Saturday, May 27, 2006

Do You Have These Ministry Skills?

Rick Warren has compiled "35 Ministry Skills You'll Need in the 21st Century." There's no way any one person could have all 35 skills in sufficient amounts, but that's ok. We're a body, right?

Read through these and ask yourself how many of these skills would have been appropriate in the first century, and the second, etc.
Put the Right Finish On It

It's been a difficult time where I work. There are many frustrations for large groups of people, and fears, uncertainties -- the emotions are flowing!

It is right and appropriate to pour out these emotions -- fear, anger, frustration, despair -- in our prayers before the Lord. He is our loving father, eager to listen.

All too often, however, we leave our prayers at that point, and don't end them properly. The biblical pattern is in the Psalms, in Job, and other places. End these prayers with submission to His authority and will, and with praise for Him. Put the right finish on your prayers, men!
Quote of the Week

"To sit home, read one's favorite paper, and scoff at the misdeeds of the men who do things is easy, but it is markedly ineffective. It is what evil men count upon the good men's doing." -- Theodore Roosevelt
Death by Ministry

If you're a pastor and/or serious Bible teacher, or want to understand how to help your church leadership and staff, you must read this article: Death by Ministry.

Mark Driscoll begins with some sobering statistics about burnout in ministry, then gives some outstanding counsel for how to prepare yourself and guard yourself for long-term Kingdom impact.

Give this to your pastors. Even if they know these things (and they may). "It is as important to be reminded as to be informed." -- Richard Halverson
A Troubling Symptom

American culture is rapidly losing the discipline of punctuality. I think this is a symptom of the real issues of self-focus, and lack of respect for other people's time. As a culture we are so affluent that time is the most precious commodity.

I've told a few Sunday School classes that I'm quick to make judgment on people who are consistently late to worship services. I keep thinking things like "If it was the President, they'd be here early. If it was a movie they looked forward to seeing, they'd be here on time. Shouldn't we treat the Lord Almighty with even more respect?"

Should I judge them for this? No. Who am I that I should judge my Master's servants?

Is punctuality a discipline that I believe should be promoted, and encouraged? Absolutely.
Truth and Presentation

Al Gore's documentary film, titled "An Inconvenient Truth," is about the global warming "catastrophe." I've seen a number of raving positive reviews. I looked through a PowerPoint presentation that Gore has been giving for months now, and it's slick.

Remember the proverb: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." (Proverbs 18:17)

These might be good questioners to consider, before you decide what is truth.

"Inconvenient Truths Indeed"

"Questions for Al Gore"

Also, remember this: "Endless repetition is not a coherent argument." (Thomas Sowell)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"Attend Church, Get a 10% Raise"

The Economist, a formidable magazine with high reputation, reports on an MIT study that examined data for church-attenders. People who attended twice as often were 10% wealthier. better educated, and less likely to divorce.

I suspect this economist is looking at the system backwards.

When people people begin to live in right relationship with God and with others, obeying biblical precepts, their lives will often be "better" as the world measures it. You're simply working with a strong foundation, rather than on a foundation of lies and deceipt and lonliness.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Good News?

Michael Barone does a fine job illustrating the facts about the economic news of the world, and the relative peace of the world. Despite media reports with selective focus, there IS excellent economic and peace news today. From a macro view on those fronts, we live in good times. Some of the best times ever, in fact.

Mr. Barone does not address our spiritual condition, however. This is harder to measure. Some say Christianity is advancing at a fast pace nearly everywhere (and some add, "except for the US"). What say you?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Winston Churchill Quotes

I liked some of these pithy quotes from Winston Churchill, especially:

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."

"If you are going through hell, keep going."

"If you have an important point to make, don' t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time -- a tremendous whack."

"You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Prayer for Understanding

I've seen this several times over the years, and enjoy reflecting on it.

"I asked for strength that I might achieve; I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do greater things; I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy; I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of men; I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life; I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered; I am among all men most richly blessed."

Prayer of an unknown Confederate soldier, U.S. Civil War (1860s).

