Saturday, December 30, 2006

contract with God

A few weeks ago I was preparing for a teaching and this phrase came to mind. I don't know if I heard it somewhere else, or if it is an original thought (as if there is such a thing as an original though :-)

But I was thinking about how often we get frustrated with God. We think He has let us down. God doesn't seem to be doing whatever we think He should be doing. But...

Whenever we get upset because we think God isn’t fulfilling his end of the bargain…it’s usually because we haven’t fully read the contract.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

fluent in starbucks

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. We've been on the road and tonight is the first chance I've had to grab any internet connection. We're doing the family visits in Virginia and the Carolina's.

One noticable difference in the south? The lack of coffee shops. I guess when the average temperature is ABOVE freezing, you don't feel as urgent a need to constantly consume scalding hot beverages.

I guess I can survive for a while without a vanilla latte.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

honest with Santa

Shopping mall Santas may not have an easy job after all. According to a survey, 90 percent of all seasonal Santas say that at least one kid pulls their beard every single day - just to see if it is real. The same survey showed that these Santas get sneezed on up to 10 times a day. A third of Santas report being wet on by a child. Nearly three quarters of the kids who sit on Santa's lap say they were 'good' this year, according to the Santas. (Source: Reuters)

So here's what I found interesting. 1 out of every 4 kids was willing to admit to Santa that they haven't always been good. That is some amazing honesty. Either these are some humble kids with great integrity, or they've been really bad and they figure confession might bring forgiveness. Either way, there's a lesson for us to learn when it comes to getting real and honest before God.

And...oh yeah. Maybe Santa will bring me a shiney toy like this one next Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jesus born Dec.25?

Recently I have heard some skeptics and critics trumpet the historical discrepencies concerning the date of Christ's birth as a strike against the Christian faith. As if our worship of Christ and his birth is somehow tarnished because we commemorate December 25th as the time of rememberance, while it is highly unlikely this was the actual time of the year when it happened.

Let me begin with the intellectual response: "Duh!" So why is December the time that we celebrate the Advent?

First some background from Lee Strobel: History doesn’t pinpoint Jesus’ birthday. Spring is most likely, because shepherds were watching their flocks at night and this is when ewes bore their young. In fact, around a.d. 200, theologians concluded Jesus was born on May 20. “Others,” said journalist Terry Mattingly, “argued for dates in April and March. This wasn’t a major issue, since early Christians emphasized the Epiphany on January 6, marking Christ’s baptism.”

Said Christian researcher Gretchen Passantino: “They understood that Christ’s birth was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. It was around a.d. 200 that celebration of Christ’s birth was added to the crowded church calendar. Those churches who chose to celebrate it did so on various days and months.”

In a.d. 385, Pope Julius I declared December 25 as the day for celebrating Christ’s birth. “He chose that date,” Passantino told me, “partly to challenge the pagan celebration of the Roman god Saturnalia, which was characterized by social disorder and immorality.”

Unlike the death and resurrection, which is specifally detailed in Scripture by it's concurrence with the annual Passover celebration...does it really matter what time of year the Nativity took place? Christmas in July would be no less significant.

Eventually the Church said, "Let's just pick a date of commemoration so we can all be on the same page." The intent was never to say, "This is the time when it happened." The intent was to set up a specific time when we can celebrate the most amazing event in the history of mankind: God taking on flesh to walk among men and bring the message of salvation to the entire world!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

getting more stuff

It is almost Christmas Day. It is the time when presents are exchanged and we end up with more stuff that we don't need, presented by people who spent money that probably should have been used to get out of debt or giving to causes that really matter. And yet the cycle continues.

I don't mean to sound like a Scrooge. I'm really not. And I love giving and receiving presents. It's fun and it brings joy to give to those that you appreciate. And it feels great to know that others are giving as an expression of appreciation to you.

But I think it is important for all of us this Christmas season (and all year round) to evaluate our financial priorities. In what ways are we blessing God and advancing His purposes in the world through the finances he has entrusted to us?

