Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Christian Chronicle Article

Through the last few years, I have talked several times about the prayer sign on campus. It is such a freeing thing in my schedule and has definitely continued to evolve each semester I sit out on campus. I was asked to write a little article in the November 2009 edition of the Christian Chronicle about my experience with the sign.

I can't find a direct link to the article online, but you can download a pdf copy of the Christian Chronicle on the right side of their site. My article is on page thirty five.

Other campus ministry articles in this edition point to how campus ministry is a major mission field often overlooked as a mission. We often think of it as one of the regular ministries of a local body when it is more appropriate to approach campus ministry like a foreign mission effort. It just happens to be in the same town.

Enjoy the reading and send me feedback on my blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Beginnings

Last night marked the official announcement of the hiring of our new minister. Matt Springfield will be joining us here in Huntsville. They are moving in the middle of December with an official start date of January 3, 2010.

So, for one full year we will have been without a full-time preacher. For one year we are experiencing a desert of sorts in our transition. So much has happened during this time. Figuring out who we are as a congregation. Searching through many resumes. Having many conversations, some difficult and some exciting. Learning that I am not in control. Hearing the call to trust God. Finding clarity and confusion at the same time. Loving others. Battling Satan. Searching for God in the midst of it all. It has been a full 2009.

I stand amazed at what 40 years of this might look and feel like. The forty years of Israel's wandering in the desert is hard to comprehend on the edge of our own new beginning. We hardly setup camp and here we are moving on to something new already.

Well, despite our desert's brevity, I'm excited about this new stage in the life of our congregation! Having fresh eyes to see us and what God is doing is a much-needed thing. I'm not sure if this is blasphemous, but we will have a new voice of God in our midst, someone new to speak God's word. God certainly speaks in many ways and in various forms.

Will we have ears to listen? Will we have eyes to see? Will we have hands to serve? Will we have mouths to praise? Will we smell the aroma of Christ in our midst?

I am confident we will! I praise God for this new beginning.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

God's Work

I am trying to characterize where I am right now in relation to discerning what God is up to.

More than ever I feel like I am a spectator watching the performance but somehow am still involved in the show itself...if that were possible.

I would say my hands are up. It is like an act of resignation, but not a desperate one without hope. There is peace nearby with a handful of confidence and assurance. I see trust as it approaches to talk about the future. His whisper passes my thoughts as I continue to teach and pour into the lives of others. He points out the close presence of caution and discernment, while pushing us into new areas. All the while I feel study touching my heart and leading this ambiguous, uncontrollable process.

I smell rumblings of newness coupled with an ancient sagacity. A fresh wind of spiritual revival sitting next to a familiar and much-needed tradition. The room feels comfortable, but uneasiness lingers; they constantly talk with each other without compromising each of their qualities.

We sit. We wait. There is peace. God is at work. It's hard to explain.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brother Lawrence

Practicing the Presence of God is a good read for someone endeavoring to journey closer to God. Brother Lawrence sought to live life with God as a continual inward conversation with God done in humility and out of deep love.

This is an appealing endeavor for me, since I have been known to speak aloud to God as if he were a person in the room. The flies on the wall regularly asked me with whom am I speaking! As I read about my 17th Century Brother, I thank God for the reminder to talk with him and think on him regularly!

What is really cool about Brother Lawrence's admonition is that it is like prayer on speed! You are conversing with the divine, but you cannot stop at the Amen! You keep going. You must continue. It bleeds into your life. You must turn your mind to God as you do everything. It is a sort of OCD obsession with letting God in on doing laundry or homework or grocery shopping or driving or you name it! God is present...waiting to have that talk!

As you read his treatise, you get the sense that an inexpressible joy exudes from every pore! It is an attractive thing for me. To be so content with God...to be so aligned with his will...to be so one with his desires...to be so in his presence that the normal means that we have of accomplishing this oneness (i.e. times of prayer, worship) can be readily set aside. We are already there. We are already tasting the heavenly presence. Attractive isn't it? It is for me.

