Tuesday, November 30, 2010
To get an idea of the kind of person she is these days, she recently launched her own website.
Here she is basking in the glory of our gathering:
And here in the glory of her children:
And in the glory of her grandchildren:
So what's best about having a mom turn 95? Here are the five tops:
5. At this stage, I don't have to worry about her bringing some guy home and saying, "Talbot, I'd like you to meet your new step-father."
4. Losing to her at Scrabble. By a lot.
3. Finding things out about her grandparents that I'd never known before.
2. Giving her a five year planning calendar for her birthday.
1. Watching as she sat down for Thanksgiving dinner surrounded by six of her children and as she took in the moment she was overcome with emotion and gratitude for her life and family.
Monday, November 29, 2010
My message involved an object lesson in which I cracked open a raw egg and let the yolk drop into a bowl. The idea was that the shell is not the substance.
The same is true of the church (the shell) and the gospel (the substance).
Anyway, given the nature of that object lesson, I had to clean out the bowl after each service so that I could do the object lesson again at the next one. Not an efficient use of eggs, I admit.
As I was racing to the kitchen after the 8:30 service, a woman from our church saw me in the lobby, noticed the bowl in my hand and asked, "Can I clean that up for you?"
I'm not usually one for pastoral privilege, but I needed that reprieve yesterday. So I said, "yes." That allowed me then to focus on a ministry I love best of all: greeting people as they find their seats in the Worship Center.
The woman who washed the bowl out yesterday morning probably thought nothing of it. Just a nice thing to do.
For me, it was a sign of grace. A small action with a big impact.
What small things will you do for others today?
Friday, November 26, 2010
Many of us have experienced the ways in which church can be an obstacle to faith rather than an empowerer of it.
When that happens, is there life after church? Is there faith after church?
To enter that conversation, check out Philippians 1:12-18.
And then hear for yourself at Good Shepherd this Sunday.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
[. . . I believe] in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
While the Creed may not have the same level of authority as inspired Scripture, it nevertheless represents the best of the collective wisdom of early Christians.
And they described our eternal hope as "the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting."
Interestingly, they did not describe it as "the immortality of the soul."
One of my most significant learnings of recent years is the discovery that Christianity is much more about the resurrection of the body than it is about the immortality of the soul.
Check especially I Corinthians 15. The whole chapter.
It's in the Creed. It's in Scripture. It's in the way the ancient mind worked.
To hear how we developed this theme last Sunday at Good Shepherd, click here and listen to Life After Death.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Historically, the best of the conference battles and border wars happen over the next six days: Alabama-Auburn, Texas-Texas A&M, Ohio State-Michigan, and many others.
So what are my five favorite through the years? Here goes:
1. Nebraska-Oklahoma, 1971. Though I was only 10, I still vividly remember the first "Game Of The Century." Nebraska won 35-31 in a game immortalized by Johnny Rogers' punt return:
2. Michigan-Ohio State, 1969. This is one of my very first football memories. Ohio State had won the 1968 National Championship, was undefeated to this point in 1969, and was considered by many to be the greatest team ever. Not so fast. Michigan in an upset, 24-12, paving the way for Texas to win it all that year. As a seven year old, I thought Michigan had the coolest helmets ever.
3. Boston College-Miami, 1984. Though technically not a rivalry game, all you need to remember is Doug Flutie's Hail Mary to win it on the last play.
4. USC-Notre Dame, 1974. Notre Dame was ahead 24-0 in the second quarter and then Anthony Davis started running kickoffs and punt returns back for touchdowns. He never stopped and USC won 55-24.
5. Dallas-Miami, 1993. OK, this wasn't a college game and the Cowboys and Dolphins aren't even arch rivals. But who can forget Leon Lett's faux pas in the snow?
Monday, November 22, 2010
For those of you not familiar with the tradition, an altar call is a distinctively evangelical and predominantly Southern custom in which a church or preacher issues an invitation for congregants to make a decisive commitment to faith in Christ at the conclusion of the worship gathering.
