This is a question that a person can really sink their teeth into.
First of all, I like it because it is broader than a question like "What can we do to further the Kingdom of God?" I think that tends to be the more common question that churches ask themselves. But this question is bigger than that, broader than that.
Somehow inherent to the question posed to me is that community transformation begats (good Bible word) Kingdom Building. I like that.
It got me to thinking about something I was involved with a few years ago through the local United Way and that was a community needs assessment. At that time, we reviewed every bit of information we could get our hands on that related to community needs. We also interviewed many members of the community.
Out of that assessment came the identification of particular "at risk" groups. Those included underprivileged children, the elderly, young families, single parent families, those suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, and those with major chronic health concerns. It was our opinion at the United Way that we needed to allocate dollars given to us to organizations that would help these identified needs and particular "at risk" groups.
As the church, I think that we would be doing well to focus our efforts in similar areas. We may though want to narrow down our focus a bit further and concentrate on areas where we can have the greatest impact.
And in all cases, our goal should be the same: to show Jesus' love to these "at risk" groups. Our goal should not be to hand out religious tracts or drag people into our building. That is not what Jesus would have done. Our goal should be to show His love in radical and dramatic ways ... but to do so only because it pours forth naturally from the indwelling Holy Spirit.
I would focus first on those who are importing or manufacturing drugs in our area. This can be a tough, scary and intimidating group. It will be a group that will frustrate and confound us. It will be a group that may not really feel like they are lacking anything. Yet we cannot stop the drug problem in our community without affecting those who are at the root of it. What if we did something so simple as have a team that goes out every Saturday afternoon to those areas of town where we know drug activity occurs and we bring them small gifts of food. I have read recently of one very missional church that is doing this. Are they changing the world overnight? No. Are they having more impact than passing out religious tracts or preaching to folks? I would suspect they are.
Next, I would focus on single parents. Our local Christian school has noted that we have a lot of single parents sending their kids to it. I suspect this is because the parents feel pressured and overwhelmed and want to have ensure that there is some steady positive influence occurring in their child's life. Unfortunately, many of the single parents who approach the school cannot have their kids go there due to not having adequate financial resources. What if we as a church could come up with a way that all single parents in our community who wanted their kids in a Christian school would be able to have their kids go there regardless of financial need?
And what if we could also focus on other "at risk" groups like the elderly and the chronically ill including those with mental illnesses. What if we could serve as a resource center to help them find and get to the social services that can help them? What if we can be there just to be their friends and to lend a helping hand when they need it? What if we can help them obtain the healthcare they need, despite their financial need?
This all sounds overwhelming. "We" cannot do it but I believe that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit flowing through His people who love them, can.
It takes a message we must carry out. That message, properly carried out, will bring us the resources we need.
And that message is very simple: Mission, Vision, and Changed Lives. Tell people what we intend to do, tell them how things can be, and then show them proof of God's effectiveness. They will respond and God will help us accomplish His will.
We can transform our community and that will grow God's Kingdom.
That brings up a question ... I may have it (faith) but am I modeling behavior that helps others catch it? And, even more than that, do I really have it if I am not always modeling it?
This passage stirs a lot of other thoughts and feelings in me ... but I will save those for a post of their own later on.
Mary and Martha watched Lazarus become increasingly sick. They knew the healing power of Jesus and had sent for His help, but by the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had died. The sisters were filled with sorrow and cried out; "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21,32). At this, Jesus was troubled and compassionately wept with those who had gathered (John 11:35).
Jesus genuinely cared about the sorrow and pain of those who knew and loved Lazarus; but remember, Jesus had intentionally allowed Lazarus to die; "when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days" (John 11:6). And if Jesus would have really wanted to heal Lazarus, He wouldn't have even needed to be near. When He had healed the royal official's son (who was in a bed twenty miles away), He did so by simply speaking a word: "You may go. Your son will live"
Yes, Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. For in God's all-knowing plan, the need to strengthen the faith of those around Lazarus was more important than healing his illness.
"Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?'"
God had prepared a miracle which would cause many others to believe and bring glory and honor to His name: "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me...I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me" (John 11:41,42). Jesus then proceeded to raise Lazarus from the dead! "Lazarus, come out!"
We've all been in bad situations which have caused us to cry out and wonder why God didn't just make things "right." Why didn't He remove the enemy, restore our finances, or take away the hurt? And how many times have we become burdened by the apparent injustice in the world; "I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked...surely in vain have I kept my heart pure" (Psalm 73:3,13).
God has the ability to "fix" every situation, but His plan is so much more. His plan is for us to know Him and His glory; to trust Him and grow while being strengthened through every trial; to continue to be "conformed to the likeness of His Son" (Romans 8:29). His plan is to prepare us for an eternity in His presence.
We must trust God to refine and strengthen our faith - even if by fire! No matter what trials we face, we must trust that "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). And we must continue to trust He is at work in our lives (even right now) to accomplish a true and eternal healing.
I am sure that a survey of this nature would yield a huge variety of answers.
I would say that, since I started getting serious about my faith journey, life has been more enjoyable. I still have a lot of "old ways" about me that drag me down. But living out a faith-filled life ... and being in a network of other Christians ... there is something hugely enjoyable about that.
But life is always tough. I received an email recently from an old college friend telling me that her 22 year marriage is coming to an end. For the past two years, her husband has been living with another woman, leaving her to largely care for their two teenage daughters. Stuff like that is really tough ... and it breaks my heart to think of what all she has gone through.
Many people are trying to encourage her right now but it must be incredibly difficult for her to see through all of this. I just pray that she will see and feel Jesus in the midst of family and friends reaching out to her in love and compassion.
We'd be kidding ourselves if we didn't say that we all sometimes have questions and ruminations ... I am sure she has had her share during all she has gone through ... yet she has been what I would call nothing less than "saintly" waiting for two years for this silly husband of hers to come to his senses.
I Peter 4 provides the assurance and encouragement we all need to stay on the walk we're on as Christians ... to grow in our discipleship and following.
Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
You've already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it's time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don't understand why you don't join in with the old gang anymore. But you don't have to give an account to them. They're the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.
Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
If you're abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It's the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they're on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that's a different matter. But if it's because you're a Christian, don't give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!
It's judgment time for God's own family. We're first in line. If it starts with us, think what it's going to be like for those who refuse God's Message!
If good people barely make it,
What's in store for the bad?
So if you find life difficult because you're doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he's doing, and he'll keep on doing it.
I am so fortunate to have a wonderful and godly woman as my partner in this life. She is loving, considerate, caring, gentle, gracious, and supportive. All of those things which God instructs wives to be.
May verses 8-12 be my mantra for today ... and for everyday ...
Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life
and see the day fill up with good,
Here's what you do:
Say nothing evil or hurtful;
Snub evil and cultivate good;
run after peace for all you're worth.
God looks on all this with approval,
listening and responding well to what he's asked;
But he turns his back
on those who do evil things.
The chapter goes on to discuss leading what I would call a "Teflon life". If you're living as God instructs, others may throw mud at you but it won't stick. It will come back to stick on them as you live a life of example ... a life beyond reproach.
