Monday, January 29, 2007
Personally, I prefer Google Reader for my RSS reader, but there are others that will do the trick.
Now, what to read, what to read. Well, in my context, I'm looking for information about ways to improve my church, and ways to help me grow personally as a pastor and as a follower of Jesus.
Tomorrow I'll share some of my favorites.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
1 Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. 2 "Honor your father and mother" is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, 3 "so you will live well and have a long life."
4 Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master.
Eph 6:1-4 (MSG)
While I was searching in a closet at our home the other day, I came across several cassette tapes. One was of the Bethesda Baptist Church choir's Easter presentation of many years ago. My mother (who passed away 15 years ago) sang a solo in that musical. Another tape was of a sermon preached by Brother James Herndon, long-time pastor at Bethesda. He passed away before my mother. The final tape was of my oldest son Adam's 2nd Christmas.
I brought that tape to church to see whether you could still hear it. Surprisingly, the sound quality was okay. On that Christmas morning, apparently the whole family was at our house. So you hear my Mother and Father (who passed away last September), my aunt Louise and Uncle William (many years gone), my brother, and Bunny and me enjoying seeing Adam at 16 months of age, experience his first real Christmas.
Listening intently, I could hear Adam tell Bunny he wanted to go see "granmurner" (He got better at it). And I heard my Mother's voice for the first time in 15 years.
My father's voice was strong and clear - not like the man I talked to in August - so frail.
You know, I'm so glad I decided to record it all that morning, but in some ways their voices won't ever cease. I was drilled on being a certain kind of person. "We don't do that." "Son, when you go to work - work." "Remember, there but by the grace of God, go you."
What they said then affected my doing. I obeyed my parent's will.
But what that did was affect my being.
I am their son.And I hear their voices.
I know that it's hard for some to follow God's commandment to honor father and mother, because they didn't treat you well. Some people have gone through horrible times in this life, and for you I pray. But consider this - the voice you are to listen to and obey isn't your mother or father who did wrong.
It's your God, Who gave His own Son to make you right.
Can you hear the voices?
28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life.
Matt 11:28 (MSG)By obeying - in the doing, you'll find you are being changed. And those old hurts will be submerged beneath God's mercy and grace.
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Friday, January 26, 2007
It was a great morning at New Hope last Sunday. We had a great time of worship and praise, experienced God working through His Word, and saw Him at work when Emma came forward to tell everybody what Jesus had done in her life. It was glorious! Then we went over to the fellowship hall and celebrated the baptism of four children as they followed in obedience of Jesus.
We're an informal church, and never more so than when we baptize.
The kids wore their T-shirts and swim suits, and I wore a New Hope Sweatshirt and waders. We had a minute before to talk and pray and I tried to help them understand that there would be a lot of other times to decide to follow Jesus' example. I asked them what that meant to them and they told me : "Like being nice." "Or helping." "And not telling lies."
My response was, "Absolutely, all of those things and a lot more. Most of those people out there today won't see them, but being baptized like Jesus told us to - well this is in front of everybody. Everyone will know we want to follow Him."
So we headed into the round baptistry and got to work. The congregation applauded each and every one. I just grinned. There's something about being able to look them in the eyes and tell them that "I baptize you my brother (sister)..." You know that this may be a child that has more impact one day on the kingdom of God than you will ever hope to have.
God can use children to teach us about following Him.
15 When the religious leaders saw the outrageous things he was doing, and heard all the children running and shouting through the Temple, "Hosanna to David's Son!" they were up in arms and took him to task. 16 "Do you hear what these children are saying?"
Jesus said, "Yes, I hear them. And haven't you read in God's Word, 'From the mouths of children and babies I'll furnish a place of praise'?"
Matt 21:15-16 (MSG)Which do you think upset them more? Jesus' "outrageous things" or the kids running and shouting in the Temple?
Listen closely, please.
Dead churches don't have problems with noise, or children running.
And they don't often get to see Jesus do outrageous things.
So come and see what God will do next!
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Thursday, January 25, 2007
R :: Quote Library :: jordoncooper.com
Take Christians. I am surrounded by Christians. They are generally speaking a pleasant and agreeable lot, not noticeably different from other people -- even though they, the Christians of the South, the USA, the Western world have killed off more people than all other people put together. Yet I cannot be sure they don’t have the truth. But if they have the truth, why is it the case that they are repellent precisely to the degree that they embrace and advertise the truth? One might even become a Christian if there were few if any Christians around. Have you ever lived in the midst of fifteen million Southern Baptists?... A mystery: If the good news is true, why is not one pleased to hear it? -- Walker Percy, The Second Coming
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Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Every time we baptize children, I make a point of calling the church into a covenant along with their parents to bring the kids up to learn, grow, and know more of Jesus and His love.
