Archive for December, 2009

The Bible Says Party on New Year’s Eve… sort of

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

New Year’s Eve has never been a big deal to me. But I’ve got to tell you; I think I’m missing out. Celebrating New Year’s Eve is actually a biblical concept. In the Old Testament God included three national holidays in the official calendar of Israel.

Passover celebrated how God had freed them from slavery in Egypt. Pentecost took place at the beginning of the harvest and celebrated God’s provision of food for another year. Tabernacles was celebrated at the end of the harvest and celebrated both God’s provision of a good crop and His provision for the people when they were wandering in the desert for 40 years. They celebrated what God had done for His people and looked forward in hope to what God would provide in the future.

I’ve been missing out on that, a chance to celebrate how God has provided for us over the past year and look forward in hope to what He will provide in the upcoming year.

Today, I’m celebrating some amazing things as I think about how God has provided for my family and me and looking forward in great hope. I want to let you know about two things and would love your prayers regarding them. First, launches this week. This is part of a speaking ministry that I’m launching where people can book me to speak at their church, conference, or retreat. I look forward to seeing how God will use this ministry to knock down the walls that keep people from experiencing all that God has for them. Second, we’re in the process of launching Jericho Ministry Solutions. The mission of Jericho Ministry Solutions is to help churches knock down the walls that keep us from being the church that God intends. You’ll see more about this in the next couple of months.

New Year’s Eve is an opportunity to celebrate what God has done and to look forward in hope to what He’s going to do.

As you watch the ball drop tonight, what will you be celebrating and what will you be looking forward to?

The Church Can Get Another Pastor

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

A while back @Acts29 tweeted a quote from Pastor Mark Driscoll, “The church can get another pastor, but your wife only has one husband.” That seems like such a simple and obvious statement. Yet, I believe it is incredibly profound.

I have served in church ministry for nine years. The thing that I have seen trip up more pastors than anything else is not understanding this simple truth. The church can get another pastor, but your wife only one husband.

Often what happens for pastors is they take their wives for granted. She loves me. She supports me. She’ll be there when I get back. But, the church needs me now.
Guess what pastor, the church needs you but your wife needs you more. Moreover, your duty to be a husband supersedes your duty to be a pastor. If you fail as a husband you are disqualified from being a pastor. Don’t believe me? Read the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). Look at the qualifications for elders. Tell me how you can fulfill God’s call on your life to lead his church yet fail at God’s call to lead the family he’s given you. Moreover, how can you pastor a church full of people who’s marriages are struggling when you don’t make yours a priority?

The church can get another pastor, but your wife only has one husband.

So pastors let’s help each out. What do you do to prioritize your wife over the church?

Christmas Characters Part 3

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Only three of the four gospels tell the Christmas story. We’ve looked at two of them so far in this series, Matthew and Luke. In this final post in the Christmas Characters series we’re going to look the Christmas story as presented in the Gospel of John. Matthew told the story from Joseph’s perspective. Luke from Mary’s. John tells the story from Jesus’ perspective. The story is in John 1:1-18.

John focuses on the story from Jesus’ perspective. Jesus, the Word, as the second person of the Trinity who is God and through whom all creation was made left heaven and made is home, built his tent among people. He came on Christmas morning as a child to provide a way for the people he created to become “the children of God.”

On Christmas, God revealed himself and opened his arms wide to receive his people back into his family. It costs us nothing. It cost Jesus his life. This Christmas as you are thanking your friends and family for the wonderful gifts, don’t forget to thank Jesus for giving us Christmas and don’t forget to share his story with those around you that need to hear it again.

Christmas Characters Part 2

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

In the last post we looked at Christmas from Joseph’s perspective. Today, we will look at Christmas through the eyes of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Her story is found in Luke 1:26-56

This is a pretty crazy story. A teenaged girl about to be married encounters a messenger from God. This messenger tells her that she’s favored by God and going to have a kid. Like any bright young woman in her position her immediate answer is, “huh?” This is a young girl of a conquered disenfranchised people. How in the world can this messenger say God favors her? On top of that, he tells her she’s going to get pregnant! This doesn’t sound like favor at all. How is she going to explain this to her husband-to-be?

“No, I haven’t cheated this is God’s baby. I’m favored by God and the son I’m carrying is going to be a great king.”

Today we have very comfortable padded rooms for people who make such claims.
Yet, Mary trusted the messenger and submitted to God. Submitting to God doesn’t always seem to make sense. On the outside, it can often look foolish or ridiculous. But then, the Christmas story looks foolish and ridiculous until you read the sequel, Easter.