Though historians trace the roots of the altar call to Charles Finney in the 18th century, Billy Graham raised its profile by employing it to great effect at the conclusion of his crusades. I've personally seen crowds come pouring onto the field of what is now Bank Of America Stadium while George Beverly Shea sang Just As I Am in the background -- all in response to Dr. Graham's "altar call" invitation.
Altar calls are unknown in more liturgical churches and dismissed by our Calvinist friends who warn against confusing emotionalism with saving faith.
But back to this weekend.
The first altar call of the weekend -- actually an urgent appeal for conversion without a invitation to "come forward" for prayer and confession -- took place at a memorial service I attended on Saturday afternoon. (Ironically, as I posted on Friday, I had just that morning taught a class at Gordon-Conwell Seminary on . . . funeral ministries!).
I have to admit I did not respond favorably to that invitation in that particular setting. I have strong objections to using funerals and memorials services as calls for conversion. In my thinking, it deprives the family of an opportunity to celebrate memories of the one who has died as well as denying them the space they need to grieve the loss. Whatever evangelism I bring to funerals & memorials is much more subtle.
The second altar call of the weekend -- actually, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th -- took place in our Sunday services. We employ such invitations periodically rather than each week. Yet given the fact that this past Sunday was called Life After Death, we felt the time was right. We had good though not overwhelming response. The best part of the morning came when we asked the 8:30 and 10 crowds to be in prayer for the services and invitations that would follow later that morning. People were glad to be part of something bigger than themselves.
The third -- and most impactful -- altar call of the weekend came at Sunday's night's BigHouse Student Ministry. My friend Mike Paolicelli spoke to our teens and at his conclusion issued one of the boldest, most decisive invitations I've ever seen. He did not ask students to respond quietly or anonymously. Instead, he asked any wishing to make faith commitments to stand publicly and state it verbally. Teenagers! The most embarrassment-averse population we have! And yet several had the courage and the newfound faith to stand out from the crowd. I left the evening deeply grateful for Mike's boldness, the students' bravery, and God's grace.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Two things have me eager for this weekend:
1. On Saturday, I have the privilege of leading a seminar in a ministry class at Gordon-Conwell Seminary on funeral ministries. I'm helping my friend Steve Klipowicz by teaching 23 young pastors and pastors-in-training on leading funerals that heal and delivering eulogies that comfort. As a lot of you know, it's a subject I hold close to my heart.
2. On Sunday, I have another privilege: Week Five of Life After and the sermon that's at the heart of it all -- Life After Death. Can't wait.
8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
The timing was ideal.
Just last evening, I went "blessing houses" with another preacher friend -- this one from Huntersville and he's a man I've met him in person rather than just through theological cyberspace.
I was sharing Good Shepherd's approach of "high touch, low threat" evangelism. We greet new movers to the area with a smile, a card, and a "World Famous Refrigerator Magnet."
Approximately 200 people who had their first contact with Good Shepherd through Bless This House now call this church home.
So we're hoping the Huntersville church can have the same kind of impact.
House to house? All for it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The team did well, making the playoffs and losing to the eventual state champion.
For me and Julie, Friday nights this fall were full of excitement, pride, and new friends among the parents of the other players.
But I also watched football in an entirely new way.
When Riley was on the field -- he played linebacker -- I didn't watch the ball. I didn't follow the normal flow of a play, which goes from center to quarterback to running back or wide receiver.
Instead, my eyes were dialed in on Riley: how he was moving, the blocks he was shedding (or not), and ultimately the tackles he was making.
Sometimes, I zeroed in so heavily on his movements that I missed a big play heading in the other direction.
It was a focus born of love and pride.
Perhaps I should bring that concentration to other areas of my life.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Well, I don't.
Yet for a variety of reasons, Good Shepherd has long had financial health as a church. In the worst of the recent recession, for example, we had our best of years in terms of giving and surplus.
So here are five strategies we have adopted around here when it comes to money:
5. Tithe (at least) as a church. From its inception, this church gave away 10% of its offerings to both local and global missions. A few years ago, we increased that to 15%. The leadership has long believed that the church needs to embody what we ask the people to embrace. In 2010, we will give away well over $300,000 to global and local mission partners.
