Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Anyway, among the many convicting things he wrote in the first chapter, Chan pointed out that we were created for God and not the other way around. It seems obvious. It's something we could all agree to, but it's almost never how we live and how we approach God. Instead, we have this mentality that says God was created to meet our needs, give us life, heal our family members, bless us, listen to us, etc., etc.
Chan reminds us of Psalm 115:3 where it says, "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him." And then he says, "Yet we keep on questioning Him: 'Why did You make me with this body, instead of that one?' 'Why are so many people dying of starvation?' 'Why are there so many planets with nothing living on them?' 'Why is my family so messed up?' Why don't You make Yourself more obvious to the people who need You?' The answer to each of these questions is simply this: because He's God. He has more of a right to ask us why so many people are starving. As much as we want God to explain himself to us, His creation, we are in no place to demand that He give an account to us."
How true this is? It hit me hard. I spend a lot more time asking God to bend himself to my needs and circumstances than I do inclining myself toward God. I want God to give an account for human suffering instead of doing my part to alleviate it.
God is God. Period. End of story. We belong to God. We live and move and have our being for the glory of God. It's arrogant to think we matter more than God, and yet God goes out of his way to move time and space on our behalf.
I used to think it was strange for God to ask us to worship Him. It seemed arrogant and presumptuous to be the one in charge and then ask everyone else to bow down. But the reverse is actually true. It's arrogant to think we matter more than God, and yet God goes out of His way to move time and space on our behalf.
God is worthy of all the worship we can give. He's worthy of our loyalty, our admiration, our adoration, our thanks, our time, our money, our attention - you name it, God deserves it.
Come join us for worship at Ashley Ridge High School this Sunday at 10am. And, if you can't make it to ARC, worship wherever you happen to be. Nothing else you have going on is more important than worshiping God.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Think about it - we go crazy for our college football teams. We set aside an entire day every Saturday (not just an hour) to travel (often more than an hour or two), tailgate, watch the game and hopefully celebrate our victory. And even if we're not traveling to our team's game, we're camped in front of our televisions with friends and family and lots of good food, wearing our colors and screaming as if the coaches and players can hear us from our living rooms. I know lots of homes where entire rooms are decorated in their team colors year round (and, come on, Clemson fans: purple and orange are not in anyone's design guides as good choices - you do it purely for the love of your team).
Now, I'm not criticizing. I get up on Saturday's and put on my Richmond gear, Auburn gear or Duke gear depending on who has the biggest game. Our dog's name is Auburn (my childhood dog was Duke), I've been known to jump on top of the ottoman at critical moments and I do in fact own a cake pan in the shape of a football field.
But why is it that we're willing to spend tons of money on the football experience, spend hours in conversation with friends and even strangers talking up our team, and do everything we can to make it obvious to the world which team we support, but we won't do the same for Jesus?
I don't know about you, but my team never died for me. My team doesn't give me life forever. My team makes me happy (and mad and anxious and...), but my team doesn't give me joy in all circumstances.
I love college football. I love the atmosphere, I love my teams and I love the time spent with family and friends enjoying it together. But, I want to love Jesus more. I want to be so pumped about what Jesus has done and continues to do that I can't stop talking about it. I want to "wave my flag" proudly that I belong to Jesus. I want to give my time, my money and my energy to the One who died for me. Don't you?
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I didn't think it was possible anymore, but I have to admit that I have been shocked at what I've seen this week. Just by watching previews of shows, I'm thinking there weren't any shows on where an inappropriate sexual encounter did not take place. That's to say nothing of the language and substance abuse. It seems that we're no longer content to simply condone immoral behavior, we're now in the business of promoting it and making it seem normal and even justified. For example, it seems that between Cougar Town, Mercy and Accidentally On Purpose (just to name three that I didn't even watch), we're telling women that if you're a single or divorced woman of a certain age you're entitled to certain happiness that makes sleeping around and playing with other people's lives and emotions acceptable. In other words, you deserve "happiness" no matter the cost.
Now, I know, you're all thinking, "uh-oh, is this one of those posts where prudish-Jenn takes center stage and gets on her high horse about spending our time in better ways...reading the Bible, listening to Andy Stanley, blah, blah, blah." Well, maybe it is, but hang in there with me for a few moments...
