Friday, December 31, 2010

A Fresh Look at Spiritual Formation & Ancient Practices

Over the past several years, the topic of spiritual formation and spiritual practices (or disciplines) have begun to get more and more air-time. A number of books deal with the ideal of being conformed into the image of Christ, while others leverage into to the practices themselves. No single volume could possibly begin to even scratch the surface.

Thomas Nelson Publishing, in this series Ancient Practices Series, allot space and time to deal more comprehensively with not only the premise behind engaging spiritual practices, but also looking more in depth at seven of these ancient practices (fixed-hour prayer, fasting, sabbath, the sacred meal, pilgrimage, observance of sacred seasons and giving). In the first volume, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, Brain McLaren begins to masterfully approach the role of spiritual practices within the process of one’s personal transformation with fresh perspective. If you’re new to the subject of engaging spiritual practices/disciplines, this book offers a great introduction. If you’ve read the classics such as Celebration of Discipline, Spirit of the Disciplines, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, etc, this book offers much more than a mere rehashing of old rhetoric. I look forward to working through this entire series this upcoming year.


*I received this book for free in exchange for my unbiased review through the Thomas Nelson BookSneeze Program.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Eliminating Digital Noise :: Ommwriter

We have to admit it. New technologies don’t exactly make concentrating any easier. Ichat, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Youtube... But it’s not just the programmes; when we work, we have loads of windows open at the same time. We’re busy writing emails, while finishing off a PowerPoint presentation, reading another email and drafting a complete document. Just like computers, people have had to become experts at multitasking.

Ommwriter is a new concept in text editing that isolates you from environmental and disjointed-thought noise and creates a private space where you can concentrate. It can serve as a great median for reflection, journaling and prayer. And, best of all, it's free...


Ommwriter by herraizsoto&co from herraizsoto&co on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Social Network Christmas

Family Devotion and Activity :: Fourth Week of Advent :: Love

Devotion:
Light the candles of Hope, Light and Joy. Now light the fourth Advent candle, the candle of Love.


“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

(John 3:16 NLT)

As we pause today in heart-preparation for this season, we once again look at another characteristic of God - Love. God is love. It’s not a feeling that He has, it is something that He is. This love prompted Him to give of Himself on our behalf. Just as love prompted action from God, so love prompts action from us. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can offer to others this season is the very gift of ourselves. The gift of attentively listening to another. The gift of inquiring with wonder and care into the life and soul of the person presently present before us. Love is expressed when we are able to resist the urge to interrupt, dismiss and overlook another. Love is alive when we slow down enough to notice the promptings of God and the disposition of others.

Only as we accept the God who is love into our life, are we able to truly love with the kind of love that is depicted through the words of Scripture. Advent is a time for kindness, thinking of others and sharing with others. It is a time to love as God loved us. As God loved by giving of Himself, so do we. As God is love, so let us be love.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Tragedy

Christmas, for many can serve to remind us of the tragic in our lives. Awkward family gathering, an estranged relationship, even the reminder of a lost loved one or ongoing crisis. It can become a long, dull and tiring string of gatherings and parties, not to mention the often self inflicted moments of guilt associated with gift-giving. To the extent that these realities are able crouch, they can easily begin to strangle the life out of Christmas. I love how Brennan Manning reverses all this in his book Lion and Lamb:

Christmas is a faith-experience that enables us to see beyond the tragic in our lives. It is a reminder that we need the laughter of God to prevent us from taking the world too seriously, the world of cerebral head trips played in dead earnest, the game of one-upmanship escalated to mortal combat, the illusions of self-importance. (Lion & Lamb, Brennan Manning, 158)
 May we engage this season, parties, gatherings and all from this perspective...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Family Devotion and Activity :: Third Week of Advent :: Joy

“At the birth of God’s Son heaven and earth danced.

For heaven and earth embrace.” 

Richard Harries

Devotion:
Relight the candles of Hope and Light and now light today’s Advent candle, the candle of Joy.  The Greek word for joy is chara, which means “rejoicing, gladness, enjoyment or bliss.”  In many ways it means “to celebrate.”  The birth of a new baby or the first sight of a new born seems to have a mysterious way of bringing joy to all who are near.

The Gospel of Luke tells of how the angel told the shepherds that the birth of Jesus would be “good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10).  Scripture actually says, that at this angelic proclamation, there appeared a multitude of heavenly hosts that began celebrating and praising God.

