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Showing posts from 2013

Phil Robertson Can Say What He Wants. And A&E Can Do What They Want.

That Phil Robertson sure can cause a stir. I have a couple thoughts on the whole thing, so let me briefly weigh in. First, I think everyone should take a breath. My guess is that the Robertsons arent' too concerned about all this hullaballoo, and so maybe no one else should be either. Second, I think we should recognize that this is NOT a first ammendment issue. Phil's right to free spreech hasn't been impinged by congress. If A&E wants to censor the content of their network, that's their call. (now, if comments like Phil's are some day deemed as official "hate speech" and he is silenced by government action; that will be a first ammendment issue) Third, I support A&E's right to not do business with Phil Robertson based on their religious convictions. Fourth, I expect to see consistency from organizations like GLAAD (which have spoken very strongly into this issue). I hope that they also will support the right of any American busines

How I'm Going To End the Creation - Evolution Debate

You may or may not be aware that coffee has a very quick “mold-creation” rate.  If you leave a cup of coffee sitting out for too long, it will quickly begin to develop mold spores.  In fact, I would imagine, that in just a week or two a mug of coffee would develop a bog-like surface if left alone. Therefore. I’m placing a full mug of coffee in a secluded room where it will be undisturbed.  I’m also leaving instructions in my will that in 100 years, my grandchildren are to go into that room and document the lives of all the mold creatures that have come to life. That’ll show those silly creationists.

In Defense of Plagiarism

In recent days the evangelical internet (now there is a silly concept) has been in an uproar about the issue of plagiarism. First, Mark Driscoll came under fire for apparently using massive amounts of other people's material without properly citing them. In some cases his books allegedly borrowed virtually word for word from other sources. I've not investigated these claims. If they are true, it's wrong . More recently, a young female blogger reposted the writing by Rachel Held Evans , claiming it as her own. It's pretty clear that she copied and pasted with minimal changes. To her credit, the young lady apologized after being called out for her indiscretion. Plagiarism is bad. I get it. It's theft. It's false. It's selfish. At times, it negatively impacts the ability of some to earn their livelihood. I've heard preachers use my words and my thoughts as if they were their own. It made me angry. I had worked hard to formulate those thoughts. I h

Your Next Step is Your Most Important Step

Colossians 1:10 pops up in the middle of Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.  In this mid-thought verse he says, "so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."  The easy observation from this verse is that Paul identifies three specific results of walking rightly: our lives will be pleasing to God our lives will be full of the fruit of good works we will be increasing in our knowledge of God (both relational knowledge and factual knowledge) But can you take a break for a minute and think about the idea of walking?  This isn’t the first time the idea of our life as a walk is discussed in the Bible.  It’s not even the only time Paul uses the analogy.  "Walking" is a common and helpful illustration of the Christian life. Proverbs talks about our walk a lot. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in t

5 Things We Learned From Liverpool's Thrashing of Tottenham

Forgive me for stepping outside my normal content genre and posting a bit about my favorite football team... I had to DVR today's game, so I didn't finish it until a little bit ago. It was an absolute joy to watch. I may bask in the afterglow of this 5-0 thrashing for quite a while. From beginning to end, it was a thing of beauty to watch. More exciting than the win, though, is the lessons which I think were learned today. Each of which bodes well for the future. Here they are: 1. These guys are good. For real. They're good. This wasn't a team fighting to avoid relegation and the game wasn't at home. This is a team playing European football, they were on their own turf, and they were well beaten (even before the deserved red card).   2. Right now, Luis Suarez is the best football player in the world. Period.   3. Ironically, an injury to Steven Gerrard, and his resulting absence, may have revealed that this could be the year Liverpool finally win the l

How to Create "Raving Fans"

Twice a month I send out an email to everyone in our church who is in some kind of "leadership" position (and anyone else who asks to be on the list...). Here are the thoughts I sent them last week: I'm a big fan of Ken Blanchard, so one evening when I had a few spare minutes at Barnes and Noble, I grabbed one of his books and read the first couple pages. The book is Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service. The basic gist of the book is: Having raving fans means that you have achieved the kind of service excellence  that turns a customer into lifetime customer. A raving fan is an advocate of your products or services in the marketplace. As I read, I thought about how the ideas Ken was sharing might apply to church leadership (s a church leader, I often do this). I realized that all of us are trying to create "raving fans"; and every church is a reflection of what kind of raving fans their leaders have sought to create. Here is a list

Are You Leading Or Are You Just Up Front?