I want to be happy as much as anyone else. I want to enjoy life and I want to do things and be part of things that lead to that end. But if happiness becomes my sole focus, priority and aim, I'm pretty sure I've gotten off track and I'm equally certain that I'll end up lots of places other than the land of eternal happiness. Let me try explaining this with an example:
I've worked hard today. I've accomplished many of the things on my to-do list. I've even gone to a meeting I really didn't want to go to, but I went, I even smiled and made the best of it. I "deserve" to take it easy tonight. I "deserve" time to put my feet up and relax. I "deserve" to be happy. Well, it would make me happy to spend the rest of my day watching tv, eating ice cream, reading a novel and getting a massage. However, if I do that - how will my laundry get done? who will feed my child his dinner? how loved and appreciated will my husband feel if I ignore him when he gets home from work and neglect to ask about his day? I "deserve" to be happy and I could do the things that would make me immediately happy, but I have a feeling I'd end up with a hungry, fussy child, a barking dog, an annoyed husband, no groceries and no clean underwear for the rest of the week - not a happy scenario.
You see, I'm convinced that happiness is not meant to be an end goal, but rather a by-product of faithful living that centers on Jesus Christ. And even then, we're not promised to always be happy, we're promised to be filled with joy, which is a peace of mind not dependent on circumstances. The idea of getting what we deserve is a selfish mentality fed by a culture that says "it's all about you, you, you."
Scripture says we deserve death, but Jesus gives us life. I'm thinking I'd rather not get what I deserve. Instead, my time would be well spent pursuing the One who has given me life and all that I have and being thankful for the opportunities each day to live, love and serve.
It's okay to watch tv. It's okay to take time-off (pretty sure God commanded it). But don't buy into the world's attitude that we deserve happiness no matter what the cost and who gets hurt. Life's not about you. It's not about me. "It's all because of Jesus we're alive!"
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
But then, my day crashed. What happened doesn't really matter, what matters is that I got hurt, really hurt, which led to being mad, which led to being so furious I wanted to spit or throw up or beat a punching bag to a pulp, or maybe all of the above.
It's okay to get angry, especially when our anger and hurt is justified, but how we deal with our anger can make or break us and it says a lot about our relationship with God. The old Jenn (you know, a year or so ago, or maybe last week), would have gotten angry, stayed angry for days and maybe weeks, let her anger cause frustration in the day to day and ultimately break down with stress. Let's just say it always ended in tears, profound exhaustion and taking it out on my family who had nothing to do with it. Fortunately, God has put some incredible mentors in my life who have helped me find a better way to deal with these things.
My high school track coach was one such mentor. On meet days, if something went wrong in one of our events, she would give us about 10 minutes to pout and be furious and then we had to move on and get ready for the next race. Triple jump was my biggest event senior year. I rarely lost and I came dangerously close to setting a new school record, but then I got to the district meet and I crashed and burned. I actually foot faulted on all three attempts. I was furious - furious at myself, furious at the line for moving, furious at the unfairness of life. Because it was an all-day meet and I had more time between events, my coach told me I had 30 minutes to get away from everyone else and be mad, but then I had to move on and get ready for the 4x800. Not only did my coach put a limit to my anger, but she also sent me off alone to deal with it so I didn't bring anyone else down with me. Smart, really smart.
How often do we get so angry that we're determined to make everyone around us angry as well? We want them to feel as rotten as we do and hurt as much as we do, but the truth is that never helps anyone because not only does it fuel our anger longer, but then there's the "I'm sorry" clean-up work when it all blows over.
Long story short...I was really upset yesterday, and I think rightfully so. I vented to a few confidants who know me well enough to love me through my rants (a.k.a. my husband and parents). Then, I took some time alone to pray and ask God to put things back in perspective. I gave myself the rest of the night to feel the hurt and anger and promised myself I would put it all behind me when I went to bed.
This morning God woke me up with a new song in my heart. I went to Bible study and we talked about Moses dealing with the complaining Israelites with unbelievable patience and compassion because he was so intimately connected to God. I went to cardio chisel and left feeling very sore, but also energized and healthy. I had lunch with some friends who make me laugh - both at the world around us and at myself, which is always a good thing. I have a lot of work to do this afternoon, but I'm excited about what I'm doing and what God is using me to do. And tonight, I get time with Jacob.
