Friday, November 28, 2008

Let me introduce ...

I have had the privilege of publicly introducing many people over the years. To be honest nothing makes me more nervous. You are given a minute or less to share with the audience information about the speaker that would make them like and want to hear the speaker. Some speakers I have introduced had been friends for years while others I had not met until moments before I was to introduce them.

So, let me challenge you to introduce someone close to you. Let's make it the person you love the most and knows you best. For most of us, that would be our spouse. Maybe a parent ... or a brother or sister .... or a best friend. You have less than a minute verbally or 250 words on the screen. They are about to speak to a group of your peers. What would you say about them?

For example,

"Today, I have the privilege of introducing my wife Leigh Ann. Leigh Ann is obviously beautiful on the outside, but she is most beautiful on the inside. She has been an amazing wife for almost 25 years and the primary reason our two college age girls have turned out to be caring, generous, God loving young ladies. An awesome mom! She is also a hard working and intelligent business woman and leader of over 2400 women as a National Executive Director with BeautiControl. Leigh Ann's greatest asset is her heart for others and a desire to minister in the name of Christ."

Now, you try it. You are welcomed to leave it as a comment below. Or, maybe you just want to keep it to yourself. Remember, you must be brief. This is the challenge. You cannot tell their life story. You can only hit the most critical of highlights. You must condense all you feel about a person into a few words. Your turn.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"I always thank my God ..."

The Corinthian Church was a difficult church at best. Paul had planted a number of churches that had to be a greater joy to pastor than the one in Corinth. Early in the first letter to the Corinthians Paul had to confront them about divisions in the church (chapter 1). They were immature (chapter 3) and arrogant though foolish. Immorality was rampant (chapter 5). They were bringing lawsuits against each other (chapter 6). The marriages of its members were in trouble (chapter 7). They flaunted their freedoms in a way that was harmful to new followers of Christ (chapter 8). Idolatry was a problem (chapter 10). They had confusion in their worship services and showed up drunk for the Lord's Supper observances (chapter 11). They were abusing spiritual gifts and had gaping divisions (chapter 12). They apparently didn't even love each other (chapter 13). They could not even get the gospel right nor could they agree on the resurrection of Christ (chapter 15). They struggled when it came to giving in the church (chapter 16).

That's enough to send any pastor into depression. We (among the pastor brethren) call these kinds of churches "preacher killers". How frustrating! How difficult!

So, what did Paul think about this group of trouble-makers?

4 I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, 5 that by Him you were made rich in everything—in all speaking and all knowledge— 6 as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, 7 so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Cor 1:4-9 (HCSB)

"I thank my God for you ..." Wow! Now that's a perspective. How? Why?
Because Paul chose to focus on the evidences of God's grace in their lives.

As a church staff, we have been starting all staff meetings recently with "evidences of God's grace". We share the little things (as well as the big things) we see God doing in and through our church. It's easy to get focused on the challenges and the things (and people) that are not meeting our expectations. So we are choosing to be intentional about looking for and celebrating and "always thanking our God" for all evidence of God's grace.

This year it will be easy to focus on all that is wrong / bad / negative in our lives. Why not look for those evidences of God's grace in our lives and celebrate those. We have much for which to be thankful. It's a matter of perspective.

Have a great Thanksgiving season and beyond!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The redundancy of "radical"

Our mission statement at ClearView is: ClearView exists to make radical disciples focused on making God known to the ends of the earth. For churches to have mission or vision statements is really not needed since Jesus gave us clear marching orders. (see Matthew 28:19 and Acts 1:8 among other passages) But I suppose the exercise of writing (re-writing) our own words can be helpful.

Notice in the statement for ClearView the use of the word "radical". In thinking through the best way to make clear our mission this word kept floating back to the top of my mind. I hesitated using it for several reasons. First, because most people are fine with "status quo" but "radical" sort of turns them off. I understand that when it comes to "radical" tv watcher or "radical" mom or "radical" boss. It sounds strange in those contexts. We don't really want to stand out and to be "radical" by definition will cause us to stand out.

But the primary reason I hesitated using the word is because it is redundant when used with "disciple". Somewhere we lost the idea that being a disciple of Christ IS radical. To follow Him calls for us to be different (strange / radical) from the rest of the world. Our cultural christianity (whereby we say "I'm a Christian" enough that we think that makes us one without sacrifice or different world values or making other disciples) has lulled us to sleep. By (biblical) definition to be a Christian is to be radical. I guess we could have used words like "strange" / "different" / "weird" / "crazy", but "radical" says it.

Why is the church so anemic today? Because we are full of cultural Christians who look just like the people around them who do not even claim to follow Christ.
We need radical disciples. People who give sacrificially. People who share their faith boldly. People who make decisions based on a biblical worldview, not what their peers say is right. People who look different when you look them in the eyes (not based on what they wear). People who spend more time with their Bibles open reading it than they spend in front of the TV or on one of these things (computer). People who reflect God's character in their honesty / faithfulness / fairness / love. We need ... weird people for Christ ... but that doesn't sound good in a mission statement. So for now, we will use "radical".

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Wordle of Nehemiah 3 message

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. If you click on the Wordle above you will see an enlarged Wordle of my notes for my message November 16 on Nehemiah 3.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My favorite worship song (this week)

No comments to add. Just enjoy. I love the passion of this song.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lisbon Trip

This has been my view of the world from our hotel room each morning of this past week. Portugal is a beautiful old (very old) country. Our hotel was located in the heart of downtown Lisbon (the capital and city of 3,000,000). We saw a monestary, a massive cathedral, the world's largest collection of coaches (as in horse and coach) a beautiful port city, and lots of shopping. More than anything else, Leigh Ann and I had some great couple time making lots of memories.

Here are a few pictures (out of 200+).

Cloister in monestary

Monks are shorter than me :-). This is a door to one of their sleeping quarters.

The coach that inspired Walt Disney's Cindarella coach.

Two love birds in an incredibly romantic coastal city in Portugal.

Typical street in Sintra ... much shopping, so Leigh Ann loved it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trip to Portugal

This post almost didn't happen. I hesitate to mention it, but Leigh Ann and I will be leaving for Lisbon, Portugal tomorrow morning for a week. I hesitate to mention it because this one is not a mission trip, but a pleasure trip. I feel a bit awkward as a Pastor at times taking such a trip. But this is a trip Leigh Ann's company has given us as a reward trip for Leigh Ann's hard work this year. We have been on several of these annual awards trips and they are always a real blessing. I have posted photo albums on my facebook page from previous such trips.

I think there will be some long periods of silence on this one. Our itenerary tells us that the first night will be some kind of music concert at which it is rude to talk. Then one afternoon we visit a monastary (which I am fired up about no kidding!). We will see other sites. Lisbon is known as the city on 7 hills. It is the western most capital in Europe which means our flight will be a bit shorter than some previous trips.

Anyway, I wanted you to know why I was going silent for a few days. See ya when we return. Thanks to all of you stop by on a regular basis.