Thursday, September 17, 2009
The last part of this week I have taken my wife, Allison, to join some other parishioners for a few days to a house at the Beach. We had bought a week together at our Youth Auction last February. Although I have just returned from a Sabbatical, I wish I could say I was resting and relaxing here, but the reality is that I am working. However, the scenery is wonderful! The food is great!! And my breaks are good -- a walk on the beach. Just finished my sermon prep for Sunday entitled: "Humble as A Child," a sermon about how God calls us to live and serve in His Kingdom.
Interesting Quotes from my reading.....
John Stott on Genesis 3:16-17 -- "Adam and Eve went into hiding, and the greatest of all tragedies began, namely that human beings made by God like God and for God should now try to live their lives without God."
Steven M. W. Covey -- "You can judge a person's character by the way he treats people who can't help him or hurt him."
Immanuel Kant -- "In law, a man is guilty when he violates the rights of another. In ethics, he is guilty if he only thinks of doing so."
"People don't listen to you speak; they watch your feet"
Steven M. W. Covey -- "The truth is that in every relationship -- personal and professional -- what you do has far greater impact than anything you say. You can say you love someone -- but unless you demonstrate that love with your actions, your words become meaningless."
Jesus -- "I tell you the truth that unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3,4)
Friday, September 11, 2009
Yesterday, I participated in the dedication of the Strickland Memorial Chapel at Gwinnett Medical Center in North Atlanta. Mr. Clyde Strickland got up to speak after hearing a hindu, a muslim, and a rabbi speak about their perspective. Mr. Strickland said: "Only in America can this happen today. America is about freedom. Freedom to worship God in your own way. This could not have happened in most countries of the world." So let us thank God for the incredible nation in which we live.
But let us also take a few minutes and remember those who have suffered because of the attacks on our country that day. Let us remember the families of the over 3000 who died on that day. Over 700 children lost their parents that day! Let us remember those who sacrificed so much so that we all could overcome and move forward individually and as a nation.
A friend, Doug DeBolt, who used to be with Acts 29 Ministries put together a video from his time of ministry in New York days after the attack. It is worth a watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmGuFs3dJxc.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
I have been blessed to hear from our church staff about all that the Lord has been doing this summer while I have been gone. Wow! The Lord has confirmed again to me that to obey Him is always right. While I was away on Sabbatical, the church remained strong, people came to the Lord, attendance held, giving remained strong, people served, and lives were touched in the name of the Lord. I am blessed to be surrounded by a great staff, gifted clergy, a dedicated Leadership Team, and a congregation of people seeking to serve the Lord.
This weekend I had a wedding, two baptisms, and preached two times. I preached on "Working for What?" In honor of Labor Day, I attempted to share the beginnings of a Christian Work Ethic for those who are followers of Jesus. It should be available online at www.hcanglican.org within the next day or so.
One humorous event from the wedding yesterday... A woman came up to me and said she listens every Sunday to our weekly broadcast, but I DIDN'T LOOK ANYTHING LIKE SHE THOUGHT I WOULD! (I am not sure if that was good or bad). She went on to share how much the weekly sermon ministers to her. I was deeply touched.
Colossians 3:22-24 -- "Servants, do what you are told by your earthly masters. And don't just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from your heart for the real Master, for God, confident that you will come into your inheritance. Keep in mind that the ultimate Master you're serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn't cover up bad work."
Martin Luther: "The Lord’s blessing does not come upon those who are sluggish . . . I would not want you to indulge in inactivity and idleness; I want you to work. For God does not give His blessing to those who snore according to the flesh; He wants the flesh to be exercised and mortified . . . Therefore although it is not this work that accomplishes what the blessing bestows, yet God wants us to do our duty and to work diligently, in order that the flesh may be exercised and may not snore and become listless from inactivity . . . Accordingly, we should not give ourselves to ease and laziness; but with all zeal and diligence we should submit to the labors which the calling of each and every one requires. And to these labors there should be added at the same time a cheerful spirit in every trouble, exertion, and tribulation. In this way a blessing should be expected from the Lord."
Sunday, August 30, 2009
I have learned much about myself, the Lord, and about ministry in the Kingdom of God. I have been working toward a new hobby with my son -- kite-boarding! I ran the Peachtree Road Race (6.2 miles) with my wife (it was her 29th in a row).
I feel like I am heading back to Holy Cross with a fresh perspective on the church's ministry, my ministry, and where we are headed as a church. I have been able to review my personal life-mission statement, values, and my goals for the upcoming months and years.
The Lord has been gracious to me -- pointing out my sin, areas of growth, reminding me of his love for me, and giving me a new appreciation for his death on the cross. He is SO faithful, even when we fall short. He is absolutely intent on working out all things for good in our lives and for His ultimate purpose in the kingdom.
For those of you who prayed for me during this time, I am so grateful! Thank you!!!!
Now, I need your feedback. I set up this blog for my Sabbatical. Shall I keep it going? Has it been helpful -- not just in letting you know what I am doing, but in sharing some truths about the kingdom and following Jesus?? Please send me your feedback as to whether or not I should continue in the "blog-a-sphere"?
Proverbs 3:5,6 -- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Rocky Balboa... "The world ain't all sunshine and roses. It is a downright cruel place and it will knock you down and keep you on your knees... It is not how about hard you get hit, it is about how hard you get hit and keep moving forward. It is about getting knocked down and then getting back up."
From The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey...
"Keep in mind that whatever your role at work or at home, you are an influencer. You are a leader, even if only of yourself."
