Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Good Day

Today was a really good day. It was a family day. It was truly Sabbath. This morning I decided to take Mandy and the boys to Victorian Village. I had driven all around this historic part of Memphis but had never driven down Adams Ave. We're going to go again sometime soon and go on a tour.

When we got back I used an emusic coupon to get some new music - 50 new songs to be exact. I love music. Some of my finds: Bon Iver's Blood Bank, Great Big Sea's newest album, some Over the Rhine, a few songs by Adele, some Sufjan Stevens, and some Andy McKee.

After that Dad, Evan and Kelsey came over. Dad and I watched the Tigers beat UTEP. Great game. And it was great to see UNC lose to Maryland in overtime. We also enjoyed a little BBQ from Paynes after the game.

Finally, as if the day couldn't get any better, I introduced Adam to Star Wars tonight. We watched the first hour of Episode IV: A New Hope. Before you get too worried, I fast forwarded several scenes. Right before putting him to bed, I asked him if he liked it. His response: "I love Star Wars." That's my boy! My mom wants me to come by sometime soon and go through my toys, comics and baseball cards in their house. I'm looking forward to showing off my collection of Star Wars toys to Adam.

Oh, one last addition to being able to say Momma and Dada, Micah can now say Night night.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Church Resource

Mars Hill in Seattle has released a free resource in conjunction with their 28-week series on 1 & 2 Peter. It seems that there are a couple of reasons behind this document. The first is that they want to saturate the message of 1 & 2 Peter into everything their church does. They have outlined the two letters, giving the big ideas for each message. They've also written a study guide to be used in their weekly community groups. This also includes a daily devotional guide for families to use. I love this because it's centered around the dinner table and is to be used with the kids. Brilliant!

Their second reason for doing this is to help pastors like myself plan and "brand" sermons. I need all the help I can get, and I'm very appreciative to Mars Hill for this.

You can download this 207-page document from the Resurgence site.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Most Miserable Cities

God loves Memphis. Too bad others don't. Forbes just named Memphis the #2 Most Miserable City to live in. Here's an excerpt from the article:
Sandwiched between Stockton and Chicago is Memphis, Tenn. The home of FedEx has an incredibly high rate of violent crimes, with only Detroit faring worse. The 1,218 violent crimes per 100,000 residents is more than twice the rate in the New York City metro area. The city's sales tax and rate of government employees committing crimes also fall within the 10 highest in the U.S. Pro sports has been a mess in Memphis in recent years as well. The city's lone major franchise, the Memphis Grizzlies, has lost 74% of its games during the past three years, the worst in the NBA.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weekly Links

Man, it's been awhile since I posted my "Weekly Links." Definitely more than a week. I've been very busy, but I've missed doing this. I actually post these for myself. I learn so much from reading different websites and blogs, and I always run across ideas that I want to internalize. I use my blog to do this. So hopefully, this will once again become a regular occurrence.


Scott Thomas interviews Steve Timmis on the Acts 29 site – This is one of those books that has unfortunately had to be moved towards the back of my bookshelf. I've had it for a couple of months and look forward to reading it. The interview is very good.

Bob Hyatt at Out of Ur says that our need for productivity often stems from pride. Here's a great quote (and when I say "great", I mean that it punched me in the stomach): "Conceived of this way, busyness isn't an issue of time management and productivity, it's an issue of desire. When is enough, enough? When am I doing enough good things through which that God-given desire to feel productive and useful in this world can be fulfilled? When do I cross the line between finding satisfaction in the good day's work I put in and trying to find my identity through an ever-increasing load of ego-enhancing commitments?"

Mark Batterson on God Ideas – I totally agree, but he says it in a much better way than I can!

Slumdog Millionaire – Mandy and I went to see this on Saturday night. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Very uplifting story, and one that I can recommend to everyone.

Ed Stetzer on The Dangerous Church of the Future (from Innovation 3)

Next Wave Ezine on the History of the Emerging Church

Jonathan Dodson posted the following quote by Tim Keller: "young preachers won't find their voice until they have preached 200 sermons, so don't be so hard on yourself!" I think I feel better after reading that.



