Monday, June 29, 2009
Here's another article from Cutting Edge, this one from the Spring 2001 issue. (Back in the day, there weren't near the resources for church planting that there are now, or at least I wasn't aware of them). The article was called "Teams that Thrive and Not Just Survive", by Grace McLaren, and the subject was Teams. We moved to California from Nashville so that I could go to seminary, and the reason was so that we would be prepared for church planting. Prior to that time, I had been a worship leader. I felt pretty confident in this, but church planting was something new.
There was one major problem with me being a church planter. I had never been a pastor, and at that point had preached a total of five sermons. I felt that if I were going to start a church, I needed a team. This article helped me to understand why a team is needed to accomplish any project. I was introduced to the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory through this article, and was able to better understand how God had wired me and what I would bring to a team. More importantly, I understood who I was not.
From the time I started seminary, I was on the lookout for team members. Later, I began understanding that my desire to be a part of a team wasn't simply about logistics. It was about being a part of something greater than myself, and it was about doing whatever that was with my friends.
Three years ago our dreams were finally realized when Jason and Barb Elder moved to Memphis with us to start Neighborhood Church. Though they are no longer with the church, I am so glad that they came along us on this journey. They helped us to build a foundation of team, and the team we have now is amazing. I am so thankful to be able to live out the mission of God with my closest friends!
I first wrote a post on our thoughts regarding public education in Memphis around a year and a half ago. Since that time we've continued the conversation with so many others about what it would look like for more people from our neighborhood to send our kids to our neighborhood elementary school (Peabody Elementary School).
It's hard to believe that Adam will be starting Pre-K next year. A few months ago we decided that we would like for Adam to go to Peabody's Pre-K program. We realized that we met the income requirements, so we began pursuing it. Last week we found out that 29 students tested lower than him, which means that he is 9th on the waiting list. We were a little disappointed, but knew that if God had other plans for Adam, that was what we wanted. So we began looking for Plan B. Mandy called several private pre-k programs. A few still had available slots.
We then found out that the principal at Peabody was referring familes who didn't get into the their Pre-K to Red Robin Academy, which is located in First Congregational Church here in Cooper-Young. So this morning Mandy and I met with Robin Mayweather, the founder and director of the academy. Right before pulling up, Mandy made the comment that we were going to have to figure out how much we could spend for Adam's education this year (part of the draw to public education is that it's free).
We went on a tour, then talked with Mrs. Mayweather in her office. We asked several questions, and then Mandy asked her for a tuition schedule. She looked at us a little strange, then said that the Pre-K program is the same as the one at Peabody. Both are a part of Memphis City Schools. That is, they're both free! We just kind of looked at each other.
It looked a door had been closed; one that, at the time seemed like a real "God thing." And now a new door opens, one which has all of the same goals and values behind it. There are still some things that we are a little concerned about, but for the most part, it seems like God is in this. I love the idea of walking Adam to school and of being involved with the families of the school. It just seems to fit so much of what we are trying to do here in Cooper-Young.
Yes, you read that right. Mandy called to tell me that she and Micah went to Aldi's this morning. As they were in line Micah was his usual charming self. The check-out lady asked how old he was, and she told her that he turned 1 yesterday. After checking out, the lady left the register, even though there were quite a few people in line. When she returned, she handed Mandy a ten dollar bill and told her to get him something for his birthday. Mandy tried to persuade her not to do this, but she insisted.
What a humbling act of kindness! On the way to the lake this weekend Mandy and I were brainstorming about servant evangelism, and how we as a church can begin blessing people in the same way that Mandy was blessed this morning. This act gives even more momentum to it!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
A year or so after reading the Cutting Edge article about Vineyard Central, I picked up the magazine again and noticed an article about a church that had been started in Washington D.C. in 1947. That church was called The Church of the Saviour, and the planters were Gordon and Mary Cosby. I guess I had skipped this article because I was so excited after reading about Vineyard Central. But I also think it was a timing issue.
Probably the biggest takeaway from this was the idea of Inward/Outward Journey. It's definitely influenced the vision of our church today. It was the idea that the church exists for God's mission. It's much bigger than simply coming together once a week. And it's not meant to be done alone. It was also around this time that I first heard the term "missional community". I don't remember where I first heard it, but I was impacted by it, and primarily so because of what I read from this church.