Joe Patterno (Penn State) -- "Whether you are on a sports team, in an office, or a member of a family, if you can't trust one another there's going to be trouble."
"If you think the problem is out there, that very thought is the problem."
Booker T. Washington... "Few things can help and individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let know that you trust him."
"People want to be trusted. They respond to trust. They thrive on trust."
"If we can't trust ourselves, we'll have a hard time trusting others."
"We judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their behavior."
Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount...
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:14-16, NIV)
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:43-45, NIV)
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
(Matt 7:3-5, NIV)
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matt 7:16-20, NIV)
Monday, August 24, 2009
When I arrived at the address, it was an office complex in an old warehouse district -- it was not the hotel where the church meets. It was not even the office of the church. Turns out it was the address of the office many years ago. I called the number listed on the website and it was disconnected! (take note any pastors who may be reading this -- make sure your website is updated!) Fortunately, I remembered that it was meeting in the Hilton in Norcross, but I had no idea where that was. After calling 411, then the hotel, and then after a couple of wrong turns, I arrived 25 minutes late. I almost didn't go in, but I am glad I did.
The Church of Jesus our Shepherd is an Anglican congregation with the Anglican Mission in America. They meet in a hotel and have no plans to build a building. Instead, they want to be able to support missions and start new congregations with their offerings. They proclaim on their bulletin that they are "Spirit-led Anglican Worship" and have "Bible-based preaching, prayer and healing." The service was all of that. When I arrived, the singing could be heard down the hall so I knew exactly where to find them. About 40-50 folks had gathered in a meeting room which had been set up to look like a church. Most of the congregation was in their 60's and 70's although there were a handful of young people present.
The service was a charismatic worship service with Anglican liturgy. It begins with about 30 minutes of praise music and I arrived during the last song. So actually, even though I was late, I didn't miss any of the liturgy! The congregation has an incredibly sweet spirit which was exhibited not only in their worship, but in conversations after the service. The service was 2 hours long and included a sermon by the Rev. Tom Belt. Tom is an old colleague from ministry days about 20 years ago. Much of the liturgy was sung to arrangements by Tom and was quite worshipful.
A couple of quotes from the sermon which spoke loudly....
"God knows all about us; we all need help; we all need healing; we all need direction. And God is hanging in there with us."
"When you fail, when you sin, just keep on coming to Jesus. He has the words of life. He is life."
"Sadly, too often we like what God gives us rather than liking God Himself."
"We like our opinion of who Jesus is rather than what the Bible tells us about who He is."
We had communion as part of the service, and after receiving communion, people were invited to go to one of two prayer teams if they wanted prayer for healing or had other needs. It was a wonderful time of worship, and encouraging to see the vibrancy and confidence the congregation has in the Lord. One surprise for me was the number of people who said, "I heard you on the radio this morning." Evidently, quite of number of these folks listen to A Word from the Lord on the Atlanta station.
One last comment... I was able to see Helen and Tom Boyd. Helen was my senior honor's English teacher in high school over 30 years ago! She has a vibrant and strong faith and witness for the Lord. It was truly a blessing to see her again.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Our strengths are also our needs. Said another way, we each need to do what we do well. If we don't get a chance to perform in the area of our talents, we feel cheated, grow frustrated, and court burnout.
Most ministry burnout among spiritual leaders is not the exotic type (usually involving some egregious moral failure) that garners all the press and gossip. Instead, it is typically the common garden variety of burnout that results from leaders day in and day out with stuff that brings them no energy and does not play to their talents. Eventually, leaders run out of emotional, psychological, and spiritual reserve.
A strong sense of call or commitment or a highly developed sense of responsibility may keep the leader in place, but only a shell of the formerly vibrant person remains. This happens far too frequently in spiritual leadership circles to be ignored. Moving toward areas of strength, including talent and passions, provides one clear strategy for avoiding burnout.
1. The Discipline of Self-Awareness
2. The Discipline of Self-Management
3. The Discipline of Self-Development
4. The Discipline of Mission
5. The Discipline of Decision Making
6. The Discipline of Belonging
7. The Discipline of Aloneness
Some quotes worth reflecting on....
"The greatness he is talking about is not a position or a destination, but a quality of leadership that blesses other people." -- Ken Blanchard
"Deliberate mediocrity is a sin."
"Greatness is not just about character. It's also about effectiveness. When Jesus talked about serving others as part of his definition of greatness, he assumed that the service would actually be helpful to its recipients and the leaders would be accomplished."
"Genuinely great spiritual leaders do not do what they do for themselves or even as a way to become recognized as great leaders. The end game for spiritual leaders is about expanding the kingdom of God."
"Although many leaders may come to recognize that alcohol or drug abuse is a problem, legions of others are unaware they are using food or work to anesthetize their heart pain brought on through loneliness or their inability to experience intimacy though surrounded by admirers. Other leaders have no idea that their need for approval drives them to physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion. They are just dying (literally) to hear, 'We don't know what we'd do without you.'"
"Bless your children. Leaders with children have one primary responsibility toward them beyond the inherent tasks of protection and provision: children need our blessing."
"Nuclear physicists now say that inner space is as infinite as outer space... In quantum spirituality, post-moderns (pre-Christians) assume they are connected to God and to other people. This poses an intriguing dilemma to spiritual tribes whose evangelism strategy begins with the declaration to people that they are separated from God!"
"Your best shot at making your greatest contribution in the world is for you to get better at what you are already good at. Instead of focusing on weakness, focus on improving your strengths. Remember, your strengths are also your needs, meaning that you need to develop and use your talent in order to experience deep satisfaction at an emotional and spiritual level."
