Monday, December 27, 2010

Technology and Child Safety

This page has moved!! 

Click HERE to check out the updated version!!!

It has several thoughts on internet security, a review on "Pandora's Hope" router, as well as being a great blog for parents who want God to transform their lives!!

If you like what you read, check out the book too!!!

Thanks for reading!

WICK <><

Monday, December 20, 2010

God with us.

Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

Here we have the first appearance of the word we're familiar with at Christmas. "Immanuel - which means 'God with us'". We hear it as part of the X-mas story, and smile inside. Warm fuzzies remind us that God is comforter, and brings peace, and desires good things for us. We align ourselves with our 4 year olds and remember "God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man". Only our boogie men no longer have teeth and claws. They now they have bills, pink slips, pipe bombs, criminal records, more success than us, and take our taxes.

But looking at the first instances of the word "Immanuel", (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8) we find something other than encouragement to be comforted. King Ahaz is not a very good king at all. (2 Kings 16) Disregarding the God of Israel, and even making sacrifices of his own children at the altar of pagan gods...Ahaz was pimping out Israel to whatever he thought might help.

Then in Isaiah, the Lord speaks to Ahaz. He basically offers to help make things right again, and wants to reveal himself as God to Ahaz. He even tells Ahaz to ask for a sign...anything at all. Ahaz knows his entire existence has been built up against the God of Israel, and pretends he doesn't want to "put God to the test", refusing to ask for a sign. Then God responds that He will give a sign anyway, and the center of it will be "Immanuel" which means "God with us." This sounds like a good thing, as God says Ahaz no longer needs to worry about the two kings from the north. But then comes 7:17 - "he will bring the king of Assyria". Judah is conquered by the Assyrians and eventually from that, the Babylonians. They experience many years of pain, suffering, oppression, and want. God uses those many years to remind His people of what it means to be a child of God.

Fast forward to the next time we see "Immanuel" in scripture..Matthew 1:23. The hearers of this word would not have immediately responded with joy alone. Imagine the intense fear and reverence, deferring whatever may come into the hands of God. Celebrating God's coming, but knowing that it may mean letting go of life as we know it...ESPECIALLY the comfortable bits.

May we be challenged this week, just as Mary was, to bear Jesus into our worlds. May we respond "I am the Lords' servant", and be willing to carry His presence into our daily lives, knowing full well that it may change things entirely. May His Love, His forgiveness and grace, His Holiness & Spirit give source to new life within us...life that swallows up what once was. May Immanuel come, and may He begin here and now...

Monday, December 13, 2010

joy.

Isaiah 35:5-8 "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray."

There is this discussion on holiness, and holy living. A response to God, a transformation God works in our hearts, a way of living that proclaims Jesus as Lord and no other. A Spirit-sourced life bringing thing, from which we draw our identities and toward which we lean our lives.

There is sometimes the unspoken assumption that things will be completely different when God completes what has begun. Indeed things will be entirely different. But what will remain is the way of Holiness we catch mere glimpses of today. And not just "present", but celebrated and traveled by God's people. It won't be stumbled on accidentally, as seen in the scripture above. It will be "for him who walks that way" literally.

We have joy that this "way of walking" that we are learning, is not temporary. It is not a way of existing we train ourselves toward, in order to "earn" eternity with God, or to "prove" we can make the cut, or that we're sincere enough, etc. We learn this way of walking, because it is the way we will walk when Heaven and Earth are joined as one, and God is poured out - transforming the very nature of everything. We are given the Holy Spirit to enable us to walk today in the way we will walk forever.

May that give us joy, as the decisions we make and our life is transformed...sometimes in ways that seem uncomfortable in the moment. We know it's not about this moment, or even tomorrow. It is about the way we will be existing forever in the presence. May we live in a way that invites others to join in walking a life responding to God. A life that joins Peter on the water. That joins John and Paul in their cells. That joins the disciples in welcoming the resurrected Christ, and receiving His Spirit that transforms us and begins something that will never end...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Haiku (repost from 2009)

christmas comes, seemingly
with shouts at shopping mall sales
buying for children

becoming children
while children sleep and wonder
"Santa doesn't stress"

because why would he
all of the elves to help him
while we cover it

quietly happens
spreading like deadly virus
where death brings new life

Community: New
brought to life by a baby
who cried, lived, and died

now we exist: Free
from prices, credit, pressure
gifting has been done

our gift comes daily
hello, or conversation
relating from love

So wrap your presents
But remember this also:
"Jesus is coming"

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Anderson VLOG #3

Happy Christmas, from the Andersons :)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

political aspirations

The Book of Revelation.  The words of God and His desire to make all things new, a marriage of Heaven and Earth that we will enjoy forever.  This will do more than simply "obliterate" the need for government and leadership.  Jesus will be recognized as Lord by all and in all.  God will continue to call on His people to be those who will live and make decisions based on Kingdom living.

John chapter 18.  The words of Jesus before Pilate, standing as King of a Kingdom of Truth, not based in this world.  Standing as one who has been brought before the Roman government for the proclaimed reason that Jews cannot execute anyone, yet not begging for his life or retreating from the foundational Truth He lives to proclaim.  The "powers" of this world have no power in the Kingdom, except where they can join in what He is already accomplishing.

Isaiah chapter 11.  The words of prophecy about Jesus as a man whom the Spirit of God rests on.  This Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, counsel and "gravity", knowledge and fear (reverence) of the Lord.  If ever there was a passage for a politician to be in prayer over, here is one.  The Spirit brings the ability to make judgments that are right.  Leads to decisions that bring justice for the poor.  Shuts down the wicked.

I've talked about wanting to become Mayor.  Our city has a "weak mayoral system", and it's not unrealistic to think a youth pastor who loves his community could serve in that capacity.  It's kinda like saying "I'd like to serve on the city council."  I'll admit, when I first began talking about it, it was very similar to a Junior in high school who says "When I'm a senior, I'm totally gonna run for student council."  More about being able to do it, say I've done it, etc.

But there is something else within me.  Something that says perhaps there's more to it than that.  Something that desires to be a living testimony to the passages mentioned above.  

It's still not something I want to pursue in the next few years, beyond learning and praying.  I'm already strapped for time between ministry and raising our young girls.  I will settle for serving on the Traffic and Parking Commission for now.

But I don't have to wait until I run for some sort of local office, or need to ever run, to begin striving for these things.  We each exist as a miniature "Kingdom" within the Kingdom of God.  Who do we proclaim is Lord in our life?  Do our decisions proclaim his ultimate reign and rule in our home?  Do we have a wisdom and understanding, counsel and "gravity", knowledge and "fear" of the Lord that enables us to live and make choices according to Kingdom standards and principles?  Not only that, but do we actively "kill" and shut down the wicked?

We are men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers.  We have homes and families that we are involved in leading forward.  If we value things of this world, and wrap ourselves around them...our homes will be as limited and broken as the world they are based in.  But if we will decide to proclaim Jesus as Lord, and His Kingdom as our residency, then we are moving as a family toward something eternal.  Not simply "living forever", but something full, whole, true, and already begun. 

Not simply "eyes on the skies" living...or figuring everything can be fixed by bowing our heads and closing our eyes.  The Spirit of God, alive and moving.  Making decisions that bring Justice.  Communicating Love and offering healing.  Proclaiming freedom & releasing those who are bound.  Bringing redemption to places that are broken.  Giving voice and ear to those who have none.  Not separated from this world, but rather living more genuinely connected to this cosmos and where it is moving.  Lord....may my family move this way together...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Anderson VLOG #2

Last night the girls decided they wanted to make a video. It began with the desire to talk about "Tinkerbell" the movie...and, well...


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Walk in My Shoes

If you're like me, the "cable you shouldn't have been getting anyway because you're not paying for it" is slowly becoming fewer and fewer channels.  Stupid digital transition.  Thankfully, the basics are still around.  But Friday nights on major networks are not known for having great television...especially if you grew up on TGIF (remember the good ole' days?)

Never fear...this Friday, it appears a decent movie will be on NBC, "A Walk in My Shoes".   Yes, if you click on that link, it will take you to the site where you can watch a quick preview.  Yes, if I get the most people to click on it, I could win my wife a pair of TOMS Shoes.  But I'd actually recommend this, even if you simply went to the site via Google on your own. 


It's being advertised as "Family Movie Night".  I doubt Wal-Mart or Proctor & Gamble as companies care much of anything beyond making money off advertising and sales.  But I'm in support of a family deciding a watch a movie together that lends itself to some good discussion/prayer time. 

