Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sound Bites

I just returned from the Velocity church planters conference in Atlanta and my brain is throbbing with lots of great info that I need to process. I'll share more in the coming weeks as I have a chance to do that processing, but for now, here are some sound bites:

Larry Osborne -
"Be picky about how you ask people to spend time."
"Disunity repels people. Burn-out scares people. Lack of spiritual growth bores people."
"The greatest gift we can give a child is a growing mom and dad."

Shawn Lovejoy -
"Cookie-cutter church planting is a lack of faith in God's call on our life."
"Lean into your own testimony. That's where your heart rate picks up, your voice comes alive and you have confidence in God that others can see and connect with."

Alan Hirsch -
"We've got to be the good news people, planting the gospel of Jesus Christ instead of churches as we know them."

Steven Furtick -
"Church planting is the ability to discern what God wants you to do next, courage to do it, and leadership to talk others into doing it with you."

Tony Morgan -
"It's possible to be doing the ministry of God without doing the ministry God has called you to."

Dave Gibbons -
"July 27, 2048 is the date where India and China will have a larger per capita income than the West."
"As Americans, we're not used to being servants, which is exactly what we're called to be."
"We define success on a graph as up and to the right, Jesus came down and to the left."

Darrin Patrick -
"What God is doing in you is more important than what God is doing through you."

Rick Warren -
"Make a major mistake every week."
"Church health is based on sending capacity not seating capacity."
"Satan has no new ideas. He uses the same three temptations - temptation to feel good (lust), temptation to have (greed), and temptation to be (pride)."
"Giving breaks the grip of material sin. The more we give, the more we get to be like Jesus."
"Learn a lesson from the whale about humility - it's when you get to the top and you're ready to blow that they harpoon you." (this cracks me up)

Monday, February 22, 2010

After the Message (better late than never)

So, I left on Sunday afternoon for a church planting conference in Atlanta and this is the first time I've made it back to my computer. Please forgive the delay.

On Sunday, we began our series "I am not but I AM is" series. In the coming weeks we'll be looking at who Jesus is from John's Gospel, but this week we laid the groundwork from Moses' story in Exodus and Numbers. Here are some notes:

Easy to go so fast, that we get ahead of ourselves and forget that we’re not entirely capable, sufficient and wonderful on our own

As adults, most of us realize we are not, and yet, it’s still our daily pursuit.

Exodus 3:11-15

Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go?” and God does not say, “You are the biggest, baddest, coolest, most eloquent, rock star on the planet.” Nor does God say, “Could you work on becoming that?”

God does say, “I will go with you…tell them I AM sent you.”

Moses knows he’s being sent to do something he cannot do on his own. God says, “Go anyway. I will be with you. And I AM.”

Numbers 20:6-12

Moses dies short of the Promised Land b/c he was doing well when he realized he was incapable apart from God. As soon as he decided he could do it on his own, it fell apart.

Francis Chan, “are you living in such a way that you’d be fine if Jesus didn’t show up?”

I am nothing on my own. I need Jesus. The journey to being somebody starts with the journey to know Jesus.

Be reading the Gospel of John and start digging into Jesus' life and all that He says and shows He is.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why Peter?

I've been reading Acts a lot over the last year or so (I know it's cliche for a church planter to be spending a lot of time in Acts, but, well, it would be foolish not to seeing as the people in Acts were highly successful church planters).

Anyway, as I read Acts 15 today I was struck by Peter's authority when it came to settling disputes. Basically a bunch of apostles had different opinions about what the Gentiles needed to do to be "in." Finally, Peter stood up and said, "Here's what we're going to do..." And so, they did it. Pretty cool. However, as one who tends to buck authority, I found myself asking why they were so willing to listen to Peter.

I think the answer is pretty simple...Peter and Jesus were tight, and everyone knew it. The people were willing to listen to leaders they knew were close to Jesus.

Isn't it true that we're so much more willing to give credence to what someone is saying if we know they're walking with Jesus everyday? Don't you and I want to hear from people we know are sold out to Jesus and His authority? Isn't the advice we often seek from people we know have genuine faith?

I know that's the kind of leader I want to be - a leader people follow not because I speak well or look nice or tell funny jokes, but because they know I'm close to Jesus.

