Saturday, March 31, 2007

Great thought on tithing

Relevant magazine, 7 major Christian leaders were asked 7 big questions. Two of the guys interviewed were two pastors of whose podcasts I listen every week, Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. Another person interviewed was one of my favorite authors, Lauren Winner; author of two great books, Girl Meets God and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity.

When asked "What is a negative tendency of this generation as it relates to the faith?" Winner replied with this gem:

"Our failure to tithe. I hear all the time: “I just can’t afford to give right now.” I hear that from my middle-class American peers. I wonder, if we “can’t afford” to give now, why not? And if we “can’t afford” to give now, when will we be ale to afford to give? I know of nothing that will transform someone’s spiritual life more abruptly than beginning to tithe. If we want to learn about dependence on God, tithe. If we want to have our treasure in heaven, tithe. If we want to have any hope of having solidarity with the poor, tithe. "


Or, if you wanted to be a more biblical Christian, you can read this site -
My wife, Erin, saw a bumper sticker that said "Christians don't have to tithe" with this web address underneath. Nope, Christians don't have tithe, but they get to tithe - and then some!

I'd have to agree with Lauren, not that website. While giving 10% isn't as explicit as a "thou shalt not..." it seems to be a biblical minimum expectation. The tithe has good support throughout church history, too. I believe it's a basic level of giving - from which a lifestyle of generosity flows.

Proud of my Alma Mater

A few weeks ago, Mid America Nazarene University hosted the the group Soul Force. Soul Force's mission statement is "Freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance." Soul Force is a group committed to teaching how same-sex relationships do not violate God's guidance in scripture.

I'm proud of MNU for the hospitality they offered Soul Force. You can read their blog entry here. You can also search around and see how negatively some of the other schools treated them.

This is exactly the way we're to respond to people who hold different views than we do; with love and honest. We're honest about our interpretations of scripture while still validating the other person's worth as a human being, even if we disagree.

I'm also proud of my Alma matter for winning the 2007 NAIA Division II national championship.

By the way, if you'd like to hear my message, "Can Christians be gay?" click on our website and scroll down the list of sermons until you find that message. I'd never had so many people ask for a preview of my sermon as the couple weeks leading up to that message. We had a big crowd there that day to hear what I was going to say.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Who should be comfortable on a Sunday morning?

Check out this quote from Shawn Lovejoy:
I've never met a Christian that SAID they wanted the church to be all about them. Every Christian I have ever met has SAID they want the church to reach out to people disconnected from Christ. However, do you know what I've found? Most churches want to reach the unchurched as long as they don't have to get uncomfortable doing it! Most Christians want to unconsciously focus the ministry and philosophy of the church in such a way that it feels comfortable to them and what they are used to, while attempting to reach the unchurched. But you can't have it both ways!
To read the rest of the blog entry, click here.

Shawn is the founding pastor of Mountain Lake Church in Atlanta. They planted that church about 8 years ago and they're now running about 2,000 in weekend attendance. Two weeks ago they baptized about 300 people in one weekend!
After thinking about this quote for awhile, something struck me - they have thousands of Christians that are a part of their church. Not all of their growth has been from new Christians. I talked with the other pastor who helped start Mountain Lake and he told me that while their focus upon the disconnected turns away some Christians, they've attracted Christians who understand their vision and purpose.
Maybe you can't make everyone comfortable at the same time, but you can focus upon the disconnected while also pumping up Christians who share that same evangelistic intensity!

Quote from March 25th's Sermon

I was told the other day that I should keep a record of some sermon quotes. Here's one from Sunday, "We didn’t start Trinity Family in September of 2005 because Gardner needed another spiritual storefront that could dispense religious goods and services to meet the needs of the already convinced."
I was so into the message on Sunday that I lost track of where I was in my notes, I was just flying along. I overlooked that line earlier but God brought it back to my mind just before the end of the message. I prayed so hard about how God wanted me to word Sunday's sermon and maybe the Holy Spirit didn't want me to miss that line.

