Friday, September 28, 2012

Metaphor of a Movement

Yesterday was an awesome day! I had an opportunity to join with over 1,000 Pastors and Leaders from all across the US and other countries in NYC for the third annual "Movement Day" with Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in NYC.

The main emphasis of the conference was to challenge and encourage us to think and pray about how God could use our ministries to impact our cities through "Gospel Movements"

A Gospel Movement is defined this way...

The history and theory of missions tell us that whole cities or cultures can be reached with the Gospel. “Reached” doesn’t mean that everyone becomes a Christian, but that a “tipping point” can be achieved where Christianity begins to have a disproportionate effect on the population’s values and beliefs; and their faith grows spontaneously, without external control. 

A Gospel Movement is considered to be taking place when the Christian population is growing faster than the general population in a city/region. It also encompasses the following elements: 
  • The integration of local churches reaching new individuals with the Gospel; 
  • Ministry and Community Leaders transforming the lives of youth, the poor, and marginalized; 
  • Cultural Leaders exercising their faith and influence in every sector of society; and 
  • Citywide Networks that mobilize, develop and connect these leaders.
When all of these elements work together to make the Gospel of grace, truth, mercy and justice visible and tangible, then the Kingdom of God will become more real in the life of each city. 

Those who know me well, know that I often talk about how God has a track record of impact with me by using a combination of His Word, conversations I have with Spiritual Leaders, a word or phrase or concept that I just can't get out my mind etc. Then, when I slow down enough to really examine and reflect on what He's trying to say to me I can see a common theme or thread of unification that helps give clarity to what He wants me to focus on as an individual, a father, a husband and Pastor.

Well, yesterday I was bombarded with some incredible quotes, phrases and of course's a few of them that "stopped me dead in my tracks"...

"When the choice is between totally freaking out and falling on your face...choose the face." Darren Patrick 

And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7

‎"God is choreographing the nations into our neighborhoods" Dr. Mac Peir

"Revival is something we can block as humans but only God can produce." Tim Keller

"Everything in our church needs to be scrutinized through the lens of advancing the kingdom of God...if it doesn't then it's a distraction" Richard Stearns

I'm praying earnestly about what God is planning to do in my life and in the life of our church and in the city we call home.

I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to watch this video that gives an overview of Movement Day and then my favorite video of the day that made a huge impact on this "visual learner" that is a great example of how a movement starts, grows, diversifies and impacts those around it...hmmm...kinda sounds like what the church is supposed to be all about.

Movement Day NYC 2012

Som Sabadell Flashmob - "Metaphor of a Movement"

Monday, September 24, 2012

I'm Your Fan

I wrote this article about 4 years ago, and as my kids are starting the new school year I'm reminded all over again at how great it is to see how both of them are growing and really coming "into their own" in many ways. I'm very proud of both of them and continue to be praying that they put the Lord first in their lives!

Tonight as I was working with my son on his homework I recalled this conversation with him and thought I'd post it again...I'm still so glad that through it all God is our biggest fan!


“One day I hope and pray you have a kid just like you, then you’ll see what it’s like to have to deal with everything you put me through.” Have you ever heard that one? That’s a line that I’m pretty sure every kid has heard at one time or another growing up.

It’s a line that is filled with frustration usually in heat of the moment when you did something to really tick off your mom or dad, and is usually a statement that is followed up later with an apology of some sort.

I remember many times when that line could’ve been used on me and my brother as we were growing up.

After breaking the bottom portion of my mom’s prized chicken head candy dish while saving the game winning goal attempt against the living room coffee table, would’ve been an appropriate time to invoke it.

Sure the candy dish was broken, that was bad enough, but since the top of the dish (the chicken head) was still intact the fact that we placed it back in its original spot with the following words “she’ll never notice” made the line even more necessary.

Sure enough she walked in the room, and did a quick scan of all the trinkets, and dolls and various and sundry knick knacks that adorned the living room, and without a seconds hesitation announced “WHO BROKE MY CANDY DISH?!” To which my brother and I replied in unison “he did!”

