Sin

Sin is the propensity for humans to live as if they are God. Sin is the decision to live life away from God rather than toward him. This decision can be subtle or blatant. It involves a contest of wills between humans and God. It is the oldest contest in the world, the pride of life, the saying yes to the temptation to live as if we humans are not accountable for our lives moment by moment to our Maker. Sin is the failure to surrender life, moment by moment, to the rule of God. We sin when we place ourselves in charge of our lives.

– Reggie McNeal
A Work of Heart – Understanding How God shapes Spiritual Leaders

Wrap up and a Look Forward

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

It’s time to wrap up this series I wrote in the month of January.  It was a great exercise to take a look at what I aimed to do at the beginning of 2010, and what I actually ended up doing!  Some great lessons learned a long the way.  By the way, this is a GREAT exercise for anyone to do on an annual basis, it helps cultivate focus in your life and implant the lessons you’ve learned in the past year.  Leaders take note!

Now that I’ve taken a look back, it’s time to take a look forward for 2011.  What does this next year hold for me as I consider what I know and what I hope to see happen (in no particular order)?

  • I’m going on two missions trips this year.  I’m actually flying out for Malawi (already here at the time of publishing this) and will be going to Ukraine for almost 2 weeks at the end of April.  Missions trips always shake up my world and give me a HUGE appreciation for the work our missionaries do all over the world.  I volunteer my web development skills for this, and this, because of a missions trip.
  • I’ll be continuing to develop and grow OrganizeSeries.com and also have the potential for some other partnerships with people in the WordPress community that I’m exploring.  In case you haven’t discovered yet, I have a great passion for web development and coding.   To me, code is poetry.
  • I want to continue to develop as a leader.  I’ve made a personal commitment to read 10 books this year and this will join all the other reading I do through my feed reader.  If you want to follow along with what I’m reading (and have read) you can check out my anobii page.
  • My wife and I will continue on the positive path we’ve taken for our financial health as a family and will work on paying down more of our debt.  It currently looks like a three year plan but I’m hoping to shorten that with the extra income from the business I’m developing.
  • There are some big things personally I wrestled a bit with last year and this year I hope to come to some clear decisions regarding that.  A big part of the process is prayer, listening to the wise, and listening to the wisest (God).  So if you know me well, keep me in prayer this year – the decision will have huge implications for me and my family.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for my church this year -> really working on accomplishing my ministry goals for what I do there.
  • I’ve made the decision to spend some time working on my physical health.  Working at a desk during the day and the development work I’ve been doing in the evenings (usually sitting with my laptop on a couch) is taking its toll on my physically and I’ve been in the worst shape of my life.  I don’t like it.  I know it’s not healthy. I don’t want to die young.  I love my family.  Soo, I’ve committed to start taking care of my body better this year and am watching my calories.  I’m also going to try to squeeze in some physical activity through the week to get the exercise I need.  The great thing is, my wife is joining me on this one.  It’s so much easier doing this kind of thing when someone you love is doing it with you!

I look forward to coming back and reviewing this list in 2012.  What about you?  What kinds of things are you working on in 2011 – I’d love to hear from you!

getting in the Word

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

I’ve been away from here again for a few days and it’s turning this series I’ve been writing into a month long reflection.  Nevertheless, I am determined to finish this! So let’s continue (if you’re new to this series, you can click here for some context).

Here’s what I wrote last year:

I love YouVersion.com and thanks to the many Bible Reading plans they’ve made available, I’m going to be reading through the Bible (again) this year.  If you don’t read the Bible, you should – it’s one of the best things you can do (and the digerati team behind youversion has made it so easy!) My wife and I are working through a plan together as well.

What happened:

I made it halfway through the M’Cheyne plan that I was working on.  Kind of bummed I didn’t complete it but I try not to be religious in my Bible reading (otherwise it becomes a chore, it should never be a chore!).  My wife and I didn’t complete the reading plan we were working on together either (Blended) – so many days where we just collapsed exhausted in bed together.  I’m missing this though so I want to get back on track with another one this year.  Now that we both have iPhones it should be easier to work together on this.