Well today I'm rummaging around preparing for my small group discussion on Leviticus 19 tomorrow night, and I run across this in the Mishnah.
the Mishnah (oral Torah, interpretations) at thirteen for the fulfilling of the
commandments, at fifteen the Talmud (making Rabbinic interpretations), at
eighteen the bride-chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for
authority (able to teach others)
Now back to Leviticus...
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Sunday, January 21, 2007
That might have been the only down moment today. We debuted "How Can I Keep From Singing" by Chris Tomlin as a prelude to corporate worship. What an awesome song! Then we had a great time together in singing praises to our God.
When the time for the message rolled around, I couldn't wait. We had plenty of visitors with us and my goal was to bring the message from the text and see the Holy Spirit apply it to their lives. What a great text it was. Philippians 2:5-11
We had a young girl publicly profess her faith in Jesus during the invitation time, we welcomed that great gift, then I scooted over to change for the baptism. And yes, I got wet. I always do.
I really didn't want to get out of the water either.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.It's one of those quotes that makes you stop and read it again. Obvious. Simple. But chillingly true.
I've had the "benefit" of seeing that happen to a church. My home church, Bethesda Baptist, in Macon Georgia, no longer exists. My wife and her family were there from the beginning. I was on the cradle roll but went away for a few years. We were married there. At that time there were hundreds of people involved in a vibrant and growing church. I was ordained there in 1991. We loved those people - for a long time we were those people.
But it is gone, the victim of people paralyzed in the water. They knew that the culture was changing. They knew that the demographics around them were changing. And they did nothing. When they finally did roll over out of their sleep and realize they probably should do something, they bungled that too.
From my perspective, as someone charged with helping people live out Jesus' call on them and on the church they make up, what happened there was a succession of failures in leadership. First, in the church members who chose the pastors. But ultimately, those pastors failed to lead.
When you are approaching a point that a decision has to be made, you may be the only one that knows it. God shows you that a turn is in order before He does anyone else. That could be because you need to know, or it could be that you are so deep into the vision that your perch is a bit higher up and you can see farther.
But you know it's coming.
So climb out of the water.
Here at New Hope, I have the corner office with the big picture window every corporate "suit" dreams of. In front of me I can see a corner of the school playground across the street. That lets me watch kids playing on a daily basis. Behind me sits our sanctuary. Bunny teaches piano in the afternoons here, so you could say I also get to hear kids playing.
There's a big difference though, in the groups of kids playing.
Those on the playground are free (within the constraints of the laws of physics, their imagination, and the teacher's watchful gaze) to play any way they want. If they want to run in circles until the get dizzy, they can. If they much prefer tag, then game's on. The object is simply to have fun.
The kids taking piano on the other hand, though they may have fun doing it (and Bunny works very hard to see that they do) aren't free to play anything they choose. The music before them makes that decision, and the teacher decides what music is there. Bunny's been doing this for over a year now. I've listened to just about every way "Three Blind Mice" and the other songs can be played. I've heard flub after flub, as notes were skipped, missed, or struck in error.
Through it all, the music never changed. The notes sat in the staffs, and the time signature remained the same.
Yet by working through the process of practice and repetition, the kids have amazed me lately with just how good they are getting. Looking back, it is hard for me to believe they could have come so far, based on what I've heard here.
But what I've heard is only a fraction of the time those students that have really progressed have put into their pursuit. They've devoted hours to practice at home, when they could have been doing something else, because they wanted to improve, to change, to get better at the art.
Like we should be doing as Christ-followers.
What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning.
When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience.
Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up.
Better yet, redouble your efforts.
Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God.
Paul's Letter to His Friends at Philippi 2:12
Dallas Willard, author of many books on growing closer to God puts it this way.
"Grace doesn't preclude effort."
How much effort are you putting into your walk with Jesus?
Practice won't make perfect, but it'll make you more like the One who is.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007
Here at New Hope, for adults we have Sunday morning Bible Study, then a sermon, then that evening another sermon. We then come back in small groups during their season, and on Wednesday night.
