Archive for June, 2010

June 28, 2010

If I Had Written It…

You ever wonder about what you would change in your favorite books? I do all the time. I thought I might share a few:

  1. Curious George Goes to the Hospital: Everyone knows animals go to veterinarian hospitals, not people hospitals!
  2. Snow White: The seven dwarfs adopt Snow White resulting in Prince Charming having to ask all seven for permission to take Snow White’s hand in marriage. He never gets passed Dopey, who can’t seem to grasp Prince Charming’s request. After seven days of futile pleading Prince Charming stumbles away disheartened. Snow White doesn’t leave her room for a month, after which she dies an old spinster patching mining clothes till the end of her days.
  3. Da Vinci Code: All historical dates and references would be accurate.
  4. White Fang: White Fang loses his fight with the pit-bull.
  5. Alice in Wonderland: The rabbit never could find the hole.
  6. Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Goldilocks isn’t picky. She eats everything and sleeps everywhere. The Bears, it turns out are very picky, and whimper in a corner until she leaves.
  7. The Hound of the Baskervilles: Really is a hound from Hell. Now that is scary!
  8. The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan , Athos, Aramis, and Porthos realize that “All for one and one for all” should translate into “run for the hills and lets hide together.”
  9. Slaughterhouse Five: The Tralfamadorians don’t push the button and so it goes.
  10. The Gospel of Jesus Christ: I can do enough good on my own so that God saves me by acknowledging that my ledger is more positive than negative.

Wow! I guess these books really are better without my help.

June 23, 2010

Free!!

I know I skipped last month – unintentionally – so here is this month’s free links worth checking out.

Free IT Help Desk for small churches with 200 hundred members or less. Check it out.

Christian Audio’s free book this month is Francis Chan’s Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. The code to get it free is Jun2010. Gotta get it!

Scroll to the bottom of Reformed Presbyterian Seminary’s page and you have five books made available free online including one on Revelation and another on Justification.

Play a game and donate free rice to others.

June 18, 2010

Father’s Day for Dummies

Loooovvveee Father’s Day! Don’t you? Breakfast in bed. Cards from smiling ladies as we shuffle out to church. Come home to find a little lady bringing me my slippers. Watch something sporty – even if the only thing on is NASCAR. Fall asleep in my lazy boy recliner while someone tucks me in as another someone lifts my head and gently puts a pillow underneath. Wake up two hours later to discover four wrapped presents right there before my eyes. I tear up as I rip through the first one and discover a miter saw hidden below. I turn to the second one, which is a box of Romeo y Julieta Reserve Maduros. I flick a match and puff on its wonderful earthiness as billowing smoke envelopes everyone in the room. I shred the third one to discover a collection  of my most coveted books on my wish list. As I sigh in great pleasure a nice toasty cup of chicory coffee is placed in my hand (that’s the fourth present) as I begin to read. Not a peep I hear until “I love you” is gently whispered in my ear as the call to dinner. Beef tenderloin and cheesecake wrap up a delightful evening with the children tucking themselves into bed as they blow kisses to me from down the hall. Soooo relaxing.

Does this sound like your kind of Father’s Day? Well, then…WAKE UP! Men, here is your pep talk going into the weekend. This may come as a shocker to you but Father’s Day is not for you. Well, at least, it shouldn’t be for you. It is for your children. This Sunday is another chance for you to reevaluate the way you spend your time with your children. They need you. I’m not talking about “they need you at work bringing home money” or “they need to know you’re in the same building as them.” No, what I’m talking about is that they need to know that you care about them in a way they understand love and affection from their daddy as it is weaved into their identity. This means undistracted time doing things with them that they want to do.

Think about two possible scenarios:

Scenario #1: You have been selfish as a dad every Father’s Day as described in my opening paragraph. Twenty years from now you look back and will remember how many of them? How many gifts? How many dinners? My guess – none.

Scenario #2: You have spent real unadulterated quality time with your children. You look back in 20 years and you remember details of giggles, smiles, laughs, hugs and kisses that blur into a wholesome memory. Better yet, you realize that by changing your focus on Father’s Day you began a habit of working at communicating love to your children in a way they understood. Your relationship with them is decidedly better for it.

Now consider these two scenarios from another perspective:

Scenario #1: Your children look back after 20 years of Father’s Day with disdain. No fond memories. No real reason to celebrate having a daddy. A day when daddy took full advantage of what he did every day the rest of the year – tell them how unimportant they were by the way that he spent his free time. Specifically, they weren’t worth his time or energy. If he did spend time with them it was only doing things he wanted to do; never what they wanted to do.  They swear that when they have kids they will never make the same mistake.