Well, at the risk of getting many of us checked into a mental hospital, I want to encourage us to spend our day talking aloud with God. Be aware of his presence. Ask him his thoughts. Wonder at his creation. Thank him for his blessings. Inquire what he would have you do. Experience his love.

Let me know how it goes.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I am not a very creative person. I have at times tapped into God's creativity by allowing myself to be bored like kids in their creative play. But, generally speaking I have never been known as the most creative person.

This is probably due to a few factors; the last one was made real to me yesterday. One, I watch TV. This stifles any sort of creativity that I might have. It tells me a story that I don't have any say in. It comes to conclusion (sometimes) without my input. It makes connections that I haven't asked for. Creativity is squelched when I imbibe the television.

Two, I don't spend enough time in God's creation...or at least considering the creativity involved with it. I go through my day taking it for granted. The trees are always there. I don't get up close and look at how much creativity is right in front of me. To see how it feeds; to feel how hard and soft it is at the same time; to smell its aroma; to taste its fruit; to hear it move in the wind. How creative it is!

Last, I don't read creative works of fiction enough. There are people gifted toward creativity, masters of language who have for centuries brought out God's creative powers through words. And I don't let them take me on the journey to offer imagination that I never thought possible.

When I think about books I want to read, I think non-fiction. While I understand the importance of reading fiction works, I find it somewhat unproductive, impractical even. I recognize that it will broaden the horizons of teaching, but I don't find time. While I know it points to God's creative nature found in all humans, I let the mundane trump the magnificent.

Two days ago I had a great conversation with my best friend. In that conversation he, yet again, suggested a book for me to read, a fiction book this time. He was not the first to make this suggestion, but I felt compelled to entertain his little admonition. Getting the classic yesterday, I finished it this morning. Creativity throughout this little read. It was amazing.

I must explore other works too. I feel it will enrich my life; it will enrich my God-given creativity. Perhaps I will read my next fiction outdoors, forgetting all three of these creative-stoppers at once.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Morning Prayer

Lord, hear our prayer. Thank you for the night and any rest that you allowed us to have. We praise you for the chance to live another day and recognize that it is you alone who gives us life. Our breathing comes because of you as does all of our abilities.

May we feel your warmth this morning as we begin this day. May your smile surround us and penetrate our attitudes. Please give us the energy that we need to use the abilities you gave us to the fullest.

We pray for those you send our way today, some to bless us and some to be blessed by us. Keep us alert and ready to resist the temptations that would lead us away from your path.

May our eyes and ears be fully open. Amen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

God's Temple

God's temple.

As I was preparing last week for a class I taught yesterday in Crockett, Texas for their Summer Series, I realized how big a deal it really was for Paul to call the Corinthians "God's temple."

While his predominately Greek Christian audience certainly understood what happens at pagan temples, they knew Paul's imagery in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 pointed to the one temple in Jerusalem...perhaps even alluding to the splendor of Solomon's temple back when united Israel received the honor of a place for the name of the one true God.

If there was any permanent place on the face of the planet where God was said to dwell, it was in Jerusalem. The temple of God. While he certainly dwelt among his people in the cool of the day, in the promises made to the patriarchs, in the face of Moses, on the mountain of God, in the tabernacle, between the cherubim, and in the highest heaven, he chose one place to finally rest...Jerusalem.

Even after its destruction in 587BC, Ezekiel imagines the new Jerusalem, the new temple from which streams of living water flow to the whole world, feeding and nourishing it with abundant life...just like the original garden. An amazing image indeed!

But...who would imagine that someday, this amazing temple would be a group of people!? And that God would dwell among them through his Spirit! That they would realize the unity they have with each other in Jesus Christ (and him crucified) as the foundation of this temple!

It is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that this temple is not found in each individual person, but only found as a group. "Ya'll are the temple of God and the Spirit of God lives among ya'll."

This means that I must recognize the others. This means that I must engage others. This means that I must rely on others. The key becomes how I work with others.

