Category Archives: Uncategorized

Time To Change Lanes?

It’s been really hard for me to blog these last few months. Part of it has to do to a new schedule of life and work as I’ve adjusted to the rhythm of pastoring over the last year (I still feel blogging is important and I want to fit it back into my weekly routine). Another reason why it’s been hard to write recently is because everything seems to devolve into politics- including posts that I’ve begun writing.

This blog has never been a political blog. Even though every Christian needs to decide how their politics and faith mesh- I don’t feel like that is my lane. Other bloggers can speak to those issues.

So what is my lane? Do I need to keep writing about what I’ve been writing about or does this blog need to grow and evolve?

I guess that’s the question at the moment. Hopefully I’ll be able to gain a direction and be back writing and engaging with issues and topics related to God, the Bible and life soon.

As a reader, what kinds of things would you be interested in reading about? Add your thoughts in the comment section.

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Living Like Patrick Beyond St. Patrick’s Day

Unknown-1Last Wednesday and last Sunday, I shared with my church a little of the story of St. Patrick. It’s a fascinating story; Patrick: kidnapped and sold as a slave in Ireland, learned Celtic language and culture, escaped, but was called by God to return and preach Christ among the Irish Celts. After Patrick’s death, a number of factors lead to Celtic Christianity developing largely independently from Christianity found in England or mainland Europe.

The Celtic brand of Christianity still exists among a few communities but their way of life and their expression of Christianity can teach us some lessons in having a more vibrant faith.

First, they made a conscious effort to integrate faith into every area of life. Celtic Christians wrote prayers for almost every aspect of life: beginning of the day, end of the day, cooking and working. They wrote prayers for marriage, children, blessing a new home, and for dying. These prayers are often called “contemplative,” and are “an ongoing, or very frequent, opening of the heart to the Triune God, often while engaging in each of the many experiences that fill a day” (Hunter, III).

Our lives tend to be segmented and compartmentalized. We have our spiritual life, sure, but we also have our work life, our home life, and our social life. Contemplative prayer helps us see that all of life is connected and all of life can be influenced and influence our spiritual life.

Second, and in a similar vein, was the formation of the monastic communities. Throughout Europe, monasteries were a common place for the ultra-religious to go to escape from the world. They were located outside of cities, on mountains, or off the beaten path. In Ireland, Christians built communities that were  monastic (people living under a religious vow). They were little towns with monks, nuns and priests but also families, farmers, carpenters, herders and craftsman. Again it showed how they saw all of life integrated, with no “religious” and “secular” differentiation.

Third, Celtic Christians naturally saw God within nature. The clover, held by Patrick in many pictures, was used to explain the mysterious nature of the Trinity. As a culture centered around farming, herding and fishing it is understandable that the forces of nature would play a large role in their lives and when they learned of the God who created and controls the forces of nature, it was easy to see God’s hand in it. Again, not even nature is outside of our normal lives- although many of us have tried to eliminate hot, cold, rain and wind from our lives. We can see God in the sunshine and rain, we can hear God in the call of the birds and we can use what God has made to understand God better.

The constant theme of each of these Celtic Christian expressions of faith is the way that they integrate faith into everyday life. That is something we can all be reminded of in our lives. It’s been 1,585 years since Patrick took Christianity to Ireland but we can still learn from their example.

 

Sources:

The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West Again. George G. Hunter, III. Abington Press, 2000.

Celtic Daily Prayer. Harper One, 2002.

 

Top 5 Thoughts from “Growing Young”

unknown-2I just finished the latest book from the Fuller Youth Institute entitled, Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. Kara Powell, Jake Mulder and Brad Griffin put together a helpful and practical book and here I want to share the top 5 thoughts that I took away from the book.

(For simplicity sake, they are in chronological order.)