"I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me!" ~Psalm 13:6
Thursday, September 17, 2009
It's important when you work with people (and everyone does) to be able to manage your expectations. There is a difference between judging and managing expectations. The first implies a value judgment, the second implies a recognition that people are different and therefore we should expect different things from them. As a means of helping to understand people and therefore manage expectations, Joe places everyone he meets into one of four categories:
Friendly Dog - you know that dog who is super excited to see you and up in your face and licking all over you and then he sees a squirrel out of the corner of his eye and takes off in the opposite direction? The friendly dog is the person who is excited and supportive and right beside you as long as you can keep their attention. (Joe mentioned the dog in the movie "Up" as a good illustration)
Quiet Dog - the quiet dog is equally excited and eager to be your friend, but will want some time alone to rest.
Friendly Cat - cats tend to enjoy things more on their own terms. The friendly cat will want you to meet them at a point, but if you can do that they're on board and eager to sit with you in the place they've selected.
Quiet Cat - the quiet cat is the person you don't typically notice in the room. If you approach them calmly, they may eventually join in, but if you let the friendly dog go after them they're going to hide forever and maybe even disappear.
If you can recognize which of these someone is, it's easier to put them in the right position and expect the appropriate things from them. If you have the same expectations of everyone with no allowance for temperament, you are destined for constant annoyance and frustration.
Which animal are you?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Now, let's be honest, some of the rules for a civilized society we've adopted are ridiculous. I mean, who decided it's tacky and offensive for me to wear my white pants now that Labor Day has come and gone? And, who decided that we need to track down the first, middle and last names of every known relative in order to send invitations and get married?
On the flip side, some of the rules are greatly appreciated. "No shoes, no shirt, no service" seems highly appropriate in public establishments where food is being served. I also appreciate that there are rules in place so that when someone in my neighborhood decides to shoot fireworks in the middle of May on a Tuesday night at 10pm, leading my dog to bark and my baby to cry, the police come at the request of the 20 phone calls they receive from others in the neighborhood to put an end to it (talking hypothetically, of course).
Rules of civility encourage us to be better than our selfish mindsets often push us to be. Rules of civility create expectations for how we treat each other and how we can rightfully expect to be treated.
So, what is happening all around us as these rules are seemingly breaking down in the most unlikely places - i.e. center court at the U.S. Open, on stage in million dollar outfits for music awards and the halls of the U.S. Congress (okay, maybe Congress isn't such an unlikely place). Now, I'm not going to add to the multitudes discussing these specific events - all were unbelievable and all parties have apologized, but I am wondering if it was just a bizarre week or has the contract been dropped? Have we decided it's no longer worth the effort or in our best interest to have rules demanding unselfish behavior?
Now, I would be the last person to argue for larger law books and more extensive litigation, but I am with my girl Aretha when she says R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I'm also with Jesus when he says, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Come to think of it, Jesus also said, "There is no greater love than this, that He lay down his life for his friends."
Every instinct in our being says self-preservation, but God created this world (and all the important rules) and Jesus basically says the best way to self-preservation is to give up ourselves, put Him first and others next. So, maybe a little decency is selfish after all, but I'm for that brand.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Do you have a list of "gimme, I need's" in your world? I do. I want a few more bookshelves, an endless list of books to put on the shelves (after reading them, of course), new kitchen countertops, a cleaning lady, an iPhone, more hours in a day, a live website, an obedient dog...I could go on and on. And, for all of my wants I could make a convincing argument for why they're needs, but that's only because I'm terribly good at argumentation (not something to brag about).
So why do we have these endless lists of "needs"? Why are we never satisfied? For starters, we live in an advertising world that spends billions of dollars to tell us several times a minute that there are things we need. But, let's not blame the world - it's too easy. After all, advertising wouldn't be so prolific if it weren't effective and easy. In other words, we're weak and pliable and easily convinced that everyone else's life must be easier than our own and if we just had one more, or two more, or three more, or four more things our life would be easy too.
News flash --- nobody's life is easy. Everyone has a story and a challenge. Others challenges may seem easier than our own, but that's only because they're not ours. People with kids look at people without kids and think, "Gosh, what I could do if I had their time." People without kids look at people with kids and think, "Wouldn't it be great to have more hands in the house to get things done?" People without money look at people with money and think, "Wow, that must be great." People with money look at people without money and think, "Wasn't life so much easier when it was simpler?"
The grass is greener, the joneses, blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before. But still, wouldn't it be nice to have our gimme list?
