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Archive for March, 2007

I’ve been blogging, I think, for about 3 weeks.  I am sure that I have messed up more than once, but this week I really messed up.  In many ways blogging is about conversation.  Just two weeks ago I taught a workshop about how to have conversations with people that can really let the Holy Spirit do whatever he wants to do through those conversations with other people.  Well, I didn’t do such a great job at adhering to my own teachings this week.

 So, I think this falls into the “do as I say, don’t do as I do category.”  It’s important to make sure that most of our lives don’t fall into that category, but alas, my imperfections catch up with me pretty darn regularly 🙂

At any rate, I was reading posts and responded to a certain post.  My intent was to provide some support and encouragement because I really hated reading about what had happened to someone in this particular case.  But – as well intentioned as I was – that’s not what I did.  I ended up on a soap box about a distantly related (maybe not really related at all) issue and came off looking like a total jackass.  I went back and reread my comments ,as well intentioned as they all were, they were a mess.  Sometimes – as they say – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

What disturbs me most about this is that I misrepresented myself and worst of all, I think I misrepresented Jesus and the Church.  And I just don’t like doing that!  As a matter of fact, I hate doing that.

But, in the spirit of trying to learn I took the other blogger’s really salient comments into consideration AND then sought out some wisdom from God.

Here’s what I learned . . . (and the sad thing is it’s all stuff I know and just didn’t practice!)

1.  Never jump onto your soapbox.  If you want to talk to someone and respect who they are and what happened to them, find out what happened first and probably stay off of your soap box altogether.

2.  Don’t presume anyone needs or wants your advice.  Give it only when it’s requested or seems totally, absolutely necessary.

3.  It’s far better to ask questions that will teach you something than to say things in an effort to teach someone something they may not want or need to know.  I think this might be one of the reasons Jesus asked so many questions.  Questions allow for mutual learning and not just a one-way discourse.

4.  Take time to find out if you should say anything at all.  This is as simple as saying, “should I take time to respond here.”  I am crazy enough to believe that the Holy Spirit gives us answers to those sorts of questions (and that we should listen to his instruction) and I’m also crazy enough to believe that it’s not my job to “convert” everyone I come into contact with.  Really, God is bigger than any one individual and he is especially bigger than me.

5.  Finally, when you do mess up examine what you did, apologize and move on.  This particular post is by way of an apology should that other blogger ever take notice of it.  There are times to eat your crow, confess your mistakes and get on with the rest of life.

One last thing.  I am not perfect.  Pastor or no pastor.  Ordination or no ordination.  I am not perfect.  My pants go on in the morning just the same way everyone else’s go on.  I use the toilet the same way and fret about bills and worry about my kids just like everyone else.  My life has its up and its downs; its good points and its bad points.  Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t get it so right and at other times I get it flat out wrong.  In this case I got it flat out wrong and so it’s important that I say that:  I was wrong and I apologize.

 Wow!  Black feathers don’t taste good, but they are chocked full of educational-spiritual-nutritional value!

I’m off to vacaction for a few days early next week with my family so the rest of this week will be given to wrapping up preparations for the next two Sundays, cleaning house and getting the old truck ready for the trip.  Be back to the blogosphere on Thursday!

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I was sitting outside on the porch with my family on Monday night.  Monday night is one of two nights during every week that we are making sacred.  They are family time.  This is important for people – like me – who work as pastors.  There are lots of evening meetings and the job does not lend itself to the natural boundaries of a 9 to 5 position. 

 My kids – for their birthdays – both got scooters from grandma.  The winter weather made it such that we have only just now been able to really get outside and ride them.  It was a blast to sit on the porch and watch my daughter – a tall, lanky and beautiful 5 year old – mastering the “art” of riding her scooter.  She has some natural grace and she’s mastered the thing really well.  Poetry in motion – as they say.  Or at least it was poetry in motion for the daughter’s Dad.

My son, on the other hand, is a bit of a stocky 4 year old (just turned 4 year old).  My daughter is built like me and my sister.  My son is built more like my wife’s family.  At any rate he was riding his scooter and watching his little left leg pump that thing up and down the street was like watching a duck hard at work in a rough current.  He doesn’t have balance mastered yet so the picture was cute and lol funny!

All of that combined with the end of the day conversation with my wife made it a perfect family night.  Not to mention that we had a great dinner.