4. Let the people know where the money is going. We do a reasonably good job of this -- for example, the people of the church know of the $60,000 to Haiti relief and the $80,000 to Crisis Assistance Ministries. Yet after hearing teaching at a church I deeply respect, I realize we can be much more intentional and transparent in communicating what we do with people's money. Stay tuned for strategic sharing in 2011.
3. Have someone who is both smart & trustworthy oversee the process. I am much blessed as a pastor in that we have a business manager who is, well, both smart and trustworthy. And he is savvy enough to know that we need external audits every other year. Which we have. In dealing with money, you can't have too many layers of protection.
2. Don't speak/teach too often about money, but when it's time, do so without apology. I don't preach about money all that often. We're not high pressure in how we receive the weekly offering. And we don't beg. Yet when we do preach & teach about what the bible teaches regarding money, we do so with enthusiasm and without hesitation. Perhaps the core realization is that giving has everything to do with our own discipleship. We give not because the church needs it but because our checkbook vividly demonstrates how we really feel about Jesus.
1. Don't nickel and dime the church. I believe this is the strongest key to Good Shepherd's relative health. No special offerings. No bake sales. No yard sales. No pumpkin patch. No ministry groups raising their own funds. No fund raisers of any kind. All we do is receive the Sunday offering and then budget accordingly. Because people are not harrassed to give to this effort or that cause, they give freely to the one fund raiser the bible endorses: the offering at worship.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Sunday birthdays are always a bit odd for me as a preacher since I'm secretly glad that people know and remember but want to make sure that we don't make too big a deal of it.
But here are some interesting nuggets from yesterday . . .
- A little girl hand delivered a card to me just before the 10 a.m. service. Her mother leaned in and told me, "she always remembers your birthday because it's hers as well."
- The YMCA where I go has a sign in system involving fingerprints and numeric code. When I logged in yesterday and was making my way through the turnstiles, the Beatles' "You Say It's Your Birthday" came piping through the loudspeakers. No hiding from that! It's a great touch, though, and probably one we should adopt for our children's check in system.
- There are a lot of really nice people at this church who take the time and make the effort to make staffers feel appreciated.
- One year from today I will be 50 . . . the same age my father was when I was born. OMG.
Friday, November 12, 2010
In other words, life after success was harder than life before.
You may not be #1 in the world in anything, but you've probably had a measure of success in some area of life -- work, family, faith.
So what comes next? How do you navigate the often precarious position of life after success?
That's what we're talking about Sunday. And I've been looking forward to sharing these words for a long time.
Sunday. 8:30. 10. 11:30.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
I've been thinking this week about the where of pastoral care.
Here's where some of it has happened for the pastoral care givers at our church just in the past few months:
- In hospital rooms;
- By a lakeshore;
- In the church lobby;
- At the county jail;
- In the Worship Center;
- At the county mental health facility;
- At funeral homes;
- Over lunches and dinners;
- At the Welcome Desk;
- In cabins at a campground;
- While serving meals at the Charlotte Rescue Mission;
- During band practice;
- In the K-Zone;
- In a converted garage now home to HalfWay House;
- In a converted video store now home to BigHouse;
- In rehab facilities;
- At the YMCA.
It's all reminiscent of Deuteronomy 6:4-6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.
Have I left any out?
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
At staff meeting today, we did a napkin sketch exercise.
It's something I learned from a new friend.
We handed each staffer a napkin, a pen, and an assignment: imagine you're in a coffee shop and want to explain what our church is all about to someone you meet there. And the napkin is the closest thing you have to a piece of paper.
Using words and pictures, describe our church experience to your new friend.
The art people created this morning ran the gamut from text heavy to text empty; from very simple to highly complex.
There was strength to the different impressions, but also weakness in that no single, clear vision unified them all. That's something we'll work on.
What would your napkin sketch of your church look like?
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I admit it: I'm a fan.
I remember first hearing U2 on the Philadelphia station WMMR (93.3 on your dial)in 1984. It seemed like that station played "Bad" every 30 minutes or so.
