Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Life Dreams (3/3)

Finally, their is a third group or way of determining if our life dream come from God. This is a group has a noble dream and experiences the supernatural blessing of God as they pursue that dream. God turns a chance meeting into a great ministry. He makes a check mysteriously appear in the mail the exact moment it is needed. He sometimes literally speaks to these people in dreams or audibly.

We see it in the Bible in main Bible character. Many Christians simply don't believe that these kinds of things still happen today. The cessationists. Then there are still others like me who would love to experience God in that way. In seminary, I read the George Mueller biography and saw for the first time a modern Christian experiencing supernatural answer to pray like in the Bible. It was Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind Fresh Fire that had the most influence on my passion for church planting. I saw the way that prayer permeated his life and church and God answered supernaturally over and over again. I wanted that.

The one sure way to know if your life dream is from God is for Him to tell you audibly or continue to supernaturally lead you in this dream. The problem with the first 2 groups is that while there is no clear supernatural confirmation of God's hand, God may still be leading in their apparent success or failure. He may be leading a person who experiences many failures to an ultimate future plan for greatness (eg. Job) or suffering (eg. martyrs) for His glory. He may be leading some by blessing everything they do.

So how do you know if your dream is really from God? I can't answer that. I am still in the middle of mine. Waiting. I think that is why God put the book of Job in the Bible. So that we would know that 'it could be worse' and that staying focused on God ultimately leads to our best life. What I know is this, "His ways are higher than our ways." We should not too easily attribute our success or failure to God. While it within His power to heal and to hurt, it is not within his character to build up the proud or destroy the humble. So stay humble and grow deeper in your relationship with Him. As with any relationship it only gets deeper when you spend more time together.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Life Dreams (2/3)

There is a second scenario for interpreting whether our dreams come from God. That is when everything we touch turns to gold. We have noble dreams and everything we do succeeds. When we are in this situation it is easy to attribute all of the successes to God's blessing.

This a great way to live. It is cause and effect from the creator. It allows us to get into a routine that is very fulfilling. Over time it can teach us how to discern God's voice. When God's blessings seems obvious to people around us they tend to flock to us creating opportunities for us to speak into their lives and sometimes impact the lost for Christ.

But like the scenario we talked about yesterday success in our life dream can still be problematic. Even in the noblest of dreams success does not always equal blessing. It won't take you long to think of a successful business man who treats people bad or even a pastor who after many years of successful ministry is found to have gross sin in his life. Even people experiencing success without gross sin in their life could still be on the wrong tract. One of the most exciting secular jobs in my life was like this. I had great pay and a jet set life which I loved. The problem was that I was losing my heart for ministry. It wasn't bad and I wasn't in any abnormal sin but it was a distraction from something else God wanted to do in my life.

So how do you know when the successes in your life dream are from God? Again, I don't really know. His was are higher than our ways. Once again, the best we can hope for is that the nearer we get to him the clearer he gets to us. I might add to that, are we impacting other people's lives for Christ in the long term?

Tomorrow we will talk about yet a third scenario for interpreting whether our dreams are from God.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Life Dreams (1/3)

Many of us have passionate dreams for personal or social accomplishment. Some of the those dreams are selfish. Some of them are noble.

For Christ followers, we want to take those noble dreams for purposes of fulfilling the Great Commission or taking care of the poor and oppressed and believe that they are from God. God's plan or leading or call on our life. The problem for the Christ follower is that nobility and Scriptural alignment is no guaranty that our dream is actually from God. We can chase after the dream and never experience God's supernatural support or confirmation. I say supernatural because that is the only kind that can be rightly attributed to Him.

What does all that mean? Well, it means that many Believers will experience a tremendous sense of personal failure, feeling that they are following God while falling flat on their face. Eventually, they come to the conclusion that for some reason they aren't worthy and that God has yanked His plan out from under them. Some never get over this. In the end they think they are either failures or maybe quitters because they didn't hold out long enough.

But, if that dream is from God we have to hang on. God's timing is not our timing and He may have reasons for the delay that we don't understand at the time. Only by staying committed to the dream God has given us will you be able to experience all that He has for us.