"God has not called you to your life mission in spite of who you are; he has called you precisely because of who you are."
I could go and on!! I have most of this book underlined. I recommend this to anyone in a spiritual leadership role, whether employed or volunteer.
Monday, August 17, 2009
On Sunday we attended Christ Anglican Church in Highlands. A dear friend from seminary is now the rector, the Rev. Jim Murphy. Jim and his wife, Sharon, are god-parents of our daughter, and it was GREAT to be with them and their daughter. He has been the rector for a little over two months so he is still getting oriented to the parish and the community. Christ Church meets in the local community center and the members have to set up each Sunday and break everything down after the service (brought back lots of memories!).
We attended the Bible study class before the service with about 14 other folks. They are studying Genesis and we got to hear a teaching on the end of Chapter 4 and all of Chapter 5. I heard something I had not reflected on much before: blood calls out with a voice. Focusing on Abel's blood which was calling out from the ground, we did a quick walk through the Bible about how blood belongs to God and life is in the blood, and culminating with the blood of Christ.
Christ Church uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and sings traditional hymns. We joined in worship with about 40 other folks. The music, the liturgy, and the sermon were quite alive and full of the Holy Spirit. A couple of quotes from the sermon which jumped out to me...
"We may have the Spirit, but we can ignore the Spirit which has been given to us. If we do this, we miss the power, the gifts, and the fruit of the Spirit. Our witness is a sham."
"King Saul was anointed as king and was empowered by the Spirit of God. 'Saul, you will be a different man.' And he was, until he took matters into his own hands. God removed His Spirit from him, and he ended up doing unspeakable things even taking his own life."
"Luke 11:13 - 'If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
Christ Church has a fine pastor and he has a super core group to grow a parish. They are dedicated to the Lord and willing to serve. Their big challenge is that Highlands in a resort community, and Christ Church is a Mountain Resort Church (my term). Where most churches in the U.S. flourish from September to April, Mountain Resort Churches flourish from near Memorial Day to near Labor Day. This is true for Christ Church as many of their regulars move South in the winter. If you are in the area, go visit. You will be inspired to follow Christ!
Friday, August 14, 2009
James and Allison at UGA
Don't get me wrong, we are grateful to the Lord that our kids are able to attend college, have the opportunities they have, and are fine, decent, moral, and spiritual individuals. But we like being with our kids. We have good relationships with them. They are fun. From the day they were born, we both have been hands-on parents. We have attempted to raise godly, principled, and self-sufficient human beings. And we know this is good!! But....
it doesn't remove the pain
it doesn't take away the necessary grieving
it doesn't remove the reality of letting go
I was mostly weepy on the way home, but when I walked into the house and saw an item of Rebekah's that she always had on her key chain, I broke down and cried like a baby. I know this is part of life and that we will get through it. I know that that Lord has GREAT things in store for Allison and me during this next phase of our lives.
Allison and Rebekah in her room at VSU
And I know that our kids will be o.k. But right now we are both praying for the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to fill the empty spot in our hearts and home now that the smiling vessel of joy which hung around our house is four hours away.
Psalm 127:3 -- "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from Him."
Monday, August 10, 2009
One of the most powerful examples I've seen of this was Stan Gerlach, a successful businessman who was well known in the community. Stan was giving a eulogy at a memorial service when he decided to share the Gospel. At the end of his message, Stan told the mourners, "You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment, there is nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?" Then Stan sat down, fell over, and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do -- just as Stan had said a few minutes earlier.
I'll never forget receiving the phone call and heading over to the Gerlach house. Stan's wife, Suzy, was just arriving home. She hugged me and cried. One of her two sons, John, stepped out of the car weeping. He asked me, "Did you hear the story? Did you hear? I'm so proud of him. My dad died doing what he loved the most. He was telling people about Jesus."
I was asked to share a word with everyone gathered. There were children, grandchildren, neighbors, and friends. I opened my Bible to Matthew 10:32-33: 'Whoever acknowleges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
I asked everyone to imagine what it must have felt like for Stan. One moment, he was at a memorial service saying to a crowd, "This is who Jesus is!" The next, he was before God hearing Jesus say, "This is who Stan Gerlach is!" One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later, Jesus was confessing him!
It happened that quickly. And it could happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach, "Are you ready?"
Sunday, August 9, 2009
As I entered the front doors of the 10,000 seat sanctuary, I was immediately greeted by several folks welcoming me to the church. The lobby was a large spacious area with many booths and various kinds of information desks available to help people with their needs and concerns. I sat about half way back, but even with the many large video screens, I felt close to what was going on up front and wanted to keep my eyes there rather than the screens (unlike other churches which use the screens). I was one of about 8,000 people present for the service.
The service began with 17 baptisms and then incredible praise music (the same as our contemporary service), but when I say incredible, I mean people sang, sang loud, and it was led in a key which invited you to sing LOUD to the Lord. They had a 150-member choir, an orchestra, a praise singing group, and a band which all played and sang together. We held hands and spoke to our neighbor at least four times during the service including what they call "passing the peace" in which everyone around wanted a hug and said: "God bless you!"
The sermon was given by a white guest preacher, Rev. Gary Oliver, a "prophet" from Texas. He also writes and records music. The title of his sermon was "Let Everything That Has Breath" and was based on Isaiah 61, Genesis 2:7, and Psalm 150. He spoke about "activating" worship from within you. He said that to activate blessing or curses in our life, we must speak. Following God's example, God spoke and it was so. "The tongue has the power of life and death" (Prov.18:21). What are we speaking with our tongue? Life or death? Using the example of voice activated computers, he said some things in heaven are voice activated. They are released by our voice. "If something needs to happen, your voice activates it." "Don't voice what you see going wrong in your life, voice what you recognize God is doing."
