Saturday, May 31, 2008

A New Fav

Last weekend Mandy and I watched Dan in Real Life, with Steve Carell. Great movie, and an even greater soundtrack. It was through this soundtrack that I have discovered Sondre Lerche. Go to his site and select Audio/Video. Then sit back and enjoy some great music!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Brother Lawrence

This past Sunday Jason led us through John 15. The question we discussed was, "What does it mean to abide in Christ?" At the end of the discussion he passed out excerpts from Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God. I first read this book about ten years ago, and it had a profound effect on me. It was really good to come back to it today. Next Sunday we'll share how our "abiding" has been different in light of this.

Here's a quote from Brother Lawrence:

...when we are faithful in keeping ourselves in his holy presence, keeping him always before us, this not only prevents our offending him or doing something displeasing in his sight (at least willfully), but it also brings to us a holy freedom, and if I may say so, a familiarity with God wherein we may ask and receive the graces we are so desperately in need of.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lost: Unanswered Questions

If you're a fan of Lost, you should check this post out.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Money Management Advice from Mom

My mom was the first person who taught me about managing money. She gave me three butter dishes, and taught me that whenever I received money, I should divide it between those three containers. The first was labeled "God." The second was labeled "Save". The third was labeled "Spend."

On the flip side, last night I met a man who reminded me that most Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless. Why is this? I think it's pretty simple: most people were never taught how to manage money. I am very thankful that my mom made it a priority to teach me while I was young.

Here's a good article from Bankrate on the role that Mom's have played in teaching sound money management principals. Here are a few of the topics:
  • Don't get a tax refund
  • Save and invest your money
  • Live within your means
  • Save some money for a rainy day

Friday, May 09, 2008

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

Last week I started reading through the Gospels using The Daily Bible. I'm seeking answers to this question: What would it look like for Jesus to be at the center of my life? Of my home? Of my church? In order to answer that question, I feel like I need to better understand Jesus' mission while he was on earth. This morning I read the Sermon on the Mount. Here's an overview...

Beatitudes - Jesus was proclaiming that His Kingdom was available to all people, but especially to those who were treated well in the present earthly kingdoms. He wanted those who had been treated well in the present earthly kingdom to understand that His Kingdom was different.

Upside-Down Kingdom - this seems to be the central theme throughout this sermon. God sees things differently than we see them. When we begin to understand the KOG, we too will see with different eyes. As Keller says, we will begin to handle things like money, sex and power differently.

Father - We will also begin to think differently about our role and God's role. We don't have to "run after these things" as the pagans do (Matt. 6:32). What are "all these things?" Clothes, money, food, success, worth, etc. God is a loving Father who knows what we need and desires to provide for us. He actually desires to do more than just provide. He desires to lavishly pour out blessings on His children.

Children - When we begin to see things from God's perspective, we too begin to see ourselves in a different light. On the one hand, we are deeply loved children. We are created in the image of God and are made to co-create and cultivate with Him. He has chosen us to partner with Him. On the other hand, we will also come to understand that if it were not for Jesus, everything would be different. We would be totally lost (out of place). This should give us a sense of humility.

Discipleship - "Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matt. 7:14). The disciples were no doubt asking themselves which gate they were walking through. We must do the same. It's probably not a matter of walking through just one time (like I've grown up reading this). It's something that we choose everyday. Discipleship is something that we must choose everyday. Wait a minute. Jesus doesn't even mention discipleship. He mentions life. Jesus came that we would have abundant life. How do we have this abundant life? By seeking His Kingdom. By seeing things from God's perspective. When we do this, our greatest desire will be to surrender our lives completely to Jesus. How do we know when this is happening? We can look at whether or not we are producing fruit: A good tree produces good fruit.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

God Moves Fast!

I love having days when I feel like I'm frantically trying to keep up with God. Today has been one of those days. This morning I finished reading The Tangible Kingdom. I then called Hugh Halter, one of the authors. A few weeks ago I was asked to help rewrite Basic Training for Church Planters with a more missional feel. As I've thought about that, I've been a little hesitant because I know firsthand that becoming "missional" requires major paradigm shifts. So that's why I called Hugh, simply to get his opinion on the matter. So far, with everything I've read from them, it seems like their training is top notch and would help us out greatly.

Hugh suggested that I go through their seven month program called MCAP. He thought that the best way to transfer what they are doing would be for someone to go through the experience, then to help coach others. He said that they started the new semester yesterday, but that that there was still time to get everything in. I also needed $2600.00.

By 1:00 today I had the money and had filled out the application. I think this is going to be a great learning experience for Jason and I, but I am also excited by the possibilities of how this could help our church planting efforts in Memphis and throughout Tennessee.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Derek Webb tonight at Otherlands

I love the fact that Derek Webb is playing at Otherlands tonight. I think that's one of the reasons I like him so much. Check this out.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Importance of Posture

The following is from The Tangible Kingdom. It's one of the best parts of the book. (Click on the title of this post for the direct link).

Posture is important because it can either obscure the message of truth or it can enhance and pave the way for a clear rendering of the truth. In North America, people don't have any sense of the true Christian message anymore because the face of that message looks so unlike the founder. Christianity is now almost impossible to explain, not because the concepts aren't intelligible, but because the living, moving, speaking examples of our faith don't line up with the message. Our poor posture overshadows the most beautiful story and reality the world has ever known.