In the movie, a teacher who judges a mother for not being able to get her teen to perform well academically a bit harshly.  Through a dramatic circumstance, it seems an angel has been sent to "teach a lesson" or "reveal a truth", by allowing that teacher to "walk in the shoes" of that mother.  I think it'd be a lot more interesting to have her walk in the shoes of that teenage boy...but that'd be an entirely different movie.

In any case, I figured I would throw out a few family discussion questions, in case any of my parents with teenagers decide to make a family night out of it:

1. If this type of thing could happen in your life, who do you think God would want you to "walk in the shoes of" in order to see life from their point of view?

2. How might that change how you relate to them right now?

3. How can this relate to the Christmas Story?

4. What prayers might we offer up as a family, with all we've talked about tonight?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tangled - Review

This past week, a bunch from my family went to see the movie "Tangled", featuring the popular story of the Princess Rapunzel, and her long blond hair.  I'll sum it up briefly and say, the movie was the best recent cartoon anyone has put out, and definitely trumps Princess Tiana by far.  (Don't get me started on why Tiana's movie smelled like swamp water...I'll just point out that she's a FROG for 80% of the movie.)

It's rated "PG", and stays out of the raunchy innuendo humor that makes movies like Shrek so popular.  There is still enough sarcasm, creativity, and wit to make "Tangled" fun for any adult who pretends they're there because the kids really wanted to see it.  There are even some scenes that will make your eyes water just a bit (From what I've heard at least.  Mine were totally dry throughout.  Grunt.)

If you're unfamiliar with the storyline, here's a brief introduction.  (not really "spoilers", it's the first 2 minutes of the film).  A drop of sunshine falls to earth, and becomes a flower.  The magical flower has powers to heal and bring life, and it's kept secret by a woman who wants to hoard it's magic to herself for many years.  One day, the pregnant Queen seems like she won't last long, and the people go searching for the mythical flower.  It's discovered, and by drinking a solution made from it, she survives.  Her daughter is born, and it seems the flowers' powers are now carried in the child's hair.  She is kidnapped by the selfish woman, and she vows to keep the girl hidden forever, just as she had the flower.  Once a year, the entire Kingdom releases small lanterns into the air, hoping that wherever she is...she knows she is missed and loved.  They want her to return.
I'll admit, there was a moment in the movie where I got kind of emotional.  A beautiful illustration of an entire Kingdom who yearns for their royalty to return, not out of desire for their power, but presence, and out of love for them.  A scene where hundreds on hundreds of lanterns are lit, a few at a time and then spreading throughout the Kingdom.  They release them into the air together, making a giant communal statement of their love and desire for the return of the princess.

Sure, the illustration falls short if you take it much further.  There are also definite faults in the movie, and things that other groups will probably yell about.  But in that moment, the connection was made to a church that lights its' collective lanterns on a regular basis, releasing acts of worship as a communal statement of our love and desire for the return of Christ and completion of what began in Him.

I'm thankful that He does more than gaze at what we've released, and feel good, knowing He's loved.  He has promised that the work we do in His name is now and forever connected with the Kingdom that is, and is to come...

1 Corinthians 15:58 "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Needed: Marriages.

Time magazine's recent article on "Marriage: What's it Good For?", reveals how much our world needs Marriage.  Not simply people who will get married for happiness, economic partnerships, equal rights, or to procreate, have families and chase an ambiguous dream.  But men and women who pray together, "May our relationship reveal the nature of Christ's relationship with the Church."

In the article, Belinda Luscombe writes about PEW Research Center's new findings on changes in marriage statistics.  She makes some sweeping general statements like "we found is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be."  I believe those same statistics are actually a testimony and renewed call for Marriages that reflect Christ to exist.  How does that happen?  By recognizing the false measurements and foundations used by this exact study.

She seems confused, "Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children--yet marriage remains revered and desired."  Amen!  What a testimony that a marriage relationship is more than simply a means to an end!!

Then she jumps into other stats, "The Pew survey reveals nearly 40% of us think marriage is obsolete."  She quotes a sociologist Andrew Cherlin, saying "Getting married is a way to show family and friends that you have a successful personal life.  It's like the ultimate merit badge."  The progression there is, with more people choosing to live together before marriage (mostly in low income situations), there is less inherent "value" in such a badge.

It's disappointing that in the entire article, there is not one mention of "covenant".  The closest she gets is quoting a Marriage educator that, "Marriage is like glue.  You can build something with it.  Living together is like Velcro."

We believe we have been designed to live in relationship with others.  Each of us is incomplete as an individual.  This leads many of us to marry.  Marriage is given to us as a gift, a covenant relationship where God's relationship with humanity can be revealed.  He offers Covenant with us, His Love and Forgiveness, and desiring to spend time drawing closer to each other toward what He has revealed will come.  We enter into marriage with that same Love and covenant...not simply an economic, romantic partnership where we strive to achieve "happiness" and feel like we've failed or we should move on during days where we feel like less than mountain-top experiences.  Luscombe closes with the statement, "Yet marriage is still the best avenue most people have for making their dreams come true."

Nope.  Marriage is not healthy when it is viewed primarily as a path to making our "dreams" come true.  As romantic and desirable and marketable as that seems, it can still quickly lead to brokenness without a context for healing.

There is Love.  There is romance.  There are all sorts of things with the gift of marriage that offer to make it an amazing and enjoyable life-long experience. But we receive it as covenant, it is a window into the heart God has for His bride, the Church.  When we do, it reveals Him to a world that needs to hear God's covenant Love for us, and offers a reminder to others who are caught up pursuing other reasons to marry/be married.

Here in the (Church/marriage relationship), is a place we can be broken, genuine, honest, imperfect, and released from burdens of performance and measurement...and still incredibly loved, valued, and pursued...together.

Monday, November 22, 2010

the discipline of routine.

On the mens' retreat last month, we had a morning conversation outside.  I thought I'd be the smart one, and wore swim trunks and an undershirt while everyone else wore layers of warmth.  Thunderclouds were nearby, and I smiled, hoping we'd get drenched and these "men" would try to tough it out in their layers.  Well, the rain came.  The circle of guys moved under shelter.  I was just cold.

But good conversation was still had.  The discussion prompt was asked by our host, "When during your day do you "become Christian" for that day?"  Despite sensing some bit of theology I didn't like there...I understood what he was really asking.  "When do you spend time with Jesus in a way that matters to how you live?"  We went around the circle.  It was obvious that our host believed this should be done early in the day, so that it offers something for the rest of your hours.  I answered honestly.

I'm a morning person.  I can get up whenever the alarm goes off, usually.  But when we began having kids, it began to change.  If I get up early, it often wakes others up, as they're curious of the noise.  So I began sleeping until our kids woke us up, and the morning was with them.  I find my time usually later in the day, at work (as a pastor, I can usually carve out a moment), or in the car, etc.

Then he pointed out...wouldn't I rather my daughters grew up learning their dad spent his first moments of each day with Jesus, preparing for whatever may come?  Yes, actually, I'd love that.

I came back from the retreat, and set my alarm for 6am.  My wife has joined me as well.  I'll be honest, it hasn't happened every morning.  But most mornings, it's been a great way to begin the day.  I've tried different things: prayer, scripture reading, writing, reading other things, silence, etc.  I've found no matter the avenue, God blesses those moments for the day ahead.  On occasion, a daughter does hear the noise and come out.  "What are you doing?" she'll ask.  "Spending some time with Jesus" we say.  Then they'll usually cuddle up on the couch and rest, or grab a book themselves.

This is a good discipline. :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas & other idols..

Luke 21:8 "And he said, "Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he! and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them."

We've probably heard these words before, but I believe we usually limit their impact on our lives.  We zoom in on the literal translation, and miss out on what Jesus is actually offering us here.  He was speaking to 1st Century Jews about the coming destruction of the temple, etc.  But His words also carry much into our lives as well.

"..many will come in my name..."  We've lost some of what Jesus is saying here, simply because we usually reduce "name" to that which a person is called by or responds to.  The word here (onoma) means so much more than simply someone coming and saying the name "Jesus".  As I've posted before to help understand similar texts in the New Testament, we can think of the word "name" in the same sense as "nature".  Think about the nature of Jesus.  His nature is to bring healing, restoration, forgiveness, right-ness, and to reveal Truth.  To be something we can put our eternal Hope in.  Jesus is saying here, "many will come saying this is also their nature".  We see this on a daily basis, in advertising and other areas.  Products, people, powers, situations and systems, and "get rich quick" ideas that all offer/promise to be something it makes sense to put our hope or fear in, and receive life from/be anxious over..