God doesn’t always make sense to me. But he always comes through. As you get ready for Christmas next week, think about what God’s asking you to do. Does it sound ridiculous? Maybe, but remember there once was a girl who had this ridiculous encounter with someone who said they he was from God and told her that though she was a virgin she was going to have a son. And through her, God brought his Son to earth and changed the world. On this side of the story it doesn’t sound so ridiculous. What will your story look like on the other side?

Disney’s Back

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

My dad and I took my 4 year old daughter to see Disney’s the “Princess and the Frog” yesterday. This was her first Disney movie in the theater. In truth, I think I enjoyed it more than she did. I was a big fan of Disney in the late 80s and early 90s. But I’ve never been able to get into the Pixar stuff and I thought “Hercules” was one of the lowest points in Disney feature film animation. It was fun to see Disney animation get back to what they do best. And, “The Princess and the Frog” owns a place among “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Aladdin.” It’s a fun family friendly movie with good music and a great message.

My favorite aspect about this particular film was the overall message of the story. The lead characters are foils of each other each showing opposite extremes that many of us in the United States fall into. On one hand, you have Nazeen the lazy no-account prince looking for a rich wife to support him since his parents have cut him off financially. On the other hand, you have the workaholic Tiana who’s only focus is her dream of opening a restaurant to the point of neglecting everything else, especially relationships. A representation, in my opinion, of the root of these negative traits is the evil Dr. Facilier (materialism incarnate) who promises to give you all that you dream. Yet, Facilier’s dreams all turn into nightmares. The counter-balance to Facilier is Mama Odie who teaches Nazeen and Tiana that true fulfillment is not getting what you want, but digging deeper and learning to get what you need. What both Nazeen and Tiana realize they need is love, a relationship with someone they love who loves them in return. This they find in each other. In true fairy tale fashion once they sacrifice their wants for what they truly need they receive what they want as well, and live happily ever after.

The music in this film was a lot of fun, especially if you like jazz. The popular jazz was an apt background for a film set in early twentieth century New Orleans. Although Randy Newman did a very good job he’s no Alan Menken. While the animation and storyline hearken back to some of the great Disney animated features, the music of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is still the high water mark of Disney music and “The Princess and the Frog” does not quite reach that high.

For all you parents out there, my daughter found certain parts of the movie a little frightening. Probably no more so than the scenes with Ursula the Sea Witch in “The Little Mermaid” or Scar in “The Lion King” but that is something to consider when taking young children. There were, however, no nightmares and overall she had a positive experience.

OK, this post is way too long already, but since most of my readers are Christian I should address the issue of voodoo in the movie. Voodoo is an important device in the plot of the movie. It is how the villain is able to gain the upper hand and create the initial conflict and it is how Mama Odie is supposed to be able to help the lead characters get out of their predicament. Obviously voodoo is a negative aspect of Cajun and Caribbean culture that should not be condoned or promoted by followers of Christ. With that said, this is a movie. It’s an animated feature. It’s a fictional story. It’s not real. (OK, I can’t think of another way to say it, if I could I’d add it here.) The use of voodoo in this move is no more pernicious or evil than the use of magic in “Snow White” or “The Little Mermaid” or the power of Genies in “Aladdin.” Moreover, the fact that the villain does bad things is a good teaching point and voodoo is merely a tool to move the plot forward and should not overshadow the positive aspects of this excellent film.

OK, I promise my next post won’t be so long, but if you’ve seen “The Princess and the Frog,” I’d love for you to post your review here. And if you disagree with something I said today, feel free to tell me and let’s talk about it.

Christmas Characters Part 1

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

As we head into Christmas, I thought we should spend a little time talking about the Christmas event. So for the next two weeks of posts, we’re going to look at some of the people that experienced that first Christmas and try to learn from them. Today let’s look at Jesus’ adopted father, Joseph.
Not much is known about Joseph. His story takes up very little space in Scripture. Mathew is the only New Testament author that tells his story. (Luke tells the story from Mary’s perspective. Mark starts his gospel when Jesus is older. John doesn’t discuss Jesus’ human parents.)

Joseph, Matthew says, was a righteous man. That, by the way, is probably the best commentary possible of one’s life. Joseph, the righteous man, chooses to endure the scorn and ridicule of marrying a woman that everyone suspected was unfaithful to him because God said so.