  1. “…no major Christian tradition is growing in the US today” (16). For those of us who keep up to date with the latest polls and trends in religion, this is not a new or a surprising fact, however, it reiterates the great need and urgency that the church has to influence this generation of young people. Those who self-identity as Christians have shrunk, those who are religiously unaffiliated have grown and the largest single population in America is yearning for direction and purpose- will they be able to find it in the gospel of Jesus and the church?
  2. “People are our heart; Jesus is our message” (129). This phrase was the mantra of one church interviewed in research for the book. If the world understood, if Christians understood, that this phrase effectively sums up the way that we should see and engage the world, we would begin to see change happen in the world. Many of the misconceptions of Christianity and many of the conflicts churches face would be immediately fixed if we held to a “people are our heart; Jesus is our message” mantra.
  3. “…it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith. It’s silence” (157). If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you already know that I am a big fan of doubt, questions and looking at things from a new perspective. Thinking critically about matters of faith doesn’t cause a person to throw that faith away, it proves that faith can stand up under the concerns of the real world. The Fuller Youth Institute has the research to back up this claim: “According to our Sticky Faith research, 7 out of 10 high school student harbor significant doubts about God and faith…One of the factors that determines their faith development is if they have opportunities to express and explore doubts. When they do have those opportunities, doubt is actually correlated with greater faith maturity” (emphasis mine, 157). Reaching young people means making place for doubts and questions.
  4. “First relationship, then formation. First belonging, then belief” (171). “For teenagers and emerging adults, depth of relationship opens the door to deeper exploration of belief” (171). As a church, our first job isn’t doctrine or theology, it’s being a place that’s welcoming and warm. In fact “warmth” is what 1 out of 3 people said described their church (168). Promoting warmth, family and community is not a secondary pursuit, it must be primary.
  5. “When we posture our work in the redemptive narrative of Jesus, good deeds are repositioned within Good News” (240). This gets to the yearning for direction and purpose that is found in all people but especially in young people and young adults. They want to see the world changed for the better and when we show them that desire matches the message of Jesus, they begin to see Jesus and the church of Jesus in a new way.

There are many other get takeaways from this book, along with practical ways to implement their suggestions. I recommend this book and hopefully these 5 thoughts give you incentive to dig into the book for yourself.

Bibliography:

Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016.

2017’s Theme: Review

Even though we’rimages-2e already over halfway through January, I haven’t written a post for the new year. For the last couple of years, I’ve chosen a theme that shaped my year. In 2015 the theme was doubt. In 2016 the theme was bravery. This year the theme is review.

Why do NBA coaches spend practice time on dribbling and ball handling skills? Or passing drills? Shouldn’t NBA players focus on other things that aren’t so elementary? Perhaps, but if the basics aren’t there and if they’re not reviewed regularly those skills could fade. The same is true for you and I as well, there are things in our lives that we should take the opportunity to review from time to time to review.

For me this means that my plan is to do a lot of re-reading. I have so many good books in my library that I need to take a second, third or fourth look at in order refresh myself on their messages. I also plan to review some of the posts that I’ve written and reexamine them to see if I still agree with what I’ve written or if my thinking has progressed. I also want to take time to see if I am putting into practice what I have suggested to others.

My theme for 2017: Review. Reexamine. Relearn. Reengage.

What’s your theme for the year?


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A Busy Two Weeks

It’s been a busy and fantastic two weeks.

Two Sundays ago I had the privilege of baptizing my eldest son. It was an awesome thing to get to do.

Then, the next day, the moving truck came and loaded all of our stuff to make the move to Electra, TX. After a whirlwind of packing, moving, unpacking and more unpacking, we experienced an amazing first Sunday morning at FBC Electra.

We are getting settled into our house and I’m getting settled into the office. School starts next Monday and then we will really be Electrons? Electrolytes? Electrans? I’ll have to find out the official name.

Continue to pray that our house in Midland will sell quickly.

I’ll be back with a more typical post next week!

Levi getting baptized on our last Sunday at FBC Midland

Levi getting baptized on our last Sunday at FBC Midland

Moving is hard work.

Moving is hard work.

My first Sunday as Senior Pastor FBC Electra- Aug 14, 2016

My first Sunday as Senior Pastor FBC Electra- Aug 14, 2016

Dedication Page

Within the opening few pages of most books- before the introduction, before the table of contents- is the dedication page. It’s the place where the author can thanks the people who have helped, assisted and inspired the work and where the author can dedicate the work to those who mean the most to his life and the life of the work.

I may be one of the few people who routinely read the dedication page in books. I like seeing who has inspired the author and who the author wants to honor in the dedication of the book.

My family and I are beginning a new work. I have been called to First Baptist Church, Electra, TX as their pastor and at the beginning of this new work, I would like to write my dedication page.

First, my parents and in-laws. Thank you for babysitting and be available when we needed it. Thank you for all the Sunday lunches and dinners. Dad, thanks for allowing me to teach with you and expanding my thinking. We will miss not being able to see you all the time.