 There is a point to all of this and it has to do with boundaries.  I am reminded of a couple of things that Perry Noble said at the Unleash conference at Newspring Church a couple of weeks ago.  Here they are . . .

1.  “Too many pastors don’t work as the prophet to their churches.  They treat their churches like their glorified prostitutes; running off to her and neglecting their families.”  (Ouch!  If you’re a pastor like me that one hurts!)

2.  Let me tell you why so many preacher’s kids act like hellions.  It’s because their Dads never spend any time with them.”  (Ouch!  That one hurts whether or not you’re a pastor; all it takes to make that one hurt is being a Dad with a job).

I’m working on boundaries in my life.  Like I said:  Mondays and Fridays, and by the way, every other Thursday strictly set aside as family nights.  Saturdays are a bit more up in the air but we are giving priority to some family day trips this spring on certain Saturdays.  When you set the boundaries and start enjoying them, the priorities start to fall in place AND more than that the priorities seem like a lot of fun.   My priorities:  Jesus, my wife, my kids and then GCF (church).  I think that’s a bit the way God wants it!  Father, help me to stick to them in just that order!

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So I ended yesterday by letting you know that I’m thankful for Easter Sunday coming so soon.  Here’s why . . .

We are sending out a bunch of direct-mailers to some of the newer subdivisions in our community inviting them to celebrate with us on Easter Sunday.  More importantly, all GCF’ers got invitations this week and will get some next week to use to invite friends to church.

That gets me excited.  I mean, on Easter Sunday; the biggest and best day of the whole Christian year for we believers – we get the chance to worship and present the story of Jesus to folks who may not know it!  And that gets my blood pumping and my adrenaline rushing!  We get to tell them about the living Jesus who wants to rock their worlds and change their lives.  And I think that when we tell them about Him, he will probably be faithful and true to wreaking some change and transformation in some lives!

Here’s my guarantee:  if you invite them, we’ll do the best we can do to present the gospel in all of its goodness and in all of its contagion.  I’m thankful for Easter because it gives us an opportunity to see God change and form the lives of men, women, students and children into passionate followers of Jesus!

That’s one reason why I’m thankful for Easter and its a big one, but it barely holds a candle to the depth of gratitude and thankfulness I have for Jesus.  Paying the price at the cross, rising from the grave and pouring out life and life and life and more life on ME (and on you too!)!!!!!  I tell him “thanks” a lot, but I can’t wait to shout it from the mountaintops with you on Easter Sunday!

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It was Sunday afternoon when I wrote this.  Worship was awesome this morning.  And I had the chance to teach from my favorite passage in my favorite gospel:  Luke 13.22-30.  It is a terrific passage that hits at the core of what it means to be a Jesus follower.  You can hear the sermon by going to gcfi.com and clicking on downloads.  The sermon should be there by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  Also cool:  I got to say “hell” several times in church this morning.

We usually go out to eat with friends after church, but today we ended up at Panera; just the four of us together.  It was awesome.  I marveled at what a blessed life I’ve got.  Here are some blessings I counted today while eating lunch . . .

1.  The chicken-bacon-dijon panini at Panera.  It’s absolutely awesome.  Some of the best bacon in the world, but on a more serious note . . .

2.  My children are beautiful.  I have the amazing, wonderful privilege of working from home and getting to hear their laughter (and, yes, even their fighting and arguing) while plugging away on all things GCF.

3.  My wife is an awesome woman.  She’s my hero.  As some of you know, she has Rheumatoid Arthritis; a horrible disease that is eating away at her body.  Not only is she a beautiful woman, but she troops through  her pain every day to teach her 4 and 5 year olds at the preschool and she gives the gift of Jesus and eternity to the kids at church each week without even flinching – even when a kid bumps her swollen knees or lands on a sore hand.  I don’t know if I would be as brave or courageous as her if I had been the one with RA; although I wish quite often that I had been the oen to get it.

3.  GCF.  It is an awesome place to be in ministry, serving the Father and worshiping with an amazing group of people every week.  I mean, it’s not in all places that college students, seminary students, professors, truck drivers, electricians, teachers, painters, work at home mom’s and work-at-home Dad’s, administrative assistants, assembly line workers  and who knows who else get together to worship God.  God has given us a good picture of the “many, many from the east and the west, the north and the south,” who will be together in the kingdom.  I was reminded of this when we saw one of the amazing GCF families that make every minute of ministry worth it while we were eating at Panera today.

