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Showing posts from February, 2012

Book Review: Surprised by Joy

C.S. Lewis is an author who I read at least one book from every year (Henri Nouwen is another).  I don't do this intentionally, but Lewis' works always seem to find their way into my hands at some point.  Last week I was perusing the religion shelves at the Northfield library and I saw Lewis' book Surprised by Joy.  I'd heard of this book but never read it, and since the idea of joy was on my mind that day I grabbed it and started reading.  I was instantly hooked.

Surprised by Joy is an autobiographical account of Lewis' long and winding journey to Christian belief.  I greatly enjoyed reading about Lewis' upbringing, early friendships, and educational experiences.  I learned a lot about Lewis as a child, scholar, brother and son, solider, and professor.  The Lord gave him an incredible mind and orchestrated the circumstances of Lewis life to mold and shape him to make an incredible impact of the world through his words and his pen.  I praise God for that.
The wa…

A Brief History of the Moravian Church

I've had the opportunity to do some preaching at the local Main Street Moravian Church in Northfield.  The church does not have a pastor and I have been helping them out about once a month.  They are a small church, filled with very friendly people.

Most people are not real familiar with the Moravian denomination, so here's a few notes for those of you who are interested (from the Moravian Church website):

- from the ancient regions of Bohemia and Moravia, which is present day Czech Republic
- born out of the Czech reformation in defiance of the ecclesiastical rule of Rome in the late 1300s, early 1400s
- early leader was John Hus, a professor at University of Prague who was convicted of heresy and killed by Roman Catholic Church in 1415
- followers of Hus gathered in town in eastern Bohemia and organized the new ‘Moravian Church’ in 1457, 60 years before Luther and 100 years before first Anglican Church
- by 1517 these were 200,000 Moravians, but numbers dwindled as severe pe…

Parents, How About a Little Patience?

Tonight as I walked to my car I overheard a father speaking extremely harshly to his son.  I looked over at the man and the child expecting to see a teenager sneering at his dad, and I was surprised to see that the recipient of the father's ire was a small boy probably 3 years old or less.  The man was speaking so loudly and telling the child to 'quit crying or he wasn't getting anything.'  I thought to myself, How lame that a grown man has to intimidate a child into submission through the BOOM of his voice.  Then I remembered how lame I am as a father sometimes.  God forgive me.

Let's all be honest.  It is way easier to yell and scream when our children don't follow directions than it is to be graceful and understanding and long-suffering.  Long-suffering, huh; that't not a word we use much anymore is it?  No one wants to suffer for a long time.  We want what we want, and we want it NOW!  When it comes to our kids, we demand perfection and obedience in a m…

Don't Let Your Children Watch the News

How do I help my children develop a sense of awe, imagination, wonder, and intrigue?  Not by making them watch the news or read the newspapers. 
In fact, I wonder how much watching the news has destroyed my own abilities to wonder in the world around me.  Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers.  Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance.  Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.   - quote from C. S. Lewis book, "Surprised by Joy" (p. 153)

Open Letter to My Dog

Manny,

You have been a part of our lives now for almost two years.  You were the addition that I never planned on having.  After three kids and 7 plus years of marriage, it was time for our family to grow and we ended up adding you.  You'd think that we would have grown closer over time, being that you are man's supposed best friend and all.  Sadly I don't think this is the case.

Oh sure, you've pulled the wool over the eyes of Stephanie and the kids.  They think you're great.  But I warn you - don't think I can't see what you are doing.  Those puppy dog eyes might work on other people with softer hearts than me, but I see through the act.  They might overlook the chewing on stuffed animals, stealing food out of school backpacks, and laying all over the furniture.  I, however, don't.  I see it all for what it really is.  You're try to drive me insane so you can slide into my room as head of this house.  You think you can turn the family against me w…

Why I Took Jacob to the Cemetery Today

Today Jacob stayed home from school.  He probably should have stayed home yesterday, but I made him attend class.  Deciding when your child is sick enough to merit missing school isn't always a clear choice, but that is besides the point of this post.

I don't get alone time with just one of my kids too often, and I wanted to maximize the time I had with Jacob to do a little spiritual investing, so after stopping at the bank I drove out to a cemetery on the edge of town.

Naturally, Jacob was immediately curious why we were there.  I have a great Bible app on my phone (You Version) and so I pulled out my phone and had Jacob read a few verses out loud.  Then I made some discussion about what the verses said and what they meant.

These are the verses we talked about,
...but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (1 Peter 1:15 ESV)

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gi…

Stop, Drop, and Pray ALAT

Insightful paragraph from Mark Batterson (on his blog) revealing what God is teaching him about prayer.
Now let me be honest. Day one was discouraging. I flew down to Baton Rouge to speak and I felt tired, I felt distracted, I felt very little anointing. I can’t really explain it. But on the plane ride back it was like the Holy Spirit said, “Did you think this would be that easy?” We want to sow and reap instantaneously. We want to plant the seed and harvest it on the same day.  No. If it was easy we wouldn’t even appreciate it. We’d probably mishandle the anointing, mishandle the blessing. This isn’t about what God does on day one, day ten, or even day forty. It’s about establishing a humility habit. We’re going to stop, drop, and pray. We’re going to hit our knees everyday! Our MO isn’t ASAP–as soon as possible. Our MO is ALAT–as long as it takes.