Scenario #2: Your children look back with fond memories of detailed adventures and ice cream escipades where the world was conquered in a day by them and their daddy. They share stories of joy to the smallest details to their children on future Father’s Day as they relive in their own heart how their daddy loved them deeply. How thankful they are for those constant messages of affirmation.

How many children this weekend will be looking for their daddy’s love and he will be too self-absorbed to notice. Don’t be that guy.

So, come up with a plan. Figure out a way to spend the day with your children that communicates what a prize they are to you.  If you need an idea, here is what I do: I take each girl out separately during the day. They each get to pick something special that we do alone for at least an hour. This year one has asked to go to breakfast with me. We will be eating at IHOP before church. Another has requested that we go to Appleby’s for fries and ice cream – that sounds like a yummy snack. The third is still deliberating. My ladies know my stomach and heart are attached! But these things are just a medium. I have a plan on our outings. I have specific statements I’m going to make during our time together. I will tell them

  • “I love your personality” – and I will mention something about their personality I want to encourage.
  • “You are so beautiful” – and I will focus on their image.
  • “You bring joy to my life” – and I will tell them how.

and I have specific questions for them to:

  • “What makes you happy?”
  • “What do you like to think about?”
  • “What is your favorite thing about your sisters and mommy?”

and then I say to them:

  • “Don’t ever forget that daddy loves you. I’m not perfect. You know that. How many times have I said sorry to you? Too many times. But God is the perfect Daddy. I hope you take days like this and it helps you think about how God is.”

These questions are meant to take us into all sorts of interesting places. I never know where we are going to go with these questions and statements because I don’t know what they are thinking. That is why I ask and state the things I do – so I can hear how they process and where they are coming from. You are the only expert your children need when it comes to a daddy’s love. Just give it a shot.

June 17, 2010

Vuvuzelas: Love them or Hate them

Do you hate the vuvuzela? Not to worry Hitler is on your side.

Love the vuvuzela? These people do. Check out how serious they are about playing them at around 2:00 (and at 6:50 mark)  in the video.

Want to buy one?

June 16, 2010

A Commemorative Psalm

Last week as we celebrated our anniversary one of the things Rachelle and I discussed was which Bible verse had become our motto in our first nine years of marriage. We wondered what tomorrow will bring for our next chapter in life, which verses would we turn to for strength, comfort, guidance, wisdom, instruction, disciplining, rebuking, edification and the maturing process in general. It will be fun in ten years to turn again and consider the landscape. But for now I offer a psalm (which we did not discuss) that gives me great comfort as I consider the last mountain range of our life. I wonder why God doesn’t just call it “Israel & Rachelle’s biography.” Of course I know the answer. The answer is it is every Christian’s biography.

So with my precious lady primarily in mind I translated this psalm and edited it in a way that reflects the poetic nature of wisdom literature. Unfortunately, WordPress is not letting me insert all my formatting wants, but for what it is – Enjoy!

Psalm 31

1To the director, a melody of David.

2In You, O LORD, I seek refuge.
Never let me be ashamed;
in Your blameless ways deliver me.
3Turn Your ear toward me!
Quickly rescue me!
Be to me –
– a boulder of refuge
– a mountain fortress
to save me!
4For You are my rock
and my fortress so that for Your Name You lead me,
and  You  guide me.
5 You bring me out from the net they hid for me
for You are my refuge.
6Into your hand I entrust my spirit;
You ransomed me, O LORD God of truth.
7 I hate those who regard empty vanities,
But I trust in the LORD.

8I will shout
And rejoice in Your faithful love for You see my affliction
And You know the distress of my soul.
9 You have not delivered me to the hand of my enemy;
You set my feet in open spaces.
10Show me unearned favor, O LORD, for I am hard pressed;
I am weak from grief –
– my eye
– my spirit
– and my bosom.
11 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years in sighing,
my strength staggers because of my guilt,
and my bones waste away.

12Due to all my enemies I have become
a reproach even to my neighbor,
A great dread even to my friends,
Passersby on the street flee from me,
13 I am forgotten,
Like I am dead,
Out of thought,
I am a ruined vessel.
14For I hear the malicious whispers of many,
terror all around,
as they sit united against me.
as they purpose to take my life.