If we are to truly be the amazingly magnificent temple of the living God among whom he chooses to dwell over all the other places on earth for all time...then I've got to tell others about this and continue God's work! It is just too big a deal not to.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Perfection or Maturity

It seems like this time of the year always brings about an energized propensity for focused campus ministry dreaming sessions for the coming academic year. It is a good thing for our work here in Huntsville! This is the exciting part of ministry.

Reflecting on how previous dreams have actually materialized in years past, I must say that I have lacked the ability to execute what is up in this bald head of mine. The semester brings with it a busyness that seems to choke out my good summer intentions. I get caught up in the details of maintaining a ministry somewhat solo. I haven't communicated well. I haven't empowered others well. I spent way too much time perfecting things that don't need perfection. The spacing between paragraphs on our weekly announcements doesn't HAVE to be uniform throughout! The page layout doesn't need to carry with it the golden ratio of design (1.62) before it goes to print.

As I return to my dreaming session, I have realized that something has to change at a core level especially dealing with things being perfect; my attitude needs a little adjustment. I have these perfectionist tendencies that don't want things done sloppy or incompletely; they can always be done better...and so I do them better. While this might be good at times, I think it prevents me from working on matters that really...matter.


With that said, I wonder about Jesus' admonition to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect in Matthew 5:48. How far should we take that little phrase? It would be easy for me to take that one statement completely out of its context and place it on my announcement preparation. Maybe we should do that.

I am inclined, however, to have a little bit of textual restraint. The beginning of Jesus' sermon on the mount (specifically Matt 5:17ff.) calls to mind the shallowness of following rules verses the maturity of true righteousness. You can follow the rules without changing your attitude. You can refrain from murdering someone (the rule), but your anger has already murdered them (the attitude). The shallow righteousness of the Pharisees is surpassed by the mature righteousness of those who take Jesus' words seriously.

I use 'mature' here instead of 'perfect' intentionally because 'mature' gives the connotation of growth or completeness that 'perfection' doesn't. "Be mature as your heavenly Father is mature" is a plausible translation of this passage. It also does something more for me. I can strive for maturity more readily than I can strive for perfection. Perfection seems to be allusive whereas maturity is possible. Maybe it is a mental block of mine...I don't know.

Back to my perfectionist tendencies. The mature/perfect person (as I understand) would let some tasks go in an effort to get other (more important) tasks finished. In order to guide a larger process, the manager needs to step back from the details of the assembly line. In order for Kats for Christ to pursue being mature disciples of Jesus better, I need to let go of the margins in our announcements. I probably also need to let go of other tasks as well.

This summer will be a time for us to think about the maturity that Jesus desires of his disciples. Do you need to let go of some things in order for God's purposes to be completed?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fully Present

Have you ever been the recipient of someone who was fully present with you? It might have been a few minutes or several hours, but this person was totally focused on you, not interested in other things that are going on in the room, not interested in where s/he is going to next. The only thing that mattered to this person at that moment was attending to you. I tell you, it feels good to be the recipient of those moments.

It is actually an aspiration of mine to be fully present with every single person I encounter in a full day. I forgot that it was an aspiration until I received it last night. I guess this is a re-aspiration of sorts, if that is a word.

I have a ways to go, but I will start tonight with my wife and kids. I long to have the attitude that everyone I encounter needs my full, undivided attention for however long it is. That God has somehow led us together for a little exchange...sometimes giving something and sometimes receiving something, but an exchange nonetheless.

If I am able to do this, I think I will look a little more like Jesus. It seems like he was fully present with those especially who tended to get no attention. Jesus was drawn to them seeing them like sheep with no shepherd to lead them. His compassionate presence went out to the crowds. His disciples received his full presence. Jesus was attentive to the blind, the crippled, the lame, the mute, the deaf, the women, and so many more. He was even fully present with his mother and the disciple whom he loved as he hung on the cross.

And he continues to be present when I choose to be fully present with those to whom God has allowed me to encounter.