Delays in Having Our Expectations Satisfied Can Lead to Growth

Last week I sent out an email to some friends and family detailing some awesome things God has done in my life over the course of the last year.  It was a praise report, and I wanted to share it with these people because they have all invested time and prayer into my life.  I hoped that it would bless them to hear how their love and commitment to Jesus, and to me, have brought forth new life for my family and I.

I didn't send the email to get congrats or electronic pats on the back, but after a couple days of not hearing back from anyone I starting to identify a yucky, gnawing feeling developing within myself questioning why no one had responded.  I pushed the feeling down, wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt that the weekend was approaching and they were too busy.  After a few more days went by it grew harder and harder to dialogue with myself in a positive way.  I even double checked my inbox to make sure the email had sent properly.

One of the issues I have worked a…

A Clear and Accurate Description of Addiction

I am reading a gripping book called An Anatomy of Addiction by Howard Markel.  The book is a dual biography detailing the extraordinary lives, and yet crippling cocaine addictions, of William Halsted and Sigmund Freud.
Coincidentally, I find myself reading this work around the one year anniversary of my own sobriety, albeit from an addiction not pertaining to substance abuse.  I found the following paragraphs extremely well-written and enlightening to those who have not battled addiction or been close to someone who has.
"...one of the great conundrums (puzzles or riddles) of addiction: many addicts learn to hide the truth of their malady (disease; disorder) from those around them while actively pursuing the drug of their choice.  ....As a physician who has long treated substance-abusing patients, I have learned all too well that addiction is one of the most recalcitrant (hard to manage; resisting control) diseases know to humankind.  "Cunning, baffling, and powerful" …

Book Review: Chazown by Craig Groeschel

One year ago I was without a job and wondering what God was going to do in my life. Being that I was searching, both vocationally and spiritually, I was very interested in reading the book Chazown by Craig Groeschel, the lead pastor of LifeChurch.tv.  I had heard great things about the book, and when I saw is featured as part of the Blogging for Books program I jumped on it and requested a copy right away.

Chazown is from the Hebrew and it means "vision."  That is exactly what I needed, a vision for the next stage of my life. I was searching for hope and passion and direction.  I was hoping that Groeschel's book would point me in the right direction and help me land a new job and secure a new future.  But it didn't quite work out like that.

Chazown is not an answer book.  Rather, it is a companion to the man or woman who sincerely desires to discover God's will for their life.  The book is filled with stories of people who have unearthed God's Chazown for th…

My Kids and Conversations About College

Yesterday as we were driving home from church I was talking with the kids about what college they were going to go to when they get older.  I'm trying to put the bug in their ear so they have something to pursue as they get older.  No idea how I'll pay for it, but that doesn't matter right now.  So I have fun with it.

I told Andrew he was going to go to Colorado College so he could hike, climb, ski, and snowboard in the Rocky Mountains.  He was pumped about that.  Then he asked if he could life with me for 2 more days first, and if we could live in the car.  I said sure.  Then he said to his siblings, "I'm going to go to Colorado College, and I'm going to get a girlfriend there, and kiss her right on the lips!"  It was hilarious.





Next I told Izzy she was going to Notre Dame.  I say this all the time.  For some reason last night her eyes got moist and I could her a quiver in her voice as she said, "I don't want to go to college.  All you do there i…

African American Preachers I'm Going to Check Out!

Yesterday I was listening to a podcast from Fellowship Memphis Church when I heard the pastor Bryan Loritts reference that February is African American history month.  I started to think about the "whiteness" of the pastors in my current podcast rotation, and so I threw out the question to Facebook and Twitter, "What African American pastors should I be following/listening to?"  I got a great response.  Here's some of the people mentioned,

Efrem Smith
Shaun King
Harvey Carey Senior Pastor of Citadel of Faith Church
Miles McPherson Senior Pastor of The Rock Church
Gardner Taylor
Sean Smith

Who am I missing?

Pursuing Righteousness After the Retreat is Over

Yesterday I warned all the students at the youth retreat that the return to "real life" would be tough.  After such a fun and meaningful weekend, there can be a real emotional let down when you get back into regular activities.

It is no different for the speaker.  I have to reintroduce myself to home as well.  This morning I forgot that I had a monthly leadership meeting and I was an hour late.  Then I had a ton of work to do, complete with all kinds of people problems, and I could feel a negative, bitter attitude starting up inside me.

I went into the bathroom to take a deep breath and the Holy Spirit brought a theme verse from the retreat to my mind. "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."  (2 Timothy 2:22)  Focusing on these words and what they mean helped me to calm down and they gave me a sense of purpose for the rest of my day - which slowly got better and better.