He went on to say one's voice is like a finger print. Each of us has unique sound waves and frequencies -- our voice is different from everyone else's. "Your voice is unique to God." He then took us to the creation story where God created the first man. God took dirt and created man, THEN he breathed on him. "Your breath activates your voice." "You can't talk unless you breathe over your voice box." "The breath released in man is part of God." "Nothing moves God like God." And who is the breath of life who enters us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior? The Holy Spirit. So pray in the Holy Spirit. "Activate your voice and let everything that has breath praise the Lord." He ended the sermon in leading us in a rousing song which tied into his sermon and went on for about 25-30 minutes while we were exhorted to praise the Lord with our voice.
One thing that was special in the service was they invited all the children, youth, and college students to come forward that they might be "covered" as they begin a new school year. At least 2000 young people came forward and were prayed over and "covered" in the Name of Jesus by the pastor and the congregation. It was powerful!
The service lasted exactly 2 and 1/2 hours. It then took me into another 55 minutes TO GET OUT OF THE PARKING LOT (I guess I parked in the wrong place!).
It was obvious from this service that New Birth is not just another church. It is a place which is reaching people for Jesus Christ and discipling them to go back into their communities and serve the Lord. From the pastor through all the elders through members of the congregation, they are involved in thousands of lives in nearby communities loving, serving, teaching, and sharing Christ. Their website is www.newbirth.org.
My son asked me if I would be willing to go back. I said "Absolutely yes!", but I would park in a different place!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I try to take one of these retreats once a quarter, but always seem to have a good excuse to not go. Sometimes I go to a nearby monastery, and other times, to various places where I spend time alone with God in silence and solitude. It never fails that I am glad I take this time, but like this time, I know why I resist it. Being alone with God can be very intimidating! After the noise and the voices of the world, worries, concerns, job duties, and personal temptations die down, the Lord lovingly confronts me with myself -- my shortcomings, my sin, my disobedience, my lack of trust, my faithlessness and my religiousity. Once I am honest before Him about these things in my life which are interfering with our relationship, He pours out his forgiveness, his love, and the sweet freshness of His Holy Spirit. This happened during these past few days as He brought me face to face with myself.
I spent most of the remainder of my time during this prayer retreat listening and seeking clarity about what I am doing with my life and ministry. He showed me many things which opened my eyes to how much His Grace has abounded during the past six months. Without being too public about all He showed, let me just say that I was overwhelmed at how blind I have been about some things, how the enemy had clouded my perspective on how I viewed my ministry at our church, with A Word from the Lord, and in the broader church and community. I am SO THANKFUL for His guidance and leadership!!
I am back off the mountain now and am returning to my sabbatical studies. For those who read this who pray, I ask you to pray for a friend of mine who is living and stuck in a BIG FOG. Pray that he will be delivered from this bondage soon as it is affecting his family, his job, and his relationship with the Lord.
Some quotes to consider from Carson Pue's, Mentoring Leaders....
Calvin Miller: "God does not shout his best vision through hassled Christian living. It's in the quiet that he gives the most delivering visions of life."
"We must choose to develop the discipline of silence."
Eugene Peterson says this: "Step out of the traffic! Take a long loving look at your High God."
Chuck Swindoll says, "Noise and word and frenzied, hectic schedules dull our senses, closing our ears to His still, small voice and making us numb to His touch."
Carson writes... "Many leaders feel too busy to take time away to listen. They have mind traffic that both distracts and exhausts them. Good opportunities continually present themselves or people continually cry out for their attention -- keeping them from spending time in quiet. Many leaders are actually ambivalent about solitude. Many leaders are afraid of being alone."
"Solitude and silence balance out the noisy, public, hectic lives most of us live. It is an excellent way of regaining internal balance and of mending the confusion caused by a harried and distracted existence -- and yet it is within this fertile soil of quiet that vision begins to grow... ask yourself, 'Doesn't it make sense to invest a relatively small amount of time in solitude in order to make the rest of my leadership more effective?'"
Frances Chan in Crazy Love writes... "What if I said, 'stop praying?' What if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word? Solomon warned us not to rush into God's presence with words. That's what fools do. And often, that's what we do.... The wise man comes to God without saying a word and stands in awe of Him. It may seem a hopeless endeavor, to gaze at the invisible God. But Romans 1:20 tells us that through creation, we see His 'invisible qualities' and 'divine nature."
R.C. Sproul writes. "Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignficance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Awakening "It embodies the ascent to purpose. At some point, Christ followers must step over the line and believe the truth that there is something more to life. They begin to believe that there is more to life than day-to-day existence. In fact, there is a God-embedded purpose in each life, including their own. But this purpose requires a pursuit."
Deciding "involves the push and the rush of propelling one's life of self-imposed boundaries out into an intentional life of meaning and service to the King. Life is now viewed differently -- it is viewed from God's perspective. The Christ follower joins the grand narrative. Life lived differently now becomes the consuming passsion of life. But it is not just about a contribution; it quickly evolves into a journey about intimacy. The knowledge of God and the pursuit of the Holy now become an even greater passion than the pursuit of a task."
Finishing "can only occur because of the first two. This transition involves a release from all that is familiar, and the convergent life that culminates in the knowledge that 'for this I was born.' It is about courage and trust. It is not about imitating the successful, but about being content with being fully a person God has known since before birth (Psalm 139)."