Lord, bring to my heart the desire to be fully present with everyone I contact. I want to give what you have given me. Help me to see as you see and hear as you hear. Amen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kiev Video

Last night, Zach and I presented our Let's Start Talking report at Huntsville Church of Christ. To give people a taste of what it was like on our project with only two workers to do everything, we decided that we would be the only ones doing everything for the entire service. We did the announcements, singing, prayers, preaching, communion...everything.

While this might be more regular for a smaller congregation, it is a quite different for our church. In all though, I think everything went well. Kirby Logan even put Christ on in baptism. (I guess a few others helped with that.) At the end of services, we showed our LST video that is included below. (In order to view the video, you may have to visit my blog directly). I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

God's Power

Well, I wish that I'd had more time to write posts about the project while I was there. The last post was one that I had written while in Kiev but didn't post. The time went by so fast that I hardly had time to process what was going on.

Since being back however, I've had more time to think. Looking at this year's project, I think that I saw God's power at work more clearly than I had in the past.

At one level, I am amazed at my energy level. It was as if God gave me what I needed to do his work for the day. I was able to stay focused, be attentive to what the readers were saying, and look for ways to connect to the conversation. I think I got a rare glimpse into Paul's world as he expresses in Colossians 1:28-29:
"We proclaim him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."
I notice the repetition of "everyone" and "all." He teaches everyone to present everyone perfect. He does it with all wisdom. Everyone...all. Same word. Its as if the people whom God has chosen are sent to those who are sustained by his energy. Its like you are being carried along doing the things that God has called you to do with the resources that God has given to you. Amazing isn't it?

[Now, I must admit that my trip was a mere glimpse into Paul's world. My energy hasn't been the same even though I have been a little more diligent since being back. Paul certainly found God's sustenance through a lifetime of service to the Gentiles (as Paul affirms just before the text mentioned above).]

There is another place where I saw God's power too! In the lives of our readers God's power was there. The power of God to open a person's heart to a stranger amazes me. That's exactly what he did. We were only in Kiev for two weeks (and that includes traveling days!). Yet, our connection with many of them was deep. Certainly spending a whole hour having a conversation with someone one-on-one had something to do with that. How many times do we do that with people here!? But, God used this opportunity to make his power known. All praise goes to him!

God's power truly does sustain us! It has been a blessing to experience it firsthand. My prayer is that you put yourself in a situation where God's power can shine and sustain you. Let me know how he works too!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amazing Conversations

Well, today was filled with amazing conversations. I tried something that I haven't done too much of in the past. I guess I am calling them prayer bombs. They actually go off during the conversations that I have with my readers.

I will ask them to read the passage for the day. While they are reading, I pray for them. I pray that God open their hearts and minds to understand Him better. I pray that His word do great things during our conversation. I pray that their eyes open to see Him in me. I pray that I use the right words to give them understanding and that God give them the true understanding that they need to live for Jesus.

Do you know what happened today? God blew up the place. Our conversations were unlike anything I have ever experienced on an LST project...and this is my fifth project! Every one of my readers opened up to me or God's word for no reason. I didn't do anything special except throw these prayer bombs.

They asked me for advice concerning specific problems they were going through. They were brought to tears at not being able to read again. They were intensely curious about why I followed Jesus. They made new commitments to following Jesus. It was pretty cool to witness.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another Full Day

Today we had another full day of reading! Nine hours, and I got to teach a class for the youth group here in Kiev after that. It was incredible.

Today I even got to pray with one of my readers, Natasha. She says that she wants to do better at praying more regularly, but she usually gets very busy and doesn't think about it. Sounds familiar! She told me that she loves our reading sessions because she gets to practice her English and talk a lot about God at the same time. It is like a double blessing from God!

Continue to pray for our time here. We have our one day off tomorrow and then it is off to the races again with church on Sunday and then five more hours of reading after services. I am amazed at how much energy our God gives us. Please keep up the prayers.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

First Day of Reading

Today was our first reading day! We had an incredibly full reading schedule with no cancelations! That is truly a joy and a rarity. I read with four readers before lunch and five readers after lunch. Back to back to back! Most of my readers are using the Luke workbook, but I finally have some readers in Acts and one in John!