If you're up front, it's because someone put you there. If you're leading, it's because people are following. Leading means knowing where you're going. Being up front means reacting to circumstances. A leader communicates a compelling direction. Up front... a confusing direction. If you embrace hard questions, you're leading. If you seek easy answers, you're up front. Leading = Pulling. Up Front = Being Pushed. Leaders call for sacrifice sometimes. People up front promise satisfaction all the time. You lead because you can do nothing else. You move up front because it looks attractive. When you lead, you engage the tension. When you're up front, it paralyzes you. Leaders are value-driven. Up-Fronters prefer polls. What else?

6 "Biblical" Tests To Evaluate Your Church

Sometimes, I just like to make lists; like this one from 1 Corinthians. These aren't my ideas, they are summaries of the concepts taught by Paul at the beginning of his instructions to the church in Corinth: The church finds its existence in the fact that God called us.  We DO NOT exist because of the work of any man, whether it is Apollos, Peter, or even Paul.  We’re sanctified by Jesus Christ and CALLED to be together with each other. God has provided the church with everything it needs to function effectively.  He calls this provision GIFTS.  Think of these less as specific “abilities” and more as NECESSARY RESOURCES.  If you don’t have the necessary resources to complete a task, then God hasn’t called you to that task! Division happens when people follow MEN instead of CHRIST.  As soon as your opinion of another person is a cause for separation, your focus is off God and onto men.  Our opinion of one man should never impact our treatment of another man. The church’s wisd

How to "Take Care Of" The 10 People You Most Dislike

I’ve been thinking that one of the best ways to get “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” might be to make a list of the ten people you least want to pray for. Then pray fervently for them for each of the next ten days. The idea is kind of frightening, and reminds me of how much of my sinful nature remains in me, and how much I need the Spirit to cut into me with his sharp sword.

5 Tools to Help You Patiently Wait on God

Psalm 40:1-2. I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog. If you are truly waiting PATIENTLY for the LORD, you don’t get to decide when to stop waiting…even if you’re in the miry bog (not to be confused with the miry blog). How can you be content in the miry bog while you wait? Here are five suggestions: 1) Spend your time remembering the many good things God has done for you; and the many bad things from which He has saved you. 2) Invest your life in the lives of people around you. Meet their needs, and stop thinking about your own. 3) Meditate on God’s Word. Psalm 19 says it will “revive your soul.” 4) Enjoy creation. God made this planet for your pleasure, get out and take advantage of it. 5) Be creative. You are made in God’s image, so you are a creator (small “c”). Start a project or take on a hobby, you’ll be glorifying God by doing so.

3 Ideas for Prayer While You Are Suffering

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” We all suffer. It is a part of life. Not only do we have a high priest who suffered as we do, Jesus suffered far more than we ever will. As he approached the hour of His suffering, he set a wonderful example for us of how to pray when we suffer. 3 Things to Pray When You Are Suffering: If it is possible (all things are possible with God, so we should never be afraid to ask) let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. (God loves when His children tell him specifically what they desire) Yet, I want your will to be done, not mine. (submission is the key to prayer, how will you respond if God chooses to say "yes" in a way you don't expect?)

10 Rules for Working With Students

Several years ago, upon completing over a decade working with students, I compiled 85 Theses on Youth Ministry. Here are ten of my ideas for working with students: 1. Its all about relationships. 2. Your philosophy of youth ministry needs to be rooted in a biblical understanding of salvation, discipleship, the church and the world. 3. You have gifts, your leaders have gifts, your students have gifts. Figure them out and utilize them. 4. You must have medical release forms. 5. Parents have more influence on their children than you do. Deal with it. 6. Youth Ministry is a long-term investment, five year results are more important and more honest than five month results. 7. Develop students who are loyal to the kingdom, not to you or your programs. 8. Know who you are teaching; Know what they need. 9. You are teaching them Jesus; Jesus is what they need. 10. All rabbit trails lead somewhere. It's your job to know where.

When Will We Become People of the "AND"?