May we not be led "off the path" by these things.

Then he ads an extra blow. "..and say, 'I am he!' "  Most of our translations say "I am he!"  But the actual word here (eimi) does not actually include "he".  It was added to reinforce the "come in my name" statement.  The word here is the same used in  1 Corinthians 1:28, "God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are (eimi)."

The literal translation of these words, then, is "come in my name and say, 'I am'..", which says much more that our first glance.  It's not just warning us against people who come and say "I'm Jesus", or "I'm with Jesus".  It's warning us against everything that comes and pretends to BE something to worry/concern/live for/give priority and place in our life.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are on us once again.  We can fly right past being thankful and into the deals, ads, and shopping for gifts, because the Christmas shopping season proclaims "I AM".  Many of us will spend time with family and friends, and there may be relationship issues and brokenness in our midst that needs forgiveness and healing.  We need freedom from these things in our life that are shouting "I AM!!".  Jesus offers us that freedom...and community with others who are living as people made free.

In your life this week, what is shouting "I AM!!"?  Jesus offers freedom even now.  May God free us, and may we live as thank-filled...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Life Discipler - Product Review

Recently I was given this "Life Discipler" (follow link for site) to review, along with a letter from its' creator, Tony Guard.  I was kind of excited at first, to actually receive a small electronic trendy looking device for free, simply for promising to write a review online. 

Then I opened it.  I took their advice and used it for at least 5 days. I even gave it extra time...a whole week. 
I agree that some of the goals are being met here:  It's cheap, retailing at $29.99.  But it should be, for basically being a calculator that displays Bible verses and has an alarm.  The simplicity of design is nice, with just one central button, and one outer button for navigation.  But the amounts of clicking down and up make me really wish the outside button would spin for a scrolling feature.  I found myself thinking "it'd be nice to read a verse on another topic, but I really don't want to do all that clicking."  Yup...I'm thumb lazy.

Being someone that is fond of lamps in my office, the first thing I noticed was the display is very dimly lit.  You need a bright sun, or a very well lit room to use it.  But it is small, and has a ring to be clipped to a keyring or something.  So the presentation is nice.  But with so many teens having iPods and similar gadgets these days, this product seems to be superfluous and uses outdated technology.  Perhaps make them more rugged, and ship them to 3rd world countries?  Although his letter states an elderly woman "over 80" was able to use it...so maybe give some to the local nursing homes too.

Let me quickly go through of the "Important Details" they gave us:
1. Never before seen tool for Christians. (Okay, ice cream cones with Bible verses would be too.  Doesn't make them necessary, even though they'd obviously be cooler.)

2. You can get God's guidance immediately, like never before.  (Never before?  I found it much easier to pray, or even open a Bible, than take the time to click through this to find a single scripture out of context.)

3. No searching/No remembering, it feeds you verses using an audible alarm.  (Really?  An alarm to remind you not to memorize scripture?)

4. Keeps you focused on God instead of your problem or the world.  (I could write a lot about this one.  But I will simply say - no it doesn't.)


In closing, if you're looking for a gift for your Jesus loving teenager/young adult, or one that you want to encourage in their pursuit of Jesus....this doesn't seem like the gift.

But if you read this, and still really wanna buy one for that special person in your life...I've been authorized to give you a code "GROW20" that will get you 20% off.  Which is really nothing special, since the website has a similar discount offered to anyone.  I will say, Tony's letter sounds like he cares a lot about "getting Christians into the Word more". I just don't see how this product will encourage that, beyond encouraging an "a la cart" approach to scripture and frustrating those of us with dim rooms and lazy thumbs.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homeless for the Holidays - Movie Review

Recently I received a copy of "Homeless for the Holidays" to view and write a review on.  If you know me, you know I'm not a big fan of movies made by Christians for Christians.  So I invited my wife to sit and watch it with me, because she, admittedly, "loves cheesy movies".

One of the main points throughout the story is that God can take immense suffering in our lives, and use it for His purposes.  That point is brilliantly illustrated by the simple act of watching the movie.  As expected, there are major reasons this movie was never in theaters, and won't sell well to the general market.  A whole bunch of cheese, and scenes you just wish would move on because the acting feels way too unbelievable.  In the words of the advertising I received, "This film was made on a much lower budget than originally planned and many of the actors involved even worked for free in order to make the film possible."  I hope so.

But bad script and acting aside, we find God at work even through the immense suffering of this movie if we allow.  It is, after all, based on a true story.  So while watching, perhaps it's helpful to imagine one person telling us his testimony.  Less as entertainment, and more as a story of God in a man's life...it's worth hearing in a world that emphasizes things like "success" and "material wealth/comforts" over humanity and family.

He loses his job for some pretty unjust reasons, and savings only keeps them going a few months before the bills begin stacking up beyond their ability to pay.  They lose services, power, and finally even gas before ultimately being evicted from their home.  If you can get past the moments in the movie that make you groan, there are some good questions to discuss:

- How can this movie be a reminder to change my natural inclinations this Holiday season?
- How do I model "what is important" to my family? My children specifically?  My spouse?
- Where have I shown compassion on someone in need in a new or creative way recently, recognizing we are all children of God?
- How can I live my daily life more simply, so that when unexpected crises' occur, it's easier to continue with what matters?
- Am I thankful for the things I often take for granted?  Electricity, water, heat, food, etc?

So yeah, over all a movie worth existing.  Get it for your church library.  Of course, those of us who need to watch it are probably renting movies, or watching them on Hulu....while the people who live simply without cable/internet will be the ones who watch a movie like this, for lack of other options.

But who knows..."Fireproof" seems to have been a big hit. :)  This definitely competes, and you don't have to deal with Kirk Cameron.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the fall of parenting.

 "Look, the trees are naked!" my daughter yells with glee
As nature sheds it's colored hues they love to look and see
In spring we'll walk through paths of green, and wake their sleeping buds
But for now we'll play in piles of leaves, then wash our hands with suds.

It's jacket weather once again
The arms they've figured out
But trying to understand the complexity of a zipper
Makes them scream and shout.

Some days we keep the windows open, taking in the breeze
Other days the tissues run lower with every snotty sneeze.

The colors red, and gold, and orange filling up the skies -
To drive around and drink it in with thirsty pairs of eyes
Is more fun than moments with a rake and paper sacks
They remind mom and dad that's it's okay to relax.

They teach us this throughout the day, and hope we've listened well
I think they smile themselves to sleep when warm drinks they smell.
"Mom and dad are taking time to enjoy the seasons' weather,
They're in the kitchen making hot drinks and sipping them together."

Maybe not, and they've no clue the lessons that they teach
Like asking us for something that they need that's out of reach.
Reminding us to pray to God for things, from Heaven sent.
Just another season to give thanks for being a parent.

(Yup, it rhymes regularly.  Deal with it, poet hippies.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

a walk in the park.

This morning I took advantage of good weather colliding with planned prayer-time, and ventured into Rock Springs park here in Decatur. God and I took a walk...

Here was a giant fiery white tree in the midst of regulars...
God said, "If you wanna see something really cool, you gotta get off the paved path."
A picture of faith...
We took a break to watch the stream.
We laid back by a large tree, to watch the birds a bit.
Flood plains. A place you can tell used to be saturated, and expects to be again...
When ice blocks the sun, fish can die due to plants not producing oxygen. Called "Winter Kill".
The fields were waving their praises...

As I was sitting near the path, watching the nature around me, I imagined actually sitting beside Christ.  I told him what was on my heart, and He listened as I talked about things that have impacted my life recently.  But like any good pastor will tell you, we need to give room to God to speak as well.  There were several times of silence in our time together, and I prayed He would guide my thoughts.

I said to God, "You've been around a while.  You've seen pretty much everything.  What is something new that has made your heart glad recently?"  At that moment, a jogger came out of nowhere, and we waved at each other as he went on his way.  May we take it as a compliment and a challenge...God continues to find pleasure in us...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Humility Remix

So here's a 3 minute remix of a 30 minute sermon I was able to preach a couple weeks ago. :)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Meet Zacchaeus - Part Three

One final word stands out about the story of Zacchaeus.  A word from the story that I'd never paid much attention to before.  After all, the song ends on the statement "for I'm going to your house today", and that's all we get.  The emphasis, when we usually hear it told, is on the fact that Jesus would even desire to go into such a mans house.