15But I, I trust in You, O LORD.
I say, “You are my God.”
16In Your hand are my times.
Snatch me from the hand of my enemies
and from my persecutors!
17 Cause Your face to shine upon your slave!
Deliver me by Your faithful love!
18O LORD, let me not be ashamed for I call upon You!
Let the wicked be ashamed!
Let them be struck silent in Sheol!
19 Let the lying lips be mute of those who speak arrogantly against the righteous in pride and contempt.
20How great is Your goodness which You stockpile for those who fear You.
And You work for the refugees who come to you,
which the children of man witness.
21 You hide them with the covering of your face from the plots of man.
You store them in shelter away from the strife of tongues.

22 Blessed be the LORD for He wondrously displays His faithful love to me while in a city under siege.
23I had said in my alarm “I am cut from Your presence.”
But you heard the sound of my supplication when I cried out to you.
24Love the LORD all you His saints!
For the LORD preserves the faithful ones
but he repays in abundance the one who acts in pride.
25 Be strong! Let your hearts be bold, all you who wait upon the LORD!

June 16, 2010

Two “F words”

This week has been great for some valuable blog posts. I shared Tim Challies’ article the other day, which I think may be his best article (period). Jonathan Acuff also has a great blog – the best for daily Christian living . His article today is one example of why that is true. Check it out here.

June 15, 2010

A Parody of Ourselves

Tim Challies wrote an article that all young Calvinists in America need to read. You can find it here.

June 14, 2010

NCAA Football Fiasco

The Big 12 Controversy has thrown me for a loop. I can’t seem to figure out up from down, north from south or  Nebraska from Ohio State lately. What really has me perplexed are two facts that have left me bewildered: Fact #1: The Big 12 is the only conference in the last decade that has legitimate claim to the best collegiate football conference outside of the SEC. Fact #2: Teams like Nebraska and Missouri have legitimate issues with the domineering bullying of Texas primarily. Fact #3 (who cares if I said there were two facts, its my blog): Who cares about Colorado? This tells you it is not about football, but markets.

Since the second strongest football conference is this vulnerable it made me think about other venues/businesses/organizations/leagues that are unknowingly over-exposed. Let’s take a look at some scary hypothetical scenarios…

  1. NASA announces it is no longer invested in space exploration. Gives me the shivers.
  2. Both Serena and Venus Williams outed early in a tennis tournament. Combine that with Federer not even making the semi-finals in the same tournament. That would totally be twilight zone.
  3. Mac comes out with an overpriced and useless piece of equipment that only die-hard mac-onites would buy (or maybe we should call it bie for buy + die; consider it cruel and unusual punishment). Lets call it the iPad.
  4. Oil company would rather see its value plummet then actually make legitimate effort to stop egregious oil leak. Oil company then comes up with brilliant idea to sell siphoned oil off for charity purposes.
  5. Within the same year – New Orleans Saints with the Superbowl, mid-major makes NCAA basketball national championship game with home court advantage, Lakers about to lose NBA Finals to a .500 team since December 2009, Chicago wins the Stanley Cup and Tiger Woods is a non factor in golf.
  6. All incumbents, regardless of party affiliation, are underdogs in their campaigns with a third party posing the possibility to have major impact on future elections.
  7. Southern Baptist Convention meets with expectations high to discuss the Great Commission.

Yup, those are all some crazy parallels just as unthinkable as the Big 12 Shuffle. Glad they are just hypothetical…

June 10, 2010

Penatrating the Lostness: Contemplating the Great Commission Resurgence

“I am a Southern Baptist who thinks the Southern Baptist Convention needs to change the way it approaches ministry” is like saying “Health Care in our country needs reform.” Everyone agrees in this respect; however, the issue of how we (Southern Baptists) are to seek change with the guidance our Lord Jesus the Savior of the world is where the real discussion begins. Enter the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.

For those who do not keep up with such things the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is going to be a hot topic at this year’s convention which meets next week in Sunny Orlando, FL. This seems appropriate with Tom Ascol’s early years’ guidance into have a study done on the topic. As some are projecting, this may be the most important convention in a decade if not longer. If you would like to listen to (a bit long) or read it you can find the report here. The best article I have read that is concerned with the GCR proposals is by Earnest J. Kelley. The one that epitomizes the sentiment best on why we need a resurgence is by David Platt.

So, what are we to make of this report? Are we going to, like Al Mohler asks, flinch? I think we already have, but before I get there let me confirm the commonalities among all SBCers.

