vision

What is God Up to?

If you're like me, sometimes you wonder what God is up to.  You want Him to speak to you and tell you what lies ahead.  As Jaime and I read through Spurgeon's Morning and Evening Devotions last night, this one sentence convicted me and comforted me big time:

If the Lord has ordained to save you, surely he will not refuse to instruct you in his ways.

So simple.  If he's done the greater thing, why do I doubt him to do the lesser?  Immediately Rom. 8:32 came to mind,

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not, along with him, graciously give us all things? 

As did Eph. 2:8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works so that no one can boast.  For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Oh, for more faith to trust in the God who has done the greatest act of all -- rescuing me from the wrath I deserve and bringing me into the kingdom of his beloved Son.  Oh for more faith to trust in the God who is more gracious than any father and delights to give his children good things.  And oh, for more faith to trust in the God who is up to more than I could ask or think for His glory and my good.

Stay Away from the "Safe" Christian Life

This is challenging.  It will strike a chord with all of us who pursue security and safety in other things (job, money, relationships, children) and not in God alone.  So, how can you get on that balance beam and take a risk for the kingdom of God today?

UPDATE: BTW ... I don't agree with Chan's example of homeschooling being the "safe" option.  Sending your children to public school or a Christian school can also be deemed as safe depending on how you look at it.  His challenge is good, but making a caricature of homeschooling is unhelpful and ends up dividing the church.

Go Orange

Tonight Lisle and I take off to Duluth, Georgia to attend the Orange Conference.  We're really looking forward to learning more about how we can effectively reach families for Christ.  Instead of going green, we're going orange! What is Orange? (taken from the Conference Website)

The Orange Conference is an opportunity for churches to have their key leaders in a room together being challenged about what it means & what it takes to reach the next generation.

Why Orange?

Orange is a color that symbolizes INTEGRATION. It’s the brilliant result of a merger between two more traditional influences - red and yellow. Just like something radically new happens when red and yellow come together, there is a different kind of culture that is established when the Church understands the value of a true partnership with the family.

While we won't be live-blogging the conference, we may do a couple posts while we're there.  Please pray for a refreshing time as we're asking God to give us vision and strategy for the coming year(s).

What John Calipari was reading last week ...

Maybe he was reading this ... Congrats to the Cats for landing Calipari as its new basketball coach (not official quite yet).  Kentucky is reportedly offering Calipari $35 million for an eight-year contract, according to ESPN.com. That package would make him the sport's highest paid coach.  If you were making 4.375 million dollars each year what would you do with it?  I hope God would give me the grace to invest in something bigger than myself like this ...

Limitations

This quote humbled me big time today:

There is something deeply spiritual about honoring the limitations of our lives and the boundaries of what God has given us to do as leaders. Narcissistic leaders are always looking beyond their sphere of influence with visions of grandiosity far out of proportion to what is actually being given. Living within our limits means living within the finiteness of who we are as individuals and as a community- the limits of time and space, the limits of our physical, emotional, relational and spiritual capacities, the limits of our stage of life… and the limits of the calling God has given. It means doing this and not that. It means doing this much and not more.” - Ruth Haley Barton

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I tend to live in the future.  I’m a dreamer.  I have "visions of grandiosity" and sometimes forget what is right in front of me.  While taking time to dream is important, I want to "live within the limits of the calling God has given me." 

(HT: Todd Heistand)

Community of Grace or Convenience?

Jonathan Dodson:

Many people in America approach “church” as a community of convenience, as a product that exists to service their spiritual needs, on their terms, in their time. The Bible, however, holds out a very different concept of church, a community of grace, an imperfect people who forbear, forgive, and love one another. The community of convenience stands in the way of a community of grace. 

Our LIFE Together

Last week I preached on Our LIFE Together at LBC.  It was Part 3 of a series on the mission of our church.  My particular message was aimed at how we can grow in our relationships with believers.  I spent a little time in John 13:34-35 to show how this passage is the foundation for all the other "one another" passages in the Bible.  From there I challenged our people to be involved in a LIFE class to practically do life together so others may live. (LISTEN or WATCH here)

Piper on Life Together

51jyg2vp30l1Many of you know that the inspiration for this blog came out of a book with the same title, Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  I was delighted to see that John Piper has also been inspired by this man and this book and what it means to "take Jesus and his church seriously."  (Read more here)

10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches from Growing

031028530511Pastor Geoff Surratt, a self-confessed "church addict", recently completed his latest book, Ten Stupid Things That Keep A Church From Growing.  He humbly admits that he himself has committed all ten of the mistakes mentioned in his book.  Here's the first two:

  • Trying to do it all

“Pastors tend to default to doing everything themselves rather than working through people in the congregation,” Surratt explained to The Christian Post. “They take on a lot of different hats and wind up overworked and underproductive because of that.”