The birth of the Christ-child brought joy to earth, but the joy doesn’t stop there. When a person begins to follow in the ways of Christ with a surrendered life, Scripture says that all Heaven joins in and celebrates.  As we enter this holiday season, let’s celebrate, really celebrate Jesus - the fact that He came to earth and the truth that He desires an intimate relationship with us. He is still Emmanuel - God with us.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the joy that you bring.  Today we celebrate You.


Activity:
Make a list of friends and family members that you’ve not had contact with in a while. As a family, create a card for them. Perhaps each member of the family can contribute something unique - a photo, a picture drawn, a Bible verse, a memory, etc. Send these to them as a way of bringing joy to another during this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Family Devotion and Activity :: Second Week of Advent :: Light 


Read: Luke 4:16-21 & 18:35-43

Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind. The Bible talks about two different kinds of blindness. Some people are physically blind. They are not able to see the beautiful colors and lights of Christmas. They cannot see the things of this life. The other kind of blindness that the Bible speaks about is spiritual blindness. Spiritual blindness is the worst sort of blindness. People who are spiritually blind cannot see the truth of God’s word. They do not understand the things that are eternal.

At night, as a family, go into a room of your home and turn off all the lights. Try walking around without stumbling, tripping or running into things. It is hard to find your way around in the dark. Those who are spiritually blind also live in a world of darkness. They do not know or believe God’s Word so they do not understand how God wants them to live, what God wants them to avoid, or where God wants them to go. Those who are spiritually blind walk about in this life not able to see the things God wants them to see.

The Bible says that when we follow Jesus, we never walk in the dark, for He is the Light of the world (John 8:12). May we determine to always follow Jesus.

Today we relight the candle of HOPE. Now we light the candle for the second Sunday in Advent. This is the candle of LIGHT.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we remember that Jesus is our hope and the light showing the way of salvation.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; 

on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned
. 

~Isaiah 9:2


Suggestion: Consider lighting the candles at dinner with everyone gathered together. Allow the light of these two candles be the only source of light during the meal. At the end of the meal, spend a few moments reflecting back on Christ as the Light of the world. Take a few moments to pray together, thanking God for sending the Light to those lost in darkness and sin. Note: allowing children to be the ones who get to light and blow out the candles can be a great way to help them stay engaged.

Additional Family Bible Study
At another setting this week, read the Christmas Story from Matthew 2:1-15 with your family. List all the different people in the story. How did each welcome the Lord Jesus Christ? Talk about what it looks like for us to welcome Christ Jesus today?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Learning How to Read

Scripture never ceases to amaze me. I love how the Spirit of God can take a well worn passage and familiar story and bring it to life again - as if for the first time. This is the power of Scripture. Yet, there is a danger in coming to well worn and familiar portions of text. There is a tendency to come to the text as the teacher, rather than the student. If we are not careful, we can impose on the text what we already know (or think we know). In doing so, what we know may become the very stumbling block that keeps us from learning something we don't know (at least experientially). Therefore, we must approach the text as a student, as one who listens more than speaks.

The Nativity Story is one of these such passages - one filled with insight, power and relevance that can burst into our very present circumstances, but we mustn't assume we know what's going to happen. The more "familiar" a text has become to us cognitively, the more cautious and slowly we should approach it. Perhaps, as one would approach a dove - slowly, softly, gently, quietly - so as not to startle it and miss the close encounter that is at hand. I intentionally and prayerfully try to engage the text of Scripture in such manner, especially with passages that have become well learned (or at least well-heard) like the nativity passages.

On that note, I'm pretty excited about the new series we began last night called Nativity Reflections.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

do-it-yourself spirituality

"Any spirituality that furnishes a do-it-yourself kit plants the seeds of discouragement and disappointment. And this flowers into a winter of discontent that blooms in gloom, cynicism, and a subtle form of despair...

...It is one thing to know Jesus Christ loves us and another thing to realize it. In prayer we slow down to a human tempo and make time to listen. In prayer we discover what we already have. You start from where you are and realize that you are already there. We already have everything, but many of us don't know it and therefore don't experience it. Everything has been given to us by the Father in Jesus. All we need now is to experience what we already possess. The most precious moments of prayer consist in letting ourselves be loved by the Lord." ~Lion and Lamb, Brennan Manning, 159, 154

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Beginning of Advent

Introduction
Throughout history, various cultures and people have chosen to set aside a season designed especially to recapture the anticipation of the arrival of the Christ-Child.  This season is called Advent.  Advent is the Latin word that means, “a coming or arrival”. It’s a time where Christians (as families and community gatherings) prepare themselves in reflection and anticipation for the coming of Christ.