Friday, May 19, 2006

Why do You Expect Differently?

The da Vinci Code movie opens today. I've spoken with many Christians and read several articles where people point out the double standard from the world and media -- the argument is usually in two parts:

1. No Hollywood type would dare make an offensive movie undermining the claims of Muhammed, but they don't think twice about making movies that attack Christ and his Church.
2. Media attacks on The Passion of the Christ and the Narnia movie are rampant, even though they are amazing commercial successes.

Our job, men, is to be salt and light. We can speak the truth. We can (through God's enabling life in us) to bless those who curse us and persecute us.

But here's a caution: let us not be caught whining about unfair treatment. No student of the Bible should expect "fair" treatment or be surprised when persecution happens. Our true enemy has deceived these people. Don't expect different treatment. "I'm shocked, shocked, that Christians would be persecuted!"

Doug Phillips shares some good insights and recommendations about establishing honor as the defining principle for living. Recommended, especially if you are training boys into men.
Milestone Reached

One billion people now have Internet access, and 1/4th of them have high-speed access. Let us use it for good.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Disclaimer Needed? A "Da Vinci Code" cast member added fuel to the firestorm when he said the Bible should carry a disclaimer. Actor Ian McKellen made the statement during an NBC "Today Show" interview after Matt Lauer asked whether the movie should have a disclaimer saying it is fiction. "Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction," McKellen said. "I mean, walking on water, it takes an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie. Not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story. And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing after they've seen it."...

I would encourage anyone to seriously read the New Testament. Ask and answer two questions:

1. Who is Jesus?
2. What will you do about that?

I was challenged to do just this, and God used the Word to change my life. It's not enough, by the way, to answer the first question. I regularly meet people who casually say, "Yeah, Jesus is the son of God, so what?" God promises that every knee will bow. You can begin bowing now, or bow later. You won't like later.
Christ and Creation

Kevin Nelstead continues to hit it out of the park on his blog, The Earth Is Not Flat. I recommend you add it to your regular reading list(and please consider supporting their ministry in Romania).

His sermon on Christ and Creation is fabulous. Kevin clearly explains why creation testifies to God's existence, nature, and power, but is incomplete revelation. If you have not-yet-believing friends and family who are interested in the natural environment, or aren't thinking about God, check out this sermon and the other postings.
Business Methods to Manage Churches

There is helpful, creative tension in the discussions about how much of the accepted practices and methods for managing corporations should be adopted by church leaders.

Here's what one pastor said to his elder board:

"The next time a sentence begins, “In the business world, we…” please know that I’m not interested in the rest of that sentence. The church is not the business world. As I’ve observed the effects of the business world on people’s lives, it doesn’t produce the traits that the church is about: joy, contentment, grace, and love. I don’t see the business world as a model for encouraging the kinds of lives we’re called to live."

From the other perspective you have business leaders scratching their heads and trying to figure out how to capture the tremendous passion and volunteer spirit they see in non-profits and churches, and get that same energy expressed in their businesses.

I don't believe there is a simplistic answer. The church is a special kind of human organization, so to at least some extent, practices successful in business organizations will be effective in the church. But a business is, in the end, performance-driven, and measuring by monetary and scale attributes. Churches [should] have a completely different ethic and metric system.

What do you think?
Quote of the Week

"Always stand on principle, even if you stand alone." -- John Quincy Adams

Godly men standing on the principles of God never stand alone.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Designing a Church for Men

Mark Doebler pastors the Grove Church in Peoria, IL, which is specifically designed to appeal to men. Read this interview transcript -- amazing ideas.

"Men respond exceedingly well to challenge." Amen to that.

Best idea, in my opinion: the huddle.

"And then after the service we have something called a men’s huddle. I invite every man in the church to meet me off to the side. No microphones or nothing. We gather just like a football huddle. I stare the men in the eye. I usually have something to hand to them for them to take, put in their pocket, carry with them during the week. I have a specific story or challenge for them to walk out of the service with something practical in their hands. And the great thing about that is as soon as they get in the car, what are the wives going to ask their husbands?