What about you? Where does your authority (at home, at work, on the basketball court, with your friends, etc.) come from?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Feel the Rhythm

In honor of the winter Olympics, I bring you the following clip from Cool Runnings -

"Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it's bobsled time!" Cool Runnings is such a great movie. A bunch of sprinters from Jamaica that don't make it to the Olympics as runners end up forming an unheard of bobsled time in a country that never gets snow or ice. What follows is a hilarious process of learning the event and finding a way to come together as a team. In running, every runner has their own lane. In bobsled, four people have to get in the same lane and move as one. They had to find a shared rhythm to make it work.

The same is true in our walk with Christ. We have to get in rhythm with Him to make our lives work. And so, the early Christians set a rhythm to their year that would help them align with the life of Christ. The Christian Year, as its called, starts with the expectation of the promised Messiah and preparing our hearts and lives to receive Him. From there we celebrate His birth with joy and then spend a season rediscovering Jesus' life and ministry here on earth. And then, starting with Ash Wednesday (which happens to be today), we move into the time of Lent, which is a season of walking with Jesus toward the cross and in doing so realizing how much we need the cross to save us from our sin.

I won't continue with a dissertation on the Christian year b/c I think you get the point. When it comes to most things church-related, I'm pretty non-traditional. But I think the early Christians had something good in mind when they intentionally created a rhythm for the year that would mirror that of Jesus' life. In following it year in and year out, they created times and spaces for God to bring us closer to Jesus as we re-live His story - why He came, what He did, why He died, and the power of His resurrection to give life to us all.

I hope you will use this season, this time of preparation and repentance and self-evaluation to draw you closer to Jesus. In your small sacrifices, remember the huge sacrifice God made for you and me in Jesus Christ. In your serving, remember the incredible lengths Jesus went to be the servant of all. In your prayer, take time to get on your knees and open yourself completely to God so He can do the difficult work of sorting through your imperfection and make you ready to walk in life and hope and faith forever as we make our way to Easter and the celebration that we have life forever in Jesus Christ and an opportunity to know Him and love Him because the curtain has been ripped away and death destroyed.

It's time to get in rhythm!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Do or Not To Do - that is the question

I was asked by a good friend today, "So, what are you going to do or give up for Lent this year?" My answer, "Not sure."

My father has always been big about teaching that Lent is a great time to do something and not just give something up. Sure, sure, the tradition surrounding Lent is that you give something up as a sacrifice that reminds you of Christ's sacrifice for us. However, for many it turns out to be nothing more than a renewed diet plan following the lapse in the New Year's diet, thus defeating the purpose of giving something up to make more room for Christ in our lives.

And so, it's been several years since I've given something up for Lent. I've had years where I set out a more ambitious Scripture reading plan for Lent. There was the year that I decided to fast one meal a week (didn't turn out so well - I'm still learning the discipline of fasting). Then there was last year when I had Jacob at the start of Lent and unintentionally gave up sleep, a me-centered life and all semblance of structure.

Every year the thought crosses my mind that I should give up television to create more time for reading, prayer, reflection, rest and so much more. This thought is immediately followed by the dismissal of the idea because, after all, March Madness takes place during Lent and I'm not going to miss watching Duke in the ACC tournament and NCAA tournament (P.S. look out for the Richmond Spiders in this year's tournament - they made their way into the Top 25 this week for the first time in school history). Not only that, but this week American Idol pairs down to the top 24 and it starts to get exciting. Plus, NCIS is a must-watch because any day now Tony and Ziva are going to become a real item. Wow, maybe I have a problem.....

Well, I have to start somewhere - you're reading it here first and I expect all of you to hold me accountable. For Lent, I'm giving up The Biggest Loser, Brothers and Sisters, House and all other television outside of Duke and Richmond basketball, American Idol and NCIS. You may think that's a cop-out, but it balances to only an average of an hour of tv a day. In its place, I plan to read more, journal more, pray more, catch-up with friends and family more, etc.

In addition, it's time to conquer the discipline of fasting. I'm fasting one day a week and I won't be sharing which day b/c that needs to be between me and God. During my fasting, I will spend the time I would use for eating to pray and serve. My prayer is that God would show me with fresh ears, eyes and heart just how much I need the cross and lead me once again to stand in awe and worship of Jesus Christ.