Over the next four weeks there will be some family devotional ideas to help guide you and your family together through a time of remembering. There will also be activity ideas that can be done together as a family to foster further conversation and fun. One of these ideas will be to create an Advent wreath and use it to symbolical represent a central idea for each week. You may want to select a specific day(s) to gather as a family for this purpose.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Lost in Translation

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them… When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken…. we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:6 & 11)

It was the Holy Spirit that enabled the apostles to be understood in their own language and to be ‘cut to the heart.’

So it is with us today! While many may speak the ‘same’ language, so much seems to get lost in translation. From a meeting behind closed doors to a message preached from the stage, all too often people only seem to hear what’s being said through several filters. At times this can cause conflict, disagreement or even hardness of heart, all because it never made it to “their own language.”

Sometimes this happens, because we’ve been conditioned to only hear what we want to hear. At other times, we never listen in the first place. We’re too busy reloading what we’ll say next. This often becomes apparent as soon as one speaks, rather than seeking clarity, understanding or to see things from the speakers perspective, we assume we know where they’re coming from, derail, and begin crafting a response (often totally unrelated to what was just said). Sometimes, we don’t even wait for them to finish talking to interrupt. We take the liberty and begin talking over the person, even while they’re still talking. This is always a dead give away that we weren’t listening to start with. Much of this could be remedied as we learn and engage other humans with love, respect and dignity, but ultimately we each need the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to empower us to speak in such a way that others hear us in “their own language,” and as others speak for us to understand them as well.

God fill me with Your Spirit. May I speak and communicate in such a way as to be understood by all, in their own language and situation and may Your Spirit cut to the very core of the heart…

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Greatest Compliment

Who doesn't like a good compliment? 

 We all like a little affirmation here and there, it doesn't matter who you are. Unfortunately, it's easy to fall into the trap of living for the compliment or into the head-spin of asking yourself, what was wrong when you don't get your quota. But let's not kid ourselves, compliments, can at times be like Christmas presents to distant family members, it's just something we do.

There are, however, compliments that push beyond the veneer of superficiality and obligated courtesy. Recently, I recieved such a compliment. Two days after last week's teaching, Drawing a Prayer to God, I was visiting my sons school and was approached by a fourth-grade teacher. She begin to communicate:
I'm always looking for ways to engage my students in new and creative ways. Constantly, I'm asking God for ways to help my students engage God in real and authentic ways. Yesterday, I retaught your whole teaching on prayer from Wednesday night. Then I handed out paper and markers and instructed them to begin drawing a prayer to God. I was amazed at what transpired. Students were fully engaged in what they were doing. Some were actually weeping as they drew. Others, that I've not seen engage outwardly in prayer or worship, became some of the most focused in the room...
This is one of the greatest compliments, I think, that a communicator/teacher/preacher can receive. "I listened, was influenced, practiced myself, then went and taught another and actually lead them to engage it as well..."

Pass on what you heard from me--
the whole congregation saying Amen!-
to reliable leaders who are competent to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:2 MSG

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Expectant Waiting & Extravagant Longing

(This morning I found myself reading, reflecting and praying through Acts chapter one. The following are some thoughts that are challenging me from the text) 

Jesus told the early disciples to “wait” for “the promise of the Father.” (Acts 1:4)

This wasn’t some hopeless waiting, for they had seen the Son risen with many “convincing proofs.” Now, the reality of what they had observed was about to take residence within - and permeate their whole being and existence. What a stark difference this was to be than the disciples perspective just a few weeks earlier as they walked on the road to Emmaus saying, “but we were hoping...”
  • How often do I lived with hopeful expectancy? 
  • Have I lost the posture of perpetual waiting on the Promise of the Father? 
  • Have I become cordial in my asking and domesticated in my longings?
God reawaken a fiery-untame-uncontainable passion, love, romance and expectant waiting-longing for you!

They demonstrate extravagant expectancy in their question to him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) Misguided as this question and image of restoration may have initially been, it nonetheless, illustrates great faith and expectancy that things could actually begin to change here and now.

How often, we look at the world around us and the situations thereof, only to cast off restraint out of pessimistic doubt that the world could actually be changed. As the song goes, we’re just waiting on the world to change, but by the hands of someone else, for it seems out of our own grasp. But, the disciples believed that if the Lord could conquer death, surely He could also conquer the living.