What I learned:

About myself:  I work best with routine, but need to change it up once and a while.  Otherwise it becomes just that, routine instead of reward.  There IS NO SET FORMULA for when, where, how, or how much you should read!  YouVersion has REALLY helped me with breaking the shackles of routine.

About  my spirit:  Spiritually speaking, the Word of God is “soul food” for me.  I definitely feel it when I go any extended time without just reading the Bible with an open heart and spirit, expecting to hear from God.  There’s almost an edginess, and dullness that exists in my life without it.   Not only that, but I have found that my creative output goes down as well.

What about you?  How does reading the Bible affect your life (or not)… and why do you think that is?

memory work

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

It’s time for another post in this series.  Here’s another thing I wrote last year around this time:

I’m going to be memorizing scripture through the year along with others in my church family who are joining in the journey (I’ll be posting about this sometime in the next two weeks).  My 8 year old daughter is also participating and when I sent her an email (yes she has email – I’ve introduced her to the Google Behemoth)  to tell her that I’m doing it too she replied, “Neat. Bring it on Dad”.  The gloves are down.

What happened:

I’ve been memorizing every scripture every week and have about 38-40 scriptures memorized  REALLY well and probably the rest I’m still working on.  I’ve used a variety of tools to help me with this through the year but have settled on this iPhone app.  Unfortunately my daughter didn’t have the stamina to keep up with her Dad (of course, at 9 years old, she’s got enough stuff going on!)  BUT the cool thing is she is reading her Bible every day and goes out of her way to show me the latest stuff she’s reading.  I love it!

What I learned:

  • You may think you can’t memorize stuff.  But you can.  It still amazes me when I review the verses that I can even recite them from memory.
  • Having scripture memorized enhanced my prayer life.  There have been so many times when I’ve been praying for something and a verse came to mind that “fit in” with what I was praying.  Powerful.
  • Another benefit is that I’m finding when I read the Bible, the overall themes are more apparent because of the scripture I’ve memorized.  I find myself thinking, “hey, that sounds familiar to something over in_______”, where the blank is a scripture I memorized.
  • Memorizing scripture has helped improve my memory overall.  This was unexpected, but I am finding that I’m remembering things easier than before.  Names come easier.  The coding I do goes quicker because I’m not having to look up functions as much.  Remembering I locked my van door is easier (those who heard me talk about that in a message I spoke last year will know what I’m talking about).

All in all this has been something that I’ve found to be a VERY beneficial discipline.  Have any of you had experience with memorizing things?  How has it worked for you?  What benefits have you noticed?

what matters

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Been away from here the last couple days, but now I’m back.  Let’s continue this series shall we?  Last year I wrote a “looking forward” kind of post for some of the things I hoped to accomplish, change in the coming year.  This year I’m writing a series of post reflecting on that list and what happened in 2010.  Here’s the next item on the list that I wrote:

I’m going to continue working on being a great Dad and husband to my family…if I fail at that, then it doesn’t matter what else I succeed at.

What happened:

A work in progress!  I think I’m not doing too bad, but I know I could always do better.  One of the hardest things for me in the past year was balancing my time.  Between my full time job at my church, the freelance work I did, and my work on Organize Series, it’s been a challenge spending the quality time needed to be a good husband and father.  I know I could have done better – correction: I know I MUST do better.  Why? Because it’s one of the few things that really matters.

There are some things I’m doing to get better at this and I’ll hopefully write a blog post about it at some point.  But for now, I’d love to hear from you, my readers about what you do to make sure you are investing quality time for the things that really matter in your life?  So let me hear it in the comments!

pro-bono

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

This post continues the series I’ve been writing as I reflect on 2010.  This has been neat thinking through some of the things I aimed for in the New Years post I wrote last year and what actually happened.  Let’s continue:

I hope to continue volunteering for some great causes (along with continuing the work I do for vohmalawi.org and vohzimbabwe.com).

