Wednesday, April 27, 2005

threads

On Alex McManus' blog today he introduced the concept of threads. He says,

"A thread is a term used often in online classes and conversations. For example, within the conversation environment of this blog, many of you have started new conversations sparked by the conversation that is already taking place here. These conversations are a kind of thread that weaves in and out of our general conversations.

When a Christ following leader engages a community in a conversation or initiates a new relationship with say a nonbeliever, he begins a new thread. These conversations, of course, are guided by the environment created by the spirit of Jesus that heals the world and yet they are also spontaneous and free to develop in their own way.

Start a new thread today. Have coffee with someone who has not yet believed. Or...Engage a group of nonbelieving friends in a conversation around the scriptures. Or...Ask Christ followers what would need to happen for us to live our lives for someone other than ourselves today.

Christ following leaders starting new threads. That's one of the main ways the story of Jesus intersects the story of us."

In reading the comments to his post I came across this:

"Conrad Gempf wrote a fascinating little book called "Jesus Asked" in which he shows brilliantly that Jesus teaching style was to ask questions more than give answers, in other words, in our language, to start new threads. Gempf says "Jesus was a bit different from other religious teachers. Moses wanted to tell you the law of God. Prophets were always telling you what the Lord was saying. But apparently if you met Jesus, he was more likely to ask you something, than tell you something."

That is interesting and fascinating indeed. As a teacher and pastor the easy thing to do is get up and preach answers to people. "The Bible says it, so do it!" But that is totally law giving and makes Christianity so rigid. Plus, where is room for the Spirit created to move and act and convict and touch the heart? Preachers need to guide people and direct them, but maybe that can be accomplished differently by asking really good questions and starting really good threads. Then, instead of demanding people say/do/think like us, we can start them on their own spiritual journey to find Jesus Christ and to become the type of follower that he wants them to be.

Monday, April 25, 2005

the power of relational evangelism

A couple of weeks ago I posted some thoughts on a book by Bill Hybels called 'Becoming a Contagious Christian.' The main concept was that we need to develop relationships with people far from God before we just hit them up with the Gospel. People respond to relationship and community, trust-based relationship open up their hearts to hearing the message.

One of the challenges for me to relational evangelism is that I don't have many relationships with non-Christian people. So, what do I do?

I recently read 'More Ready Than You realize' by Rick Richardson. This is another book about evangelism. In his book he challenges people like me to make conscious decisions that place us in the line of fire with non-Christians. This may mean joining a sports league, coaching a child's activities, or attending town meetings. Another idea Richardson lists is to visit the same place regularly and get to know the people who work there.

I have been intentional about doing this at the Caribou in town and things are happening. It is hard, but I have even stepped out of my introverted box and gotten to know the names of a couple women who work there. Just today I had the chance to tell one of them about the Quarry. She is a ex-Lutheran, post-Catholic who is searching for something and can't quite figure it out.

She doesn't want stale, stiff, stifling religion. She needs the revolution of God's love and I was able to invite her to come and check out our Jesus community. It was pretty cool and since I'm there so often I feel like the dialogue will continue. May God bless it.

Try this in your own life. Make strategic decisions about the places you eat, shop, and study. Build some trust-based relationships you can use to share Christ with others. Pray throughout your entire visit to these spots and just see if God doesn't show up.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

the role of hospitality in evangelism

I recently read this on the blog of Alex McManus (brother of Erwin out at Mosiac church in Los Angeles, http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=alexmcmanus) and I thought it was a great thing to think about regarding evangelism:

Hospitality is a key to evangelism in the 21st century.

Let's distinguish hospitality from entertaining. Entertaining guests means that we put on a demonstration of our best to give a good impression. Entertaining is like our fine china. Nothing wrong with that. Hospitality, on the other hand, means inviting people into our lives. Hospitality is our paper plates.

Inviting others into our lives and homes is natural when we move from being strangers to becoming friends of God. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," said Lydia, "come and stay at my house." (Acts 16.15)


It is all part of the revolution of the Kingdom of God and making the decision to live our lives, to give every part of our lives, for the sake of others. Like every revolution, its success will depend on the willing sacrifice of its people.