I'm tired of having to pick sides. It seems like the (global) church today faces a new schism each week. We are forced to decide whether we are going to be conservative or liberal. We must either be pro-life or pro-choice. We must choose either doctrine or practice. I sometimes feel as though I am split in more directions than Voldemort's soul (google "horcrux"). But what if we stopped choosing sides? What if instead of forcing people into "either/or" decisions we found ways to unite paradoxical ideas? Wouldn't be great if we didn't have to choose one side "instead of" another? How wonderful would it be if we could choose one side "and" another? After all, isn't "agree with one another" one way that we live out Jesus' command to "love one another?" (it is.) What if in the church we: Worked to protect the lives of the unborn AND sought to address the sociological issues that lead to teen pregna

8 Steps to Fix the BCS Mess

This Saturday, Michigan State and Ohio State will play for the B1G championship. This borders on a "no-win" for OSU. I've already heard "experts" suggesting that if Ohio State doesn't win convincingly, that Auburn should jump them and get into the National Championship game. That's right. A team could win 25 consecutive football games and not play for a national championship because they didn't win by "enough" against another top ten team. Silliness. I wrote the following post 3 years ago, but it is still absolutely relevant. It's not the only possible solution for the BCS, but its a good one. It's definitely better than what we have now, and its definitely better than what we'll have next year (when selecting 4 teams simply means that we have more slots for SEC teams now). -------------------------- A SOLUTION FOR THE BCS ------------------------------ Over the past few years, a few things have happened that have

Let It Be (a Christmas carol)

You tell me, was Paul McCartney a closet fundamentalist? or was he at least influenced by Horatio Spafford? When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,  speaking words of wisdom, let it be.  And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,  speaking words of wisdom, let it be.  When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.  Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.  It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul. And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree,  there will be an answer, let it be.  For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,  there will be an answer. let it be. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blessed assurance control, That Christ has regar

16 Reasons to GIVE THANKS to God This Week

During the week of Thanksgiving, my sermon was based on Psalm 107 which repeatedly tells us to GIVE THANKS to God. Sometimes giving thanks is the best way to work our way out of a slump. So today, try giving thanks, specifically because: 1) He is good. 2) He works wondrous deeds. 3) His love endures forever. Here are some specific examples I gave of each of these attributes of God... Give thanks because of who God is: Creator -- even in its broken state, creation still trumpets the goodness of God. Sustainer -- if He ever removed His hands, all would fall apart. Provider -- He provides all our needs (not necessarily our wants) Healer -- every earthly healing is a small taste of the eternal healing that waits for us all Savior -- history is full of stories recounting God's saving action on behalf of His people Redeemer -- He spared no expense to buy us back from our rebellion Give thanks because of what God has done: He chose Abraham -- from Abraham he lau

3 Rules for Healthy Debate

DEBATE is not a four letter word. (its six if you haven’t already gone back and counted) Sometimes we treat it as a curse word, when in reality, healthy debate can often be the catalyst for the most efficient learning. Unfortunately, healthy debate is rarely found among those who hold different ideas from one another. More often, fighting is more characteristic of those discussions, and sadly this seems to be more prevalent when those who claim to follow Christ are involved. I've been batting around the idea of what characterizes healthy debate. I think right now I want to suggest three necessary elements (somewhat parallel for the linguistic creativity junkies). These three elements are interrogate, restate, debate. Interrogate — ask, ask, ask. Too often discussions (particularly internet discussions) consist of two people/sides firing a barrage of propositional statements at one another, accomplishing nothing but fortifying their own positions. The first element of product

Jesus Led By Example. We Lead By Following.

These are the main thoughts that went out with my last "Leadership Email" to The Gathering leaders. Although the email is targeted specifically at those leading ministries and groups at The Gathering, anyone can sign up to receive the entire email at the end of the post. In the great state of Michigan everyone knows "The Captain". He is Steve Yzerman, a Canadian hockey player who led the beloved Red Wings to multiple Stanley Cup Championships. Since Retiring, Yzerman has overseen the revitalization of Tampa Bay's hockey team, the Lightning, and was the architect responsible for building Canada's gold-medal winning team in 2010. My son, Liam, was almost named "Stephen" in honor of Steve Yzerman's contributions to my favorite hockey team! Despite being one of the greatest leaders in the history of hockey, Steve Yzerman is not a loud or boisterous person. In fact, he's quite soft-spoken. Yet the example he sets with the way he plays and

7 Steps to Myth-Busting Prayer!

The Bible records many prayers for us. What better way to learn how to pray than to study these prayers and glean lessons from them? Here is the prayer of Nehemiah from the first chapter of his book: Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you.   We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the p