Can you imagine how difficult that had to be for Joseph? That certainly wasn’t at all what he expected. This was not the life that Joseph planned. Yet, Joseph was a righteous man. He obeyed God and endured the hardship and embarrassment of marrying a woman that people would always suspect had cheated on him, for the sake of God’s plan.

We all have to endure things that don’t fit in our plan. It could be the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a child the loss of a friend. I don’t know what you’re enduring right now. But, Joseph, the righteous man, shows us that we can endure it. Joseph’s endurance allowed him to be the man that raised God’s Son. As you prepare for Christmas, think about that. Think about what God might be doing through the experience that you’re enduring. And, lean on him.

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 4

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

In this last post in the series I want to talk about the importance of moving in a direction. For me, the thing that keeps me from acting is I’m afraid of the result. I don’t want to move in a direction that may not take me to the right destination. I don’t want to take even a small step.

Yet, when it comes to following God, I’m finding that movement is important. God is interested more in the process than in the product. Think about it. He doesn’t need us to accomplish anything. He can do that all on his own. He’s looking to build a relationship with us. That takes time and commitment. He’s looking for us to commit ourselves to him. That means going in the direction he points without too much concern at the result.

God wants you to get in the game. He’s already got plenty of breathing seat warmers, look in any church. Don’t wait until you know the play perfectly. It’s OK to make mistakes. But, get out there and do something. I find when I am consistent in prayer and consistently read the Bible God gives me enough information to take the next step. But, if I don’t take the next step I’m not letting God be in charge and he won’t tell me the second or third step until I prove to him that I’m willing to take the first. Even if I don’t know where it leads.

What’s the next step that God’s leading you to take?

Letting Go Is Hard to Do Part 3

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

It is impossible to let someone else be in control if we’re not listening to what they say. It is impossible to let God be in control if you’re not listening to what he says. If you’re not reading Scripture you’re not letting God be in control. You’re merely saying that you are.

Now, you’re probably thinking. Doesn’t God speak to us in other ways such as through prayer, circumstances, and other people?

Yes, he does. But that is not his primary mode of communication. Since Moses, God has chosen the written word as his primary vehicle of communicating with his people. Read through Scripture if you don’t believe me. When God chose to speak directly to or through people, that was something different from the norm. That was something unexpected. God’s primary vehicle for communicating to us is through Scripture. If you want to give control over to God, you need to consistently read the Bible.

For me, I find morning is the best time, either before everyone else gets up of after everyone else has left the house. I need time alone with God. I need all distractions away from me.

I’ve also found that You Version is a great tool for this time. I open my computer and log on to You Version. It opens the Bible to the last passage I read in the last translation I had open. You Version also has a journal application in the program that allows me to journal online and take my journal wherever I have wifi access.

That’s what works for me. I don’t know what works for you but whatever it is; it won’t work if you’re not reading His Word. You need to be in Scripture if you want to give control over to God.

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 2

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Prayer is vital to letting go of control and giving it to God. Prayer is a physical activity that reminds us of our dependence on God and opens us to hear from him.

For many people prayer comes naturally. They pray all the time. I’m not one of those people. Prayer, for me, is a discipline. I have to schedule it or I won’t do it. I’ve scheduled in my day three times of consistent prayer. They’re not marathon prayer sessions. Just specific times that I consciously acknowledge God and talk to him. I’ve found that since I’ve been disciplining myself pray regularly spontaneous prayer has become more natural and I pray more often. When I get out of my routine, the spontaneous prayer becomes less common as well.

As I pray more consistently, my attitude shifts and I rely on God more consistently and work harder at being connected to him and less hard at being in control.

Letting Go is Hard to Do

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

If you’ve spent any time in church or around Christ-followers, you’ve heard that we need to give God control of our lives. “Let go and let God.” I’ve heard that over and over again and often wondered, what does that mean and how do I do it? I’m certainly no expert but I’ll share a few thoughts.

Letting go is more of an attitude than an action. God does not call us to be passive, to sit back and wait. God provides us everything we need to become the tool he is going to use. We, however, need to have an attitude of submission and obedience. We need to allow God to guide our actions rather than act and ask God to bless our actions.
Here are a couple of tips that help me submit to God’s control:

1. Pray. I know it’s the obvious answer, but it’s vital. Prayer is a physical activity that helps remind us of our dependence on God.

2. Read Scripture. Another, obvious answer. Yet, God has given us his Word to guide us.

3. Act. God isn’t looking for people to warm the bench. He’s looking for people to get in the game.

Letting go is hard. Trying to control things you can’t is harder. Listen to God. Take that next step. He’ll guide you to where you need to be.