  1. Everyone is committed to the Great Commission in the conversation. To be for or against this recommendation is not a denial of the Great Commission, but is a denial of the remedy recommended. Simple enough.
  2. Everyone wants to utilize the giving of Southern Baptists the wisest way – especially as it concerns itself with the Mission endeavors globally.
  3. The Cooperative Program is the single best thing that Southern Baptists historically have accomplished (my opinion, but I think we would find majority consensus for this).

However, we have come to this point because we have egregiously lost track of how to do 1-3 effectively. Hence the report comes in to help us reevaluate. And reevaluate it has. As Dr. Mohler asked before “will we flinch?” My answer: we already have.

I have a lot of affection and admiration for this endeavor. I really think we need to do some serious searching as a convention. In that sense I am overwhelmingly for this report. While I think this report has some minor concerns, there is one major gaffe. For me, it is the primary issue to be addressed in fixing our spending problems in relation to the advancement of the Gospel. Spending is clearly a major concern in the report.  The report doesn’t address the obsolete nature of state conventions and local associations. And while I’m not sure if the task force believed they didn’t have the right to comment on those two types of entities, if these two entities as money pits didn’t come on their radar screen or if they didn’t want to bite the hand of the sacred cow that feeds the national convention (so to speak), but for some reason it seems like no one is asking if we even need these organizational sloths.

In fact, I would dare guess (and it is a guess since I was not part of the process) that the whole reason cooperational relationships with the states and NAMB are under review is because of the perception that the Cooperative Program (CP) has become a behemoth that no longer runs efficiently. I would submit that we flinched and diagnosed the wrong symptom. Truth is I didn’t even think about it until I read the report. Why do we feel we need a convention per state or an association per county as is generally the situation?

But before we get to how state and local associations are a reflection of a bygone era, a word on why the perception that the missional spending behind the CP is untrustworthy in its current state may be a misconception. While a local church may be able to account for every cent it gives if directs its giving solely to its missionaries on the ground and its missionary endeavors abroad then my concern is that likely we will spend a lot of money on a lot of things that we don’t need to spend it on because we simply don’t know any better. We will then have a perception that comforts us because “we had to spend this money” to get into the country, etc, when in reality we have experts and conventional representative authorities on the ground who can navigate these financial pitfalls for us. Simply, we need to trust our grunts to do the ground pounding in the missional field, which also includes their own financial decision-making as an entity. In the long run, I really think by local churches trying to govern finances autonomously in international missionary endeavors we are going to lose more money. The missionaries will have less accountability with how they spend money and when we join them on missionary endeavors, if we have missionaries join us when we go, our spending will border on the foolish.  This is not to say that IMB and NAMB can’t do a better job of spending their money, just that it is not the unaccountable problem that seems to be target behind the mindset of some as they relate to this report.

However, there are two organizational entities that in large part are unaccountable in the report.  I am talking about the local Baptist Association and the State Baptist Convention. I think their days have come and gone. It is interesting to me that Ronnie Floyd in his discussion acknowledges that it would be nice if the State Conventions could get 50% of their funding to the SBC.  I think we can get over 75% to the SBC with a little retooling. Lets look at a couple of the problems and then what I think is a good solution.

State and local associations: The problems

  1. State and local associations do a poor job, if they accomplish their purpose at all if their purpose is one of aiding and equipping the local church in strengthening local ministry and equipping churches to have broader perspectives on ministry, discipleship, missions and evangelism. In sum, most state and local associations act like they exist for themselves. Much of their resources are invested in property and employees that are for the most part never seen by the local pastor nor does the local church experience any benefit from these organizations in any other manner other than being part of what generally has become a politico-religious group. Obsolete. Owning property so your local association can have softball tournaments is not a good expenditure of money, for example. My personal experience has been that DOMs attribute nothing to the local ministry. My suspicion is that this experience is normative.
  2. These entities were created when travel, technology and communication were all entirely different than they are now. Travel is now easier, technology makes communication more accessible.  We can operate with a different setup that is slimmer: less employees, less money invested in land and more money made available for missions.
  3. The call to penetrate lostness when considering the statistic that 2/3 of local missional funds stay within our 1/3 regional pocket shows the dysfunction of state & local associations. The report calls for a “decentralized” approach that looks to decentralize starting at the national level. It doesn’t make any sense to me when we have countless local associations and 50 state conventions still vying for their piece of your Great Commission dollar.  Considering who is doing a better job of evangelism & missions. NAMB is doing better than the state associations. NAMB is the expert. NAMB has the invested people. The call to undo cooperative relationships, I do not see, as giving NAMB new leadership opportunities, but less (much less).  It amazes me that we can argue for combining NAMB and IMB because of the global situation, but not recognize how antiquated state and local associations are. Reducing denomination infrastructure extends to states and local associations. This is really my point isn’t it.  If you disagree with me all you have to do to prove me wrong is show how the local church needs these two entities to accomplish the great commission in relationship with the SBC where regional associations, if they were in existence, could not do a better job. That is all you have to do.

