Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Churches These Days

A lot of churches are building these great beautiful sanctuaries, multi-purpose spaces, fellowship halls and youth centers. That is awesome! These buildings often have great things like railings, ramps, stairs, smooth pavement, and benches...perfect for skate boarding! However, these same churches that claim they are trying to reach these people prohibit them from skating there, they post threatening signs, or special "security" personnel. They claim it is because of liability/insurance issues, or they do not want to mess up their new facility.

Consider this story from Mark Yaconelli's, Contemplative Youth Ministry:

First United Methodist Church in Valparaiso, Indiana was just such a church. They were getting tired of the kids being there, destroying their steps, and messing up their facility. So, the elders decided to rebuild the steps and install counter-measures to prevent the skater situation. However, the youth workers were able to persuade the elders (after much prayer) to reconsider. Instead, the elders left the steps, opened up the church facility, gave the kids a tour, allowed them to use the bathrooms, and fellowship areas, and the church staff could be seen fellowshiping with them.

"If you want to know what it means to share the presence of Jesus with young people, if you want to know more than I can tell you in this book, then drive an hour east of Chicago to Valparaiso, Indiana. Go spend an afternoon sittin on the curb across the street from the Methodist church. Then watch as kids come skating up to the steps, leaping and twirling, crashing their boards against the concrete in acrobatic feats of life and energy. Sit and watch as the church secretaries, the bookkeeper, the maintanance and pastoral staff walk up the crumbling steps. Watch as they stop to say hello. Watch as they converse with the scruffy street skaters. Watch as they take time from their work schedule to applaud as a boy shows off an especially difficult spin on his board. Sit and don't say a word. Just listen to the whir of the wheels on the pavement. Watch the young people running in and out of the church to get water and use the bathroom and then see. See if you don't find those crumbling steps beautiful."

(from the closing paragraph of, Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (Youth Specialties) )

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Noticer

"Sometime, all a person needs is a little perpective," the subtitle to Andy Andrews' book, The Noticer, sums up the content of this self-help/personal growth title.

Andy Andrews takes time tested self help methods/ideas, and effectively packages them into an engaging story. It is the story of a man named Jones, and how the people's lives he comes into contact with (including, supposedly, Andy Andrews) are changed. Jones is a mysterious character that appears in the most unlikely places, at the most unlikely of times.

Jones meets with people and tackles the various issues of age, making a difference, the effects of our actions, there is no small stuff (everything can have big consequences), and intentions versus actions, all the while with the underlying premise, that all we do is based on our perspective.

Once you reach the end of the book, you realize it is a kind of parable, as Jones has met and impacted lives (by changing their perspective), we meet Jesus and He changes our perspective.

Although, at times, Andrews borderlines plagiarism (i.e., utilizing Gary Chapman's "Five Love Languages", as well as sermon illustrations I have heard throughout my church life) this is a quick read, and a very engaging story.

I recommend this book for any who are interested in personal growth, or a new life perspective.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lyp Sinc

This is great! A lip syncer caught on tape!

Muck Mouth

The Book of James compares the tongue to a forest fire. A small ember can ignite a huge forest fire. This analogy is pertinent for many reasons, forest fires can burn quickly, they can cause lots of damage, and quickly grow "out-of-control". The forest fire can have far reaching consequences (loss of life, home, property; new vegetation growth, etc.).

An amazing thing about forest fires is the creation of "muck fires". When a forest fire occurs, there are sometimes areas of extremely heavy brush, or swamp/soft areas, that cannot be fully extinguished. As a result of this type of terrain, and firefighting efforts, muck fires occur. A muck fire is when this mud, or thick growth continues to burn. It can smolder for days, weeks, or even months before finally extinguishing itself.

So it is with the tongue. Whether the tongue is used for good or evil our words can smolder on forever. If we make a joking, flipant, negative comment, it may not mean much to us, but those words we spoke can simmer/smolder inside the person indefinitely.

If we give a quick word of encouragement, or a positive statement, though it may not mean that much to us, the effect of that good word, can stay with a person forever.

As we speak, we should remember that things we say may be no big deal to us, but to the listener, they could have lasting impact.

Don't be a "muck mouth"!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

7 Victories

I was reading of the seven churches in the book of Revelation (ch. 1 - 3). At the end of talking to each of the churches a specific victory is mentioned...

These are victories for us as Christians:

1.) The right to eat from the tree of life. (Ephesus)

2.) Will never be harmed by the second death. (Smyrna)

3.) Some of the hidden manna. A white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Pergamum)

4.) Will be given authority over the nations. (Thyatira)

5.) Will be dressed in white clothes, his name will never be erased from the book of life, but will be acknowledged before the Father. (Sardis)

6.) Will be made a pillar in the sanctuary of God. (Philadelphia)

7.) The right to sit on the Throne. (Laodicea)

Herein, lies the secret of victorious, and Heavenly, living! These are all great victories/rewards! These are victories, the Christian, can expect to have.

The way to obtain these victories, is found within the passage. We just have to dig a little deeper...

Whatever Happened to Loyalty?

The problem with professional sports is lack of player/team loyalty. Players do not play with a team because they believe in it. They jump from team to team based on monetary gain (20 million vs. 16 million, etc.). However, most teams are not loyal to their players, they work under contract, they trade based on income, or viewership.

A lot of parishoners are not loyal to their churches. People jump from church to church, never staying at a church long enough to build, or become part of, the church family. People will leave a church they have been attending, when a new church comes into town, just for the newness of it. New pastor in town, that preaches in a different way, let's leave and go there. Potluck dinners at the other church, "See ya!". Parishoners bounce from church to church based on job opportunities. They will attend one, just to get into the church job, when that doesn't work out, their off to the next church ("job opportunity").

Whatever happened to loyalty in the church? Whatever happened to attending a church because that is where God has called you to attend?

Just as parishoners are not loyal to the church, the church is not loyal to its parishoners. This seems to be more prevalent in large churches (1,000+). Often times when there is a position to be filled, rather than hiring from within the pool of capable volunteers, they will look to fill from the outside. Rather than utilize its people, churches often spend their money to bring in consultants. Instead of trying to plug new/different people into various ministries, they rely solely on the "regulars" (they always sing, she always teaches, their always in charge of the pageant, etc.).

Why has the church stopped being loyal to its parishoners?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Separate 2 Pray

"Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and guilt of their fathers."
Nehemiah 9:2 (HCSB)
For the Israelites to finally get serious, and repent, before God, they had to separate. They had to separate from the foreigners, those who were not of God. They had to separate from the junk of humanity that filled their lives.
Are you prayers getting through to God? Do you desire a closer walk with Him? Maybe you need separation in your life. Separation from people that drag you (and your relationship with Christ) down, separation from the activities that are not God honoring, separation from the busyness of life, separation from distractions.
Sometimes we just need to separate to pray. Separate from everything, so that there is only me and Him.