Isn't that good stuff? I usually want to run from the transitions life brings my way rather than facing them. But if I will just let go, God will direct me to the fulfulling of His purpose for the Kingdom. When I don't let go, it just takes God longer to get me to let go!!
Quotes to reflect on....
Psalm 104:13 -- "I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the Lord."
C. S. Lewis -- "We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more, to remain awake."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer -- "The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air."
Oswald Sanders -- "The difficulty with the majority of us is that we will not seek to apprehend the vision; we get a glimpse of it and leave it alone... It is not a question of intellectual discenment or of knowing how to present the vision to others, but seeking to apprehend the vision so that it may apprehened us."
Oswald Chambers -- "The bravery of God is trusting us! You say -- 'But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing in me; I am not of any value.' That is why He chose you. As long as you think there is something in you, He cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency then He can choose you to go with Him to Jerusalem, and that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you."
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Andy's church, Northpoint Community Church, now has four worship locations on three campuses along the GA 400 corridor in North Atlanta. The central campus is in Alpharetta with the Buckhead Church 20 miles south and Brown Bridge Community Church 20 miles north in Cumming. For traffic reasons I decided to visit the Brown's Bridge Community Church at the 11:00 service.
I arrived by having parking volunteers direct me to the nearest available parking place. On the way into the "auditorium" I was greeted by at least 4 different people welcoming me to Brown's Bridge and "thanking me" for being there (they did not know me or my name; they were just being friendly). The auditorium seats (my guess) 3000 and is just that -- a stage with seating. Warm upbeat music was playing and slides were changing on the video screens. Soon we were asked to scoot to the middle of the row as people were standing in the back without seats. Today was "Promotion Sunday" for the children -- over 9,000 children at the three campuses.
At precisely 11:00 the Worship Band begins to play a hit from the 70's and on the corner of the screen, it says 'live from Brown's Bridge Community Church.' As soon as the song was over -- without missing a beat -- on the screen we see "live" the band from one of the Alpharetta campuses playing the next song yet the music is just as loud and just as clear, and then the band from Buckhead Church, and then the other campus at Alpharetta. At the end of the song, all four bands from the four different locations all play together - in tempo - with all the voices coming through the sound system -- ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It sounded terrific. The congregation erupted in a standing ovation. As it turns out, this was the first time they had done this via symucast with the music. All I could say was "wow!" Technology is being used in great ways in this church.
The service continued with a few worship songs and then, while the offering was being taken up, the band literally disappears and a large screen the width of the stage is lowered. Out onto the stage walks Andy, but he is not there, he is in Alpharetta. The two regular video screens on each side of the stage show close-ups of his face like you would expect, but the center screen shows the whole stage -- so when Andy gets up, it looks like he is walking on the stage. Amazing use of technology. Here is the fascinating thing for me: it didn't matter that he was not there; the technology made it feel like he was there. So much so that people laughed at his funny comments and responded to his questions.
I picked a good Sunday to attend as Andy was speaking on the vision of the church. He recounted the start of the chuch 14 years ago. He said they never sought to establish a big church. They have from the start attempted to be the best church they could be at reaching people who are unchurched or have been dissatisfied with their church and stopped attending. (I think they are definitely succeeding in this mission!!!). He reminded the church of their mission statement which is not too different from the one at our church: to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus. He said two basic principles have kept them anchored through the years: Who is Jesus? (Matthew 16:16-18) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19f). With these two principles in mind, they have tried to "reinvent church in a relevant way."
After his sermon, he prayed and that was it. 60 minutes sharp. It then took me 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot (and that was with the help of the local Sheriff's department directing traffic). Check out their website at www.northpoint.org.
On a personal note: we took James back to UGA today to start his Junior Year. I thought it was supposed to get easier to let them go!!
Quotes worth reflecting on...
"Never once did it occur to me that when I found the trail again, it would ruin my life forever. For once you feel the breath of God breathe on your skin, you can never turn back, you can never settle for what was, you can only move more recklessly with abandon, your heart filled with fear and your ears ringing with those constant words, 'Fear Not.'" -- Mike Yacconelli
"Our first most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm's length; to avoid, circumvent or deny it... Befriending it at first seems masochistic. Still my own pain in life has taught me that the first step to healing is not to step away from pain, but to step toward it." -- Henri Nouwen
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Curt Little writes: "We all know lukewarm Christians. Christians that are neither hot nor cold. They have a tendency to keep God reserved to just Sundays. Or they carry around what we call 'backpack God.' They carry God where they want, when they think they need His help and leave Him in the backpack when they think that they can handle the situation or when they 'don’t want Him to see.' They try to get God to 'Sit. Stay. Heal.' God is not our pet and He is a little too big for a backpack." See www.curtlittle.com.
From Mentoring Leaders by Carson Pue....
Charles Swindoll, in his essay "Prophet Sharing," talks about this lukewarm complacency. As you read his words, ask yourself, do I find myself among them somewhere? "Always evaluating where we have been... always reacting.... searching for ways to settle in and find comfort on our sofa-like surroundings... yawning... slumbering in the sleepy, warm twilight of sundown... finding a great deal of security in the mediocrity and predictability of sameness... We are like chatty, laughing, tourists taking snapshots of the lowlands through rose-colored filters... enjoying today's lull... we are yesterday dwellers... avoiding the reality of today."
We know God detests us being complacent! "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor not, I will vomit you out of My mouth." (Rev. 3:16 NKJV).