Reflections from Trout Lake Camp QSM Retreat

Made it home after 3 days as the guest speaker for a youth retreat at Trout Lake Camp.  I had a blast being with old friends and making new ones.  I only wish that I would have had more time to hang out and get to the know the students even better.  I had fun eating meals with them, rock climbing, playing broom ball, dominating at ping pong, and just talking.

I am feeling pretty old tonight though.  My knees are sore after an intense game of broom ball yesterday.  Mentally I'm drained, and I'm also physically exhausted (of course going to bed around 1:30am both nights didn't help).

I feel like God did some great things in the lives of the students.  I preached 4 main sessions on the topic of righteousness.  Saturday nights message was about pursing righteousness in response to God's pursuit of us.  It was an amazing evening.  The Holy Spirit definitely showed up and filled the room with his loving presence.  I was moved to tears watching students get real before God an…

Speaking at Trout Lake Camp for Quarry Student Ministries

I'm having such an awesome time at Trout Lake Camp with the students and leaders from Quarry Church.  I wish we had a few more days together.  One of the drawbacks of being the guest speaker is that you don't really start connecting with the kids until Saturday evening, and then its time to go on Sunday morning.  I have really enjoyed meeting and hanging out with the students from the Quarry.  They are a fun group of kids.

The highlight of the retreat so far was the Saturday night session.  After a couple worship songs I got up and preached on the topic of pursuing righteousness.  I closed the message by sending the kids into small group to discus with the their leaders what, if anything, God was doing in their hearts.  Then we gathered the students back together for a time of extended worship and prayer.
It brought me to tears to see the students getting down unprompted on their knees in reverence to Jesus and laying hands on each other in prayer.  Kids all over the room were e…

Questions for Youth Retreat Break-Out Discussion

Here's the list of break-out questions I'll be providing to small group leaders to use with their students after my main session messages at the Quarry Church Youth Retreat this upcoming weekend.

Session 1 - The Righteousness Revolution
1. Matthew 7:13-14. How does Jesus words relate to the graphic picked for this weekend?
2. What road are you walking on right now?
3. How strong is your conscience muscle? What are you doing to strengthen it?
4. Can you think of an example of someone in your life who suffered from “carbon monoxide poisoning” in their conscience? What happened to them?
5. Why do you think the prodigal son returned home?
6. Why do you think the elder brother was so upset?
7. Who do you relate most with - the younger or the older brother?
8. What does the story in Luke 15:11-32 tell us about God - Our Father in Heaven?
9. What are the two parts of righteousness (A: what God does for us & how we life for God)?
10. What does the idea of being a Righte…

You Need Honest Relationships If You Want to Grow

Great advice from an article entitled "The Fall" in Leadership Journal magazine:
So I've started asking questions like: Who has the right to speak into my life? Who knows my sins, weaknesses and bad habits and then has the love and courage to confront me? Do I even welcome that sort of "push back" in my relationships? I'm now learning to seek out these kinds of relationships—relationships based on fierce honesty, tender trust, and committed love. And relationships like this don't just benefit me. I'm also learning how important it is for me to model an approachable, welcoming, God-dependent style of leadership, rather than an arrogant, invulnerable and self-sufficient style of leadership.

Book Review: Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are

Quotes from "Start Here: Doing Hard Things Right Where You Are" by Alex and Brett Harris.

- Your primary goal isn't to do something extraordinary but to do all things, even the ordinary things, extraordinarily well.
- If we say we want to do hard things for God, but we're not satisfied with pursuing excellence where He has placed us, it's likely we're really more interested in getting glory for ourselves than in getting glory for Him.
- The goal is obedience to God, effectiveness in whatever He gives us to do, and a heart that glorifies Him.
- God calls some people to be faithful and content, and other to be faithful and humble.
- Putting God at the center of our lives does not mean that we live perfectly. It means we live intentionally.
- We've found that mot of the hard things we do take longer than we think they will and that big journeys involve a lot of small steps, each with its own challenges.
- What we once saw as disappointment, we now u…

Leaders: Your Standing is not Based on Your Performance

Tim Keller:
My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus’ costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don’t need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn’t based on their performance. HT: Jared Wilson

Extending the Compassion of the Father

I've been thinning a lot recently about some of the statements and conclusions that Henri Nouwen makes in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son.  One thing I've been thinking about is Nouwen's idea that part of the Christian life is growing to become like the Father in Jesus parable (Luke 15) who welcomes home the prodigal son from a life of gluttony.  In the application of the parable the Father figure is God himself who welcomes home his sons and daughter after they have rebelled and attempted to live their lives apart from Him.
Nouwen challenges me to not settle on seeing myself as the wandering son or the angry brother, but rather, to push on to maturity in the faith by becoming the Father and extending God's endless love, grace and mercy to those around me.  God is a God of compassion and he calls he followers to extend that compassion to others around them.  Everyday at work I get the opportunity to show the love of the Father as I encounter the troubles, trial…