Here's the quote that I couldn't get out of my mind for a long time:
...the greatest impact on the world comes about by small, highly committed and disciplined communities of people focused on outward mission, inward transformation, and loving, accountable community.
This became a mission statement for me, and something that I desired to be a part of more than anything else.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Last night the boys and I watched the NBA draft together. This marked Adam's first draft (here's his first) and it was Micah's first. As a side note, I thought the Griz did ok. I'm actually pretty happy with Thabeet, and I was really glad to see Tyreke go #4 to the Kings and Dozier with the last pick of the draft. But enough of that. Here are a few more pics.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The first article I want to mention comes from Vineyard's church planting magazine, Cutting Edge. It was the Fall 2001 issue, and the article that got my attention was on a church called Vineyard Central (located just outside Cincinnati). I unfortunately couldn't find a link to this article, so I'll just share why it impacted me.
Vineyard Central was a pretty typical church plant, when one day, a year or so in to the plant, they received word that the building they were meeting in for their worship gatherings was being condemned, and they had 48 hours to get out. Plan B was meeting in homes. It was something that God had begun laying on their hearts previously, but they didn't think it would happen like that.
I was impacted by the community I saw in the pages I read. It was true "life together", and it was something that I had never experienced before. Yet God, through this article, began placing within me a deep desire to "be church" rather than to "go to church." That fire has never died, and almost eight years later, I feel that some of this dream is being realized.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to begin posting a series of articles that have helped to shape who I am today. Why articles? I've definitely been influenced by a number of books over my life, but over the last ten years, it's been a few key articles that have proven most important to me. I'm doing this as much for me as for anyone else. I find it's good to make a regular practice of reflection of the things that God used to bring me to where I am now.
Tonight Mandy and I are going to see Wicked at the Orpheum. We've been looking forward to this for awhile. Actually, it's been six years. Six years ago we had tickets to go see Wicked in San Francisco. It was right after I had graduated from Golden Gate Seminary and we had moved to San Leandro. We were going with our friends Amy and Josh. Earlier that day I started feeling bad. I wasn't sure what it was, but though I was in a bit of pain, I wasn't going to skip going to see Wicked.
That evening Amy and Josh picked us up and we started heading towards San Francisco. On the bay bridge, in normal heavy traffic, the pain in my stomach got worse. I still didn't it was a big deal, though, so we pressed on.
We got our seats (nosebleed I might add), and pretty soon the performance began. The first song wasn't even over, and I had to get up. At this point I thought it was my appendix. After I was gone for 15 or so minutes, Mandy came to find me. We got a cab, and headed to the emergency room. After a catscan, it was determined that I had a kidney stone. A shot of morphine later and I was feeling good. So good, in fact, that I told Mandy that I wanted to name the dog "Morphine." (We got a bichon puppy the next day, and named him Jack, not Morphine).
So here's hoping that this evening is not a repeat of six years ago!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This morning I began reading the book of Judges. Immediately a verse grabbed my attention: After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel (Judges 2:10, NIV).
What a tragedy! The obvious question here is, "Why did this generation not know the Lord or what He had done for Israel?" The best answer is that they were not told this by their parents. I've heard Mark Driscoll talk about this when he says that one generation believes the gospel, the next generation assumes the gospel, and the next generation denies (or forgets) the gospel.
I live in a post-Christian culture, and I consider this a good thing. In a Christian culture, much of the gospel is assumed. In a post-Christian culture the gospel is usually either believed or denied. Assumption is less likely, which, again, is a good thing.
Though every person has a choice of how they are going to respond to the gospel, much of the responsbility is placed on parents. Let me go back to my answer above. I said that parents must tell their children about the Lord. That word "tells" is not adequate, though. To "believe" means that you speak of it often (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9 for God's Words on this). It also means that you live in a certain way. A person who believes the gospel lives differently than a person who assumes the gospel. Either way, this living is contagious.
One of my greatest hopes for Neighborhood Church is that we would raise up children who know and love our God. I pray that God would impress His heart upon our children, and I pray that we as parents would not hinder what He wants to accomplish in their lives.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).