San, I have great respect for your wisdom and insight. You read situations better than anyone I know. Thank you for investing time in me and loving my boys.

Eric, thank you for giving me a chance when I knew nothing about pizza and nothing about business. Thanks for teaching me how an organization runs and how to step in and lead. Thank you for embodying who a Christian businessman is supposed to be.

Eleven 11 team (John, Eric and Val, Nathan and others), I loved every minute of what we did during those three years. In the same way that Eric taught be about business, you taught me about the church: what it should look like and what it should be about. John, I learned so much from you about communication and about giving people an opportunity to meet God, those are things I desire to incorporate in my new position.

Jody, Christian, Hunter, you taught me so much of what I know about ministry.

Gary, Randel, Dr. D, you are the three Senior Pastors I have sat under during my adult life. I know I didn’t learn enough from you as I could have (which I regret) but I have great respect for each of you and for what you have poured into the local church. I am confident that as problems, need or circumstances arises, I can reach out to you for wisdom, guidance and encouragement.

FBC Midland, we will miss all of you. Thank you for investing in our lives and the lives of our boys.

FBC Electra, I’m excited to get started and see what God will do. I know I won’t be perfect; I’ll make mistakes and there will be things that I’ll learn as we go. We are excited to get to know you and make new friends. I know that I’ll learn from you and I pray that you’ll learn from me and together we can love the people of Electra and see God change the lives of people.

Here we go…

Chapter 1

Fall To Grace, Not From It

This time it’s Perry Noble.

Perry Noble was founding and Lead Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina. NewSpring is a mega-mega church 17 campuses and a weekly attendance of around 30,000 people. Perry was removed as Lead Pastor of NewSpring after admitting to alcoholism and “unfortunate choices.” It is a sad time for NewSpring Church and for the Church of Jesus Christ.

I have heard Perry Noble preach. I  have also heard and read things about his church and ministry that have caused me pause and made me question his orthodoxy in certain areas. However, to give him the benefit of the doubt, I pray that he had been genuinely engaging people with the gospel.

This isn’t the first high-profile pastor that has made a mistake. In recent memory  we have seen Mark Driscoll resign from Mars Hill Church and Acts 29 removed him from the organization (even thought he founded Acts 29) because of controversy surrounding, what has been called, abusive behavior toward church members, ex-church members and ex-staff. Mars Hill Church then announced that it would dissolve and sell all 14 campuses.

We have also seen the fall of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church pastor Tullian Tchividjian (who is Billy Graham’s grandson) who resigned after confessing t0 extramarital affairs. There’s also the revelation from Naghmeh Abedini who filed for separation from her husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was the Irania American pastor imprisoned in Iran because of “allegations of physical, emotional and spiritual abuse.”

As I mention these three “high-profile” examples, I’m sure you know of others- both locally, nationally and internationally (like South Korean pastor David Yonggi Cho who was convicted of embezzling $12 million from his church).

With all these example of pastors falling from grace, what are we to do? What do we do as Christ followers? What do we do as church leaders?

There is a lot that could be said, but I believe it can be boiled down to one overarching idea: fall to grace, not from it.

The phrase is not unique to me and it summarizes many of the other points. It reminds us that we all need grace. We are all sinners saved by grace. And we continually need grace because, though we are saved sinners, there is still the desire to sin within us. All of us are one mistake, one bad decision, one lapse of judgment away from being a thief, murderer or adulterer. That realization is a sobering one. It’s only by pressing into Jesus and falling into God’s grace each moment that helps us put to death the sinful nature and walk in the Spirit.

When we fall into the temptation that our strength, our ministry, our very life are derived from anywhere else but Christ, we move one step closer to falling from grace- in the eyes of those around us; we can never fall from God’s grace. When we don’t continually fall into God’s grace, rest in him and rely on his strength, we find that we will be let down by others and we will let others down.

I can’t say that I will never make a mistake. I can’t say that I will never let my wife, my children or my church down. I can’t say that I will never say the wrong thing. But I can say (because I believe it to be true) that the further I fall into grace, the harder it will be to fall from it.

 

References:

Alcohol Abuse, Perry Noble, and the Church’s Response” by Ed Stetzer

How a Megachurch Melts Down” by Ruth Graham

Tullian Tchividjian Confesses Second Affair Concealed by Two Coral Ridge Elders” by Morgan Lee

The strange case of the pastor released from Iran and his wife’s abuse allegations” by Bob Smietana