Friday, June 22, 2007

Preaching Two Weeks...

I preached last Sunday at our church in Pflugerville for Father's Day - you can catch my rant on how the Father views children and how this clashes so strongly with how our culture views kids. This issue is one of my passions, especially know how many people view children in our culture as burdens to be lifted instead of blessings to be enjoyed and stewarded. The message was called "The Father's Kids" and can be heard here. You should go to the church's new website just to see it - they have done a great job improving their site - the home page is here.

I'm on again this Sunday for James 4:1-10. I just finished up all my slides for the message, and I'm stoked to be in the pulpit again. God has been gracious to me during my study time this week. I'm really looking forward to the church plant starting and getting to preach regularly. Only 79 days until launch. Unreal!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Peterson on the Jesus Way

Eugene Peterson's note on how the American Way competes with the Jesus Way in our current culture. Penetrating words - read them slowly and chew on them...

"The great American innovation in congregation is to turn it into a consumer enterprise. We Americans have developed a culture of acquisition, an economy that is dependent on wanting more, requiring more. We have a huge advertising industry designed to stir up appetites we didn't even know we had. We are insatiable.

It didn't take long for some of our Christian brothers and sisters to develop consumer congregations. If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving, whatever. This is the language we Americans grow up on, the language we understand. We are the world's champion consumers, so why shouldn't we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?

Given the conditions prevailing in our culture, this is the best and most effective way that has ever been devised for gathering large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way in which God brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and sets us on the way of Jesus' salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and Jesus becomes more. This is not the way in which our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of a sacrificial, "deny yourself" congregation. A consumer church is an antichrist church.

We can't gather a God-fearing, God-worshipping congregation by cultivating a consumer-pleasing, commodity-oriented congregation. When we do, the wheels start falling off the wagon. And they are falling off the wagon. We can't suppress the Jesus Way in order to sell the Jesus Truth. The Jesus Way and the Jesus Truth must be congruent. Only when the Jesus Way is organically joined with the Jesus Truth do we get the Jesus Life."

I've got thoughts on this, but I'll wait for you to have a chance to respond first.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Back from Study Break

I just finished a week at the farm outside of Waco (stayed with some close family friends) having my first study break as I prayed, read, studied, and planned for the next 16 months of our church plant. Wow - what an amazingly refreshing time I had with the Lord. The time reminded me how little I actually silence my mind before the Lord and listen to Him. The noise of my life sometimes keeps me from truly being still before God.

Over this week, I'll quote some highlights from some of the reading I did and share some observations on what I'm learning on this journey in the Jesus Way.

Friday, June 01, 2007

A Worldwide Read

Last week on vacation, I had some time to read this amazing new book by Ishmael Beah, A Long Way Gone. This work is the personal memoir of a young boy's experience of running from war, being captured by war, and then being rescued from war. This short book is a page turner, well-written, and incredibly powerful. Ishmael's story reminds us that the world is always desperately in need of peace, and that our experience as Americans is not the norm for most people growing up in the world. As I've talked here before about the need for us to be global Christians, I was again reminded of the importance of engaging worldwide humanitarian needs in our attempts to take the gospel to every person on the planet. I would highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book somewhere and spend some time reflecting on what difference it should make in our comfortable lives as Americans.

One great Christian organization that is involved in international justice issues is called International Justice Mission. IJM's leader, Gary Haugen, is a committed Christ-follower, and a servant of the world's most dejected and abused peoples. His organization is growing every year, and is continuing to impact those who are struggling with injustice in the poorest places in the world. The organization that ultimately helped Ishmael out of his situation was UNICEF, the UN's children's fund. To see Ishmael talk about his experiences and the book on CNN, you can visit the book's website and see the flash video.

God, help this generation of young Christians and pastors get involved with your heart for justice in the world.