Saturday, March 29, 2008

Proverbs 3-4

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

Stewardship is first and foremost knowing that God is God and I'm not. He is the creator of everything. He is the owner of everything. He has given me the task of managing (stewarding) his creation. The tricky thing is that God doesn't force me to give back to Him. He sets up a principle by which it is in my best interest to do so, but He doesn't force it on me. That's why stewardship is also about trust. Do I trust God to give me all that I need? God doesn't need the firstfruits. It is just a part of the principle. When I tithe, I am in a sense saying that I trust God to do more with 90% than I could do on my own with 100%.

God has never failed me in this area. Mandy and I have always tried to be faithful in the area of tithing, and God continues to give us all that we need, and more so. He has blessed us with abundance. We want to do our part by honoring and trusting our Faither, and we know that He will continue to provide for our needs.

Father, it is so easy to forget that you want to take care of your children's needs. Help me to honor you with my wealth, and help me to trust you to take care of me. Amen.


Mandy and Adam are visiting the grandparents in Paducah, KY. They've been gone since Wednesday afternoon and will be back tomorrow afternoon. This is the longest I've been away from Adam, at least since he's been old enough to miss me. It's been nice having the house to myself, but I'm ready for them to come home.

This morning my friend allowed me to fill his truck with mulch, and two hours later I had it spread throughout our flower beds. It's so cool to see flowers that we planted beginning to blossom - we didn't kill them! I'm also beginning to notice the grass in the backyard beginning to turn green. For those of you who don't know, last spring we laid down zoysia in the backyard.

So what will I do today without my lovely wife and son???

Watch a lot of basketball!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Listen to the Externally Focused Churches Webinar

Leadership Network just made the webinar I blogged about the other day available. I haven't figured out how to download it yet, but you can listen to it here.

Proverbs 1-2

...then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Proverbs 2:5-10

Statements with the word "then" in them usually begin with the word "if." Solomon says that it is possible to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God, but only if we do certain things:
  • Receive my words
  • Treasure up my commandments
  • Make your ear attentive to wisdom
  • Incline your heart to understanding
  • Call out for insight;raise your voice for understanding
  • Seek it as if you were seeking for silver or hidden treasures
It's one thing to ask for wisdom. It's something entirely different to want it this bad. Do I desire wisdom, knowledge and understanding this bad? In Proverbs 1:20-21 we see that Wisdom wants to be found. She's not playing hard to get. But there are still things that I must do in order to receive her.

Receive my word/Treasure up my commandments (Am I coming to God every day, asking Him to speak to me?/Am I meditating on the word of God?)

Make your ear attentive to wisdom/Incline your heart to understanding (Am I in a place to receive from God? Is my heart pure? Have I confessed my sins to Him?

Call out for insight;raise your voice for understanding (Am I asking? James said that we do not have because we have not asked)

Seek it as if you were seeking for silver or hidden treasures (Am I willing to do whatever it takes to receive what God wants for my life? Sometimes God wants me to simply sit and receive. Other times, though, God wants me to seek after it with everything that I've got.)

Father, thank you for speaking to me this morning through your holy Scriptures. It is so good to hear from You. I pray that these words would go with me throughout my day. Amen.

Psalm 34

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10

This psalm of David is very different than yesterday's. In Psalm 26 he is desperate for God's help. In Psalm 34 he has experienced God's help. The result of this help is overflowing praise and thanksgiving. Again, the theme that stands out to me is the fact that David knows his God. David knows that he doesn't have to fear what man can do to him. If his God's will is to protect him, then that is exactly what will happen, no matter what!

God is good
God is our refuge
We fear God
We lack nothing

Do I "know" God more when times are tough or when times are good? I want to know God the way David knew God. It seems to me that David's relationship with God is seen most clearly when he thinks God is nowhere to be found. Yet when God is near, or when God has delivered David from the impossible, David seems to want to just linger in His presence. This again is rooted in the fact that David knew that he was loved, and he knew that he could trust God.

Father, thank you for this reminder from David's life. May I trust you with everything today, and may I long to know you more than anything.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Externally Focused Church Webinar

Last Wednesday I listened to a webinar with Eric Swanson and Rick McKinley. I've listened to and read quite a bit from Rick McKinley, and I always come away with some new insight. This webinar was no different. Below are some notes.