What is the revolution?...I continue to say more but check out the sermon series at crossroadscommunity.net- Brian Tome is saying some amazing things there about the Christian life and the local church)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

unbelievable day at willow creek

I spent the day at willow creek community church for a conference about how churches can handle resources in a God honoring way. It was an unreal event.

there are many highlights and lessons learned, but I want to post a few things that were said by Ed Young, Jr. of Fellowship Church (www.fellowshipchurch.com). This guy is great, a true wordsmith and an amazing communicator. Here are a few of his best lines from the day:
1. 'it not about my thingdom, but about his kingdom'
2. 'do I need that, or do I greed that'
3. 'the higher the predictability, the lower the connectivity'
4. 'when I bring God the best, the rest gets blessed'
5. 'we take the American Express to debt, we need to read the Masters Card, and then we get a Visa to financial freedom'
6. Offering is not about giving, it is about 'bringing it'
7. 'too many people are running around talking smack, but not doing jack'

That guy is funny and intense and great. It would be amazing to spend a month in his church just learning and watching how they do things.

The conference has really challenged me to look at my own financial reality and make some hard decisions about the type of steward I am with what God has given me. Brian Tome of Crossroads Community Church (Cincinnati, OH) used the illustration of people keeping their resources in a closed fist, denying God the opportunity to bless them. I want to be the type of person who lives with an open palm, allowing God unlimited access to all he has given me, to add or to take away.

Gene Appel challenged me to face some of the fears I have regarding my resources. I am sometimes afraid of how I will pay bills, or I am afraid to ask potential donors for big time gifts.

All the guys talked about the critical need to uphold the value of giving and stewardship with solid biblical teaching. Hybels says that pastors must keep a value red hot by using the Bible as a blow torch. Hybels also said that he has given 10% of every pay period since coming to faith. That is crazy and very admirable. Gene Appel says that he has made and kept a similar commitment.

It was an awesome day, I learned so much. And Tom M. and Jim C. have been awesome guys to spend time with. There is a passion growing inside all of us to come home and uphold the value of vision and stewardship and making a massive kingdom impact in our town. May God bless the work!

nice day for golf

Today I headed down to Chicago with Jim C. and Tom M. For the willow creek resource conference. The conference doesn't start until tomorrow, so on the way down we stopped in Wisconsin dells to play some golf. The course was called the wilderness. It was a beautiful course. I shot a career best 41, with my second birdie of the year. Admittedly the course was short, 3200 yards, but who cares I had some good shots.

so I was listening to rob bell on the way down. It was a message called 'the salvation of our stuff' (www.mhbcmi.org). He retells the parable of the man who had many crops, gained more, built new barns to hold his new spoils, and then just sat back to be lazy and enjoy them. God was pretty ticked about it. So how am I doing? What am I doing to eliminate the gap between rich and poor in my own life? Do I live in excess, or do I willingly part with my things when there are others in need? Rob comments that there is no Hebrew word for spiritual, that all of life is spiritual...Do I life in this realization?

just some thoughts for you all

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A man worth learning from

I am currently sitting in a class on evil and suffering taught by Dr. David Clark. He is the pastor of Faith Covenant Church in Burnsville, MN. It is an extreme privilege to be here. Dr. Clark is an unbelievably bright individuals who has an uncanny ability to make theology simple - as the case necessitates. It would be a great experience to be a parishioner at his church. I have really liked sitting in his classes at seminary. Go to the Woodland Hills Church website and download some of his sermons. www.whchurch.org

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

john stuart mill quote

submitted without comment for your reading and thoughts:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
--John Stuart Mill

Monday, April 11, 2005

becoming a contagious christian

i just read Bill Hybels book 'Becoming a Contagious Christian.' It is an easy read that I highly recommend. Hybels discusses his equation for effective evangelism: HP+CP+CC=MI. This breaks down to high potentcy+close proximity+clear communication=maximum impact.

This is a very doable strategy that makes a lot of sense and encourages me as a Christ follower who is intimidated by the thought of relational evangelism. After reading the book I am excited to look for opportunities to share my faith.

