Monday, December 31, 2007
If you are looking for inspiring stories of faith in people's lives around the world, pick up "The Narrow Road." It is written by Brother Andrew, a Bible-smuggler and it chronicles his life in WWII, the Dutch East Indies war, and his call into missions. It is inspiring and will put a little steel into your Christian spine going into the new year.
It's an easy read, and available at your local Christian bookstore. Or wait a couple weeks and you can borrow mine :)
Monday, December 24, 2007
Our church has been a plant that worshiped in an elementary school for several years. We have started a capital campaign to build on some property outside of town, which is going well. But recently, a church in town closed its doors and the Lord impressed upon us to try to purchase that facility as an interim step toward our ultimate goal.
They have accepted our offer, and we are in the process of getting approvals. This is a wonderful gift to our tribe of believers this Christmas.
Praise God for his faithfulness.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Each year at Christmas we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, when God took human form and moved in with us. The Hebrews called it Emmanuel, or God With Us.
I recently preached on that topic and realized that to the Israelites, God with us meant a lot, because they could remember through stories when God literally lived with them.
During the Exodus, God was with them as a pillar of fire and a cloud. When Moses went up on the mountain, they heard the voice of God shaking the ground. And when Solomon dedicated the Temple, the Glory of the Lord filled the Temple to the point that the priests could not perform their ceremonial priestly duties. That was God with them.
A carpenter's son, born in a manger and fleeing for his life from a king wasn't their idea of Emmanuel. But God, in his wisdom, sent Jesus to live with us, like us, and among us, so that he could give us victory over sin, death and Hades. It still amazes me to think that Jesus would give up the beauty of heaven to come to this mess. A perfect place for a very imperfect place. A place of beauty for a world filled with much ugliness. That is love my friends. True, selfless love.
And now that the Holy Spirit lives in us, not a building in Jerusalem, we are called to be the embodiment of Christ to the world around us. This Advent and Christmas I have been thinking a great deal about what that can mean for me personally, my family, and my church. I don't have answers, but I encourage you to ask the Lord to show you how you can be the incarnation of Christ to those around you. How can you bring Jesus to them, not in an arrogant, "I'll tell you how to do it" way, but a "I love you because you are you" way. More of a servant's heart, like Jesus, rather than that of a fixer.
That is the meaning of Christmas. Love came and set up camp in our neighborhood. I want to do the same and spread the Love that rescued the world.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
For those who do not know who I am referring to, he is the new head football coach at the University of Michigan. Yes he is taking over a great, storied program, but there are undercurrents afoot that can suck him under if he is not careful.
First, he has to win. Winning 75% of your games at Michigan is not good enough. Period. And you have to beat Ohio State and never lose to someone like Appalachian State again. Don't even schedule a school like that and risk losing.
Second, he is in a position similar to a young (he's 44) pastor who succeeds the retiring hand-picked successor to a larger-than-life pastor in a large church. Bo Schembechler is a minor deity at Michigan, and Lloyd Carr, the retiring coach, was on Bo's staff and is "A Michigan Man" whatever that means. Rodriguez is from West Virginia, has no ties to Michigan, and is not part of the Bo lineage. And he does things differently. He runs an unconventional 3-3-5 defense and a spread offense, neither of which were in Bo's schemes.
I say that to warn the faithful that Rodriguez will change things. He will do many things differently, and endless carping about "the Michigan Way" will not help. If the "Michigan Way" was still working, Rodriguez would still be at West Virginia and Lloyd Carr would have picked one of his assistants to follow him. But, this program has been in a steady decline for a few years, unable to win big games, and embarrassed in the Rose Bowl and the Appalachian State and Oregon games.
I say this to help the faithful who worship at the Maize and Blue temple to realize that the good old days aren't coming back in the way you remember them. This guy is a good coach, who has built a powerhouse at a school not known for its football tradition. Remember Bo, but don't expect a reincarnation of him. Three yards and a cloud of dust has gone the way of the dodo.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Look no more. And you can help out wildlife conservation efforts as well.
I'm just doing my part to help. :)
I'm just doing my part to help. :)
Yep. It must be Christmas if the ACLU is running around telling municipal governments to get Creche's off of city property. Every year this happens. The ACLU does its thing, the Christians get outraged that they cannot display a manger scene on city property, and news cameras show up.
Why do we do this? I saw a letter to the editor in our local paper the other day with a brilliant idea. Instead of Christians fighting to put a manger on public property, why don't ALL of the Christians put one on their own property? Imagine streets lined with reminders of Jesus' birth. House after house testifying to their faith. What a witness that would be to the world.
I'm pretty sure we will have one up next year. We've been shopping for an illuminated one that doesn't look cheesy. Unfortunately the best ones are out of stock. But that is my plan for next year. I won't ask the city to do what I won't do myself.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Major League Baseball finally released its much-ballyhooed "Mitchell Report" chronicling the Steroid Era of baseball. I never really understood what the point of this was, and after seeing the list of names accused of using steroids, I'm even less convinced that this was necessary.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. George Mitchell, the principal investigator is on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox. How can he even appear to be impartial?
