Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A good read ...

Most of you know I was part of the LifeWay team before coming to ClearView. Here is a post recently posted by Dr. Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay. A big amen from me on this one! The constant pull is to go another direction. I appreciate the affirmation this gave me today as I discovered Dr. Rainer's article. You can find it in its original location here.

NASHVILLE, Tenn., 5/5/08 -- I would consider pastoral malpractice among the greatest treasons a minister can commit against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, it is practiced weekly without inhibition.
What do I mean by pastoral malpractice? I mean ministers who stand and preach a gospel other than God’s rightful need for punitive justice against our sin and His wrath being appeased by pouring out upon Christ judgment intended for us. He in turn sets us in right legal standing before Himself, through faith in what Jesus has done, while simultaneously giving to us His holy righteousness.
Regrettably, too many evangelical churches have become centers for motivational speaking where congregants learn that "God helps those who help themselves;" that sin is something that keeps us from reaching our full potential, not an infinite offense against the Creator who demands from His creation unblemished righteousness.

The apostle Paul tells us that humans inherently know we are separated from God by our sin and we try to suppress that truth through drugs, sex, greed, power, alcohol, etc. Sadly, too often when desperate individuals arrive in our churches looking for a solution they get messages about how to improve their lives or their relationships, but the Gospel is absent in the remedy. J.I. Packer, in his quintessential work, Knowing God, correctly writes:

"We have all heard the Gospel presented as God’s triumphant answer to human
problems – problems of our relation with ourselves and our fellow humans and our
environment. Well, there is no doubt that the Gospel does bring us solutions to
these problems, but it does so by first solving a deeper problem – the deepest
of all human problems, the problem of man’s relation with His Maker. And unless
we make it plain that the solution to the former problems depends on the
settling of this latter, we are misrepresenting the message and becoming false
witnesses of God."

The reality is that fewer people are showing up in our churches to get even a watered down Gospel because the age of attractional evangelism is rapidly dying, as recent research shows. It is not enough to throw the doors open and shout at the culture, "Come in." Gospel malpractice goes beyond the pulpit and is a trait of a complacent church that limits the mandate of the Great Commission to an invitation to come when we are clearly told to "Go!"
How contemporary is Paul’s letter to Timothy?

"But know this: difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be
lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to
parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without
self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless,
conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of
religion but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:1-5; HCSB).

I believe with every fiber of my being that the transformation of the church lies within the pages of the Bible. If individuals and churches are going to become effective incarnational witnesses in culture we must dig in. Paul, again to Timothy, says:
"…you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to
instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is
inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting,
for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped
for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

How my heart pleads with God to transform our churches to being training and equipping centers that send people out into culture to be Jesus’ ambassadors. I’m not talking pious moralists who point people to their sins, but servants who through humility and loving relationships point people to an all-sufficient Savior.
We must meet people in their context, but we must share the Gospel. Morality does not reconcile people to God; it comes through the Gospel of Christ.

China pictures

It took me a few days. I had to get a computer expert (i.e., someone younger than me) to show me how to upload some China pictures so I could give you a link.

You can view them here and here.


Friday, May 23, 2008

China and Myanmar ... So What?

Sorry that I kind of left you hanging on the last post. We are back in Franklin safe and sound. My body landed Wednesday evening about 10:30. We were about an hour and a half late coming out of Chicago (surprise, surprise!). My mind is just now coming out of the fog of jet lag. All that to say, I'm back to posting more regularly.

I want to share something that God convicted me of as part of this trip to China. We were waiting the morning of May 12 to board our plane here in Nashville when I received a text message from my wife that there had a been a major earthquake in China. The typical thoughts went through my mind. Will we be able to continue with our trip? Would this hinder anything we had planned to accomplish on this trip? Was there damage in Beijing or Tiyuan? If so, would this inconvenience us in any way?

In other words, my thoughts (I hate to admit) were very self centered.

Upon arriving in Beijing and making it to our hotel of course all was well with the building and the room. The TV in the room could receive on a few channels ... most of which were 'state run' channels along with BBC news, and HBO and Cinemax (each of which showed 70's and 80's movies). Though I could not understand the audio on the state run channels, I could clearly understand the video footage I was watching. Twenty four hours a day for the next 10 days I could see the local footage of the aftermath of the 8.0 earthquake that devasted an area about 900 miles from where we were staying. And though I could not understand the audio language of the Chinese reporters, I could clearly see the pain and devastation in their eyes. Add to this the conversations we were having with the missionaries and our guides and the deep pain of what had was happening as a result of the natural disaster became evident.

