Dec 31, 2009

Last Blog Entry of the Year


Last blog of the year.

It's been a heck of a year.

  • Started out with my son being in hospitalized for 5 days starting on New Year's day
  • I had a quadruple bypass surgery and was out for ten weeks
  • had one of the toughest and challenging years as a pastor
But through it all, God has proven to be more than faithful. I have come to trust in God more than ever before. Love my wife and kids more than ever before. Appreciate life and every day as a gift.

I know that God has a plan and purpose for my life. If God wanted to take me home he would have.

I am looking forward to what God has in store for me in 2010. It will be the start of a new decade, a new ministry at Little Church in Lakewood, Washington, and another opportunity to get better at leading.

Thank you Lord for your faithfulness. Thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life and the gift of life.

Happy New Years everyone!

Dec 26, 2009

An American Christmas Experience: The Consequence of Abundance

Merry Christmas!


I trust you had a wonderful Christmas.

Had an interesting conversation with my dad on Christmas evening. My dad grew up in Korea during the Korean War and through the hard times after the war. He tells stories of the times when he was so hungry he had to eat the bark and leaves of trees and even grass just to fill his stomach.

As he sat watching my nieces open up present after present of toys and more toys on top of the many toys they already have and they don't use, he just shook his head. When he was a child, if he received anything, he was so incredibly grateful because they had so little. But these kids, although they have so much, know nothing about gratitude and appreciating what they have because they have so much.

And then dad said, that's like America. We have been given so much and there is so much abundance, that we have lost the ability to appreciate gifts and be grateful for what we are given. So when it comes to the gift of Jesus in Christmas, because we have so much, because we are so self-sufficient, we don't appreciate what God's given us. We don't know how to be grateful. And the tragedy of the abundance is that we have lost the ability to be grateful.

And so we hear about the gift of Jesus - how he gave up heaven to come to us in the form of a child to be born in a manger - and we're more concerned with what's coming up on tv and what movie we're going to watch than to thank the God who has given us life.

So friends, before another moment goes by, take a moment right now to reflect on the gift of Jesus and remember to thank God for the gift of eternal life.

Merry Christmas!

Dec 22, 2009

X-Mas? What's the Deal with X-Mas?


Several people have asked about the meaning of X-mas. What's the deal with X-mas? Shouldn't it be Christmas and not x-mas?

The origins of x-mas and xians actually comes from the original Greek. As you know, the New Testament was written in Greek.

X is the Greek character "chi" which is equivalent to our letter "C".

The Greek word for Christ is "xristos". So when you see X-mas or xians, it is a shorthand for Christmas or Christians.

Now you know.

So whether you write Merry Christmas or Merry X-mas, it is Jesus Christ we are celebrating. And as long as Jesus is the One being celebrated, it truly is a Merry Christmas!

Dec 21, 2009

From Frustration to Motivation for Change

It has been interesting - to say the least- to watch all the conversations going on about my recent post. Thank you all for your passion.

Here's the thing. I am the first to admit that I am not an expert about growing healthy churches. However, what I can affirm is that there is something in me that wants to scream - there's something wrong about the way we're currently doing and being church. When Christ has given to every single church everything we need to unleash grace, love, and power on our communities, when Christ has given us everything we need to be the church that impacts and touches the world for the grace of Jesus Christ, and when our churches are not living up to their potential, we know it to the core of our being that this can't be what Jesus had in mind when he declared, "Against such a church the gates of hell shall not prevail."

So channel the passion and frustration into positive motivation for change. For the church must change in order to be the church God has called us to be. We cannot keep doing the things the same way as we've always done things. In order for things to change, things must change.

And it is because this is my dream and passion - to see the church being the church that God intends her to be, I will keep on dreaming, keep on hoping, keep on writing, and keep on leading the best I can to live into such a vision.

God has a plan for Trinity. And God's plan for Trinity for "our welfare and not for harm, to give us a future with hope" (Jer. 29:11).

Wherever God may find us, I pray that God is glorified, that others can see in our speech, our actions, and in how we love one another the glory of the risen Christ.

God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

James <><

Dec 19, 2009

Becoming a Healthy Church


So here's what I'm wondering about. What kind of leadership is needed to bring about a renewal and revival to the Presbyterian Church (USA)? What needs to happen so that our churches can get healthy and grow?

We make the solution to these questions much more complicated than it needs to be.

The other day I was having a conversation with Karis about world hunger. She asked a really simple question: If we have the food, medicine, money, and resources to alleviate abject poverty and starvation, then why aren't we doing it?

At first, I thought about all the political and economic reasons why this isn't being done - how the food gets where the hungry people are, but because of corruption and violence at the local level the ones who really need the food and medicine don't get it. But, the question still remains - what is wrong with us? Why can't we do a simple thing like preserving the life and dignity of a human being when we have the ability to do so?

How come we can put a man on the moon and bring him back, but we can't get food safely to people dying in Africa?

And maybe when it comes to the life of the church, the answer to the question of becoming a healthier church really is simple. The equation has always been to 1) do everything we can to grow new Christ-followers, and 2) do whatever it takes to grow Christ-followers into fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. That's what the church is all about. That is the goal, that is our purpose, that is the product we are trying to produce. For it is when the church is doing that the God is glorified.

So what can the church I am doing to grow new Christ-followers and to grow faithful disciples. Our budget, staffing, planning, visioning has to be about this purpose. And when we start doing this better, the church will be healthier. And when the church starts being the church, the world which churches are in get better.

Dec 18, 2009

Avatar - Don't Waste your Time or Money


Just got back from watching Avatar. I went to the movies with huge expectations because I had heard so much about it. I am telling you up front, don't waste your time or money to see this movie. Instead, do yourself a favor and wait for it on video if you really want to see it.

There are several huge issues with the movie.
1) It's too long. That might not be such a bad thing if the movie was good. But since this isn't a good movie, that it's almost three hours long, makes it that much more unbearable.
2) There's something wrong when the heroes of the movie are the aliens and the villains are the human beings. The movie actually makes you root for the aliens to kill the humans. I don't know about you, but there's something fundamentally wrong about that. What is it about the liberal media that makes us loathe ourselves? In the movie, human beings are stupid, greedy, selfish, violent killers, while the aliens are the kind, caring, loyal, accepting, and everything that you would want human beings to be.

I am not sure what James Cameron is trying to say, but I can't help but think that he was taking a jab at America with all its might and military. I don't know what it is about the liberal media that insists on making America look bad and the military look like idiot thugs with big guns. Knock it off!

About the only thing I can say positive about the movie was that the computer graphics and special effects are well done.

So I give Avatar a 1 out of 5. The only reason why it's getting even the 1 is because of the special effects. I think there are far better ways to spend your time and money than wasting it on this movie. If you really want to see it, wait for Red Box to start carrying it for a buck. It might be worth a buck.

Dec 17, 2009

Sadness on a Whole New Level


By now, I've become accustomed to bad news. I know that the world can be painful and sometimes the world just sucks.

But every once in a while I come across a story that is so sad and bizarre that it takes sadness to a whole new level.

This is one of those stories. Fox News reports (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,580479,00.html?test=latestnews) that a 4 year-old boy was found walking around by himself at night, drinking beer, while wearing a girl's dress that he had stolen from the neighbor's Christmas tree!

And when the mom was interviewed, the explanation that the mom gave was that the boy's dad is in jail and the boy wanted to get in trouble so he could see his dad.

What do you do with a story like that? I couldn't make up a more bizarre and a sadder more pathetic story than this. And it's happening in real life.