2. Mr. Mitchell didn't have subpoena power, so no one was compelled to talk with him. If fact, many players did not cooperate with the investigation at all.
3. The Lords of Baseball (owners) and Bud the Dud (commissioner) knew this was going on. It is no coincidence that balls began flying out of the park at record clips immediately after the last labor stoppage that cancelled a World Series. The Lords of Baseball needed fans back in the seats and $ in their wallets, so they turned a blind eye toward what was happening. And Bud the Dud seems to have been a willing if not, clueless accomplice. He even held a press conference yesterday and said he had not read the report yet. But he was determined to act. Good plan Bud.
4. Steroids are illegal, but the point of this was not to prosecute. And under the labor agreement with the players union, there was no testing for steroids allowed, and no penalties for use. And using steroids could bring a player enough money to set his grandchildren for life. Great reward and little risk just invites abuse.
5. The only players named were those who someone else threw under the bus. Some of the most prominent names in the era - Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa - are not named. It doesn't mean that they are not guilty of using steroids, it just means that their friends are tight-lipped.
6 Lastly, the naming of the players seems a bit like character assassination of the players. There were no rules, there is no prosecutable evidence, but yet they chose to release what they acknowledge is an incomplete list. Since Mitchell couldn't compel anyone to talk, there is no way this is an exhaustive list. But these guys are now named, and other cheaters move on whistling past the graveyard.
Baseball is the second-worst managed sport around. The National Hockey League is the worst, but gaining quickly on baseball. This is a pathetic attempt to blame the players while the owners and pitiful excuse of a commissioner move on like nothing happened and "put this all behind us."
The sad thing is that I will keep watching. And that is my fault.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
This discussion thread started me to thinking about how you define "success" in terms of a church? Is it missional activity? Is it the number of people in attendance on Sunday morning? Is it the number of people converting to Christianity? Is it lives changed? Is it......?
I lean toward the school of thought that Christ will transform lives and the fruit of that transformation will manifest itself in the way the individual sees the world around him/her and interacts with the lost and hurting world in which we live. If they adopt the attitude that they have their "fire insurance" and don't really have to do anything else, that may not be the poster child you want to use in your success stories.
What do you think? I'd love to hear how you define success for a church. Post a comment and let's talk.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I suddenly realized last night that I am getting old. It was a brief epiphany while watching a show that I had TiVo'd. It was one of those PBS fundraising week specials, the Roy Orbison and Friends - A Black and White night which was the special last night. I'll confess that I love Roy Orbison's music. But here I am at 11:15 p.m. watching Roy, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt et al do their thing when I should be in bed because the alarm will be going off at 5:45 a.m. I hate the PBS fundraising specials, especially the obvious Baby Boomer-targeted ones. But I couldn't pull myself away from "Ooby Dooby" and the other songs.
I must be getting old when I start to get transfixed by the Boomer stuff on PBS. This is not a good sign for me.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I'm really beginning to enjoy the Advent season. For some reason the churches I attended in other parts of my life did not celebrate Advent. I'm not sure why that is, but I find it to be refreshing period of anticipation as we remember what the arrival of the Christ Child meant to the world.
Advent is such a wonderful time to spiritually prepare ourselves for Christmas. Some practice fasting. Others have special mid-week Advent services. There are so many expressions of the hope of a Liberator, Redeemer, Savior - all of which were met and exceeded in Jesus Christ.
I had the privilege to preach in my church on the second Sunday of Advent, which celebrates Peace. Christmas is not always a peaceful season, but Jesus came to bring us eternal peace with our Heavenly Father. Accept that gift if you have not done so already.
This year please try to attend an Advent service somewhere. I found this article to be helpful to understand what Advent is all about. It does make Christmas all the more special when you are in touch with the "hopes and fears of all the years" that were met in Jesus that night in Bethlehem.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The Detroit Tigers just pulled off a jaw-dropping trade with the Florida Marlins. The Tigers acquired Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera for a package of top minor-league prospects. This now gives the Tigers a lineup with 7, count them, 7 All-Stars as position players and 3 All-Stars in their pitching rotation.
I get the sense that the Tigers think their window to win is now.
From their lips to God's ears.
Detroit Free Press reaction
Monday, December 03, 2007
It's ironic how the LORD comes through just when you need him most. Last week was rough as the Granholm Depression here in Michissippi claimed one of my clients. I hope to be able to work with them again next year, but for now, we are on hiatus.
Then I opened my mail on Saturday and a letter from the financial aid office at Nazarene Theological Seminary was waiting for me. I have transferred to NTS this semester for primarily economic reasons. The tuition is 1/3 less than Asbury. The letter told me that they were also giving me a 30% tuition scholarship. Praise the Lord!!!
The sum total of the scholarship and transfer will lower my tuition by 53%. And I am grateful for that. For me, Christmas has come early. It's all gravy from here on out.