Sunday, February 28, 2010

What did God teach you today?

We're continuing in Exodus this week. It will probably be posted here (click media and launch the sermon player) tomorrow or Tuesday. I was going to direct you to a new place besides our church each week, but I don’t listen to enough online preaching to do that so we’ll call this Mosaic month.

With all that out of the way, if you went to a worship service today, what did God teach you/challenge you with?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

“Surely God was in this place and I did not know it.”

I love getting my Leadership Journal each quarter. Preaching is the primary theme this time and I was reading an interview with Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church (in Michigan, I think). It was an interesting interview on creativity and leadership and preaching, but there’s one question, early in the interview that I thought was a wonderful reminder and challenge.

Leadership Journal: “Your sermons are known for pulling from unexpected sources – everything from art history to quantum physics. Why?”

Bell: “When Jacob woke up after his vision of angels ascending and descending on the ladder, he declared, ‘Surely God was in this place and I did not know it.’ And Jesus says, ‘My Father is always at work even to this very day.’ Jesus lives with an awareness, an assumption that God is here and he’s at work. Dallas Willard calls this ‘the God-bathed world.’ This has deeply shaped me.”
There was more to the interview, but this just grabbed me. God is at work all around us in the lives of people in ways you could never imagine. I’m encouraged to pray for eyes to see God at work and how I can play a part in it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Club Friday: Church Unique, Chapters 3-4

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so go ahead and frame the discussion in the comments below. I hope to get some thoughts down this evening or tomorrow some time.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine’s City of God

I think actually finishing The City of God will be one of my greatest reading accomplishments. It’s long and, to be honest, not always riveting. I’m no literary critic and, since so many have found it so valuable for so long, I assume the problem’s with me, not the good saint’s work. Despite plodding through this book with one ‘book’ per week (his books are 40-60 pages each), there are some fantastic nuggets that are worthy of thought, or are at the very least, inspiring.

I’ve been tagging pages of note throughout the book. We’ll hit one of those each week, but there’s going to be a little bit of context needed for each one. So, instead of starting at the beginning (probably more like the middle since I was lost for the first half of the volume), I’m going to start where I’m reading (book XX of XXII – that’s 20 of 22 for you Arabic numeral-types). We’ll go back and hit the other stuff, but the context will be more fresh for me if we start where I am. And, honestly, that saves me some work. I’m all about that.

Again, I’m an Augustine novice so if you actually know something about him, your input is coveted.

Today I’m reading in Book 20, which is dealing with God’s judgment and this quote, regarding Satan’s 1000 year binding before his final loosening and defeat (see Rev. 20, I believe). For those wondering why God would bind Satan and then loose him for one last brouhaha, here’s what St. Augustine says,
“…if he were never loosed, his malicious power would be less patent, and less proof would be given of the steadfast fortitude of the holy city: it would, in short, be less manifest what good use the Almighty makes of his great evil. For the Almighty does not absolutely seclude the saints from his temptation, but shelters only their inner man, where faith resides, that by outward temptation they may grow in grace. And He binds him that he may not, in the free and eager exercise of his malice, hinder or destroy the faith fo those countless weak persons, already believing or yet to believe, from whom the Church must be increased and completed; and he will in the end loose him, that the city of God may see how mighty an adversary it has conquered, to the great glory of its Redeemer, Helper, Deliverer” (pp. 722-723).
Theodicy (answering the problem of evil) is one of the profound challenges of theism and this isn’t intended to be a full explanation by Augustine, but it does seem to be one angle on the issue. Great heroes need great villains. By releasing Satan, God’s greatness is highlighted. This leads to other problems, I suppose (like why create Satan if he’s going to fall, etc…), but in a theo-centric theology (it’s funny that there’d be any other kind) the highlighting of God’s goodness and greatness is a good reason for Satan to be bound, unleashed, and finally abolished from the earth.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prayer Help

A vital discipline for the Christian life is prayer. Some people have natural, thriving prayer lives. I’m not one of them. It’s work for me. Sometimes I work hard at it; other times I’m pretty lame. But our senior pastor gave a message two Sundays ago that had some helpful tools for prayer highlighted. Check it out here. Click the media tab. It’s the 2/14 message.

A great element (that we should really put online) was the videos of some people sharing some practical tips for prayer. One shared an iPhone app, another shared their journaling technique (I use something similar), but the one that I’ve hooked on to from the message is Echo Prayer. It is a service where you type in your requests and you’re sent reminders – whenever you schedule them – via text, email, or both.

I figured the site out by myself and it has been a helpful reminder, and challenge, to pray more regularly for those requests that I asked to be reminded of. If I can figure it out, anyone can.

Check it out:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance, Shift from Internal to External, Part 1

McNeal starts this chapter by noting a young church that posted their community service hours on their website to indicate their value of serving the community. They wanted to be a community who loved their community and this was an indicator. Becoming externally focused is more than just a program that includes community service. McNeal discusses several shifts that need to happen to actually shift from Internal to External Focus.

