Changing Places

September 28, 2009 at 9:57 pm (Uncategorized)

I took a writing retreat day today.  When I hit brick walls and need a time of refreshing and refocusing, I have found I need to change my locale.  I know that if I went into my office this morning, I would have run into brick wall after brick wall.  As Mark Batterson is fond of saying, “change of place + change of pace=change of perspective”.  It is so true for me, and proved true today. As I left at 5:30 this morning, I had some scrambled ideas and random scriptures running through my brain.  As of now, I have 4 sermons almost completely done.

So where did I go?  That’s my secret. Ha.  But, just to make my Midwest friends jealous, I could hear the ocean’s constant roar, and smell salt in the air.

So, what do you do when you hit a brick wall?  What change/method do you use to help you get ‘er done?

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A Confessional Life

September 23, 2009 at 6:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Thought it was time for a Bible study blog post:

So, in prep for an upcoming sermon, I have been studying Jesus’ commissions to His disciples in Matthew.  And a realization startled me!  Let me warm you up a little, first.

Matthew 9 ends with Jesus telling His disciples to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers into His harvest field. (ie., that He would send people to be grace-giving, truth-telling missionaries to the world around them.)  Now, this is a dangerous prayer to pray!  Because when you pray this prayer, He might send YOU!

In fact, Matthew 10 starts with Jesus sending out His disciples out on one of the very first short-term mission trips. They kicked some demonic butt and healed various diseases.  Matthew 10 records the instructions He gave them.  In the middle of these instructions you find a pair of verses that my Christian Church/Church of Christ homies (myself included) love to quote out of context! Check out verses 32-33:

Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Now, if you have been to one our churches, you will probably have heard this in the “what you must do to be saved” section of the service.  The preacher will quote it and then tell you that part of becoming a Christian is standing before a group of Christians and telling them you believe Jesus is Lord.

BUT, if you really grasp the context, this is about living a confessional life of acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus in the midst of the people He sends you to.  In other words, it has more to do with confessing and acknowledging Him in the midst of people don’t confess and acknowledge Him! Not in the presence of the AMENer’s who already know it.

I think this point back to a common and dangerous theme I see in the theology of many churches:  We have shifted everything to an inward focus.  We treat the love commands like they apply only to Christians or MAYBE those we think might have a shot at becoming one.  We see the serve passages as if they were talking only about helping in nursery, and not about helping the 5,000 people who lost everything they own in Atlanta.  Well, enough of my rant for the day.

Reactions, both positive and negative, are welcome!

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Scattered With Joy

September 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm (Uncategorized)

Had three book blog posts in  a row, so thought I would throw a little family post in here.

Normal breakfast in the Johnson house = cereal.  No problem.  Love it.  Seriously.  But sometimes, Roseann gets up and makes muffins.  The kids love muffin days.

Last week we had a muffin morning.  Will was the only kid awake and was dancing around the 2nd (of 3) floor singing about muffins. (I told you they LOVE muffins.) This racket woke Victoria up and as she came down the stairs she said, “I heard the new about the muffins and was scattered with joy and woke up.”

What is scattering you with joy these days?

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Flickering Pixels Review

September 23, 2009 at 2:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Flickering Pixels

by Shane Hipps

©2009 Zondervan

Back Cover Description:

Flickering pixels are the tiny dots of light that make up the screens of life—from TVs to cell phones. They are nearly invisible, but they change us. In this provocative book, author Shane Hipps takes readers beneath the surface of things to see how the technologies we use end up using us.

Not all is dire, however, as Hipps shows us that hidden things have far less power to shape us when they aren’t hidden anymore. We are only puppets of our technology if we remain asleep. Flickering Pixels will wake us up—and nothing will look the same again.


Reaction:

I was scared when I first began reading this because I assumed it would be another “Technology is the root of all evil! Run like the wind!” book. But I found it to be a very intelligent read with an expansive view and look at technology and not just present technology. It looked in depth at the effects of technology throughout the ages, including letters, writing, the printing press and telegraph. As I finished reading Flickering Pixels, I was not alarmed at the possible danger, but felt empowered to wield it usefully. Technology, though a powerful force to change who we are, is not so impacting when we are aware of its power. This was a brilliant read I would highly recommend to all.

