Wednesday, November 29, 2006

prayer monologue?

We often think of prayer as a ONE WAY street. Here I am, on my knees talking TO God. Our prayer is so often just this running monologue TO God.

But this week I was reminded that prayer shouldn’t be a monologue. It should be a dialogue. It’s also listening for direction FROM God.

Take some time today to practice a time of prayer that involves both talk TO God and listening to hear FROM Him.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

interview excerpts-2

Here are a few more of the questions that I was asked in the interview:

In dealing with conflict what are some steps you’ve found work best in resolving problems? Does this also apply within each specific ministry as well?

This is the huge advantage we have as leaders within the church context. We have agreed that the Bible is our guidebook for every situation. And fortunately Jesus provided very specific directions for us concerning conflict resolution in Matthew 18 and Matthew 5. When we as individuals and as a church get lax in following these principles, strife is always the result. But when we get serious about living out these principles, God’s grace is applied. And this is relevant to, not only every ministry area, but to every area of life.

How have ministries changed over the years and as the church has grown?

The number one challenge for a growing ministry is the tranisition from "do it yourself" to "delegate and develop leaders who do it in teams together". Accomplish this transition and the impact of your ministry will multiply tenfold. Struggle with this transition and you will strangle growth becuase everything has to be about you as the leader. And you (on your own) can only reach a limited number of people.

One blessing from growth, is the ability to create a culture of expectation and excellence. We expect things to be great and we want them to be done well. We are able to resource our ministries for greater impact.

But we also have to be careful about spreading too widely. More and more people want to do more and more things. But more ministries do not necessarily mean better ministries. The challenge is to keep the focus on doing better, not just doing more.

Monday, November 27, 2006

interview excerpts

This weekend I was interviewed concerning leadership principles at Faith. Here are a few of the questions that were asked:

How important is it to have unity among the volunteers of different ministries? Leaders? The congregation?

It is not uncommon for unity to get confused with lack of diversity. Unity does not necessarily mean that we all do the same things and think the same things in the same way. This definition of unity is a recipe for frustration. On the other hand, if we can allow for diversity within unity…that is awesome!

So what is unity? It means that we are all headed towards the same goal. In a church that goal is defined by its purpose and vision. Natural tension arises because you and I will often see the path to that goal in totally separate ways. But if we can agree on a way to work together to get to that goal, the power of synergy multiplies our efforts.

What steps are taken to maintain unity?

You can’t force unity because unity is a byproduct. Just agreeing to agree doesn’t accomplish anything. We have to decide WHAT we are going to agree upon. What will be our corporate values? This defines our boundaries and establishes a basis for unity.

And as challenging as it is to work in the church world rather than in the business world…this is one of the truly beautiful things about being a leader in a Christian environment. We have already agreed that the Bible is our foundation. It gives us the guidelines that we all agree to submit to. And even if you and I approach things in a completely different way, because of our shared foundation in Christ we can at least commit to trust, respect and value each other.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

happy feet makes sad

We love a good family movie. I know that many families at Faith were buzzing with anticipation over the new movie "Happy Feet". On the surface it is marketed as charming, funny and right on target with the type of film that most families enjoy.

Fortunately I checked a review from the perspective of other Christians before taking the family. Click here to read it: Christian Spotlight on the Movies

Needless to say, this is a movie we will NOT be seeing with the kids. Today I had a great conversation with Kate (9) and Seth (6) about 1 Corinthians 5:21-11 "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil."

As parents, we have a huge responsibility to develop children with a strongly developed "filter". But how about adults? How are you doing with your filter? Do you just absorb culture as a sponge...or do you continually test everything?

"Happy Feet" is a movie I plan on seeing sometime (even though I hate giving my money to Hollywood, which encourages them to continue making these things). I often find it important to absorb things that remind me of how the world views Christians.

But I'm definitely not ready to take my kids to a penguin-themed discussion starter on sexual promiscuity in a movie that potrays our faith in God as ignorant and the source of destruction in this world.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our day consists of much turkey, music and football at my brother's house. I'm feeling stuffed...but in a good way. I'm thankful that today I don't have feathers!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

britney spears bulldog

I hope it isn't too mean-spirited of me to post this picture. But that's funny!!!

The fact is, we all have our days when we don't look so hot. The key is to find people who love you, even when you're not at your best. And the way to find that kind of love, is by intentionally and daily choosing to love people that same way.

Oh well, leave it to me to take a goofy picture and try to make it meaningful. Have a great day!

Monday, November 20, 2006

appropriate anger?

I received an email this morning from someone asking questions about anger, Jesus and revenge. Concering whether or not it is OK for a Christian to get angry, here are 2 things to keep in mind:

1) Psychologically, I think it is important to remember that anger is just a byproduct (a secondary emotion). It is the warning light on the dashboard of your car, pointing to the real issue that exists underneath the hood.