What happened

I still continue to support both Villages of Hope in Malawi and Zimbabwe  along with developing and maintaining their websites (pro-bono, you knew you’d find out the reason for the title of this post right?) .  This continues to be something I LOVE doing.  Here’s why:

  1. Anything to do with web development is ice cream to me. I like ice cream.
  2. These two organizations are doing incredible work in providing hope and a future to kids who have little of both.  They’ve captured my heart.
  3. The people working there have sacrificed much to get there and continue what they’re doing.  I want to do what I can to make their job communicating things a little bit easier.
  4. There’s IMMENSE satisfaction knowing that you are using your skills and abilities to contribute to making a difference in the world. I know God smiles at the work I do for them.

What I learned

I’ve had to be a good steward of my time.  There are so many things I want to do but there’s only 24 hours in a day and I have to be careful of the things I choose to do.  Sometimes that means choosing what I won’t do.  In order to keep doing the websites for these folks I have had to choose to cut back in some other areas of my life.  Which is okay (reread my list above for why).

There have been different points through the year where I’ve had to revisit this important principle when I realized that I was taking on more than I should and not letting things go (that may be good, but not better than something I want to add to my life).

I challenge you to take a look at your gifts and abilities.  Is there something you are giving them to, that makes a difference in the world?  There’s nothing like it.  I’d love to hear about it!

Oh and another thing I wrote last year:

I may be going on a trip to Siberia this year.  Yes, that’s crazy.

Yes it was crazy.  I didn’t go. It was one of those things I had to say no to.  This February I’m going to Malawi (to the Village of Hope there actually!!) and I may be going to the Ukraine in April.  You’ll hear more about these in the future.

guest blogging

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Let’s keep going on this series shall we?  Here’s what I wrote around this time last year:

On that note, it’d be an awesome honor to be invited to be a guest blogger on one of the blogs I read. Dunno if I have anything to offer, but still it’d be cool.

What happened

I still think it’d be an honor to be invited but it didn’t happen.  Well, that’s not entirely correct.  I didn’t get a specific invitation – they have given a general invitation to all their readers to contribute (and get paid too!) – I just haven’t taken them up on it (yet).

What I learned:

Aside from the fact that I’m obviously not as in demand as a writer as I thought I was (sic), this is a good example of waiting for something to happen that needs your involvement to happen.  In other words, there are some things in life that won’t happen until you take steps towards it happening.  Honestly, when I wrote about becoming a guest blogger last year I wasn’t really expecting that I would get invited, it was more of a “it would be cool if..” kind of a statement.  Realistically, if I really wanted to be a guest writer on ChurchCrunch I would have wrote an article and submitted it to them.  They had already extended the invitation.

This made me think, “this is like our relationship with God sometimes”  We pray things like, “Hey God, you know it would be really cool if you took care of my debt and blessed me with wealth” and do nothing.  Sure, God could do amazing things like that, but more often than not he’s waiting for us to act on things he’s already told us to do. In other words,

  • you’re asking for financial blessing – how are you spending and stewarding what you have?
  • you’re asking for a better marriage relationship – what are you contributing to the relationship?
  • you’re asking for increased influence – what are you doing with the influence you already have?
  • you’re asking for a raise – have you been faithfully working in the job you’re doing now?

God parted the Red Sea, but Moses had to lift up the staff first.  God stopped the flow of the Jordan River, but the priests had to walk into it with the Ark of Covenant first.  God knocked down the walls of Jericho, but the worship team had to lead a parade around it first.  God will give you a new nature, and an incredible relationship with him past the end of time, but you have to receive the gift of salvation through Christ first.

What are YOU doing with what you have?

(incidentally, today I read this article by Stephen Furtick that approached this idea from another angle,  he knocks it out of the park!)

Merry Christmas 2010

Hey everyone, I hope your day is going well so far!  I love enjoying this time with my family and friends.  To all my readers, have a blessed Christmas and a very HAPPY New Year!

I’ve included for your reading the text of what I shared last night to my church family (modified a bit for the context here).  Enjoy!

