Month: February 2013

Conversations with Jesus

This weekend we began a new series of messages to take a fresh look at the conversations Jesus had with a diverse group of people who were either not following him at the time or were ready to quit. These conversations with people like Matthew, the hated tax collector and the Samaritan woman at the well give us a clear look at the love and attention God still has for the outsiders.

These stories are also compelling because the questions and comments from these people are the same ones being asked today. These stories are not meant to be learned formulas that help us persuade people to follow Jesus. Evangelistic arguments are tired attempts at introducing a beautiful story with determined facts. These discourses show everyone around us that the story of the Gospel is still being told and everyone, including people we may have written off, have a part in this spiritual narrative.

So, for the next several weeks, we are going to listen with fresh ears at the conversation Jesus had with the demoniac who lived in a graveyard, and to the dialogue he had with a thief on the cross next to him. We will also lean into the conversation Jesus had with two discouraged believers on the road to Emmaus, plus learn from the story of the woman who was thrown at the feet of Jesus after being caught in adultery.

I know all these stories, but I have not heard ALL of these stories.  The Scriptures are continuously articulate and new revelation and insight can happen anytime we listen with spiritual ears. Join me on the journey and pray for those who are searching for the hope and truth we all know can be found if only they could have a conversation with Jesus.

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The Merger of Two Church Families

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. Psalm 133:1

This Sunday Celebration Church will join our New Life family in a merger of two churches and we are thrilled to welcome them. For the past few months, the elders and leaders of Celebration have sensed that a transition was happening with their Senior Pastor Barry Farah. Several options were considered, but after much prayer, the team decided to encourage their congregation to join New Life.

It is truly remarkable to see such unity among two churches in the same city. Instead of competing and comparing, we have decided to complement the work that is happening in both congregations. Many of the ministries happening at Celebration will continue on our campus and they will also strengthen and come alongside the existing works at New Life.

This certainly was not an easy decision to close the doors of a successful and healthy church and I am sure the transition for many of the Celebration members will be emotional and difficult at first. At New Life, we are hoping to create a welcoming and warm environment to help them feel at home right away. We are setting aside some reserved seating for a few Sundays so they can worship with familiar faces and we are hosting a lunch for them the first week so they can meet our ministry team.

The leaders at Celebration have done a thorough job of communicating and answering questions, but still, blended families take time to bond and trust one another.  I do feel God’s smile on this, though, because I am certain God loves when his people dwell together in unity.

For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life evermore. Psalm 133:3

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Blind Spots and the Crashes they Cause

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

My pickup was red and shiny and had tires with chrome rims that would blind you if the sun hit at just the right angle. Pam and her parent’s toy poodle were in the front seat and we were driving through our hometown on a warm sunny day. I had picked the slowest lane and after a quick glance in the side mirror, I switched to the other. That is when I heard the crash and felt the thud.

In my haste to save time, I had fallen victim to the blind spot, the part of the road that can only be seen if you turn and look for yourself instead of trusting an imperfect mirror. A car slammed into the driver’s side and spun us around in the middle of the busy street. No one was hurt, including the dog, but my pickup had a gash and my rear tire was toast.

Pickups and people are alike — both have blind spots that can cause wrecks and carnage. The reason they are called blind spots is because we are blind to them. If we knew our weaknesses, I am assuming we would work to fix them and not continue to hurt the people around us. The problem is we have imperfect mirrors. How do we get these honest and seeing eyes in order to avoid the inevitable crashes?

1. Ask God

I promise he wants to show us if we will simply ask and listen. We do this well when we are young pastors and leaders because we are well aware, in most cases, that we need to learn and grow. The problem is for those of us who are more experienced. We are the ones who get asked to mentor leaders and teach others from our vast vault of experience. We stop growing along the away because we stop asking God to show us our blind spots. We become experts and stop being students.

2. Ask others

When was the last time you asked those you influence if your leadership was frustrating them? This takes a great deal of security to admit that you may not be perfect and that you still want to grow. The first few times you ask this question, don’t expect an honest answer. But, over time, they will begin to trust your motives and give you the input that may salvage your influence with them. Sparks will fly, tension will fill the room, but all of us will become sharper. The irony is, the sharper our swords become, the less dangerous we are to the people around us.

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William Wallace and My Book about Women

I have agreed to write an e-book about the role of women in church and the inspiration came from an unlikely source. I was watching Braveheart, the movie inspired by the life of Scottish warrior William Wallace, and a particular scene helped clarify a big idea about this very important topic.

There is a scene in the movie that happens right after the first battle between William Wallace’s ragtag army of farmers and the powerful English brigades. Somehow, the Scottish miscreants win the battle despite being outnumbered. Right after the battle, the Scottish nobles knight William Wallace in a ceremony at a nearby castle.

When Wallace stands to his feet, immediately an argument breaks out among the land owning nobles about which family has a rightful claim to the Scottish throne. One family believes they should be in charge and another says their heir deserves to be king. Wallace listens for a moment, but then walks out of the room disgusted.

When the nobles realize Wallace is leaving, they ask why. His reply is brilliant. He tells them he is going to fight the English and they can stay and argue about who is in charge. This seems to be what is happening in our local churches. We are mired in arguments about who should be leading while the more important fight is being ignored.

Believe me, I know there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue regarding leadership in the home and church. I have strong beliefs and I am sure you do, too. However, are we arguing about roles while ignoring some bigger issues? I think we are and I plan to tackle some of this in my upcoming e-book.

This book will not settle all our arguments, but I do hope it empowers women to grow and flourish in the calling that God has for them. It is my hope that the book will begin discussions about topics that are being ignored such as:

1. A woman’s role in preaching, teaching and leadership, both in their homes and in their local congregations.

2. Can a strong wife flourish in public under the mature leadership of a private and passive husband?

3. What were the radical ways that Jesus brought dignity and respect to women?

4. How can we encourage women to be feminine leaders in a masculine world?

What are some topics about women in the home and church that you think would be helpful to debate and discuss in a civil way? Now is the time to ask, because I start writing soon. Thanks for your voice in this conversation.

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