From Church-centric to Kindom-focused.
The church-centered world is when life revolves around the church and the church becomes a ‘full-service’ parallel universe alongside the world. The missional church doesn’t look at the kingdom through church lenses (where Jesus returns to make the world church-friendly). Rather, it looks at the church through kingdom lenses. Jesus is always at work and the church is catching up to Jesus and His work. The church is people, not a place. Wherever God’s people are, the church is there.

From Destination to Connector.
The church should not be a destination, but connecting people to the lives God has called them in the workforce, in their families, in their communities. Having the church as a destination is like saying an airport is the destination.

From Thinking We Are the Point to Being Absolutely the Point.
A question McNeal likes to ask when he speaks is this: “What’s the point of being the people of God if the people of God are not the point?” He’s getting at the fact that God has chosen us to be a blessing (check out this article from Christianity Today on Lesslie Newbigin for similar ideas). Since we are to be a blessing people, McNeal challenges churches to change from an evangelism strategy to a ‘blessing strategy,’ which people want to do (since they don’t want to do evangelism). The results seem to be better in our culture – and I know it is my personal preference.

From Attractional to Incarnational.
In many ways the church has sought to be a full-service community where success is measured by participation in church activities. An incarnational church sees the church as dispersed to bless the community so the influence of a church-member teacher would be taken into consideration in an incarnational church, not just the size of the children’s ministry. The ultimate measurement in an incarnational community is the quality of disciple and how they influence the culture – celebrate incarnational ministry, commission people as missionaries to apartment complexes, etc…, and adopt schools to get into the community.

From Member Culture to Missionary Culture.
The attractional church is about members, the missional church is about the congregation seeing themselves as missionaries in their culture. The church needs to avoid being a parallel culture. Instead, it needs it’s ‘members’ to engage all over the place as ‘missionaries’ if it is to be a missional church.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What did God teach you today?

We started a new series going through the first half of Exodus this week. The series is called Life Giving Worship and this week covers Exodus chapters 1-2. It will probably be posted tomorrow or Tuesday. I was going to direct you to a new place besides our church each week, but I don’t listen to enough online preaching to do that so we’ll call this Mosaic month.

With all that out of the way, if you went to a worship service today, what did God teach you/challenge you with?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A challenging missions quote

I’m working on putting together a sermon series and was directed to George Eldon Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom for help. I read the book in a couple days – not very impressive, it’s pretty small – and this was a great challenge to put near the end of the slender volume.

“My concern is not with closed doors; my concern is with the doors that are open which we do not enter. If God’s people were really faithful and were doing everything possible to finish the task, God would see to it that the doors were opened. Our responsibility is the many doors standing open which we are not entering. We are a disobedient people. We argue about the definition of world-wide evangelization and we debate the details of eschatology, while we neglect the command of the World of God to evangelize the world.”
It’s a challenging word. Instead of worrying about all the doors that are closed, are you walking through the doors that God has opened to you where you are right now?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Book Club Friday: Church Unique, Chapters 1-2

I think I’m going to enjoy this book. I haven’t read both chapters yet, so there may be more questions to come, but a couple questions arise from chapter 1 for me that might be worthy of discussion. These are just ideas. Please share whatever it is that grabs you in the first couple chapters this week. The questions I thought noteworthy…

1. How did this tweak your idea of how vision forms, what vision is?
2. Which of the “Thinkholes” are you most prone to falling into in your own vision/mission mindset?

In case you missed the first post from last week on the Introduction, here it is:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tozer can turn a phrase

I’ve known a bunch of Tozer fans over the years. I’ve never read him. However, I just started The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer. Now I get it. I’ve read about five pages and there’s plenty of food for thought. Here’s some of my favorite quotes over the first few pages.

“The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts” (p. 10).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hump Day History: St. Augustine

I’ve been slogging through City of God by St. Augustine. It’s a classic, but it must have been deemed so by theologians and church historians because it’s wearing me out. Some of it is due to my lack of historical knowledge – the first half of the book is a anti-Roman rant (Rant makes it seem so unreasonable. Maybe polemic would be better :) ). I don’t know enough Roman history to get the maximum value out of it. The second half is his development of biblical history/theology. It’s been interesting, but it could be a lot shorter. This book is pushing 900 pages. If I was focused, I could walk through each section.

I’m not.

So what I’ll do is make a post of quotes from the book that I thought helpful or provocative. If you’re an Augustinian scholar, you’ll be appalled. I’m no such scholar so any input in the comments from someone who actually knows something would be greatly appreciated!

For now, if you’re not familiar with St. Augustine of Hippo’s life, check out Wikipedia (I haven’t checked it for accuracy – not that I’m qualified anyway) or, if you have more time, read his autobiography, Confessions. When I first started blogging I believe I posted on a couple of choice morsels from Confessions.