Then there was the time that I was given money to take a bunch of trash to the county dump. I was 16, and had just gotten my driver’s license and a “new” car (actually it was a 1972 Pontiac Ventura, that stalled more than it ran, but hey it was mine), so even though it was trash (the garbage, not the car…although the car could also have fit in with that description). I loaded up the junk and headed to the dump.

Now you need to understand something, where I grew up there were lots of fields, and cows and back roads and such. So a trip to the dump wasn’t just a quick shot on the expressway and you’re there. No it involved taking the scenic route, which I did.

That was probably my downfall right there, because as I was scenically driving I realized something…I had a fist full of cash, a car full of trash, and miles and miles of fields and ditches that no one ever ventured upon.

Who would know if I stopped and unloaded my car of the junk I was carrying right in one of those overgrown ditches.

I mean, even if someone did happen upon it, it's garbage so it’s biodegradable right? Well, as you can probably imagine, I did a whole lot more rationalizing and then stopped the car, tossed the trash in the ditch, clinched my fist full of cash, and drove off to the nearest convenience store to by the newly created 44 ounce King of Sodas…none other than the BIG GULP!

Everything was cool, I had gotten away with my caper, and other than some cows, and maybe a ground hog or two, nobody was affected, or so I thought.

It didn’t take long, maybe a day or two and as the scriptures clearly warn “Be sure your sins will find you out”, were fulfilled in my very presence. In my driveway drove a police car, a nice shiny one at that.

The Policeman held something in his hand as he approached our door. It was an envelope of some sort, an electric bill, a phone bill, or some kind of document that had my mom’s name and address on it. Hmm, that’s funny, I wonder where he got that, and why he’s hand delivering it to my front door?

Well, within a matter of seconds I knew why. Apparently he had been “patrolling” the back roads and fields of our county (I’ve always wondered what he did to have to pull that duty, but at the moment this was more about me than him, so I kept my mouth zipped), and had happened upon a ditch filled with trash!

He exited his patrol car and proceeded to sift through the rubble (again, what kind of cop does that? Was he on restriction or something? Banned from real police work?), and found an envelope with my mom’s name and address and decided to pay a visit to find out why SHE had dumped bags and bags of trash in an overgrown ditch out in the middle of nowhere!

The jig was up, I was busted! The cold hard cash that I still had in pocket, and my empty 44oz Big Gulp were all the proof they needed to convict me of the crime. To this day, I remember the disappointing look my mom gave me, and if there was ever a time to invoke the line, “One day I hope and pray you have a kid just like you, then you’ll see what it’s like to have to deal with everything you put me through”, it would have been now.

That was a bone headed decision, that came as a result of a selfish attitude. I wanted to keep the money and do what I wanted, not even considering how it might affect others…have you ever been there?

I could go on and on with stories like that. Stories of how I’ve messed up over the years, stories of how I’ve put my wants ahead of others.

You know what I’m always blown away with though? Every time I mess up, make a dumb choice or stupid decision, there are consequences for sure, but shortly after the offense has been acknowledged and atoned for, there is forgiveness!

My mom forgave me for dumping the trash in a ditch, and for breaking her prized “chicken head” candy dish (when she realized that we just missed breaking her extra special kerosene lamp from like the Ming Dynasty... she was happy.)

I’ve often wondered why my brother and I ended up like we have, considering all the stuff that life threw at us at an early age and right through our high school years. I’m not saying we’re perfect, far from it actually, but how do two kids who grew up in a less than perfect household; end up as a Pastor and a Missionary?

As I get older I think I’m beginning to understand how. You see in the midst of all the dumb choices and selfish decisions of my childhood and teen years, I had some people in my life who believed in me. These people didn’t necessarily come out and say it in so many words, but their actions told me that not only did they believe in me, they were “my fans.”

Now I don’t mean they stalked and cheered my every move, I mean they were there through thick and thin, believing, and cheering, and forgiving all along the way.
Who are these people you ask? Well, the list is pretty long, but at the top of the list are two people that have been the most influential character shapers of my life…My Mom and My Grandmother!