So how do you know when it is from God? Good question. I don't really have the answer. I think the answer is subjective but somehow depends on our relationship with Jesus.

I'll leave it at this: the nearer I get to Him the clearer He gets to me.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aggies Beat Texas . . . Again

My alma mater wins 2 in a row against texas.

Aggies 38
T-sips 30

I LOVE beating texas.

Enough said!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Starting Christmas Early

Our Christmas tree ritual usually looks something like this.

About a week after thanksgiving we notice that the trees at the local Food Lion look pretty picked over. We wonder when they are going to get a new shipment. We ask some teenage manager at the Food Lion if they will be getting another shipment. They usually tell us they don't know.

We decide we can't wait until it is too late and we get the kids together and go to the Food Lion. We chase kids and fuss at them to stay out of the parking lot while we are looking. We pick the least crooked, least dry tree, load it on top of our car and head home to put it in our living room. We are happy and the kids always think the tree is just perfect.

The problem is mommy messed it all up this year! Friday she went out to get her hair cut and have some quite time with no children in tow. When she came how she had a Christmas tree. I said What? You can't do that. You destroyed our Food Lion Christmas tree tradition. She said that she just couldn't help it and she did get it at Food Lion. They were unloading the first load of trees and she wanted to get a good one that was not dry yet and not wait too long to get our tree. Well this year our tree us up early. We are not going to let the neighbors get all the Christmas decorations up first this year.

Praise God for my wife and her good thinking. We are ahead of the game and our kids love it and now we can spend more time pick a night to put on the ornaments as a family rather than picking a tree in the rain at Food Lion with the kids one night about bed time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Messy Ministry

In ministry we often try to get organized to function like a well oiled machine. There are a lot of churches out there who do it . . . and some even experience genuine conversion growth. But there is something about the Gospels (I just finished them in my reading though the Bible in a year plan) that points to the messy ministry of Jesus. Somehow his ministry did not receive consistent rapid growth. It was up and down. But Jesus willingness to step away from the sanitized life of the religious leaders and get his hands dirty left a mark on a generation who changed the world.

How can we get our hands dirty today in a way that will change the world?

Check out this story from Vince Antonucci and ForeFront Church.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Faith Problem (2/2)

Ok. Here are some more thoughts on this topic.

Why is it easier to "do evangelism" with strangers? Is it because the people we know see right through us? Is is because we are not smoking what we are selling? I guess there are 2 reasons that so few strangers accept "tract evangelism." First, they don't know you and don't trust you. Second, they know that you don't know them and so there must be an ulterior motive to your concern for their eternity. I guess there really is a third reason. Most people think that people who do tract evangelism are weirdos. If they accepted your message they would have to become a weirdo too.

Another thought here is why are we more concerned about cleaning people up than we are with connecting them to God. Do we think that God only wants cleaned up people? Open one of the first 4 books of the New Testament (begins on page 813 in my Bible) and you will quickly see that Jesus spent most of his ministry helping messed up people.

The other reason that we tend to want to clean people up before introducing them to God, quite honestly is a lack of faith. Subconsciously, we really don't think that a messed up person will repent of their sins without our help. We don't really think that we can start a messed up person on a journey of faith and expect them to turn from major sin through their own interaction with the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, we just don't believe that God will do it. It is easier to believe that someone will become a Christian be confessing some doctrinal creed that tells who God is and how people should live. If they believe it then they will be Good Christians, right?

Don't take all of this as just a rant against the traditional church. I think most Christians would never say these things, but our actions reveal that it's buried within our subconscious somewhere. I have done and thought and do all of the things that I have mentioned. I just know that it's wrong. If I don't believe that God will change people without me, then why do I try to sell this supernatural miracle working God.

We have got to start smoking what we are selling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Faith Problem (1/2)

The Problem -

So often the churches attempt at evangelism looks like this: Go to a stranger's house on visitation night and give them a gospel presentation with a tract. If they accept (which is very rare), we invite them to church and tell them baptism is the next step. If they don't then we check that address off of our city map and move on.

