Saturday, August 29, 2009

Read It, Listen to It

Andy Stanley's new book "The Principle of the Path" is now out on bookshelves. I haven't read it yet, but last night I listened to the first two sermons in his "Destinations" series, which is based on the book and now I can't wait to get my hands on it.

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

.People are great. I love people.

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

When Too Much is Too Much

I'm sure I'm the only person in the world who does this, but I regularly try to do too much with too little (no one else does this, right?). It's a bad habit that unabated will lead to an ulcer, and to top it off, never once have I managed to do the too much I've planned in the too little time I've planned to do it. Instead I succeed in frustrating myself, annoying the hooey out of my husband and diminishing my role as a leader.

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

Whirlwind Week

Last Thursday I found out I had strep throat. I promptly went home and began pumping my system with penicillin. I recovered from strep and two days later my family drove to Richmond, VA. The next day we got up and drove to York, PA, and the next day Clark and I boarded a plane to Dallas, TX where we've spent the last 2 1/2 days getting our brains pumped full of good information at church planting boot camp. Now, I'm sitting in a terminal at DFW waiting to fly back to PA and I'm taking a moment to catch my breath and reflect - what a week!

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 raining, my throat hurts and I'm reminded of the song "nobody likes me, everybody hates me, might as well go eat worms..." Am I the only one that learned this song as a child?

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

So, everyone who knows me knows that I love Moe's and can be found there every Tuesday for lunch. No shame here - I'm all about a Joey (Joey Jr. these days - cheaper and not as many calories, plus it leaves more room in your tray for additional chips, which throws out the calories theory, but I digress...).

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

"'Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.' After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:30-31)

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

Who Leads You? Who Influences You?
What are you Reading? What are you Listening to?

I had the news on this morning as I was getting ready and typically I turn it off after the first 10 minutes of headlines, but today I left it on longer because of the teaser that perhaps there was trouble in paradise with the most recent bachelorette (turns out, there's not - and as an aside, I think it's important as we interact with our culture to always be cheerleaders for positive relationships and marriages instead of naysayers getting sucked into the tabloid drama). Anyway...I'm a bit embarrassed that I left the news on for that reason. It made me reflect on how much time I spend filling my life with positive influences and how much time I fill with the inconsequential.

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

Overcoming JDD (Jesus Deficit Disorder)

This morning I read "A Jesus Manifesto" written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. In it, they argue that "the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder." It's very well written and I definitely encourage you to check it out.

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.