Three things have always stood out for me in U2's music: 1) The sonic power of Bono's voice; 2) the eery landscapes of the Edge's lead guitar; and 3) the spiritual longing at the center of most of the lyrics.
So here they are . . . more than 30 years of songs distilled into my five favorites.
5. Hawkmoon 269. A forgotten song lost in the middle of a much-reviled album, Rattle & Hum. But I love it all from first chords to final howls.
4. One. Simply beautiful.
3. Beautiful Day. When I first heard it in 2001, I thought, "oh, that's OK." But isn't that the measure of a great song -- it sounds better now than when first released?
2. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. The gospel-choir version from Rattle & Hum is especially moving.
1. Where The Streets Have No Name. Someone is doing this one at my funeral. I hope people will still know how to play it in 60 years. It's also U2's most enduring video.
Monday, November 8, 2010
I think I was the only one who got it, though.
I was giving a message called Life After Loss. It was one of those messages about which I felt especially good -- good theology, good bible study, and an unexpected application to life.
About 3/4 of the way through, during a riff on the sovereignty of God -- the reality, according to Job 1:21, that God gives and he takes -- I made this comment:
Methodists aren’t as comfortable with this as are our Presbyterian friends, but the Presbyterians have something to show us. God is sovereign and in control, even of loss, even of chaos. He gives and he takes.
(In case you didn't know, Methodists are much more likely to talk about how God is in love with the world while Presbyterians will talk about how he is in control of it.)
Anway, back to the sermon, so far, so good. A little jab at the home team and some love for our more Calvinist brethren.
Except just after those words came out of my mouth I looked out in the congregation and finally figured the identity of that distinguished looking couple sitting several rows back.
My boss and his wife. My United Methodist District Superintendent. The most Metho-centric man I know! I've just thrown my own team under the bus and that's the one Sunday of the year he shows up!
As he and I spoke in the lobby afterwards, he made no mention of rescinding my ordination.
So I'm safe. For now.
Here's what the sermon was like. When you read REFRAIN, remember that's "God would rather you be mad at him than ignore him."
Can I tell you something that people have just gotten SO wrong in the bible? They’ve actually used a wrong reading of a biblical story to come up with a phrase almost everyone knows and uses? I phrase I know and have used? You ready? Here it is: the patience of Job. We see someone endure difficult people or situations with a great attitude and what do we say about them? He has the patience of Job. She’s just like Job.
What baloney! Now Job in the bible was many things: angry, frustrated, grieving, nervy, long-winded, more long-winded, but patient is not one of them. That phrase is simply a great misunderstanding of the man and his book and we do a dis-service to propogate it.
Because Job is actually much more interesting and complex than merely being a “patient” man. Starting with his name. “Job” is not a Jewish name; in fact, it’s hard to identify it by any nationality of the time. Which is the bible’s way of saying that what’s fixin to happen to him could happen to anyone. His story is not a Jewish story; it’s a human story. In chapter 1, God and Satan (the accuser) reach a deal that the reader of the story knows about but Job doesn’t. The audience knows but the character is ignorant. And in this deal, as some of you know, the accuser is given free reign to test Job. As a result, in short order, he loses his servants, his livestock, his property, and then, most cruelly, his sons and daughters. It’s just rapid fire loss, some at the hands of bandits and others at the hands of natural disasters. “Acts of God,” if you will.
Losing all that stuff and much more critically all those people in such a short span of time – those really are losses that defy measurement. Job is a lot less about “patience” than it is about “loss.” Losses you cannot measure.
Of all the “life afters,” this one is the most acute. And it’s the one I see most often in ministry, in community, and in this church. When you had that thing, that value, that status, that relationship . . . and then GONE. How do you survive? How do you persevere? How can you be resilient when those things or people you hold most dear end up most gone?