Solutions: While the SBC does not have the authority to disband state and local associations the call certainly should have gone out in this reported that it behooves churches to reconsider the need and way we should band together in associations and conventions in regional fashions.

  1. Instead of having state conventions and local associations have a regional office. Break the country down to four or five different regions. Have that region be the point of collection for funds to forward to the SBC. Have all state schools owned by the region with trustees appointed in accordance to the state the school is in. Sell of all the excess land, etc…
  2. Use the overabundance of new found resources to hire “marketing representatives.” It is a bad term, so someone else can come up with something better. I hate to turn to corporate America for the answers, but it boggles my mind that they can figure these things out but we can’t. Companies nationally for the last 10-15 years have been reorganizing into regions instead of state offices since technology now allows for the money saving move. Marketing representatives from the regional offices go and meet with each local vendor and personalize business goals and how to achieve those goals even going so far as to help in a niche they see lacking in competitors in the local area. Now we are not in competition with other local churches, but we sure act like it. Imagine have evangelistic mentors who go out and build intentional relationships with pastors and churches and come up with discipleship programs to compliment the other programs by other churches in the area so we are working together instead of apart. Then all the local pastors become missionary strategist and contextual evangelist as the report suggests. But they become it because we are actually investing in their lives, not talking at them from a national podium.
  3. The sleekness of the regions make them more accountable. If they aren’t aiding in the equipping of the local churches, cooperating in their relationship to one another or to their cooperational relationship with the SBC it becomes abundantly clear. Five regions nationally (six counting Canada?) makes the expectation that those we place in positions of responsibility to accomplish their task in a more visible way.
  4. The regions join in cooperational relationships with IMB/NAMB in the dispersment of funds and missionaries, knowing their regions intimately. Then the regional directors can actually meet annually also and communicate better with one another. More people would be on the same missional page. Seriously, I’m totally dumfounded we aren’t talking about this.
  5. The value of the Cooperative Program is it is the bind the Holy Spirit uses between local churches, their region association, NAMB/IMB and seminaries. Accountability on spending will become easier to track, with oversight and transparency easier and more readily available.
  6. SBC in conjunction with the five regions create a sabbatical ministry that focuses on four things: educational growth of the pastor, spiritual renewal of the pastor, marital strengthening of the pastor’s family and vitality of the local church while the pastor is gone. This means having available ministers who come in to shepherd the flock while the pastor is on sabbatical as well as having relationships with institutes of higher learning for special programs oriented toward times of renewal, a getaway site with counseling provided for marital strengthening, etc… We can afford this type of ministry now. Think of the small churches. This is where this ministry is most needed, and where it it is most likely never to be available.

In summary, a grassroots effort seems to be the biggest need, which translates for me in a better representation of the type of pastor and laity found in churches.  Grassroots efforts means an abandonment of mass produced materials and replacing it with representatives that can build visions within local churches and work alongside the pastor/ministry teams to accomplish these missions. The biggest push from this report is to untie all that money being used in denominational bureaucracy and free it up for the making and discipleship of believers. Well, more money is tied up in state and local organizations. It is time to let them go.

June 9, 2010

My Most Famous Recipe of All

I like to call this recipe IT HAS BEEN A GREAT NINE YEARS BEAUTIFUL LADY.

Recipe follows:

Ingredients:

3 parts princesses
1 part Hurricane Katrina
1 Part Fiasco at Festus
1 Part Job Loss
6-7 Parts Cars
1 miscarriage
2 willing servants
1 Awesome God

Cooking instructions:

Take two willing servants and bake into cohesive mold with Awesome God. Take out of oven and add two cars. While still warm add miscarriage. Continue to hold steady with Awesome God. while cooling add another car and two princesses. Mix in blender with Hurricane Katrina. Take out of blender using Awesome God. Form should still be in mold as held together by Awesome God. Add another car and another princess. Throw into food processor and dice with Fiasco at Festus. Do silly dance of praise because food processor can’t put asunder what Awesome God has put together. Add another car, mix with job loss, bake for nine years, take out of oven and add another car. Recipe calls for many more years of exciting ingredients to be added, proceed with joy.

Thanks for the wonderful years my sweet lady. Dare I say I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next. Love you bunches.