Our church is committed to service; serving our community and serving those disconnected from God and from church. Here's another great quote I used on Sunday:
finding godly older families who were willing to serve new converts instead of demanding to fill their face at our programming trough proved tougher than finding someone with an IQ bigger than their waist working at the DMV. – Mark Driscoll, Confessions of Reformissional Leader

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Nehemiah 4

It took almost a month, but I've finally moved on from Nehemiah chapter 2. This morning I was reading the 4th chapter. Some thoughts:
vs. 3 - It's amazing how those who don't agree with his vision use sweeping exagerations and sharp insults to tear him down.
vs 9 - Nehemiah was committed to guarding the vision, he wasn't about to let it be compromised.
vs 10-12 - it must've felt so dark to Nehemiah, but he kept going
vs 17-18 - This is some serious multitasking, but Nehemiah did whatever was necessary to make the vision God had given him a reality.
I'm also listening a great sermon series on this book by Mark Driscoll.
Mark's sermon over chapter 1 and 2 was almost exactly what I'd been praying and journaling about. He said we often want to keep God from looking bad so (because of fear and lack of faith) we end up making God look bad. What are we doing that will fail unless God shows up?

New squat max!

I hit a new one rep max on the squat last week, 325! That might be the most I've ever squatted. What really pumped me up was that I hadn't squatted for 3 weeks before that workout.
Jason, my workout partner, has been spending a lot of time at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN because his wife has had a recurring blood clot, so we haven't been working out much. I benched today for the first time in 2 months and I was incredibly weak! Humbles me after my squat last week.

Thoughts while on this morning's jog

I ran 3 miles today, felt great to be outside in the cool spring morning.My ipod lined up went as follows: Pillar - Let it out, 3rd Day - Come Together, Green Day - Wake me up (when September ends), Pillar - Bring me Down, David Crowder - Make a Joyful Noise, Savage Garden - I want you (borderline acceptable - but 90's), A Miles Davis love song of Erin's that I quickly skipped, DC Talk - Jesus freak (the version of a guy singing that reminds me of a song evangelist from my home church) and the run ended with Tim McGraw's "Smile" - also one of Erin's, but I let it slide.

I jogged past a house that always has a beautiful lawn. Although, last fall was the exception, it looked like he had an infestation of grubs that ate up about half the lawn. But usually his grass is emmaculate. But I noticed that this spring it's perfect again, all those holes are filled back in. And then I remembered that he owns a lawn business, I've seen the truck in his driveway. This means he has to have a perfect lawn, because everyone's always looking at his grass. "Why should I trust him if he can't take care of his own lawn?"

I quickly made the connection to my own life as a pastor...

How does my ipod know?

I had this thought while running two Saturdays ago - how does my ipod know how to motivate me? When I start my run, I set my ipod to shuffle and just listen to whatever comes out (unless it's some love song Erin put on there). Here's what came out in one great stretch (I only ran 3 miles): Green Day, Nirvana, Foo Fighters and Weezer. But just as I finished stretching, "Paper Wings" from the Hope Floats Soundtrack came on, one of Erin's songs. Maybe my ipod knows I love 90's alternative because that's all I put on there.

Planting the Seed

I gave an Easter invitation to one of my neighbors today. We've been praying for them and investing in them for a couple years. She thanked me for the invitation and told me she'd been going to First Light a little bit. I think she was worried about hurting my feelings but I assured her it's a great church and that Pastor Steven and I are good friends. I was pumped to hear that they've started going back to church. Since she grew up Methodist, First Light was the natural fit for her.
The same thing happened last Easter. We'd also been investing in and praying for some neighbors down the street and one night Erin was able to have a good conversation and church and God with the wife. When we invited them to Easter a month or so later, the wife told Erin they'd gone to First Light a few times, since she had grown up Methodist. If we keep praying, our entire neighborhood will be back in church - back at First Light!

Terrifying Dream

A couple weeks ago, I had a terrifying dream. Amazingly, we were able to catch the whole thing on video.
Thanks to Josh Vance, Taylor Johnson and everyone in the SWAHT ministry for keeping that nightmare from becoming a reality! If we could just get rid of the cyclones, too.

Going for broke

Following the advice of Perry Noble at the Church Planter's conference in February, I've started reading Nehemiah. I got stuck in Chapter 2 for a long time. What a 'ballsy' request in verses 4-8. I just couldn't get away from this. Would I have the same guts to ask for something big from God?
I really like comfort, I enjoy being in a comfort zone a lot more than being on the edge. But I've been reminded that what drew me to planting a church was that I was more scared of status quo than failure. In planting a church, you'll either sink or swim, nothing inbetween. I spent months wondering if we'd get off the ground, wondering whether I'd be working at FedEx my whole life. But we had a successful launch and first year, so all those fears are behind me. I've almost forgotten what it's like to be on the edge and I've been sensing God pushing me out of my comfort zone.
Do I trust him? Could I ask something bold of my King, as Nehemiah asked of his?
More to come....