Friends, you and I live in a world wrecked by sin, selfishness, and irresponsibility. We all need to change. We need to be better people.

This is why Christ came into our world. He did not show up some fancy palace. He chose a place very few would have chosen on their own. Jesus came in order that all of us might discover life.

May this Christmas season be a reminder of how much we all need what only God can provide through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Just for Fun - Funny Statements


  1. A day without sunshine is, well...like, night.
  2. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
  3. Remember, half the people you know are below average.
  4. He who laughs last thinks slowest
  5. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  6. How may of you believe in telekinesis? Raise my hand.
  7. Honk if you love peace and quiet.

Dec 14, 2009

Invictus - Review


Invictus is a movie about the story of how one man's stand against injustice and hatred and a rugby world championship against all odds brought a nation together and started the healing process of a nation torn asunder by apartheid.
The movie is what you would expect - the South African Rugby team wins the world cup. But you knew that going into the movie. What you may not have known is the political atmosphere and the incredible challenge Nelson Mandela faced when he became the first black president in South Africa.

I spent some time in South Africa as a college student while Mandela was being held in jail. Words alone cannot explain the incredible injustice of the apartheid system and how it dehumanized the coloreds and the blacks. When I came back from South Africa, I was convinced that there would be a bloody civil war because of the tension between the whites and the blacks.

No other man had a greater impact for the peaceful transition of white South Africa to a multi-cultural South Africa than Nelson Mandela. The debate is still on about his effectiveness as a politician, but no one can doubt that he was exactly the right man to transition South Africa out of apartheid. No other man could have done what he did.

The movie only shows a glimpse of that incredible story. That doesn't mean this is a bad movie. It's just you cannot tell that big of a story in a movie. The movie is entertaining - although it does take a while to develop the story in the beginning. Although I am a big sports fan, because I don't know much about rugby, the many rugby clips didn't do much for me.  I just love the story.

The only thing I did not like was Morgan Freeman's attempt at a South African accent. I thought Matt Damon's accent wasn't bad, but did not care for Morgan Freeman's.

I still would give this movie a 2.5-3 stars out of five. It's well worth your money and time just to get familiar with the story of Mandela and South Africa. But more for the power of forgiveness and hope.

Dec 13, 2009

It's Official

Announced my resignation as the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church today at church today. After more than seven incredible years at Trinity, Jan. 10 will be my last Sunday in the pulpit as the pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

It's always a strange thing to announce that you'll be moving on. There's both the excitement of the new chapter in life and the great sorrow of having to say goodbye to some amazing people.

It has been a great privilege to work with the good people at Trinity in the last seven years. God's done some amazing things. We've had our tough times too, but they won't ever overshadow the good times and the great friendships and partnerships established here at Trinity.

The toughest part of a transition like this is the people. The Kim family will miss the good people and friends at Trinity very much.

My prayer is that God will rally Trinity together so that the community can once again see God doing great and awesome things through Trinity.

God bless you all. Prayers are greatly appreciated for both the Trinity family and the Kim family in this transition.


James <><
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Dec 11, 2009

The Blind Side - The Movie and the Book


I am not a big fan of Christian based movies mainly because Christian based movies have not been very good.

There have been a few exceptions - Shadowlands (The story of C.S. Lewis) is a fantastic movie with very good acting, the Chronicles of Narnia was pretty entertaining.

With "The Blind Side" I've now got a new favorite Christian movie. I would not hesitate recommending this movie to either a non-Christian or a Christian. It's an engaging story with wonderfully talented and gifted actors. I've seen the movie two times already - first with my wife, and then second time with my girls because I wanted to take my children.

I've always appreciated Sandra Bullock as an actress. Never thought that she was great, but she wasn't bad either. But in The Blind Side she shines. It's not just her, but all the characters in the movie are believable.

The thing I like best about this movie is that the story is true. I've just finished the book and also have done some research on the internet, and the whole thing is spot on. It's a wonderful story of faith in action.

I highly recommend that you go check out the movie and the book.

Dec 10, 2009

Duh! Work Together!!!

God can do more with churches who work together than with churches who work in isolation.

I don't know of a single Christian who would disagree with that statement.

Then the obvious question is - "Why aren't our churches working together?"
  • It's not like we've all been doing such an excellent job of making new disciples and helping them become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ that we don't need all of the other churches.
  • It's not as if all of our churches combined have been making a significant impact in our communities, our country, and our world for the Kingdom of God.
  • More and more, the church is losing its voice, and the Christian world view is both the unpopular and the minority view.
All this while most of our churches no where near capacity.

Wouldn't it make more sense for churches with common mission, vision, and ministry styles to combine their resources of time, talents, finances, facilities to have greater impact for Jesus Christ?

Yet, if you look at  the church's constitutions and by-laws, it makes it all but impossible for churches to work together.


For instance, in our community, there is another church that Trinity shares much in common in terms of our mission, vision, and ministry styles. We are Presbyterian and they are Wesleyan. We are not anywhere close to being filled to capacity while the Wesleyan church is currently looking for a place to purchase.

Why should the Wesleyans purchase a building and get stuck with all the payments, when there are less than full churches within five minutes driving distance who share a common ministry, mission, vision, and ministry styles? Why couldn't our ministries come together to do greater ministry for God? The combined resources time, talents, and finances of could have far greater impact for Jesus in this community than any of our churches in isolation. This is just smart kingdom stewardship.


This is all good in theory, but when it comes to dollars and cents, that's when the denominations start presenting problems. What denomination would this new church be? Who owns the assets?

The real simple answer is Jesus Christ!!!! Not the PC(USA), not the Wesleyans. It's Jesus Christ. And if this can further ministry, then denominations ought to release their stranglehold on property and assets.

This is the type of flexibility needed in for a missional church.

Dec 9, 2009

The People Who Get in the Way


I said in yesterday's blog that God will place people in our way.

And that's exactly what these interruptions will feel like. Christmas season a wonderful time for friends, family, and celebrations. But it is also a time of traffic, stress, shopping, and busyness.

As you encounter people today, remember that there's not a single person alive today who has received too much encouragement, too much love, too much grace.

And what that means is that every single person we meet today are people we can encourage. So take the time - be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to the people who He leads you to. Treat every person you meet today with dignity and respect. Treat them as if God placed them in your way.

Merry Christmas!

James <><
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Dec 8, 2009

God Appointments

These are busy times.

As wonderful and fun the Christmas season is, it is also one of the busiest and most hectic times of the year.

Today, and in the coming days, we are going to come across lots and lots of people. And I am sure we're all going to be busy trying to get there from here in order to get that for that person and still need to get all those things for those people because we have to get to all those parties and celebrations.

It's just a busy time of the year.


But I ask you to remember - God will place people in our way who desperately need what only those who are tuned into what God is doing can give - grace, time, encouragement, friendship, acceptance.

Don't miss out on a God moment. The presents will still be there, the parties will still go on, and we'll have plenty of opportunities to get to wherever we were supposed to get to.

Remember that God has set apart God appointments during this season for you and for those who need for God to act through a person just like you.

Dec 7, 2009

Waiting and listening

It has been a while since I've posted anything. There's a lot going on. God's been working on my heart. Been doing my best to listen and discern God's will for my life for the next chapter of my life. I will be posting updates soon. But for now, I covet your prayers. As you read this post, lift up a prayer for me for discernment.

Thank you in advance for your prayers.


James <><
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Dec 1, 2009

Just Imagine - What Would Happen if We Caught the Passion for Evangelism?