Because of the my close physical proximity to this tragedy it was easy to empathize with the Chinese in their pain. It was easy to think about the loss of so many lives, the injuries to so many more, and the loss of homes for even countless more. Then it hit me one evening as I was looking through some teaching notes for the next day's teaching time I was to lead ... it had only been days before the cyclone had hit Myanmar. I had felt bad that this had happened. But had a really felt pain ... like the pain I was feeling for China? Not really.

But why? Was I really that cold hearted? Was I really that unconcerned? I think the reason is that it just seemed so far away. The cyclone hadn't really affected my life personally in any way. I've never been to Myanmar. In fact, I didn't even know Burma had changed its name to Myanmar. It wasn't that I didn't care about the people of Myanmar ... it's just that I didn't "HAVE TO" think about it, so I didn't. After all, gas prices are high, the stock market is dancing all over the place, my 401K is not doing so hot ... I have my own worries.

The problem with that is that about 130,000 in Myanmar had just stepped into eternity ... the majority of which had never heard the news that Jesus Christ was their only hope. Were my problems really all that important that I could just turn my back on this kind of loss of life? Wasn't I called to a mission? THE MISSION! ................................. All of us that claim a relationship with Christ have been called to The Mission ... The Mission to make disciples of all nations. That would include Myanmar, China, India, Thailand, France, Germany, Australia, ... you get the idea.

Where will the next natural disaster occur? Will we be caught sitting with our feet up focused on our interests of sports, success, wealth (if you live in America, you are wealthy!), education, big houses, nice cars, and other temporal things? If you are one that claims a relationship with Christ I want to challenge you (and this includes me as well), let's live for The Mission, give for the Mission, go for The Mission, and if necessary die for The Mission. Let's (again, this includes me) lay it all on the line for the call Christ has placed on our lives. No holds barred. No regrets when we stand before Him. No excuses. Natural disasters will happen.

6 You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these events are the beginning of birth pains.
Matt 24:6-8 (HCSB)

This time, let's get there with the gospel BEFORE countless lives go into eternity without knowing of Christ and the hope He brings. We cannot ... we must not ... be passive in this.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Heading home

We are back in thje Beijing airport where we have been for 4 hours. We are scheduled to leave in 1 more hour.

I am sending this from my Blackberry so it is brief. My head is full of new information and visions for where God may taking us at ClearView in missions in the future as we live out the commandment to make disciples of all nations. But more than my head, my heart is more full. God has rocked my little world again these past 10 days.

I will be sharing more in the posts just ahead.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


It is almost 6:00 pm Saturday evening (in China) and we are about to leave for the airport. We are moving from Beijing to Taiyuan for the next few days. I will be speaking tomorrow.

All of us are well. We have had a fruitful time in Beijing. If I can get to email in Taiyuan I will post more updates as we go. I have been unable to log directly on to my blog from here, but I am updating through email. If you are commenting on the blog, I will have to moderate when I return to the States.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In China

We are all safe and sound and doing well in China. The earthquake hit about 900 miles from Beijing, where we have been the past three days. We are 13 hours ahead of you if you are in Nashville. For the rest of you I guess you will do the math from there.

This is a beautiful city of 14 million people with 3 million additional on any given day due to tourism and business travel. Our guides have been very nice. I can now scratch Great Wall from my bucket list (if I had one). Wow! It was amazing.

There is so much rich culture and history here. I will have many pictures upon my return.

We will be teaching all day tomorrow (Friday). We will be traveling to Tiyuan Saturday.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Today ... and the next 10 days

Today at ClearView was a bit odd for me for some reason. I don't even know exactly what I mean by that. Things just seemed a bit out of sorts. Many kind people spoke words of encouragment to me as usual on Sundays. There are just some Sundays when you get a sense as a pastor that you just don't feel like you are connecting. Today just seemed like one of those days to me. I have thought about this some this afternoon and I will chalk it up to my mind being thousands of miles away already.

Preaching is really a unique experience. Maybe a full blog on this some time in the near future. As a preacher, you live with a passage and a message for days. Most weeks you think about the message to be delivered on Sunday more than anything else. Preaching through Acts I have felt at times as if I am living in another era ... the time of Acts. What a movement! I do long for God to move in and through our church like He did amidst the early church.

As many of you know, I will be heading out on a 10 trip tomorrow. Please pray for us (John Garder, Dr. Thiele, and me) over the next 10 days. If I can get to this blog I will be posting some during the trip.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Today I saw some old friends

Some of you that read this blog know I spent 10 years working for a company (ministry) called LifeWay. Once a month, on Friday, the division I served (Church Resources Division) has a leadership meeting for the managers and directors in the division. The Vice President for CRD (John Kramp) has extended an open invitation to me to visit this meeting as a guest at any time.

The last three years I served in this division John would give a "spiritual leadership talk" at the end of these meetings. They are always thought throuh, challenging, thought provoking, and best of all, biblical. John always presents these at the end of these monthly leadership meetings. I decided today to take John up on his open invitation and attend the end of the meeting to listen to the talk ... as well as reconnect with many friends.