It hits harder when we read the literal translation from the Greek of verse 5, "..come down, for today in the house of you it is necessary for me to remain."  In verse 9, Jesus doesn't simply announce that Zacchaeus has experienced salvation.  He announces that "salvation has come to this house".  This entire story offers a vital reminder and encouragement for our homes and families.

We hear that Zacchaeus was "happy to welcome him".  Next, we hear that "all who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner."  From there, it jumps right into Zacchaeus living as a transformed (made new) creation.  Giving half of his possessions to the poor, and paying back what was stolen 4-fold.  But that leaves us with a very important unknown:

What happened in the home?  What did Jesus say/do that led to such a change?

Pastor Gerry pointed out, not having this in the story could be the work of God's Spirit. After all, if we knew what Jesus said, it would lead to: 1. us making an equation/method out of it.  Basically we could say _____ brings about salvation.  2. Us being able to say, "well, those words were meant for Zacchaeus specifically...not for me and my life."

Instead, we are left with this: God desires what happens in our homes to be about Jesus bringing transformation and announcing our identity as His children.  The words of Jesus come to us just as clearly as to Zacchaeus, "in the house of you it is necessary for me to remain."  Our homes need to be places where our children receive their identity as God has given.  Where they experience the presence of Jesus, and are changed in a way that brings a genuine difference in how they relate to others and to the poor.  Extend that out, knowing that homes in those days often held multiple generations under one roof.  God desires an experience where Grandpas and Grandmas, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins and Siblings, all become part of receiving God's identity/calling as a family that is "made new".  In a way that says "God wants what has happened here, to continue happening in places where He is unknown".

How is that happening in our homes this week???

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Meet Zacchaeus - Part Two

A second word that comes from the story of Zacchaeus, if we're willing to listen, is one of "salvation".  Toward the close of this passage, we hear Jesus announce something pretty important.  Verse 9 says "Jesus said to him..." but he speaks in a way that suggests even though his face was turned toward Zacchaeus, he was saying it to the benefit of everyone around him. 

This moment contrasts the first few verses completely.  Yesterday we talked about how Zacchaeus saw himself.  The identity that he claimed as he ran, and climbed a sycamore tree.  Today we hear the identity Jesus announces over him.

"Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."

Here we have Jesus, actually talking specifically about this thing we often get confused and grapple with, "salvation".  He talks about salvation, and doesn't say anything about "from hell", or "going to heaven".  What has happened here?

We see Zacchaeus offering to give half of his possession to the poor, and paying back those he stole from, 4 times as much as he'd taken.  But Jesus doesn't say, "salvation has come to this house because this man is giving back a whole lot of stuff, and experiencing a healed relationship to the poor and those he'd previously taken advantage of."

What reason does Jesus give for the salvation that is being experienced?  "..because he too is a son of Abraham."  It has to do with being claimed as a child of God.  An identity that is offered not just to those who have grown up in church, or have never made mistakes...but to all.  An identity, that when embraced, transforms who we are and how we live in relationship to Jesus AND humanity.

Zacchaeus has been saved from a life of neglecting God, and taking advantage of his fellow man. A life focused on self, that treats others with little value, and aims to please Rome (a power/principality...remember, "our struggle is not with flesh and blood"), only leads to death and brokenness.  Jesus announces freedom from these things, and finishes the entire section in verse 10 by saying this is what He is all about.  To find people like this, who have been pushed to the side and forgotten; who the religious world finds no value in...and announce their own True identity to and about them.

Besides "not going to hell", and "going to heaven when you die", it asks the question in our life..."what would my verse 8 say?"  What has changed, or changes about my life that would make Jesus announce that these are the result of salvation having arrived?  Am I living as the "child of Abraham" that God proclaims me to be?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Meet Zacchaeus - Part One

In Luke 19:1-10, we read an all too familiar story about Zacchaeus.  Even someone unfamiliar with much of the Bible has probably heard this story of a "wee little man...who climbed up in a Sycamore tree...etc".  But in studying the scripture this past week, 3 new words from the story emerged that I've not paid much attention to in the past.  The first word (words) I want to flesh out a bit are the words of Jesus in verse 5, "come down".

Jesus is looking up into the tree at Zacchaeus.  The description we have of Zacchaeus includes: Chief Tax Collector, rich (wealthy), and short.  Being a tax collector in general, he was viewed as a "traitor" by his Jewish community, for tax collectors were employees of Rome.  They could add amounts to the taxes they were required to collect, and they were allowed to keep that extra funding for themselves.  He was not simply any tax collector either, he was a Chief tax collector.  Which meant, he had several collectors working under him.  Let's just say, he was not a welcome guest at very many parties.

The scripture tells us he was "trying to see who Jesus was", but how he was trying to do so tells us a lot about how he viewed himself.  Verse 4 tells us that he "ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree".  Imagine a short man running in what was most likely a long tunic.  Yes, "ἀναξυρίδες" (trousers) had been invented by then, but were often seen as clothing of the barbarians.  So tunic it was.  Probably having to "hike up" the edges as he ran, it was not the way a dignified man would carry himself.  Then he goes right into climbing a tree.  Men who wear tunics should not climb trees in the first place.  But this isn't just any tree.  This is a tree that was guaranteed to be empty in that area.  A sycamore fig tree bore fruit that was most often fed to the pigs, and so the tree itself was even considered to be "unclean".

Zacchaeus knew how people saw him.  A tax collector didn't have confusion as to how the consensus felt about him.  He figured, they couldn't think anything worse of him for running, and climbing a sycamore tree, eh?  Jesus approaches this man who has revealed his self-claimed identity through his actions, and begins by saying "hurry and come down".

How often do we approach Jesus, already holding onto our identity firmly?  We know who we are.  We know how people think of us, and how we think of ourselves.  Maybe we're the complete opposite of Zaccchaeus, feeling pretty good about ourselves and proud of what we've accomplished.  Perhaps we find ourselves climbing the sycamore right beside him, desperate to know more about this Jesus.

Wherever we find ourselves receiving our identities from this week, Jesus begins his words to us with "Hurry, come down..."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Faith in Home.

Quite literally.

This past month has been a journey, one that has offered us growth and revealed more about who we are as individuals, as well as a family.

It begins with the regular hobby of my wife (and some other women too?) of exploring open houses.  Dreaming about what it'd be like to have a bit more elbow room, closets in each bedroom, and sidewalks to teach our girls how to ride their bikes.  It's not about being unsatisfied with our current home, realizing there are areas of the world, and even the U.S. where to have a home like ours is beyond the largest dream.

Which highlights one of the first major differences.  One of the things I've loved about my wife ever since we began dating in college, was her desire to change things.  She does not become complacent easily, and always asks the question "What could be?".  Usually, for a guy with the personality that would be quite fine surviving in a house of any size as long as the dishes are done (my OCD coming through)...I haven't traditionally responded well immediately.

But a few weeks ago, she was "ooooh"-ing over a particularly nice house in the historic end of town.  She even convinced me to come with her.  I went through the motions, and tried to "do" what was asked, without quite taking the endeavor seriously.  The house, after all, was beyond our "budget", and it was a pipe dream.  I don't enjoy looking at a car unless I'm going to drive it...that sort of thing.

Later that week, the price of the house was reduced in such a way that it became a possibility.  I caught my wife's vision for "What could be?", and we immediately transformed life into that of house-selling/buying.  Had a contingency offer accepted, based on selling our current home.  Then the waiting began.  We heard all sorts of advice, from "claim the property in prayer, and it's yours", to "if it's God's will, it'll happen", to the much more preferred by me - "guess you can just pray, and wait, and see if it happens".

But these range of responses, along with a recently renewed practice of praying together regularly, added to the recent study of Luke 18:1-8, and we've had some good times.  What is the will of God, in regard to my home?  I teach that God cares about the smallest detail, and encourage teens to pray about anything their hearts are impacted by, no matter how silly.  All of this points to the fact that God hears our hearts when we pray for this move to happen.

Perhaps He will still actively move in a way that opens the door to this move.  It seems the door is closing, however, tempting us to ask the question - what was/is God up to?

In moments like this, we cling to the fact that God continues to be faithful.  Even the passage in Luke 18 doesn't emphasize the widow "got her way" eventually.  It points to the fact that that faith was found, God's complete Justice is coming, and encourages the disciples to not lose heart.  To keep praying, and that is the point.  We continue to be incredibly blessed, not simply because we have a home and other material comforts...but because we have a God who hears when we pray.