Sometimes I wonder how we got to this point. Why did pagan onlookers hold the early church in such high respect, but today's non-Christians view the modern day church with such disdain? I think one of the main culprits has been our paradigm of evangelism. In the name of "getting someone saved," we have primarily focused on communicating a message of truth to the world. There's nothing wrong with that, except that we've prioritized the verbals over the non-verbals, the message over the method or the proclamation over the posture.

We assume that if we can just get the idea across, then it will be up to the person to respond, whether we do it correctly or not. Maybe we also think that in order to get God's approving glance, it's our duty share "truth" even if our modus operandi is "Obnoxious for Jesus . . . and loving it."

Focusing on what we say without regard to how we say it doesn't work in marriage, with our kids, in politics, or in any other social arrangement. So why do we think it would work with God? Do we actually think he is happy with us for alienating his world?

The idea of posture helps us realize that truth is important, but according to scripture, truth is not the only thing, or the most important thing. The most important thing is whether or not people are attracted to the truth; drawn into the truth, and able to understand and receive the truth.

Consider God's instruction to us through the book of Proverbs "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). That must mean that God cares quite a bit that we be concerned with the "how" of what we say, not just the "what."

Paul shares his insights on posture in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8: with those who were coming to faith "But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We love you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." An expanded paraphrase might be, "because we found ourselves emotionally attached to you all, we couldn't just preach at you. We knew you needed time to process your faith and the only way to help you understand the big picture was to stay with you longer. We knew the message would make more sense if you saw it lived out in our lives."

When we focus on the message only, what are we saying to people? Maybe, that they really aren't dear to us? Is it possible that to share four great truths about God without giving them a part of our lives might actually communicate the wrong thing? Paul knew that a message without an attractive tangible person embodying and delivering it would fall on deaf ears or be lost amid all the other faiths of that time. What makes the Gospel good news isn't the concept, but the real life person in front of them that have been changed by it.

Peter also speaks of posture when in 1 Peter 3:15 he says, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." These early Christians actually expected that if they embodied the message, they wouldn't have to target people or go after them. They enjoyed the alternative of waiting for people to approach them with curiosity and interest because of what they saw these early Christians being and doing.

In our Adullam Network, we specifically ask people not to try to be "evangelistic." We suggest to them that if people aren't asking about their lives, then we haven't postured our faith well enough or long enough. We're observing that every story of conversion and transformation happened without anyone being approached with a message. The message certainly has gotten out, not as our main priority but as our gentle response to their curiosity.

When posture is wrong, you'll always be perceived to be an enemy or judge. When your posture is correct, you'll actually be perceived to be an advocate, a person who supports and speaks in favor of or pleads for another.

A Community Embodying the Gospel

I've been reading The Tangible Kingdom, by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay. It's a great book, and has really helped me to frame my thoughts. I mentioned earlier today that our church played in the park last night instead of having our normal gathering inside the Skinner Center. This book is really helping me to see that the gospel must be embodied by the church before it can be understood by the world. Last night I think we did a bit of this.

You've probably heard the Francis of Assisi quote, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." I've always appreciated that. I've heard Tim Keller say that it's impossible for the gospel to be communicated without words, and I guess he's essentially right, but I think the words are secondary to Christ-followers living out their faith in practical ways. Or, another way of saying it would be that we get to verbally share Christ because we have lived Christ first.

I promise that all of this is leading up to a point, and here's that point: I think it's powerful when an individual lives out the Gospel in the presence of their neighbor, but something extra special happens when a community begins doing this. It's almost as if it is taken to a whole new level. I felt like we had a little bit of that last night. Whether it was cooking hot dogs and turkey burgers, or filling up water guns for the kids, or just sitting and listening to a person, I think we were attractive to our neighborhood, and I believe that as we continue to do that, we will have opportunities to verbally share Christ with them.


Who knew that water guns would be such a hit yesterday. Instead of being in the Skinner Center for our worship gathering yesterday, we went outside to Peabody Park. A few of our regulars were out, but we had several new people show up for hot dogs, turkey burgers, and, as I said, a nice water gun fight. We're planning on doing another one in June.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Taking a Nap

Yesterday Adam stayed with his grandmother while Mandy and I went to the birthing class. I should mention that Adam's grandmother is known as Bugala. I'm not sure if that is the correct spelling, but it's at least close. Anyway, we left yesterday morning at around 7:45, and we took a couple of pillows with us for the class. Adam saw us do this. Later on in the day, Bugala was telling Adam that we had gone to school to learn about the new baby. His response: "Are they going to take naps?"

Birthing Class

Yesterday Mandy and I attended an all day birthing class. You might be wondering why we went to a birthing class when we already have a child. Here's the explanation: Adam was born via c-section. Because he was breech, and the doctor knew that a c-section was necessary, there was no need to learn how to breathe (Mandy) and coach (me). This time, however, baby boy is looking good, and a normal delivery is possible. Therefore, we decided that we needed to join the first time parents for a birthing class.

At one point during the class, during a slideshow of newborns, a thought hit me: "I don't know if I can do this." All of a sudden it hit me, "I have already done this. What am I talking about!" I think it just shows that (1) no one is a pro, and (2) you just figure it out as you go. The first two weeks of Adam's life were a blur to me, and I'm thankful that we have much of those two weeks on DVD.

The instructor kept mentioning "the grand design" yesterday, and I have to say that throughout the day I was reminded of God's grandeur. At one point I turned to Mandy and whispered, "I wonder what the meeting was like when the grand design of birth was decided on by the Trinity?" Think about that for a little while!

Friday, May 02, 2008

If you're thinking about refinancing...

Here's a good article if you're thinking about refinancing anytime soon.