None of us is perfect but isn't it incredible when you run into someone living this sort of life out with great consistency? It can be described as "supernatural" ... a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
This is the first time I remember several hours of rain here in, well, a very long time. Though we have had some relief recently, it has overall been a very hot and dry summer.
Getting rain after weeks of drought is more than refreshing. It is renewing. It is restoring.
It is a reminder to me to stay on the path I have been on recently of being more consistent with my prayer life and Bible study.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. - John 16:33
"Why does it seem that those involved in Christian enterprise find the way so hard? It seems as though it is harder for those who are committed Christians in business. Have you found this to be true?" This was the comment from a business associate recently. My answer was a definite yes. In fact, if you were not a Christian and sought to do a similar business without regard to maintaining a biblical philosophy, the way would be much smoother sailing. It makes us think of the prophet who asked, "Why do the wicked prosper?" (see Jer. 12:1)
It is a spiritual principle of which we speak. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan before they entered the Promised Land, they fought only two battles. Then after they entered the Promised Land, they fought 39 battles. The way of the cross is not paved with lilies; it is paved with grace. When we seek to honor God in our business life, we will be met with opposition from the spiritual forces of this world. This is why each of us must commit ourselves to walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and to be as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents.
Do not be surprised when you find the way harder as a believer than when you were a non-believer. You now have more at stake among the spiritual forces that desire you to be defeated and ineffective.
Stand firm against the evil forces that desire to keep you from walking in freedom in the Promised Land. Jesus is your victory for every battle you will encounter. Call on His name.
I have (exactly) four friends on Facebook.
Robert Scoble is one of them.
Long live Robert Scoble.
A few key points I got from the book ...
There is still a place for what we consider to be "traditional" church but, increasingly, culture is moving toward seeking God wherever it is at, not through heirarchy or liturgy.
The church must focus on God's mission of saving the world.
Church growth and Kingdom growth are not necessarily one and the same.
People are seeking God in their lives, not fancy buildings or professional performances or a lot of "canned" speeches.
"Church" can (and in my opinion "should") be wherever people are gathered.
People need to be released to do the ministry God calls them to, not forced to fit into already-in-place "cookie cutter" ministries.
The church needs to be what people are seeking.
McNeal supports the idea of a flat organizational structure ... something which I am a big proponent of (and must blog about someday). In today's world, things happen too fast ... you cannot have a "super leader" and a lot of levels of beauracracy. People on the front lines of any organization must own the mission and vision of the organization, and then have the knowledge, resources, and empowerment to fulfill those.
Mentoring and "life coaching" are more conducive to spiritual formation than just telling people to "straighten up and fly right" and fit into that round hole over there.
There is no better example of how to engage people in real life than Jesus.
There is a difference between "planning" and "preparation". Not that "planning" is bad but what God really calls us to do is "prepare" the fields for His work.
Keep score of the things that show fulfillment of your mission ... not just meeting numbers.
Don't just sit there. Ya gotta do something. Keep learning. Keep preparing for what God has in store.
O afflicted one, storm-tossed one, and not comforted, behold; I will . . . Isaiah 54:11
Afflicted One – The life of a believer is not peaches and cream. (But you already knew that, didn’t you?) In fact, believers have a deeper, more disturbing experience of affliction than those who do not follow the way of the Lord. Why? Because we know that things are not supposed to be like this. God is a God of justice, peace and joy – and when life turns into abuse, suffering and grief – we know that something is terribly wrong. Waiting for God is bittersweet. He will come, with justice and redemption on His wings, but not yet.
In these times, we must listen to Isaiah. If you stand in the “not yet” crowd, then you qualify as an afflicted one. The Hebrew word is aniy, a word that carefully delineates suffering that results from unanticipated circumstances, creating an immediate difficulty. This is undeserved sorrow and oppression (there are other Hebrews words for different kinds of affliction). The noun describes those who were without land and citizenship, consigned to live one day at a time through the benevolence of others. These people knew one thing above all others. They knew dependency. Unless someone came to their rescue, they were finished.
Let’s face the brutal facts. The world has fallen under the influence of the enemy. Life is not easy. In fact, even as a believer you are not going to be spared the misfortunes, trauma and pain of a twisted world. To think otherwise is to ignore the clear message of Scripture. We are called to be in this evil world, resident aliens living for an absent King, redeeming the time spent here. You can expect to get hurt.
“Bad things happen to good people,” is theologically correct. It is just short-sighted. On the other side of those bad things is a God Who proclaims that He will rescue. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But He will come. The confidence that God will resolve all the pain of living changes everything. Suddenly affliction carries a host of benefits. I do not suffer for nothing. I suffer because this world is truly not my home. If you lack the eschatological perspective of God’s approaching arrival, you will find life quite discouraging. Every believer is called to look over the horizon. Don’t anchor your hope in the sand of terra firma. Cast those anchors on heavenly shores and wait for the tide to turn.
We’ll have a chance to look at “storm-tossed” and “not comforted.” But all of these descriptions of life as it is are resolved in the God Who is. The end of this series of misfortunate circumstances is still “I will.” God promises to act. God will come. He will take responsibility for reconciliation, justice and recompense. My suffering today pushes me toward a deeper dependency – and a greater hope. I need Him. That is sometimes all that I know.
But it is enough.
Of all the apostles, Peter has always seemed very human to me ... he always wants to step out in faith but, like all of us, his eyes can fall away from Jesus, he starts to step away from the path, and he begins to sink. Isn't that the journey that we all walk? Jesus always called out Peter for extra teaching and extra encouragement because he needed it. Just as we need it.
May my reading of I Peter give me the encouragement that I need.
I Peter is a great reminder that our eternity begins when we accept Jesus. Times will be tough. We will learn and be refined by those tough times. But we have to hang tough with the One who made it all possible.
Today is just today. This world is just this world. But God's word and His prescriptions for how we are to live are enduring. We are to love one another regardless of what life hands us. Life gives us lemons to teach us how to make lemonade. God gives us instruction so that in this life ... in this world ... we may be holy just as He is.
We do that in business, too. We want to look at sales and number of accounts.
No one is denying that some statistical analysis is a good idea but it is just one tool in analyzing an organization's effectiveness. Unfortunately, it is also sort of a "lagging" tool in that, by the time your numbers are effected, the cause for their change (good or bad) has probably long since passed, making it more difficult to make the connection and draw conclusions.
If your organization's mission is all about putting up certain numbers, then strictly paying attention to numbers makes a lot of sense. Otherwise, it really doesn't.
Any organization should really examine its mission, as well as all parts of its vision, and figure out how to measure success toward those specific goals. If the mission and vision are good, and if they are being successfully sought and attained, then the numbers will follow. Not the other way around.
Unfortunately, many organizations and individuals out there with a strong numbers orientation, have that all backwards.
The sermon this morning was a good reminder for me that I need more quiet time with God. I need to keep that as a discipline. I treasure whatever quiet time of solitude I can carve out of a day. Usually it is in the early morning hours. The problem is that all too often I let that turn into email and preparing-for-the-day time instead of quiet times of worship and devotion.