Like I said...maybe it'll still happen.  But no matter what, I look forward to continuing to pray often with my family toward whatever may come....God with us. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

man.

This past weekend I attended "Wild At Heart", a 24-hour retreat designed to help men re-capture their God-given masculinity...and have fun while doing it.  I have to admit, I'm not the first to raise their hand when it comes to "Who wants to come to this manly man of a man thing, where we'll do manly stuff, and discover how God made men different from women?"  So when this opportunity presented itself, I didn't exactly race to the table.

I was raised by my mom for a good portion of the "growin' up" years.  As captured pretty good in Donald Miller's book "To Own A Dragon", he talks about growing up without a father as always feeling like the rest of the world knew something you didn't.  Now, my mom did a pretty spectacular job raising 5 kids by herself for a while.  And if I would've allowed my dad now, to be my dad when he married my mom....well, I wish I would have. :)

I realize by now, there's nothing actually missing.  In fact, through life's difficulties I've probably grown a lot more, and added to the characteristics I would have otherwise naturally acquired.  I'm thankful for what God can use, even if it wasn't what He desired for our lives.

But even with all that, when it comes to "typical" man categories (women, sit down...don't get offended....I realize there are plenty of you who are "into" this stuff...much more than me.) like fixin' cars, shooting animals, and knowing every sports statistic that is currently and historically relevant....I'm generally uninterested/inexperienced.  But I still love the guys in my life, who do naturally enjoy these things for some reason.

That was my main reason for going, and the same reason I've been attending "Mens' Fraternity" here in Decatur every Thursday morning.  There is a HUGE group of men out there who relate really well to sport and hunting analogies.  And in the midst of analogies I'm not a big fan of (Emphasizing over and over again how much we need to utilize humility as some type of tool/weapon in order to "win", etc.) there are definitely things worth hearing/talking about.

Guys being vulnerable, and pursuing the heart of God.  Recognizing it's not about dominating the home or workplace, but serving it as Christ.  Discovering what risks/adventure God is calling in your life specifically, and having faith to step forward.   Surrounding yourself with a "band of brothers" who can support each other in these things.


Not sure these are specifically "manly" callings....but it sure helps for men to be honest about them when they're separated by gender for a bit.  Good relationships being built, and God is receiving glory. :) 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond the Lions

This week's Old Testament reading comes from the book of Daniel.  I'd confess that beyond the popular story of the Lions' Den, and short passages here & there in my studies of Revelation and other apocalyptic writings, I've not spent much time with Daniel.

The readings are short (7:1-3, 15-18), and just enough to get a dream and its' interpretation.  Daniel sees four great winds "churning up the great sea", and four great unique beasts coming from that sea.  In the 2nd section we get the interpretation: "The four great beasts are the four (kings) that will rise from the earth."

Before we get caught up in wondering which current or future governments will rise from the earth, we recognize there were four primary oppressive governing bodies over the Jews.  This isn't news, as we can find this interpretation in several commentaries, and it definitely fits with the message of Daniel/scripture.

1. Chaldeans
2. Persian Monarchy
3. Grecian Monarchy
4. Rome? Turkish Empire? Syria?  (the jury seems out, but sure seems like Rome)

But the primary focus, even beyond these debates, seems to be found in verses 13-14, and verse 18:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed....But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever - yes, for ever and ever."

A good reminder, for sure. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Many Minutes Do You Have?

Recently I was given a copy of "The Seven Minute Difference", along with a soon-to-be-released companion daily planner.  I smiled, automatically relegating these things into the "won't really impact me, but I'm forced to write something about 'em so I'll give it a go" category.  I was somewhat wrong.

Turns out, the "7 Minute Difference" is simply using a few short moments a day to make sure what you're doing with your day is connected to what you ultimately hope to do in life...both short and long term.  The planner itself is organized in such a way as to remind you to be taking those small steps on a daily basis, and staying on task with them on your mind.  Being honest, the planner was too much for my ADD.  Anytime you need 11 pages to explain HOW to use a planner, you're over my head.  Turns out, it's easy to use...if you use planners.   Maybe there will be an app for it someday...I might try that.  For more information, I encourage you to check out the Seven Minute Life System yourself.

One of the things that frustrated my wife over the past several years, is my lack of "dreaming" when it comes to our home.  Sure, I would agree when she asked me, I want a house where our girls can have closets.  I would like a house with sidewalks so we can teach them how to ride a bicycle.  I'd love a street with less traffic...etc.

But none of my actions/words ever conveyed that I intended to do anything other than live where we were for the rest of our lives.

This book pointed out to me, I may be doing the exact same thing in other areas of my life.  Allyson Lewis points out the importance of putting our "Life Purpose" into words, and then making lists of Goals and Micro-goals that move toward that purpose.  Although I will confess, I had a hard time coming up with a "Life Purpose".  Mainly I think I was trying to see through her lens, which seemed optimistically too much about the vague notions of "success", "security", and "growth"...all business-oriented phrases that I'm not really motivated much by.

My "Life Purpose" would probably sound something like "My purpose in life is New Creation.  To experience being made new by God, & to be involved in His making all things new in Christ.  Desiring the same for my wife, our marriage, my children, my family, my relationships with those I love, and those I need to be reminded to love.  I pray the ministry God allows me to be a part of to be actively growing New disciples of Christ, and connecting believers in relationship across families and generations...toward the coming of God's Kingdom."

Now...that's always been there in the background.  But not really in words.  And even now that it's in words, I find myself critiquing and wanting to reword it.  Yet, there is a solid beginning.  A purpose that my daily actions, large and small, should be united by and part of.

I love the ministry God allows me to be a part of.   But I'll be honest - I would probably be just fine if it looked very similar 10 years down the road.  Just as I'd be just fine if I lived in the same house.  But "just fine" doesn't imply that's what I want.  I want stronger relationships with my volunteers.  I want to be more connected with the families, and see teenagers deeper connected to the discipleship happening at home.

I think that often because I fight the mentality seen throughout this book of professional "success", "growth", and "security", I forget that "content" doesn't necessarily mean things have to remain the same.  I am thoroughly content, and thankful for where I am in so many areas of my life.  But I desire what can be...

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Fantasy Hockey Writers Application Sample. :)

And so it begins. We've kicked off the last bit of off-season dust, and have begun the journey toward awarding the 2011 Stanley Cup. Maybe you're new to this fanatical experience of the NHL. Perhaps you're a long-time fan with records of every Gordie Howe Hat Trick ever made. And possibly, you think a “hat trick” is probably something the goalie does involving taking off his protective head gear.

But what you all may have in common? Fantasy Hockey.

Personally, I've grown up watching hockey as far back as I can remember. I love it. So did most of the people I grew up around. But then I moved to the middle of Illinois. Now I find myself surrounded by basketball, football, and even a few baseball fans, many of whom have never watched a full NHL game, unless you count Chicago's win last season.

So what do I do? I trick as many local guys as I can to put their ego's to the test in the realm of Fantasy Hockey. Sure, sometimes I do alright. But overall, my “win” comes in the form of having a group of guys I can talk hockey with...both online, and in person.

And what a season it's already turning out to be.

In the West, the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks are fighting to make a statement. What statement? “Even though we lost some great players due to salary cap issues, we are still as much a team to be reckoned with.” Watch for Marian Hossa to continue gaining productivity as the season moves forward. He may have finally won a Stanley Cup after an emotional chase, but now he's tasted victory and has more time on the ice than last season.

But that's not all the West has to offer. This week saw the match up between the “Old” and “New” regimes of hockey, and it was VERY close. The Detroit Redwings took on the Colorado Avelanche in Detroit. The team captains age at 40 and 39, respectively, but only one truly represents the age of the men behind him. Nicklas Lidstrom, backed by a Detroit team aged mainly 25-40, and isn't available in your fantasy league for a reason. He's solid.

Adam Foote on the other hand, is surrounded by so many young whipper snappers starting at age 19, you wonder if Colorado will keep him around for another season? Yet even with much less experience, the Colorado Kids gave Detroit a pummeling on Tuesday night, tallying 38 shots to the Wings total of 28.

Any team that can give a performance like that in Hockeytown USA, is worth checking into.  You might take a chance on David Jones if you've got a deeper league, with an open RW position. Ousted by an injury mid-season last year, it's hard to know what he would have accomplished. But the 20 minutes a game he's playing right now says Colorado has confidence in his ability to produce, and they were rewarded for that confidence Tuesday night.