  • Establishing the wrong role for the pastor's family

He lists five “stupid ways” a pastor or ministry leader can destroy their family while chasing after God’s vision for the ministry.

For more info. on the book, go here.  It will be published by Zondervan in May 2009.

People Like Us

We're naturally attracted to people who are like us.  It's just easier to live in a neighborhood populated with people like us who look like us and shop like us.  The same is true when it comes to church life.  We're drawn to people who are the same age, at the same place in life, with our same tastes and preferences.  We even structure our Sunday school classes and small groups this way so that we're always associating with people like us.  Consequently, we're a homogenous bunch of people who call ourselves the body of Christ but hardly represent the unity and diversity that makes us distinctively Christian.  Here are some thoughts about what we can do.  First, we must not buy in (pun intended) to the consumer mindset that views the church as a place tailor-made to our personal preferences.  When this happens we will inevitably market different ministries to attract certain people so that they are segmented together in consumer-like clusters.  This is unhealthy and more importantly, unbiblical.  It is unhealthy because we often learn the most from those who are different than us.  We learn how to love those who are hard to love, and we learn to listen to those who have walked the narrow road longer than we have. 

For example, about a year ago my wife and I formed a small group of married couples who met together in our home twice a month.  We intentionally chose couples at different stages of life.  One couple was just beginning their marriage while another had been married for 20+ years.  We all learned a lot from each other and each couple brought valuable insight to the group.  Am I saying there is never a place for same age, same gender, same "walk of life" kinds of groups?  No.  I'm just challenging the way we do church and why we assume it should be done that way. 

When the church becomes consumer oriented and thus segmented in its ministry, it is not only unhealthy but also unbiblical.  Jesus' prayer in John 17  and Paul's many exhortations make this clear.  No matter what society says regarding tribe, class, or gender, the church is to be united in Christ.  Consider Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is no small thing.  In fact, when the church lives in true unity it is a miracle.  Charles Drew, author of  A Journey Worth Taking, says,

The church is supposed to be a sociological miracle--a demonstration that Jesus has died and risen to create a new humanity composed of all sorts of people.

The church is a sociological miracle, a new humanity.  This is what our watching world needs to see.  A group of people who are not naturally compatible with one another but nevertheless united and filled with genuine love for one another.  And that brings us to the final thing we can do to become what we are as the body of Christ, and that is simply this: strive to be a safe and honest community united in Christ. 

In all our interactions, in all our ministries, we must leave pride at the door and open our hearts up to others.  People need to see that Christianity is not a commodity to consume but a community to be a part of--a community that welcomes all people into its fold--rich, poor, black, white, home-school, public school, you name it.  And the focus of this community is on a Person who came for all kinds of people and died for all kinds of people, namely Christ. 

Imagine what would happen if the body of Christ really lived like Christ.  We would be, like Jesus said, a city on a hill that could not be hidden.  A city, a community, a body so attractive to this world that all kinds of people from all walks of life would want to be a part.  They would want to share in this community and do life together not because of what we have in common here on earth (race, gender, age, tastes and preferences) but what we have in common here in Christ.  For Christ himself came for this very reason.  He came to "reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross" (Eph. 2:16) so that we might be united forever as redeemed people from "every tongue tribe and nation" (Rev. 5:9).  May it be Lord ... may it be .. on earth as it is in heaven.

My New Year's Goals or Our New Year's Growth?

I'm a starter.  That's why I love the New Year.  I'm a goal-setter.  A man of vision and change, ready to do something new and radical for God's glory.  So, like you, I've got some goals in mind for the new year. However, my goals are not so much about doing as much as they are about becoming.  It's taken me awhile to figure this out (and I'm still in process) but I've learned that life is not about the quick sprint but the long journey.  That's why I'm looking at this New Year differently. 