I don't have anything profound, but I do have a suggestion...if we put Jesus first on our gimme list and desire Him with as much passion as we often desire the other things on our gimme list, I think things will not only work themselves out, but we'll receive more than we ever imagined.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Right then, the instructor began telling us to "Persevere," "Dig deep." I decided she was on a personal mission to destroy me and then I had a flashback to my college years when I would do advanced Tae Bo with a group of friends and Billy Blanks would tell us to "dig deep" and we would get so angry at Billy we would begin throwing towels, mats, water bottles, you name it, at the television. But, before we knew it, our rage against Billy pulled us through to the end of the workout and we felt immensely proud of ourselves, running the rest of the day on that "work-out high."
I gritted my teeth, focused straight ahead and determined to make it through.
We have a bad habit of thinking that God is our one-stop shop for an easier life, when the truth is that more often God is the training instructor, putting us on the right path, asking us to dig deep through the rough patches and encouraging us the whole way knowing that making it through is the very best thing for us (even if our limited perspective greatly disagrees along the way).
Life isn't always easy. God never said it would be. Dig deep, God is with you and He will pull you through.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
So, I thought I might get back on board today by sharing some of the recent scenery I'm thankful for...
- I'm thankful for my husband and the prayers he prays for me everyday. I'm thankful that God uses him to encourage me when I need it and humble me when I need it (which is a lot!)
- I'm thankful for Jacob whose smile lights up my world and puts everything back in perspective
- I'm thankful for Jamin, our new worship leader, who has a heart for God, a passion for God's people, and sweeeet music skills!
- I'm thankful for all of the volunteers who helped our first worship service happen on Sunday - seriously, blown away by all of the support!
- I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend my time doing things I love and being surrounded by incredible people who challenge me and love me despite all of my imperfections
- I'm thankful for friends who call me out on my weaknesses, but always do so while rooting for me to succeed
- most of all, I'm thankful for Jesus Christ because He gives me life and calls me precious and invites me to be part of the most exciting journey anyone could ever be on!!!!!
What are you thankful for? Tonight, don't focus on all of the things that make you anxious and add stress to your life. Give thanks that God is in the driver's seat of your life and take a minute to enjoy the view.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
The short version...the path you're on determines where you end up. Simple, right? And yet, how many times do all of us realize we're on a destructive path and continue to go, hoping we'll somehow end up okay. For example, we find ourselves spending more than we make every month, or we find ourselves with nothing to put in savings at the end of the month, but instead of making changes we keep doing the same thing while talking about retiring early and achieving financial freedom - not going to happen! As Andy Stanley says, "No matter how much praying you do, if you get on I85 going north, you'll never get to Florida."
All of us are on paths in our life that may or may not lead to where we hope to end up. Now is the time to make the course correction. We hesitate because it requires action, sacrifice and often embarrassment, but the bottom line is, where do you want to end up? Proverbs 27:12 says "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it."
Don't take it from me - I'm off to make some necessary course corrections in my own life. Read the book and/or listen to the sermon series.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Tonight I did an acolyte training at Bethany to help out, and since it was the first night of Bethany Bash that means I saw A LOT of people. It was great! I had forgotten how much I love people. I do, I love people. I'm energized by people. I'm that person that comes home from Sunday morning knowing I should be exhausted and instead talking 30 miles an hour because I'm working my way down from a people high. I can't wait for tomorrow night's ARC gathering because it means more people time!
All this people loving, and yet I find myself challenged by someone who loved people much more than me. You see, Jesus loved people so much that He gave His life for people, namely you and me...and everyone. Unfortunately, we pass by so many of the people Jesus loves every day without giving them a second glance.
Church planting is about one thing - people, people, people. We need to get down on our knees and pray for God to give us a heart for people, more specifically, His heart for people, and even more specifically, His heart for the people in our mission field.
Are you still thinking and praying about the people in your life God is asking you to invite?
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Now, some of you over-achievers may be asking, "How do we know when too much is too much?" The answer is simple - too much is too much when you lay awake at night unable to shut off the to do list train chugging around in your mind, too much is too much when you go to bed with a list on your night stand to add the things to your list that come to you in your dreams, too much is too much when you don't have time in your life for the most important people in your life (i.e. God, your spouse, your children, your friends), too much is too much when the time you do carve out for the important people in your life is spent thinking about other things, too much is too much when you consistently don't have time to exercise and eat non-take-out food, too much is too much when you find yourself regularly praying for 28 hours in a day.