  • Have I lost the art of asking big, praying large with extravagant expectancy?

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Hand Brings Understanding...

"The LORD made me understand in writing,
by His hand upon me, all the details of these plans.”
 
~1 Chronicles 28:19
 
Over the years, time and time again, I have found this to be true. That as I write, my thoughts and feelings have a way of becoming disentangled. Clarity emerges. Perspective settles in. And, perhaps most importantly, there's a sense of divine connectedness and nearness, not to mention, as my mind slows down to the speed of the pen, I am often able to become aware and perceive that which God is saying to me. It's a time to write first, filter later. Journaling has been very directive, corrective and clarifying for me.

I have a leather journal that goes with me most places. At the same time, I've found there are times/things that I am able to better process through typing. Typing is a bit faster, not to mention the chance of me actually being able to read it later are significantly higher :-)

I also use a program called journler, that is helpful in capturing and organizing thoughts.  Another online journal-type feature that I've found useful for prayer of examines and scripture reflections is Examen.me.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Praying in Color :: Images of Prayer

When it comes to prayer, many of us can find ourselves word-weary or easily distracted. There's the struggle with a short attention span or a restless body. I'm looking forward to our new series on prayer called Praying in Color. In it, we're going be exploring some creative and engaging ways to connect with God in prayer.  The life of prayer, may never be the same again.

Tonight, I'm introducing the idea of praying beyond words. Here's a snapshot of my thoughts...

Monday, November 01, 2010

Free Audio Book :: Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper

Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper is available as a free ebook download at Christianaudio.com through the month of November.

Millions of people are wasting their lives pursuing dreams of happiness that don't rise above a good marriage, nice kids, a successful career, a nice car, fun vacations, nice friends, a fun retirement, a painless death, and (hopefully) no hell. John Piper calls this a tragedy in the making. He argues that we were created for joy. We were designed to have one life-encompassing passion.

In this book he describes his own journey in discovering this great, single passion. And He pleads that at all costs we pursue our joy in the crucified Christ, who is the glory of God. The cost is great. But the joy is worth any cost. Don’t buy seductive, tragic promises of worldly joy. Don’t waste your life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Capturing Inspiration...


Where does inspiration come from...? At times it seems like inspiration for a message, teaching, writing, song, etc comes from some mystical place. Yet, more often than not, it's simply the byproduct of becoming aware of what's going on within us and around us, along with a sense of the divine spark lighting on fire (as it were) the mundane bushes before us... 

“Earth is crammed with heaven,and every common bush is on fire with God;but only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”Elizabeth Barrett Browning

 As I'm writing and developing thoughts, there are a few artists I tend to pull up in the iTunes to play in the background. One of those is Brooke Fraser. In the following clips she shares about what it looks like for her to capture inspiration in the everyday moments and encounters of life.

FLAGS PREVIEW - Writing from Brooke Fraser on Vimeo.

"Creativity, has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know
in order to find out what we do not know.
Hence, to think creatively,
we must be able to look afresh
at what we normally take for granted."    

— George Kneller
 

"Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique
or
history in a museum.
The creative explorer
looks for history in a hardware store
and
fashion in an airport."

— Robert Wiede

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Power of a Storytelling

Stories have enormous power, unfortunately the very essence of that power is often crippled in the telling. True storytellers simply know how to communicate old stories in new ways. And, even when they use the same plot as before, it always seems to take on new life. This life flows not from some new fabrication of the events at hand, rather the outworking of a life that's actually been there. The aliveness comes from the life the story has within them, it just simply can't be contained.

Martin Buber once commented about the power of stories:

"A story must be told in such a way that it constitutes help in itself.

My grandfather was lame. Once they asked him to tell a story about his teacher. And he related how his teacher used to hop and dance while he prayed. My grandfather rose as he spoke, and he was so swept away by his story that he began to hop and dance to show how the master had done. From that hour he was cured of his lameness.

That's how to tell a story."
I'm fascinated not only how our very lives have been shaped by stories, but how powerful stories become in the authentic creative telling. Creativity is often simply pausing long enough to allow new ways to emerge for telling an old story. It is the very pause of contemplation that becomes the path that simply takes one deeper into the story itself.

