Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Good for Piper

John Piper is taking a leave of absence from preaching, pastoring and virtually all public commitments for the rest of 2010 to focus his energy and attention on his wife and family.

Here's the blog post.

I think this is a great, bold move. I can't imagine the pressure Piper lives under and the toll it takes on his family. With all his commitments and callings, I'm sure he's missed much of his family life. There is only so much of each us to go around.

I love his vulnerability and modeling here.

The pressures of pulpit ministry are unique. Not worse than any one elses' pressures, but unique. You create this amazing ministry or you let it be created around you. The Lord is pleased to bless your ministry. But then its really, really hard to be fully engaged and present on the home front.

Nothing, but the Lord, is more important than our marriages and families. Piper recognizes this and is about to demonstrate it to his wife, Noel. I'm challenged by that.

Challenges me today to evaluate my priorities.

Lets pray for the Pipers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

reflections, 03.25.10

  • It was encouraging to see so many new folks at our Spring Welcome Lunch last Sunday. Linking the Welcome Lunch to our Getting to Know Grace class has been a good move that creates a clear path into our church. GraceSLO is a dynamic place. We lose some to graduation, relocation, and dissatisfaction, but we also keep gaining some. I'm encouraged by the many of who are finding Grace and making it their home.
  • We're excited about our Spring Growth Group. With 12 adults and 15 kids, its going to be interesting. We'll see how it goes. Potluck, family style. Looking forward to gathering regularly to explore and apply God's Word, pray and care for one another. Hope you're still prayerfully evaluating the rocks (priorities) of your life and considering how to wedge the big rock of Growth Groups in. It was definitely a long, challenging process for our family. I expect it will be for other families as well. Still time to sign up for the Spring.
  • Thursday Men's Study (need a name, any suggestions?) wrapped up Piper's "The Pleasures of God" this morning. Its been a humbling and thought-provoking study. Next week we'll start "Why We Love the Church." Its a great time to jump in, if you're looking to connect and grow. 6:00 to 7:00 AM, in and out. Its about the rhythm of being together and keeping the Lord and His word in the center of our lives. Email me, if you want to jump in.
  • Can't believe Easter is here already. Invite someone or lots of people to attend our services at 8, 9:30 and 11:00. Note the change-up in the service times. Easter is one Sunday when people are more open to attending church. Let's take full advantage of that.
  • Serve Day 2010 is happening May 15. This year Pastor Steve is spearheading a multi-church, county wide effort. Its going to a great. We all want to serve and make a difference in the community. Here's an identifiable way. Let's serve the Lord and others in word and deed.
  • Our search for a new Student Ministries pastor is still happening behind the scenes. Things are progressing slowly. Be in prayer for this important process.
  • Our family is bracing ourselves for the reality of three kids in three sports this Spring. Not sure how we're going to pull it off, but we're going to try. Haaken is doing Kid's Love Soccer, Sage will play Futsal (indoor soccer) and Zeke is playing Rookie Baseball. I'm guessing we're not the only ones. Its a challenge to balance 4 while doing what we can to provide stimulating whole life growth opportunities. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • We have a small 3 bedroom house (1200 square feet) on our property that we are looking to rent to a nice couple or small family. They will living in close proximity to our madness, but it's a great place in a beautiful rural setting in East Arroyo Grande. Our prayer is that the Lord will provide someone we know or someone who knows someone we know. Should be available by May 1 or before. Email me if you are interested or you know anyone.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

fences & moats

As we continue to see a continual stream of marriages on the brink of blow up or melt down, its reminded me again of the importance of marital fences and moats. Given how committed Susie and I are to these practices, I'm surprised how few couples have them. Here's what I tell couples about my and Susie's own commitment to one another. . .

  • We are committed to avoiding solo one-on-one meetings with others of the opposite sex. This means no outside lunches. This means my assistant or any of our female staff and I are not alone in the office building together. This means counseling happens on campus behind a door with a glass panel in it. This means I don't even take female babysitters home. This is real inconvenient at times.

  • We are committed to total and open transparency in our schedules. We work off a shared calendar. We give one another the right to ask about our various appointments. This keeps us connected throughout the day. We know where one another is at and what we're doing.

  • We are committed to total and open transparency in all things electronic. Facebook and other social networking sites offer way too much opportunity for the development of inappropriate relationships. Susie and I have ongoing access to all of the other's email accounts, passwords and web histories. We believe that our trust depends on that type of transparency, not on the fostering and fighting for privacy.

  • We are committed to letting one another determine the boundaries of our virtual and real lives. This means we give one another the freedom to veto practices, behaviors, time/schedule commitments.

  • We are committed to sitting down at least weekly to talk about our lives, our commitments, our schedules and our children. When necessary we schedule the time. The more consistent we can be, the more fruitful and effective. Our lives our so busy that we need to do this in order to survive and thrive.

I think marriage in today's world requires this kind of vigilance and transparency. We believe this is what "oneness" is all about. There is so much undermining marriage in today's world. The enemy wants to destroy marriages. We need to fight for our marriages. These measures and more are part of the fight.

And beneath all these things, the key to a vibrant, intimate, committed marriage is a lifestyle of brokenness toward one another and before the Lord. The ability to humbly come to one another and admit that we've blown it, confess our sins and shortcomings and ask for forgiveness and commit to growth.

Do you have fences and moats around your marriage? If not, build some, dig some.

Are you broken before your spouse and the Lord in your marriage? If not, humble yourself and ask the Lord to take you there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wise Words from Packer

Stumbled across these thought-provoking gems from J.I. Packer . . .

To pastors. . .

You have three priorities: teach, teach, teach. Evangelical churches are weaker than we realize because we don't teach the confessions and doctrine. Set new standards in teaching. Understand the word catechesis and practice that art.

