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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Halfway through my two weeks here in Birmingham for my Doctor of Ministry course, Biblical Theology for Ministry.  The class has been good, but today certainly marked the high water mark of the trip.

This morning, I visited the Church at Brook Hills.  Listening to David Platt speak was like listening to a kindred spirit.  Those of you who know my journey of redemption from church growth strategies and their subsequent pressures, will appreciate the story that David shared.   When he first became the pastor at Brook Hills, he poured through all of his church growth books which encouraged him and his team to pinpoint “Brook Hills Bob”, the emblem of their “target audience.”  The Brook Hills team rejected this kind of thinking and decided to go after “Brook Hills Burudi” – a non-Christian man living in a region of North Africa closed to to the Gospel.  I loved it when Platt added that he no longer reads those church growth books.  They are preaching and living the whole Gospel for the whole world – not just a target audience.  Now here’s what’s really cool.  As Platt told it, one of their Brook Hills Bobs, a typical upper middle class Birmingham businessman, and his wife,  started a small group two years ago because God was calling him to invest his life in other couples.  This morning in their worship service, they commissioned a young couple from that small group will be moving to a remote region of North Africa to plant a church for Brook Hills Burudi – all of those people who have never heard the Gospel.  This resonates so much with what I have sensed the Lord doing in me over the last 18 months – stepping away from all of that “cool church” jazz to just be the church, living in the world as a witness to Jesus Christ. 

On a side-note, I was amazed that probably 99% of the 2000 people I worshiped with this morning carried their Bibles into church!  Awesome, awesome!

Following worship, I went to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  The museum was amazingly sobering.  The tour begins with exhibits describing life in Birmingham before the Civil Rights movement and then begins the Civil Rights struggle with Rosa Park’s and the Montgomery Bus boycott and follows it through the late 1960’s.  Two highlights of the museum for me. 

First, the exhibit on the Freedom Riders.  They have the burned out shell of an old grey hound bus (not sure if it is one actually involved in the ride, or not) and old footage of the freedom riders talking about what they did and why they did it.  I kept wondering if I would have had the chutzpa to have been one of them.  Only time would have told and only time will tell if I rise to those kinds of challenges in my own time.

Second, looking at two water fountains that were actually marked “white” and “colored” was mind-boggling.  It is hard to believe that this happened in an America not much older than my generation.

Walking down the street to go into the museum, I was just across the street from the famous 16th Street Baptist Church, which was very much at the center of the Civil Rights movement.  In September of 1963, the church was bombed and four little girls were killed in the bombing.  I also learned that on that same day, two African American boys, were also shot by white assailants in Birmingham while out riding their bikes.

While I am not a fan of many of President Obama’s policies, I gained a deeper appreciation for what his election means for our country – the healing of so many wounds – and why it is so momentous for so many of our fellow Americans.  I won’t add much more because, like I said, it was really very sobering.

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Well, night 1 of our Spring Into Missions weekend has come and gone.

We started tonight with FaceDown Prayer and Worship.  The worship was amazing AND we really sought God’s face for the missionaries we were praying for.  Thanks to Rochelle and Vince for putting tonight together.  It was awesome.

The Lord hit me with I Peter 4.1-12 as a text to be spoken over and prayed for our missionaries tonight.  There are a couple of verses that I will be memorizing.

I have the goat meat in my fridge.  I’ll be preparing it tomorrow night . . . we’re just a little over 36 hours away from the international potluck on Sunday!

See ya’ll tomorrow night for the Coffee House – 6.30pm.

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As I was traveling over the weekend I listened to a few sermons from a wide variety of pastors:  Charles Stanley, Jon Weece (Southland Christian Church) and Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll had an excellent sermon on the Cross from his doctrine series – if you don’t mind the fact that he used the phrase “I don’t give a damn” in the sermon 🙂

When I got home, I took a look at Driscoll’s blog and ended up linking to a whole train of posts in response to a speech about “manly” preachers that Driscoll gave at a conference (probably more than one) some time ago.  Depending on what you think about the legitimacy of the blogs, Driscoll was trying to be funny OR was way over the top.