The following is a short video by Storyteller Jay O'Callahan talking and demonstrating the power of stories.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Wonderfully Made

What does it mean to be created in the image of God…? How is it that Christ holds all things together, even our very bodies…? I'm looking forward to the upcoming series, Wonderfully Made, where we'll explore the miracle of life and the amazing imprints of God upon humanity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Theology Matters

Biblical theology, according to Eugene Peterson, "does not so much present us with a moral code and tell us, 'Live up to this,' nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say, 'Think like this.' The biblical way is to tell a story and invite us, 'Live into thisthis is what it looks like to be human; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.'

We do violence to the biblical revelation when we ‘use’ it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives. That results in a kind of ‘boutique spirituality’ – God as decoration, God as enhancement.

Rather, when are to submit our lives to what we read, we find that we are not being lead to see God in our stories but to see our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which all our stories find themselves."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life is Better in Groups

An academic journal called The Journal of Happiness Studies publishes studies using the tools of research to identify what makes human life flourish. When researchers look at what distinguishes quite happy people from less happy people, one factor consistently separates those two groups. It is not how much money you have; it is not your health, security, attractiveness, IQ, or career success. What distinguishes consistently happier people from less happy people is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships. 

This week at PVC, we're launching our fall groups - from Flag Football to Divorce Care and everything in between. As the church grows larger, the challenge is to simultaneously grow smaller. Groups are one of the ways that we are endeavoring to grow smaller. A smaller venue where people can simply connect with one another and grow closer to Christ.
Life is Better in Groups.

Eight Rules of Leadership

So a few friends and I are weekly getting together to work through Jack Welch's book Winning. In his chapter titled "It's Not About You," he outlines Eight Rules of Leadership. Personally, as I've recently reflected on these in context of my own leadership, I've been challenged significantly.

When you attain a leadership position, everything changes. Leadership requires distinct behaviors and attitudes.

Prior to your leadership position,
your success is all about growing yourself.
Now that you’re a leader,
success is all about growing others.

There are Eight Rules of Leadership:

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Cosmic Billboard

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.”
(Psalm 19:1-6)


Reread that passage again, this time out loud.



The circuit David describes here is the rotation of the Earth from the viewpoint of a man on Earth and is not teaching that the sun revolves around the Earth. By comparison, we use works like “sunrise” and “sunset” to describe the Earth’s rotation, when technically the sun does neither.[i]


“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet

Friday, September 03, 2010

Headed towards the Farm...

"An African Christian described it to me this way: “You Americans think of Christianity as a farm with a fence. Your question is, ‘Are you inside the fence or outside of it?’ We Africans think differently. We think of Christianity as a farm with no fence. Our question is, ‘Are you heading towards the farm, or away from it?’ “The church’s identity is not defined primarily by its edges, but by its center: focused on Christ, the sole source of our identity, no intruder poses a threat." ~Almost Christian, 65.

Divine Architect

“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens.”
(Proverbs 3:19)

Have you ever bought something new and tried to assemble it? Chances are, if you’re like me, often those pieces don’t always seem to fit as snug and sturdy as I remember the store display being. Or, what do you do with the three bolts left over? “Did I forget something?” I’ve asked myself more than once. “Oh well, it looks fine to me. At least it’s standing…” “It’s only leaning a little to the right.” “The wheel does seem to be wobbling a little bit, but I think it’s okay.” Any of these sound familiar? Sometimes the extra pieces turn out to be a little more significant than others and before long the whole thing falls apart.

Imagine if you had been contracted by God to design and assemble the universe, or perhaps just little ole Earth. Consider the following intricacies of the planet we live on.
If the earth were as small as the moon, the power of gravity would be too weak to retain sufficient atmosphere for man’s needs; but if it were as large as Jupiter, Saturn, or Uranus, extreme gravitation would make human movement almost impossible.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Free Audio Book :: Spiritual Leadership

This month christianaudio.com is giving away a free audiobook of Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. Simply go to the site, add the download to your cart and use the coupon code SEP2010.

"Christianity needs a powerful voice in today's world. Such a voice can come only from strong leaders guided by God and devoted to Christ. Spiritual Leadership will encourage you to place your talents and powers at His disposal so you can become a leader used for His glory."

...in the beginning.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature—
have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”

(Romans 1:20 NIV)

“Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting,
you are God”

(Psalm 90:2)

God is eternal, i.e., God is without beginning or end. God not only pre-existed creation, He preceded and created time. Sometime ago I came across a fictitious story about a group of men who set out to find an answer to the question, “Where did the earth come from?” They compiled much data covering many areas of investigation and then fed it into the mammoth computer. When they had completed their work and had given the machine all the information, they pushed the “answer” button and waited expectantly for the results. Lights flashed! Bells rang! Buzzers sounded! When the great moment arrived, this printed message emerged: “See Genesis 1:1.”[i]


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
GENESIS 1:1


Meditate on the following statement: God is eternal. He has no beginning, nor end.