Here is another option: We visit someone on visitation night who visited our church last week. We go through the tract with them. Since they visited our church they may already be Christians. If they are aren't and they pray to accept Christ we invite them to church and tell them baptism is the next step (again, very rare). If they don't accept, they either never come back to our church because they now think that we are one of "those" churches or they avoid us like a plague at church because they now think we have an agenda.

Here is another option: If it is someone that we actually know, we usually start with justifying how their sin separates them from God (don't know why we have to justify this but we do). Then we go though the tract. If they don't accept (they never do because they know us and they don't want what to be like us), we then begin to talk more about their sin and how destructive it is and how their life would be better if they would change.

Ok, I have kind of presented the problem here. Add your thoughts if you like and we will talk more about it tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Elite Runners

Gina and I had a great weekend hanging with the elite athletes at the OBX Marathon and half-marathon. Come to think of it, I guess that we were only there because Gina was invited as an elite athlete herself. They put us up in an awesome house on the beach with a great view (see the pics on the left) and gave us the VIP treatment. It was a cool inside look at the world of elite running. We really enjoyed getting to know these people and hope to see them again.

Gina was amazing, as usual. She had been struggling with some weird arthritis stuff over the last few weeks and was unable to do much training. She didn't know how she would do. What she did was win the OBX Half Marathon Overall Masters Female, the NC USA Track and Field half-marathon Masters Championship, and set the OBX Half Marathon Masters track record. She didn't run quite what she would like to have run if she had been healthier. Now she wants to run another one and see what she can do. I am so proud of her.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Outer Banks Weekend Without the Kids

Gina and I have not had a date night in a long time. In fact the last time that I can recall where we were alone more than 24 hours in a row was last fall in London and Paris on a ministry trip. When you have a large and young family you have less time to get alone and more need to do it. But, it also costs a fortune. Just dinner will cost $20-30 and when you get home you have to pay about that much to the babysitter. So we have to be creative and it doesn't happen as often.

Well we are very blessed this weekend. Gina has been invited as an elite runner to the Outer Banks half marathon. That means they are providing the hotel at a resort area. We were able to get Grandma to watch 2 of our kids and some friends to watch the other 2. Thank Broadwells.

So Gina and I leave around lunch time for the Outer Banks. How Cool. She also runs on Sunday morning. She has won or place in the top 3 (Overall or Masters) in every race this year. She has struggles recently with some pain and her training has been off, but she has felt better the last couple of days. If she can pull another win they will even be giving away babysitting money.

I'm looking forward to an awesome weekend.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

New Churches with Old Missions Agencies

I have noticed is that the vast majority of churches who have seen any significant grow in the last 15 years are churches that were started in the last 15 years. There are lots of big older churches around but few of these have actaully grow significantly in the last 15 years. Most of these older large churches experienced their growth in 30 to 50 years ago and have been declining or plateaued ever since.

The world of missions seems to be experiencing a similar trend. Most missions agencies are more than 15 years old. Most missions agencies are not seeing significant growth on most of their fields, even though they may have experienced significant growth in previous years.

So how are the new churches investing in missions? It seems that most of these churches continue to support the old missions agencies, but there also seems to be a trend toward sending out individuals from their own churches.

I have a thought on this. I believe for the church to regain its missions effectiveness in the world, we will need to see a growth of new missions organizations. I think that they will be more specialized and smaller micro missions agencies that can more effectively reach specific regions. And they will be made up and led by young people.

For some reason it appears that the church has skipped generations of leadership and has today's churches being led with a 1950's mentality. I'm not saying that there is anything inherently wrong with this group or their methods, but they don't seem to motivate the young people in the church and they don't seem to interest the young people outside of the church.

With Catalyst Europe we are seeking to be one of those new micro missions, but we came early to the dance. Hopefully what we are doing now will one day be seen as pioneering. We are looking for young people who want to be a part of a young missions organization targeting young Europeans. We want young people to dream with us and pioneer with us.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Junkie Car Club

My car with 270K miles is terminally ill. The transmission died yesterday and it is probably not worth a $2000 rebuild on a Dodge with that many miles.