Steve:“What did you do in the huddle?”

Mark: Exactly! “What did you do in the huddle?” And so for a man who does not know how to minister to his family, for the first time in his life, even without trying, he is beginning to minister to his family in spiritual things. And it’s exciting!They’re learning how to have spiritual conversations with their wife and their children on the way home from the church, because I’ve given them something that their wife and their kids didn’t hear.

Read the whole interview here.
Perry Noble Gets My Votes for Best Title of the Month

Perry Noble has a great blog post about our works-based righteousness being offensive to God.

Go here to see why he gets my vote for best title of the month.

This is a very useful strategy when you are teaching and working with people -- help them understand viscerally what the biblical text says.
An Alternative Approach for Iran

Bret Stephens outlines several approaches to stop the current Iranian government from further work on nuclear weapons. Worth reading. I didn't realize how vulnerable Iran was financially, or that they import 40% of their gasoline due to lack of refineries.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What Do Moms Do?

Mark Batterson relays this story:

"Tony Campolo tells one of my favorite mom stories. When he was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania his wife was a stay-at-home mom. At faculty functions she'd invariably get asked what she did and she'd say she was a full-time mom. The reaction was always the same. She felt patronized by the intelligentsia so she redefined her role. The next time she was asked she said, "I am socializing two homo sapiens in the dominant values of the Judeo-Christian tradition in order that they might be instruments for the transformation of the social order into the teleologically prescribed utopia inherent in the eschaton." Then she paused a moment and asked, “And what is it that you do?”

I love it.

Let's figure out the equivalent for real dads!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

One of the things they teach you in West Virginia history is that the Mother's Day celebration on the 2nd Sunday in May came from the efforts of a Ana Jarvis at a church in Grafton, WV, beginning in 1907.

May God bless all our mothers today, and each day!

I liked what Armstrong Williams says about his mother:

"We recently honored my mother on her 80th birthday with many friends and relatives who came from far and wide to help us celebrate on the family farm in Marion, South Carolina. As we were celebrating her 80 years, it dawned on me that every day is Mother’s Day. Without mothers we would not be here. Our mothers are our first models of God: From their bodies, spring our creation. Early on, in the womb, we are weaned on their nutrients. When we are born, the maternal instinct ensures our safety. This unconditional bond teaches a child what it means to be cherished, teaches a child about the world around him, about emotional needs, about the essence of love. From these early interactions a child's character is born. My own mother spread her love equally to her children, taking great care to build and affirm our self-esteem. At the same time, she never tried to be our best friend; she was our mother, and as such, she provided the discipline and structure that our young minds craved. It was under her kindly lash, that my sense of personal responsibility and assertiveness grew. Most of all, she found great peace by giving up everything to serve her children and to help endow them with an immutable moral foundation. This moral sense was bound up in the concepts of religious striving, hard work and charity. In the simplest sense, mama believed that an absolute moral point of reference was necessary to help us discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, she thought humans tended merely to live from whim to whim, moving neither toward nor away from anything, finding enjoyment only in moments of fleeting beauty. These lessons were learned young and so they tended to stick. They formed a foundation that would haul me along into adulthood. In a very tangible way, they set me about becoming the man I am today. Decades later these early lessons remain not just as memory, but also as a lingering joy in my heart and a constant source of rejuvenation.
I suppose it is appropriate that, upon birth, we are literally attached to our mothers. So while we delight in celebrating this Mother’s Day on May 14 – remember – every day is Mother’s Day."

I'd put my mom up against his mom any day :-)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

United Flight 93 Movie

I saw the United Flight 93 Movie last night. Very impressive. Gut-wrenching. Brought back the whole range of emotions from that day. I thought the movie powerfully portrayed the confusion, the fears, and the heroics in a non-political way. Major kudos to the filmmakers.

One part of me says "Every American should see this movie." It so clearly portrays the nature of the enemy we're facing.

Another part of me thinks this movie is too intense for my wife and daughter to watch. I went with my teenage son, and we had a good conversation afterwards about what men must do in difficult situations.

