Archive for August, 2012

Aug
15

You Need a Place:: 3

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Yesterday I mentioned that your place in the world informs your mission in life. By surveying where you physically live, work, shop, recreate, and worship, you gather invaluable details about God’s will for your life. Not only does your place inform you concerning God’s will, it also becomes the holy ground of God’s good work in your life.

The apostle Paul said it this way: “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NLT) In other words, your physical body is where heaven and earth meet. As children we grew up talking about the church building being “God’s house.” But scripturally, God’s house is your body; the place where heaven and earth continually meet. That means your life is lived in that dynamic tension…

The tension between now and not yet;
The tension between here and there;
The tension between time and eternity;
The tension between material and spiritual; and
The tension between pilgrim and citizen.

Each week in worship we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” So where does that begin? I don’t think it begins as some form of external, definable event. I think it begins in you and me, right where we are. Understanding that your body is the great house of God allows us to see that where we are is the holy ground of God’s good work in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll finish this week’s thread up by talking a bit about the purpose behind all of this.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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The Barna Report just issued the first of four articles from research conducted regarding women and their roles in the life of the local church. You can read the full article by CLICKING HERE.

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Aug
14

You Need a Place:: 2

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The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3, NLT).

What value is added to your life by understanding your context? For one, your place informs your mission in life. The gospel of the Kingdom of God begins where you are. Your place is your place of influence; the place where you will be salt and light. In Genesis 12:1-3, God first gave Abram a place, then he gave him a people.

We can ask “Why am I here?” But there’s a better question: “Why does God have me here?” Adding the dimension of God to the question brings divine perspective on your place. Perhaps you’ve gone online and searched for your home on Google maps. If you use the satellite feature, you can see your house from high in the sky. But you don’t just see your home. You see that your home is situated in a neighborhood, which is in the larger context of a community.

You are where you are by divine design. But your places and spaces are not just about where you are. It’s also about sharing borders with others that you can serve as salt and light.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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Aug
13

You Need a Place

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For the past seven weeks I’ve been preaching and posting on the essential, indispensable relationships we need in order to successfully navigate life. Over those weeks I’ve challenged you to find specific people to enhance your life in ways you could not on your own. By way of quick review:
You Need a Jonathan—a true friend who loves you as much as himself or herself;
You Need a Nathan—a truth teller who will mind your business;
You Need a Barnabas—an encourager who will help you through the “dark nights of the soul;”
You Need a Paul—a mentor a God-energized guide who gives the gift of growth;
You Need a Levi—an outcast who will remind you that life is not measured by getting but by giving;
You Need a Moses—an intercessor who will take a seat on top of the hill and pray for you while you do battle in the valley; and,
You Need a Rhoda—a small voice to demonstrate how we are to relate to God and his kingdom.

Each of these influencers help you to become all that God created you to be. The final relationship deals with the context of all of these relationships…your place in the world. You are who you are in time and space. Your place in the world is your context of your life. You are not here today by some stroke of fate or cosmic accident. You are where you are by divine design. Check back in this week as I dive into this final subject.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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Aug
08

The Comedian

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I did my doctoral studies in the field of preaching. In my personal library reside some 75 volumes written by preachers for preachers. I took every course my seminary offered on the topic and still have the notes. I have verbatims that I’ve written and typed from interviews that I conducted with some of America’s greatest pulpiteers. Yet one of the most helpful resources that I maintain in my collection is a documentary on Jerry Seinfeld titled, The Comedian.

The Comedian is an 87 minute DVD that chronicles Jerry Seinfeld’s return to stand up comedy following his successful television career. Seinfeld determined to return to comedy from the ground up. He tossed all of his material and committed to begin with all new, never performed material. I appreciate the honesty of the work which reveals Seinfeld’s struggles and even his failures.

It’s definitely entertaining, especially if you’re a fan of stand up comedy or Seinfeld’s brand of humor. But to the eye of those who have to do any form of public speaking, the documentary holds several insightful lessons.

For example, it was interesting to see the stand ups struggle with ego, insecurity, and vulnerability. One would think that these experienced entertainers would be numb to audience opinion, but they were surprisingly sensitive to audience response. Some were very open to feedback from peers, while others worked as lone rangers, rejecting any feedback, including positive comments.

I admired their passion and single focus shared among members of the comedy circuit. They ate, slept, and drank comedy. Their lives off stage were intertwined with their craft.

Their work ethic was impressive. Far from the fun and games one might imagine, they described their work as “the daily grind.” Like preaching, the performance was the “fun” part. But the good ones shared one thing in common: the daily practice of writing, rehearsing, and evaluating.

My favorite part, though, was to see the struggle they shared when it came to developing new material. At one point, Seinfeld is congratulated for having accrued eight minutes of brand new material in his first three months of work. As I listened to this section, I laughed at the thought that pastors are routinely required to develop between 20-25 minutes of new material each week, atop the rest of their pastoral duties.

If you preach or teach with any regularity, The Comedian will serve as an insightful and encouraging word. If you view it through the lens of your pulpit ministry, you might even find yourself helped in a hopeful kind of way.

