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Showing posts from November, 2013

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 you...like 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