Friday, October 15, 2010

After "After You Believe"

Whether due to a busy summer, a large amount of books I've taken on all at once, or simply wanting to spend more time working through it....I've finally completed "After You Believe" by NT Wright.  I don't think I'll surprise my 2 readers by saying.....I enjoyed just about every page of it.

As a quick side note, I found myself wondering if people around me (because the world revolves around me, right?) notice the title of my book, and think perhaps I've just recently become a "believer" in whatever the topic is.  Sometimes I'd purposefully flash the book, in hopes that an energetic evangelical would strike up a conversation about how great Jesus is.  No such luck, this time at least.

I've already posted some thoughts while reading the book, and it's important call to reclaim the activity of Jesus in our world as the Church.  So much of what Wright has said, is painted wonderfully in such a context that to remove it from, would be like taking a single star from "Starry Night", and wanting you to see how beautiful it is.  I encourage you...if you've ever found, or find yourself in a place where you want "more" from Christianity, and church shopping isn't quite filling what you thought it would.....or whatever method you've explored to bring personal revival.....allow God to use this book in your journey.

God is doing some pretty incredible things, and I want the language, song, and dance of my life to be something that I've practiced so often when it felt unnatural - that when moments requiring the response of someone genuinely following Jesus to bear God's presence into the world in a transforming way....I am able, by the Spirit's presence in my life.   That my very mind would be transformed/renewed, so that Faith, Hope, and Love would be virtues I've not only practiced in the grace of God...but are also becoming my very "New" nature.  That the fruit of the Spirit (all 9 aspects of it) would be obvious both as difficult decisions, as reflex actions, and as truly supernatural gifting as my life seeks the coming together of heaven and earth.

I'm thankful for Wright's words on the work of humanity that has begun, and will continue into New Creation.  The gathering of creations' praises to present before God, and the bearing God's image and nature into that same creation.  I pray that God will be with me, as I desire these things not only for myself, but for my marriage, my family/children, and the church community I've been blessed to be called to serve God among.

Yes...it's a bit dense at parts.  The fact that he talks about Aristotelian themes of virtue, etc...can be intimidating and discouraging to some of us who would prefer an easier-to-swallow pill.  But just as the spiritual "disciplines" can lead to some pretty amazing transformations toward New Life.....taking the time to invest in the words on these pages...can open the Word and Life that Jesus Christ has inaugurated...may you be blessed as well....and if you wanna borrow my copy - just let me know. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holiness - Mark Van Valin

The 2nd primary speaker mentioned in yesterdays' post was Mark Van Valin, from Spring Arbor, Michigan.  Whereas Barna talked to us mainly as ministers and churches, VanValin spoke to us as children of God; and offered new insight in our conversations on "Holiness".

He began by offering 3 main "traditions" of salvation:
 - Proposition - we believe the right things
 - Behavioral - we do the right things
 - Relational - we know the right person.

Obviously, his desire for us was the third understanding.  That we might come to know an intimate experience of Jesus Christ.  From John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."  We see the trinity relating to each other in places like Jesus' baptism, exhibiting Love and Joy and Family.

Many of us have been asked the question "If God is complete, in need of nothing, why did he make us?"  Mark reminded us it was out of His fullness, not loneliness, that God created.  A fullness that He desires to share with us.

Van Valin compared our approach to our lives in regard to holiness like an island with overgrown plant life.  That holiness is not simply "weed-wacking" around our island, taking care of the small manifestations of outward sin.  Sin generally comes from some sort of "self" focus:

 - Self-promotion - "what about me?" mentality
 - Self-protection - "always being safe", "not me!" mentality, disguised as humility
 - Self-indulgence - "please me" mentality, easier to spot this one, seeking pleasure/avoiding pain, addictions
 - Self-sufficiency - shies away from mystery, "let me" mentality, not willing to be broken/vulnerable

 These fear-based "larger issues", destroy relationships and our ability to relate well...to God, or others.  All of this pointing to the real enemy often not being satan, but ultimately myself.  Van Valin offered reminders to yield ourselves to Christ for each of these areas, in order:

 - Humility
 - Obedience
 - Suffering/Intimacy/Self-control
 - Trust

These 4 things not only deepen, enrich, and help build relationships...they also REQUIRE community.  Church is much more than an hour on the weekend that you can choose whether or not you're interested in attending this week.  It's a community experiencing life-transformation together, and transforming their world as those lives are lived out together in mission and God's presence. 

May we invite those around us to participate in the intimacy of genuine life together in the same way we've been invited to participate in what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are actively doing...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Journey to Wholeness - George Barna

Last month I was privileged to attend conversations on the topic of holiness at the pastors' day hosted by the "Wesleyan Holiness Consortium".  The two primary speakers were George Barna, and Mark Van Valin.  Today's post will focus on the message from Barna.

He was speaking on the topic of "How to partner with God more effectively toward genuinely transformed lives."  Toward lives that naturally bring about the virtues of faith, hope, and love...and yield the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit.  Statistically speaking (which is Barna's forte), we currently have some very unhealthy churches.

Barna gave us the important reminder, that no matter gifted we are...no matter how well prepared the sermon is, and no matter how tight/seamless the service goes....WE cannot transform lives.  We need the Spirit of God to move in New ways.

He talked to us about his current research journey, that will be released as a new book, focusing on the "Journey" most believers (or communities of believers) experience.  He found 10 primary stages, or "stops" on that journey:

1. Ignorance (of sin)
2. Indifference (skeptics, etc.)
3. Concern (so what do I do about this?)
4. Ask for initial forgiveness. (often "fire insurance" type decision)
5. Involved (developmental, service, "what's next" questions begin to be asked)
6. Spiritual Discontent (been involved a while, but realize the change is outward, wanting more)
7. Recognize the need to be broken (by sinful nature - need for God's work)
8. Healing (once we've surrendered to God, restoration & growth can come)
9. Love (from and for God)
10. LOVE (for others - a very distinct step apart from #9)

Some important notes on the above:
 - These are not always sequential...especially the first 5.
 - Most people stay within the first 5 stops.
 - #6 is often the place where people want to "change environment" (go church shopping), but retain the issue at heart.  Often seen in young adults who are used to age-segregated "youth group" mentality consumer-driven church experiences...and now find themselves without a section on the menu for them specifically.
 - #7 is crucial, and often missed.  Majority of believers say they accepted Christ without brokenness.  The consumer-driven (avoid hell, or gain better life) models of salvation miss out on what Jesus is up to!

Barna then gave 4 important "next steps" for us as churches/ministries:
1. Recognize that EVERYONE is on this journey somewhere.  Where are you?
2. Reflect on what "transformational ministry" means?  We are reminded the "endgame" is NOT "heaven".
3. We need to invest more church resources in steps 1-4 than we do currently.
4. We are called to be vulnerable in realizing these things.  To partner together, and find fellowship with others seeking a better understanding as well.

May we find ourselves on the journey, and locate those we love as well....as we seek the Wholeness that Jesus Christ is offering even now...

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The" Session - Final D6 Post

The final speaker of the conference was, in my opinion, the one that provided the vision/framework/calling that the other sessions made you thirsty for.  Rob Rienow, of "Visionary Parenting", spoke to us on "How to change the DNA of our church?"

He gave a great presentation, beginning with Genesis and going through both Old and New Testaments, on how the Bible is not just "meat" for great messages, but is also full of "method". (at this point, we Methodists smile a bit at our cleverness)  Rienow called us, as churches and in our own families, to "reclaim" the connection between the Great Commission and the institution of the family.  He gave us 3 main points in the midst of it:

1. God created FAMILIES to be discipleship centers.  Not speaking about a mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a dog, either.  Talking about great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, parents, cousins, kids, etc.  The automatic expectation throughout scripture was the impact a transformation had on not just one person, but on the direction of their family's lineage/heritage. 

2. The biblical purpose of parenting & grand-parenting is to impress hearts of children with the love for God.  This purpose never fades or is reduced simply because they "move out" or seem to stop paying attention, which leads to point number 3:

3. God created family as an essential engine of world evangelism/cosmos transformation through the power of multi-generational faithfulness!!!  We see God's vision for Abraham and his family in Genesis 18:18-19.  That multi-generational faithfulness begins with NOW.  Regardless of what has happened in the past, and what you've inherited, you can begin a LEGACY of several generations all transformed by New Life, and impacting the world with your own home/family/preparations for family. 