You see, God doesn't make mistakes and when He created everything He established night and day and a constant rotation of only 24 hours. He also created time to rest. Jesus commanded us to eat with one another and care for each other. Jesus also told us we should love our neighbors, which means being home long enough to know our neighbors. Jesus said to treat our bodies as God's temple. Too much is too much when we've convinced ourselves that we can do 40 million things that keep us from doing the things God commanded us to do from the beginning.
I am the last person that should be teaching this concept, unless you consider that the best teachers are often the ones who have been there and done that themselves. I am learning and getting better everyday with the help of good friends. Ya'll know I'm pumped about this church plant and God did give me the energizer bunny gene when He created me, but for the rest of you out there with that gene, too much is still too much and it's time we learned to spread the wealth and share the joy - in other words, ask people for help and start shortening the to-do list. Or, if that's too painful, make another list called your "to-don't" list and make sure you follow it to the letter.
Enough said, I'm off to join the Y and spend the evening with my baby - and if that's all I do, it's more than okay.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
There's no way I can download everything in my brain in one blog post, but I'll start by reporting that God is doing AMAZING, KICK-BUTT, TAKE-BACK-THE-TERRITORY stuff all over the United States. We met people from everywhere with hearts to win the lost in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. We met people who are preaching Jesus boldly and finding ways to do church that have never been done before. Being around these people has increased the urgency I feel to reach out to our mission field in Summerville, South Carolina. We all have neighbors and friends who are living everyday with stress, burden, anxiety and fear (let's be honest, half the time that's us) - some seen and much unseen. We have what they need and His name is Jesus! We've spent far too long being comfortable as church-insiders and it's past time to get out into the world with a faith that is relevant and lived everyday.
One of the biggest takeaways for me from the conference is the idea that we need to "put an elbow" on people, meaning we need to get over the old model of attracting people and start getting serious about inviting. 90-92% of unchurched people come to church for the first time on the elbow, so to speak, of a trusted friend. We live in a post-Christian culture where people outside of the church are highly skeptical of our motives and methods. They're not going to come unless we bring them. This means starting to see your friends with new lenses - start seeing the people you live with, work with and play with as people who are only one invitation away from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I want to throw down the gauntlet now and challenge everyone to make a commitment to start bringing people with you. In the coming months we're going to have lots of events from preview worship services to service projects at the high school to the Fall Festival - plan now to bring people with you to all of these events. I'll warn you now that some of our events will be "member-guest" events where your only ticket in will be the person you bring with you. Start praying about who God has placed in your life that you can invite. And once God has shown you who those people are, start praying for them everyday.
(As a side-note, if you're already thinking "I don't have any friends who don't go to church" then start doing things with new people - in the coming weeks I'll be joining a spinning class at the Y, starting a running group, joining the Chamber of Commerce and much more to get connected to the community and in touch w/ a wider circle of people - what can you do?)
I am so excited for all that lies ahead. We started a new phase in the Ashley Ridge journey this week. If we're going to launch in January then we need to have 150 fully-committed people by the end of December, only half of whom come from Bethany. I'm thinking it's time to get our hands dirty and get to work. I've been challenged to personally connect with 10,000 new people in the next two years - who's with me?!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
It's amazing how quickly we can fall into a bad mood and convince ourselves that everything around us is bad, especially when the reality is quite the contrary. The truth is I like rain, I can take some medicine for the sore throat, I have a husband who loves me and a healthy, happy child, I have great friends, God is doing incredible things everyday as we prepare for ARC, people are coming out of the woodwork to be involved and offer their gifts - life isn't good, it's great!
So why do we choose the doldrums instead of joy? Sometimes we do it for the attention and other times we do it because it gives us a good excuse to hide from the world, but never do we do it because it feels good or leads to anything positive or productive.
Things don't always go our way, sometimes terrible things do happen, but because of our faith in Jesus we can choose joy even in those times.
And so, I'm headed home to take some medicine and on the way I just might take some time to thank God for all He has provided for me today.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Today I walked into Moe's and had my worldview shifted by a little thing they've introduced called mango salsa - it's AMAZING! It's an instant fiesta in your mouth, you've got to try it!
"What's the point?" you're asking.