The Empty Chair

On Sunday night I told a story that I had read the night before in Abba's Child, by Brennan Manning. Here is the story:

Brennan Manning tells the following story of an old man who was dying of cancer. The man's daughter had asked the local priest to come and pray with her father. When the priest arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.

Priest- "I guess you were expecting me, " I see the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."
Man- "Oh yeah, the chair ... Would you mind closing the door?"

Puzzled, the priest shut the door.

Man - "I've never told anyone this, not even my daughter .... But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the priest talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head.. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, 'Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here's what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now." "So, Father, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.

The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and left him in God's care. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her daddy had died that afternoon.

Priest - "Did he seem to die in peace?"

Daughter- "Yes, when I left the house around two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead. But there was something strange. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"

The priest wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that"

Saturday, February 07, 2009

God Loves Memphis

I believe that God loves my city, and I believe that the gospel is the only true and lasting hope for the problems of my city. Saying that, I also believe that if I am going to be a Christian in my city, then I must understand my city. The needs of the city must become my needs. It's because of this that I, along with many of my friends, seek to be involved in the city in many ways.

Today is a day devoted to not simply learning about the needs and problems of my city, but also discussing viable solutions. This morning I attended a city-wide town hall meeting on the topic of safety. I serve on the safety committee in my neighborhood, and as a result of this meeting, I have helpful information to pass along to my community.

This afternoon we're having our first CYPN Education Discussion. CYPN stands for Cooper-Young Parent's Network. It's an organization that Mandy created six months ago. Everyone attending has young children, and all of us are having to make decisions about the type of education that we want for our children. It seems that for many of us, there are multiple bottom lines. For example, although academics is very important, it's not the only issue that we're considering. Other factors include diversity, location, cost, etc.

Mandy and I feel that God has called us to this neighborhood, and we desire to live as holistic a lifestyle as possible. Our hope is to send our kids to the local public school and to be involved in making that school an even better school. I may be overly optimistic, perhaps even naive at times, but I believe that if enough people do this, that we could see major change come to our city.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Depending on God Pt. 2

I mentioned in my last post that I've been up reading tonight. The book I've been reading (actually, re-reading), is Brennan Manning's, Ruthless Trust. Below are some quotes from the book.

Childlike surrender in trust is the defining spirit of authentic discipleship (4).

Against insurmountable obstacles and without a clue as to the outcome, the trusting heart says, "Abba, I surrender my will and my life to you without any reservation and with boundless confidence, for you are my loving Father (7).

The decisive (or what I call the second) conversion from mistrust to trust – a conversion that must be renewed daily – is the moment of sovereign deliverance from the warehouse of worry (7).

The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future (12).

The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise (12-13).

Depending on God Pt. 1

I haven't been able to sleep tonight. This is a rarity for me, and I'm not sure why I'm so wide awake. I finally got out of bed around 12:30 and have been reading and writing ever since. This Sunday is our first Sunday in our new location, and more important, it's our first Sunday without Jason and Barb. I realize that I haven't done much blogging lately, and this is the chief reason. It was in some ways the elephant in the room, and I just haven't had the words to write about it.

Right before Thanksgiving Jason told me that he had been feeling for awhile that his time at Neighborhood Church was nearing an end. Though he wasn't sure what the next steps were, he felt that God was calling them away. My initial reaction was surprise, but over the next few days it became more and more clear that this was right. I then had to deal with the sudden realization that I was about to become a pastor. Now I realize that I have been a pastor for awhile, but since moving to Memphis to start NC, I've been referring to myself as a "co-pastor." There were several reasons why I did this, all of which I won't get into, but the unhealthy on is this: as much as I value "Team", it has been a crutch for me for awhile. Wow, I actually said it.

God has been doing a major work in me over the past couple of months, and it has started with a renewed sense of dependence. I do not feel adequate for this task. I know what my limitations are. But I also know how big God is. I know that He is strong and that He loves me (Psalm 62:11-12). God is calling our church to trust Him, and through that He will not only reveal His love for us, grant peace to our troubled hearts, and give us abundant life, but He will begin to do what only He can do in our city.