A passion for evangelism...

Our Daily Bread wrote about Francis Asbury on Nov. 25. Here's an excerpt:


Francis Asbury rode 6,000 miles a year on horseback for nearly half a century. Despite ill health, he drove himself tirelessly. He sustained himself with venison jerky—a food that wouldn’t spoil during his extended travels. Asbury is remembered for introducing the Methodist “circuit-riding preacher” as an effective way to capture the American frontier for Christ. Planting new churches in remote areas was central to his approach.

At the close of Asbury’s ministry, he had recruited over 700 traveling preachers. In 1771, when Asbury arrived in the colonies, there were only about 600 Methodists in America. Forty-five years later, there were 200,000!

That's awesome!


But check this out. At the signing of the Declaration of the Independence in 1776, the population of the colonies was about 2.5 million. That means, through the efforts of Asbury, in his lifetime about 10% of the population of the United States became Methodists in America.

That's awesome!

What would it take in today's world for God to impact the lives of people like that? If we can impact 10% of the population of the US today, it would mean 35 million people coming to know Christ through evangelism in my lifetime. How cool would that be?

The question is, what would it take today to share the gospel effectively? What sacrifice is needed from people like you and me?

And most importantly, are we willing to make such sacrifices for the sake of the gospel?

Nov 28, 2009

Thankful

I trust you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

There are many reasons to give thanks.

I am grateful for an amazingly beautiful wife who loves me and supports me. My life is so much richer because of her.

I am thankful for Karis, Kaitlin, Kailey, and Kaleb. They are such awesome kids. They make life so much fun and exciting. I love their passion for life and their budding faith in Jesus Christ.

I thank God for my sister Grace and her husband Miguel and my two beautiful nieces. Not only are Grace and Miguel my family, but they are my friends!

I thank God for an amazing church. The people at Trinity truly make serving Christ a privilege and joy. I love to see God working through a geroup of committed folk.

And this Thanksgiving, I must thank God for the gift of life. There was a time in February when I wasn't sure how many more days I might see. But through God's help, modern medicine, and a quadruple bypass later, I am doing better than I have in years. Every day is a gift from God.

And that is true whether you've had a close call with death or not.

Most of all, I thank God for Christ who gives me peace, purpose, and direction in my life. Because no matter what happens, I know that I'm good for eternity. And that's a pretty awesome place to start your everyday with.

So what are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?

James <><
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Nov 21, 2009

Christmas Dreams


We are days away from Black Friday and the craziness that we call the "Christmas" season.

What would happen if Christians decided to do Christmas differently this year?

Normally, Christmas is a frenzied free for all shopping spree to make sure we get the toys, clothes, gadgets, and trinkets that will soon be forgotten ho hum by middle of January. The U.S. Department of Commerce predicted retail sales of $287 billion in the fourth quarter of 2002. The way most of us do Christmas, it is rarely about the Christ of Christmas and all too often about the stuff of Christmas.

Why not do Christmas differently this year?

I know this sounds crazy and so un-Christmaslike, but just follow along just for a moment and dream with me.

What if we all chose to forgo - just for this year - our normal gifts for ourselves and our family and instead thought about using the money we would spent on Christmas gifts for one another to give away to the poor? What if every church in the US chose a worthy charity and every church collected the Christmas funds from our church members and gave it away in the name of Jesus Christ on Christmas day?

Could you imagine the joy such giving would create in...the world? us? in Christ

We always say that Christmas is about giving and not receiving. What if, just for this year, we made Christmas truly about the joy of giving this year?

What a joyous day that would be!



So how about it?

Could you imagine the joy around Christmas this year?

And I tell you what, if you really want to, you can do Christmas in this way every year.

James <><
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Nov 19, 2009

10 Years

Evangelical, theologically conservative, socially responsible, Jesus freak.

What does that make me?

When it comes to biblical authority and sexual morality, I am right there with the conservative evangelicals.

When it comes to being responsible and fair with our wealth and resources, where the church actually engages problems like the AIDS pandemic, the poor in our communities, the extreme poverty around the world, I am right there with the pregressive liberals.

When it comes to loving Jesus and the church of Jesus Christ, I am right there with all the Jesus freaks.

I am frustrated with the conservative evangelicals because all we seem to ever talk about is how to prevent gay ordination. That's what generates all the money and gets people moving.

I am equally frustrated with the progressive liberals because gay ordination is about the only thing they seem to be talking about too.

When will the church start doing church stuff? You know - evangelism, mission, new church development, denominational transformation, etc. What would happen if we took a hiatus from all the sexuality debates, and all the affinity groups that exist to prevent gay ordination and those that exist to promote gay ordination went away for 10 years, and all the money and energy that goes into keeping these groups going was instead poured into new church development, alleviating extreme poverty, working with the poor and homeless in our communities, and with evangelism.

Why can't we do that? Just 10 years.

And after that if the church still wants to fight about gay ordination, then we can pick it up again.

But can't we get some time so that the church can heal, organize for transformation and renewal? Must we continue to be held captive by the sexuality debates?

***Correction --- Richard Stearns - World Vision


Correction - In my previous blog, I mentioned Richard Stearns as the president of Compassion, when he's the president of World Vision. I knew that but just had a brain malfunction. As you can see, it's even on the cover of the book I was quoting from.

My bad. Sorry for the mistake and confusion.

Either way, great man and a wonderfully challenging book.

Rich Christians in a Hungry World

Josef Stalin said, "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

There are 6.7 billion people living on the planet earth.

One out of two people make less than $2 a day. One out of two people.

According to Andy Stanley, if you make $37,000 a year, that puts you in the top 3-4% of the wage earners in the world. If you make over $40,000 a year, that puts you in the top 1%.

If you own a car, you represent 3% of the world's population. If you own more than one car, you are really rich!

If your car has its own house (we call them garages) and your car has to share that house with bicycles and lawn mowers and other stuff, you are really, really rich.

On average, study after studies show that American Christians give less than 3% of their income to charitable causes. And the studies show that the more you make, the less you give. This is almost always the case.

Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision writes:

The total income of American churchgoers is $5.2 trillion. (That's more than five thousand billion dollars). It would take just a little over 1 percent of the income of American Christians to lift the poorest one billion people in the world out of extreme poverty. Said another way, American Christians, who make up about 5 percent of the Church worldwide, control about half of global Christian wealth; a lack of money is not our problem (The Hole in Our Gospel, p.216).


Bottom line, here's what this means. American Christians continue to consume more and more of the world's materials, while remaining relatively silent about extreme poverty.

The average Christian gives less than 3% of their income. And according to Stearns, less than 2% of the giving goes to foreign missions of any kind. Here's what that means - The richest Christians in the history of the world is giving about five ten-thousandths of our income to the rest of the world.

Come on church! We can and must do better.

That is my hope. That is my prayer. And I want that to be my church.

Nov 18, 2009

Stop Obsessing About Who's Sleeping with Whom



When future generation of Christians and non-Christians alike look back at our generation, I think they will shake their heads in disbelief at how fractured the church is and how evangelical Christians obsess over who's sleeping with whom, while the entire time stuffing ourselves with consumerism and gorging ourselves with rampant materialism. All this when literally tens of thousands of people are dying of preventable diseases and unnecessarily starving to death everyday.


Just as we shake our heads in disbelief at the blindness of the slave owners and the silence of the Christians who stood by while the Nazis slaughtered the Jews, we will be judged by future generations for our excess consumption while we knowingly allowed thousands to die for lack of basic necessities. And the travesty is that we have more than enough food and more than enough medicine to treat the illnesses that is killing the great majority of the people by the thousands today.