The point is that in order to keep things interesting, engaging and worth returning you've got to keep the main thing the main thing and then change the dressing from time to time. In "Built to Last" Jim Collins talks about this using the yin-yang symbol, saying that "enduring organizations have two dominant characteristics that are complementary opposites. The first is a strong conviction about core ideals that never change; these are purpose and values. The second is a clear understanding that everything else must change in order to preserve the core." (as described in Church Unique by Will Mancini, p. 46). Moe's will never stop serving burritos, but changing the salsa allows you to experience the burrito in a fresh way with new perspective from time to time.
So it is with church. Churches are meant to point people toward Christ and help people grow in a life-saving, life-giving relationship with Him that changes everything about their day-to-day life. To do this, we must continually change our methods and our approach. The same is true in our personal relationship with Christ. Sometimes it helps to jump around in Scripture and use a concordance to point us toward applicable passages based on our life situation. Other times we need to let God help us see Scripture in a new light by reading all of the Bible chronologically (as best as possible) over the course of a year. The approach changes, but the core idea of growing in our love and knowledge of God through the study of His Word does not.
Are you feeling stale? Find a new vantage point and try a fresh approach. Maybe you need to start praying the Psalms or standing on your head when you talk to God (maybe start by shifting to your knees before attempting the headstand) - either way, God's Word is always new and always fresh and always applicable - don't miss out by refusing to change your approach and challenge your assumptions.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Do you start every day expecting God to do something incredible? Do you come to worship expecting to encounter God? When was the last time you prayed a prayer like John and Peter prayed above?
Ours is not a passive faith. Ours is not a God who is operating under the radar. God is all over the place doing incredible, blow-your-mind things and too often we miss seeing it because we're not looking because we're not expecting it. The old cliche says that if you expect nothing you'll probably get it, but that's not what our faith it all about. Jesus said that those who followed him would do and see even greater things than he had already revealed to them.
I've driven to work the last two mornings listening to Lincoln Brewster's "Today is the Day" and it has me pumped up - every day is a day that God is working, every day is a day God has made and God doesn't do anything halfway.
Expect more from God - I guarantee you won't be let down.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
What are you Reading? What are you Listening to?
Don't misread me here - I'm not saying that we should avoid the entertainment world. I'm as excited as most in SEC country that the college football season starts soon. I practically skipped into the theater (that's right, I said skipped) to see the new Harry Potter movie on Saturday because I couldn't wait to see how they would bring an incredible book to the big screen.
But, the question remains, how much time do we spend filling our lives with positive influences in terms of what we watch, read and hear? It does matter. It does make a difference in how we live our life. For example, if your understanding of relationships is informed primarily by shows like The Bachelorette or Dating in the Dark, you could be missing out on the relationship God intends for you (which, for the record, is much better than anything tv can portray). I'm reminded of the quote from Sleepless in Seattle - "You don't want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie." There is a difference. Real life may lack the helicopter rides and limo rides, but finding someone to love who loves you in return and is willing to put you ahead of all their own needs, wants and desires is much more fulfilling and ultimately gives us a glimpse of Christ's love for His church.
Let me make some suggestions...instead of following a bunch of celebrities on Twitter, try following people like Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Andy Stanley or Perry Noble. Instead of reading TMZ online, maybe set your homepage to Mark Batterson's blog or a site that will give you daily Bible readings set up so you can read the whole Bible in the course of the year. Try mixing up the playlists on your iPod by downloading some stuff like Hillsong's newest album (Faith+Hope+Love). Pick up a copy of Francis Chan's new book "Crazy Love" or Tony Dungy's book "Uncommon" and add it to your reading list.
Who influences you? Are you reading and watching and listening to things that point you to Jesus? It matters.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
I don't know about you, but I can always tell when my life is running with a Jesus deficit. I get crabby, anxious, high-strung, bossy, selfish and an all-together lousy person to be around - just ask my husband. My Jesus meter starts to run low when I think I'm too busy to spend time with Him, too busy to sit with my Bible, too busy to pray because I'm wasting time figuring things out on my own.
If this happens over a prolonged period, we can start to forget what we're missing. We get so used to living life on our terms and by our rules that we accept the anxiety and worry as part of life. It's not good. It's not right. It's not how God created us. We were designed with a need for Jesus and Jesus has gone above and beyond to make it possible for us to know Him.