The calling of much of this comes down to Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength."  To impress this upon the hearts of our children, to model it as we walk together, and to talk about it in a way that reveals how important it is to the very fabric of our lives.  But it can be hard to achieve, if we don't understand/think about what it means ourselves.

To love the Lord with all our heart, means to Love God in regard to "What I Love".  What captures my heart?  What has the power to tug on my emotional strings?  How are we helping the "heart" of our family to be directed toward the God who has given us His Love?

To love the Lord with all our soul, means to Love God in regard to "Who I Am".  Where does our identity come from?  Our confidence and reason for getting up every morning?  Do we humbly give thanks to a God who gives us an identity as sons and daughters of the Most High?  How are we helping our family receive it's identity not from finances, social status, or culture...but from the Word of God?

To love the Lord with all our strength, means to Love God in regard to "What I Do". What have we accomplished recently?  What work have we done?  What have we created, and where have we joined with God in "making all things new"?  How are we helping our family to be involved in things that matter to the Kingdom of God more than things that will fade in a few years?

Malachi 2:15 reminds us that God has given us marriage for a purpose. He makes two into one, and hates divorce, because he desires "Godly offspring".  And no, this is not a call toward parenting "Duggar-style".  This is simply the Truth...that God desires that following Him would be a multi-generational family together thing, and in/through this....His purposes continue to be accomplished.  How hope-filling and exciting...to anticipate together with many generations..the completion that God promises, and that we have all been living toward together!!

Whether this simply means we continue what we've been doing, or calls us to allow ourselves and our families to be changed...may God bless the generations and extensions of each of our homes/families this week....and may He begin with you and yours...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Matthew 25:14-30

Last night we talked a bit about this passage, and the insight felt like something very worth sharing.  Many of us have heard this story before.  It's an illustration of the Kingdom of God....a parable that points to what Jesus is bringing about.

There are two main messages we often hear, associated with this story.  Both miss the point by quite a bit.  Usually, when these verses are quoted or read, we hear one of two messages:

1. "Well done, good and faithful servant.." Usually it's only these words we hear.  Often as the goal of their life...a romanticized notion of arriving at the pearly gates, and to have Jesus with a long flowing white robe (kinda like a Snuggy, actually), offering us our own Heavenly Snuggy, and ushering us into a giant cloud-themed living room saying "Well DONE, good and faithful servant."  God finds that we've accomplished His "work" well in this lifetime, and we've proven ourselves faithful despite all of the temptation we had to work to avoid during our days on earth.  Our emphasis is on being "done", and now being able to get on with what all Christians really want to do, which is to say lounging around drinking coffee and chai, and playing musical instruments from the 2nd Century....basking in the sunshine (which is actually the light radiating off of Jesus), and working on our son-tan. :)

2. "You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things!"  When we hear these words, many times today it's in relation to a "prosperity gospel" type message.  That if we are faithful with the few bucks we make right now, by giving tithes/offerings sacrificially, donating to worthy causes, and managing our affairs with Jesus at the center....God will no doubt increase our wealth, our success, and our empire of sorts.  This is very popular.  We with little money would love to believe this, because it's an easy path to success and financial peace (right?).  Those with lots of money love to believe it, because then it's easier to rest easy with lots of money, as it is God's reward for the sacrifices already made and done with.  But the truth is, you could be incredibly faithful with the little bit of money you have right now....and a tornado could still hit your home, and insurance refuse to pay for much.  But don't tell Joel Osteen. :)

The Truth is, the story remains a parable about the Kingdom of God.  The words "Well done, good and faithful servant..." do come at THE END OF THIS LIFE, and are immediately followed by the next phrase "You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things!"

We will be given tasks/work in the Kingdom of God, just as we have many tasks at hand right now.  If we are found faithful with what we've been given in this life, God will respond to that in the coming Kingdom!  Not by giving us a large crown or mansion, or a "time off" couch and Snuggy....but with more responsibilities!!!  A word given negative connotation by an earthly existence that is often way too imbalanced....but how glorious will be our responsibilities when God has been revealed fully, and made all things New!!!!  Our tasks as priests and rulers will continue, and take New forms in the ages to come....I look forward to it all....and pray that God finds I've been faithful with what I've been given here and now....

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Main Session - Carey Casey

One of our speakers was Carey Casey, from the National Center for Fathering.  Seemed like a very nice/fun guy, with an impressive arsenal with which to name drop.  One of the "real life" members of the "Remember the Titans" final game.  He's met with President Obama, and several other famous people I didn't write down.

He talked about an obvious dilemma for any of us who want to engage an entire family that attends our church.  Many times, the father takes a "back seat" to the spiritual development of the children, and often parenting altogether.  In recent days, I'm hearing more and more of these statistics, as I've attended the local "Men's Fraternity", and will be heading on a "Wild At Heart" weekend later in October.  I've not had a huge interest in these types of things before.  I was raised much of my life by just my mom, and don't really enjoy hunting, playing sports, or working on cars as perhaps I should.  I usually end up cringing at statements like "Real Men enjoy/are wired to ________"...usually because it puts me out of the group.  But as much as I poke fun at some of the overly macho enthusiasm, and apparent need to associate every analogy with sports, hunting, or some other obviously masculine endeavor...I recognize there is truth in some of what they're saying....men need to be called on differently than women.  We need to be reminded that it's not about money, strength, "success" as defined by the world, and it's not something that happens automatically.  Being a father, a husband, and a man God is using....takes effort, practice, Love, humility, etc., and dependence on/seeking God.  Ministries like this ARE reaching men across the country...and God can use that.

So, once we've gotten their attention, how do we engage fathers (myself included) in the spiritual development of their families and children?

By reminding them, there is a purpose to being where they are.  By ministering to their marriages as a top priority.  By helping dads to pursue unconditional love.  Teaching/guiding fathers to "coach" their children.  He used the illustration of asking a father, "Suppose you were asked to be assistant coach for your child's team?  Think of the energy and enthusiasm you would put into preparing your child, and how they interact with the team as a whole...etc.  Now...how much energy/enthusiasm do you put into your child's eternity (which has already begun)?"

Good point.

To model the life we want to guide other men toward, in Christ.  To encourage a fatherless child ourselves...he reminded us of the words in James 1:27...the call to look after orphans and widows, for this is religion God accepts as pure and faultless.  He reminded us to enlist other dads in all of this as well...referring to the well-known proverb about iron sharpening iron.

I look forward to connecting with other young fathers in the next years specifically.....on purpose...and without having to grunt or shoot an animal to do it.  But if they wanna shoot something near me....that's cool.  I'll bring a book.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Main Session - John Cannon & Ryan Rush

Cannon and Rush came out to do a tandem interview on the topic of "Yeah, but...", offering practical ways the "D6" concept was happening in actual churches.  Because of the back and forth, and the difference between their churches and ours....I didn't take a ton of notes.

They reminded us to be intentional about involving children in God's worship, Word, and work each week.  I can more than get down with that.  Something about children being visible during worship motivates coming before God with more humility/childlike-ness.  At one of the worship services, a motion song was done, that I honestly had very little motivation to wave my arms around during.  However, the same song was done at another time with a small group of children on stage, and I jumped right in.  Not because one service was more "genuine" or whatever than the other....but simply seeing children enjoying the physical expressions of the song...led to a more natural involvement in those expressions myself.  And that's not even scratching the surface on what it offers both the Christ-community and those children involved. :)

They gave the acronym "HOME" as we ask ourselves how we can realistically start to see changes/movements in our approach to ministry.  To begin and desire "Healthy Homes".  To pursue and instruct "Ongoing Obedience".  To provide and resource for "Meaningful Milestones" in the lives of those moving from child to adulthood.  Finally, to be "Engaging Everyone", connecting our ministries and efforts to and between every generation/background present.

Much of this goes against popular thoughts (at least thoughts that I've heard) that are content to label as "healthy" churches that are growing in number....when all the growth is happening with young adults, making friends with more young adults, who are inviting their young adult friends. (seriously, young adults, did you know you were a hot commodity among churches?  I say demand a gift card and free babysitting, at least. ;)  )  On the flip side, I've also heard some speak of churches filled to the brim with only elderly, content to let those churches fade quietly into the sunset.  I think both sides of this coin are unhealthy, and at worst damaging to a community seeking all that God has for us.

At this point in the conference, I was getting just a little weary of all the bragging about how "God is at work through a movement called D6", and wanted to say that D6 was just our latest (pretty good) attempt to join God in what He is already moving toward and desiring to accomplish.  I think it had something to do with the sales pitches for all things D6, and the relentless advertising by this publication or that must-have ministry tool.