It is so exciting to me when I see people experiencing freedom through our financial guidance ministries at Faith Church. The "Good Sense" and "Financial Peace University" classes are an amazing avenue for equipping people with the tools to do more than just survive...they're learning to thrive! I'm so glad for people like our instructor, Dave Shanks, who have a heart for helping people on their journey.

I hope we have a great crew for the FPU class starting this winter. Call the office or check the UPCOMING page on our website ( for more info.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the nativity story movie

This week we took the kids to the theater to see the new movie "The Nativity Story".

It can be quite expensive, so we don't really go to the movies often. But I feel really strongly that if Christians are going to complain about the junk and destructive stuff that comes out of Hollywood...then we need to also put our money where our mouths are. We need to vote with our dollars for them to create quality stories that portray morality, integrity and faith values in a positive light.

With that in mind, we made it a point to give our box office dollars to this biblical narrative of Christ's birth. So how was it? some ways it was just OK. In others ways it was very good!

The Just OK
Biblically it honors the culture and context and mostly stays true to the accounts of Scripture. But there are some liberties taken.

Herod is portrayed as being knowledgable of the prophecies concerning the birth of a Messiah. Whereas the Bible says he had to call together the scholars of Jerusalem to inform him on the prophecies.

The wisemen from the east show up immediately at the point of Christ's birth. Whereas the Bible implies that they came months (or maybe even years)later. But of course, they had to get wide-angle money shot of "The Tabletop Nativity Scene". The assembled shepherds, animals and wisemen were there to pose for the obligatory obligatory Kodak moment. While not accurate, I guess it is to be expected.

The Star over Bethlehem was presented with an interesting theory. But that is all conjecture that will probably add to people's confusion over what the Bible does and doesn't say.

The birthing scenes were a bit much. The birth of John the Baptist and Jesus were both presented with the mother's legs outstretched and much grunting and groaning. I watched my son out of the corner of my eye, and he looked a bit confused. I appreciate that they didn't gloss Christ's birth over with the candy-coated "Silent Night...all is calm and bright and peaceful and quiet and painless" Christmas fluff. But the sight of it all was a bit more than young children might be prepared to observe. It isn't graphic or inappropriate. But it may prompt questions about "babies" that you would rather postpone answering with your youngest kids.

And my worst criticism is for the length. I know that character development takes time. But the plot seemed to drag along unnecesarily. While it is tender and beautiful, attention defecit and boredom creeps in near the middle of the movie.

The Good
The scenery is beautiful. The characters are well done. You learn quite a bit about the culture and daily life of Jewish common people under the Roman Empire. And c'mon...this is part of the greatest story ever told!

I found myself getting deeply wrapped up in the characters of Mary and Joseph. Their relationship evolves in a very realistic way. I never expected to find the movie including a gentle and romantic love story.

Really that was what touched me the most in the movie. Joseph is represented as a model for every man, husband and father. I literally felt my heart yearning to become more like him. If every man could be as patient, courageous and faithful as Joseph...this world would be a better place.

For me the movie presented a window into what the "Holy Night" could have been like. I admit...I even leaked a few tiny man tears. But don't tell anyone!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

genuine fake

Get real! I'm glad to be part of a community of believers at Faith where we can love and encourage one another.

Sometimes I don't always feel like the most spiritual leader in the world. Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I question my calling. But I am thankful for people who accept me as I am...and a church that helps me to be a better father, better husband, better leader, better follower and a better servant of Christ.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

being a protector

Sam McKee says, "In today's NFL, the players grabbing the most headlines are quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers. But according to Michael Lewis's book The Blind Side, the ones who grab the second-highest paychecks are left tackles.

In the book, Lewis explains the importance of these anonymous, but essential, offensive linemen. He traces their emerging importance back to the career-ending injury of star quarterback Joe Theismann on Monday Night Football in 1985. More than 17 million people watched as an incredibly athletic linebacker named Lawrence Taylor blindsided Theismann, breaking his leg.