We all know about Christmas. We all know that it’s commercial thing with a frenzy of gift buying and gift wanting, and “stuff” being exchanged. We all know that it’s a nostalgia thing, with the Christmas plays, the nativity scene, Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, tinsel, decorations, lights and carols, and movies we’ve seen every year. We know that Christmas is a food thing, the chocolates, the turkeys, the stuffing, the oranges, the baked goodies. Oh, the baked goodies.

There are many things we know Christmas for and many things we’ve become familiar with. Familiar. There’s danger in that. The danger of Christmas, the season, the event, is that we get so familiar we lose the wonder of what Christmas really represents. The wonder of the INCARNATION. It’s really not a word you hear too much. But it is a word that captures the wonder of what happened. God coming in flesh on this planet. Tonight, for just a few minutes, I hope to remind you of this wonder. To have you pause in awe at the majesty and significance of what can be robbed by the familiar.

Do you remember the last time you were filled with wonder – marveling at something you witnessed or experienced that captured your attention? What caused this wonder? More likely, it was something out of the ordinary, something that broke through the usual, something that made some sort of emotional connection with you.

The incarnation should be like that for us. The incarnation must be like that for us. Something out of the ordinary, something that broke through the usual, something that makes an emotional connection with where we are RIGHT NOW in our everyday lives.

Think of the vastness of our universe made up of thousands of galaxies, each containing stars too numerous to count. In a universe that’s limits have never been observed even by the most powerful scientific instruments today. In the midst of this universe, there is a galaxy that has been named the Milky Way, our galaxy. In this galaxy is a star, our sun, a yellow star and surrounding this star is our solar system.

A space ship probe named Voyager I, was launched on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and eventually beyond. As of December 13 of this year, this spacecraft, travelling currently at a speed of nearly one million miles per day, has still not made interstellar space but is at a distance of 17.3 billion km from the Sun. Radio signals from Voyager I, traveling at the speed of light, take more than 16 hours to make it to earth. Voyager I is not heading towards any particular star but if it was travelling towards the closest star to our galaxy, it would take it 73,600 light years at its current speed. That’s the closest star to our galaxy, out of the thousands of stars in our galaxy, out of the trillions of stars in our universe.

And on a single planet in this solar system. Unique, in it’s position and ability to support life. Divinely designed. The creator of this universe carried out his plan for a visit that would transform our history.

A visit not announced by an earthquake or a world shattering sound. A visit not landing in the halls of worldly power. A visit in the form of a baby. In a manger, in a stable, to a young newly married couple. Announced to a few shepherds, the outcasts of society. This should invoke some sort of curiosity in the casual observer, some sort of wonder at how an all powerful God, would be incarnate in such a humble way.

A wonder that invokes HOPE. Hope that there really is a God who understands and knows our poor and desperate circumstances at times. A hope, that there really is a God who makes it possible for us to KNOW Him, even though in the fullness of his glory, majesty and power He is unknowable.

A wonder that invokes BELONGING. The reality that in the spoken announcement to the shepherds, God speaks the good news to every single one of us. He came for me. He came for you. He wants ALL of us to belong to HIS kingdom. A kingdom, not bought by privilege, or power, or ability. A kingdom bought by HIS. OWN, WORK. Something, as God, He didn’t have to do. But something He did, compelled by His love for you and for me.

A wonder that produces DREAMS. Dreams in what God wants to do through YOU! What is possible because Jesus makes it possible? Think of what it was like for the shepherds when they realized in the midst of their wonder, that God chose to announce the birth of Jesus to them. That they were SIGNIFICANT enough to entrust this GOOD NEWS to? They began to dream of what it would be like when everyone knew the Saviour had come and the Bible records that they shared the good news with everyone they saw.

Why is recapturing the wonder of the Incarnation so important? Because it keeps our attention on the one who matters, it cultivates gratitude for His blessing, and it produces a life of generosity in response to the one who was so generous to us.