There are all kinds of loss. Even around this room. Like as a preacher, I hate to lose an audience. To be speaking and know you’re not connecting, to think to yourself “I’m dying up here” – that’s a tough loss. Which I guess is why that university professor I heard of would come to lecture every day and pull a tennis ball out of his jacket. And he’d place that tennis ball on the podium as he lectured. No one ever knew why. Until one day a student fell asleep in class. So the prof didn’t miss a word of his lecture while he walked back to the podium, picked up the tennis ball and WHOMP! Threw it, nailing the guy on his sleepy head. Wow!
The next day, the professor walked into the room, reached into his jacket, and pulled out a baseball . . . and no one ever fell asleep in his class again. That’s loss prevention!
But there’s more than losing an audience. There are also people here who’ve lost jobs. How are you going to live not only w/o that income but also w/o the sense of self that gets wrapped up in your job? I suspect there are people here who’ve lost valuables – I’ve been there a couple of times watching a house burn while standing next to church people. How do you recover from the loss of that stuff and those memories?
Someone else here has lost a marriage – a marriage you thought you’d have literally until death did you part. And I know some folks here a long time ago lost innocence. It was taken from you by force perhaps and the wounds are deep. And then, how well do I know that there are those here who’ve lost parents, spouses, and children. How in the world can you live life “after” a loss of that depth? Job’s story really is our story – losss that defy measurement.
Since his story is our story, we’ll come back to it. Look at how he responds to the pile-on of bad news:
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
And as marvelous as those words are – we’ll get to them in a bit – the actions speak louder to me. It may seem odd – tear a robe and shave a head – like, what’s that all about? Well, those are ancient Jewish customs of showing grief. Of giving physical, tangible expression to the rage you feel at the world AND to the frustration you feel with God. It’s a vivid, dramatic way to say to God: “I’ve had enough of this!” Job doesn’t deny, doesn’t act strong, doesn’t keep a stiff upper lip, he gives expression to what he feels but can’t articulate.
And you know what I get from that vivid, impatient demonstration for those of us wrestling with life after loss? This: God would rather you be mad at him than ignore him. Sometimes, when we are faced with life’s unfairness & the reality of our losses, the healthiest thing you can do is vent, tear your clothes and be honest with God about your anger with him.
Why would I say such a thing? Cuz being “angry” with God is a radical thing to hear in church, much less coming out of the mouth of a preacher. So why? Ah, because it’s throughout the OT -- look at these words from Psalm 44:
You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
14 You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
15 I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
16 at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge
23Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
But more than that, I want you to know that God can take your anger and frustration. He’s not intimidated or offended by it. On the other hand, when we ignore him, turn our back on him, that breaks his heart. And many folks do that in the wake of a major loss. They decide God doesn’t exist. Or live as if they have decided he doesn’t exist. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. Some of you have even lived it. And I wonder if the hollowness of that response comes in part because people have never had the freedom and the intimacy with God to tear their clothes, admit their anger and really let God know how they feel. He can handle it. REF
Because here’s the theological truth that’s behind that: when you vent anger with God, you are acknowledging that he is in charge. He is sovereign. Look at 1:21: READ. Now this is really, really hard to wrap your mind around. But God is not powerless and helpless in the face of evil & chaos. He is sovereign over pain and loss. He gives. AND HE TAKES. We want to excuse God from that since it’s easier to minimize God than it is to enlarge our hearts. But Job and his words move us to a different place. What he asks all of us wrestling with loss is this: can you radically trust the same God who could have prevented it? Can you? He could have prevented that divorce, that death, that illness, that job loss. Can you trust him even though he didn’t?
So why didn’t he? Why didn’t he prevent the loss that stays with you; the loss that brought you here this morning? I can’t say for sure . . . perhaps by allowing disappointment into your life it’s his way of diminishing the glamour and bright lights of the world – and so expanding our trust in him. Or by allowing loss it’s a way of reminding us that we’ve got idols to deal with and anything we make into an idol can be taken away.
With me, I KNOW he’s give me frustration in ministry or a sense of plateau in order to drive me to my knees in prayer. I don’t think I’ve lost anything more serious than momentum but it was to get me to recover my first love. He keeps turning me into the widow from Luke 18 who would not stop badgering the judge til she got what she wanted. God wants me that persistent in prayer. It’s almost his way of saying, “why don’t you pray like you used to?”