4.  I’m thankful for the men and women I work with.  They are great friends and they love Jesus!  I have been reading through Nehemiah.  It’s a great book to learn about leadership.  Chapter 3 recounts the names of the leaders who rebuilt specific sections of the wall around Jerusalem.  I am grateful to be working with a staff that focuses so well and with such love on their sections of the wall that is GCF and GCF’s ministry to the world!  Keep up the good work guys!

5.  I’m thankful for vision.  Over these last months, it seems that the Father has given so much clarity in our vision of who we are and what we are about and what we are to become at GCF . . . a community where God is changing and forming men, women, students and children into passionate followers of Jesus.  Now, Father, show us the way forward and give us some TRANSFORMATION!!!!!!

6.  I’m thankful forJesus.  At the end of the message at the second celebration this morning I couldn’t help but think about that day in the corner of our little seminary apartment.  Life was falling apart and I knelt down and decided that I had experienced enough fear, enough uncertaintly and enough pain and I gave it all to Jesus!  And he took all of it AND all of me too!!!  The journey has been a wild, awesome ride since I did that.  Highly recommend giving things and life to Jesus.  It really is the only strategy for life that wins in the long run!

7.  Finally, I’m thankful to be going on a few days of vacation this coming week.  I hope that no one is offended, but it’s been two years since Kyra and I have gone away and the first time that we have taken Sydney and Max away without other family members joining us SOOOO we’re going to sneak out the back door right after church this coming Sunday to head for Gatlinburg and a few days or R&R.  Highlight of the trip . . . spending a day in Cade’s Cove – up in the Smoky’s – with my family.  It’s one of my favorite places in the whole world.  And when we come back, I’ll be thankful that Easter is here because . . . well, read tomorrow’s post and I’ll let you know why I’m thankful that Easter is coming!

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“Christianity started out as something so exciting that it has taken the church 2000 years to finally make it boring.”

That’s another Perry Noble quote from last week’s Unleash Conference at Newspring Church and today is my last post of reflections on the conference.  I’ll be taking a hiatius from the blog Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

If our worship is to be a mirror image of what will go on with Jesus in eternity then our worship must incorporate the best of our creative energies AND it must incorporate all that our hearts have to offer.  I imagine that when we are worshipping Jesus in the newly recreated earth it is going to be filled with times of jaw-dropping awe, times of dancing and excitement, and times of quiet and reflection.  For those of us worshipping “in between the comings” that translates into a creativity about our worship that puts us into the presence of the resurrected Jesus so that all of those things can take place!

One of the things I am really excited about right now at GCF is the worship design/creative team that is being formed around our worship experiences.  I think that God is going to use this team to help us create worship experiences that touch his heart and invite people to allow the Father to touch their hearts.  Don’t get me wrong:  we already do so much of this at GCF!  We do so much of it that I’m excited to see just how explosive it may become when we have even more creative people working out their God-given creative energies around our worship!

 It may have taken 2000 years to make it boring, but one way or the other (whether it be through our creative energies or His return), I hope that we can experience just how awesome and amazing worship is going to be when we are finally with Him in His fullness and completeness!

We are very fortunate at GCF to have a very talented and creative worship and arts pastor AND we are very fortunate to have members of our community who are gifted in the arts.  Let’s be praying for them as we go into this next stage at GCF!  There is, afterall, a place for arts and creativity in the Church!

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When I changed jobs last fall I lost my group health insurance coverage and had to apply for independent policies.  I was fortunate enough to be one of many Americans who could afford good policies for my two kids and a modest policy for myself.  My wife is insured through her place of work.

Getting the policies, however, was quite a bit of work.  My son was denied by Anthem because he has a minor neurological issue called familial tremors that makes his hands shake some when he attempts fine motor activities.  It took me four months and tons of paperwork to finally get him insured with a state-funded plan for folks who have been denied by a major company.  His plan; not quite as good as my daughter’s plan costs roughly the same each month but does not include prescription drug benefits.

The bill for my daughter’s policy is setting in my truck; waiting to be paid.  Each time I have looked at it I have wondered about the millions of Americans who do not have health insurance.  Now, let me say right up front that I am not a fan of universal, government controlled health care.  I like my choices; even if they aren’t exactly what I wish I could afford.  Perhaps my son deserves the same health coverage as my congressman, but at the same time, my congressman chose to be a congressman and I chose to be a pastor.  The pay scales and the perks are a bit different.  (Contrary to the popular image, not all of us pastors have television shows, mansions and numerous cars).