Check out this message by Louie Giglio (www.722.org) about temptation:
http://www.268store.com/download/downloadit_free.php3

childism

Have you ever seen a man or women in a car filled with cigarette smoke with a toddler or young child stuck in the back seat? Man I hate that. I almost wish that there were like rules or regulation as to who can have children. I think to myself, if no one steps in...if nothing ever changes...what is going to happen to that kid?

Maybe that sounds judgmental. Maybe it is. But anyone with eyes can see the vicious cycle that children get stuck in.

I read this today:

"Kids can be noisy and messy. But the fact is, children are a silent population. They have little status in the social sphere. There are millions of children who suffer because of inadequate schooling, underfunded day care, lack of health insurance, malnutrition, and exposure to cigarette smoke, as well as, abuse, neglect, and pedophilia. These are children without a unified voice. Having words like racism, sexism, and ageism has helped focus our minds on those prejudices. Isn't it time to have a word for the prejudice operating in all forms of child maltreatment? We might call it 'childism.'"
- Child advocate Elisabeth Young-Bruehl in Child Magazine

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

response to my letter to the editor regarding the smoking ban

I am so thankful to be part of a Christian community that holds one another accountable to truth and witness in a loving way. This is a response a friend sent me regarding my letter to the editor of the Monticello Times. While I maintain part of my position, it should be obvious after you read the response that in some ways I spoke prematurely and without regard for some blatant holes in my position.

Check this out...

In response to the Letter to the Editor, March 31, 2005
“Rest in peace, smoking ban.”

While I tend to agree with you that the smoking ban is unneeded, I think your argument that the public (government) has no right to “tell people” how to run their business is wrong and irresponsible.

Do you afford business owners the same, leniency in running their businesses when it comes to the disabled? I mean if a business does not want to make itself wheelchair accessible, then the disabled won’t shop there. If that hurts business, the owner will change, if not, then they are doing what he thinks makes the most business sense. Why should someone “who puts his own money and time and sweat on the line” have to cater to the disabled.

Take the case of DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. THOMPSON CO., in which a private restaurant owner who didn’t want to serve black people. As you put it “you don’t have the right to go out to eat at any particular place.” So please tell the activist Supreme Court of 1953 that they were wrong for forcing private business owners to serve black people. It’s a private business decision, right?

I won’t even go into health and safety regulations, but needless to say there is a role for government to play in the operation of businesses that make themselves open to the public.

And if you think the government has no role in the way you take care of your home, then try filling your property with garbage or cranking your radio at 3 am and see if the government has any role. Better yet, see if you think the government should have a role when your neighbor does it.

If you really want to talk about “a step in the wrong direction regarding personal freedoms and rights,” then lets discuss something serious like the Patriot Act.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

honest abe and some thoughts on God and war

a friend sent me these quotes which i thought were pretty interesting, I'll let Abe speak for himself:

Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
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The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to affect His purpose.

I am almost ready to say that this is probably true; that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By His mere great power on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And, having begun, He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.
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Sunday, April 03, 2005

mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II

Its interesting to the such a huge portion of the world moved by the death of the Pope. I have no Catholic background and thus really no logical connection to this event. Except it affects me some how. Maybe its in seeing all the video images of him holding up his hands in blessing or in his giving people the sign of the cross. Maybe it is the pomp and circumstance that surrounds his every word and movement. Maybe it is the beautiful Cathedrals and buildings that so often provide the backdrop for his appearance. Maybe it is just the fact that this man was loved by millions as a representative of God.

While I do not affirm much of the Catholic doctrine (esp. With regard to Mary, good works, and parts of the afterlife) I think that the devotion that they show (here I am speaking primarily of more conservative, Europeans and third world Catholics) has something to it. What is the comparison: Billy Graham, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren as the American Pope? Yeah right.

Maybe there is something to be learned in the religious devotion and reverence of Pope John Paul II's following. Even though it may be somewhat displaced and at times possibly even un-Biblical. I am still working through my response, which right now is primarily awe at the vastness of the Pope's appeal and trying to get a more thorough understanding of the man by looking at what he did and what he stood for.