The people are incredibly warm and friendly. They are excited about reading with us as native English speakers. One of my readers, Vika, sees our reading sessions as a way to improve her ability to get a better job. She is working to get her CIPA, which is the international version of a CPA for accountants in the states. There are only 200 people in the Ukraine who have this certification, and mastering English will help get her closer. She will be able to provide for her three-year-old and 18-month-old children. Her English will improve through our conversations, as will her exposure to God’s powerful word.

God is giving me the energy I need to have these meaningful conversations. Please pray that God sustain us through this work. We truly get to see God’s power at work through our weakness.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Actionless Choices

It seems like I am constantly harping on the little choices that we make. "Its like grass growing," I say. "You don't notice how much it is growing moment by moment, but after a while you notice how high (and maybe unmanageable) its gotten!"

There is a growing trend that I see in college students and even others lately. It's the trend of making a choice by not making a choice. We don't know what to do in a given situation, so we don't do anything to see what happens. Later, we can claim that we didn't do anything to contribute to the problem, that we didn't make a choice in the matter. However, our inaction sometimes IS the choice that we make...and that choice does contribute to the problem many times. We don't remain neutral even though we think we do.

Here is a well-done modern parable that speaks into this conversation. I wonder what you think about these things.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Glory Appears Again

I was listening this morning to scholar, teacher, and Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, talk about a book of his (Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense) and take questions from the audience (its a 7-part lecture I would suggest listening to). Its been out a while now, but I've never read it, so I gave it a whirl!

As he was lecturing about beauty being one of those things that we just get. It is hard to explain and even not completely agreed upon, but we understand that this thing (whatever we are talking about) is just beautiful. There is a glory to it, a mystery to it, an attractiveness to it. Some are so attracted to it that they want to begin studying it much like a musician, enamored by the glory of a symphony, is draw to understand the intricacies of music. They go to college looking to dive deep into this mystery and find that the glory has disappeared. Wright says that it sometimes takes years for the glory to appear again, if at all.

At this point in his lecture, I was struck. I couldn't help but think about how this happened to me in grad school with my theological studies. The attractive glory and mystery of God disappeared for me. I was no longer captivated by Him as I once was.

Oddly enough, when I'm being captured by these thoughts, Wright says something like, "While this is a whole other study, this same thing [about music] happens with theological studies."

Having been removed from my theological studies (proper) now for 4.5 years, there is a small element of rediscovery happening in my soul. God's glory and mystery is reappearing. The glimmer I got recently was in a conversation about my life in college. I spoke of being caught up in the Spirit, spiritual warfare, trusting God, speaking to demons, and more.

Here it is: As I recalled the glory of God being revealed in my life during that time, I then realized (or God revealed to me) that I have lost God's love; I haven't been loving the other. My heart, as Bernard of Clairvaux would say, was loving self for self's sake. Clairvaux might contend that I was even in the second degree of love where I was loving God for self's sake, but I realized (once again) that my love was not motivated from a deep desire for God, but for self.

I wonder what would happen to this campus ministry if I would let God's glory be exactly that...His. What does that look like? I wonder what would happen if I began to love the other deeply, to long after the mystery of God, to groan for his people, to rest in his love above all else. How will God use this? Well, I'm going to try it out and see what happens!

Will you join me?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fine Print

Yesterday, Doug Page preached a sermon using Luke 9:57-62. He did a great job at helping us commit to saying "I will" without any conditions. All three of the people in the text that came to Jesus said they would follow him. Even though we never know if they actually follow Jesus in the end, it is good (at least) to see their willingness to follow him.

Willing or not, the problem seems to be in the fine print of following Jesus. One says, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Another says, "...first let me go back and say good-by to my family." The fine print of following Jesus. They want to follow Jesus, but on their own terms. "These are the conditions under which I will follow Jesus."

I hear a lot of fine print in ministry. I deal with unspoken and even spoken fine print all the time. Here is where I hear the fine print most of the time: in the words "maybe," "I'll try," "I should," "if I'm not busy...," "I don't know yet," and the like. Throughout the year, attendance in our service projects or soliciting spontaneous help seems to bring out the fine print most often. I guess I am more sensitive to this now at the end of the school year more than ever.