9 Creative Prayer Ideas for Your Small Group

I've had two conversations in the past couple days about the importance of prayer in the life of the church. In light of those conversations, I thought I'd post these thoughts about praying in a small group.  Prayer should play an important role in the life of every small group. Some groups do a great job of emphasizing prayer, but others struggle a bit to make it a piece of their community.  Often, prayer is an intimidating thing for people to do in a group. Here are a couple ideas that might help make prayer less difficult and that might help your group become more "prayer-focused" in the process: 1. Silent Prayer. Choose a soft (preferably prayer-focused) song and tell the group you're going to play this song and while it plays everyone is going to just engage in silent prayer.  Once the song is done, the prayer time will be over. If you want, suggest a pattern of prayer that might be helpful for them. One possible pattern is the "ACTS" patter

13 Reasons Christians Can Never Walk Alone

This is the greatest soccer story ever told... seriously. And the song that tells the story is the anthem of Liverpool Football, "You'll Never Walk Alone." One of the greatest blessings we have been given is a group of people with whom to walk through life. Jesus gave us the church so we would never have to walk alone. Sometimes in our pursuit of a "personal" relationship with God, we forge that He has called us to be part of a community. That calling must be a priority for us. Check out these 13 reasons why Christians can never walk alone! 1. When we were saved, we were baptized into a body (1 Cor.12) 2. Christ's final command was to "love one another". (John 13) 3. Christ's one prayer for the church was "unity" (John 17) 4. Man was created in the image of God. Unity with diversity. (Gen 1-2) 5. It is not good for man to be alone. (Gen. 2) 6. The mission of the church cannot be accomplished if we do not love one a

10 Things You Can Pray For Other People

This list borrowed from Colossians 1: 1. Be thankful for the people God has brought into your life 2. Be thankful for the good things you have heard about other people 3. Be thankful that others have come to faith in Jesus 4. Be thankful for the love that people have demonstrated to you and others 5. Be thankful for the hope that can sustain people through their suffering 6. Pray for the increase of people’s knowledge of God’s will 7. Pray that people will have and demonstrate wisdom in their daily choices 8. Pray that people will understand the life circumstances in which they find themselves 9. Pray that people’s lives will be pleasing to God and bring glory to him 10. Pray that people’s lives will produce fruit, specifically that they will bring others to know God

Don't Be A Fool

A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!" On the surface, it would appear that this is an astute business man. He worked hard, he profited, he invested his profit to secure his wealth and provide for the future. This sounds like good sound stewardship. Yet, in verse 20, God calls this man a fool. Why? First, he was foolish because he had a faulty view of success. As we are all sometimes guilty of doing, he believed that his success was solely a result of his own hard work. Yet when we look more closely at the story, we can see that Jesus told it very intentionally to demonstrate that success in life, work, or anywhe

What Were You Doing 10 Years Ago?

TEN YEARS AGO... Before Facebook, before Twitter, before Instagram or Snapchat... There was Blogger. And I was blogging. Those blogs are no longer accessable to the public, but every so often I look into the archives to see what kind of person I was back then. "Disturbed" seems like a good description. Ten years ago, I wrote this: I think that Celine Dion would make a great hit-person. if you saw her walking toward you, the last thing you would think was that she was there to kill you. (Celine, if you are reading this, i have nothing against you, i think you are a magnificent musician). But here's the best part, as you lay there dying in a pool of your own blood...getting cold from the blood surrounding you, but also because you get cold when you die...she could sing to whatever you wanted. i would probably choose Ave Maria, not because i have and special fondness for Mary or anything, but it is just a great song. Odd.

5 Commitments That Could Revolutionize Any Church

We commit to focus our efforts on pleasing God, even if that means not pleasing some people. We commit to investing in our neighborhoods, even if that means investing less time at our building. We commit to speaking the TRUTH in love, even if that means we’ll be accused of being unloving. We commit to serving with all we have, even if that means losing all we want. We commit to die to ourselves, even if that means living a way we never would have imagined.

Once for All. The Most Important Words in the Bible?

Hebrews 9:26 says: But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Three words in the middle of that verse define the distinction between Christianity and every other religion in the world. ONCE FOR ALL. Virtually every world religion shares one fundamental similarity. At the heart of the religion is instruction for achieving "eternal life", or whatever else might be the ultimate goal of the religion (eg. Nirvana, Heaven, etc.). Another way to say this is to say that the majority of religions tell you what you need to do. I think this concept of religion resonates with most people. Let me provide a few examples. Buddhism is built on a process of holding to or believing four noble truth s. The fourth of these noble truths instructs Buddhists to follow the eight-fold path , which is a list of eight activities designed to help the Buddhist gain liberation from attachment and suffering. Following the

What is Salvation?