No matter.  If you are reading this blog to find a critique of Mark Driscoll, Mark Batterson or any other megachurch pastor, you’ll have to go elsewhere.  I’ve long sinced learned that the “most read” blogs that I write will always be those that mention the name of a megachurch or its pastor!

Driscoll, Batterson, Perry Noble, Ed Young and others are all gifted leaders.  God has used them to accomplish some awesome things and – like ALL of us – they remain imperfect and sometimes over-the-top.  My grandmother, if she were alive and listened to some of their sermons, would note that they are also occasionally full of themselves which she also sometimes said about me!

This post is intended to encourage us to consider whether or not God has called us to be who we are in Jesus Christ or whether or not God has called us to be who Mark Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young are in Jesus Christ.

God smacked me in the face with this thought in the car on the way home Saturday.  I began to feel the pressure to do things in the same way that these guys do them so that I can be successful, so that I can be a good leader, so that, so that, so that . . .

But I am not them.  I am Jason and God wants me to be me – in Jesus!  I can’t be who these other guys are in Jesus.

Jesus works in me to give me gifts, to give me leadership and to call me to obedience in my life, my family, my church and my community.  The one thing that we all have in common with these mega-church guys (or at least should have in common) is a passion for Jesus Christ and the expansion of his Kingdom! 

But in that passionate pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom, we will discover that Jesus does not call us to be Driscoll, Batterson, Noble or Young, but intead he calls us to be us – in him!  And there is no one more or less that I can be than the me I am in Jesus.  And the me that I am in Jesus is the best person I can be for my family, my church, my community and the Kingdom of God.

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I am posting this on Sunday night instead of Monday morning because I will be on my way to WV on Monday morning to pick up Max.  Sydney is going with me and it will be good to have the company of my little girl!

What a great day it has been.  When the second worship gathering at GCF was over today I was really grateful to God that he honored my struggles with John 16.16-24 by giving me a sermon that really challenged and encouraged many people.  Mike Krejci was great on the song Give me Jesus and, as always, my thanks to Uday for listening to the Lord as he was thinking through music and our worship order last week.  Working with him has been one of the big privileges of my life so far.

About 20 or so of us from GCF went to the Lexington Legends game this afternoon.  What a good time.  It was really relaxed and we enjoyed the game on the shady side of the ball park  whiel hanging out together.  It’s something we’ll need to do again sometime.

I also learned today that our plans are well underway to have roast goat for our international potluck at the conclusion of this coming weekend’s Spring into Missions activities.  I also took note of all of the faces that looked a bit relieved when I announced this morning that we’d also have ham or fried chicken for those who are afraid of goat.  Although it did strike me as I was eating a hotdog at the ballpark today that at least I’ll know what’s in my roast goat – just goat.  I seldom feel that certain about the contents of a weiner 🙂

Here’s the challenge for the week:  seek the things of God’s kingdom in the name of Jesus; expecting to be hated by the powers of darkness and expecting to be completely irresistable to the Father!

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Well, I’m back from West Virginia.  Had a nice couple of days there.  Max and I had a good time together.  He listened to The Magic Tree House, Just So Stories (Rudyard Kipling), Geronimo Stilton and Stink (Junie B. Jones little brother) on his I-Pod.  Apparently  he spent most of his time with The Magic Tree House because the trip was peppered with little gems of real wisdom and knowledge that he was learning . . . like the definition of patriots, how firemen tried to stop the great San Francisco fire after the 1906 earthquake and how the Titanic sank.

For my part, I spent some time worshiping and listening to some sermons by John Weece (Southland Christian Church in Lexington) and Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church in Seattle).  Boy, Driscoll preaches for a long time . . . usually talking for anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes.

On Friday morning I got up early and went to Pipestem State Park and hiked a ways into the woods where I read and chanted several Psalms out loud and dug into a full reading of the Gospel of Matthew.  Later in the day Max and I went and walked around Sandstone Falls and then grabbed some hot dogs at the Dairy Queen in Hinton, WV – undoubtedly the world’s best chili and slaw dogs!