The meme poses this question: Why Do I Love Jesus? Lisa and Jules both had wonderful responses to this question, forcing me to look inward and think a bit deeper and come up with my own answer this question. I didn't want to just copy their answers. If I am going to live a life devoted to this man who walked this earth a couple of thousand years ago, this is probably a very good question to know my personal answer to.
An obvious reason is because He gave His life for me ... He provided me a pathway to salvation. Hard to not love someone for that.
But my additional response is this ... I love Jesus for the stories He told and the lessons He taught during His time on earth.
I grew up with a childhood view of Christianity based largely upon a "Wizard of Oz" sort of God. This all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-judgmental God who, at the end of my life was going to make a "Deal or No Deal" pronouncement over me.
Developing a knowledge of and love for Jesus was something that has happened to me more during my adult life. And it has taken me far beyond the Wizard of Oz type of God who I never knew that I could possibly live up to his expecations. Instead, through the teachings of this Jesus who I love so much, I learned about how to live my life, how to treat others and how, out of gratitude for His impact on my life, to allow Jesus' love to flow through me. Jesus gave me a calling ... a purpose ... that is far far beyond any calling or purpose that this world can ever give.
I have, of course, also learned that it is a journey. But I know that I am His and that, by doing my best to follow and be like Jesus, I am living the life I am called to live and I will spend eternity in a very very good place.
So, should I tag others with this meme? If so, whom shall I tag?
Well, you're all off the hook ... I am not tagging anyone. HOWEVER, if you think that you'd better know your own personal answer to this question -- Why Do I Love Jesus? -- then I encourage you to spend some time with it ... and answer it in your blog.
I realized last night that I had forgotten how uplifting, empowering, and inspiring a good movie can be.
We rented and watched Facing The Giants. Put together largely by members of the Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, Facing the Giants is anything but a big budget film. In fact, the total production budget was about $100,000. But it went on to exceed $10 million in ticket sales.
Most of the actors were unpaid. And you can see throughout the film that these are not professional actors. Normally, that would bother me. But, in this case, story takes over. The story is predictable but it is also powerful and enduring.
Is it a true story? Technically, no. However, the producer / director / writer / leading actor has said that all of the individual stories within the movie are true. They just didn't necessarily happen to those specific people nor in that specific order.
There are all kinds of messages in this movie. Keep in mind that it was given a PG rating because it had too many references to Jesus Christ and His impact. Most of the messages are based in Christian faith and that is a big part of what makes the movie so inspiring.
However, in this movie, I saw a strong secular message as well ... a message about teamwork. Now, if someone wants to press it, yes, you could say that ultimately this was a message of the Holy Spirit empowering a team that is God-centered. And I won't argue that. But the message I saw about teamwork was something that I have found myself focusing more and more on lately.
The success of a team is based more upon how that team relates to each other and how they relate to their various publics ... including their "self-talk" (what they think in their private moments about one another and about the greater world around them) ... than it is about any individual performance or "what" they do as individuals. I firmly believe this. As soon as any team members begin thinking as individuals with personal agendas ... and they stop caring about and loving one another with all their heart ... team dynamics break down and the team will fail. It is not about "what" you do so much as it is about "how" you do it.
You can see that in the Sherwood Eagles, the struggling football team that, through Christ-centered teamwork and love for one another and those around them, comes back to tremendous victory over overwhelming odds in Facing the Giants.
And you can see it other places in the world around us as well. This story makings Facing the Giants one of the most inspiring and humbling films I have ever seen. Check it out ... or better yet ... bring it to any organziations you're involved with and encourage them to check it out as well.
Television ... Thanks to DVR, I can fast forward through many commercials ... or check email, get something to drink, go to the bathroom, etc., etc.
Radio ... I listen primarily to stations that cannot accept advertising. If I do happen onto a commercial station, I usually change stations if they start running a lot of ads.
Newspaper ... I never have seen the ads in newspapers and that is even moreso the case now that I view the newspaper on line and can just skip over the lower half of each page, where the ads reside.
Billboards ... It's been a long time since billboards have really been recognized by most folks as a viable advertising medium. You do not have much time to get your point across. Most billboard advertising today is "awareness" advertising by non-profits. That's because they are usually only looking for "impressions" and are not measuring effectiveness.
Magazines ... I indeed may see an occasional magazine ad though I am pretty good at skipping over them. The premium cover placements may be most likely to be noticed. Also, compared to many people, I have probably been slow at switching to reading magazines on line where the ads can be filtered a bit.
Newspaper Inserts ... The first thing to get chucked whenever I get the newspaper is all that "stuff" in the middle of it. I never give it a second glance.
Internet ... I tend to ignore most (but not all) banner ads. I have blocked pop-up ads. I do not look at paid search engine results as much as organic results.
Email ... All filtered out by spam and virus filters.
Direct Mail ... I am a big one for deciding from the outside of an envelope whether to open it or chuck it. I often chuck it. I need to keep the trash can nearby when I sort through my mail. I open only that mail which seems to have an immediate positive impact on me.
Telemarketing ... I screen all calls with Caller ID.
Websites ... The internet is where I research things I may want to buy. The attractiveness and ease of the website goes a long way in determining how long I will spend on it. When I find a product on the internet I am interested in, I will usually search to see if I can find reviews from people who have bought it before. Funding positive reviews will dramatically impact my purchasing decision.
Point of Purchase Displays ... I really very rarely go into traditional retail stores any longer. Most of my shopping is done online from specific vendors. I am probably more like to buy "impulse" items from the local coffee house or restaurant than I am from a traditional retailer.
So, there you have it. I am what I would call largely immune to advertising. For me, companies better have good websites and it is great if I can find reviews or testimonials by past customers.
The point is, to reach me, advertisers now have to find me where I am at, both physically and mentally. They can no longer just throw a message out there and expect me to receive and "see" it. If they can reach me through personal contacts that I have, that is wonderful.
The times, they are a' changin'.
Pretty much everyone on Facebook is, well, half my age. There are some people out there who I know (okay -- the truth here -- most of them I know their parents) but do I look like Uncle Pervy if I invite them to be my friend?
Really, I know lots of people in this world ... they just aren't on Facebook.
I gotta hand it to that Kinninger kid, though, for reaching out to a geezer like me.
Maybe I need to stick to LinkedIn ... it might be more for my, uh, generation.
We got onto the subject of social networks and referrals which I posted about a couple of days ago. Naturally, Tim very much believes that traditional advertising still has an impact, and I am sure he's right. However, it was very apparent that, as an ad guy, social networks and mining for referrals are very very much on his radar screen. "It's nice to occasionally have some affirmation of one's thoughts," I thought to myself.
Anyway, Tim told me about what a struggle it was for his father, also an ad guy, to convince people in the early 1960's that television was a force to be reckoned with as far as an advertising medium.
There is indeed evolution ... or progress if you wish ... to such things ...
But I still hold true to my statement that we are going to see big, sweeping changes in this area over the next five to ten years. It will be very rapid and high profile change.
As I have spent a tiny bit of time on Facebook, it has become obvious that pretty much everyone ages 16 - 23 is on there ... it has spread rapidly and will continue to spread to other ages as well.
In general, I do find Facebook to be a much safer and more enjoyable environment than MySpace.