Nonetheless, I have been wondering about the role the church should play in this “health insurance crisis”.  Afterall, the first hospitals and hospices were created by Christians as a means of caring for and serving the community.  Perhaps this is yet another area where the church should step up to do its part to adhere to its Biblical command to care for the widow, the orphan and the least amongs us in our communities.

Of course, any role that the church would play in this crisis would count on two big IFS.  My grandmother used to remind me that IF a frog had wings he wouldn’t bust his rear everytime he jumped.  She was reiterating the near fatal mentality of thinking with “ifs.”  Despite her advice, here are two big “if’s” that the church should consider . . .

1.  IF every person (including those who attended church just once or twice a month) would actually tithe their income the church could solve the issue of hunger in Africa and have plenty of money left over to do work in their own communities.

2.  These types of world-changing things (solving hunger and providing for widows and orhpans) could only happen IF the church spent its money wisely and focused on modest buildings and modest budgets and focused the use of the rest of its funds toward the places where its needed the most.

I don’t have any answers for sure, but I think it is both salient and important for anyone who attends church to give long, hard thought to those two “if’s”.  They could eventually be counted as something more than a frog busting his butt on the ground everytime he jumps!

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More of what we learned at Newspring Church’s Unleash conference . . . One of the Newspring Staff members we met just inside of the door at the conference worked on the church’s staff in their small group area.  She told us that they had about 110 small groups on-going.

I am a big fan of Newspring, but this is one area where I will cautiously state that they could perhaps be doing better.  They are averaging around 7000 in worship on Sundays.  With 110 small groups with the average group probably having about 10 to 12 members, they have about 1000 to 1200 attenders in small groups.  Now that it an impressive number, but it is only about 1/7 of their total attendance.  That would seem to indicate that they have a lot of folks who are not living in community with other Christians.

I hesitate to fault Newspring for this number.  Afterall 110 groups and about 1200 people involved is great.  And more to the point: that only about 1/7 of their people are participating may not be the result of them not emphasizing it.  Getting beleivers to live in close community with one another is a challenge for any church in today’s world.  The rub here is that we know that the early church lived in that kind of community with one another.  More importantly, we know that doing life together that way was an important part of how the early church managed to live holy lives that kept them looking like something different than the rest of culture.  In fact, I am guessing that small group gatherings probably had more to do with their holiness than did gathering for worship.

But alas, gathering for worship is easier.  Singing and watching and listening and what we do in worship comes more easily to us.  It is easier to hide in a worship service than it is in a house church gathering.  It is easier to be challenged in a worship service and then forget that challenge than it is to be challenged by a fellow believer in a house church or small group setting.

GCF is trying to provide lots of opportunities for this kind of community to take place.  We have cell groups, recovery groups, Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry and youth small groups.  But that’s only a part of the journey.  The other half of the journey happens when believers realize the importance of (1) being in a community where other believers can be the extensions of God’s grace for them and (2) – and I think this one is more difficult – being in a community where we must learn to extend and show grace to our fellow believers.

And all of this is very difficult.  Close friendships take time to develop AND we cannot forget the unusual time contraints that people are under in today’s culture.  With all of our planners and computers and palm pilots and blackberries around to simplify and organize our lives we are more complicated and less organized than ever.

This tendency is yet another reason why we have streamlined our thinking at GCF down to the three C’s of being a community where Jesus is unleashed and is changing lives.  I’ve written about these in prior posts.  They are (1) celebration or worship, (2) cell groups and (3) Community and Global Outreach.

Here’s the Vision:  that GCF is a place where beleivers and the world are being transformed through all-out, passionate worship on Sundays, a place where believers are being transformed through intimate settings where they can share the struggles and joys of life together, and a place where the community and world are being changed into Jesus-followers because of how passionately we are following Him to serve in our community and the world.

GCF has a long history of excellent and passionate worship.  We have a long history of sending missionaries out around the world.  AND I BELIEVE that as we continue to seek more of the Father and his ways for us we are going to go ever deeper into life together in small groups and in our service to our community!

One of the things that stuck with me at a personal level from the conference was Perry Noble’s challenge that senior pastors and lead pastors should be continously praying about the vision of their churches.  I spent some time on Saturday doing that.  I felt the Father reaffirming for GCF that we should continue to go after the three C’s in pursuit of Jesus and the big C:  that if we are faithful to being His church, he will be faithful to use to us to create more Jesus-followers!

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