Practically, that means that some weeks the adult disciple would receive 5 different teachings on typically 5 different texts or topics. On the surface, that seems a bit much. In college, I took a full load every term of 4 and sometimes 5 courses, with far more challenging work accompanying those than is asked of the learner at church. So it can be done.
But this isn't just learning we are after, is it?
We are after life transformation.
So what if everything we did each week was related to a text or a theme/topic? Would that help further our goal? I've been researching that off and on for years. Some churches that have implemented a thematic discipleship program report great gains in their people's ability to learn and apply the concepts and really precepts they are taught.
It would mean organizing around the book of the Bible you were going through, or around the topic. Practically it would mean a lot of pre-work to gather the materials and to train the teachers prior to each block of time.
But I think it would be worth it.
If I were planting a church today, this is the way I would go.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The picture shows a dandelion. Yes, it's a weed. But it is a weed designed by the Creator God in such a way that it is able to spread itself and replicate by allowing the wind to carry it away.
Why is the church different?
We were also designed by the Creator God to spread the good news of Jesus through the way we live our lives.
Could it be that unlike the dandelion seed, we refuse to let the wind of the Spirit carry us where He wills?
Monday, January 15, 2007
Thursday, January 11, 2007
When my friend Caleb was sitting beside me last night at supper, I watched as he attacked the soda crackers in his chili. I chose the word attacked, because that's what it was. An attack! I should have guessed there would be one, since Caleb showed up in camo.
When the battle broke out, He was "zoom"ing down on the crackers with his knife. It got so rough he had me buckle him into the highchair. While we were still at the table, Caleb told me that he had been eating crackers in his chili since he was a baby. I laughed out loud, since I have socks older than him. He had me grinning.
Later, we were on the stage in the sanctuary, getting ready to pray. One of the things Bunny does to help get everyone focused is have the worship team kneel before we start with prayer. Kneeling alters your perspective on things and really helps you focus. So I had knelt down when Caleb came up to show me his shoes that lit up. Then instantly, he wasn't Caleb any more. Instead, I was nose to nose with a bucking bronco.
While we were practicing, Caleb was taking some trucks he had found in the nursery and putting together a truck convoy down the center aisle. Those trucks were really getting down the road too. He had me grinning as I watched the sheer joy and imagination God gives children on display right there. Worship comes at strange times for me I guess, because as we were practicing singing "How can I keep from singing your praise", my primary reason for singing those words at that moment was born from the wonder at just how awesome God's gift of children really is.
15 People brought babies to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. When the disciples saw it, they shooed them off. 16 Jesus called them back. "Let these children alone. Don't get between them and me. These children are the kingdom's pride and joy. 17 Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in."
Luke 18:15-17 (The Message)
The picture always catches me between a smile or frown depending on what mood I might be in. On a good day I'm smiling thinking about Jesus' love for those children and His eagerness to put them up as an example of how the kingdom works. On a bad day, I think about the disciples and go (usually inaudibly) GRRR.
Jesus' point wasn't that we should put children on the throne - they couldn't handle that.
No, His point was that we had to approach God with a spirit that acknowledges - even celebrates - that we don't know it all. When Jesus chose to use a word for children that meant one who was learning and growing, he meant we had to be like that too. We can't just see what is present in the now of our lives as all there is and ever will be.
No! We have to be ready to change - to morph! As Max Lucado puts it, "God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way." Exactly.
Today I found out that Caleb's daddy calls him "Sparky".
I love that. He's sure got that spark of joy - of wonder - in him.
My prayer is that as Caleb (and you and I) grow up and grow older, that we'll always leave room in our hearts and minds to learn more about the wonder of Jesus. That Sparky won't ever lose his imagination or his joy.
And that we'll live like who we are - Jesus' pride and joy.
David WilsonLead pastor - New Hope!
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Monday, January 08, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
It's raining outside pretty steadily. Here at the laptop I can chose to listen to the rain hitting the fireplace vent, which sounds like someone hitting a thin pot with a spoon, or I can listen to the steady drips from the window behind be, which sounds for all the world like a hose being sprayed on said window.
It's been a day.
We had a young man come and sing today who really did a good job. We've had him before and I'd highly recommend him if you trend traditional and a little contemporary. Brent Vernon is his name.
I'm working on the new year's small group classes, my wife is getting the women's ministry spooling up again, we are looking at Easter worship and I'm planning some new outreaches and advertising initiatives.
