Having spent many years running through the halls of the church, I can attest to the fact that sometimes our efforts to communicate our Christian faith and the good news of Christ falls far short of being effective. No where is this better seen then on the marquee signs in front of our buildings. While there are times the church does well — all too often we seek to be cute or coy to gain the attention of our communities to the detriment of our message. This week I ran across a number of good examples of bad church signs online. Here’s just a few that made my list of signs that should have never been put up:
In the leadership world, there are thousands of books that address the way leaders lead and more specifically the way leaders plan. Without question, the greatest collection of wisdom and insight on how a leader plans his work–and then works his plan, has to be the Bible! Long before leadership gurus were publishing their opinions, blogging their thoughts. Or tweeting their pithy points of pontificating, the writers of scripture were penning God’s insightful perspective in the matter.
Today, as I was reading through the Ild Testament book of Proverbs I was again confronted with the challenging words of chapter 20 on the subject of planning well. In verse 18, the wisdom writer simply states,
prepare plans by consultation…
The significance of this verse speaks directly to the heart of every leader. Good leaders never make their plans in a cavalier way. Wise leaders, proficient leaders, those leaders who stand out from the rest will always seek wise counsel before they make plans and carry them out! In another scripture, we were reminded that wisdom is found in the counselor of many. Yet another declaration of the importance of seeking wise counsel before making plans.
But there was more direction given in Proverbs chapter 20 on the subject of making plans. In verse five, the author tells us,
A plan in the heart of a man is like Deepwater, but a man of understanding draws it out.
Here the writer reminds us of the necessity of leaders to think out-of-the-box, to dream big, to plan with the future in mind. From his perspective, planning is necessary and life giving. It’s like deep waters to the soul…refreshing! But just making great plans is never enough. Plans are to be lived out! They must be carried out. They are to be fulfilled.
So, dream big, seek counsel, make your plans — and then dare to fulfill them!
A Reason To Celebrate!
I honestly can’t believe how fast the summer has flown by. It seems like just yesterday that my children were all anticipating their big SUMMER BREAK. We had so many activities and plans we were making together — things we wanted to do and ways we wanted to celebrate the warm summer days. And as I look back over the past few months, I think we did most of the things we wanted to do. There were movies we saw, camping activities in the back yard, evening fires and smores, as well as outings and a week of vacation to the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. All in all we had a great summer.
Some of the more memorable moments for me came the past few weeks. In my home, the months of July and August are filled with BIG DAYS! It began with my wife’s surprise birthday party. This was a big one…but I’ll just say it was her “29th” (again!). This was the first time I had ever thrown her a big party — and a surprise event to boot! It was a ’70’s themed gathering complete with platform shoes, huge afros, bell-bottoms, and my green plaid polyester pants! We discoed the night away.
The next big moment was to celebrate my daughters 11th birthday…quickly followed by my middle son’s 8th birthday. And did I mention that the summer began with my oldest son’s 13th birthday. Well, at least I get a break before my youngest turns 6 in December. But then the celebrations continue right through Christmas and the New Year!
Well, here’s what I’ve come to discover. Life is worth celebrating. My family and friends are worth celebrating. Life was meant to be enjoyed with those I know and love. Jesus said his primary purpose was to come and give “life”. Life to the max. Life lived in connection with Him. Abundant, joy-filled, celebratory life! I love the way Jesus ends the story He told His followers about the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The father declares his love for his son and reveals his heart of celebration. The father said, “…We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Lk. 15:23-24, NLT).
Isn’t that great? “So the party began!”
Oh, by the way…this Sunday my wife and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary! How awesome is that? I am truly blessed beyond measure.
Let the party BEGIN!
Over the past few of weeks I have been teaching on the very interesting – yet, complicated subject of FAITH. And after studying this topic in depth, I have become acutely aware that in our society there seems to be many words spoken but very little understanding about it. It would seem that even in the realm of church leadership (especially from the pulpit) there are those who declare many things about faith — while not really grasping the issue themselves.