I slaved a way for a good part of Friday on tomorrow’ sermon; the second in a series on joy.  Let me tell you, I really struggled with the passage (John 16.16-24).  I am praying that God will use my study and my work tomorrow morning to do what he wants to do with it.  I began to wonder if some of my difficulty with the passage arose from just how much the enemy does not want his people to ask for Kingdom things in Jesus’ name.  Afterall, Jesus promises that if we pray for kingdom things in Jesus’ name, God will give us what we asked for.  Pretty awesome!   All the way home, I found myself praying for things in Jesus’ name.  I’ve always done this, but after working on the passage all week I think I had a deeper understanding of why I was praying in Jesus’ name.

BTW – Mark Driscoll’s sermon on the cross – from his Doctrine Series – was fabulous . . . go to I-Tunes or the Mars Hill website and give it a listen (or a view).

I just heard from my mom.  Max is still with them and he had a great time at the Virginia Tech scrimmage game and a lot of the players signed his football and his baseball cap.

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The discipleship team at GCF recently decided that during the Easter Season (between yesterday and Pentecost Sunday at the end of May) that we would focus on joy as a church-wide theme.

I just finished doing a bit of searching at Amazon.com to find out what books on joy are floating around out in the world.  After parousing several pages at Amazon, I was horrified to find that I turned up at least 20 books on the topic of joy written by Buddhists or followers of other eastern religions.  There were also a large number of books on joy written by pop-culture, post-modern spiritual gurus.  I found only 3 books on joy by Christian writers.  One was a book that described the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy as a tool for discovering joy.  On May 1 of this year, Calvin Miller will release a book on joy in his “fruits of the spirit” series and, of course, there was C.S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy which is an autobiographical book of his early spiritual journey into the Christian faith.

Something is wrong here.

While working with Uday, our worship pastor at GCF, last week to pick out a few hymns for the Wilmore Community Sunrise Service, I came across a hymn I could remember from my kid-hood days:  Easter People Raise Your Voices.  Shouldn’t there be more than 3 joy-exploring books written by a group that refers to itself as “Easter People”?

As of yet, I don’t know how our teachings over the next several Sundays will explore joy or where they’ll go, but I think we owe it to ourselves and to our Lord to get the joy out.

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A few years ago there was a relatively well-known commercial for Special-K cereal.  The add featured blue-collar, middle class men saying things like, “Do these jeans make my hips look big?”  The idea behind the add was that men don’t talk about things like that.  Consequently, if women would only buy and eat Special K for breakfast they wouldn’t have to worry about it either.

Well, I’m going to break the pattern of men not talking about weight.  I have struggled with my weight since I was in the third grade.  About five years ago – for several reasons – Iwas motivated to do something about it.  I started eating really healthy and started running.  How well I remember those first runs.  At 287 pounds (I had weighed 320 at my biggest – I lost 30 pounds over a year or two by simply switching to Diet Soda), it was all I could do to make it a third of the way around a 1 mile track.  In fact, I had to teach myself that it was a real accomplishment for me to get up every morning at 6am and go run 1/3 of a mile.  Within about a year, I had lost 120 pounds and weighed 167 pounds.  I was running about 4 miles a day, four to five days a week.  I felt great.  That summer I took part in my first-ever sporting event and ran a 10K.

Several transitions then took place.  We bought a house and I changed jobs.  Through that change of routine and stress, I slowly began to slack up on my healthy eating and exercise habits.

As of last Thursday – nearly 3 years after changing jobs and 4 years after the purchase of our home, I had officially gained back 77 pounds – more than half of what I had lost.  I weighed 244.4 pounds.

Thanks to a good friend at church, I have been coaxed and prodded into getting healthy again.  Since last Thursday morning, I have not consumed more than 1500 calories a day (all healthy stuff) and I have been running again.  It has been great despite the fact that I have had to get over the disappointment of being taxed after running only a mile or so.  At any rate, as of yesterday morning I weighed 241.2 pounds.

And I am going to keep going.  Weight loss is one thing, but my bigger motivation at this time is to feel good again.  I simply  do not feel as good or have as much energy at 241 pounds as I did at 167 pounds and running 16 to 20 miles a week.

Posting this here is sort of like my public accountability mechanism.  At least once a week, I am going to post my progress and hope that it will not only keep me accountable but also encourage others who may need to start (or re-start) this same journey with me.

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