What thoughts, emotions and questions does this arise for you?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

New Series :: INDESCRIBABLE

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard." ~Psalm 19

The heavens are telling the glory of God, and their expanse declares the work of His hands. The Apostle Paul wrote, that “by taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.”

This series will take you on a rich journey through the cosmos, allowing you to peer into God's universe to discover the amazing magnitude of His greatness and grace.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Free Audio Book :: Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road

Why would someone risk his safety, destroy his schedule, and become dirty and bloody to help a needy person of another race and social class? And why would Jesus tell us "Go and do likewise"? Like the wounded man on the Jericho road, there are needy people in our path- the widow next door, the family strapped with medical bills, the homeless man outside our place of worship. God call us to be ministers of mercy to people in need of shelter, assistance, medical care, or just friendship.

This month, christian audio's free e-book is Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road by Tim Keller.

Keller uses Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan, as the paradigm for the church’s understanding of mercy. He seeks throughout the book to answer the question the expert in the law asked to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”, by explaining the parable and bringing the rest of Scripture to bear on the question.

Some of the questions Keller addresses in the book include:

  • Is everyone called to mercy, or only those who are gifted in mercy?
  • Should I show mercy to my neighbor even if I don’t feel like it?
  • Didn’t the poor just get themselves into the mess they’re in? Do they really deserve my help?
  • Is it ever merciful to withhold giving to someone?
  • How do sharing the gospel verbally and living out the Christian life balance?

The first half of the book deals with the principles of mercy ministry, and the second half gives some practical ways you can start putting the principles into action at the church level.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Power of Being Lead

Over the past several months I’ve made an interesting observation. My children may be watching television or some other mindless activity. On such occasions, the motivation emerges within me to help engage them in some mind-stimulating activity or at least something that will cause them to exert some physical energy. I can say to one of my children, “Hey, you wanna do a puzzle?” The almost immediate response will be “no.” I can follow that up with something like, “How about we build something?” The response? “No.” I can go through a litany of options, “A bike ride?” “Too hot.” You get the picture. Of course there are some wild cards. Chuck E Cheese’s always gets a thumbs up. However, often the end result is potential discouragement or frustration.


Here’s where the interesting observation comes in.

On a given day, my children could be engrossed in a movie of some sort. I can nonchalantly walk through the room, grab the youngest child, put them on my lap, spread a box of puzzle pieces on the floor... and within seconds. The couch is empty, the movie is mere background noise and I have kids all around me fighting over who gets the corner pieces. I can waltz through the room and say, “Oh... I’ll see you guys later... I’m gonna go for a bike ride around the block...” (pause)... and I have three kids begging to go with me. Did I mention the heat index is a hundred-and-eight? Suddenly, being hot is no longer a factor. Regardless of the activity, if I merely begin doing it, engaging it, etc - my children join me. Interesting!

It’s like they wanted to do something more active and engaging, they just didn’t know it! They needed to be lead. They needed to be shown. They needed to be engaged. I wonder if much of our parenting frustration is caused simply because we tell them what to do, but fail to show them how to do it? We ask them if they want to do something, when all they need is to be invited to join us.

Now, let’s turn the tables a bit.

How does this principle apply to our own spirituality? How often do we not want to do that which is most needed to do? Perhaps engaging some spiritual practice (Scripture, Prayer, Serving, Fasting, Giving, etc)... I’ve discovered, quite often we’re just like our children. One of the keys to spiritual maturity is being able to discern what we need and how to do something about it. Often, I’ve learned that if I simply begin engaging a practice or discipline, before long (like my children) I actually enjoy and find pleasure and benefit in doing it. I just need to be lead.

Often we spend too much time following our heart,
and not enough time
leading it
...

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine :: Free Download

During a train trip from Chicago to Texas in the late 1940's, A.W. Tozer began to write The Pursuit Of God. He wrote all night, the words coming to him as fast as he could put them down. When the train pulled into McAllen, the rough draft was done. Although written in such a remarkably short period of time, Tozer's passionate classic offers not only a deeper understanding of Biblical Truth, but a personal encounter with the very Source of that Truth.