Now I know that these words are spoken from good intentions, spoken perhaps from a perspective saying, "I'd rather not commit to something than commit and back out later." This is not an outright evil way of looking at things. But, if I read Luke's text correctly, Jesus doesn't want the fine print. Jesus isn't interested in our conditions. He doesn't want half loyalty. Jesus wants us to follow him unconditionally.

All week I have been wondering about what my fine print is. Do I have conditions through which I filter my walk with Jesus? Is there a place where I refuse to follow Jesus? Are my finances my fine print? Is my contentment? Is happiness the fine print I require before I follow my Lord? Is it that other people have to go with me before I follow Jesus? "I don't want to be the only one going on that project!" Is food my fine print? "I don't want to sacrifice that much...or I won't eat that!" Do I need everyone to agree with me before I follow Jesus? Do I require others to treat me the way I deserve? Am I requiring comfort in my following Jesus?

So many questions. But I continue to wonder about the fine print. Jesus wants us to get rid of the fine print and just follow him. What does that mean in your life?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Word of Cross

I preached last Sunday about the word of the cross. As I was preparing for this message, I realized that I had never preached in 1 Corinthians! It was a bit surprising, but not completely. My canon within the canon would include the book of 1 Corinthians. So, because I am aware of this, I tend to steer away from it.

Struggling to find a good method for preaching this sermon, I settled on Paul Scott Wilson's Four Pages methodology. This is the first time I'd tried it. It could be better, but it went okay I think. The basic elements of the sermon are Page 1: Trouble in the text, Page 2: Trouble in the world, Page 3: Grace in the text, and Page 4: Grace in the world.

The goal of the sermon is to help us consider and begin understanding the metaphor of the cross of Corinth for our lives...a huge, necessary, but possible task.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Campus Tribes

Ben Hines is a friend of mine from a couple of grad school classes we had together at ACU; he is working on his degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I ran into him again last August as he was on his year-long trek across the United States visiting 181 different campuses. Yes...181 different campuses in one year!

He has finished this trek, written a free little ebook, Reaching the Campus Tribes [an opening inquiry], and sent it to me before its official release date of April 20th. I wanted to share it with you because it does a very important and much-needed thing: it spreads awareness about campus ministry efforts in our nation beyond the boundaries of campus ministry circles. We can't continue to think about campus ministry like we do other ministry efforts in the church, but campus ministers need to let other people in on this familiar concept. Also, very little good research has been done in this area! I am excited about what his work will produce.

There is also a 19-minute interview that Ben did in Colorado with LEAD Network in August of 2008 that gives a little insight into his journey as it was coming to a close. This is good stuff and well worth your time! Please feel free to spread these files wherever. You can even keep up with other things that Ben is doing on his blog (http://exploringcollegeministry.com).

As for me, I plan on continuing this conversation with all kinds of people. Hopefully, God will accomplish powerful things for his glory on our campus tribes scattered throughout the nation! Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Silent Voice Speaks Volumes

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." Psalm 40:1-2

I find myself struggling to understand this period in my life. This semester is full of busyness that never ends. I go from one thing to the next to the next to the next. When I have a free moment, I am thinking about how to get ahead a little more on the endless tasks.

God is silent. Freedom. God speaks. Do I listen? I want to listen. All the other things jockey for my attentive ear, but his voice is there. I am compelled to listen, to put behind all the other seemingly very important matters and just listen with attention. What am I listening for? God.

Just stop and listen to the silent voice that speaks volumes.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


This year's Family Retreat at Pineywoods was good. David Malone came to speak to us about Re-Envisioning Christian Community. I will probably have the retreat audio available online by Wednesday on our church website. We will see how things go.

In my several conversations with David Malone I found myself contemplating what pursuing a DMin would involve. As he discussed the process he went through in deciding to get his DMin at ACU after 20 years of ministry experience, I felt more and more compelled than ever before to start thinking about it. It will probably happen down the road some time.