Quotes:

  • We see certain elements of our culture, but we have great difficulty perceiving their real importance.” pg.17

  • Technology both gives and takes away, and each new medium introduced into our live must be evaluated.” pg 21

  • When we fail to perceive that the things we create are extensions of ourselves, the created things take on god-like characteristics and we become their servants.” pg 35

  • Our thinking patterns actually mirror the things we use to think with.” pg 43

  • Community in the print age has been understood primarily as a collection of discrete individuals working concurrently on their personal relationship with Jesus. The church has become a thousand points of light and lost sight of itself as the body of Christ– a living, breathing entity whose power is derived from the whole, not the sum of its parts.” pg 57

  • In the Internet age “there is no single editor who determines what stays and what goes, only the ‘wisdom’ and morality of the anonymous digital mob.” pg 69

  • A picture is actually worth a thousand feelings” pg 76

  • The mind was made to generate, create, and imagine…Image culture is eroding and undermining imaginative creativity.” pg 80

  • The printed word creates fissures in the mind. It makes us prefer distinctions between things. Printing breeds a strong preference for categories.” pg 88

  • Most of the time images direct us to the surface of things.” pg 99

  • Maybe God was onto something when He commanded His people not to make graven images.” BAM! Pg 100

  • Cell phones often put artificial barriers between us and our loved ones. They separate us.” pg 106

  • If oral culture is intensely connected or empathetic and print culture is distant or detached, then our electronic experience creates a kind of empathy at a distance…The human psyche isn’t designed to withstand the full gravity of human suffering.” pg 108-109

  • Electronic media can fragment us even as we pursue connection.” pg 124

  • This shift” [teens with a better technological grasp than parents] “marks the first time in the history of the world that parents have limited access to the world of teens and children.” pg 134

  • Our age has seen the disappearance of childhood.” pg 135

  • In a culture that worships youth, what incentive do our kids have to ever grow up?” pg 139

  • Our intellects are spread a mile wide and an inch deep…The internet makes a flat stone of the mind and skips it across the surface of the world’s information ocean.” pg 146

  • It’s not that we can’t know anything, just that we can’t know everything.” pg 160

  • In Jesus Christ, God’s medium and message are perfectly united…The medium is the message.” pg 166-7

  • The message of the gospel is conveyed by the medium of the church’s life in the world….We are the message.” pg168-9 (dang)

  • It turns out that the Bible was not written to individuals for their personal faith journeys. It was written to groups of people hoping to live as communities of faith.” pg 176

  • Paul assumes that our personal faith journey is bound up and rooted in a larger community of people who serve together, not individually, as God’s medium.” pg 177

  • The way we interact as communities of faith is the very thing that amplifies, inhibits, or obscures the gospel message itself.” pg 180

  • Instead of simply resisting or caving in to cultural forces, we are invited to study and understand them. Only then will we lean to use them rather than be used by them.” pg 182

So, have you read it?  Like it/hate it?  Reaction to any quotes?  Any other book recommends for me?

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God And Guiness

September 22, 2009 at 3:37 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t normally read biography-type books, but just found out my next free book coming for review is God and Guiness.  Looks good!  Here is the book summary from Thomas Nelson:

The history of Guinness, one of the world’s most famous brands, reveals the noble heights and crushing descents of a great family and an innovative business.

It began in Ireland in the late 1700’s. The water in Ireland, indeed throughout Europe, was famously undrinkable, and the gin and whiskey that took its place was devastating civil society. It was a disease ridden, starvation plagued, alcoholic age, and Christians like Arthur Guinness—as well as monks and even evangelical churches—brewed beer to offer a healthier alternative to the poisonous waters and liquors of the times. This is where the Guinness tale began. Now, 246 years and 150 countries later, Guinness is a global brand, one of the most consumed beverages in the world. The tale that unfolds during those two and a half centuries has power to thrill audiences today: the generational drama, business adventure, industrial and social reforms, deep-felt faith, and the beer itself.

Any books you have been reading lately that you would recommend?

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Review: Principle of the Path

September 21, 2009 at 8:32 pm (Uncategorized)

This post is a book review for “The Principle of the Path” by Andy Stanley.  (Disclaimer:  YES!  I got the book free by agreeing to do this for Thomas Nelson, Inc. But they said I could write whatever I want!)

“How did I get HERE?”  This is a question that I hear often. ‘How did I find myself in an affair?’ ‘How did I ruin my family’s finances?’ ‘When did my kids become so rebellious?’  I mean, how many of us WANT or INTEND to find ourselves as a single parent or 30k in debt?  Yeah, none.  But people end up there all the time, regardless of intention.  So, how do we get from where we are to where we want to be in life? By following the “Principle of the Path”.

Stanley writes, “Our direction, not our intention, determines our destination.”  The decisions we make today affect the destinations we reach tomorrow. Simple?  Yeah. Obvious?  Should be. Adhered to?  Not often enough.