What is lukewarmness among leaders? It is a place where leaders begin to feel they have arrived -- that they have reached a particular degree of development or stature -- and then gradually allow themselves to become complacent in that place. They feel sapped of energy, eventually not wanting to try to improve their spiritual life. It is like a slow-working disease eventually taking the life of the host.
I would add to Pue's desciption that of the Professional Christian -- those in leadership who are Christian on the job, but not at any other time.
For me, the issue is not whether I am ever lukewarm or tepid. The issue is whether "normal" for me is tepid, or "normal" for me is "hot on-fire." What is common for my life and ministry?
After walking with the Lord for years, I want normal for me to be "hot on-fire" not lukewarm. Lord, help me to be ON FIRE for you all the time. Amen.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Discovered a great website for leaders. Check it out at www.leadnet.org. It is the site of Leadership Network.
Oswald Chambers quote of the week: "God's training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience... what men call training and preparation, God calls the end. God's end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now."
Thursday, July 23, 2009
In chapter 14 of his book, Ordering Your Private World, entitled "Rest Beyond Leisure," Gordon MacDonald writes of the importance of Sabbath. Sabbath can be my daily time alone with the Lord, my weekly sabbath observance, or what I am doing now by being on a sabbatical. He writes of three aspects of Sabbath: Looking backward (closing the loop), entering into God's Presence through worship, prayer, and the study of God's Word (returning the eternal truths), and looking forward to fulfilling God's purpose (defining the mission). Below are some quotes from the chapter on which I am reflecting.
"Wilberforce's check and balance to a busy life was Sabbath; he had come to understand genuine rest. Wilberforce had discovered that the person who establishes a block of time for Sabbath rest on a regular basis is most likely to keep all of life in proper perspective and remain free of burnout and breakdown."
"I get the feeling we are a tired generation.... What is strange about our general fatigue as a people is the fact that we are such a leisure-oriented society.... We probably have more time for leisure than ever before. The five-day workweek is, after all, a relatively new innovation in history; we have moved away from the farm, where there was always more work to do; we can leave work behind if we want and head for leisure. So why is there so much exhaustion today? Is it real? Is it imagined? Or is the contemporary form of exhaustion evidence that we no longer understand genuine rest, which is different from the pursuit of leisure??
"The Bible reveals God Himself to be the first 'rester.'... Does God indeed need to rest? Of course not! But did God choose to rest? Yes. Why? Because God submitted creation to a rhythm of rest and work that He revealed by observing the rhythm Himself, as a precedent for everyone else. In this way He showed us the key to order in our private worlds. This rest was not meant to be a luxury, but rather a necessity for those who want to have growth and maturity."
"A rest-less work style produces a restless person."
"One of the great joys of repeating the traditional creeds of the Christian church is that it gives us an opportunity to reaffirm the central truths of God's revelation. As we say, 'I believe...' we begin to hammer back the nails of our convictions and commitments. And we separate those beliefs out from what we choose not to believe."
From his wife's journal: "A glorious Lord's Day. Have been reading at length about the Sabbath. Feel more and more strongly that I've not fully utilized God's command to rest. It's not a rule that restricts but it is a rule that liberates. For He made me to need rest. And physically and mentally we are freed to better performance if we live within His 'design specifications.' And it is a day of reminding us who God is. Every seventh day I need to come back to the fixed center."
"There is no legalism here -- rather a freedom to accept a gift. Frankly, I think some have destroyed the joy of Sabbath, as did the Pharisees, by surrounding it with prescriptive laws and precedents. That is not our Sabbath. Our Sabbath was made for us, given to us by God. Its purpose is worship and restoration, and whatever it takes to make that happen, we will do."
"We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it."
"The world and the church need genuinely rested Christians: Christians who are regularly refreshed by true Sabbath rest, not just leisure time off. When a godly rest is achieved, you will see just how tough and resilient Christians can actually be."
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Thomas Jefferson: "When government is big enough to give you everything you want, it's big enough to take everything you have."
Ronald Reagan: "When government expands, liberty contracts."
Benjamin Franklin: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and will lose both."
Albert Einstein: "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom."
Thomas Jefferson: "In order to preserve our independence, we must not let our leaders load us with debt."
From the Holy Bible...
Psalm 33:12 -- "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord."
Exodus 20:2 -- "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."
Monday, July 20, 2009
For church on Sunday I attended the Amelia Island Chapel, an interdenomination Christian community, which is a two-minute walk from where we are staying. I was again surprised and blessed to discover another stalwart of the Faith, Ted Shroder, is the pastor. He is a retired Episcopal priest who has fought the good fight for the Faith, led many to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and inspired many others through his writings. His sermon was entitled "The Suffering of Creation" as he is preaching his way through The Epistle to the Romans. His presentation was a refreshing examination (and not a denial) of the suffering which is built into creation by God. One day there will not be any suffering, but until then, creation is doing its part in order to live, mature, and reproduce life - and suffering is a part of this. His encouragement was that believers should not deny suffering, but rather embrace it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then can the believer overcome and mature in the will of God. A lot to reflect on.... especially since I have been enjoying the beauty of creation.
I was impressed by the ministry and vision of Amelia Island Chapel. It is more of a church than many churches!! Check out their website at http://www.ameliaislandchapel.com/.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Christ Church has three Sunday services: 8:45 Traditional Service, 10:45 Contemporary Service, and a 10:45 1928 BCP Service. I attended the contemporary service which was very similar to the one at Holy Cross, Loganville. The sermon was given by the Rev. Mark Eldredge, a friend of mine who sits on the American Anglican Counsel Board of Trustees with me.