The word "therefore" is pointing back to chapter 11 (the faithful servants of God), but I think it can also point us back to the message of the entire letter. The author of Hebrews has given reason after reason for us to be grateful to Jesus for the work he did on the cross, and to surrender our lives to him. Now he is telling his readers that we have a job to do. The job is to live in light of this knowledge, in light of this gift.
God has "marked out" a race for us. In order to complete this race (or "task", as Paul puts it in 2 Timothy 4), we first have to fix our eyes on Jesus. He has run the race before us. He has been a faithful Son. Second, we have to recognize that sin, as well as other "weights" (ESV), serve to hinder our running. These need to be thrown off or else we will not finish well. We will be "weighed down" by the hinderances (anything that distracts us from our purpose of running) and tripped up by our sin. Finally, we need to remember the work of Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.
Father, I thank you for this letter, which, though written almost 2000 years ago, applies in so many ways to my life today. I thank you for the reminders of what my Lord, Savior, and King did for me on the Cross. May I live my life in a way that brings honor and glory to you, and may I be faithful in accomplishing all that you would have me to do.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The 100 Most Read Bible Verses at BibleGateway.com
Before we can be something, we have to first dream something. Seth Godin says it well here.
Great read about churches in Austin partnering with schools in Austin
Ben Witherington on a theology of work (or lack thereof in our culture)
Tony Morgan on the difference between Leading and Managing
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1
For by a single offering he (Jesus) has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:14.
As I read chapter 10, the word that jumped out to me was "perfect." It's mentioned twice in this chapter. In verse 1 we learn that the law could not make us perfect. In verse 14 we learn that Christ's sacrifice could do what the law could not do - make us perfect. So what does this mean? I did a little word study on it. The Greek word here is τελειόω, which can be translated as follows: "to make perfect, complete, accomplish, finish one's work." This word is also used in Hebrews 2:10, in referring to the fact that Jesus was made perfect by the Father through his suffering, as well as in Acts 20:24, where Paul speaks of finishing the work that God called him to.
Some might be concerned that a word like this might cause us to think too highly of ourselves. However, I think we need to be more concerned about the opposite. We of course have not reached a state of perfection at this point. We still live in a fallen world, and we have the capacity to become slaves to sin rather than slaves to righteousness (Romans 6, Galatians 5). What we need to digest is the fact that Jesus has taken care of it all. I love the phrase that's used "once for all." Because of this "once for all" sacrifice, we are clean before God. When God looks upon us, He does so in light of His Son's perfect sacrifice for us. And what does He see? He sees a people who are holy, sanctified, clean, perfect.
On Sunday I spoke at Church Without Doors, a ministry to the homeless in downtown Memphis. I made the statement that what we think about God is critical, and what we think God thinks about us is also critical. In light of this passage, I'll say it this way: How we think God sees us is critical. And here's another phrase that I try to challenge myself with everyday: The image of God that we carry around in our heart and mind affects the way that we live.
Father, help me to see myself the way You see me. I've done nothing to warrant the way You see me. It's all because of Jesus' work on the Cross. For that I am eternally grateful. But I know that You desire for me to accept that work, and one of the ways that I accept it is to see myself in light of that work. I ask for the grace to do this today, knowing that it will affect the way that I live today.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die, once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:25-28
This is a great chapter on understanding the old covenant (the way the Jews were forgiven by God and cleansed of sin). The writer of Hebrews is making the connection between the old covenant and the new covenant, brought in by the sacrifice of Christ. There are similarities, but there are also major differences. The primary similarity is that, according to the law, "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). The primary difference is that Jesus, unlike the high priest during the days of the old covenant, only had to shed blood once. His sacrifice brought forgiveness and cleansing once for all.
This is an amazing thing to ponder. No one could have predicted God's plan, but it is truly amazing. I marvel at the fact that God was giving a picture of sacrificial cleansing so long ago, which would one day be fulfilled with Jesus' death. A few months ago I preached a series on the Cross. One of my sermons was on the Day of Atonement. Hebrews 9 serves as a reminder of God's plan, but also connects the dots all the way to Christ.
Jesus, thank you for offering your life as the ultimate sacrifice for my sins. My only response is to offer my life up to you as an act of surrender and worship. May it be an acceptable response.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Yes, I'm speaking of thumb sucking. For quite awhile, Adam has been saying that when he turns 4 he will no longer be sucking his thumb. In place of this, he will be allowed to chew gum. We've been going along with this. So yesterday he turned 4, and set out, with much vision and determination, to break his four-year habit.