Since most quarterbacks are right-handed, the left tackle's main role is to prevent his quarterback from being hit from behind, unseen. And with the next generation of athletic linebackers and defensive ends, it takes a special person to do it. Left tackles must weigh more than 300 pounds and have long arms to block, but they must also be quick on their feet. Today, teams are willing to pay for such a player. By 2004, the average salary of a left tackle in the NFL was $5.5 million a year. Only starting quarterbacks earned more."

As a person in a public position of leadership (or for anyone) it can at times feel like you're a target for getting tackled from the blindside. That's why I give thanks for the people who play left tackle in my life.

This week, in our staff meeting (for the pastors at Faith) we talked about trying to be better left tackles for those in our ministry areas. When people take potshots at your ministry partners and church family members, etc... think about your role as left tackle. Stand up and defend them.

It may not be the way to become a superstar on the cover of a magazine...but it will make you the kind of player that everyone wants on their team.

Monday, December 11, 2006

dynamite revenge

There used to be an old time radio show called “Amos and Andy”. Amos was being bossy and mean, and he would poke Andy in the chest.

One day Andy got sick of it, so he decided, “I’m going to fix Amos.” He strapped dynamite around his chest, underneath his coat. He said, “Next time he pokes me in the chest, the dynamite’s going to blow his hand off!!!”

That’s what happens when we try to get revenge. When I try to hurst someone else...I must do them some damage, but in the process I'm going to only cause myself more pain.

Friday, December 08, 2006

church boat

My good friend Dan is out of the country right now. In addition to being a dad and a leader at Faith Church, he has the coolest job! He's a jet pilot. This week he's been in Cambodia and he sent me this picture.

I loved this church on a boat! It's the next big thing after the 70's church BUS ministry. WE'll pick you ready at 10am!

Actuall, he said that the river's levels constantly change and the village is often flooded. So they just build their structures as a boat, rather than on the ground.

There has to be lesson here about flexibility, fluid structures and the ability to go with the flow. But I'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

fear of failure

Sometimes fear of failure paralyzes us. Sometimes we’re afraid to step up to the plate. Afraid to swing at the ball because we might strike out. Some people’s motto: If at first you don’t succeed... destroy all the evidence and never try again.

I was reading about a guy who wanted to become an orchestra conductor. But people thought he was just weird. During soft passages, he would crouch down to the floor. For loud sections, he’d jump in the air and even scream at the orchestra. He often got mixed up and even lose his place.

When playing from the piano, he would get into trouble. During one song he jumped from the bench, and bumped all the candles off the piano. At another concert he knocked over a choirboy.

He often cued the orchestra at the wrong place, causing confusion. The musicians ignored him. They even asked him to quit and go home. They considered him a horrible conductor.

WHO do you suppose I’m talking about? Ludwig Van Beethoven. Considered to be one of the greatest composers and creative genius’ to ever live. And YET as a conductor, he was horrible.

Failure isn’t fatal. It’s not going to kill you. You’re NOT going to be good at everything. But God has placed you here for a reason, and there is something that you probably ARE good at.

Be thankful for what you CAN do, and do it with all you might.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

taste berry

In Africa there is a fruit called the 'taste berry,' so called because it changes a person's taste buds in such a way that everything eaten after it tastes sweet.

Giving thanks is the 'taste berry' of Christianity. When our hearts are full of gratitude, nothing that comes our way will be unpalatable to us. Those whose lifestyle is marked by thanksgiving will enjoy a sweetness of life unparalleled by any other.

Robert Strand, The Power of Thanksgiving

Monday, December 04, 2006

who's the leader?

"If you have to remind people that you're the leader, then you're not the leader."

Rick Warren

Friday, December 01, 2006

is this a sign?

Useless, redundant, this sign, that's how many people feel. Remember that God didn't place you on this earth to just take up space. You were born and brought to this moment for a reason.

So don't just stand there...figure out what you're doing (and can do) to share Christ's love in this world and do it! Now!

And look at the bottom of this sign. The real message that needed to be communicated: "The bridge is out ahead!" How often do we get hung up on secondary issues...when there is an urgent message that needs to be communicated?