Instead of starting so many new things, I want to keep doing the old things more consistently.  I want to sit at Jesus' feet each morning.  I want to memorize some key passages of Scripture.  I want to go on regular date nights with my wife.  I want to jog 2-3 times a week.  I could go on, but that's not the point.

The point is that I want this year to not be so much about new goals, but intentionally growing in the "old" ones.  When I look back on the people who have made a difference in my life, people who I respect as leaders, they have one thing in common.  No, not vision.  And no, not talent--but rather, intentionality in the few things that really matter.  And that, over time, by God's grace, has shaped them into who they are today. 

So the New Year, as I see it, is not necessarily about setting new goals and starting new things.  It's about  growing in godliness by doing the same things over and over again consistently with intentionality and accountability.  Accountability.  Why do I mention that? 

In addition to setting new goals, quite often I set goals individually with no accountability.  I try to grow on my own.  The problem is that God has made me to live in community.  And he desires for me to grow in that context.  He wants to use me to help others grow and use others to help me grow. 

So if I expect to change this year, if I expect to grow, I will need to be accountable to a few other guys.  The great thing is when I hear friends of mine growing in godliness, it encourages me to press on.  And when I fail, I'm encouraged to get up and keep going in the strength of the gospel.  In this way, we begin to grow together in community.  And my new year's goals are replaced with our new year's growth, as fellow travelers on the journey of life together.

A New Look for a New Year

I'm currently searching for a "new look" for my blog.  This is my temporary change, but if anyone out there has a good idea for a new look (preferrably free) that illustrates "Life Together" let me know.  For now, I like the picture above for a couple reasons.  (1) It's winter... and this picture takes me into the spring!  (2) I always like the image of a big tree with rolling green grass and blue skies ... it speaks "life" to me and kinda captures the journey of life we walk together.

Pray for us

Today our pastoral team is headed to Lexington, KY, for our staff retreat.  So, blogging will be light this week.  If you are a member of LBC, we especially covet your prayers for this time.  As Pastor Tony reminded us from Psalm 86, we are poor and needy but God is good and gracious to answer us and teach us his ways as we call out to him in prayer. Thank you for the continual love and support you show to us and our families.

Serving with you,

Doug on behalf of your pastoral team

Learning from Large Churches

It's easy to look down on megachurches and assume they are using man-centered methods to draw in a crowd.  But Ed Stetzer's words here are helpful:

As raw data, numbers mean little. What brings meaning to the numbers are the stories behind them – the changed lives and transformed communities.

Nothing can replace the work you do in your own church, your own community, among the lost in your own neighborhood.  But we can also learn from others – many of whom were small churches themselves a few years ago.

Bright Lights ... Big City ... Dark Spiritually

In light of (no pun intended) the power outages around Kentucky this week, I thought this picture was pretty fascinating.  Over 100 years have gone by since the invention of the lightbulb, but as you can see many areas of the world remain thinly populated and unlit.  Yet it comes as no suprise that the United States is well lit and urbanized much like Europe.

What shocked me most about this picture, however, is that some of the most lighted countries are most spiritually dark.  I already mentioned the U.S. and Europe, (which are becoming increasingly secular) but look at Japan for example.  My twin brother, a missionary in Japan, has told me that this country is only 1% Christian.  Clearly urbanization does not equal salvation.  But, like many have noted, we must reach these urban areas for Christ since they are the hubs (if you will) for the rest of the world. 

Just think if these bright, well lit cities of the world, would actually become the "lights of the world?"  Imagine the impact.  So let us think globally and act locally--doing whatever we can where God has us now and praying all the while for the well lit, dark cities of the world.

  • Read this post by Al Mohler called "A Reflection On Our Electric Lives"

The Ryan Hall Story: Olympic Marathon Runner and Christian

Have you heard of Ryan Hall?  He represents the United States in the marathon at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.  Ryan qualified for the Olympics after posting the fasting time by an American-born citizen at the London Marathon earlier this year. He's only competed in 4 marathons but is now the favorite to win it all in Beijing. What makes this story even more amazing is that Ryan is a Christian. He says, "The goal of my life is just to follow in the footsteps of Jesus as closely as I can." For a closer look into his life check out the videos below:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7iHQqbJm-U&feature=related]

[youtube=http://hk.youtube.com/watch?v=QrNwdjKOKBs&feature=related]

  • Note to LBC members ... this is who Pastor Tony mentioned in his sermon