Future generations will look back at our generation see our relative silence at this gross injustice all the while the church and evangelical Christians seem to obsess about who's sleeping with whom - silent about the injustices of consumerism and materialism all the while tearing the church apart with the sexuality debates.

It's not that Biblical sexuality and morality is not important. It's just that the sexuality debates are taking up way too much energy and resource while almost nothing is being done about the injustices and inequities of the disparity between the rich and the poor.

How much would our world look differently if evangelical Christianity had spent as much energy and passion about alleviating world hunger as we have been on the sexuality debate?

More importantly, how much more effectively could we be not only preaching the good news, but living out the gospel message of Jesus Christ "to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must open our eyes to our blindness on this matter. This is our generation's clarion call.

This is the kind of church I want to be a part of.

I think you do too.

www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Nov 17, 2009

About Forgiveness - Powerful Words from Stan Ott

Stan Ott has some powerful words about forgiveness and mercy. I want to share some of his words with you all. The words God spoke through Stan Ott convicted me and encouraged me. I hope it does the same for you.

Here's what Stan Ott wrote:

"How do you react when a fellow Christian grieves you, deceives you, hurts you?  Last week I bumped into a person who had let me down and later was upset to talk with a friend suffering because people were talking behind his back.

My own initial reaction in both cases was not very pleasant.  All sorts of negative thoughts and feelings began to stir when unbidden the words of the Apostle Peter popped to mind, "Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins."  I Peter 4:8*  

Indeed God's love covers our sins! The Hebrew word hesed is translated steadfast love, it is God's enduring love.  

We demonstrate hesed love ourselves when we are tempted to retaliate, criticize or withdraw and instead we choose to respond in the spirit of, "I will never withdraw my love from you - never!"  That is the love that covers a multitude of sins.  

Such love is very costly to us.  It cost the Lord his life on the cross!  In fact it is beyond our normal human capacity to demonstrate God's hesed love.  So love by faith - ask God to give you God's own hesed love for people so that God's love in you may cover the multitude of sins in your own life and in the lives of others." 
Amen!
www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
Sent via BlackBerry

Do Our Systems Encourage or Demoralize Volunteers?


I am down at the North Texas Food Bank to pick up the boxes of turkeys for the Thanksgiving baskets our church is making. I have been waiting for about and hour and have no idea when my number will finally be called to tell me that the turkeys are ready for pick up.

I know that we are getting the turkeys for free from the food bank - and for that I am grateful.

I know that in the grand scheme of things waiting most of the morning today is not that big of a deal.

I know that the people here at the food bank are doing their best with the tools they have - and for that I am grateful.

However, if I was doing this all the time I would find this experience incredibly frustrating and discouraging.

And the thing is. Most of the people waiting in the waiting room are people who do all the time in order to help their communities. These are people who ought to be lauded and thanked for their time and effort. These are folks that we ought to go out of our way to help and encourage.

I know the food is free, but that shouldn't mean that the experience and the service ought to be poor.

This is a systems and leadership issue.

And as I sit here writing this blog, I can't help but wonder if we at the church make serving and giving as difficult and frustrating as this food pick up experience is.

Do our systems for volunteers and members equip and encourage them to serve and give more or are our systems demoralizing and discouraging to our volunteers and members?

This has been a huge and wonderful learning experience for me.

We've got to do a better job of helping and encouraging folks who want to make a difference.

www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
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Nov 13, 2009

Tragedy of the Balloon Boys


The parents of the balloon boy have admitted to fraud (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,574909,00.html).

Here's the thing that makes me so sad.

It's not that, I, along with millions of people across this country and world were genuinely and earnestly praying for this boy's safety and for the parents and family members who were in anguish as it seemed that the boy had fallen out of the balloon.

That's tragic. I could only imagine the horror and the guilt the parents must have been going through because I couldn't help but think, "What if that was my boy!"

The thing that makes this whole story so sad for me is that the parents not only lied to the public and to the authorities, but they made their children lie too.

What were they thinking? What did they think they were teaching teaching their boys by putting this horrendous act into play? That it was okay to lie and manipulate as long as it got you the exposure you wanted? What are they teaching their boys?

Those kids didn't know any better. They were just trusting and doing what their parents told them to do. They trusted that their parents knew what was best for them. They trusted that their parents loved them and wouldn't do anything to hurt them.

And what these parents did was to totally violate that trust.

That is what breaks my heart about this story.

Nov 12, 2009

Calvin's Geneva - a Pipe Dream? I Want that Pipe Dream Please!!!

Genuine Authentic Relationships.


In Calvin's Geneva, the company of pastors mutually covenanted themselves to one another to pray, worship, study, together on a weekly basis. And based on their mutual covenanted relationships, because genuine, authentic relationships could be built, once a quarter, the company of pastors met together to mutually discipline and hold one another accountable to doctrine and moral issues.

Here's a description of Calvin's Geneva from a paper from the Office of Theology:

After the public meetings of the preachers and their assistants, a session was held of just the compagnie des pasteurs, devoted to a discussion of current theological and ecclesial issues. The compagnie was also meant to be an instrument for censura morum (mutual censure), which was held once a quarter. Any office-bearer could take this opportunity to speak in a brotherly way about the doctrine or conduct of another. This mutual supervision, too, served the cause of unity in doctrine and life.


And the main reason why this worked in Calvin's Geneva is because they mutually covenanted themselves to meet weekly to pray, worship, and study together where genuine, authentic relationships could be built.

Flash forward several hundred years to today. Such accountability and mutual discipline is simply impossible in our current context in the PC(USA) because our presbyteries look and function so differently than the presbytery of Calvin's days. Because we do not know one another, the only way we know how to relate to one another is through rules - the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions.

Whereas in Calvin's Geneva it was a mutual consent to submit to the authority of the body, today we find ourselves bound and imprisoned by our rules.

Mutual discipline? Even though we've got the rules, because we don't have the genuine, authentic relationships where we have prayed, worshiped, loved on each other, we are impotent to disciplines one another.

There has got to be a better way of being the church than what we have today.

Could we get back to smaller presbyteries where pastors and elders mutually covenant themselves to worship, study, pray, and love on one another? Is that a pipe dream?

Why can't that be our reality?

Nov 10, 2009

It's Official 156-138 to Ordain Lisa Larges - What Does This Mean for us Now?

The presbytery of San Francisco voted 156-138 to ordain Lisa Larges. This means that for the first time in the history of the PC(USA), a presbytery is openly and willingly ordaining an individual they know to be gay now with the authority of the recent GAPJC decision.

This will have far reaching ramifications in the life of the denomination. Only God knows how all of this will shake itself out.

Perhaps this is not a bad thing. We know now without any shadow of doubt where some in our denomination are when it comes to human sexuality and more importantly the authority of scripture. We have been pretending that everything's hunky dory when we've known for a long time that there has been a chasm when it comes to the understanding of the authority of scripture. Maybe this will force us to decide what we really mean by connectionalism, by mutual accountability, and by being in communion with one another.

We've only been glossing over these issues hoping and pretending that things really weren't as bad as they seemed.

Well, the days of pretending are gone now.

We have to deal with these questions.

What does it mean for us to be a connectional church NOW?

What do we understand NOW about how the ordination of one presbytery is the action of the whole church?

How does what just took place in San Francisco Presbytery different any different than the actions of the Southern Baptist or the Episcopaleans?