If you're running with a Jesus deficit and wondering why you're constantly out of steam, let me encourage you to get back in touch with Jesus. You don't even have to dial a phone and I promise you the requisite guilt trip for not calling won't be there. Get back in the Word, get back on your knees, leave the radio off the next time you get in your car and talk to Jesus instead - He's waiting.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Yesterday I filled out an online questionnaire for our web designer in preparation for tomorrow's design meeting. One of the things they asked was for me to complete the sentence, "It is important people perceive our church to be" The first word that came to my mind was genuine. I want people to have no doubt that we are genuine in our faith, our passion and our commitment to live for Jesus every day and in every way.
Now I'm not a web designer, but my guess is that it's hard for a website to communicate "genuine." That's almost like asking an ATM to communicate a bank is friendly. Church's can have the best website in the world and that website can do an incredible job of connecting people to your church and encouraging them to check it out, but if they show up and realize it was just a fancy design, it loses all meaning.
In other words, genuine is not a perception you can fake. People will know we are genuine as we take our faith and our relationship with Jesus and let it truly transform the way we live and care for our family at home, the integrity we exhibit at work, the patience we show in line at the grocery store, the calm and reassurance we provide in crisis...you get the idea.
In my Bible study right now we're talking about friendships and one of the things we've talked about is the difference between a fake friendship and the real deal. We all know the difference and we can all tell immediately the people who are interested in the real thing. As a church (you and me), people can tell when we're genuinely interested in them just like they can tell when we're genuine about our relationship with Jesus.
Let's get real in our walk with God and let's get real in our current relationships so we have the kind of support and accountability that will keep us genuine as a community of faith.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I don't know if Andy Stanley coined the phrase, but on more than one occasion I've heard him talk about creating "irresistible environments." I've always bought into the theory, but I had a chance to observe it in action with the kids one morning. We had been running like crazy keeping up with all four of them out at the beach as they went in different directions to play (one to the water, another to dig in the sand, another chasing a sea gull - you get the idea), so I decided to venture out on my own and see who would follow. I went down to the water's edge and begin to dig an enormous hole that would fill with water. On the edge of the hole I began piling my sand to be the base for a huge drip castle. As I worked, sure enough the kids found their way to me - first the 5-year old (Liza Jane) who wanted the hole to be big enough for a whale and immediately began to assist my digging efforts, then the 2-year old (Max) who wanted to use the shells he found as kayaks and motor boats to speed around the "lake", and then the 1-year old (Ruthie) who was curious to see what her big brother and sister were up to. The 1-year old is afraid of water and when she noticed the hole filling with water, she kept a safe distance, but didn't want to walk away so she stood by, continuing to observe, building up her nerve to be part of whatever this excitement was that had so engaged the big kids. Not long after, some of the kids from families nearby came over to see what was going on and before long the kids had made some new friends and had help building the "lake" and the drip castle.
The theory isn't profound, but it's absolutely true. With ARC, we are trying to create an irresistible environment where people not only want to come and see what's going on, but also a place where people want to bring everyone they know. Some may be hesitant at first (like Ruthie), but if we continue to be faithful and passionate about what we're doing, they won't be able to resist joining in, which means coming to know Jesus Christ as part of their life and worshiping God together.
Jesus said, "let the little children come to me" - what an opportunity to create that environment!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
On Thursday nights through the summer we've been meeting with the college students at Bethany and talking about relationships. Our pastor for student ministry has led great conversations on covenants and Christian marriage and tonight we made it to a discussion on homosexuality. I've been part of several conversations on this topic, but I was incredibly impressed with the direction these students went with it. We spent much more time talking about what it means to be judgmental than we did on our aversion to homosexual practice. There were great questions asked about how we interpret Scripture and what does it mean to live in a fallen world and what does reconciliation to Christ look like for all of us.
Homosexuality is an incredibly divisive issue in the body of Christ and I will be the first to say that I have definite thoughts about what I think Scripture has to say about it and how we should respond in the church, but I also think it's a shame that we have given the world the impression that the most important thing on the church's agenda is a stance on homosexuality. I think it's time we get back to showing the world that the most important thing on our agenda is proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ - no sidetracks, no exceptions.