Rev. Edredge’s sermon was based on the reading from Luke 7:1-10 and was entitled, “Developing a Great Faith.” The sermon insert was most helpful. He spoke of three components needed for great faith:
1. I must realize my own position. The centurion knew who he was, and yet, he knew who Jesus was. He approached Jesus in great humility. So must we. We must approach Jesus realizing that we are sinners (saved yes!, but He is LORD).
2. I must recognize Jesus’ Power. The centurion knew because he was a man with authority and under authority that all Jesus had to do was to say the word – just speak it – and it would be done.
3. I can put radical obedience into practice. An exposition of Hebrews 11:1-31 demonstrated how obeying God led to great faith.
Quotes to remember: “The centurion’s faith stood out, will yours?” “Do I want to be satisfied with ‘ok’ faith, or do I want ‘great’ faith?” “Whatever Jesus is asking you to do; it is nothing like what He did for us – being nailed to the cross.”
I heard on the radio driving back from the church a recent Barna survey found that only 16% of those who call themselves Christians in the United States ask God for counsel about decisions or seek to gain guidance from the Bible about the issues they are facing in life. If this is true, we have our work cut out for us as we go and make “DISCIPLES.”
From Oswald Chambers this week: “The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is not – Do your duty, but – Do what is not your duty. It is not your duty to go the second mile, to turn the other cheek, but Jesus says that if we are His disciples we shall always do these things. There will not be a spirit of – ‘Oh, well, I cannot do any more, I have been so misrepresented and misunderstood.’ Every time I insist on my rights, I hurt the Son of God; whereas I can prevent Jesus from being hurt if I take the blow myself. The disciple realizes that it is his Lord’s honor that is at stake in his life, not his own honor.”
Monday, July 6, 2009
What a privilege to live in the United States of America at this time and era of history!!! Yes, we have our problems, and yes, we need to correct some things, and yes, we need to be vigilant to guard the freedoms we share, but this is still the best thing going! God has given incredible blessings so that we might share His Word about Jesus with the rest of the world. Let's not waste our opportunities.
I could not help thanking the Lord for the blessings he has given me in living and serving Him here. I will go wherever He leads, but I pray I will not squander the opportunities of the 'here and now'. While I believe overseas missions are very important, He has brought the mission field to us -- here! Let us be diligent and faithful to share the Good News to those He brings across our paths. For liberty in not liberty unless my spirit and soul are liberated from the bondage of sin and sin's destructive forces. Jesus came to set the captives free. That's you and that's me!
For the Fourth of July, my wife, Allison, and I, ran the 40th Annual Peachtree Road Race. It is a 10K (6.2 miles) race, but it is really not a race, it is an event. We were 2 of 55,ooo folks who ran from Lenox Square (now 'Mall') to Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta. This was Allison's 29th in a row!!! My first one was the 5th Annual when I was in high school, but I have watched it as much as I have run it. Our son joined us later in the day and we watched the 4th of July Fireworks at Lenox -- always spectaculor!! and worth the cost of admission (none!).
O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. (From Evening Prayer, Collect for Mission, BCP).
Sunday, June 28, 2009
I had not attended the church since they had moved to the new location in North Atlanta -- for those of us from Atlanta, that would be the old Avon building. I was immediately struck by how integrated the congregation was. At least half of the congregation was Afro-America -- how refreshing! I can remember the day a black family tried to enter the church under the previous pastor in the 1960's -- it was a sad day for the Christian church. But how things have changed as people of all kinds of ethnic backgrounds were worshiping the Lord together honoring Jesus Christ.
Dr. Stanley preached on Galatians 6:7f. This is a Scripture which I believe every believer in Jesus should put to memory:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)
He emphasized the principle from this verse which is ALWAYS true:
A person reaps what he sows
A person reaps more than he sows
A person reaps later than he sows
He explained and exegeted the passage explaining that you and I will always reap what we are sowing in our lives -- from the moment we wake up -- the attitudes, actions, and habits we practice. We will reap what we sow, more than we sow, and later than we sow it. Always! Are we sowing to the flesh or are we sowing to the Spirit? Do we realize that when we sow evil, debt, sin, meanness, love, kindness, giving --- we will reap a harvest????
Since this was their patriotic service, Dr. Stanley then applied this principle to our nation. Scary. The nation is sowing without God now, and we are going to reap a harvest of evil. Check out Isaiah 5:20-24. Sound familiar? Let us pray asking God what He wants us to do to help bring spiritual renewal in our land and public life.
It was good to see this spiritual father of mine and hear him share his heart. It was also good to be able to observe a small portion of the fruit of his ministry by worshiping with their congregation. There is hope America!! Don't lose heart.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Archbishop and the Anointing with Oil. The
view is from the right transcept. The view is
not a close-up.
It is now time for the Anglican Church in North America to get on with the WORK -- the work of reaching people for Jesus Christ and discipling them as He commanded. Although some churches are in the midst of litigation because of being sued for their property, most of us should now get on with the mission. Since we are all under godly, anointed, and appropriate human authority, resting on the authority of the Word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit, we have no excuse for not reaching North America for Jesus Christ. Let us pray for one another and "go for it" in the Name of Jesus Christ!
is taken from the right transcept where some of us
clergy were sitting.
From Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest: "We make prayer the preparation for the work, it is never that in the Bible. Prayer is the exercise of drawing on the grace of God. Don't say -- I will endure this until I can get away and pray. Pray now; draw on the grace of God in the moment of need."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
We have been blessed to hear some wonderful teaching. Below are some of the quotes as I have written them down from my notes.