I still qualify for the Junky Car Club, though, with my other car, a 1994 Plymouth Grand Voyager with 179K miles. Best of all the headliner is beginning to come down.

By the way, 2 weeks ago, my wife's sister and brother-in-law and our pastor gave us their old 1999 Honda Oddessy. It is like a Cadillac to us, even with 157K miles. It has all the bells and whistles and probably runs smoother today than my Dodge and Plymouth Minivans did new. Praise God. He had the timing all worked out.

I also gave my old 1990 Bronco II to a teenager who had just wrecked his car. It needs a head replaced and as a bonus he now qualifies for the Junkie Car Club.

Church Ownership

As we are getting Catalyst Europe Inc. off of the ground I have been working as an electrician to help make ends meet. I have noticed something over the past few weeks. When someone else designs a job, I end up spending time trying to figure out what they were thinking. I do a lot of jobs that require some creative engineering. Without, detailed instructions, I often have to try to figure out what the job designer intended in a particular situation. Sometimes I just have to call to get clarification. It can be really frustrating because I don't feel like I can be as efficient that way. If I had been the one who designed the job and the one implementing it, I could be much more efficient.

The church often faces a similar situation when they have strong central leadership and low participation by members. Often those who are implementing the vision are several levels removed from the vision caster. What you find are members who are just going through the motions when they serve because they don't internalize the importance of their role. Think about cleaning the bathroom. It is the difference between a quick mop and spray of Lysol and adding some kleenex and mints near the sink and burning a scented candle when the cleaning is done.

The Bible says that we are one body. I think the ultimate conclusion of that is ownership. I think that Jesus wanted us to serve the body as owners. When we take ownership of our area of the church body we are thinking in the area of our expertise, in the area God called us to. We are more responsible and will be more efficient if we are implementing something that we own. As God gives us a vision for our part in the vision of our local church, we can see it . . .visualize it. When we implement it, it is a win for everybody.

This is not easy to do . . . for leaders or for volunteers. But it must be done by both for the church body to function in a healthy way.

How can you "own it" today?

The First Sin

I was just reading yesterday and and something jumped out at me for the first time. In Genesis 3:3 Eve says to the serpent, "you must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden and must not touch it or your will die." Of course God never said that you should not touch it, at least he didn't say it in my Bible.

I have always known that Eve made this statement that seems to exaggerate what God really said. It just never occurred to me that this, and not the eating of the fruit, could have been the first sin. Or maybe God did say it but it was not written down.

Just thinking out loud this morning. What do you think.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hook'ed on P'honiks

I have called my oldest son Hawkeye for years. Since he was 2 he would see something on a business or sign or car that I never noticed. He has an uncanny ability to see small details that everyone else misses.

Recently he has been playing an educational game on the internet called Super WHY! on the PBS Kids website. Whenever he completes a spelling game it lets him create a cartoon character and name it. Then he prints it out and puts it on the wall. The site has some kinda weird names so I didn't think anything about it when he started naming his pictures HOCI. He has been using that name for a while.

Recently, Gina said, "guess what? I found out that the HOCI name Levi has been putting on his pictures was his attempt to spell Hawkeye."

There are 2 lessons here. 1. Nicknames can mean a lot to a child. 2. Bee kairful win teechin foniks tu yur kids.

I love you Hawkeye. You are so special to me.

Blogging but not Seeing

Though seeing, they do not see (Matt. 13:13)

About 6am this morning I was trying to read ingredients on some medicine bottles to know the right one to give to my son whose coughing was keeping me awake (he went to the doctor this morning, for his cough not a medicine overdose). I tried really hard to get my eyes to adjust but simply could not make out the small print.

It hit me right there at the medicine cabinet. I'm getting old. Ok, 39 is not that old, but I never thought that I would get to the point where I couldn't read something. I have had reading glasses for years but rarely wear them and have never come across something that I could not read if I tried hard enough. I have not lost any hair and have not had any gray . . . until recently (and very few).

I had always felt immune to the effects of aging. But, I will not go down without a fight! Though I may wear my glasses more.