Next week we’ll begin violating the context of City of God as I throw out some half-baked thoughts on some lines that grabbed me throughout the tome.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mission(al) Monday: Missional Renaissance Review

A few months ago I read Missional Renaissance by Reggie McNeal. Loved it! I’ve been wanting to blog it to help me internalize it, but I haven’t been steady on it. I got into the Advent series and then worked through Psalm 22 on the blog here. I’ve lost all momentum, but what do you say we try to get some back. This week I’ll post the links to all the previous Missional Renaissance posts and we’ll get up and running next Monday with the next section.

In the order you should read them …

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My wife’s amazing. We’re delaying our date for a night. Taking cookies to our friends who live in the motels (hard to bake in there!). We’ll grab a movie and get a few hours without kids tomorrow. (Saving our money to try to get away for a few days over spring break!)

In keeping with that schedule, at least in part, here’s a link to our church (be sure to click on Media in the left column). And be sure to see what they’re doing at Mosaic lately. And feel free to share what God taught you this morning at your worship service – or let me know a great mid-day date idea to help me out for tomorrow!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Book Club: Church Unique, Introduction

This is pretty short notice so I’m not sure who has the book yet (Church Unique by Will Mancini - if you missed it in the Title). I copied the Intro and Chapter 1 from my boss’ copy until my copy comes in next week. But for this week’s interaction, think about a couple questions.

1. What are you hoping to gain from reading this book, if anything?
2. What are you looking forward to after reading the Introduction?

We’ll hit the ground running next week, reading chapters 1-2.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What’s the plan?

NOTE: We've switched from Quick-to-Listen to Church Unique by Will Mancini. Quick-to-Listen wasn't quick in the mail so we can switch it up for the kickoff of the Friday Book Club tomorrow. We'll just hit the intro so grab a book and let's get rolling.

Yesterday I mentioned I need something to get me a little more consistent on the blogging. When I started this, I never intended it to be for the sake of readership, but for processing my own ideas. At the top you’ll see I read a lot, but don’t think much. This blog is an attempt to change that. Even if I’m regurgitating the thoughts of others, I at least have to process it once. Hopefully more of what I’ve read sticks after that.

I’ve run into a snag, however. I’m busy and I’ve fallen back into the habit of reading without processing. And, since I still have a pretty limited readership (two people, I think), I don’t have great accountability to write on the blog – despite the fact that I really like it. It just takes more discipline than I have (real time example: I’m on a diet for the staff “Biggest Loser” competition and I’m drinking a Grande Mocha Frappucino at Starbucks).

I’ve found that I need structure to do anything with any consistency. It goes for my prayer life, reading my Bible, even working out. (With the latter, I also need accountability. There’s no way I’d survive P90X if my ego wasn’t invested with the other guys in the room. I’d quit after P3X). So here’s the structure that I hope to build around for the near future. I say “near” because even when I have structure, I need to switch things up from time to time. So here’s the weekly plan … subject to change, of course.

Sunday: I’ll put links to some of my favorite preachers and/or someone I’ve heard recently that sounds intriguing … like on a Catalyst podcast, or something like that. This just came to me. It’d be great to hear what God is teaching both of you readers through the Sunday sermon from your church (if you happen to be attending one).

Monday: Mission(al) Monday will cover books, articles, issues that pertain to being a missional, culturally-engaged church and/or cross-cultural missions, theology of missions, and maybe some apologetics stuff, which is what I’m planning on studying a little more this year (if I get to it).

Tuesday: Who knows?

Wednesday: I’d like to cover some history here. It could be church history or US history (or world, but world history isn’t on my reading list yet. I want to get through US history first). Thinking of calling it Hump Day History, but … kinda cheesy title – not that I’m beyond that.

Thursday: Who knows?

Friday: Book Club Friday. A couple friends and I are looking to connect up and down the West Coast with some of the stuff we’re reading. We thought a blog might be helpful. Our first book is supposed to be Quick-to-Listen Leaders. Unfortunately, the book hasn’t been quick to come in the mail for some of us. We hope to start tomorrow, but we’ll see.
Saturday: Who knows?

I was listening to a podcast today and it talked about helping creative types who like to get a bunch of things started, but never finish what they’re working on or hop around so much that they don’t do anything with excellence. I don’t fancy myself a creative-type, but I can tend to hop around. I’m not an expert in anything. I’m a dabbler. But I like it that way so I’m leaving myself room to dabble. Maybe Sports Saturday or something with links … or just those other books that I read or lessons I’m learning or passages I’m teaching. Who knows?! There’s three days of mystery in there … until I give into the temptation to over-structure to over-compensate for the lack of structure I’m currently struggling with.

OK. Enough rambling. I’ll see if I can get some posts in the queue here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jesus, The Ultimate Fighter?

Interesting post from Scot McKnight's blog recently:

It's been 10 days since my last post - and that one just told you to go to church! I'm trying to put together a plan that will keep me a little more consistent with content. I'm trying to figure out how it will best work. Check tomorrow or the next day and I'll try to roll out the next plan.