In “The Principle of the Path” Stanley combines Biblical truth with practical application and his famed story-telling ability to teach us all a lesson we desperately need to follow.  His book is well-written, poignant, and entertaining.  What I love most about this book is its wide appeal.  This book will be helpful to everyone.  From the unemployed single mom, to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  Stanley’s clear and insanely applicable teaching will be appealing to people in all of life’s circumstances.

I would recommend this book to every friend I have.  It would be worth your time and energy to devour these 200 pages.  Here’s the link for Amazon.

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Leader or Manager?

September 19, 2009 at 12:28 pm (Uncategorized)

**Quote Day**

Saw this quote over at Biblical Preaching, and thought I would share it with you. It is by Howard Hendricks, professor from Dallas Theological Seminary:

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I don’t spend time every day with my feet propped up on the desk, dreaming about what Yale ought to be, you need to fire me because I am no longer the leader of Yale – I am simply a pathetic manager of the institution.

I personally have seen and BEEN a manager far too often without providing the vision and direction for the future.

So, what do you think?  Where have you seen this true?  Why?  How do we avoid?

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Tough Decisions

September 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm (Uncategorized)

It seems like I have had to make some tough decisions lately.  Well, in reality, it wasn’t tough to decide, just tough to execute.

Decisions about who I was gonna be in ministry.

Decisions about who we are going to be as a church.

Decisions that clearly send us one direction, and not another.

Ugh.  The burden of leadership is a burden of responsibility.  And I take responsibility by making decisions and owning them. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

So, what kind of decisions have you had to make lately? Was it tough?

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Pressing Delete

September 16, 2009 at 3:02 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I get lots of random messages on the church office’s answering machine.  In case you want me to DELETE your message, let me share with you three ways to get your message deleted before you finish! This is how the message started:

Good afternoon, Pastor!

Number 1: Use a generic name for me, that I don’t prefer.  This will tell me that you don’t know me, and don’t know anything about me or the church I serve with.

I am calling on behalf of a magnificent southern gospel ministry…

The NUMBER 2 way to get me to press the delete button is to use a nice adjective to describe your southern gospel ministry.  If you were so magnificent, churches (not mine) would be CALLING to book you, not you calling and begging for bookings. (Besides, I am almost sure it is an intrinsic impossibility for southern gospel to be magnificent. Tolerable? Sometimes. AND YES, this is MY opinion, so don’t comment bomb me about this.)

…called (you may want to write this down)  ______….

NUMBER 3: Tell me the one word, common name of the group you are calling on behalf of, and tell me that I will forget it if I don’t write it down.  Now, I may not be a rocket scientist, but I am not an idiot.  I can remember the name.  Save the “write it down” comments for the phone number or dates that you probably picked out for me, or the price (which I guess is free, just a “love offering”) or something more complex.

I am sure the message had more fodder for my blog-cannon, but I had wasted 10 seconds already. DELETE.  Gone forever.  Bye Bye.

(This blog post was written in fun.  It is true, but thought it would be fun to write it.)

(Disclaimer: I do not actually hate all Southern Gospel. Just all of it I have ever listened to.)

Wow.  Start the comment wars below.

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impossible

September 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm (Uncategorized)

impossibleI love C.S. Lewis.  Seriously.  I have a man-crush on this dead author.  Anyway, I was recently reading (NO! not the Narnia books) his book called the Problem of Pain. (Wow.  That dude is so insanely smart it makes my brain want to explode.) In it, Lewis was writing about how we use the word impossible.  This has prompted some awesome thoughts, and some great content I have shared in a few sermons at DCC and Encounter.  Anyway, I thought my blog-readers might want the scoop:

Most of the time when we use the word impossible we really mean that it is not possible within our current set of circumstances or options.  In other words, there is often an unspoken ‘unless‘. “It is impossible for me pay off this debt this year UNLESS I win the lottery.”  etc, etc.  So when the Bible talks about how “nothing is impossible with God” we are simply saying that God is the unless.  Whatever “impossibility” you are facing, God is the unless.

But here is the deal: God can’t do what is intrinsically impossible. In other words, He can’t do something self-contradictory. Like the nonsense statement that you’ve probably heard: “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” That is just weird. He can’t make a square circle, either.  Because a circle can’t be square, and a square can’t be circle.  It is self-contradictory, intrinsically impossible.

So check this out. There is at least one thing impossible for God.  And it is a game-changer! It is impossible for God to not love you. Impossible.  There is nothing that you can do that will ever change His love for you. Nothing. His love for you is as much now as it has been for all eternity.  If you think I am crazy, it’s because this is a crazy, messy, dangerous love. But it’s true, no matter how crazy. See here.

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Whoa! how He loves us,
Oh how He loves.

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