The Rev. David Short, Rector of St. John's, Vancouver: "The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Great Reversal of God; repentance is our reversal to surrender to the Great Reversal."
The Rev. Rick Warren, Pastor of Sattleback Church in California.... Go watch his whole talk!! Watch it four or five times. Should be up on Anglicantv.org. "A great commitment to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission will grow a Great Communion." "Don't pray for God to bless what we are doing; rather pray and ask God to help us do what He is blessing." "The church which doesn't want to grow is saying the world: 'You can go to hell!'" "Is there going to be anyone in heaven because of you?"
The Rev. Dr. Eric Dudley, Rector of St. Peter's, Tallahassee: "Everything you do with your body you do with the Body of Christ."
His Beattitude, Metropolitan Jonah, the Orthodox Church in America's Archbishop of All America and Canada: "Jesus Christ did not die so we could have rituals, but you have to surrender to God in the depths of your being. It takes tremendous humility." "Repentance means being transformed by the renewal of your minds." "We must eliminate immorality from ourselves and denounce it, but not in condemnation and judgementalism." "Our morality is not a legalism, but a harmonization of our will with the Divine Will." "Immorality destroys personhood; it destroys the soul."
Monday, June 22, 2009
7:05 Morning Prayer
7:30 Holy Eucharist
9:00 Choral Eucharist
11:30 Holy Eucharist
6:00 Evening Prayer
For the second week in a row, I worshiped in Anglo-Catholic fashion. The service was high church formal with incense, santus bells, and chanted liturgy. Even the Gospel reading was chanted. Benjamin Nzimbi, the Primate and Archbishop of Kenya, delivered the sermon. He preached on Mark 4:35f. After exegeting the passage, he applied the text to the new thing which God is doing in America with the Anglican Church in North America. He reminded us that Jesus is in the boat and there will be storms, but we must call upon Jesus to still the storms we encounter -- not only in ministry, but in our lives. He reminded us we are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus and when we do, people will receive Christ, people will repent of their sins, and people will walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. He said: "It is through repentance that God will do a new thing so we must humble ourselves."
After lunch we had another teaching by Archbishop Gregory Venables, the Archbishop and Primate of the Southern Cone. Using John 11 and the story of Lazarus, he noted that after Lazarus had been raised from the dead, others had to unbind the grave clothes. He could not do it himself. He then called the bishops of the church to a holy life and that there are still grave clothes which need to be unbound -- some which we cannot undo ourselves, but must go to others, humble ourselves and receive help. He said Jesus is calling us to be NORMAL CHRISTIANS, not American Christians, not Anglican Christians (although we are Anglicans), but "raised from the dead, unbound Normal Christians." He called us to be Holy Leaders and models. He then listed some areas which he said many leaders need to deal with...
* very hardened hearts -- it is a barrier holding back the Spirit of God
* sin that we will not let go of -- What God has called sin is sin! Sin is doing what God has told you not to do.
* fear of trusting God - too many us only trust Him when there is no other option. Don't allow fear to stop you from trusting God. "God is greater than our greatest fear."
* terrible emotional or psychological bondage -- get a counselor and get some help
* a refusal to deal with our addictions -- don't let your addictions destroy your ministry
* a bondage of having to dominate (control) or be dominated (have others tell you what to do) -- we must step up and be leaders who do not Lord over the flock, but are "leaders."
* problem of pride -- we never see it in ourselves. If we see something in others, it is probably because it is in us. Be vulnerable to others and deal with pride.
* bondage of negative attitudes -- especially resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, and taking on a victim mentality.
* skeletons in the closet -- make sure you have dealt with your family history, your personal history in regards to the occult, evil practices, etc. Cover it with the Blood of Jesus. Learn to discern oppression which is the result of a curse -- there are those who will put a curse on you and you must break that curse with the Blood of Jesus and power of the Cross.
He summarized his teaching by telling us that if we leave our 1st Love, none of it is worth it. The secret of not doing this is: BE LOVED FIRST. We love because He first loved us (1 Jn.4). Bath in God's love daily and often. Remember, HE LOVES YOU.
Later in the afternoon, we officially inaugurated the new Province, the Anglican Church in North America. The overseas bishops and Archbishops signed the document first, then the bishops who were present, and the we who were Vicar Generals were able to sign as "witnesses" since only bishops can officially sign this document. The Provincial Assembly will hopefully affirm this and the New Church is official.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Talking about feeling awkward! Fortunately, I am not the only Vicar General! We have had great teaching, prayer time, discussion, and carried out some business. Bishop Frank Lyons of Bolivia and Archbishop Gregory Venables are here as Guests of the House (pictured above). Archbishop Gregory has been bringing forth incredible Bible teachings challenging us as leaders of the Church to be and live holy unto God, and to not recreate a false Church which is not Biblical, but striving with God's leadership to create the true Church as expressed in Acts 2.
Bishop Terrell Glenn (above) with the Anglican Mission challenged us to live with one another as Christ expects -- loving each other, forgiving each other, letting go of old wounds and hurts, and following Christ's admonitions to his followers by the power of the Holy Spirit. He said: "Some of us are seeking to be recognized by the Archbishop of Cantebury, but are we seeking to be recognized by our Savior?" Loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength. Loving your neighbor as yourself. Loving one another as Christ loves us. Loving and blessing your enemies. Preach it!!
It is SO Exciting to be a part of a movement with is so Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-filled, and seeking to uphold the historical Church. Tomorrow, I expect we will begin to make history by officially formalizing and approving the new Province.