Things to Think About

Lies We’ve Been Told But Have Bought Anyway.

1. The back door can be closed.

2. Teaching on stewardship results in increased giving.

3. If you work really hard you can grow your church.

4. Great preaching and great music will bring great growth.

5. People with a background in business are the best people to have on your church board.

6. “missional” is new.

7. Traditional church models are automatically ineffective.

8. Mission statements are really important.

9. Pastors of larger churches must know something pastors of smaller churches don’t.

10. Formal church memberships result in greater commitment.

11. If you have a clear and well-articulated vision your church will grow.

12. Outreach events result in church growth.

13. The “attractional model” isn’t working anymore.

14. In order for an older pastor to attract a younger crowd he need to look and     sound cool.

15. If a church isn’t growing there must, must be something wrong.

16. Every once in a while it’s good for a pastor to insert a moderate curse word into his sermons. This will communicate that he is cool and contemporary, and radical.

17. Parishioners will follow the example of their pastor.

18. All healthy things grow and reproduce.

 

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“Mark, we need to talk. I don’t quite know how to put this but Paul doesn’t want you.”

Acts 15

Barnabas wants Mark, Paul doesn’t.

In an earlier missionary trip Mark left Paul and Barnabas. The word Luke used to describe it was, “deserted”. The specifics of this are left out. Mark rejected by Paul.

Who broke the news to Mark?

“Mark, we need to talk. I don’t quite know how to put this but Paul doesn’t want you.”

How did that make Mark feel? Not just rejection (which no one likes to experience) but rejection by the great Apostle Paul.

Paul and Barnabas disagree so much over the “Mark issue” that they go their separate ways. Mark knew he was the reason for breaking up this great missionary team. Can you imagine how that must have felt?

How encouraging it had to be for Mark learn that Barnabas wanted him. But still… it must have been bittersweet. As time passed things worked themselves out. Gradually Paul warmed up to Mark and at the end of Paul’s life he wants Mark to be with him. The impressive young man who failed the first time out, the one rejected by Paul… goes on to write one of the four Gospels. He made it into the Bible!

We tend to kick our leaders when they are down… and because of that some stay down. Others eventually get back up. What makes the difference?

Maybe a “Barnabas” is what makes the difference between those who stay down and those who get up.  There will always be enough of those who are willing to kick, I can afford to be one who lifts up, who believes in the fallen. After all, I’m still a bit fallen. Do I really want to be judge, jury, and executioner? I’d rather be Barnabas.

Do you know a Mark?

 

Go to the graveyard and spend the day cursing the dead.

Once, there was a community of wise monks who lived in the desert. One day, a man arrived at the monastery, asking if he could stay and learn wisdom from the monks. The old abbot came out and greeted the traveler, then asked why he had come.

The man answered, “I want to be wise, but I only have the weekend.”

The abbot smiled, because many men hoped for the wisdom which had taken him a lifetime to accumulate. He replied, “To begin, go to the graveyard and spend the day cursing the dead. Tell them they lived useless lives, and the world is better off without them.”

The man thought this was strange, but he did as he was asked. The next day, the abbot asked the traveler, “So, what did the dead say?” The man replied, “Nothing, they’re all dead!”

The abbot told him, “Today, go to the graveyard and spend all day praising the dead! Shower them with blessings, exhort them, and speak of the many ways society has benefited from their life’s work.”

Now the man was thoroughly bewildered, but he did as he was asked. The next day, the abbot asked the traveler, “So, what did the dead say?”

The man replied, “Nothing! They’re all dead! And I have to leave today!” The wise old abbot looked at him and said,

“What wise men they must be, to not be swayed by either the empty blessings or angry curses of other people. They must know true happiness.”

Going Deeper with Dave: God In My Hands: heresy or intimacy?

Journal entry 3.16.12

Ps. 1:2-3 “…his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither ; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

The Bible delights me. I love it. I delight in the Lord. I love the Lord. I realize that the Bible is not God, but if it is the word of God, is that not, in a sense, God? Can we separate God from His word? I know that the book I hold in my hands is not God in my hands, not literally, but what harm does it do to think, “This is His word, this is God. I am holding Him, listening to Him, praying and meditating upon Him… here, in my hands?”

We have the ability to hold God. Holding God. I realize this will bring objections by many, and rightly so, I understand.

We don’t want to say the Bible is God, or that His word is He. But it’s close enough that I think we should be able to relax and accept my point.

I have no problem whatsoever thinking that when I sit down with my Bible I am sitting down with God, when I feel the Bible speaking to me that God is speaking to me. I am comfortable, quite comfortable saying, “This morning God told me…” and be referring to a passage of Scripture I read. Very comfortable indeed. I delight in the Bible. I meditate on the Bible. The Bible causes me to prosper. I delight in God. I meditate on God. God causes me to prosper. Quite comfortable.