Categories : Books, Preaching
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Aug
07

Mississippi Church Issues Apology

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Back on July 30, I posted about a church in Mississippi that barred an African American couple from having their wedding ceremony in their sanctuary. After national reaction, the church has issued an apology that can be found by CLICKING HERE.

While the apology may not undue the initial injustice suffered by the petitioning couple, at least the public apology is a step in the right direction, and hopefully will begin the long process of healing in that community. My prayer is that this event will create an ongoing positive dialogue in the church, the community, and in other parts of our nation where racism is still alive and well. May each of our churches strive to be known for what they favor rather than for what they oppose.

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Aug
07

You Need a Small Voice:: 2

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Having a “small voice” in your circle of relationships can help you in at least five ways. For example, Rhoda’s keep you snug. Children live in the land of make believe where everything is possible. It’s that snugness makes dreaming possible and remind us to stay alive. We adults separate work and play. But for children, their work is play. Mark Twain said, “Children see work and play as words used for the same thing under different circumstances. Children keep us snug, and that helps because you have to be snug to hear the voice of God.

Children not only keep us snug, they also keep us authentic. That’s why we play games with “boo” and “grrrr.” Have you noticed that almost every children’s story has a villain? That’s how kids learn to master their fears. Story book villains helps them learn that monsters are real. Not the under the bed kind of monsters, but the monsters that we adults are all too familiar with in everyday life. We need to face the monsters of life and turn them into instruments of creativity and growth. Children scare the pretense away and shoo out the trite. You can’t be a hero without a villain.

Third, children keep you small and humble. Kids know that meaning and significance are found in the small things. The communion elements, both bread and cup, are small.

Next, children keep you light. Their story books are filled with light hearted and light headed airborne characters. Gravity is an adult disease that leads to the grave. Its natural to children to be idealistic. You have to learn to be a realist.

Finally, children keep you alive. In a child’s world, every thing is alive. Animals, plants, trees, inanimate objects all become alive and talk.
The value they add is that they help us see everything for the first time.

Jesus said that if we want to enter God’s Kingdom, we have to come as a child. If we want to understand what it means to trust God and place our faith in Him, we have to do so as a child. And if we want to know what it means to follow God passionately, we need to look to children as our examples. That’s why its important for us to relate appropriately and frequently with kids. They set the pace.

Categories : Community, Relationships
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Preaching as Worship, by Michael Quicke, is the third publication by the C.W. Koller Professor of Preaching and Communication at Northern Seminary in Chicago. His previous two works focused on preaching as an act of leadership and how preachers can work toward a cooperative communication relationship with the audience.

Quicke’s latest book also takes a specialize direction, namely that of incorporating the preaching event into worship as an act of worship. Those of us who serve vocationally in pastoral ministry are well acquainted with the challenge the author describes in the opening pages. Often churches view worship as units of time segmented into functional parts with their own purposeful outcomes. Music is music, prayers prayers, offerings offerings, and preaching preaching. Rather than see the parts, Quicke offers practical suggestions on how to incorporate the parts into the whole. He is especially interested in helping pastors and preachers learn how to incorporate their preaching into the whole hour and view the preaching act as an act of worship.

This book is more theological than practical, and is best suited for those who are experienced in preaching. If preachers are already cognizant of the need to see the sermon as part of a larger whole, then this book will offer some helpful ideas, but the primary goal of the book is already accomplished. If preachers view their sermon as special or unique from the rest of the worship hour, then their thinking will be challenged and hopefully inspired to incorporate the book’s recommendations.

Categories : Books, Preaching
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Aug
06

You Need a Small Voice

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When it came time for Jesus to showcase his ideal model for faith, he didn’t point to the scholar or the business person. He didn’t gesture toward the athlete or the entertainer. He chose a child. That’s why you need a Rhoda in your life. Rhoda?! Who was that? Rhoda was the first voice heard from a Christian woman in the church in the book of Acts. That woman was a child. Rhoda was the doorkeeper in the house of Mary in Jerusalem, and here’s her story.

The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leadersc had planned to do to me!” When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed. He motioned for them to quiet down and told them how the Lord had led him out of prison (Acts 12:6-17, NLT).

Sometimes it takes a child to point out the obvious. When Jesus wanted to show what discipleship was like, he plopped a child in front of his listeners. Why? Is it because children are innocent? Pure? Truthful? Hardly! (Feel free to insert your own story here about any toddler/parent exchange at the candy rack at the grocery check out.) Then why choose a child? Because it was a child and children were of no value in Jesus’ day. They possessed a rank below women and slaves, slightly ahead of beasts. “Little ones,” especially females, were viewed as worthless and insignificant. They were despised, degraded, and neglected. But in the gospel according to Jesus, “Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.” The gospel according to Jesus shows that little is large. Children first was Jesus’ model because in the Kingdom of God the last are first.

Tomorrow I’ll begin a listing of five ways that children teach us about connecting with God.

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Aug
02

You Need an Intercessor:: 4

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One concluding thought for this week’s series of posts. Never forget that Jesus is praying for you. That’s been his task since the ascension following the resurrection. His intercession is the basis for our intercession. Today I leave you with these two verses that remind you of that very important fact:

“For Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, praying for us” (Romans 8:34, NLT).

“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever t intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25, NLT).

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