Here's a useful wikipedia entry on UAL Flight 93.

"As far as your self-control goes, as far goes your freedom."
Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

Friday, May 12, 2006

Good days, bad days

More on the "Liberal" Word

I've written before how it bugs me that the wonderful word "liberal" (which means freedom) has been coopted by leftist and socialist thinking. Thomas Sowell writes:

"Some say it is 'name-calling' if you refer to someone as a liberal. There is nothing inherently negative about the word 'liberal.' If it has acquired negative overtones, that is because of what liberals have done and the consequences that followed."

Some of my left-leaning political friends have now adopted the moniker "Progressive." The same thing will happen to that word.

And to "Conservative."

We don't manage labels very well, do we?

How are we doing with "evangelical" and "Christian" and "Jesus-follower"?
Power in Relationships

Peggy Noonan writes (about politicians in Washington) that "Power is distancing."

I believe she's correct.

I can't get my mind completely around this, but God-drenched relationships have power, but remain intimate. That distancing effect results from pride and other sins.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I Had to Laugh

"Blogger. n. Someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do."
-- Guy Kawasaki

Now it's true that sometimes I have nothing to say, but the second part is fale -- I know you men have LOTS to do. Good things, which God has prepared in advance for you to do!
Top 10 Issues Facing Families

Factor these into your ministry outreach to other men!

1. Anti-Christian culture; 2. Divorce; 3. Busyness; 4. Absent father figure; 5. Lack of discipline; 6. Financial pressures; 7. Lack of communication; 8. Negative media influences; 9. Balance of work and family; 10. Materialism.

More here.
Raising Men

Check out this mother's story about raising men, especially so they honor and defend women. Good advice here for moms and dads.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Desiring God Radio

I frequently recommend John Piper's books, articles, and sermons. These have been SO helpful to me. God uses his ministry to regularly rebuke, exhort, and excite my heart for Jesus.

If you're not a big reader, and prefer listening, then check out Desiring God Radio. They have hours of great information available, no cost. It's delightful to hear Pastor Piper's heart as he talks and preaches.

(You can also learn a lot from Pastor Piper about *how* to deliver information. Notice how he goes back to Scripture again and again, often repeating the text. Very powerful.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Silence of Adam

Kevin Nelstead has a wonderful post with quotes from The Silence of Adam. Check it out. I'm adding this book to my reading list.

"The root problem is the failure to believe that God is enough."

"When people try to handle their lives by merely working hard to do better, they either fail and live in defeat or succeed and become proud."

"Men are called to pass on something important to future generations: not just a passing on of history but a passing on of the memory of God in our lives."

See Kevin's comments about this book.
Darfur Peace Accords

Let us continue to pray for peace in Darfur, brothers. There is a long history here to make people skeptical about how long the peace agreements will hold.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How to Pray for Your Pastor

I have a special desire to pray for pastors. I liked Perry's Noble's advice in this endeavor:

#1 - Pray For His Walk With God
#2 - Pray For His Marriage
#3 - Pray For Him As A Father
#4 - Pray For His Leadership
#5 - Pray For His Creativity
#6 - Pray For "Thick Skin."
#7 - Pray For His Health

Perry gives some details for each request.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

U.S. Church in Decline

Christianity Today has a special report: The American Church in Crisis. Read the report and reflect on it.

But don't despair or be discouraged.

Ask God what He wants you to do to serve Him. Today.

For me, I'm going to keep on teaching the Bible to change lives. I'm going to continue to love my wife and shepherd my family. I'm going to continue to encourage and challenge men to be bold and gentle, tough and tender.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Albert Einstein Didn't Do This

There is an (admittedly delicious) story about Albert Einstein refuting a university professor by arguing [logically] that evil exists because of the absence of God. Turns out not to be true.

When this story came around to my inbox again recently, I explained that it was a fable. The person who sent it to me was outraged that I would challenge it! "It should be true," he wrote.

We all have the tendency to believe reported stories and facts when they agree with our worldview, even when they are demonstrably false. Let's watch ourselves, men, and keep our doctrine pure.
Growth in China