By the end of the day he was beginning to realize that this was going to be very difficult. He didn't think he could do it. The confidence he had earlier in the morning was beginning to wane. It's difficult to see your child begin to doubt himself. I was glad, however, that he was thinking about it, and he wanted to quit (he also wants to chew gum really bad).
Before he went to bed he was sharing that it's too hard, so I told him that breaking habits is always hard. He asked what I meant by that. I brought up smoking, and he didn't really know what I meant, so I pretended that I was smoking a cigarette, thinking that he'd say, "oh yeah, I know what that is." Instead, he just started pretending he was smoking a cigarette. I saw in Mandy's expression that I probably should have used a different analogy.
Then my brilliant wife suggested something I should have done from the beginning. She suggested that we pray about it. Adam is still learning how to pray, but this is probably the best way to show him what prayer truly is. It's simply saying, "help." We encouraged him to pray, "God, help me to quit sucking my thumb." He prayed, then went to bed.
My prayer is that God would teach Adam through this experience. I pray that Adam would learn that God is strong and that God is loving (Psalm 62:11-12). And I pray that Adam would learn at a young age that God brings victory, and that his confidence would be rooted in this fact.
Friday, June 12, 2009
...and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more Hebrews 8:10-12
What a beautiful passage. It's taken from Jeremiah 31, another beautiful section of Scripture. This is the new covenant. The culmination of this covenant is that we shall all know the Lord. Two words here should be discussed. Who is "we." Jeremiah (and therefore the author of Hebrews) says that "we" includes all of us - from the least to the greatest. It's not reserved simply for those who have their acts together. It's available to all. Second, what does it mean to "know" the Lord. I think back to Genesis 3:8, where Adam and Even "heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day." It's as if God took a walk with these two every day. There was intimacy. Sin caused that intimate relationship to be broken, but one day there will be a new covenant, and all that was broken will be restored. We will once again know God.
Father, because of the work of Christ on the cross, I now live in the new covenant. What an amazing work that was. I thank you that the curse of sin is broken and that I can be free. More than that, because of that work it is possible for me to know You. Never let me take that for granted. Let it be my consuming passion to know You.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
What a great title for the article I just read in ESPN The Magazine. It's on Zac Sunderland, a 17-year old who is just about to complete a solo sailing trip around the world. Such a great article. Here's an excerpt:
There's no doubt that this experience will change this kid's life. As I read it I thought a lot about his parents. Crazy parents...awesome parents. I hope that I always encourage my boys to dream, risk, live lives of adventure, and, do hard things.
For more on Zac, check out his blog.
One of my favorite phrases from Total Church is "Ordinary people living ordinary lives with Gospel intentionality." It's a phrase I'm going to be using most weeks during our Acts study at NC. Anyway, here is a great series of Twitter posts from Steve Timmis (co-author of the book) on what this tangibly looks like.
- Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … buying from local shops.
- Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … frequenting a local coffee shop or pub.
- Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … playing for a local sports team.
- Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … always tipping generously in local restaurants.
- Living ordinary life with gospel intentionality means … being the kind of neighbour everyone wants to have as a neighbour.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:7-10
The author of Hebrews wants his audience to grasp the humanity of Christ. For someone unsure of this, the passage can be very uncomfortable. The following words convey humanity: "loud cries and tears", "learned obedience through what he suffered." Jesus cried out to God to be saved. We see this in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knew that God could save him, which is what he wanted. But more than that, he wanted to obey his father, even if it meant humiliation, separation from his Father, and a painful death.
What does it mean when the author says that Jesus "learned obedience through what he suffered?" Every high priest had to understand what the people were going through before he could be any help to them. Jesus was the ultimate high priest, but that would not have been the case if he had not truly understood us, and the only way that he could truly understand us was to experience suffering. And experience suffering he did.
