Friday, January 23, 2009

Mister Roger's for the 21st Century

Living in the suburbs and maintaining anything resembling deep and satisfying relationships is challenging. By the very physical set-up of suburbia, we spend time we could spend being with people commuting to the responsibilities, interests and relationships in our life. In doing that, we tend to look right past the people who live to our right, our left and across the street. Today, Mister Roger's vision of neighborliness seems to be a pollyana pipedream.

We're addressing that through a sermon series on the letter Saint Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus (in modern day Turkey). We're calling it Won't You Be My Neighbor. How does following Jesus make any difference in the quality of our relationships with our neighbors?

Here's the promo video we shot for it.
A note to my Virginia friends, yes, you'll recognize the music. :-)

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Have a Dream

Living just two hours south of Washington DC for the last 6 years has meant lots of trips to all the places that splash across the nightly news, including multiple trips to the Lincoln Memorial. Those historic steps mark the spot Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his powerful words of hope some 40+ years ago.

I have a picture (which I couldn't find) of the spot he stood (so use your imagination). Along with which is a pensive shot of an African-American gentleman and his son reading Lincoln's address. I wonder what this day (and tomorrow) mean for them? If I were part of a minority group for my entire life then suddenly one of my own was catapaulted to the pinnacle of power, how would I feel? What would I think was possible for me and my children?

I try to MLK's speech once a year, both for it's inspirational and pedagogical merits (that's a mouthful). I'm inspired by the power of words to paint a vision of the future every time I hear it. And I'm moved to think about how I communicate.
What an incredible leader with incredible words. He read his speech until several minutes in, when he ditched his notes and went extemperaneous, giving us some of the most famous words in our history.

Enjoy the speech. How are we doing at living out the vision painted that day?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Top Reads of 2008

Leaders read.
Innovators read.
John Wesley said you can't grow if you don't read (and when John Wesley speaks, boy do I listen).
Plus, I recieved an education that cost taxpayers a lot of money and for which I personally paid dearly. If I don't read, I waste this investment and may as well be illiterate.

Because I want to be these things (and because I love it), I read.

Here are my top reads for 2008 (in no particular order)::
The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr
Good to Great by Jim Collins
A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in an Age of Anxiety by Edwin Friedman
The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs
Simply Christian by NT Wright
Surprised by Hope by NT Wright
Just Courage by Gary Haugen
Axiom by Bill Hybels
The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom

Here are some books I'm looking forward to in 2009:
Believing in the Future by David Bosch
The Multiplying Church: The New Math for Starting Churches by Bob Roberts
The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton
Lord Jesus Christ by Larry Hurtado

Getting it Right

Recently I was in a setting where someone was talking about the Gospel (the message) of Jesus. They were explaining to people about what happens after they die and asking them to make a decision about their eternity (important stuff, right?).

Here's basically what the person said (I've condensed it greatly):
"Heaven will be so great, no crying, no tears. You'll get to see your loved ones. You'll walk on streets of gold. You want that don't you? Won't you give your life to Christ right now?"

All that is true enough, but there's a problem. It wasn't the real Gospel. It wasn't even what Jesus taught. It was a religious version of consumerism, i.e., "I don't want to suffer and Jesus is what I have to get to get no more suffering."

Now you need to know that I have zero concerns about the person making these comments, about their own trust in God, their own motives. They sincerely believed they were saying good words about God. But there was, ironically, no God in their Gospel. If I was listening correctly (and it's entirely possible that I wasn't), Heaven is a really nice place where apparently I won't be bothered by God.

John Piper, in his book, God is the Gospel, asks a question we all need to ask (emphasis added):
The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Above All Else

I want to teach my children to be generous in every way.

So leaving the store the other day just before Christmas, I pushed a bill into Hudson's hands and guided him toward the Salvation Army Ringer's kettle. I tried explaining what the kettle is for, but I'm not exactly sure my incisive commentary on compassion and poverty made it through his 4 year old filter.

He gets a bit shy around new people, so instead of walking up, he clung to my leg and asked me to put it in instead. I was a bit frustrated, thinking he wasn't "getting it" and so I must not be "doing it right."

But then ringer's comment reoriented me: "Oh, don't worry about it. He has a good heart."
That put it in perspective. A good heart. My mind went right to Proverbs in the Old Testament.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."
Proverbs 4:23

In other words, there isn't anything more important than looking after who you are.
In the Bible, the heart isn't:
*warm emotion
*the Hallmark Cards section of your anatomy
*your ooey, gooey sentimental center

it is:
*who we are
*the place our will, emotion, intellect and psyche converge
*our decision making center
*the source of every choice, act and behavior
*the furnace of our desires

Get the heart wrong and you get everything else wrong. Get the heart right and it changes everything:
The quality of your relationships.
What you want.
The results you get out of life.
Your business deals.
How you enjoy (or don't enjoy) your work.
The quality of your marriage and family.

And no one, I mean no one, can (or will) guard your heart for you. God alone can change and transform your heart, but you have to be the one to guard it.

And guard it doesn't mean "wall-it-off-so-no-one-can-touch-it." It means "nurture it, look after it, and care for it." In 2009, what will you be doing above all else?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Trading 1737 for 1764

We're leaving history for history.

Richmond, VA (our current home) was founded on the banks of the James River in 1737. It was nothing but a muddy flat to the early settlers. They sailed their ships up the James from the Atlantic, and when the ships couldn't make it past the rocks that now signify downtown Richmond they decided to go ahead and stop. Smart.

Among other things, it's the home of the Confederate White House (now literally surrounded by a hospital), the site of Patrick Henry's famous "give me liberty or give me death" speech and the home of multiple Fortune 500 companies.

It's been a great 6.5 years of learning, growing and stretching. We've loved it, made great friends and seen God do beautiful things in people's lives. And now, in the providence of God, we're moving to St Louis, MO.

St. Louis began in 1764 at a spot picked in part by a 13 year old (never say Middle Schoolers can't do important things). It was a fur trading post positioned at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers that grew into a thriving metropolis, eventually becoming one of the 10 largest cities in the country (now 18th).

I'm leaving my role at Southside Church in Chesterfield, VA as the Fellowship and Discipleship Pastor to take the Lead Pastor role at Trinity Church in Florissant, MO.

Pretty excited.

Trinity Church is a great group of people who want to reach their community...and I can't wait to lead them to do it. The trucks have been loaded and delivered and we've already battled a broken toilet in our temporary home until we can find a house to buy. Our welcome has been warm. Good days are ahead.
I'm looking forward to working for the peace of the city and being an agent of the Kingdom in it.