Christianaudio.com is offering this as a free audio download for the month of July. Go here. As you check out insert the coupon code JUL2010.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Learning Revolution

A while back, I referenced one of my favorite talks by Sir Ken Robinson. In this talk, he explores the idea of - Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Recently, Robinson gave another talk Bring on the Learning Revolution. Here, he makes several interesting comments that have great relevance on education, creativity and personal pursuit of passion(s). Several of his later remarks would make great conversation pieces as it relates to the Church. Rather than extract various thoughts and quotes, I've simply posted the 18:00 presentation.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer Days

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)

In short, first of all, we are told that every year “in the spring” the kings would “go off to war.” It was a part of the rhythm of the king(s). On this particular occasion, the text says, “David remained in Jerusalem.” Things go down hill from there…


Something happens every year about this time. As schools wrap up, people begin to get in “summer mode.” There’s a mindset that many people undertake. An element of ease fills the air. We begin to think about vacation. About unwinding. About getting away.

Is there anything we could learn from 2 Samuel 11?


Interestingly, studies among Christian publishers show that books sales significantly drop during the spring-summer season. People still buy the Christianized romance novels and the like. However, as it relates to the books on spiritual formation, growth and development -- sales diminish.


Many churches even seem to fall prey to this. Expectations are lowered. At times less energy, creativity and resources are invested in messages, series and programs. Numbers are expected to drop.


Be that as it may, summer is actually a time to be intentional about one’s personal growth, as well as that of the local church. Many of us have more time. What would it look like to really dig into a formative book or an in-depth study of a book of the Bible?


Many have extra time and increased desire to engage others in community. How could the local church use this to create venues for others to get together?


What would it look like (for individuals and church ministries) to raise the bar over the summer season?


"Woe to you who are at ease in Zion."
~Amos 6:1

Thursday, June 03, 2010

2:10 // Becoming the Person God Created You to Be...

"We are God's masterpiece,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “created in Christ Jesus, to do good works prepared for us in advance."

God indeed has a purpose for you. God’s purpose is much larger than what you accomplish in this life - it encompasses who you become. Sometimes, however, there is a gap between where we’re currently at and who God is calling us to become.

The New Testament book of Ephesians is full of practical insights to the process God uses for us to begin to see that gap become smaller and smaller, as we more and more become the person God has designed us to be.

This summer, at New Community, we're going to be diving into this exciting study in personal transformation.

2:10 // Discovering the Person God Created You to Be from Jerrell Jobe on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Free Audio Book :: Forgotten God by Francis Chan

In the book Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan offers a compelling invitation to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit's direction in our lives. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two?

As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit--the Helper--so that we could be true and living witnesses for Christ. Unfortunately, today's church has admired the gift but neglected to open it. What is the the true source of the church's power? The Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we've ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan's invitation to stop and remember the One we've forgotten, the Spirit of the living God.



This month Christian Audio is offering this as a free audio download. Just type in JUN2010 in the Coupon slot.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Sundays Coming...

Ever thought about why we do what we do? How we do it? When we do it? The way we do it?

Here's an interestingly look at Sunday Mornings... Does it resemble your church?

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Free Book :: The Hole in the Gospel

This month, christianaudio.com is offering the book "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns as a free audio download.

In a Christian world represented by private individual relationships with Jesus, altar calls, and personal holiness, Richard Stearns asks, "Is there a hole in our gospel?' Stearns states, "If your personal faith in Christ has no positive outward expression, then your faith – and mine – has a hole in it."

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Pulpit Calls

“The pulpit calls those anointed to it as the sea calls its sailors; and like the sea, it batters and bruises and does not rest…. To preach, to really preach, is to die naked a little at a time and to know each time you do it that you must do it again.” Bruce W. Thielemann, The Wittenburg Door, no. 36 (April–May 1977)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Creating Community

Recently, Kent Shaffer posted a quick review of the book The Tangible Kingdom Primer, a self-described 8-week guide to incarnational community. Written by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, The Tangible Kingdom Primer explores how to become mission-minded and then act on it by creating authentic community.

It is a cleverly designed workbook with lots of graphics and even more questions intended to take you on a journey through the ideas. To get the best flavor of this workbook, here is a sample question from each week:

  1. How much time per week are you willing to give to building deeper relationships with them?
  2. Who in your life needs you to be an advocate for them now?
  3. Is your own view of the Gospel missing anything?
  4. What would you need to change to incorporate more opportunities for community to take place in your life?
  5. Considering the relationships that God has brought into your life, what are your responsibilities to them now?
  6. Who are some of the people in your life that you are currently investing in relationally?
  7. As you consider the differences between passive discipleship and apprenticeship, how would you describe your own life?
  8. How can you work with God so that you are more accessible to people and more available for God?