As usual, the talk was inspiring. He taught on what happens when a leader's preparation meets an opportunity using the incident from the life of Joseph when he gave Pharaoh the plan to get through the time of famine. Good stuff. I hope some day John will publish / release the archives of these teachings. If he does, get a copy.

But my favorite part of today was the chance to see many old friends. The people of LifeWay are truly a special group of people. Over the 10 years I served in this ministry I got to know many of them personally. It is always refreshing to see them and do a little catching up.

The time I spent in the building at One LifeWay Plaza today also reminded me how blessed I am to have been privileged to serve in this ministry and alongside these people. For those of you familiar with the ministry of LifeWay, I would ask you to take a few moments to pray for God to continue to bless this unique ministry as they walk along side churches. LifeWay's future is as bright as ever under the leadership of Dr. Thom Rainer. He has surrounded himself with a gifted group of leaders. May God give them insights beyond their imaginations!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Welcome to my halftime

In the past few weeks I have personally past two more milemarkers in the road. I had my 46th birthday. I can still remember when my grandmother turned 50 and I thought she must be getting close to dying since she was so old. This past Sunday marked 1 year as Pastor of ClearView. That's hard to believe.

Does time really pass faster as you get older? It's cliche, but it sure seems like it. It seems like just yesterday I was pastor of a church where I was the youngest person on staff. That won't ever happen again!

But as time passes I do find myself thinking about the focus of the years I have left. I guess some would say I am at the halftime of my adult years. Maybe so. I played basketball through high school. Most people think halftime is for resting. They have obviously never played sports.

As I recall halftime usually went something like this: 1) Brief reflections on the first half, but only for the purpose of learning. No time for crying or whining because we have a second half to play. 2) The bulk of halftime was used to make adjustments needed and make any new assignments the coach felt we needed to make. We could change plays that weren't working. Add new ones we hoped would work better.

Well, if I am at halftime, here are some plays and some adjustments I'm taking in to the game in the second half.

1. Play with more urgency. The halftime score is irrelevant. The only score that matters is the one on the scoreboard when the game is over. I long to hear, "Well done good and faithful servant."

2. No whining. There is no time for self-pity. The mission I (we) have been given is not mine (ours) and it is not about me (us). That means I can't live just for MY preferences and MY desires. I personally think all desert should include chocolate and NO nuts, but I don't get it my way every time, so I compromise.

3. Don't leave anything on the floor. For those of you that may not have heard many locker room talks this means you give everything you think you have to give then give more. At the end of the game you want to be completely spent. Christ said I am to take up my cross daily. My plan is to sprint to the end, then fall over the finish line having spent all the energy and resources I have to live out that calling.

4. Pettiness is out. I honestly don't have time for it. My pettiness or anyone else's. I don't have enough emotional energy to spend any of it thinking about things that have no eternal value.
2 Timothy 2:3-4 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. To please the recruiter, no one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of everyday life.

5. Get as many as possible focused on The Mission. I am privileged to have a role that I get to spend the bulk of my time (assuming I can live out numbers 2 and 4 above) thinking and praying about how to get as many people as possible on The Mission, living The Mission, and being obsessesed with The Mission.

Will you join me on The Mission?
Matthew 28:19 - 20 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.

Friday, May 2, 2008


I don't go to a lot of movies these days because there is just not much worth seeing. But I took the opportunity today to see "Expelled", the movie / documentary made by Ben Stein. Wow! Ben and his team did a great job of uncovering evidence of the scientific community's cover up of any openness to Intelligent Design. Scary!

I recommend this one as a must see. I will definitely own the DVD when it is released.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Met a Titan Today

As the previous post indicated, today was the ROI (Return on Integrity) lunch with David Thornton (Titans linebacker) as our guest speaker. You know how this can go if you bring in a "professional athlete" or some other "famous person" but you have never heard them speak or you have never spent time with them personally. You are just not sure how it will come off.

Well, I've got to tell you, I was very impressed with David and his openness about his relationship with Christ. You knew early in his presentation "this is going to be good"! He shared his story of his college experience ... which wasn't a lot of playing time at University of North Carolina. That is, until his 5th year! That's when he was all conference, etc. Now, that's perserverance. Then drafted in the 4th round by Indianapolis. And after a few years, coming to the Titans.

It was obvious Tony Dungy influenced him and his faith greatly during his time in Indy. David did say there were about 12 guys on the team that are holding each other accountable to read the Bible through in a year. Is that great or what!?

It was heartwarming to know some of these guys that are in a position of influence as a role models for so many young people are passionate about their faith and live it out loud every day.

Thanks David! [Like he is going to read my blog ... LOL]