There is even value in the pain that we go through in loss. Some of you may have heard of congenital analgia which is a rare condition that leaves children w/ no sensitivity for pain. But because they don’t feel pain, they injure themselves with extraordinary frequency: they bite off the tips of their fingers, they burn their hands severely, they even break bones. Pain now prevents greater trouble then. That could be why loss exists.
And here’s what’s great and it’s something you probably didn’t know before. In other religions of the time (ancient Judaism), they would portray the forces of chaos such as storms, death, beasts, and the deep, as enemies of the gods. Almost like there were two great, almost equal forces at work. God or the gods and chaose. Well not so with the bible in general and Job in particular. All pieces of creation are subject to the Lord. The chaotic forces are ultimately under the authority of God; the act only by his permission. It’s a completely different understanding. Methodists aren’t as comfortable with this as are our Presby friends, but the Pres have something to show us. God is sovereign and in control, even of loss, even and chaos. He gives and he takes. REFRAIN.
By they way, some of you today might not be in the middle of major loss. You may not even be able to look back upon such a season. A few of you may make it through life in such a way that Job’s story is only hypothetical – you’ll never know traumatic loss. But even if that’s you, know this – virtually all of us will KNOW someone going through a loss you can’t measure. Death, divorce, depression. If that’s you and you wonder what to do and what to say, remember Job’s three friends. He has three friends who rush to his side – probably w/ Tupperware in tow – when they hear of the calamity in chapter 1. And as far as 2:13:
13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.
they’re “doing good.” But Job doesn’t end at 2:13; it’s got like 40 more chapters to go. And most of those chapters are full of the talking of the three friends, usually trying to explain to Job why suffering has come. And that’s when the three friends transition from being ministers to being windbags. Don’t repeat the same mistake. When you’re trying to help someone w/ loss, the ministry of silent presence is the way to go. Don’t blow it by trying to explain the inexplicable.
Now I could end this message with a tidy bow. I could tell you the story of someone who underwent great loss and then vented their anger at God and came out on the other side with great restoration. Because that happens. I pray it happens to you. But it’s also just a little too easy, a little too facile. And as often as life works out that way, it also works the other way.
Instead, look at the last phrase of 1:21: "blessed be the name of the Lord." Ah, worship. Anger at God ultimately gives way to worship of God. I will praise the one who could have prevented this loss because there is no other in whom I can believe. I will praise the one who could have prevented precisely because he is strong enough and sovereign enough to prevent anything but chooses not to prevent everything. His ways and decisions may be inscrutable, but using my lungs and my hands to praise him is well within my ability.
See, moving from anger back to worship is a little like that time I went to Abilene, TX. I was 9 and we drove from Dallas to Abilene for a big tennis tournament. Have you ever driven to Abilene? It’s not in the middle of nowhere; it is nowhere. It took forever. Long, flat, feature-less landscape that seem to my 9 year old brain to be endless. It took forever.
A few days later, we drove back. And what? It was done SNAP like that! Isn’t it true? That it always takes a lot shorter time to come back than it does to get there?
And so it is w/ coming back to worship God after you’ve either vented your anger or even turned away from him. Because God – big, vast, sovereign – is also intimate, warm, inviting, and is always more eager to receive us home than we are to return. When you’re dealing w/ loss, let that anger give way to worship now.
Friday, November 5, 2010
For example, just this Sunday I get to . . .
- Correct a common misunderstanding of a frequently referenced but rarely read book in the Old Testament.
- I will be able to do that teaching in the middle of a message I believe speaks to people at a deep point of need -- Life After Loss.
- We will conclude our experience in a tactile, multi-sensory way that simply wouldn't fly at many churches.
- We also celebrate believer baptism in the 11:30 service -- always one of our highest acts of worship.
So I am feeling privileged and blessed as I think of taking the platform this Sunday.
Life After Loss. Sunday. 8:30. 10. 11:30.
Please remember our First Serve ministry this weekend. Let's set an all-time record for volunteers fanning out in ministry throughout the greater Charlotte region.
