Archive for July, 2013


The State of Vacation Bible School

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As long as I can remember, Vacation Bible School has been the main staple of the summer church calendar. Barna research has provided a new report on the state of VBS in American church life. You can read the report BY CLICKING HERE.

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Keeping in Stride:: 3

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Keeping in Stride

This week I’ve been posting reflections on the prologue of 1 John. John proclaimed that Christ is the Word of Life. His second point was that Christ is the basis of our fellowship with God and with one another. 1 John 1:3 says, “We proclaim to you what we ourselves has actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ” (NLT).

Fellowship was a word that was unique to first century Christians. It comes from the Greek word koinonia and most literally translated means “common.” The common vernacular of the day was koine Greek, or the Greek spoken by the common and the uneducated. Our word “coin” comes from the same root.

When used in the Bible, fellowship meant more than friendship and food. We do a great disservice to the New Testament when we reduce fellowship to drinking coffee or eating fried chicken with our Christian friends. If I were a New Testament translator, I would evict the word fellowship from the New Testament. Why? In the Bible, fellowship is used to describe our partnership in the gospel. It’s the way we share together in the mission of God. Granted, that does involve elements of community or sharing life together. But that’s the entry point. Our shared lives in Christ are guided with divine purpose: to advance the gospel and announce the Kingdom of God.

The third thing John proclaimed was that Christ is the source of our joy. He concluded the prologue with these words, “We are writing these things so that you may full share our joy” (1 John 1:4, NLT). John had the heart of a pastor and wanted the readers to live to the fullness of their Christian experience. He wanted them to know true joy.

Joy is not synonymous with happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is functions from the outside-in. Joy, on the other hand, is a character trait that operates from the inside-out. When something good happens (note the same root word as happiness) to us, we become happy. But happiness is not lasting. For example, if I look down and find a $20 bill, I’m happy. But what happens? I spend the money and its gone. Joy is something that finds its source in our relationship with Christ. Because its internal and rooted in Him, I can have it regardless of what happens to me or around me.

So what observations can be made about the prologue to 1 John? Allow me to suggest three things to think about.

First, we must beware of a Christ-less religion. Christ must be central to our concept of the gospel, our philosophy of ministry, and our missional engagement. A good question to think about is this: What makes what we think and do distinctively Christian?

Second, strengthening our walk with God does not begin with behavior modification. It begins by affirming those core beliefs about Christ. Again, right belief will lead to right behavior.

Finally, you only give your hand to a person you know and trust. Walking with Christ is first and foremost about relationship, not rules. Not even religion serves adequately substitute.

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One of the blogs I follow is Tony Morgan Live. This week he posted some thought provoking comments about how healthy churches think about big events versus how unhealthy churches think about them. Check it out HERE.


Keeping in Stride:: 2

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Keeping in Stride

We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy (1 John 1:1-4, NLT).

Three times John used the word “proclaim” during the introduction to his letter. What did John determine his readers needed to know about Christ?

First, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus is the “Word of Life” (1 John 1:1b-2). His prologue recalls the familiar language of his gospel.

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it
(John 1:1-5, NLT).

John used the word “Word” intentionally. His view of Jesus was that Christ is the communication of God; the clearest and fullest revelation of God. In this particular section, Jesus is the communication of God concerning life. The Greeks had two words they used for life. One word was bios, where we get the word biology. Obviously it refers to physical life. The other Greek word for life, though, is the word zoe. This is the word John used. Zoe refers to the God life we have through Christ. It has a quantitative dimension. For example, “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NLT). But zoe is not just quantitative, its also qualitative. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (NLT).

This Word of Life that John proclaimed is the kind of life God intended for us to live. Ironically, we tend to focus more on our “bios” than our “zoe,” missing out on the fullness of our experience.

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Keeping in Stride:: 1

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Keeping in Stride

My wife and I are “hand holders.” We always have been. We hold hands while watching television and when we go to the movies. We hold hands when we ride in the car together. We hold hands when we walk together. The interesting thing about holding hands while we walk is that I’m exactly 12 inches taller than she is. One might anticipate that we’d have trouble matching our steps since I’m so much taller, but the fact is that even though I am taller there is only a one inch difference in our inseams. This makes it easy for us to keep in step while we walk.

When our children were little it was more of a challenge. Their legs were significantly shorter and their steps were smaller. To hold the hand of a small child and walk together can be difficult, especially if they have their own sense of direction and where they want to go. Walking with a small child is one of the metaphors the apostle John probably had in mind when he wrote his three epistles nestled in the back of your New Testament.

John wrote to a group of believers who were a mess. They struggled with habitual sin. They found it difficult to love each other. They tended to be materialistic. They were unable to discern truth from error and tolerated false teachers, often incorporating false doctrine into their own beliefs. But rather than address their behaviors, John chose to address their theology. For John, right belief results in right behavior. When you think about it, that principle is not only true of us individually, its true of us corporately as well.

The apostle John, who penned this letter, could speak of Jesus authoritatively. After all, he was a historical contemporary with Christ. The book of 1 John is divided into two parts. In the first half of the book John’s theme follows his statement that God is Light (1:5-3:10). In the second half, John wrote that God is Love (3:11-5:21) and expounds upon that claim. John’s simple goal is that the readers of his letter would know how to walk in light and walk in love.

1 John 1:1-4 serves as the prologue to the book. Its not like other epistles in the New Testament with the traditional self introduction, followed by the salutation to the intended recipient, followed by an expression of well wishes usually in the form of a prayer. John got right to the business at hand. This week I’m going to post some reflections from his prologue. Thanks for following You can receive these posts in your inbox by subscribing to this blog. Try it out!

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I came across this dated piece last week. I don’t know the original author, but thought it was good and wanted to share it.

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry.

Week after week, month after month, and year after year, these, who called themselves fishermen, met in meetings and talked about their call to fish and how they might go about fishing. Year after year they carefully defined what fishing means, defended fishing as an occupation, and declared that fishing is always to be the primary task of fishermen.

Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. Further, they said “the fishing industry exists by fishing as fire exists by burning.” They loved slogans, such as “Fishing is the Task of Every Fisherman,” and “Every Fisherman is a Fisher.” They spent considerable time discussing new fishing equipment, fish bait and places to fish. This was done in nice buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The one thing they didn’t do, however, was fish.

They taught numerous training classes on the needs of fish, the nature of fish, how to approach fish, and how to feed fish. Those who went through the training were given nice “fishing licenses” to hand on their walls, but they never fished. They did, however, laud the founding fathers who did great fishing in the past and praised them for handing down the tradition of fishing.

After one inspirational meeting on “The Necessity of Fishing,” one young man actually went fishing. The next day he reported that he had caught two outstanding fish. He was honored for his excellent catch and scheduled to visit all the big meetings possible to tell how he did it. He became so busy he quit fishing so he would have time to tell about his experience.

Or course, there were those of were critical of the fishermen and the fact that though they claimed to be fishermen, they never actually fished. They were very hurt when someone actually said that those who don’t go fishing are not actually fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. And yet, can one be considered a fisherman if year after year he or she never catches a fish?