon's sons follow his example instead of his teaching. Another point of instruction for us as parents, huh? Even the wisest man in the world couldn't get around the fact that his kids learned more from his life than from his instruction.

But, back to the instructions of Proverbs. God continues to show me how the wise man lives. Proverbs shows us that humility and integrity and kind speech, etc. are all prudent choices for our lives not just because they please the heart of God, but because they are the wise course of action. And this is what has struck me: the only way these characteristics can seem wise instead of foolish is if a person has a long view of life - if they see their life in full view, not just the moment. As fast-paced Americans, I think we constantly struggle with taking time to look beyond the next five minutes. And if this is the way we live, we lie and cheat and steal and curse and promote ourselves. All of these tactics help us make immediate progress in whatever we are doing, but they destroy us in the end. In other words, the wise man has to live his life in view of the long results of his character and his actions. So few of us live this way & therefore become more interested in cutting corners in our integrity for the sake of the moment. But God reminds us that this is utter foolishness, because the end result (though it may take a while to come to fruition) of our compromises with our character is destruction and death. The wise man lives with the end in mind - how his character and his choices will impact his whole life, not just the moment.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Go Craigslist!

I don't know if you have ever tried to sell anything online, but I've never had any luck with Ebay. Everyone bids on stuff at the last minute & I forget to bid OR I have trouble selling & don't want to mess with shipping stuff. So, I'm finding out that the hot new online selling site is craigslist. It is very simple & that may just be the beauty of it. The site functions as a simple online classified section that is broken down by city, genre of stuff your selling, and other things. You can search classified ads for stuff you're looking for. We haven't purchased anything on there yet, but Barie got rid of our cat about a 8 months ago with the service (and Jesse, our cat, went to a great family). I was skeptical, but this Tuesday I posted an ad for two pieces of furniture that we want to get rid of & wanted to see if we couldn't make a little money from - a roll top desk & a dining room table.

We offered it for free to any of our neighbors who might want it, but nobody said they did. So, I posted the ad Tuesday around lunch time, asking $50 for each piece. When I got home from work, I had 25 emails in my inbox asking to purchase the furniture. Unreal! I even had one lady post that she didn't have room for the roll-top desk, but that I should have asked $100 for it. You live & learn, huh? Too funny. Anyway, the couple that I picked to sell the furniture to came and picked up the two pieces yesterday from our house. They lived in South Austin & made the trek up here to get the desk & table. Win-win! So, I guess I'm sold now on craigslist. I'm looking around the house trying to find more stuff to sell. ;)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Book Review: Innocent Man

My reading has slowed down considerably the last few months since I completed the residency program at NW and really got into full-speed ministry at Pflugerville and with the church plant. I've been reading a Civil War history (about 800 pages of small print) that won the Pulitzer in History & is really fascinating. I should be done with that book in the next few weeks & I'll post a full report on it. I've always loved history, and it's been a while since I read about the Civil War period. The result of my reading has been a renewed interest in Civil War stuff - I know that Barie is really excited by some of the Civil War movies that I put in our Netflix Queue.

All that said, I decided to take a break from the Civil War tome and read something fun that I could get through in a couple days. And so I picked up Grisham's new book with a Christmas gift card. I've read all of Grisham's fiction work & been a fan since Time to Kill, even though his other work has never really matched the intensity of his first. My other favorite read from Grisham was The Testament, but that was because of the fascinating religious themes that Grisham wove into that novel. I heard Grisham speak at Baylor many years ago when I was a student there - he had just published his novel called The Chamber, one of his slower novels but one in which he raised a powerful question - should the state be killing people? During his lecture at Baylor, he shared some personal convictions about the injustice of the death penalty, & so it was no surprise to me to see his first nonfiction work this year be centered on the real life injustice that men on death row had suffered.

This book centers on story of Ron Williamson & Dennis Fritz, though Ron is really the main character of the narrative. Both were wrongly convicted of capital murder in 1988 for a murder committed in 1982 that neither had anything to do with. Ron was sentenced to die & Dennis was sentenced to life in prison. The story is really fascinating because of Ron's personal story & mental health issues. Both men were in prison for 12 years before their convictions were overturned by DNA tests (which was really a new science in the late 90's). Ron was only days away from being executed when a federal judge (& his team of researchers) stayed the execution based on their research into a brief by one of Ron's lawyers.

This book is not so much for entertainment purposes, but to challenge us in what we think about our criminal justice system here in America. Though it may work 95% of the time & put the right people behind bars, the consequences for the 5% wrongly convicted are devastating. I encourage all of you to read this short book & wrestle with the implications of this story on our use of the death penalty.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Father's Lesson on a Cold Day

We've had three days of staying at home now & everyone is starting to get a little jumpy. The boys want to run outside & we want them to run outside longer than a few minutes. I've had fun spending time with them playing toy trains and Candy Land, working puzzles and watching "Go, Diego, Go!" during the afternoon (we won't spend time talking about how much cooler the kid programming is today than when I was a kid - I never learned Spanish). But the longer that I spend indoors with the family, the more anxious I get about the amount of work that is waiting for me when I get back into the office. We've had to change our January Vision Gathering times for the church plant this Sunday (you can read more about this on the church plant blog) because our host church ended up moving their annual business meeting from last Sunday to this Sunday. All that to say that I'm going slightly crazy thinking about the stuff I need to work on at the office.