And next weekend is the Men's Advance. Spots still available for a differenc-making weekend.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Provision follows obedience.
The provision of God generally follows obedience to God.
Usually, we want it to happen the other way around. Lord, once I get this money/blessing/relationship/health, then I'll start obeying you completely.
I believe God calls us to a completely different perspective.
When we obey him -- especially in radical, counter-intuitive ways -- then his provision flows into our lives. When preceded by risk-taking faith, God's supply outpaces our demand in ever more surprising ways.
So whether you are at a point of life transition or struggling with your next ministry move, choose a life of boldly difficult obedience.
And watch the provision flow.
Provision follows obedience.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Are our experiences therapeutic or theocentric?
Now those are big sounding words but they actually communicate relatively simple truths.
We live in a culture that is therapy-focused. We often redefine sin as sickness. Thus, the solution is therapy or healing as opposed to repentance and renewal. Broken people want to be put back together -- often in recovery groups or individual counseling. Many times, our environments at Good Shepherd have that kind of vibe. I believe that's both a strength and a weakness.
The theocentric concept is the other side of that coin. The word literally means "God-centered." (Theo is Greek for "God," while centric means "centered.") From this perspective, the focus of any church gathering is to honor & praise & meditate on God -- his character, his power, his attributes. Our Calvinist friends are brilliant in crafting environments that begin and end with God-centered reflections.
So what's the solution?
Perhaps I'm asking the wrong question in all this. I have an idea that when you have a theocentric focus then therapy happens naturally. In other words, when you dwell on who God is, healing happens in the deepest part of the human heart.
So: therapeutic or theocentric? Answer: yes.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Who is Brad Stoffel and why do I remember his birthday?
Brad was my chief rival for the top ranking in Texas tennis between the ages of 12 and 16.
And he beat me fifteen times in a row.
Most of the time, his victories ensured that he would be ranked #1 in Texas for our age group and I would be ranked #2.
There's not a lot of joy in being #2. I followed most of those losses with a heavy dose of tears.
Finally, unexpectedly, miraculously, the streak came to an end at a match in Houston when we were 16. Things were never quite the same after that day.
I don't know where Brad is these days or what he's doing as a 49 year old. And I'm quite sure that he doesn't remember my birthday. He probably remembers the 15 wins and the later reversal of fortune. Perhaps he'll get some kind of google alert about this post.
But what are the top five things I learned from losing to the same guy 15 times in a row?
5. Practice matters. Early on, Brad had better practice habits than I did. He worked harder. He was fitter and faster. I thought I should win because my strokes were slightly more refined than his. No.
4. Confidence matters more. As a kid, my self doubt was written on my face and in my posture. Not so with Brad.
3. Success happens in surprising ways. When I finally won that day in Houston, I did not play "the match of my life." I had even been in a slump before the tournament began. I remember losing the first set 6-2 and thinking "here we go again." But I hung around and for the first time in a long time he made some mistakes at critical times. The next thing I knew, I was at the net shaking his hand.
2. As Jim Valvano said, "never give up." That one is true of life in general, not just sports in particular. There is short term value and long term reward to the simple virtue of persistence. After almost every one of those 15 losses, I vowed, "That's it. I'm quitting tennis." But I'd get up the next day and start over. Because . . .
1. Listen to what your dad says. My dad had to endure a lot of tears. He had to build back up a lot of broken down confidence. But he did it with such quiet assurance. I can hardly count the number of times he said, "Stay with your game. One day it will all come together and you'll beat him."
Monday, November 1, 2010
Back in June, I bought Julie two tickets for an October 30 Carrie Underwood concert. It was a nice birthday present.
The plan was that she would be able to take a friend.
Then that friend had her own change of plans.
So I was the substitute.
Me and Carrie Underwood? Not really.
It's actually not the first time I've taken one for the team.
Back in the 80s, when we were newly married, I took Julie to see soap opera star turned rocker wannabe Jack Wagner.
To hear Jack's signature sound, check here.
What's funny about this more recent sacrifice?
I liked the concert. A lot.