Now, I didn't share all of that to demonstrate my holiness, but rather to talk you through my process and potentially aid you in your own. What is God asking you to and not to do this season? As we walk with Jesus toward the cross, what are you praying that God will teach you and show you?

Monday, February 15, 2010

After the Message

Yesterday we celebrated Valentine's day at Ashley Ridge by comparing the generic love our society buys into with God's love, which is sooo much more.

No, I'm not anti-Valentine's Day, but it does celebrate the most basic and surface level of love - the kind that a dozen roses and a day-long romance can contain.

The question - why do we buy name-brand toilet paper and settle for generic love?

From Hosea 11 - here are some attributes of God's love:

v. 1-2 - God's love pursues the object of its affection, even and especially when it's inconvenient
v. 3 - God's love acts in our best interest for the purpose of our best interest and not God's recognition
v. 4 - God's love chooses to lead with kindness instead of push, God's purpose is toward our well-being not winning a fight
v. 8 - God's love is empathetic and passionate
v. 9 - God's love defies retribution; we deserve God's wrath and yet we receive God's mercy
v. 10 - God's love is fierce, none of this cupid baby-with-a-sash stuff, God's love looks like Jesus hanging on a cross bleeding for you and me

Don't settle for a substitute when God is offering so much more in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Can't Miss

It's 8:55, Tuesday night and you're around the corner from your house. You whip into the driveway, run in the door, throw your stuff down, turn on the television and breathe a sigh of relief. You made it before Ryan Seacrest came on the screen and said, "Ladies and Gentleman, it's time for American Idol!" (cue music)

Okay, maybe this story is a thing of the past. After all, we now have the beautiful technology known as dvr - who would have thought the day would come that we have a pause button for our tv's?! But you all remember rushing home and arranging your schedule so as not to miss your favorite show, your favorite team, or your favorite news anchor.

Bottom line, we all have those things in our life that we don't want to miss, and many of them involve alternative realities viewed on a screen.

When's the last time you rushed home or rearranged your entire schedule so you didn't miss your time with God? Or, when's the last time you felt devastated because you did miss it?

I have to confess that there have been days lately when I press snooze one more time and then cut my time with God short so that I can turn on the news right when it starts - how messed up is that? I can miss time with God, but not the first five minutes of the news cycle that I could record or just look up later on the internet.

Psalm 42 says that just as the deer pants for streams of water, our souls should thirst for God. Thing is, we don't just wake up one day with that thirst, it's something that builds as we spend time with God.

Start today - make your time with God the #1 can't miss in your day.

Monday, February 08, 2010

After the Message

"Two paths diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost, The Road Less Traveled
(p.s. I had an elementary student tell me after worship that she had memorized and recited the entire poem for her class - very impressive!)

Galatians 5:13-15, Paul says we were called to be free and we can use our freedom to follow one of two paths:
Path One - indulge the sinful nature (always selfish)
Path Two - serve each other in love (always selfless)

Galatians 5:16-23, Paul gets specific about these two paths, breaks it down. Following his lead, we talked about two specific areas w/ obvious applications for living self-lessly - marriage and money

Galatians 5:24-26, Paul says we need to keep in step with the Spirit - keeping in step, as with being on a path, implies going somewhere
We're meant to go as the Spirit leads
Jesus didn't just say "come," he came from heaven to earth for you and me

Our ongoing prayer is, "Jesus, send us out."

Where is Jesus sending you this week?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Proverbs 30

Ya'll should read it. I read it last week and I've read it twice since. It's one of those pieces of Scripture that I suspect I've read before but when I read it last week it hit me between the eyes in a way that made me think, "How did I miss this???"

Here's the excerpt that I've been sitting with most - "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I may have two much and disown you, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." (Proverbs 30:7-9).

One of my constant prayers as a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mom, a pastor and all the rest is that I would be above reproach so as not to get in the way of God's message. "Keep falsehood and lies far from me." In my words, "God, please make me entirely unable to speak anything untrue."

As for the second request, it's so well put and so true. The minute we think we have "enough," we set God aside b/c we're convinced of our own self-sufficiency. I would hope that I never fall into the lie that I have "enough" without God. On the flip side, when we have so little, it's easy to think "pity me," and covet what our friends and neighbors have (or at least, what we think they have). How rude and pathetic is it to look at God and say, "Yea, I have you, but that's not enough."

Give me Jesus. He is all I need.