Now we no longer have the luxury of pretense. We must begin grappling with these questions now.


www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
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That's Why We're Debating

I have been following the twitter updates from the presbytery meeting at San Francisco Presbytery #sfpby for the past three to four hours.

The San Francisco Presbytery is voting on ordaining Lisa Larges (an openly lesbian woman who is the executive director for That All May Freely Serve. TAMFS' sole mission is "the ordination of qualified gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender candidates in the Presbyterian Church (USA)."

It's been amazing to hear the chatter on twitter. I am not sure if I heard a single evangelical twitter-er all night. Everyone tweeting seemed to be favoring the ordination of Lisa Larges. As I write this blog, they are still debating the issue and have not voted on Lisa Larges.

I had to stop watching the tweets and write this blog because of one of the tweets I read.

A tweeter wrote who favors ordination of homosexuals wrote, "Again with the biblical authority questions...I want to hear about something else!"

That pretty much sums up the problem with the debate. For those who advocate for ordination it really is about something else. Because it can't be about Biblical authority because the Bible is crystal clear about human sexuality and morality. The church has been clear on this for the last two millenia. But now, this is where the debate has come - it is no longer about what the Bible says.

How else are Christians to dialogue about life issues other than through the lens of scripture? What other authority is there for Christians than the word of God as recorded in the Bible?

Wow! I don't know what to say to "Again with the biblical authority questions...I want to hear about something else!"

I'm going to go pray.



www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
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Leaving the World a Better Place than We Found it


I have a friend who is an amazing encouragement to me. Every time I am with him, I feel encouraged. Every time I am with him, he makes me want to be a better person and a better Christian.

A while back we were attending the Leadership Summit conference at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. There were about 10,000 pastors and leaders from all around the world at Willow. During the breaks, we would all make a mad dash for the restrooms. The Leadership Summit is about the only place I know - besides football games and rock concerts - where a guy has to wait to go to the bathroom.

During the breaks, we would all make a mad dash to the restrooms and wait in line. There would be lines 30-50 people deep waiting to use the men's room. Every time we would use the restroom and wash our hands, I would observe my friend taking the extra time to wipe down the sink with the paper towel. I never asked him why he did that, but I don't need to.

The reason why my friend did that - and why he was always an encouragement to me, why he always took the time to thank the waiter in the restaurant, acknowledged the guy who served our coffee, greeted the greeter at the hotel, etc. - is because his goal in life is to be like Jesus.

He wanted to make wherever he was a better place because he had been there.

And the reason why he lives his life like this is because that's how Jesus lived his life.

Could you imagine if all Christians lived with this simple philosophy - making the world a better place than we found it?

Should Christians live our lives like that, there wouldn't be such a need for apologetics. Christians would be the best reason for others to come to love Jesus Christ.

So you know what I find myself doing now? I am wiping down the sink in public places, taking the extra time to greet and thank the people serving and helping, doing my best to be like my friend - because he's so much like Jesus Christ.

Nov 6, 2009

Poverty of Wealth?


Why is more never enough?

Why is it the the more we have, the more we realize what we don't have.

I remember as a college student looking at people who made $40K a year and thinking, "Man! They are rich!"

But when I hit the $40K mark, I didn't feel rich at all. In fact, I felt pretty poor compared to all the people making way more than I did. I was living in an apartment with my wife and two kids while almost everyone I knew owned their own homes. We were driving around in beat up old cars while almost everyone we knew drove around in their fancy new cars. We were working on beat up, hand me down computers while everyone seemed to have the newest and fanciest laptops.

And I bet people making $100K, $500K, $1Mil all feel the same way.

It never stops.

The reason for this is what I call the poverty of wealth. Because our focus is always on what we don't have rather than what we do have, we have a never quenching need for more.

Only when we begin to focus on what we actually have, can we think about how to make the best use and enjoy what we do have.

Either the stuff will enslave us, or we will use our stuff as tools to make life better for us and for the people around us.


This is a whole lot easier said then lived. That's the reason why Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into heaven."

Don't get sucked in by the poverty of wealth. Wealth is only a blessing when we see it as a tool to make life better for ourselves and others.

Nov 5, 2009

Six Characteristics of Effective Organizations

In his book, "The Fly in the Ointment" Russel Crabtree lists six characteristics of effective organizations.
  1. They recruit, develop, and retain effective leaders
  2. They are externally focused
  3. They are tactically nimble
  4. They engage in the whole person
  5. They are relentless learners
  6. They utilize best practices
So how is your church, presbytery, denomination, organization doing? 

Nov 4, 2009

Our Generation's Clarion Call

There are 6.7 billion people on earth. If the population could be expressed in a global village of 100, here's how the village would look.
  • 60 Asians
  • 14 Africans
  • 12 Europeans
  • 8 Latin Americans
  • 5 American/Canadians
  • 1 South Pacific
  • 51 men, 49 women
  • 82 non-white, 18 white
  • 67 non-Christians, 33 Christians
On a typical day, the 4 American spends $105/day.
40 of the villagers survive on $2/day.
15 of the villagers survive on less than $1/day.

26,500 children died today. 26,500 children died yesterday. 26,500 children will die tomorrow.

10,000,000 children will die within a year from now.

And NOT ONE OF THESE DEATHS ARE NECESSARY.

Because we already have all the food, medicine, money, and the resources to get the supplies to the dying.

We might not be able to solve all that ails our world. But we must do something about this injustice.

This is our clarion call for this generation.

Nov 3, 2009

Being Reformed - A Desired Uncertain Future


The average age of a Presbyterian in the PC(USA) is over 60 years-old. We are one of the oldest denominations in the country. Our shelf life is at best 20 years. I don't say that as a scare tactic or to shock folks. It's stated with sadness because this is just the plain truth.

The PC(USA) faces two futures: a certain future and an uncertain future.
  • a certain future: if the PC(USA) does nothing to change, it will die. This is absolutely certain. We cannot continue doing church in the same ways and hope that a bunch of young new Christians are going to just start showing up at our churches. That's just not going to happen. If the PC(USA) does not change, the PC(USA) will die.
  • an uncertain future: if the PC(USA) truly re-claims its heritage to take on the ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ even at the cost of losing its very life in order to connect and share the good news of Jesus Christ in a post-Christian, post-denominational, post-modern world - perhaps, in laying down our denominational and institutional ways, we may just discover life and renewal in ways we never imagined. But the risk is that it may not look, feel, smell much like the PC(USA) as we know it today.
And there's nothing wrong with that. If we have come to a time when the PC(USA) as we've known it for the last 30+ years since re-union has served her purpose, then that's okay. Neither God nor the world needs the PC(USA) to be rigidly the PC(USA) as we've known her the last 30+ years in perpetuity. As the needs and the realities of the world change, so denominations change. And this kind of change is not a bad thing or a good thing. It is just what it is - the times have changed.

Isn't this what it means to be reformed and always reforming? Isn't this the essence of what it means to be reformed?

We need not be afraid of change. God is always at work. God will work in such a way as to receive the glory and honor even in a post-Christian, post-denominational, post-modern world. And the instrument God will use is the church of Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer and hope that the PC(USA) will so position herself in such a way God can use her to be an instrument of ministry and mission for the Kingdom of God in the imminent uncertain future.

www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
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Dreaming

What would happen if like minded churches decided to combine their assets and resources together in order that they could minister more effectively to the local community?

What would happen if we placed effectiveness of ministry and outreach above our commitments to denominational loyalty?

What could like minded churches do for the Kingdom of God together that they couldn't do separately on their own?