My initial thoughts are definitely geared toward helping campus ministry. Not much is written about campus ministry and college students in the church. I will be listening to God's moving in this regard. May he lead my heart to pursue his in all my endeavors.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bible Bowl

I don't know how I come to a place to forget about this, but I do it more often than I'd care to admit. Even though I do read the Bible all the time...every day, in fact...it is done not for my own nourishment but for others'. I am always thinking of a lesson, a class, a thought, a sermon, or something else to come down the road. The nature of being a minister seems to force me into this mode of reading scripture.

In spite of this, I have recommitted to read through the Bible again this year so that I can find the nourishment I need to minister more effectively in the kingdom of God. The plan I am following this year takes different sections of scripture for each day. Each week I get to read from the epistles, law, history, psalms, poetry, prophecy, and the gospels. The variety is refreshing.

A Chinese friend of mine taught me a Chinese proverb that comes to mind. "In order to give a drink, you need a bowl to draw from." One point of this proverb that I take home is that you need to have plenty of Bible nourishment in the bowl before you can offer even a small drink of Bible to someone else in a class or a sermon or a conversation.

How is your bowl of Bible doing?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

God Encouraging His People

In this morning's sermon I broached the subject of how to deal with change and transition. The following are some of the thoughts I mentioned.

"As a congregation we find ourselves in an interesting period. Granted, we are not facing the enormity of change that Moses felt when helping lead Israel out of Egypt or the enormity of seeing uncircumcised Gentiles coming into the sheepfold for Peter. The change we face is actually pretty small in comparison…but not insignificant!

"Bob is transitioning, we are transitioning, SHARE groups are still new and we press on to expand the kingdom with them, a new generation of leaders continues to cycle in and out…elders…ministers…deacons. These are significant changes that we face as a people of God.

"But, when I look at these two stories of God in the Bible, there are five admonitions I find to help us during our transition."

We need to...
1) Position ourselves to hear God
2) Decide who is in control
3) Repent of selfishness
4) Work with each other
5) Take one step at a time

I hope that these things are helpful for us as we begin this transition this year. May God's word continue to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. God is a God who exists. I AM is the one who works with us at this especially! Amen!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

God Provides

I have always noticed the way in which God provides immediately after the fall of man in Genesis 3. Right after God curses the serpent, the woman, and the man he turns and provides for his creation. "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." Genesis 3:21.

You wouldn't think that God would have it in him. You would think that God should let them live with the consequences of their sin forever. In some ways he did do that. They could no longer be in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23). But in other ways he continued to provide for them. And notice that God provided for them before he banished them from the garden.

Do we see that God is the provider first or the banisher?

I stumbled upon something as I read through this account again. Adam and Eve continued to believe that God was their provider. How do I know this? I see it in their eldest son, Cain. He always gets the bad rap for killing his brother, Abel. And rightly so. But, after God announces Cain's curse, I notice what he says...or rather I notice what is assumed in his statement.

"Cain said to the Lord, 'My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.'"

Cain knows, despite the evil in his heart, that God provides life. He is terrified of what will happen apart from God's presence; he will certainly die! If he didn't learn anything else, he did have it right that God is the one who provides. Cain must have gotten this lesson from his parents. They knew God provided for them and passed this on to their children. Remember they did bring offerings to the Lord (Genesis 4:3-4).

I know God provides, but how do I arrange my life so as to recognize that he does just that? I think about my offerings. I think about my heart. I think about my life. God provides.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Streams of Water

Psalm 1:

"Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
which yield its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish."

If there are any commitments I make for this year, it would be to explore the depths of this Psalm. Understanding this Psalm only goes as deep as you are willing to try it out.

I have been wanting to write a practical spiritual guide to help college students get through two semesters at school with all the ebbs and flows on a college campus. It is kindof like a devotional book for college students. The idea stems from Psalm 1.

All of us, however, need to spend time asking how are we like a tree planted by streams of water? From what are we drawing our nourishment? What is our delight?