Nevertheless....good things. :)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Main Session - Doug Fields

I've heard Doug speak a number of times, and read several of his books both in preparation for, and in the midst of ministry.  You probably have too.  What I haven't heard him speak on much until this, was the aspect of parenting...other than talking about "boundaries" he has to protect his wife and family, and other random stories from his podcasts.

That seemed to be a large part of his focus here as well.  When we think of the question "Okay, so now that we're all on board as pastors, desiring for more to be happening in the homes of our church members in the way of making disciples and living out faith throughout the week.....what do we do next?", Doug brings the not-so-obvious answer - "Start in our own homes."

I'd confess that prior to this conference, praying with my spouse had not been something we thought about fitting in somewhere.  Sure, we'd pray together at meals.  We'd pray as a family during the girls' bedtime ritual often.  But to actually pray together, apart from our kids/meals....and not just because there's an emergency? 

It's already been a nice change...and reminds us, sometimes through desire, and sometimes through ritual...that our marriage is a priority.  Both for us...and for the God who made two become one...and continues to hold us.

The fact that our families as Christians can be examples for those who are seeking a "New" way of being a family.  A path apart from the destruction and self-motivated maneuvering found in the world.  That a family can also exhibit how the church body can exist...freed from self and positioning, practicing self-less Love, Hoping together toward what comes next, and sharing common Faith in the God who is making all things New.

Although I'd have to say I was a little disappointed in one of his main points ("Focus on Your Own D$&* Family"), that seemed to be popular with much of the crowd...simply for it's crudeness.  Nevertheless, the point was...before we begin trying to "fix" other homes in our church, we need to be aware of how much priority our own family has.  As pastors, we need to change the expectations that we're overworked and present at every single event our church has.  When "off" or "on vacation", or even home after work...to "unplug", and disconnect from communication avenues to focus on family. 

He called us to "serve ice cream" at home, putting as much energy into making your home attractive as you do your church/ministry.  Which, as someone not too particularly motivated to make our youth ministry "attractive"...I still get what he's saying.  And finally, he asked the question of us as pastors, "What are you doing to make sure it's a privilege that mom/dad is a pastor?"  Offering stories of things he's done...kinda "all-access" type, movie night, friends lock-in, swim in baptistery, etc.  :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Main Session - Dr. Kevin Leman

I'll admit, this was my first experience of Dr.Leman.  Which probably automatically tells many of you, I haven't paid nearly as much attention to parenting literature as I should.  This guy has been on news shows all over the world, including Oprah AND anyone remember Donahue back in the day?  Yup...he was on there.

Just check out his bibliography on Wikipedia, to realize the full extent of my ignorance.  In any case....he was an awesome speaker.  Humble, yet well informed, and humorously experienced in parenting and giving guidance to other parents for years.  Dr.Leman spoke on instilling the authority of parents AND scripture in the home.  Authority is something often avoided and talked about in somewhat "shushed" tones these days.  It's usually about freedoms, allowances, and how to make your kids happy.  But as Dr.Leman said more than once, "An unhappy child is a healthy child.", for obvious reasons.

He spoke of the value of a little "Vitamin N" (the word "no"), and reminded parents to respond as a parent during teachable moments, as opposed to responding from high emotions in the midst of a conflict.  I really felt like I gained as much or more from this session as a parent than as a pastor.  I can't speak to his books, and I can't say I'd go with all of his tactics (locking a child outside when she wouldn't stop crying)....but he's a captivating and witty speaker worth listening to.  I'll end with some quotes of his, that would be tough to weave into a short blog post...:)

"If you bring up your kids to think they're the center of the universe, what room is there for God?"

(speaking of today's families being too busy) "Activities are not good for children.  :)  They're not good for families, marriages, and definitely not good for your sex life."

"So often parents work very hard to keep their children from experiencing any type of "failure", but failure is usually where we meet Jesus.  How many people do you know who discovered their need for Jesus during an average or even successful moment?"

"Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.  We need to be parents who strive to be an authority, without being authoritarian."

"Actively parent your children as individuals.  What works for one will not always work for the whole clan.  Different bedtimes, & different times for learning."

"Fighting with your child is an act of cooperation."

"Train your children respectfully up into maturity/character, not down into submission."

"It's important to establish that if ____ doesn't happen, ____ will not happen.  Don't use warnings.  Establish authority in their lives, in hopes/prayers that they will understand authority when it comes to the Word of God in their home and life as well.  If solid authority (without being authoritarian) isn't experienced, it will remain foreign to them."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Main Session - Jim Burns

Jim Burns focused on the issue of helping parents with spiritual formation and discipleship.  Once again, a speaker who had 3 daughters.  I suppose I should listen to all of the speakers neutrally, especially knowing how many faults my own speaking is prone to, even though I've 3 daughters also.  Nevertheless, when one of these people says "My 3 girls", it's like they've said the magic words, and I listen attentively as if they know the secret knowledge my life will require in the next 20+ years.

Burns reminded us of the "big/macro picture", that when we focus more on reaching the family, we truly equip ourselves to reach the world....which is made up of naturally replenishing family systems.  In all of the fuss about church growth, and "seeker-sensitive" churches, attractive programs targeting youth, college, young adult, singles, etc...we can often lose track that one of the primary foci of the Church is on mentoring parents.

He also emphasized a point we've come to realize more and more as parents of infants/toddlers.  That the Sunday morning worship service mindset often has little room for kids like ours.  They make people uncomfortable, annoyed, and desire to build things like "crying rooms", and announce from the pulpit reminders that nursery/toddler rooms are provided in case your kids don't know how to be quiet and sit still like the 70 year olds around them.

To any parents reading at this point who think "Yes! That's how I feel!", or a pastor who thinks perhaps we're guilty of that too often - I would recommend a book that was recommended to use recently.  "Parenting in the Pew" talks about how to allow our children to participate in worship on Sunday's, to the benefit both of our family, and the church family who needs the reminder from Christ in Mark 9:36-37...when we welcome a child, we welcome Jesus.  We've very thankful/blessed to be part of a worshiping community where this is happening more and more. :)

He finished by ringing a few more important alarms, such as reminding pastors and parents in general to ask ourselves the question, "Am I only giving my family my emotional/energy scraps?", to be caring for our children and our spouses first.  He recommended 3 major paradigm shifts:
1. Discipleship BEGINS in the home. We need to facilitate, invite, and encourage this.
2. Teach parents to become "students" of the culture.
3. Our job is to set the pace with our own home/family lives.  Integrity/Authenticity, and plenty of margin.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Main Session 4 - Brian Haynes

By this point in the D6 Conference, we'd met several speakers who were parents of 3 daughters.  I enjoyed listening to these particularly for obvious reasons.  Haynes spoke specifically on the topic of "What is Family Ministry, and what does it look like?"  The question of how do we encourage parents as they pour into their children intentionally, leading to multi-generational discipleship naturally occurring in our church families.

He focused quite a bit on the concept of "Milestones", which seemed to serve several purposes.  Both to give a sort of "rite of passage" quality to maturing in Christ, but also to remind parents/youth that they are on a journey to something "next".  Haynes called parents to remember the importance of "Blessing" their children, and celebrating things as a family.

He offered a common path of "Milestones" to be celebrated both by church AND family:

 - Parent/Baby Dedication
 - Faith Commitment
 - Preparing for adolescence
 - Purity for life
 - Right of passage (i.e. being blessed by parents)
 - High School Graduation
 - Life in Christ

In actual homes, he emphasized what practical actions were useful to focus on across the board.  Things for families to make sure they practice regularly are:

 - Faith Talks - crazy how low a percentage of families actually talk/pray in regards to God and Spirituality.
 - God Moments - the whole "home and away, when you walk and when u rise". Watch for the everyday moments where God can be pointed out/revealed.
 - Celebrate Milestones - especially the ones listed above!!!
 - Abide - John 15:5 :)

Haynes talked a bit about small groups catching onto these concepts as one of the few ways to bring the exact message to homes around the community.  To be purposeful, as: "the purpose of small groups is to create adult disciples in order to have parents who can disciple children."  Now obviously that cannot apply across the board, and I wouldn't put that on a small group advertisement. 

By this point in the week, I was getting hungry for more of the "Why" to actually be spoken of.  Something beyond simply growing more and more homes full of more and more/deeper disciples.  Something beyond simply finding a more effective way of making sure young adults feel like they can be connected to God's purposes here.

..and that was on it's way. :)