I know what the Book of Order says about who owns the property and the asset of a congregation. But if local churches could do greater ministry together in a post-denominational, post-Christian world, than in isolation, then what is keeping us from pursuing this vision?

We are already living in a non-Christian majority world who distrusts the church and sees the church as irrelevant. Could it be that God's new work in our communities will begin with the local churches coming together for the sake of Jesus Christ? That when the local churches start to live into the vision of a church that is greater than the local church, that the communities would begin experiencing a renewal and revival?

Oct 29, 2009

This is My Body Broken for You



On the night Jesus was betrayed, he gathered with his disciples and broke bread with them saying, "This is my body, broken for you." And after they had finished eating, Jesus took the cup and poured out the wine, saying, "This is the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you."

How did Jesus do it?

I don't understand. Jesus knew better than anyone who he was breaking bread with. In the matter of few hours:
  • Judas would betray Jesus for thirty silver coins
  • Peter vehemently denied ever knowing Jesus
  • all the rest of the disciples would desert Jesus
And Jesus knew all this! He knew all this and yet, still broke bread with them!

I don't know about you, but the people who betray me, deny me, and desert me are the last people I want to eat with. But Jesus did it anyways.

But more than that, Jesus ate with them knowing what the breaking of the bread would mean for him. Jesus broke bread with them knowing that it was his body that would be broken, his blood that would be shed for them!

I don't understand such love. It confounds me. It frightens me. It renews me.

All I can do is to stand in awe of Jesus. All I can do is to be challenged by the love of Jesus. Such love inspires me to desire to be more like Jesus.

Thank you Jesus!!!

Oct 22, 2009

Amen, Amen! AMEN!

Amen, Amen! AMEN!

We've recently added a time of corporate prayer in our family devotions. My wife and I have been encouraging our children to pray over specific prayer topics.

As we were praying as a family, our youngest son (4 years old) kept shouting "Amen!"

At first, I was so proud of the little guy because I thought he was participating in his own way in the family prayer time. But as the prayer time went on, it became apparent why he was shouting "Amen!"

He was telling us that prayer time was over!

He's figured out that "Amen" is what you say to end the prayer and that was his cue to tell everyone that we've prayed enough. As the prayer time dragged on longer than he thought necessary, he kept shouting louder, "amen", "Amen!", "AMEN!"

Hilarious!

Thank God for kids!


www.trinitypresbyterian.us
http://tpc-james.blogspot.com/
twitter @jameskimtpc
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Oct 21, 2009

If the PC(USA) Shut Its Doors, Would Anyone Notice?

Rick Rusaw asks, if your church were to shut its door and cease to worship, would anyone in the community notice? Would anyone care?

This is a vital question for all churches.

But what about denominations?

In a post-denominational, post-Christian, post-modern world, what role and function do denominations have?

If the PC(USA) were to shut its doors and cease to exist would anyone in our country notice? Would anyone care?

If the truth be told, I think the only ones who would notice would be PC(USA) folk, and I am not too sure that all PC(USA) would care if the denomination did go away.
 
This is a sad statement, but it does speak to the reality of a post-modern and post-denominational age that we live in.

One of the key questions is "What function and purpose does the denomination play in a missional church context?"

More than ever, the questions of ecclesiology and our understanding of our connectionalism is pivotal to understanding the present future.

Connectionalism is one of our favorite words as Presbyterians. But what does connectionalism mean?

  • How do denominations further the mission and the ministry of Jesus Christ? 
  • What can the denomination provide and do that a group of churches connected through purpose and ministry can't do on their own across denominational lines?

I may be treading on some dangerous waters here, but these are the questions our generation of leaders must be able to answer.

Until we can answer some of these questions, I think we're just going to be fumbling around in the dark.

Oct 19, 2009

General Assembly Declares Bicycle Riding Dangerous to Christian Faith


The minutes of the 1896 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church note: "Sunday bicycle pleasure riding; an alarming laxity of sentiment among many who profess and call themselves Christians, in reference to the binding obligation of the Fourth Commandment...is foreign to the Scriptural standard of holy living, and subversive of true Sabbath rest."

This was the report of the Special Committee on Sabbath Observance that was received and approved by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1896.

I am all for keeping the Lord's day the Lord's way. I am all for worshiping and honoring God on the Sabbath day. But saying declaring bicycle riding a desecration of the Sabbath day?!?!?!

Now, we may look at this and chuckle, but I wonder how many traditions and cultural beliefs we hold onto today that hinders the church from being the church.

Are we willing to change the way we worship? When we worship? How loud we worship?

Or do we insist that others worship God the way we've always done church?


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Oct 18, 2009

Healthy Organizations and Fouls

Healthy relationships aren't relations devoid of conflict. When it comes to conflict, there is no difference between healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships. But healthy relationships are ones where the parties are able to recognize and call fouls when fouls have occurred.

There is no such thing as a relationship without conflict.

Jesus said, "When two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in there midst." While that's certainly true, it's also true that whenever two or more are gathered, there is bound to be conflict, misunderstandings, offences, and hurt feelings. And this will always be the case until Jesus comes again.

So the key to healthy relationships, organizations, and churches is not that they are devoid of conflict, but that the community is able to recognize and call fouls when they occur.

When an organization does not deal with fouls in a healthy way dysfunction, disunity, and low morale is the result. This is also the case when fouls are not clearly defined in organizations and in relationships.

While it is true that each organization has its own culture and its way of doing things, there are some universal truths about all human beings.
- everyone wants to be valued
- everyone wants to be treated with respect
- everyone wants to contribute to something greater than themselves

When these universal needs are violated, a foul has occurred.

And when those fouls are not recognized and addressed in healthy ways, that organization and relationships will become unhealthy.

So how healthy are your relationships, organizations, and churches?


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Oct 17, 2009

Worship - It's Not About You


"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!" (Isaiah 6:3).

Genuine worship begins with God, is all about God, and ends with God.

Worship is all about God.

It's so simple. It sounds so benign. But this is huge.

Because America's worship has become too much about my pains, my shortcomings, my failures, my limitations, my dysfunctions, my needs. And because we've centered so much on "me", we've become a culture that worships "me".

And because our worship is "me" focused, we are stuck with "me".

The tragedy of this is only worshiping God - his character, his nature, his power, his love, his mercy, his grace, his omnipotence, his faithfulness, etc. - will free us and change us.

You've got pains, hurts, needs, shortcomings, failures, etc.? God can change that. God can make a difference. God can make you new.

But in order for that to happen, we've got to get God focused.

Get your focus off you and start focusing on God.

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty!!!"

Oct 16, 2009

Live with PASSION

Been in blah week.

That's coming to a stop right now. Hate going through the motions of life. God has kept me alive for a reason. I'm going to LIVE for Christ!

I allowed myself to be in a funk. And now I am choosing to get out. No more going through the motions.

Doing everything for the sake of Jesus Christ.

Going to live the rest of today passionately. And then going repeat that process daily.

God is in control and that's good enough for me!!!
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Oct 13, 2009

Just Be - The Holding Pattern

No doubt that God is at work.

No doubt that God knows what He's doing.

Just wish He'd clue me in.

Until things are crystal clear about what He's up to, I'm in a holding pattern.

Note to self - I don't do holding pattern very well. I'm much more at ease doing than being.

But there are times when God calls us to be - be trusting, be patient, be my child, just be and wait.

And so I wait. I just be.

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Oct 12, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?


I love this picture.

That's JFK Jr playing in the Whitehouse.