The Tangible Kingdom Primer is a great way to immerse yourself in thinking about community. It is an area that I need to improve. What about you?

Do you thrive at creating community or do you get lost in your own world? What are your pitfalls or keys to success?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Atheist Christopher Hitchens on Being Christian

Back in January, we did a teaching series entitled Faith & Doubt, where we explored some of the questions and objections raised by some of the leading New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. These questions aren't necessarily new, but have received fresh attention with the advent of some of the aforementioned authors writings.

A friend of mine, Todd, recently posted the following excerpt of an interview with Atheist Christopher Hitchens. In the interview, he states very clearly Who Christ is for the Christian. Interestingly, he articulates it better than many Christians:

During a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, noted atheist Christopher Hitchens laid down some seriously good theology. Most people recognize Hitchens as the author of the bestselling book God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. Since the book's publication in 2007, Hitchens has toured the country debating a series of religious leaders, including some well-known evangelical thinkers. In Portland he was interviewed by Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell. The entire transcript of the interview has been posted online. The following exchange took place near the start of the interview:

Sewell: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I'm a liberal Christian, and I don't take the stories from the Scripture literally. I don't believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?
Hitchens: I would say that if you don't believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you're really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Sewell wanted no part of that discussion so her next words are, "Let me go someplace else."

This little snippet demonstrates an important point about religious "God-talk." You can call yourself anything you like, but if you don't believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the dead, you are not "in any meaningful sense" a Christian.

Talk about nailing it.

In one of the delicious ironies of our time, an outspoken atheist grasps the central tenet of Christianity better than many Christians do. What you believe about Jesus Christ really does make a difference.

Excerpt from PreachingToday.com

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Goal of Discipline

“Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance. Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God – a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.”

(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, 60)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

New Series :: DAVID

Tonight we kick of a new series in New Community. We're going to be looking at the life of David.

Except for Jesus, there is more written about his life than any other character in Scripture. Unfortunately, our flashbacks to flannel-boards and David & Goliath story-sound-bytes have shrouded our understanding of David and perhaps kept us from digging beneath the surface of the story itself.

David's life is a fascinating drama that's narrated by a brilliant story-teller. I'm looking forward to what we'll discover...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter

“I have seen the Lord!”
John 20:18

“The disciples had seen the strong hands of God
twist the crown of thorns into a crown of glory,
and in hands as strong as that they knew themselves safe . . .

They had expected a walkover,
and they beheld a victory; they had

expected an earthly Messiah,

and they beheld the Soul of Eternity.”
Dorothy L. Sayers

In the book, Sit, Walk, Stand, Watchman Nee said, “Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE.” He continues:

We begin our Christian life by depending not our own doing but upon what Christ has done. Until you realize this, you are no Christian; for to say: “I can do nothing to save myself; but by His grace God has done everything for me in Christ,” is to take the first step of faith.

If I put a dollar bill between the pages of a magazine, and then burn the magazine, where is the dollar bill? It has gone the same way as the magazine – to ashes. Where the one goes the other goes too. Their history has become one. But, just as effectively, God has put us in Christ. What happened to Him happened also to us. All the experiences He met, we too have met in Him.

“Our old man was crucified with him,
that the body of sin might be done away,
that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin.”

Romans 6:6

That is not an exhortation to struggle. That is history: our history, written in Christ before we were born. Do you believe this? It is true! Our crucifixion with Christ is a glorious historic fact. Our deliverance from sin is based, not on what we can do, nor even on what God is going to do for us, but on what He has already done in Christ.*

Action: Based on this reflection, give thanks to God for what He has done.

“The crowing evidence that Jesus was alive
was not a vacant grave,
but a spirit-filled fellowship.
Not a rolled-away stone,
but a carried-away church.”*
Clarence Jordan

Join a group of Christ-followers, and together celebrate the risen Christ…

“The death of Jesus is for us nothing
if we have not died with Him;

the resurrection of our Lord is for us nothing
if we have not been

raised with Him.”*
Swiss Theologian, Emil Brunner

*Watchman Nee, Sit Walk Stand, 14, 21.
*Joyce Hollyday, Clarence Jordan: Essential Writings, 140.
*Emil Brunner, I Believe in the Living God, 103.