Four Paradigm Shifts a Church must make to become Missional

1. From How-To to Want-To
  • If we are not on mission, it's not because we don't know how, but rather because we choose not to be.
  • If we desire to be on mission, the first step is repentance.
  • Only God can change our sinful and selfish hearts.
  • We talk a lot about sins of commission, but we also need to deal with sins of omission.

2. From Coming to Going
  • Attractional churches (how do we get people to come to church) vs. Incarnational/Missional churches (how does the church go to the people)
  • It's not that one is good and the other is bad (it's not a good thing if your church is un-attractional). However, if we are going to influence the culture, we need to figure out how to be incarnational.
  • We often believe that the world exists for the church. This is a faulty belief.
  • We are the Sent people of God
  • The church's best expression isn't on Sundays. It's when we see our workplaces, schools and neighborhoods as our mission fields.
  • We are not here for our own agenda but for Jesus' agenda, and his agenda is about loving people.
  • Which is more difficult, to get our church to go out into the community or to get the community to come to our church?

3. From Protection to Proclamation
  • Our focus is often "Us vs. Them", especially when we see the culture all around us changing. Yet we aren't here to protect. We're here to proclaim.
  • Here in the U.S., we're not going to be killed for proclaiming. Why, then, are we still in protection mode? Does God need to be protected?
  • Our job is to joyfully serve and proclaim His reign (Kingdom of God)

4. From Relevance to Influence
  • Relevance became such a hot topic for the church because we were often very irrelevant to the culture at large.
  • However, many of us have stopped at relevance, and we're not even sure why we are trying so hard to be relevant.
  • The purpose for relevance is so that we will have influence in the culture. That is the goal.
  • We can't be so focused on relevance that we fail to preach the entire Gospel (including the difficult parts).

Final Thoughts
  • We need to teach the people in our churches what redemptive work looks like. Their work has a gospel-based focus and a gospel-based outcome.
  • Do the people in our churches know how to "Go?" What does this look like?
  • Our budget has to reflect this shift
  • Rick McKinley: "If you took away the work we were doing in the city, and I was just preaching every Sunday, it would make a major difference in our influence."
  • Rick was asked, "How do you lead a very traditional church to becoming missional?" His response: "You have a better shot at making them missional than making them attractional. You have to be honest with your condition. If you are an older congregation that sings hymns, that is not a bad thing. The question is, are we willing to go through the process of repentance?"

Psalm 26-27

For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. Psalm 26:3

I have always been interested in David because of his authenticity with God. I am thankful that his relationship with God has been captured in the Psalms. David is in need of vindication in this Psalm. Rather than trying to defend his own name (or whatever else needed vindicating), he brought his case to God. David writes with such imagery, and this verse is no exception. He knows God. His relationship with God probably began on the hillside while he was tending sheep. There was no one else to talk to, so he talked to God. By this point in his life, he isn't simply aware of God's presence. He KNOWS God. He knows that he is loved by God, and because of this, he knows that he can trust God to get him out of whatever predicament he is in.

There are times when I completely trust God to do what only he can do. At times, though, it's as if I completely forget that I know him. It's at times like these when I make things much more complicated than they were meant to be.

Father, thank you for your steadfast love. I ask that your remind me today of your love for me. Help me to trust you in all things today. Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Psalm 23

This week my plan is to blog my daily Bible reading reflections. Here is a previous blog post on our reading plan, as well as a link to our website where you can download the plan. Today we are reading Psalm 23-24. Before I begin to read, I ask God to reveal one thing to me. This morning the verse that seemed to be highlighted was Psalm 23:1.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

If the Lord is my shepherd, what does that make me?
A sheep?
What would it be like to not be in want?
Is that God's desire for us?

I typically don't think of myself as a sheep. I guess I prefer to think of myself a little more highly than that. But maybe that's the problem. In order to have all of my needs met by the Shepherd, I must be completely dependent upon Him. That means quite simply that I cannot be dependent on myself. This is another one of those "Upside-down Kingdom" issues. The world teaches me to be self-reliant. It doesn't teach me to be a dependent sheep. But in the Kingdom of God, this is the plan. If I'm being honest, sometimes I get it, but many times I rebel. But when I do "get it", it's good. It's right.