I was recently involved in an interesting discussion about the nature of faith and salvation. As I thought about some of the things we discussed, I went back into the archives and found this draft I wrote many years ago about salvation and evangelism. It's worth consideration: What is “salvation”? Many within the church misunderstand salvation, and therefore we must be certain to hold a proper concept of salvation before we attempt to explain it to others. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Salvation comes directly and only from God . It is something that can absolutely not be achieved by any action. Herein lays a common and serious misunderstanding of salvation. We are not saved by something we do. We are saved by something we have, namely faith. Faith is not something we can develop, it is not something we can find, and it is not somet

10 Easy Ways To Be Generous Today

Jesus was the most generous man who ever lived. He gave up the most and received the least in return. Even though He was God, he gladly opened His hand and let go of his high station. He then humbled himself and took the world's most severe demotion, eventually allowing himself to be killed by His own creatures. All of this, He gave freely so that we might be made right with His Father. God has given us so much and His expectation is that we open our hands and use those gifts to be generous. Here are some simple ways you can be more generous today: 1. Say something encouraging to someone you've never paid a compliment to before 2. Pay the tab for the car behind you in the drive-thru line 3. Send flowers to your wife for no reason (wives, send bacon to your husband) 4. Put a little extra in the offering plate at your church 5. Give a hefty tip to the cashier at the grocery store 6. Bring dessert to your neighbor 7. Make a micro-loan through  Kiva 8. Send a handwritte

Don't Worry; Be Generous!

I just finished this graphic for Sunday and it made me smile, so I posted it here. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nati

Your Focus Might Be on The Wrong Person

It's Christmas season... As we approach this season when it is fairly easy to be focused on the work of Jesus for us, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that our lives should always be focused on Him and on what He is doing in our lives. Think about Philippians 2 which encourages us to focus on the needs of others before we focus on the needs of ourselves. Do you remember those old, “You might be a redneck” jokes? At the end of each of these statements, insert the expression, “Your focus might be on the wrong person.”  And, if any of them apply, refocus yourself. If you are wondering why no one else recognizes how valuable your work is… If you are irate that someone didn’t pay enough attention to you… If you are stressed out because of circumstances beyond your control… If you are upset that you can’t get access to the important people… If you are angry that you didn’t receive the proper thanks for something you did… If you are certain that no one ca

Soccer. Football for the Brave.

Yes, But...

Every so often I have a Sunday morning experience that I am quite certain is not unique to me. I call it the Yes But. Anyone who preaches on a regular basis has probably observed the Yes But at some point in their ministry. The Yes But sounds something like this, "Pastor, I agree with what you said, BUT..." Sound familiar? Before you decide I'm being overly critical of the Yes But, though, let me finish. I have discovered that the Yes But can teach me a great deal about the words I just spoke. Sometimes, when confronted by the Yes But, I find myself feeling defensive. I immediately begin planning my response. I look for ways to show the Yes Butter that they are clearly in the wrong. You can be certain that this response clearly indicates that the words I just preached were not God's, they were my own. The more defensive I am of the words I preach, the more likely it is that they reflect my ideas, not God's. Sometimes, though, when confronted with

What Does This Mean to You?

How did you first interpret the image above? Did you read: "You be for me." or did you read: "You before me" I'm not suggesting that this is some subliminal test to determine whether or not you are a selfish or unselfish person. But I found it disturbing that even though I originally meant to create a graphic that said "you before me" (Philippians 2:4), I found myself reading it the selfish way... and I created it! Perhaps I'm just a selfish person. But maybe this is a good reminder that it is sometimes easy to view those around us as nothing more than a tool to get what we desire. This is not Christ-like thinking. In fact, it's the exact opposite. You've already been given the mind of Christ (if you are "in Christ"). So start thinking like Him. He was actually God, yet didn't think that was something he should clench his fist around. So he willingly took a demotion and chose to be born as a mere morta

The Truth About Opinion Polls

Do you remember when the evening news would report things that recently happened without citing statistics from the most recent poll regarding said events? I can't watch "news networks" anymore without the anchors referring to one poll or another several times in each five minute segment. I feel a little like I am being told what to think, or whether my opinion is valid. Should I feel bad that only 25% of Americans agree with me? Should I have a sense of pride that my opinion is shard by 82% of surveyed homes? This has been a long time coming. Decades ago we began this journey which has slowly eroded the idea of truth and morals in favor of opinion and majority. The actions of government officials are no longer judged by whether or not they are good for the country, but by how they impact the official's popularity rating. Legislation is no longer driven by the nation's best interest, but by impact it will have on re-election. Let me suggest