In the creation, the Lord made man like himself; but in the redemption he made himself like man. John Brys
As the Son of God, and as the only one who never did anything wrong, you were the one person who did not deserve to suffer. I thank you for choosing to lay down your life for me, a pitiful sinner. I am truly thankful that you know me, understand me, and despite all that is in me, you love me.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Fully divine AND fully human! Jesus faced every temptation that we will ever face, so He understands our condition. This is His humanity. Yet Jesus never sinned. He was victorious (I think back to yesterday's passage that speaks of Jesus destroying the devil). This is His divinity. It is because of both His humanity and divinity that we are able to, in confidence, approach God's throne, to receive mercy, grace and help in time of need.
Not understanding what Jesus did for me often prevents me from both persevering (v.14) and asking for help (v.16). I start to believe lies, lies that Satan feeds me. On the flip side, I begin to understand what Jesus did for me when I read the Bible (Heb. 4:12-13).
Jesus, may the work that You accomplished in Your life, death and resurrection consume my life. May it reach from my head to my heart, and may it transform my daily living. I'm thankful that You understand what I go through as a human, yet I am also very thankful that You are God. If You were only human, You might understand, but You couldn't really do much to help my pitiful predicament. However, because You are God, You beckon me to the throne of grace, where I find the true rest, grace, mercy and help that I so need.
Ben Arment on "Three Kinds of Jobs"
The messages from Advance09 are available for download from Desiring God
New iPhone and software getting ready to come out
Good explanation of bi-weekly payments on a mortgage - I've been doing something similar since we bought our first home, albeit without the fees. I just divided the monthly payment by 12, then added that to the principal each month. It will end up knocking around seven years off my mortgage, which will save me approximately $36,000 in interest!
Internetmonk's review of Love is an Orientation, by Andrew Marin. Here's Andrew on the Neue podcast as well.
Saving the best for last..."Why couldn't Jesus shapeshift?" and other Awkward Questions from Children - from Scot McKnight
Monday, June 08, 2009
This week I'm going to be reading Hebrews, and thought I would blog my journal entries instead of writing them. I'll once again be using Cordeiro's SOAP method.
...he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery." Hebrews 2:14-15
What a powerful statement! Hebrews is filled with so many theologically-rich statements such as this one. Christ's death did two things for us: He destroyed the devil and He set us free.
The first step to worship is understanding the pitiful circumstances that I was in (thanks to Dallas Willard for helping me think through this word "pitiful"). I was a slave. Notice that the author of Hebrews emphasizes this by saying "lifelong" slave. What's even more pitiful is that I didn't even realize that I was a slave (think back to the movie, The Matrix). In suffering and dying on the Cross, Christ set me free. I am no longer a slave. Thanks be to God. But not only did He set me free...He also destroyed the devil. "Destroy" is a powerful word. It's because of this work that I never have to be a slave again. Once again, thanks be to God!
King Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Me, a pitiful slave and sinner. This wasn't forced upon You. After all, You are the King. You created the world, and everything in that entire world is subject to You. No, You willingly laid down Your life, suffering in the most brutal way, but more than that, You took on the sins of the world. Your Father turned His back on You. That is true love. I thank You for that love. You have won me. May I be Your servant forever.
Last night we began our series through the book of Acts. I've been looking forward to this for awhile. We're also starting our first community group this Wednesday night. We had home groups before we started meeting at the Skinner Center, but then went to men's and women's groups because it was easier for one parent to stay home with kids.
I've felt for awhile that we were really missing something. That "something" is community. We were discovering that the women of the church don't really know the men of the church that well, and vice-versa. And I really felt that our children ought to be in settings where they can observe the lives of godly men and women.
So this summer, in conjunction with our study of the early church, we're going to practice "being" church. I'm sure it will be a little messy, but community always is. And, as we saw last night, the early church was definitely messy!
The Community Group Discussion Questions can be downloaded from our website.
This Friday Mandy and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage! It's hard to believe that it's been ten years. We've had our highs and we've had our lows, but thankfully, there have been more highs than lows. God has blessed us with two wonderful sons, and has placed us in a great neighborhood with great friends.
Earlier this year Mandy had suggested that we celebrate our anniversary by having a concert for our friends. So every so often we would get out the guitar and play through some of our favorite songs. As we got closer to the date, we began planning the party.
We couldn't have picked a better evening for our party. The weather was wonderful, we had good food and drink, and I think everyone really enjoyed themselves. I know that for Mandy and I, it was a very special time.
I'll post pictures as soon as I get them from Josh (you reading this?).