One of the books I read recently is entitled: Small Faith, Great God, by N. T. Wright. In the second chapter he describes the function of faith in this way. He writes, “Faith in the Bible is always determined by its object…what matters is not so much the faith itself as what it is in.” The way he describes this in greater detail is worth repeating. It provides a mental picture which I believe is most helpful to this somewhat complicated subject. He says, “Faith…is like a window. It is not there because we happen to want one wall of the room to be made of glass. It is there for the sake of what we can see through it–and in order to let light into the room.”
Faith then, is the resource given to us to help us see and understand God better. The writer of Hebrews states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” And that is true! But so is the converse of that statement. With faith we can please God.
I think maybe it is time that we look again at God through the window of faith He has provided. For when we do, our eyes shall be opened to His power, His majesty, and all of His glory!
Winning Just Feels Better Than Losing!
Alright, let’s face — winning just feels good! A little over a week ago I had to watch my Tampa Bay Rays go down for the count. I really had high hopes for them — especially after the way they had played all season long. But, after struggling in Texas against the Rangers, I really didn’t have much confidence in their ability to pull out the wins needed in Tampa. So, when we failed to win the series against the Rangers — I thought I’d lose interest in the World Series. I’m sure you can understand my surprise when I found myself watching the Rangers play the Yankees — and pulling strongly for the Rangers! And not only did they win…but they won big! One blogger I read earlier said,
“The Yankees punched the Rangers in the mouth with their comeback in Game 1, but the Rangers punched back in Game 2 and the Yankees never recovered. They thought the Rangers would fold like the Twins did and it never happened. This was a six game series that felt like a sweep. That is how one-sided this series became.” (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/501090-alcs-game-6-rangers-whip-yankees-advance-to-world-series)
So, what felt like defeat in Tampa has lead to feelings of success. And this coming Wednesday the Rangers take on the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Not bad for a team that’s never really won in the post-season. I hope this win streak continues…because, WINNING JUST FEELS BETTER THAN LOSING!
My New Blog!
For those who are interested, I have launched a new blog. The new blog I am writing is a focused on the issues of LEADERSHIP & MINISTRY…and really the practices of leaders in ministry. I’ve entitled it – Leadership Orthopraxy (right practices in regards to leadership).
If you are interested in reading my thoughts on this subject, you can follow along at:
Check it out – I think you’ll enjoy it!
Finding Your Way & Discerning God’s Will
Over the past few weeks I have been teaching on the subject of prayer and having conversations with God. A part of the process of conversing with God is hearing His voice and being responsive. So, I thought it might be beneficial if I addressed one of the questions I have been asked over and over again as a pastor on this subject of hearing from God.
The question is simple — though the answer is maybe a bit more complex or subjective. Here’s the question: How do I know God’s will for my life?
Well, let me begin with a couple of verses from Scripture:
5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
1 “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV)
The foundation for such a question must begin with this: God Guides! He does direct and lead and show the way for us to go in relation to the choices and decisions we make in this life. That’s a fact. Discerning what “His Will” or “His Way” for us is — is a bit more difficult to settle.
Here are a few tools I have picked up over time which help me to make wise decisions and hear God’s Voice within my own life.
1. Become very familiar with God’s Word.
He will never violate His Word. He will never ask you to do anything that is contradictory to what His Word says.
2. Discover the strengths and gifts that God has placed within your life.
The promptings of the Spirit of God in your life will generally be in line with the gifts God has given you. Rarely will God call you in a direction that is not able to be supported by the very gifts He has placed within you.
3. Does the area you “feel led” to involve you serving others?
The Spirit generally leads people in a direction of servanthood.
If you find an idea, and it’s really all about your own selfish fulfillment and not about serving others, then it probably isn’t God’s best for you.
Then be relentless about saying yes and obeying!