Robert Scoble had something like 14,000 friends after his first two weeks on FaceBook. I have a long way to go...
Advertising costs are increasing and response rates are plummeting. Consumers are finding more and more ways to "tune out" advertising either physically or psychologically.
As an example, 20 years ago, if you put an insert in a newspaper, you could pretty much bank on a response rate of 1/2 of one percent. That is .005. Today, I am told the expectation can be as low as .0001. That is a whole lot less. That means leads cost more. If sales leads cost more, you know who ends up paying for that, of course -- consumers.
So, we're caught in an odd situation. Consumers are better at avoiding advertising but ultimately it is increasing the cost they must pay for things.
I may be going out on a limb here but I am convinced that, in the future, "social networks" are going to replace traditional advertising. Anyone who sells anything will always tell you that their best sales leads -- the ones they can most easily close -- come from referral. Social networks are how those referrals are achieved.
And, whereas in the past our individual social networks were our friends and neighbors, it is so much bigger than that today. Things like LinkedIn, MySpace, and FaceBook are opening up the world. And there are many others, too. A new search engine, now in beta form, called spock.com, is all about just tracking down and networking with people.
The end result, I believe, is that anyone who sells anything to consumers is going to be forced to stop traditional advertising and instead divert their money to generating referrals and tapping into social networks.
The interesting thing about all of this is that traditional advertising is what supports most of the internet-based social networks. If all traditional advertising is found to be cost-ineffective, as odd as it may seem, the internet could potentially collapse.
The good thing is that things are always changing ... new answers and ideas will evolve ... I just am not sure what those will be in the future. Perhaps, as dollars are pulled from traditional advertising, ways will develop for manufacturers to pay to tap into social networks in a much more integrated manner than just advertising. Eventually, that could reduce total marketing costs, benefitting consumers.
But, mark my words, the next 5 - 10 years will have to see a huge shift from traditional advertising to working social networks for referrals in order to generate sales leads. The companies that sell stuff have no choice ... and the opportunity is huge.
I am confused though. I heard that, in Canada, nurses are giving away free tickets to Sicko so that Canadians can see exactly why their healthcare system is so much better than ours. However, a few years ago, I had the opportunity to have dinner with a physician in Quebec and he told me that, absolutely hands-down, if he ever develops a serious medical problem, he is coming across the border to the US for treatment.
I have been on MySpace a tiny bit in recent months and sort of assumed that FaceBook was just like MySpace ... but Scoble has been challenging my thoughts on that.
MySpace bothers me because of its very open structure. Anyone whose kid has a MySpace account needs to be monitoring things closely which could almost be a 24-hour-a-day proposition. If you think you don't need to monitor your kid's MySpace, you're kidding yourself.
That said, I am not anti-MySpace. I realize it's not going away so we just need to learn how to deal with it and even use it for good. I had the opportunity this week to meet a young couple in Christian ministry who told me that MySpace is a huge tool for their ministry. That's great.
Anyway, Scoble's raves of FaceBook being the greatest thing out there and the way of the future made me check it out a bit.
To do anything at all on FaceBook, you pretty much have to register. I am proud (I think) to say that I may be the oldest person registered on FaceBook at this point. As I was entering my year of birth, it paused and a message popped up saying "Please wait patiently while new years are added to our database."
One of the first questions you have to answer when you register is whether you are "interested" in men or women. I found this to be incredibly peculiar. Had it asked me if I was straight or gay, I could have easily answered. But this question about which sex I am "interested" in really threw me. I wanted to answer "I'm married, for Pete's sake ... I'm not allowed to be "interested" in anyone except my wife!" but that wasn't an option. So I left the question blank. It was like a Catch 22.
Of course, had I said that I was interested in women, I really doubt there would have been thousands of 20-something women poring through FaceBook and stumbling upon my picture and contacting me telling me what a hottie I am. Probably would not have been a problem.
After this, you have to register what schools you attended. After you do that, you can check to see if anyone you graduated with is also registered on FaceBook. I found that, out of the 600 or so people I have graduated with, I am the only one on FaceBook, confirming my conclusion that I am the oldest person on FaceBook.
After all of this registration, I found that you still can't see much on FaceBook. People have to accept you as their "friend" before you can see their full profile.
I like that in comparison to MySpace. Much better.
So, here I am, the oldest person on FaceBook, afraid to answer the question of who I am "interested" in ... sitting their friendless.
Oh well. It's the way of the future I suppose.
2) Our small group from church ate last night at the Wapakoneta Truckstop, at the the suggestion of one of our members who recently celebrated his birthday. I was fascinated to learn that, opening in 1956, it is the oldest interstate truckstop in the country. They also have a men's room that makes you feel just like you're driving a big rig. It doesn't get any better than that, folks.
I do not own this book but will be adding it to my list of things to read someday.
"With Jesus' help we will continually offer our sacrifice of praise to God by telling others of the glory of His name. Don't forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to Him" (Hebrews 13:15,16)
Sometimes, in my busy schedule which takes me from country to country and continent to continent, my body is weary, my mind is fatigued, and if I am not careful, my heart will grow cold. I have learned to meditate on the many blessings of God and to praise Him as an act of the will. As I do so, my heart begins to warm and I sense the presence of God.
The psalmist often catalogued the blessings of God and found new reason to praise Him. I would like to share with you several reasons why I believe praise of God is so important in the life of the believer.
First, God is truly worthy of praise. Second, praise draws us closer to God. Third, all who praise God are blessed. Fourth, praise is contagious. Fifth, Satan's power is broken when we praise God. Sixth, praise is a witness to carnal Christians and non-Christians. Seventh, praise opens our hearts and minds to receive God's message. Eighth, praise is a form of sacrifice. Ninth, praise makes for a more joyful life. Tenth, praise enhances human relationships. Eleventh, praise is a supernatural expression of faith.
A further elaboration of the benefits and power of praise is found in my book Believing God for the Impossible. An entire chapter is devoted to this exciting subject.
With the promise of His blessings, so clearly delineated by the psalmist, comes the privilege and responsibility of offering up sacrifices of praise, and this leads to a supernatural life made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
One thing we really wrestled with was whether to use the term "culturally-relevant". Many board members were concerned that folks wouldn't know what it means so we decided to not use it. I said that I felt it has meaning to anyone under 25 ... but I am not sure about that. What do you think?
Our Mission Is To Equip And Inspire Students To Be A New Generation of Christ-Centered Leaders.
Our Vision is that students will embrace:
Students will have a Biblical worldview with superior preparation in all academic disciplines. (Proverbs 22:6).
Building Personal Character
Students will develop to be above reproach (I Timothy 3:1-5) in all areas of their lives, learning and modeling integrity, self discipline and the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
Calling of Christ
Students will discover their talents and Spiritual Gifts (Romans 12:6-8) as they seek and follow God’s call on their lives within the body of Christ.
Developing Hearts of Service and Gratitude
With compassion and the heart of Christ, students will serve those around them throughout their lives. (Matthew 20:26-28).