It's pretty much what we've done the last year. It's built a warmer church, a deeper church, and increased our outreach through our networks of friends and neighbors.
But it occurred to me today... nothing we did last year was a risk for us. There was nothing at all that would have failed if God had not intervened. Nothing. Not one event. When I realized that today, it hit me in the gut. What happened to that guy who put his job on the line again and again to get this church turned from death toward life?
I remembered the old saw about pilots.
“There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots.”
Well, I'm not a pilot.
As a follower of Jesus - forget for a minute that I happen to be a pastor - I have to be pressing ahead. And as a pastor, maintenance work isn't what I am called to do. So either I find a way to get the people I love away from the center where it's safe and warm, and out to the edges where it's not either, or I have to find another way.
I watched the Chronicles of Narnia the other night. Was interesting. I'm sure if the boys were still little I'd have enjoyed their reactions immensely. The one part that I really picked up on was when the children first hear of Aslan.
The little girl in the story, Lucy, asks a friend, "Is Aslan safe?" to which the friend replies, "Safe? No, he's not safe…but he is good."
Yeah, that about sums up where I need to be.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Recently two guys in Virginia went to the DMV office to have their licenses renewed. No big deal, right? Just takes a few minutes and you are on your way. But these two guys decided to liven it up a bit by showing up in disguises.
Will Carsola and Dave Stewart posted Internet videos of their pranks, which included scenes of Carsola spray-painting his face and neck bright red and Stewart painting the top of his head black and sticking a row of fake buckteeth in his mouth in an ethnic caricature. They each entered the DMV office and return with real licenses with photos of their new likenesses.
In a video, a shaved-headed Carsola comes out of the DMV with a photo of his eyes crossed, and another friend obtains a license after spray-painting on a thick, black beard and mono-brow.
They got their license renewals. But when the Virginia Department of Public Safety caught on, Carson and Stewart were given a week to come back and do them again.
I had to wonder about the people at the DMV office.
We go there once every few years. They are there every day. We may gripe at waiting a few minutes. They are there all day with the patient and the impatient, the nice and not so nice. The people may change but the job never does. So after a while, you might be present in spirit, but the mind, she's checked out of the motel.
They were just phoning it in.
Friends, it's a tough life. Following Jesus goes against our nature, against our culture, and against what most of the people around us during the week would do. And over time, it can seem to be a dull routine. So we look for "Our Best Life Now" or the "Prosperity Way of Living" or the like, seeking something else. Something easier. A shortcut to God.
Well, here's what the Bible says...
13 "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. 14 The way to life— to God!— is vigorous and requires total attention.
Matt 7:13-14 (MSG)The way to life - to God - is vigorous (characterized by forceful and energetic action or activity) and requires total ( entire: constituting the full quantity or extent; complete) attention.
You cannot phone it in.
Friend, you give your time to many things each day, and you spend your talents and energy on a host of activities. Put Jesus at the center of your life. Work for Him in whatever you do. He's given you everything, so you are not too poor to pay attention to Him.
Lead Pastor, New Hope
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The last few days, I've had an opportunity I seldom get - a chance to slow down. One of the things you realize pretty quickly as a pastor is that there is more to do than you can lay your hands on, and more beyond that you'd like to do. One of the skills necessary then is to be able to decide what absolutely has to happen each week, and how you can best accomplish that. Then you let everything else fall into place after.
One of the convictions I orient everything I do around is the idea that we are to be intentional about helping people find Jesus, and equally as serious about teaching them how to follow Him. So when I read this quote from the movie "Big Kahuna" it made me take a minute to think.
Phil Cooper (In the "Big Kahuna") : It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down.' That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep.
One of my goals for this year is to really accelerate the process of our folks working within their existing networks rather than forcing things. It's become apparent as I've counted off the various ways of evangelism that the most effective evangelist is the person who is asked to tell about Jesus. It happens more than we think, but almost never happens the first time we meet someone.
And as "Phil Cooper" points out above, unless you have an invitation, it's a sales call.
Having made thousands of those, even from the perspective of a salesman who wanted his clients to prosper so that my company would too, it's still about selling something. We don't "sell" Jesus, we share what He has done for us with the hope that the person we care about might decide to love Him too.
So how do we measure success in the effort?