Some Things Are Very Hard

It’s very hard to maintain an awareness of God throughout the day.

It’s very hard to act upon opportunities to serve others.

It’s very hard to deny yourself.

It’s very hard not to be critical.

It’s very hard to not be cynical.

It’s very hard to not care what others think.

It’s very hard to say nothing, to stop talking, to hold back your opinions.

It’s very hard to see people as God sees them.

It’s very hard not to worry.

It’s very hard to trust God for everything.

It’s very hard to keep idols at bay.

It’s very hard to sit in silence.

It’s very hard to receive criticism.

It’s very hard to not justify or retaliate.

It’s very hard to see clearly.

It’s very hard to be content.

It’s very hard to forgive.

It’s very hard to not judge.

It’s very hard to accept.

It’s very hard to love.

 

It’s very hard… but not impossible. I can do all things through Christ.

Merton on Reading, Writing, and Thinking

I always have at least three books going at the same time.

If it is a book with any substance at all you are forced to think. The real joy of reading is not in the reading itself but in the thinking which it stimulates and which may go beyond what is said in the book.

Traditionally, for a monk, reading is inseparable from meditation.

The writer who has “influence” on the people who really need to read him must have something important to say.

No writer who has anything important to say can avoid being opposed and criticized.

It seems to me that a man or a woman goes to college not just to get a degree and a good job, but first of all to find himself and establish his true identity.

Therefore, if a man is going to make authentic judgments and do some thinking for himself, he is going to have to renounce the passivity of a subject that merely sits and “takes in” what is told him, whether in class, or in front of the TV, or in the other mass media. This means serious and independent reading, and it also means articulate discussion.

The mere fact that an idea is new and exciting does not necessarily make it true. Truth is important and the whole purpose of thinking is to be able to tell the difference between what is true and what only looks good.

 

 

 

 

You’re Useless…apparently.

 

I was reading a letter from Thomas Merton to a friend of his who needed some encouragement. A single phrase stood out to me. Merton mentioned, “… the significance of one’s apparent uselessness…”

There are three important words in Merton’s statement: significance, apparent, and uselessness. I remember an old Bible college professor of mine, Jim Crain, who said to me: “We must learn to embrace our apparent insignificance.” That statement has stuck with me to this day, and reminds me of what Merton said.

Accepting my apparent uselessness and insignificance is very significant. My usefulness and significance in the world is comparable to that of a minnow in the ocean. Without the minnow the ocean would be less than it is but the loss of the minnow basically insignificant. But that minnow does fill a space, serve a minuscule purpose, is part of a food-chain, part of God’s creation and nothing created by God lacks value.

What significance is there to one’s apparent uselessness? Accepting my apparent uselessness frees me from the heavy burden of needing to do something significant and therefore be significant in the eyes of others. We strive to produce, get results, accomplish something important, and this drive can be fueled by many things, some noble, and others apparently noble, but not. But even the most noble are a burden that is weighty and weighty always wears you down… eventually.

If I can somehow not take my “noble work” too seriously, not take myself too seriously, embrace the significance of my own apparent uselessness, then I will live under an inner freedom of joy and peace and ultimately be more useful to God and my fellow man.

Oh No…my doctor found something!

A couple years ago I gave up the fight and made an appointment to see an optometrist. As much as I hated to admit it, it was time for me to get some “real” glasses instead of those cheap reading glasses I had relied upon for the last few years.

Actually the whole experience I found interesting. The doctor checked my vision far and near. Checked out my peripheral vision and the general health of my eye. And then he checked me for blind spots, which, to my surprise, he found. One tiny blind spot in each eye. He assured me that this was normal and almost all people have these tiny blind spots. They are just so small that you never notice them, unless you’re an optometrist.

I never would have known that I had these blind spots unless my doctor had told me. But then again, that’s the nature of blind spots, you don’t see them.

We all have blind spots. Blind spots, left undetected, can be one explanation for relationship-breakdown and ineffectiveness in some areas of our ministries. It’s essential that we become aware of any blind spots we might have.

One of the most important, gutsy, and helpful questions a pastor can ask is, “What blind spots might I have?” Now you don’t want to ask this question of just anyone. But who do you know and trust, who do you know that loves you enough to be honest with you? I dare you to sit that person down and ask them, “In your opinion, what blind spots do you think I have?” Or, a similar question that works very well leadership team is, “What do you see that I don’t see?”

The answers you get may be a bit hard to hear but will be invaluable information for those you are in relationship with and minister to.

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