As Christ’s new generation of disciples, students will engage their world to fulfill the Great Commission. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19)
I really like Todd Agnew's voice and his music. This CD continues in Todd's tradition of lyrics that are deep, human, and raw. He always does a great job of getting to the heart of the matter of how we treat others and are we living as authentic Christians. Yet he does it in a non-condemning way. He admits that he is in the same boat as the rest of us -- even those of us who do wear shoes.
I am no music critic but, while this CD has a wide variety of music styles, it seems to be a bit more "ballad-y" than his previous CDs. I wonder a bit just how many of the songs will get play on Christian stations. I hope they all do because there is power in them but, still, I wonder.
Check it out.
Awhile back, I posted about the odd tree in front of our house that ended up looking like the tree from Dr. Seuss's book, "Go Dog, Go!" after I was done trimming it. Well, here it is. Let's all go to a big dog party! Do you like my hat?
We turn on the TV or YouTube or any celebrity's MySpace and we can see the faces. Dark skin. Bright eyes and teeth. Skin and bones.
We learn of their plight. Hunger. Poverty. Starvation. AIDS. Malaria. Cancer. Tuberculosis.
And that is all we see.
We may give. We may try to help. But still, these are the only things we see.
Why, as we look at these far away people, can we not see the statesman who brings peace? Why can we not see the person who will cure cancer or AIDS or any of a host of diseases? Why can we not see the next Billy Graham? Why can we not see God's love and goodness?
All we see is pain ... and we turn that into the idea of wanting to give of ourselves. But we only give little bits and then we rush back to our American homes, feeling prideful that we gave enough perhaps (or maybe not) to tide them over a bit longer.
We pride ourselves on showing God's love. But, all the time, God's love, His goodness, His blessings ... they are all staring us in the face and we do not see them ... choosing instead to return to our American homes, thinking we gave just enough to tide them over.
And we just don't see.
Hidden addiction. Hidden grief.
Hidden hate. Hidden loves.
Hidden fear. Hidden sin.
Lord, we all have something to hide.
Why did you make us this way?
Why couldn't we have stayed perfect?
Why are we left to hide all the crap of our lives?
We want to face our sin.
We want to face our pain.
We want to face the things that don't want to leave.
But those things stay here.
They lurk around the corner.
Just trying to make us go berserk.
Lord, we all have something to hide.
Why did you make us this way?
Why couldn't we have stayed perfect?
Why are we left to hide all the crap of our lives?
Could it be because you love us?
What a confused state that seems to be.
You love us but you leave us to choose.
Will we keep hiding our stuff or will we give it to you?
But even given to you, our stuff is still there.
It grabs us in times of weakness.
It lures us in times of angst.
But you call us to you ... you ask us to bare it all.
And you will take it.
I wonder, though ...
If I keep hiding ... if I keep stuffing it all deep down inside ...
Where will that leave me?
I know you'll love me just the same
But will you accept me when I am still hiding my crap?
I know the answer ... you know the answer
I seek to quit hiding all this stuff
And instead to drop it all and fall into your love for me.
But it can be so hard ...
Lord, we all have something to hide.
Why did you make us this way?
Why couldn't we have stayed perfect?
Why are we left to hide all the crap of our lives?
Now I suspect that folks in Gays have "heard it all" over the years which really isn't right or fair on so many levels.
So, I want you to all give Gays' residents their dues ... all 259 of them ... and visit their Wikipedia page here ... and learn about their two-story outhouse. If I am ever using a two story outhouse, I am heading for the upper floor by the way.
Let's look at verses 1 - 6 from The Message ...
My dear friends, don't believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.
Here's how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God. This is the spirit of antichrist that you heard was coming. Well, here it is, sooner than we thought!
My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world. These people belong to the Christ-denying world. They talk the world's language and the world eats it up. But we come from God and belong to God. Anyone who knows God understands us and listens. The person who has nothing to do with God will, of course, not listen to us. This is another test for telling the Spirit of Truth from the spirit of deception.
This can sound almost a bit elitest, can't it? Sort of like "Well, you have to be in our club to understand this stuff and, if you're not in the club, well, I'm really sorry..."
And some churches and Christians have tried to make it that way. But I am quite certain that is not the way that John intended it. He intended for Christians to live in the world ... not of it. As culturally-relevant salt in our world, we will be a part of this world but yet be apart from it, calling attention to our saviour's love, grace, and compassion.
Have a blessed day. Shine on!
All of the kids in the room were sitting at a low table for their snack. We gave them each a handful of crackers on a napkin. The children all began politely eating their snacks.
Except for one little boy. He picked up each individual bear cracker, bit the head off of it, and lined them up in a row on the table in front of him.
You can guess who that kid was.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
“to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Joshua 22:5
Love – Joshua uttered those famous words, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It’s a powerful and noble declaration. What it means, however, is not always so obvious. To know how Joshua intended to serve God, we must take a look at Joshua’s theology, and there is no better place to do that than right here. If you want to be one of those who can stand with Joshua and declare your service to God, you will first have to know what Joshua means by the verbs that precede serving.
Love the Lord your God. The Hebrew is ahav. One of three Hebrew words for love, this verb is carefully distinguished from the other two (something we do not see in English). Ahav expresses a passionate desire to be fully united with another in every aspect of living, both inwardly and outwardly. Consequently, it has both emotional and behavioral results. In fact, it is so unique that the translators of the Old Testament into Greek could not find a parallel Greek verb in either eros or phileo. They chose agape in order to capture the full meaning of ahav. What this means is that ahav demands the full use of all of our energy and faculties. It is a verb that is only found in relationship, whether between two people or in community. Its direction is always toward another, expressed in real actions, not merely feelings. It is determined benevolence on behalf of another person.
When Joshua exhorts his listeners to love the Lord, he is not encouraging private, inward sentiment. He knows that ahav means action – toward God and toward God’s people. It is impossible to love God and mistreat His community. To withhold from another follower any action or affection that would be appropriate for service and worship of God is to deny your love of Him. The second great commandment cannot be divorced from the first, even, as Jesus made abundantly clear, when you are faced with an enemy. Jesus did not invent that requirement (compare Proverbs 25:21). He merely drew our attention to the proper venue of ahav. We can go so far as to say “love and action are two sides of the same coin” (Wallis).
Now what does this mean for you and me? It means that we must stop claiming that we love God if we are not exhibiting acts of grace, compassion, benevolence, forgiveness and restitution. We must re-examine our lives for those seeds of hypocrisy; the tiny discrepancies between our behavior and our proclamations. We must be able to straightforwardly answer the question, “Do I treat him as God would treat him?”
Make your list. There will be names on it that require a new way. Apply ahav. God will smile even if no one else notices a thing.
I had a friend show it to me this week and then also just saw it on Terry Storch's blog.
It really looks fascinating. Very similar tools to Outlook or Lotus Notes ... plus you get 3 gig of space ... all for free. Any organization or business could run this way and eliminate licensing fees for other products plus reduce their server and storage needs.
And, you "invite" people into your community, giving them access to your Calendar for example. So, I could have my work calendar and all of my co-workers would have access to it but I could also give access to Lisa, Evan, friends, customers, etc.
I remember years ago hearing a prediction that someday all of our computing power would be off-site. It seemed like a ridiculous thought then. But, today, it seems very logical, practical, and economical.