Time magazine says that JFK Jr was 2 years old when this picture was taken.

The only thing that this 2 year-old boy knows and cares about is that this is his daddy, and this is his daddy's office. And because this is his daddy, he has every right to be right where he is.

The child has no idea of the significance of the place which he is playing on, that his daddy happens to be the president of the most powerful nation on earth, or that the some of the most important decisions ever made for America were made right where he's playing.

But that's the thing I love about this picture. It reminds me of who my Daddy is. It reminds me that there are too many days when I allow myself to become so overwhelmed and impressed by the things that is happening around me that I forget who my Daddy is. And when I get overwhelmed and impressed by my problems, I get depressed because I don't see any way out. But that's because I forget who my Daddy is.

We are loved by a God who is limitless in power and ability. Our God is more than able to do more that we could ever imagine or hope for. And if this God is for us, friends, who or what can stand against us?

We sometimes hear people joking when they ask, "Who's your daddy?"

Well, actually, I think that's one of the best questions I've heard in a while.

So friends, who's your Daddy?

Ice Age 3 for Fifty Cents

I took the kids to see Ice Age 3 tonight at the dollar theater in Plano. To my surprise, the tickets at the dollar theater weren't a dollar - they were 50 cents!!! 50 cents!!!

How in the world do they make money showing movies for 50 cents???

I suppose if I were to have purchased popcorn, drinks, and candy for the kids they would have made bundles off me today - because all those things are normal price, but because we were running late to the show, I just bought the tickets and we all rushed into the theater.

This is the best movie deal of the world!!!

Obviously, the theater is not nice as the ones that are charging $10 a ticket and showing the newest movies, but this theater was clean and the movies they are showing are still not available on dvd.

I loved it. A family of six at the movies for $3!!! And the movie Ice Age 3 was a hoot!

The story is all about loyalty and sticking together as a family/herd, supporting one another, being there for one another, not giving up on each other. My 4 year old to my teenagers loved the movie.

If you've never been there before, check out Cinemark 10 in Plano. Their normal prices are $1.50 and $.75 on Tuesdays. I have no idea why the tickets were only fifty cents today but this daddy ain't complaining. What have you got to lose?

Oct 11, 2009

The church - We are Such Lovely Ugly People

I have never met such lovely ugly people as I have in the church of Jesus Christ.

On the one hand we are the loveliest bunch of people I know. Who else can love and dispense grace and understanding as the church of Jesus Christ? Who else can love on people, feed people, and help people as the church of Jesus Christ? There are few things more glorious than to see the church in action.

At the same time, the same churches and often the same people can be so ugly. Who else can gossip, judge, and slander people as the church? Who else can disparage, discouraging, discriminate, and hate as the church of Jesus Christ? There are few things uglier than seeing the church seething with gossip and negativity.

And I so wish it were not the case.

But the problem is me. Because this is me.

And it is the me's who make up the church.

God, help us to be less of me, and more of You. Because that's the only hope that we have of moving away from being so much like me and becoming so much like You.

God, help your church from me.

Oct 10, 2009

In Real Life Daniels Get Eaten by the Lions

I've always loved action stories in the Bible.
  • David and Goliath
  • Samson and the Philistines
  • Jonah and the whale
  • and of course, Daniel in the Lion's Den
I loved these stories as a boy because they were cool, fun, and because the good guy always won.

And the lesson that was taught was that if you do what's right, things are going to work out.

That's always the lesson.

But the problem is that's not always how things work out.

In real life, the guy in the lion's den gets eaten by the lions, the giant slays the boy, and the whale swallows up and digests the guy eaten.

Not only is this how it works in the real world, it works that way in the Biblical world too. Just take a look at Hebrews chapter 11 or consider what happened to all the disciples of Jesus Christ. Oh, and don't forget what happened to Jesus.

The problem with stories like Daniel in the lion's den is that Daniel's experience in the lion's den is the exception and not the rule.

And if that's the case, why is it in the Bible? What am I supposed to take from that? Because the reality is that very few, if any, of us are going to ever be the exception. So if none of us are ever going to be the exception, what are we supposed to learn from these stories? That we suck? That life hurts? What's the point?

The lesson God wants to teach me through Daniel is still an important lesson for all of us to learn.

All of Daniel's actions were driven by his intense understanding of an eternal God. Daniel couldn't help but see everything through the lens of eternity. That's why he was more than willing to face a certain death because he was even more certain of His eternal God.

And that's a great lesson no matter what we're facing and when we're living because that's the same God who loves you and me!

Oct 8, 2009

Praising God in Anxious Times

I'm finding myself at a terribly confusing point in my life.
  • I know that God is on control
  • I know that all things will work out for the good for those who love Jesus. I have no doubts about that. 
  • I have no idea how God's going to make it all work out. I have NO IDEA.
In fact, everything around me is telling me that it's not going to work. And it's the disconnect between what I'm seeing and what I believe that's the source of the anxiety.

Shouldn't knowing that God is in control be enough?

Well, yes. That should be enough. But, the truth is I don't feel much peace or certainty. In fact I'm feeling a lot of the opposites - anxiety, confusion, fear.

Two things about this:

First, I think God is quite okay with this. This is one of the things that makes us human. This is what makes faith, faith. The Psalmist knew God was God, and yet there were plenty of moments in the Psalmist's life when he cried out to God in total desperation.

Second, I am quite okay with this. This is what it means to trust God with all my heart.

So here's the deal. I'm not going to pretend as though I'm not anxious. There's no point to that. It is what it is.

But more importantly, I am not going to allow my anxiety to imprison me. I am going to live by faith. I am going to live as though the faith reality is the reality and live into to that faith reality until God makes it happen - anxiety and all.

And I am going to praise God in the midst of my anxiety.

James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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Oct 3, 2009

The Lion's Den - It's Not so Fun When You're the One in There


One of the most well known stories of the Bible is Daniel in the Lion's Den. I learned it as a little boy going to Sunday school. I always thought this was such a cool story - Daniel got to hang out with a bunch of lions and he didn't even get hurt or anything. What boy wouldn't like a story like that?

I never gave much thought to what it must have really been like for Daniel - a great man of God or not - to be in a den full of hungry man eating lions must have been absolutely horrifying and terrible. Did he ever sit? Did he ever sleep? Or was he in prayer and in peace as all the Sunday School pictures used to show him. I always just kind of figured that Daniel was a cool cucumber because he knew that God would take care of him.

The picture that I would love to see is Daniel sleeping like a baby in the lion's den because he felt so protected.

But a picture like that wouldn't ever fly. Because a picture like that doesn't jive with reality. And the reality is that it sucks to be in a den full of lions!

We've all gone through nights and periods of our lives where it felt like we were trapped in a den full of man-eating lions. And although we knew that God was in control and all the right stuff about how all things work together for the good for those trust in Jesus, those nights and periods in our lives were terrifying and dreadful.

That's the thing about faith isn't it? In hindsight, it's always so simple and easy. Of course that was God speaking. Of course God was leading in that direction.

But in the heat of the lion's den - when your very survival and sanity and peace are at stake - it's nerve wracking and terrifying.

It's not that you don't believe that God will act. It's just that you have no idea how it's all going to work itself out and who have no control over when and how God will act. You're totally at God's mercy for that. And, I don't know about you, but I hate the waiting and not knowing part.

But, that's exactly what faith is. It is trusting and absolutely knowing that God is indeed in control and that God will work all things for the good for those who trust in Him, even in the midst of impossibly difficult situations where everything seems to be lost. That's what faith is. That's when faith is required. If faith was a sure thing, faith would not be necessary.