4. Learn to trust God’s leading in your life.
If you discover that the “potential” direction you sense God leading is consistent with His Word, it does use your strengths and gifts, and it does involve you serving others in some way…then learn to say “yes” and become obedient to God’s guidance.
Part of following a guide is trust.
5. Sometimes the place God guides you will not be easy!
I’ve learned a number of times in my life — a wise guide will sometimes take you where you did not want to go! Take for instance the guide who taught me how to fly-fish. He made me practice the cast, stand in the water and even hike a long distance to where the fish were more likely to bite. It would have been a lot easier to just stand on the bank and do it “my way” — yet the guide knew what was best for me!
More often than not — God will prompt you to “Go somewhere that’s not easy!”
One way God guides us…is to deal with the SIN in our lives. This is rarely enjoyable or easy, yet it always leads us to His best for us! If you sense God is addressing a specific area of sin in your life — prompting you to confront it, then deal ruthlessly with your sin and move forward on the path before you!
The Biggest Day — Since Easter!
Alright, it’s been way too long since my last post — so, I’ll make this one short and to the point! Anyone in pastoral ministry knows that the biggest day for attracting people to gather with the church (outside of Easter) is Mother’s Day! In fact, on rare occasions “Mom” can even pull out more attenders to the Sunday gatherings than the resurrection itself. That being said, I just want to encourage you all to do two things next Sunday morning (May 9th, 2010):
Number 1 – Call your mom and tell her how you love her. Thank her for everything she has ever done…and all the personal sacrifices she has made for you! Just do it. It will make her day and you will be glad you did.
Number 2 – Just show up. Give her some of your time and go to church with her. Surprise her and show up for next Sunday morning’s service at her church. If you live too far away — then go to church in her honor. Then call her and tell her you went to church. Trust me on this one…it will mean the world to her. And who knows, maybe…just maybe, you might get something out of the experience yourself! I know you will if you join us at Trinity Fellowship Church in Greenville, SC. 🙂
Well, on that note…here is a great video clip reminding you of some of the reasons you need to complete the two tasks above.
Free At Last, Free At Last…
As most of you know, February has been officially regarded as Black History Month. This week I have been thinking a lot about this and about the greatness of the men and women who make up the fabric of our nation. Never have I been more proud of our country for its embrace of all people (regardless of race or color). As a nation, we have traversed a great distance. I realize we have not completed our journey…but we have made great progress thus far.
As we recognize the many men and women who have paid price to establish the freedoms for all people (especially those of color), I want to publicly pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and the leadership he offered during those very tumultuous years. Though he was not a man without error or mistake – he was a man who understood the power of standing up for what he believed. And beyond that, I believe he was also a man who embraced (if not embodied) the idea of grace and forgiveness. The more I read, the more I understand his driving passion to see this nation standing tall and standing together. Black beside white, rich beside poor, man beside woman.
Below is a video clip from the speech referenced above by Dr. Martin Luther King.
Seeing Greenville On It’s Knees
I have really connected to a very popular song lately. And I’m sure you’ve all heard it played on the radio…or maybe you’ve even downloaded it and have been listening to it on your iPod. Well, whatever the case, the words of this song depict the hunger and passion of a desperate heart; a heart which longs for the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit to take place TODAY in their life and in that of their community.
Just yesterday I began leading our LIFE GROUP (a small group within our church) through a study by Francis Chan entitled “Forgotten God!” The premise is that it is very possible for the people of God to find contentment in living and operating without the presence of God in their lives. What a tragic moment! My prayer is that we would not settle for anything less than more of God’s power and presence in our lives…and that we would regain our passion, hunger and thirst for His work in us and our communities!
The song I mentioned earlier is“City On Our Knees”, by Toby Mac. I can’t think of anything more exciting than to see my city (Greenville, SC) submit to God’s leading in our lives and find our place of comfort on our knees before His presence. Well, here’s a version of that song and a video to accompany it done by the artists at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX. Enjoy!