I have always been blessed to have pretty thick skin I guess. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I can be really worn out that my skins starts to thin out a bit but, generally, I just don't get offended by things other people may say to me.
I am not sure what it is that makes me that way ... and I hope that this doesn't sound braggadocio because it most certainly is not intended that way ... but there is something incredibly freeing and empowering in not really being bothered by what others may say to me.
I do worry a lot about what others think of me but the things they may say to me ... even things that may seem very personal and directed at me ... they just sort of roll off my back.
So, everyone ... no need to apologize or worry you might have offended me ... chances are I never gave it a second thought!
What is more American than Dum Dum Pops? Made not too far away in Bryan, Ohio by the Spangler Candy Company, these small but sweet treats are indeed a part of Americana.
I thought of Dum Dums this morning when I passed a tanker truck that was covered in all sorts of Dum Dum graphics. I suspect the truck was full of sugary syrupy goodness.
Unfortunately, Dum Dums are a bit on the small side. One of our local restaurants has them out as a treat for the kids who go there. I usually sneak one, too, though.
When I was growing up, doctors' offices used to give away Dum Dums. Somewhere along the line, though, they must have figured out that perhaps that was sending the wrong message to kids. Go figure.
I wonder where that tanker truck was headed this morning, full of liquid Americana.
Actuially, it may have been headed as far away as Mexico where a lot of the Dum Dum manufacturing occurs.
"...for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." Genesis 22: 12
Know – God provides us with a very practical definition of what it means to fear Him. That definition is found in the story of Isaac’s sacrifice. What we learn about proper reverence and attitude before God is so important that we must reflect on it for at least a decade or two. This verse brings it all into focus, and in the clarity it provides, we confront several life-altering implications.
First, we have to ask, “Didn’t God already know that Abraham was His faithful servant?” Why does the verse say that now God knows?
To answer this question, we must deeply consider the meaning of the fear of God. Wolff comments that the fear of God is “obedience which does not hold back even what is most precious, when God demands it, and commits to God even that future which he himself has promised.” Did you get that? It is not merely releasing what we hold most dear. It is releasing what is most dear even if doing so will apparently alter our future forever. In other words, to fear God is to commit to Him whatever He asks in sacred trust that His purposes are served no matter what the future may portend. It is to ruthlessly trust that God’s promise is as solid as rock no matter how shaky the ground is under my feet.
Do you think this is easy? I beg to differ. Are you ready to commit your emotional stability, your hopes and dreams, your sense of well-being to the altar only on the basis that God asks? Are you ready to let go of all those plans, all that emotional investment in whom you are and whom you want to be, confident that God will make of it what He wishes? Are you able to sacrifice that one special relationship here on earth, the one that keeps you sane, that brings you joy and desire and love, the one you are fully invested in? Do you really believe that God can take care of your future? Or are you afraid that you will finally be like Job, rewarded with a new family but visiting the graves of lost children?
The Hebrew verb yada (to know) covers a very wide range of meanings. What it points to in this verse is the startling implication that the fear of God brings a true intimacy found only in a relationship of utter devotion. In other words, Abraham has been faithful as a matter of principle. He is obedient as one would be obedient to a king or commander. He follows orders. But this is not what God really wants. God wants intimate devotion and devotion is manifested in ways that are strikingly different than compliance (just ask your spouse). Christianity is ultimately not a religion of principle. When relationship is reduced to rules, love is converted to legalism. What God wants, what God must know, is this: “Are you devoted to Me?” God does not want you to play by the rules. He wants you to love Him.
Is your faith based on principle, or is it an expression of intimate devotion? How do you know?
There is an interesting point in this article about whether antidepressants are actually being prescribed to treat unhappiness rather than clinical depression. Certainly the advertisements for some of these pills make me think I could be a lot happieer if I took them.
Of course, this all brings to question ... will the increased use of antidepressants decrease the need for blood pressure medications?
Is some of this, though, an indiciation that Americans are always searching for something? Have we hit 2007 and realized that free love of the 60s and 70s, materialism of the 80s, and consumerism of the 90s have not brought us happiness so now we will just medicate ourselves?
(Note to anyone out there -- I am a firm believer in antidepressants for clinical depression; this article raises some questions though. Are that many more of us truly depressed these days? Is the availability of good medications just increasing their use for the right purpose? I don't know.)
My personalDNA Report
Who is Tom Ruprecht? Remember a few days ago when I wrote a post that was having a little fun with the Letterman show writer who recently wrote a book poking some fun at George Bush? Well, lo and behold, today all of a sudden I had several hits on my blog from CBS Studios in New York City. Apparently they are on to me. The gig's up, bugsy.
I really never wanted to offend Tom, and I hope that I didn't. I figure that a guy who spends his life dishing it out should be able to take a little, too. But, just in case, I put that post back in "draft" form for the time being.
Tom, if you read this, maybe I helped you sell a book or two. You never know. And, when you have lunch with Dave, tell him my running joke whenever I am away from the office is that I have been called to be a fill-in host on his show so that he can take a well-deserved vacation.
And, um, let me know if you're okay with my putting that post back up again.
And I will send you a canned ham if you can explain to me why all those people in the Wendy's commercial are kicking trees.
(Yes, I am 43 years old and things involving toilets still make me chuckle.)
I met a man walking, on a long dusty road;
he seemed to be burdened, with life's heavy load.
His hair was kind of shaggy, he'd been sleeping in his clothes;
his shoes were old and weathered, not pretty, heaven knows.
I said, "hello Sir, how do you do";
he looked at me and said, "how'd do".
I said, "Where are you going, on this hot sunny day";
he said, "I'm looking for heaven, and leave here I pray".
I said, "Come on now, don't be a fool";
he said, "This world is just too cruel".
I said, "Please explain your reasons to die;
before you leave this world and say good-by".
Then he said, "I'll tell you and maybe you'll see;
but promise me that you won't judge me".
Promise me that you won't condemn;
cause you just don't know, the condition I'm in.
You won't know me, or understand my blues;
until you have walked awhile in my shoes.
Until you have read every line in my face;
until you have stood awhile in my place.
You won't know me, until you have carried my load;
and struggled along this old dusty road.
Until you have felt, my pain and rejection;
and felt my sorrow, and felt my affliction.
He said, "I was born into dire poverty;
as rough a life, as ever can be".
My dad ran away, and my mother was cruel;
and everyone else, called me the fool.
I wandered the streets, when I was only nine;
getting into trouble and wasting my time.
I've been in many jails, throughout the years;
had a lot of heartache, shed a lot of tears.
I've felt cold eyes, staring at me;
by upper class people, and high society.
I've met people who won't, give me the time of day;
who went into a big fine church, and kneeled down to pray.
I've been cheated out of money, by everyone I've known;
I've been hated and despised, down to the bone.
I've felt hatred as cold, as an ice house floor;
from total strangers, that never met me before.
My whole life has been, filled with pain;
sometimes I wonder, if I'm insane.
But if I am, out of my mind;
why am I hated, most of the time.
Don't people have compassion on the mentally ill;
or be concerned, as to how do they feel.