In the midst of all this at-home fun, the Lord really spoke to me today. I've been reading through Proverbs each morning recently and God is continuing to speak to me about whether or not I am wise or a fool in the way that I relate to him and to others. The passages in chapters 5-7 on how to avoid adultery and the corresponding verses in chapter 8 on how to walk in wisdom have really challenged me again on who I listen to. The adulterous woman in chapters 5 & 7 uses her seductive words to persuade the young man to follow her into destruction. On the flip side, wisdom is also calling out for us hear her as well. The question is primary in the book of Proverbs (especially in the early chapters when Solomon is giving instruction to his sons): who will we listen to as we walk through life? The wise king encourages his sons to fear God and walk with Him, to shun evil, and to listen to those who could give wise counsel.

I've always wondered as I've read these passages what God was teaching Solomon about his own spiritual life as he gave instructions to his sons. I consistently feel like I am growing in understanding God and His heart as I try to communicate love toward my sons. As I instruct them and discipline them, God continues to show me His view of me. Today was one of those moments for me. I saw Kade, my oldest, behind the recliner in our bedroom playing with a power chord for the lamp. I told him not to touch it, of course, and he said that he really wanted to. We went back and forth until I picked him up and put him on my lap and explained, "I know that you want to play with this chord, but daddy knows something you don't understand & I'm telling you not to touch it. When you want to do something, but daddy tells you not to, you need to trust me and not do it."

As soon as I said it, the Holy Spirit was all over me, saying, "now you know how I feel when you ignore what I tell you do in order to fulfill your own desires." Ouch.

Here's to trusting our Heavenly Father enough to believe that He knows better than we do when He gives us guidelines and instructions in His Word.

Monday, January 15, 2007

ICE!

We move from Dallas to Austin thinking that the move three hours south will come with some kind of buffer against the gross ice that DFW gets every once in a while. But we are perfectly situated in Central Texas to have some significant ice on the roads overnight tonight and through tomorrow. It's not looking good. Our offices at the church will follow the lead of Pflugerville ISD, which will probably close if the forecasters are correct. In all this, I'm enjoying some down time with the family, but already getting crazy thinking about all the appointments I need to reschedule now. Cool weather website I was pointed to today - weather underground - gives conditions even down to certain neighborhoods. Very fun. Stay safe out there!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Stagecoach Inn

We had a great date night on Monday evening at the Stagecoach Inn 30 miles north of us in Salado, TX. I went ahead and got a reservation, but we really didn't need one since very few people visit Salado on Monday nights after the Christmas holidays are over. We went on a double-date with another couple from our church and had a really wonderful time. The food there is old-fashioned and good. The prices are reasonable. For one price (usually $14-20 a person), you get cornbread hushpuppies, an appetizer, a salad, a main course (I had to get the chicken-fried steak) with three vegetables, rolls, and a desert.

If you haven't visited there for dinner, you really have to go there just to enjoy the experience. We missed the shopping in Salado (I was so sad that the shops were all closed when we finished dinner ;) because we went on a week night, but the city is really a cool place to visit. I don't think I could live there for any length of time, but for only a thirty minute drive from our house, it is a ton of fun. I even got major brownie points with the wife for making surprise reservations for our date!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Holy Cow!

Sorry for the delay in updating my blog. This has been a brutal week. My two sermons are complete which you can check out here if you need to kill some time. ;) Also, our church just hired the new small groups and assimilation pastor to take my place so that I can focus 100% on planting this new church in Round Rock. This is a very exciting time for us! The month of January should be the month of handing off responsibilities at our sending church and picking up new responsibilities at the church plant.

God continues to bring us amazing people to join our team for the Round Rock North church plant and we are seeing God answer prayer left and right. It is really exciting to be a small part of what God is doing. We are experiencing some relational fatigue right now as we continue to start so many new relationships, but God is also giving us new friends who are encouraging us and growing deeper with Christ with us.

It was good to see all of our extended family over the holidays. We hadn't seen many of our cousins since last Christmas, so it was good to see them. I've noticed over the years that it feels like some things never change with family while life continues to move on by. Everyone is getting older, having kids, pursuing careers, making life decisions, but in many ways, we're the same small kids who used to fight over who could sit at the adult table at Christmas dinner. I pray God's best on all of our family, and I hope that my life and family can help point them more toward the Savior in some way.

I'm really jazzed to be into 2007. We have been praying and thinking about starting a church for so long, that in some ways, it is hard to believe that the year of the plant is finally here. 2006 was a year of transition, where we learned to trust in our stable God in changing seas. But 2007 will be the year we continually look back on in wonder for how God did beyond all that we could even dream. I have huge dreams for this year, and I'm excited that I serve a God who is even greater than my dreams.