Rick Warren had a great tweet this morning, saying "I believe in the absolute inerrancy of Scripture, I do not believe in the inerrancy of my interpretation - or yours either." Jesus prayed for all of the believers in John 17:22-23, saying, "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Jesus' desire was for all of those who follow Him to be one - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. Too often we waste time at odds with one another trying to clarify our definition of inerrancy when the truth is we should all believe the Bible is God's Word, given to us without error. The problem is we are imperfect people who have trouble receiving without error. Paul said in I Corinthians 13 that on this side of heaven we know in part, see in part and prophesy in part. In other words, we do our best to understand the perfect Word of God, but we still acknowledge that we aren't perfect and we don't always get it right.
Instead of engaging or dismissing parts of the body of Christ based on different interpretations of Scripture, I like to ask the question, "Are we all pursuing God to the best of our ability and trying our best to be faithful to Him?" If the answer is yes, than we need to be willing to put our differences aside, or at least be open to good discussion, prayer and ongoing discernment instead of putting each other down and encouraging division in the body.
I've been asked recently why the new church is called Ashley Ridge Church instead of Ashley Ridge United Methodist Church, and the answer is that, bottom line, we are a Church that believes Jesus is Lord, and that's what we're all about. That's why there is a large cross right in the middle of our logo beside the word "church." Paul also said, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."
My church history professor always told us, "agreement on the essentials makes us free to disagree on the non-essentials."
Monday, July 13, 2009
So, the current priority numero uno for Ashley Ridge is finding the right worship leader. Easy? Afraid not. Worship leaders are difficult to find for several reasons, the first of which is that it is a very specific and highly specialized field. Worship leaders need excellent musical ability, communication skills, organizational skills, creativity, and more. They need to be relational and genuine, flexible and structured, passionate and disciplined, confident and humble - are you starting to see why they're so hard to find? And to top it all off, they need to be 100% sold-out, on-fire, and crazy passionate about living for Jesus and leading others into the presence of God. Speaking of which, check out this blogpost on Seven Keys to Being an Effective Worship Leader.
With all of these expectations, you might be asking, aren't our expectations a little too high? The answer - absolutely, but don't think for a second that we should be willing to compromise. We were made to worship God and it is the most important thing we do day in and day out. God deserves our very best, which is why we are begging God (my thanks to Perry Noble for asking the question, "What big things are you begging God to do in your church this fall?) for an amazing worship leader to guide us and direct us toward God on Sunday mornings at Ashley Ridge.
God, we pray for the person you are preparing right now to be the worship leader at Ashley Ridge Church. Please give us the wisdom to look in the right places and ask the right questions. And while we search, please work within us that we might be 100% sold-out, on-fire, and crazy passionate about living for Jesus always and everywhere.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
I noticed as I've read more blogs recently that often people will post links to posts and articles from other people that they found interesting. I've learned a lot as I've followed some of these links so I may follow suit from time to time. For now, let me simply point you to some of the blogs I frequent as well as a few websites worth exploring:
evotional.com (Mark Batterson's blog)
www.new-song.org (a church plant in New Bern, NC)
www.flowing-grace.com (a church plant in Chicagoland, Batavia UMC is the mother church)
www.communitychristian.org (a church plant committed to planting churches, led by Dave Ferguson, a guy who is huge in the church planting world)
And, as always, I highly recommend a little book called the Bible - some crazy relevant stuff in there, don't miss it!
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Have you ever found that the quest to be nice can get in the way of being honest? Don't misunderstand me, I'm not advocating being a jerk. I'm sure as Jake gets older I'll find myself often saying "Be nice." It's a good rule to live by, but if there is a rule that trumps it (like paper beating rock in rock-paper-scissors) then that rule is "Be honest."
I suppose there wouldn't be a need for these two rules to conflict if we didn't translate being nice in our minds and lives as a means to making sure people like us. I find myself using the "be nice" rule as an excuse to say things that will make people happy, but aren't 100% truthful.
Think how much simpler our lives would be at home and at work and at school if everyone one was completely honest. Little things like "where do you want to go eat?" would not turn into monumental decisions because people would say where they wanted to eat first and then be nice second by choosing to eat where someone else wanted to go as a gesture of hospitality. It's amazing how being honest first can open the door to opportunities for being genuinely nice.
When Jesus threw the people out of the Temple for turning it into "a den of thieves" he actually made a whip to drive them out. That wasn't very nice. However, Jesus was completely honest about what was going on and how he felt about it. In turn, Jesus gave his life so that everyone could come to the "temple" and know Him and receive eternal life without having to wade through a bunch of junk. What a nice thing to do!