Neither one of them had easy lives, and God knows how my brother and I added to it (mostly my brother though…ha ha), but in spite of it all they stood with us, and through that faithful "I believe in you" attitude, finally I understand, and have been given opportunities to pass it on to my children as well.

So, this morning as I sat with my son helping him with his homework, this analogy came to my mind, and I decided to share it with him.

He’s been having a rough patch at school lately. He keeps coming home with notes from his teacher, saying how he’s been showing off, being loud, interrupting and not obeying the rules. In fact yesterday, my wife found the note from the teacher in the trash, and when we asked my son about it, he said “I think it fell in there.” HMMM, guess what blast from the past came thundering int
o my brain when he said that? Was my mom prophetic?

Here I am with a 6 year old son who is in every way…JUST LIKE ME!

We sent him to his room, and punished him of course, but deep down I keep praying about how I can get through to him, that the decisions he’s making to act out and disobey, are really acts of selfishness, and I know he can do much better than that.

So, as I was sitting there helping him with his homework, I stopped him from reading and said something like this…

”Ethan, you’re having a tough time at school lately huh? You know, I used to have a tough time as well. I’ve been spanked, grounded, sent to my room, and disciplined plenty, but you know what I’ve learned over the years?

It was all done for my good, because people believed in me, they believed that I could do so much better than I was showing. I’ve realized that these people were my fans. Do you know what a fan is?

They are people who follow a team, and cheer for them when things are going well, and forgive them when they mess up, they believe that their team is going to turn out great, and they stand by them all the way.

Right now buddy, you’re messing up at school, you need to listen and obey and respect your teacher and the other students. When you don’t do that you will be punished…but know this…I’m your Fan!

I love you when you’re good, and I love you when you’re bad. If I wasn’t your fan, I’d let you do whatever you want, but that’s not love and that’s not what fans do.

I want you to know that I believe in you, I believe you can sit still, I believe you can obey your teacher; I believe you can show respect to her and the others…you know why? I love you and I’M YOUR FAN!”

We prayed together, and finished his homework and he went to school. We’ll see if the pep-talk worked, but as I was sitting with him and talking man to man, I realized something.
Everything I said to him is exactly how God sees us.

We’re His children, and even though He doesn’t want us to mess up and make selfish choices, He’s right there every step of the way. When we choose right, He’s the loudest cheerleader, when we choose wrong, He’s the loving disciplining Father who delivers judgment followed up with open arms of forgiveness when we acknowledge and repent.

If there was ever a person who had the right to loudly proclaim the line “One day I hope and pray you have a kid just like you, then you’ll see what it’s like to have to deal with everything you put me through”, it’s God for sure.

He doesn’t do that though, He comes through with truths like “I will never leave you or forsake you”, and “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His ONLY Son”, and “While we were still in our sins, Christ died for us.”

I’m so glad, that even though I don’t deserve it... Creator God is My Biggest Fan!

Lesson Learned

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

With God...No Translator Needed

On Sunday at my church we continued the series we've been doing all summer on the book of Joshua. It's been a really cool series for me personally as I reflect on all that God brought Joshua and the people he was called to lead through, over, and around on their way to conquering and possessing the promise God had for them.

Themes of Courageous Faith, Deep Forgiveness, Difficult Consequences, and Incredible Restoration have been evident throughout the series to this point, and it's been a lot of fun discovering application points together.

Well, chapter 10 is where we found ourselves on Sunday and the main theme of the message was that no matter who we are, where we're from, what we've been through or any other potential barrier we might seek to erect in our lives...God is still God, and still doing whatever it takes to let us know that He loves us!

At the end of the message we watched the video "How Great is our God" World edition and it was so great to realize that one of the barriers we often have in communication (language) is no barrier whatsoever to our Great Big God!

It's so true that when God is involved...No Translator is needed, whether it's Hindi, Indonesian, Spanish, Russian, Zulu or Mandarin...a little "barrier" like language - No Problem with God!

It makes me wonder what other barriers we often put up that limit our concept of God are no problem either!

How Great is Your God? Mine? INFINITE!