Whenever you get angry, don't just flow with the emotion. Step back and figure out WHY you are angry. What is the primary emotion? Is it embarrassment, hurt pride, fear, anxiety, exhaustion, lack of patience, not feeling respected or valued? What is causing me to be angry? This helps me gain a proper perspective over anger, helps me figure out what to do with it, and often brings my temperature back down to a more reasonable level.

2) Spiritually, it is important to notice that Jesus never got angry about an injustice against himself. Whenever he was attacked, offended, abused, accused or wronged...he took it in stride, and NEVER took revenge. The only time Jesus got angry was when others were wronged or when God the Father's honor was violated.

I think that is an important distinction. WE tend to get angry when someone hurts us, rather than reserving our anger for injustice against others. Appropriate anger can and should spur me to action on behalf of those who are being wronged. It can be a good thing when it is directed towards a godly purpose.

But one thing Scripture never condones is acting out of revenge. Forgiveness is not an option. It is mandatory for a follower of Christ. Forgiveness means that I must let others off my hook, knowing that they are still on God's hook. God says that He will take care of it in the end. To truly trust God, it means that I must leave vengeance in the hands of the Lord.

If someone continually abuses or takes advantage of me, I can and should remove myself from their line of fire. It doesn't mean I have to continue to let them hurt me over and over again. If they have broken the law, I can let justice take its course. While removing myself from harms way (if I have confronted the person and they are unwilling to change their behavior), I also have a responsibility to prevent them from doing the same thing to others. But all of this must take place from the context of forgiveness, grace and love.

I think these 2 key principles are essential to handling anger in our lives. I pray that God will give you wisdom as you seek to bring Him honor in your life.

Friday, November 17, 2006

PS3 and coffee

This week Pastor Chris and I went to serve hot coffee for young guys in the PlayStation3 lines around town.

In case you hadn't heard, today was the release date for the biggest new gaming console available on the market. Sony has only provided limited quantities to each retailer, creating a media blitz and long lines across the country. Here in Lansing, young guys (yes there was a noticeable absence of girls) started camping out in the snow and rain Wednesday morning. Two days and two nights of torture.

I assumed most were there out of devotion to video games. As we began to talk to the guys, most of them were college students trying to make money. They pay $600 for one unit and sell it on eBay for as much as $2000 dollars or more. Talk about enterprising determination.

The fun part was how surprised they were to see Faith Church show up at Best Buy. Chris even went back to serve multiple rounds.

Pray for our teams from Faith and Willow (our partner church) tonight as we go out on the streets of downtown Lansing to serve hot chocolate at the Silver Bells Parade. We pray that the seeds planted through servant kindness will impact thousands of hearts with the love of Christ!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

leadership traits

Others tell.
Leaders sell.

Others impress.
Leaders influence.

Others try to be heard.
Leaders strive to be understood.

Others explain.
Leaders energize.

Others inform.
Leaders inspire.

Others relay only facts.
Leaders tell stories.

- Mark Sanborn, You Don't Need a Title to be a Leader (WaterBrook, 2006)

Monday, November 13, 2006

playing with aslan

This weekend we took the kids (along with another family from church) to see a community play. It was a production of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

The cast consisted of teens and children. They did a really great job, and a few of the children were really impressive actors. However, there was one thing that just lept off the stage and grabbed me.

If you are familiar with the “Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”, you know that the entire plot centers around one climactic event. Aslan, the Lion Christ figure, pays the price for the sins of young Edmund. He offers his own life as a sacrifice so that the guilty child can be forgiven and set free. The most gripping moment in the story is when Alsan surrenders himself unto death…followed by his glorious resurrection and ultimate defeat of the White Witch who had held the land of Narnia under her evil spell.

In this stage production, they had to edit many elements to keep the story short. But somehow the play writer felt justified in leaving the most important part of C.S. Lewis’s story on the cutting room floor.

One moment, the witch is trying to kill Edmund…and then before you know it, from behind the curtain pops out Aslan and his Narnian army. The battle is quickly won and the story is over.

I was struck by how often culture wants to do this same thing with the person of Jesus Christ. We want a clean story without any blood, without any penalty for sin, without any death, without any consequences. We want a Christ figure who will come and win our battles for us.

I know this was just a children’s theater adaptation, and I’m not upset because I’m sure the producers of the play didn’t know any better (or maybe they did). But in a microcosm, this weekend I saw a vivid illustration of how the average person views Jesus. We’re comfortable with a good teacher, a good leader, and perhaps even a warrior for social justice who battles oppression. But the substitutive death and resurrection of Christ is something that many would rather overlook.

Jesus is often viewed as our helper and our buddy to get us out of trouble when things get rough. But our human condition is in need of more than just assistance from a friendly humanitarian. We need a Savior. We need a deep down forgiveness and restoration that can only come from the cross of Christ.

Friday, November 10, 2006

caffeine addiction

The Bible has much to say about self-control. We should be under the control of nothing or no one other than God.

Churches have often taken a stand against addictive behaviors. And yet food and caffeine are often the Christian's drug of choice.