To web devotees. . .

I'm amazed at the amount of time people spend on the internet. I'm not against technology, but all tools should be used to their best advantage. We should be spending our time on things that have staying power, instead of on the latest thought of the latest blogger--and then moving on quickly to the next blogger. That makes us more superficial, not more thoughtful.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I need to laugh more

On this Monday after Sunday, I'm sitting here reading Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck and I'm literally laughing out loud. . . . all by myself. Kluck, the non-pastor lay guy, especially, cracks me up with his brutal honesty and touch of sarcasm. . .

Just had to share. . . . .

In his book, "Wide Open Spaces, author Jim Palmer explains that he has left the church in favor of a Wednesday night meeting with a friend at Starbucks. He talks of spiritual discussions on a boat with a best friend. He says of these meetings, "If one of us starts into those religious modes of thinking, or drones on in God-talk that has little correlation to our daily reality, we quickly rein things back in.

And later, "There's no person or set of persons you can point to as the ones in charge of or responsible for what happens. All of us believe that we have an equal 'calling' to know God and make him known amid ordinary life and people. Everyone is a leader and a follower, everyone is a teacher and student."

Palmer's construct of "neo-church" certainly sounds exciting, what with regular trips to Starbucks, Panera, and excursions out on his friend's boat. But being involved in these sorts of organic house churches--or for that matter even real church--for any period of time, will reveal that not everyone is a "leader" or "teacher."

Never am I more of a fan of the traditional pastor/flock relationship at our church than when the church has what they call an "unstructured service." The unstructured service is a holdover from the church's freewheeling 1970s days and involves, as you might expect, an open mic where congregants share a story, pray, or suggest a song. On paper this seems like a great idea. What kind of coldhearted meanie wouldn't be a fan of people sharing encouragement of prayer requests from their heart?

During unstructured services I usually sit and stare at my bulletin, which I've folded into a tiny pile about the size of a square inch. This is nervous energy. Nervous because of the reality that many people weren't gifted with the ability to stand in front of a group and say something that is God-centered, relevant, and brief. Out of the three, I would take brief. Maybe you've been to services like this. You often hear the sweet older lady who talks for no less than seventeen minutes about her kidney ailment. There is the well-meaning, attractive guy who shares about how all the girls in our church's college group want to get physical with him, and how difficult this is. And, if you're lucky, you might get a bad poem, because, lets' face it, almost all poems are bad. I'm left with the idea that if this is what revolutionary house church would look like on a week-to-week basis, then I'm definitely out.

To be fair, there are always good things that come out of the unstructured service, but I'm usually left feeling really thankful for our pastor and his forty-five minute expositional sermons. Though its much sexier to appear to have come up with something off the top of one's head, I'm glad he spends twenty hours each week reading, praying, and preparing linear sermons.

As a guy who prepares his own 45 minute linear sermons and feels his own nervous energy during unstructured services, this definitely struck my funny bone.

Read the book. Easy read. In the church library.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

on the end of the American empire

Paul Farrell writes for marketwatch.com, a Wall Street Journal financial website. It just so happens that he lives in Arroyo Grande. His articles are always a contrarian, alarmist and terribly thought provoking. His latest is titled "Collapse of the American Empire: Swift, Silent and Certain." The title says it all, but I encourage to read his argument, nonetheless.

I read it and freaked a bit, like I usually do when I read Mr. Farrell. But then I thought about history and God's Word.

Mr. Farrell and those he references are right. . . .the American empire will fall and collapse. All empires before this one have. We are naive if we think that the United States is immune or exempt and so many of the preceding factors are already in place. The question is not "if", but "when".

In the Bible we see the rise and fall of the Israeli, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Greek and then the Roman Empires. Our empire is relatively young, when compared to some of these others.

If the collapse is certain and soon, where does that leave us? What should this reality do to us?

Panic is one option.

Paralysis is another.

Pessimism is another.

But I don't think any of these are real and viable options for believers, those who trust in Jesus Christ. This reality ought to drive us back to the Word and back to the Lord.

The Bible tells us . . .

1. Earthly kingdoms and empires rise and fall, but God's kingdom rules over all and endures forever.

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ (Daniel 4:34-45)

2. God has a plan and purpose that transcends the rise and fall of kingdoms and uses the rise and fall of kingdoms.

Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; [I am] God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned [it, surely] I will do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11)

3. Our true citizenship is in heaven. We are sojourners here.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 3:20-4:1)

4. We have a sure, living, eternal hope.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (I Peter 1:3-5)

Since all these things are true, what shall we do?

1. Don't despair, but hope and rejoice in the Lord.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

2. Don't abandon our community, but serve it all the more, as salt and light, in Jesus' name.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)

Your thoughts in response to Mr. Farrell or in response to my response?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

three births & five deaths

If you were with us on Sunday, you heard me mention the GraceSLO "hat trick" . . . . three babies born this last Saturday, March 6 . . . Cheyenne Wilkinson, Luke Nelson and Lillian Snyder. What a neat deal!

I and my not-so-little girls had the joy of holding them all Sunday afternoon. Fun to watch all these first-time parents.

Sadly this news was tempered by five friends in our church family who each lost a parent to death over the last week. . . . Cathy Blair, Linda Mathias, Wayne Brown, Wynn Heggli, Ron Hamley.

I'm reminded again that this is mix of pastoral ministry and life in the church. There are, at any given time, those who are grieving and those who are rejoicing . . . those who experiencing trials and those experiencing triumphs. The Lord throws us together so that we might care for and serve one another. I'm privileged and usually overwhelmed to have a front row seat to watch and be a part of it all. This is life together.

Be looking for ways to care and serve these 8 families. . . . and others who are experiencing the range of life experiences.