Don't misunderstand me, I've done wrong too;
I'm not perfect, but neither are you.
People have tricked me, and slandered my name;
and talked behind my back, then smiled just the same.
I'm weary and tired, of life's heavy load;
not too many more days, will I walk this old road.
By my outward appearance, I know I'm not much;
But how can you judge me, by clothes and the such?
If anyone loved me, or cared at all;
they'd give me some help, this burden to haul.
Only God Loves me, this I believe;
from this whole world, nothing I receive.
If I were rich, and had plenty of money;
everyone would adore me, and call me honey.
But I am quite poor, from my presence they flee;
I've heard their cruel whispers, and slanders of me.
He now had stopped speaking, and he looked at my face;
I saw a tear on his cheek, leaving it's trace.
I was speechless and astounded, I spoke not a word;
he slowly turned, and walked down that old road.
I stood there just thinking, of the man I had met;
and suddenly I loved him, my eyes were then wet.
Another human being, I'll never judge nor condemn;
cause he may have walked, where I've never been.
How can I judge or condemn any man?;
until in his shoes, I walk and I stand.
It turns out that Tom is an Emmy-nominated writer for Letterman. His specialty is making fun of politicians. His book, of course, is all about making fun of Dubya. Tom explained that normally an "oral history" would involve interviews with others but he had no desire to go out and actually talk to people because he is no good at talking to people. (Agreed.) So, he made the whole thing up.
Interesting concept ... making fun of others by inventing falsehoods and exaggerations about them.
This is something I have written about before and it's one of my pet peeves -- people who make themselves feel better about themselves by making fun of and tearing down others. This is what I call "Ego" -- when you get your own feeling of self worth not by looking at yourself in relation to who our Creator made you to be but instead from putting yourself above others by trying to weaken them.
There's something very wrong in that. Tom may want to invest in some therapy.
Of course, Tom's the one with the Emmy nominations and a new book that will probably sell like gangbusters.
And here I am making fun of him.
Is the doctor in today?
Speaking of nightmares, did you see the Nathan's Hotdog eating contest? 66 hotdogs in 15 minutes. I admire that man.
But the best part of the day was the evening -- spending some time outside with Lisa and Evan, watching the myriad of fireworks that get shot off around the perimeter of Grand Lake each holiday and having our own little sparklers and pop-its. It was a simple time but also a very special and memorable time. Sort of helped me to remember the freedom that Independence Day is really about.
Any ideas or suggestions or examples of companies that have done this well?
(This whole clothing issue of mine is coupled with a lot of sentimentality as well unfortunately. Being a fairly "visual" person (memories are triggered by what I see), I tend to attach a lot of sentimentality and memories with clothing ... whether it be my old clothes or the clothing of loved ones. I have hung onto a number of old clothing items just because of the memories they evoke. And, of course, it is hard for me to ever get rid of anything Evan wore when he was younger!)
I guess that this difficulty with giving up old things shows a resistance to change. Funny how I think of myself as being pretty progressive and forward-thinking yet, when it gets down to brass tacks, I obviously have issues with change.
I just don't give up on things easily though ... could be clothing, processes, habits, even people ... I don't like to give up on anything. Except cars ... I would have a new car every moth if I could. (Okay, ignore the fact that my last two cars actually have been the same make and model.)
But yesterday as I did something I haven't done in awhile, I had a realization. I did some painting. Not as in oil paints and watercolors creating great masterpieces type of painting but as in run-of-the-mill outdoor painting of some trim around the house. I have always enjoyed painting. I just don't do it very much anymore.
As I painted though, I saw the fresh color change and liven the wood. New life was suddenly breathed into something so weather-beaten and worn that it previously looked like it was destined to become fodder for a campfire. The end result looks very good even I do say so myself. And now I am seeing all sorts of things I want to paint ... old things that can be changed or replaced for the better.
Giving up of the old, I am learning, is sometimes imperative for a better future. Sometimes the old may not even be that old ... it may just be a mistake I have made or a habit I have picked that needs to be quickly abandoned ... for that desired future.
Oh, I will always cling to certain things I am sure ... and that is not always bad. Not everything old is bad ... but hopefully a new perspective will bring about a willingness to cast aside the "old" and change when change is good.
Please say a prayer for John and his family. Pray for healing, comfort, and freedom from pain ... but, most of all, pray that, in the midst of difficult times, my friend and her family will see God showing up in huge and unimaginable ways.
It will be interesting the next few years as Evan makes that change from a "non-stop play machine" that relates to other kids pretty much purely on a "surface" level because they play well together to a young person who is developing close emotional relationships with his friends. Guys are a little slower at this than girls often but, as a parent, it will be neat to see.
I just pray that, with God's help, we can always lead Evan to, and encourage him to have, friends who will have a positive influence on him in these early formative years. There will be plenty of time for "reaching the world" later on ... I just want him to have a good foundation before that time.
I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. - Philippians 4:13
What does it mean for workplace believers to live for a cause greater than themselves in our day and time? Jeremiah Lanphier was a businessman in New York City who asked God to do this in his life in 1857.
In a small, darkened room, in the back of one of New York City's lesser churches, a man prayed alone. His request of God was simple, but earth-shattering: "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" [John Woodbridge, ed., More Than Conquerors (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1992), 337]
He was a man approaching midlife without a wife or family, but he had financial means. He made a decision to reject the "success syndrome" that drove the city's businessmen and bankers. God used this businessman to turn New York City's commercial empire on its head. He began a businessmen's prayer meeting on September 23, 1857. The meetings began slowly, but within a few months 20 noonday meetings were convening daily throughout the city. The New York Tribune and the New York Herald issued articles of revival. It had become the city's biggest news. Now a full-fledged revival, it moved outside New York. By spring of 1858, 2,000 met daily in Chicago's Metropolitan Theatre, and in Philadelphia the meetings mushroomed into a four-month long tent meeting. Meetings were held in Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati, Chicago, New Orleans, and Mobile. Thousands met to pray because one man stepped out. Annus Mirabilis, the year of national revival, had begun.
This was an extraordinary move of God through one man. It was unique because the movement was lead by businessmen, a group long considered the least prone to any form of evangelical fervor, and it had started on Wall Street, the most unlikely of all places to begin.
Could God do something extraordinary through you? Take a step. Ask God to do mighty things through you.
Do you think that racism is improving some with each passing generation? (I believe it is, and I certainly hope so.)
Do you think that it is within man's realm of ability to completely forget racism and be permanently and entirely free of it? (Unfortunately, as long as we have egos, you will have folks basing their ego on something and, for some, that will always involve their race and ethnicity.)
One good point about Bear Creek Farms ... they have a singing cat there named Tom ... that was pretty neat. Ask my girlfriend about it sometime.
Then we drove through the countryside ... seeing some great Amish and Old Order Mennonite Farms as well as many couples and families apparently making their ways home from church in their horse-drawn buggies. I had several friends in college who were from the Berne area so it was a neat first-time trip for me.
The problem was that I had read about this giant clock tower in Berne ... I really wanted a picture of us standing next to it ... but we drove around (and Berne is not exactly a metropolis) and, despite some man yelling and shaking his fist at me for some unknown driving error, I could not find the clock tower. Never did see it. Perhaps next time ... in another 43 years.