God, thank you for being my shepherd. I know that Your desire is that I would place my trust completely in you. I ask that You would help me to do that today. Amen.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Weekend

Another Easter has come and gone, and I feel in some ways that I missed it. The last few weeks have been such a blur that I have found it difficult to sit and be still. Friday night Jason and Barb hosted a Good Friday observance. They spent a lot of time preparing for it, and it was a very moving experience for me. Today was a little weird, though. I realized yesterday that the Tigers were set to tip off a little before our Easter Egg Hunt began. I think that caused me to do a little sulking today. I was very pessimistic about today's events.

Our group planned on getting to the Skinner Center at 3:30, and the Easter Egg Hunt was set to begin at 4:00. None of us were really that prepared, in part due to the fact that we didn't know if anyone would show up. I went outside to the park a few minutes after 4:00, and began telling people that we were getting ready to have an Easter Egg Hunt. I went back in. When I returned, there were quite a few people waiting.

I told the kids that the Easter Bunny, played with excellence by Josh, (I'm glad our kids can't read) was on his way, and that we would begin as soon as he got there. As you can imagine, there was much excitement at the notion that the Easter Bunny would there. When he got there, we released the kids to find their hidden eggs. We then invited anyone who wanted to have their picture taken with the bunny.

When it was all over, Mandy told me that there were at least 35 kids, plus their parents. I'm not sulking anymore. I am very happy that we had the opportunity to give kids a good time and meet some new neighbors in the process.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Church's Role in God's Mission

Here's another quote from Craig Van Gelder's The Ministry of the Missional Church:

Spirit-gifted believers living out their lives in the world both collectively and individually bear witness to the redemptive reign of God in Christ as they exercise the gifts of the Spirit and live out of their new nature in expressing the fruit of the Spirit. They become a demonstration to the watching world that God intends that all of life might flourish, and they become God's agents in the world through the leading of the Spirit to help cultivate this reality (45).

Monday, March 10, 2008

NBA What If's?

If you're an NBA fan, this is a great article. Bill Simmons of ESPN lists the top 15 What If's of the past five years. And I'll give you a hint: the #1 What If has something to do with Memphis. Any guesses?

Read the article.

Southern Baptists and Creation Care

By Brian McLaren

As the nation's second largest denomination (after the Roman Catholic Church), Southern Baptists have been given much, so their potential to do good is considerable - as is the danger of missing opportunities to do good. Sadly, until now, constituents and leaders of the 16-million-member Convention have tended to lag behind other large Christian communities when it comes to addressing the issue of environmental stewardship in general and climate change in particular. But that may be changing.

In 2007, the Convention took the positive step of passing a statement affirming the need for Baptists to care for creation, but a new group of Southern Baptists - including many notable Baptist leaders - have said the statement was too timid: it could be interpreted by "the world," they said, as "uncaring, reckless and ill-informed." Through the new declaration, "A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change," these leaders are calling Baptists to keep moving forward in care and healing for God's precious planet. Jonathan Merritt, a young leader who helped inspire the new declaration, expressed his motivation in language that resonates deeply with Southern Baptists: to trash this beautiful planet - which is God's handiwork and declares God's glory - is like tearing out pages from the Bible.

True, many SBC notables have not yet signed the new statement. But current Convention president Frank Page did, along with 43 other exemplary SBC leaders including Ed Stetzer, Larissa Arnault, David Clark, Timothy George, John Hammett, Darrin Patrick, Jonathan Merritt, and two previous Convention presidents, Jack Graham and James Merritt. Their website ( has room for additional signatories, so we may see the center of gravity shift further toward environmental responsibility in the coming days and weeks.

Read more.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What I'm Reading

Our church is going through Genesis right now, and I have the opportunity to speak about Abraham's life this Sunday night. The topic is faith. I've been reading a few books I thought I'd recommend:

Dangerous Wonder, by Mike Yaconelli
Seizing Your Divine Moment, by Erwin McManus
Don't Waste Your Life, by John Piper

New Job

I'm getting ready to start with a new mortgage brokerage this week. The name of the company is Midas Mortgage. It was difficult leaving the other company I had been working with, but I realized that this made sense in the long-term. They're based in Memphis and have been around for 6 years. This week I begin some training, which will be really great. I went through some initial training when I first started in the business a little over a year ago, but, like any other new venture, I really didn't have a framework of knowledge, and so most of what I learned just kind of spilled over. Now I've been working for a year, and am ready to gain some knowledge.