After thinking about it for the last week or so, I think we have to help people discover their networks, equip them to always be prepared to give an answer, and count conversations. Not like a salesperson counts sales leads, but like a human being counts their friends. If I inquire about a person's kids, or their mother whose ill, and gain the opportunity to say "can we do anything? Would it be okay if my family prays for them?", then we've had a countable conversation. If a person says "I wonder why we are here on earth," and we can help them with a discussion of purpose and God's plan, again, we've had success. We have to remember that salvation is God's work, and we are just His instruments.
Each of us working within the networks of family, coworkers, friends and neighbors should have multiple opportunities weekly to be ambassadors for Jesus. Sharing when we come together of how God is opening doors for us will be contagious. Contagious Christians. Sounds like a plan.
Sean gave me an Amazon.com gift certificate for Christmas and I've been looking at various things and combinations of things ever since. I need a new pair of shoes, so I looked at a few of those. Then I thought it might be time to get a new baseball cap, so I looked at a few of those. Then I saw it.
A watch that knows how far you have gone and how fast you did it. What a gadget for a geek! It accesses the 26 Geosynchronous Positioning Satellites and calculates the differences between where you were and where you end up to do that.
Way Cool! And it tells time!
I could of course just go by the Steven Wright method - "No matter where you go, there you are" , but I really like to know my location. Not just on the planet, but with God.
The very first question asked in the Bible is God's query after Adam and Eve had sinned. "Adam, where are you?" Adam doesn't answer. He hides from God. Later, Moses is asked the same question. He responds to God, "Here I am." That's where we need to be. Available. Open. Ready to work for God's glory.
It's the first week of our New Year. When the Jewish New Year begins, the observant Jew takes some time to examine his life to see just where he or she is with God. It's a process of discovery like that which Paul noted in his letter to the Corinthians. "Examine yourself..." the apostle said.
Let me share some action steps you can take.
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
Philippians 4:8 The Message
We're usually quick to think of those things we need to cut out of our lives during our spiritual examinations. But what if we replaced those habits that take us away from God and off track with new habits that drew us closer?
What if we replaced the ordinary with the transcendent, the vulgar with beauty and grace? What if we got rid of those things that clutter our lives and replaced them with things that matter - things that will last?
I think Paul's onto something friends.
Where are you?
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007
For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NLT)
You have to know what to look for.
I can remember going hunting with my father, many years ago. He was trying to get me to become a decent quail hunter without getting himself killed in the process. Neat trick, that.
In case you might not be familiar with Mr Bobwhite, he has a tendency, some might say that he gets a perverse joy (if a bird can feel joy) at suddenly bursting forth from a previously undisclosed location. This can result in various actions being taken by the hunters approaching him.
Only one of them is really acceptable in hunting circles.
The others may include: shouting in surprise, dropping your shotgun, or worse - pulling the trigger regardless of whatever direction the gun might be pointed in at that moment.
To keep the less appropriate actions from occurring, my father was training me to look for the "waves" in the tall grass as the quail began to run away from the hunters prior to taking flight. If you can spot that happening, then you can be looking in the right direction and anticipate the quail's flight. You have to know what to look for though.
Today was my first day back in the study at church after the Christmas/New Year's break. I noticed a couple of things that tell me to get ready for God to take action here. Grass and glitter.
The grass here is just the opposite of our middle Georgia broom sage. Our grass here at New Hope is worn down from use by the boys and girls who gather here on Wednesday night. And on most afternoons since the Little League season ended, a group of those kids and some others we don't know yet are playing football on the field across the street. There seem to be more and more of them.
The glitter? The other night when I was vacuuming the sanctuary after others had done the hard work of taking the decorations down, I noticed that some of the glitter used by our New Hope kids and young people during the Christmas Musical they presented during the season just didn't want to come up. I ran the vacuum cleaner this way and that, and some of the glitter stubbornly clung to the carpet.
And you know, I'm just fine with that.
Because it reminds me that here at New Hope, we're working with God's next generation of Christ-followers, teaching them not only about Jesus, but about how they can show others His love. Combine that with a lot more people of their generation in the immediate vicinity and "BOOM".
Did that scare you?
I've been in churches where having people nearby that didn't know Jesus wasn't though of as a good thing.
That's just like that long ago quail field. People's reactions can and do vary. Some who are just looking to stay as they are and have always been, can lament the way the grass looks, and those whose focus is about keeping everything tidy in case Jesus shows up wearing white gloves can complain about the glitter.
But if you want to see God at work friend, you've got to learn what to look for.
New Hope, get ready.
Lead pastor - New Hope!
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