Is there anything you can't live without? Perhaps it is time to take a fast. This discipline that we periodically practice at Faith helps break the chain from your daily rhythms and patterns to ensure that you're not being controlled by the trappings of life.

Believe it or not, I have gone weeks without chocolate and I'm still alive!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

christian politics?

Yesterday was the big Election Day. Today the TV networks go back to commercials about Viagra and Volkswagens, rather than the past month’s 30 second spots trying to convince us which politician is a bigger liar.

At times people have hoped that Faith Church would become more politically active. Because there are so many moral policy issues out there that are spoken to by Scripture, many Christians feel compelled to do the work of God through governmental means. I’ve had people get upset with me (really angry). Why? Because we do not more regularly take a stand on policy issues from the platform.

Ted Haggard was one of those who felt government should hear the voice of evangelical Christians loud and clear. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’ve heard how this megachurch pastor and political insider was exposed for moral sin and hypocrisy. Unfortunately, his public disgrace and private shame have focused the spotlight on the role of Christian leaders in influencing government.

So here’s the question for the day. Where do we draw the line in a Christian’s responsibility to get politically involved? God has called us to change the world. But do we accomplish that through the government or through the Good News?

We need to stand up and not be ashamed our beliefs. We have every right to vote our moral convictions. I hope you voted and made your selections from within the framework of a biblical worldview. In fact, many Christians are called to serve God in that arena. I give thanks for them and feel that we should vote for them (if and when they are competent to the task).

But for the average Christian and for the corporate church in general, the line in the sand is somewhat fuzzy. I think at times we are guilty of preaching to culture about its need for biblical ethics, which is an awful lot like getting the cart before the horse.

Jesus never sought to change a person’s behavior, until AFTER he had touched their heart. How can you expect culture to accept the values of Christ, when it has not yet experienced the love and life-changing power of Christ?

Read the New Testament. Paul, Peter and the early church leaders spoke out in the public arena all the time. Like Billy Graham (a man who exemplifies the kind of balance to which I’m referring), they often held audience with government and community authorities. But when they spoke in those environments, did they focus on policy, elections and conservative values? The answer: no. They spoke about the love and forgiveness that Christ demonstrated on the cross that he would forgive sinners like me.

Did they ever address the issues of morality, lifestyle choices, behavior, character, family and the like? YES, absolutely. But they preached those issues to the Christian Church. They didn’t expect someone who doesn’t know Christ, to live like a Christian.

We often get the order mixed up. The sequence goes like this: First someone gets Jesus in their heart, then that person’s perspective begins to change on all those other issues.

Do you want to change the world? Do you want to change America? Do you want to change our community? I sure hope so. That is what God has called us to do. But the Church’s message is not a message about Christian policy and values. Our message is about Jesus…plain and simple. Give people Jesus, and culture will be changed…one life at a time.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

the prestige review

Friday was my birthday. Tracy and I had a sitter (thanks Mark and Jen) and we got to do the whole "dinner and a movie thing".

The movie was really interesting. "The Prestige" is a period piece, taking you back in time to the life of stage performers 100 years ago.

The movie had many lessons, but really 2 main themes.

1) The drive to perform. The drive to be noticed. The drive to impress with flash rather than substance...and how meaningless and empty it is to receive the applause of men without a deeper purpose.

2) The drive for revenge. The evil power that overcomes you when you are unwilling to forgive. Seeking to destroy another will ultimately lead to your own demise.

This is not a summer flick with flash and bang style. It takes alot of brain power, with many twists, turns and clues to be followed.

But the lessons learned are invaluable. The movie makes no referrence to Christ or a higher power. But the very void in our human heart that is exposed on screen, is a great conversation starter for encouraging people to find true meaning in life.

Friday, November 03, 2006

collision course

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

earn it

We have a line of thinking that tends to go something like this:

Do good things, good things happen to you.
Do bad things, bad things happen to you.

I know this is an oversimplification. Yet this is a lie that we all buy into from time to time. Jesus said that this is absolutely NOT how the universe works.

One day He was talking about how, whether you’ve been good or bad, we all still deal with the same junk. (Matthew 5:45) “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Now, I was thinking about this and I thought: wouldn’t it be easier if the sun only shined on those who were good? You know, somebody walks in and they’ve got a literal cloud floating over their head. “I guess I know who’s been bad today.”

Let’s be honest. What did you do to deserve the sun and the rain? What did you do to earn the changing seasons? So much of what we receive in life is dealt to us, rather than being deserved or earned. It was given to you.

2 ways this applies to our lives:

1) Just because things have fallen apart in your life, don't jump to the conclusion that God is punishing you. You may have done wrong, and the mess may be your fault. But sometimes junk just happens, and God promises to stregthen us to get through it. These are the greatest times of learning in our lives.

2) Don't become smug in the midst of great accomplishment. God is the source of every good thing. Be sure to give thanks, and return it to him in praise. And get ready, because there may be another storm on the horizon!