I want to close with a few words from a letter that a man named Detriech Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancé in December 1943. He penned it while in prison in Nazi Germany. Bonhoeffer had lost good friends to the war, he was separated from those he loved, evil was all around him, yet these were the words he wrote:

“I think we’re going to have an exceptionally good Christmas. The very fact that outward circumstance precludes our making provision for it will show whether we can be content with what is truly essential. I used to be very fond of thinking up and buying presents, but now that we have nothing to give, the gift God gave us in the birth of Christ will seem all the more glorious..The poorer our quarters, the more clearly we perceive that our hearts should be Christ’s home on earth.”

And that my friends is the most wondrous things of all. Not only did the God of the Universe know he could make a home on earth. But He did it, so He could make a home in YOU.

Paul writes,

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him…  Ephesians 3: 14:17 (NLT)

As you think of the incarnation today, be filled. With wonder.

which has the greater impact?

A while ago I read an interesting article by Miles McPherson on the Catalyst Blog that begins with a great question,

If your church closed down tomorrow, would anyone notice? Would there be a negative impact on your community?

I think every church has a desire to have an impact in their community.  Even the church I work at, has this desire written into our purpose statement.  But it is important to evaluate what kind of impact we are really having. A good start is Mile’s question.

Then, in the article Miles goes on to say the following:

Imagine if people in your congregation were initiating contact with community agencies, building positive relationships, and securing partnerships for the ministry.

He describes how his church has intentionally encouraged their people to volunteer in various community organizations in their city, outside the church walls.  He describes the impact they are making as a result.

Included in the article is a marketing pitch for a resource they are releasing,  but the question Miles asked is the same question I’ve often grappled with.  Is our impact more measurable by the things we do outside the walls of the church or inside the church?  Certainly, we need volunteers to implement all the activities in the church:

  • musicians, singers, sound tech, media operators etc. for worship services
  • ushers, greeters.
  • children’s workers
  • class teachers

I don’t discount their value.  But I wonder, would it be worthwhile to keep things in the church as simple as possible so we can encourage people to have more impact outside the church in the time they have available to give?

Let’s flip this around a bit.  How often does the church berate or complain about people not attending and showing their commitment to church activity and programming when some of those same people are volunteering in the midst of the community we’re called to reach by:

  • serving as coaches, helpers, fundraisers in their sports organizations
  • volunteering at their local schools
  • participating in organizations like, Heart and Stroke foundation, Red Cross etc.
  • participating in a neighborhood association…
  • involved in organizations like the Rotary Club, or other clubs like it…
  • helping out with soup kitchens, homeless shelters

What do you think? How do you see the church of Christ making the biggest impact? How do we get there?

a perspective on the church

About a month ago I read a great post by my friend John Pellowe touching on the whole subject of competition between Christian Ministries.  You should go read it then come back here.  It prompted a comment from me as follows:

I love the position you outline here about competition among ministries and it’s a great suggestion that leaders take the time and make the effort to align their own thoughts on competition.

I echo your thoughts on this. From a church perspective I’ve always thought of things from concentric ‘circles of participation’ perspective using the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

In other words (much better via diagram!):

The first circle: the believers in a local church all each have individual “parts” to play as a part of their local church body.

The second circle: the local churches in a community are all called to their community and have unique role as a part of the Christian church body within that community.

The third circle: The denominations at the national level each have unique roles within the body of the national church of Jesus Christ.

The fourth circle: The national church’s each have unique roles and callings as a part of the worldwide Christian church.

Bottom line: It’s about advancing Kingdom of God business, not a “I’m better than you” mentality.

Ministries, and churches, and Christian charities should always be working to discover, “What is the unique role or calling that God has given us as a part of His body and how can we do the best we can at that WHILE contributing to the work of His kingdom at large in the world?”

As I was writing this comment, I actually had an image of my mind that I was trying to describe.  Recently I came across a great tool that helps communicate that image.  And here it is:

Have you ever given thought to “competition” among Christian churches/ministries? Have you formulated a position about it? Please, share your thoughts as well!