Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Defining Ourselves

It's been two years since I began wrestling with our church's failure to effectively develop people into fully devoted followers of Christ.  It isn't that we haven't tried.  We've implemented several different components into our bag of tricks to help people discover their place the Church and the world.  While we have had a few people excited embrace their relationship with Christ, more than a few are simply content to receive Jesus and with that have their sins washed away.  They haven't grown much beyond that point.  At least not in ways that are evident.

I started a new series in the book of Jonah last Sunday.  In the midst of my preparation, I began thinking about Jonah's concern for his nation via patriotism and nationalism as well as his refusal to follow God's command to reach others who were not like himself.  All of a sudden, it hit me.  I don't know why it hit me then, but it did. As I looked at some practical applications, I thought to myself, "The problem is that we are working off of the wrong definitions.  We are content to call ourselves Christians but we aren't disciples.  Christian is a title; disciple is a lifestyle."  I don't know about your church, but my church is filled with Christians, but we have very few disciples.  I don't mean that as an insult.  I'm not throwing stones.  If there is anyone to blame, it's me.  I have not led us well in the disciple-making process.  We've created more decisions than disciples, more congregants than converts.

I've started reading Francis Chan's book, Multiply.  I'm seeking to better understand how I can better develop Christ followers.  I'm working through the idea that we aren't where we ought to be, but by the grace of God, we will get to where we ought to be. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Proud Dad

I am proud of all of my children!  My oldest daughter and her family live in southern California.  They are doing well and are making a difference in the lives of the people they touch.  My daughter and her husband are doing a great job raising their son, my grandson, and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do for God some day.

My son lives in our area, has a good job and a wonderful girlfriend.  I have an excellent relationship with him.  He is a welder by trade.  In addition, he has a phenomenal green thumb.  I go to him for all advice on gardening and landscaping.  I enjoy spending time with him whenever we get the chance.  And son, if you are reading this, we need to get to the shooting range again soon!

But today I want to brag just a bit about my youngest daughter.  This has been a great Fall for her.  She is carrying a near 12.0 average (similar to most school district's 4.0).  She was elected by her classmates to be the Junior Class Homecoming representative this year.  I'm biased, but she was the most beautiful young lady on the court!  To top it off, last night her varsity volleyball team won the class 2-A sectional championship!  She is the starting defensive specialist for the team.  Tuesday they play in regional competition, and if they win, they are off to semi-state on Saturday.

I've been blessed to have three wonderful children!  Thank you, Lord!

An addition as of 10/30/13 - My daughter's team won their region last night!  They are off to semi-state!  Great job girls!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I'm starting a sermon series on Sunday in the book of Jonah.  I know that there are those who dispute the authenticity of the book or even the veracity of the story.  I don't argue about it.  If I can believe that God spoke this world into existence (which Genesis says He did) then I can believe that He provided a large fish to provide an "Atlantis" for Jonah!  I'm just saying...

As I reflect on Jonah, I am a bit amazed at how he spiritualized his hatred for others.  Before we come down too hard on the man, let's understand his position.  As a good Jew, he put his nation ahead of a pagan land like Assyria, which, by the way, had already begun oppressing Israel.  It would only be 2-3 decades before Assyria would destroy Israel.  So, Jonah's strong sense of nationalism is easy for us to understand. 

Jonah would have also embraced a bias that the message of salvation was only for the Jews.  He would not naturally have considered that God's love extended to the pagans from another land.  And he certainly couldn't see himself traveling from the Mediterranean Sea near Egypt to Nineveh, located in what is today southwestern Iran.  That's a long way to go.

If the book of Jonah teaches us anything, it's that we need to value what God values, or rather, who God values.  He doesn't value just those who look and dress like ourselves.  He values people who are very different from us, who come from different backgrounds and cultures, who believe differently than we do, and who are from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Here is a question for all of us:  Who do we value? 

A second question:  Does it show?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing It

One of the challenges we all face is to "bring it" each and every day.  What do I mean by that?  Let me state it from my life.  To bring it every day means that I have to be at my best at all times.  I need to attempt to do my best when I counsel a person, when I am coaching someone, or when I am teaching and preaching.  I especially feel this when I am speaking on Sunday mornings at my church.  While I can accept the fact that every sermon I write isn't going to be a best seller, I need to bring every ounce of energy I have to the platform.  But before that I need to prepare well.  I can't lead expecting others to follow if I convey anything that would cause them to doubt the wisdom in following me. 

I have a sign posted above the door in my office that says, "Preach Like a Champion Today!"  I got the idea to put it up years ago from the University of Notre Dame football program.  As the team goes out the tunnel to play home games, there is a sign that every player touches.  It says "Play Like a Champion."  While I don't usually touch the sign every Sunday, it is there every day to remind me to give my best in all I do.  Some days are better than others, to be honest.  But I love the reminder.  And it's interesting that I have a couple of guys in the church who know about my sign.  One of them regularly says, "You preached like a champion today."  That's a big boost after a message!

I want to challenge each of you who read this post to "bring it" today!  Give God your very best, whether it is at work, at home, at school, or in serving others.  He gives you the ability to be your best - honor Him with it!