This year, she gave me an idea. She said she'd like a digital camera ... something small and easy to use.
Now, you have to understand, I have a passion for cameras. Have had a few good ones over the years but more than anything, I like the idea of cameras ... looking for them ... studying up on them ... I never use them much though.
So, I visited www.cnet.com to check out reviews. I was looking for an ultracompact digital camera. I looked at many options but, when I would read the reviews, I would find that they all had drawbacks. Except for one ... the Olympus Stylus 780. It actually hasn't been available long enough to get a bad review I don't think. But what I could find about it was very promising. It was small, weatherproof, and had a quality lens. So, that became the bulk of Lisa's birthday gift this year.
Never mind the fact that the only Olympus I have ever owned, despite the cool name, was the one camera I have owned and didn't like -- fact is, I have fallen in love with this camera ... I want one for myself. It is very intuitive to use, very small and lightweight, and it seems to take great pictures. It goes completely against my previous theory in cameras which was that they had to be big to be any good.
It has been a tradition for Lisa and Evan to have Evan sit in one of these chairs, and Lisa would pull it way back on its rockers, making clicking sounds like a roller coaster going up that first big hill. Anticipation would mount, giggling would ensue, and then the hill would crest and Evan would be sent flying forward. Great fun ... when he was 40 pounds ... or 60 ... or even 80 ...
But, a couple of weeks ago, on the ratchety uphill climb, one of the rockers snapped. It couldn't handle the weight of this now almost-nine-year-old.
So, it was time for Dad -- aka "Mr. Fix-It" -- to spring into action. With lightning cat-like reflexes, I was up to the challenge of gluing the broken rocker back together.
Today (a couple of weeks after the incident) was my big day ... a trip to WalMart included looking for an appropriate glue. Gorilla Glue caught my eye. I had heard of it but never used it. I discovered that they also had Rhino Glue and Bull Glue. Gorilla Glue was the market leader in my mind so a small bottle of Gorilla Glue got carried to the check-out stand.
After we got home, I read the instructions (as I always do), moistened one of the broken pieces, applied Gorilla Glue, fit the two pieces together, and used a high-tech clamping device to hold it in place while the glue cured.
As I read the instructions, I saw something about the glue expanding in size as it cures. That was odd but I figured that somehow it didn't apply to what I was doing. 45 minutes later, I looked down at the repaired rocker. My high-tech clamping device (okay, it was duct tape) was covered with expanded white foam.
Turns out Gorilla Glue somehow acts like two-part polyurethane foam. Sticks like crazy but it expands ... and makes a mess ... especially on carpet.
So, nine-year-old boys get too big for pretend roller coasters, dads sometimes don't know what they're doing, carpeting can be made to look better with a bit of shearing, and gorillas create a tight repair.
I know -- I am bad about typos. I wish Blogger had spellcheck. I could just type posts in Word and then bring them over but that seems redundant.
I am a two or three-fingered typist, as I have written before. I usually use my middle fingers which makes sense to me because they are my longest fingers and therefore closest to the keyboard.
I have a few typos that happen all the time, many of which spellcheck cannot catch. Can anyone relate to these?
Does anyone else often type the words "does not" and have them come out as "doe snot"? Or "comes in" ends up as "come sin"? Or "hello" just gets shortened to "hell"? And, of course, "want" becomes "wnat" and "from" becomes "form". And my other big one is that "great" becomes "greta".
Can anyone relaet? (I did that on porpoise.)
McNeal puts forth questions which I think hang around in the dark corners of many Christian minds, particularly those minds that may have a bit of a post-modern bent to them. He brings these questions out of the cobwebs and forces them where they really need to be -- in our hearts and, hopefully, in our actions.
Though I am not yet finished with the book, the emphasis is on how do churches avoid a "Field of Dreams" (if we build it, they will come) sort of mentality? While recent years have seen the growth of mega-churches, McNeal asserts that in many cases these churches just stole members from other smaller churches. They did not go out and reach pre-Christians.
Don't get me wrong ... there are mega-churches out there taking it to the streets in powerful ways today but, in the 80s and 90s, I think McNeal is right in that many mega-churches got their members from other churches. Great mega-churches I am watching today for their ability to reach out include Ridge Stone Church, NewSpring Church, Granger Community Church, Mars Hill, and The Rock Church ... there are many others I am sure.
This book is raising the question and giving some creative examples of how today's progressive churches are reaching people where they are at, not only spiritually but physically. How do we truly live out Jesus' example by showing God's love to others? How do we live out the fact that we are here to serve, not to ask folks to dress up and come to our churches to sing songs and give money? The realization that disciples of Jesus are here to serve really throws pre-Christians off -- it may take awhile but it eventually gets their attention (just read "Same Kind Of Different As Me" for proof of this) ... God works through that ... whether it is at Wal Mart, Starbucks, a foreign country, or that biggest mission field -- your workplace.
What is your church doing -- today -- to reach pre-Christians where they're at and not just force them inside your walls? Any ideas to share? If you are a pre-Christian, what are the spiritual questions you struggle with? What are the areas of your life where you struggle most?
Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4
"Makes Himself" – The Greek word used here is kathistatai. It means “to set in place, to constitute, to cause to become” (literally “to put down”). That’s interesting. When we passively accept the propensity to think fondly of the world’s offerings, we put ourselves down in the place of God’s enemies. We occupy enemy territory. We enlist in the devil’s army.
Passive Christianity is nothing more than active disobedience. Passive Christianity is exactly the same as stepping over to the enemy’s camp. No wonder Jesus will not tolerate fence-sitters. Get hot. Get cold. Or get out.
James is quite practical about his practice of obedience to Jesus. You either actively engage in the battle, exercising your orders on behalf of the King, or you belong to the enemy. There is absolutely no room for indecision or apathy. If you share in a propensity to desire what the world has to offer (even if you don’t have it), then you are on the wrong side.
Somewhere along the way, most of us began to believe that we could be Christians without being radical. We thought Christianity was just a higher form of morality. We thought that the book of Deuteronomy was really written by Emily Post. Christian training became a course in proper manners. We ignored the radical Jesus. He was too uncompromising. He might offend someone in our social circles (and, after all, those circles are very important if you want to get ahead). We became tolerant (what a wonderful propaganda word). But James will not let us slip away so easily. If you aren’t actively applying the character, attitude and actions of Jesus, you are the enemy! Believe me, there are a lot of soldiers in the enemy’s army attending church on Sunday. They think that Jesus has nothing to say about their hiring policies (we must show diversity), about their pricing practices (if we don’t take advantage of this, someone else will), their payment programs (what does mercy have to do with foreclosures) or their obligation to community (charity begins at home). These people are not your brothers and sisters. They are the enemy. Their allegiance belongs to the desire to be successful and recognized in this world.
Of course, because they are the enemy, you get to bless them, pray for them, love them, care for them and, most of all, suffer for them. But you knew that. Jesus is quite radical about enemies too.
Where have you put down your name, your effort and your reputation? No one will do it for you. You get to decide whose friend you will be.