Thursday, December 12, 2013

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. The church’s wisdom should always come from the WORD and the WORK of Christ.  Be wary that “wisdom” from other sources is likely just foolishness.
  5. God values the FOOLISH, WEAK, LOW, and DESPISED.  Do we?
  6. Every church should set aside time every week to BOAST IN THE LORD.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

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.

Monday, December 9, 2013

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.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

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?)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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.

Monday, December 2, 2013

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 pregnancy and single mothering.
  • Seek to create a social safety net AND support legislation which rewards those who work hard to earn money.
  • Protected a biblical ideal of marriage AND spoke up for all people to receive equal treatment under the law.
  • Celebrated gender diversity AND embraced the image of God in every person.
  • Provided food, shelter and clothing for those in need AND held people accountable for the poor life choices they make.

I could go on. What can you add? Which "instead of" can you replace with an "and?"

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 clarified some realities about the college football landscapes.  More than anything, these changes have made it really simple to fix the BCS mess.  Here are the big changes:

Traditional bowl games mean nothing anymore.  The Pac10 is going to get left out of the Rose Bowl this year despite having a top 5 team.
Traditional conferences mean nothing anymore.  TCU is joining the Big East and Nebraska is joining the Big 10.
Super-Conferences are now a reality.
Every conference is moving toward a final championship game.
Since these things are now realities, I suggest the following steps to determine a National Championship.

1. Form 8 Super-Conferences.  With 120 teams in the FBS, you need to have 15 teams per conference.  Every conference will be divided into 2 divisions, meaning teams can play 7 divisional games, 1 rivalry game in conference and still have 3 non-conference games.

2. Every conference has a championship game.  Division championships will be settled ON THE FIELD because everyone plays everyone.  Conference championships will be settled ON THE FIELD because you can’t be the conference champ if you can’t win your division.

3. Eight conference championships meet in a playoff.  (if you don’t win your conference you can’t be the national champion) The playoff is seeded similar to the NCAA basketball tournament.

4. Conference Championships are played the first weekend in December.

5. First round of playoff is played the third weekend in December.

6. Semi-finals are played on New Years day (2 of the BCS bowl games).

7. Finals are played one week later (1 of the BCS bowl games).

8. The other BCS bowl game is played on New Years day between the top two second place finishers.  (use your polls and computers to figure this out)  Other bowl eligible teams fill out the bowl schedule.

Here are your conferences: (although they’ll look a bit different as each conference will have 15 teams)

  • Big Ten
  • Big Twelve
  • ACC
  • Pac 10
  • SEC
  • Independence East (Conference USA, Big East)
  • Independence Central (MAC, Mountain West, Military Schools, Notre Dame)
  • Independence West (WAC, Sun Belt, other indepents)
  • (other names are fine for the last three conferences)

Benefits of the sytem:

  • Championships are still determined on the field
  • Every game matters, because no 2nd place teams make it
  • No conferences receive preferential treatment
  • All bowl games remain intact
  • Season takes no longer
  • Playoff system still allows for Cinderella teams (some conferences will still be weaker and have weaker champions).
  • Teams won’t be forced to run up scores, because only W-L record will matter. (sound nice, Northwestern and Indiana?)