All that we need to know when we're going through periods of time with the lions is that God is leading and God is in control. And as long as you're holding onto His hand, you're going to end up right where you want to be - in God's presence.

So friends in the lion's den, don't lose hope. Have a great day because God is in control. Just remember to never let go of His hand.

Getting Out of the Funk - Lessons Learned from Washing Dishes


Ever have those days where you feel like you're in a daze. Where you get up and you're just not motivated to do anything. Where you don't want to do the things you know you have to do, and you avoid doing the things that will be the very thing that will help you get out of the fog.

Well, I've had a week like that.

It's been tough.

Here's what I learned from washing the dishes.

One of the my duties around the house besides taking out the garbage, cleaning the toilets and the tubs, etc., is loading up the dish washer.

I found myself a few days ago in the middle of this funk. It wasn't that I had a nasty attitude. I didn't have an attitude at all. There was no passion, no hatred, no emotion. I was in a funk.

And I found myself going through the motions of preparing for the sermon, doing the dishes, and going through the activities of the week - doing everything half-hearted. And doing everything half-hearted was killing me. I don't do half-hearted very well. In fact, I don't think any one does half-hearted very well.

Half-hearted endeavors kill passion sucks the life out of everything and every one.

I hate half-hearted.

While loading up the dishes, I made the conscious decision - "I am tired of doing everything half-hearted. I am going to give my absolute best to everything I am doing. I don't want to do anything again half-hearted. Whatever I am doing, I want to give my best."

And you know what? The fog has lifted. I'm out of the funk.

And I think that's the way we all get out of the funk - we've got to live life whole-hearted. So whatever it is that you are doing right now, do it with everything you've got.

Oct 1, 2009

Is the Way We're Doing God's Work Destroying the Work God is Doing in Us?


Evangelical Christianity has got it right. We believe all the right things about who God is, who Jesus is, and what the Bible teaches.

That's not the problem.

The problem is in the way so many of us evangelical Christians go about doing God's work.

Where is the grace?

Where is the mercy?

Where is the tact?

Where is the wisdom?

There is so much venom and vitriol hatred toward the very people needing grace, forgiveness, and mercy.

Now, granted, not all evangelical Christianity nor all evangelical Christians are that way. And thank God for that.

But the problem is that the very things that the unchurched and the non-Christians are saying why they don't like the institutional church is the very way in which so many evangelical Christians and churches behave.


The way we are doing God's work is destroying the work that God is trying to do in and through us.

Friends, we've got to get better at proclaiming the truths we hold so dear in a way and a manner that does not betray Jesus Christ.

Our attitudes, our behaviors, our prejudices say so much more than the utterances of right theology.

I long for the day when our churches can both live and speak the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that is received by the very people who need Jesus Christ as good news.
James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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I Have Never Been Jealous...of a Ballerina


I can categorically say with a 100% certainty that I have never ever, not even once been jealous .......................... of a ballerina.

For that matter, I've never been jealous of a florist, a plumber, an accountant, a pianist, or a host of other professionals who do their jobs excellently.

However, when I hear and see another pastor doing their job better than me, the green eyed monster of jealousy creeps up real fast.

Isn't that the way it works for all of us? We are only jealous of folks who are most like us and folks who are closest to us.

So when the green eyed monster of jealousy creeps up into your heart, squash it before it gets the best of you and your closest relationships. Jealousy is always ugly and we are all better off without the green eyed monster.
James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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Sep 29, 2009

Reflections from the Metallica Concert




One of my members from church called earlier this week and asked if I would be interested in attending the Metallica concert with him. I haven't been to a rock concert since my college days so I decided to give it a shot.

The last rock concert I attended was ACDC. What I remember from that concert was that the entire concert hall was filled with smoke from cigarretts and pot.

I was pleasantly surprised by the concert going experience. The concert was at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. It was sold out and we had seats 10 rows from the stage.

First thing I noticed was that there was no smoke because the laws have changed. I thought that was great!

Second, I was surprised by the number of "older" folk who attended the concert. I remember as a kid looking at all the folks in their 30's and 40's thinking they were really old. Well, I was one of these older guys at the concert tonight.

Third, there were a lot of dads attending the concert with their sons. That was very good to see.

Four, I was so impressed by Metallica. Although the warm up bands cussed, the lead singer and the band of Metallica never uttered a single cuss word the entire concert. They played for 2 hours and 15 minutes and gave a great concert. Surprisingly, the Metallica concert was family friendly. They played to the crowd without using profanity. Way to go Metallica!

Had a very enjoyable evening. I was grateful for the ear plugs I brought along. But all in all, I would bring my boy to a concert like this when he's older.

So thank you Dennis and Preston for a wonderful evening!
James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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Walking with God

So many things up in the air.

I know that God is in control and God has a plan.

I just hate not knowing what God's plan is.

All I can do is to walk faithfully one day at a time.

It's times like this - when so much seems uncertain - that walking one day at a time is not as easy as it sounds. But that's what I vow to do.

God, I trust that You have a plan. So I will hold Your hand and will walk wherever You lead.
James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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Sep 25, 2009

Church - The Place to Hurt and Be Hurt?

"Spend enough time in the church and you will be hurt," writes Kevin Harney.

Unfortunately that's the case all too often.

But surprisingly, that's not bad news. The reason why we get hurt is because that's what fallen human beings do - we hurt each other. And whenever you get a group of people together, someone's bound to get hurt. It's unfortunate, but that's the reality.

But, that's not all bad. Because when that group of people are a covenanted community - a group of people who have covenanted to follow Christ and to be with one another - then the church gathered is one of the safest and best places to hurt and to be hurt. Because this community, more than any other community on earth, knows that Christ's love and grace can cover a multitude of offenses.

Grace works like that.

How else do we apply grace when there's no offense? Grace is never needed when things are hunky dory.

Grace is only needed when there's been a hurt.

And that's where the grace and the forgiveness of the love of Christ makes all the difference in the world. And that's what makes grace and forgiveness so beautiful and wonderful.

No. The church will never be - on this side of eternity - a perfect place. But it can be a place where people can be real, love one another through the hurts and offenses, and build real and genuine communities.

That's the church! And that's good news!

Sep 24, 2009

Wanting to Be a Godly Leader

Stan Ott asks an interesting question.

"When a situation you must contend with arises, what are your first thoughts? Are you immediately "solutional" considering alternate courses of action or are you first "devotional" immediately lifting your eyes to God?"

I know that I should answer this question by saying that my first gut instinct is to turn to God and ask for His guidance and direction. But the truth is that my first gut reaction as a type A leader is to immediately consider the different ways to tackle the problem and seek out solutions.

I don't want to discount the reality that God uses human agents to accomplish His will. I know that that is how God operates. However, God's leaders should act out of obedience to God and under God's direction and not just by their own merit and skills.

Because when we act out of our ability, we end up accomplishing only what we are able to accomplish - and that really isn't that much. And the problem with this is that what we do is then not that different than what any other human institution is able to accomplish.

And the church really should be more than what human beings are able to accomplish on their own.

Because, when we turn to God and act in accordance to His will and with God's guidance, we are able to be a part of something that only God can do.

And, that's pretty special. That's what changes the world.

I know that my default mode is to be "solutional". And that's a problem if I want to be a Godly leader.

I am determined to be more "devotional" in my leadership.

I will work on my gut reaction to be asking God's guidance and direction.

How about you?
James <><
Check out what God is doing @
www.trinitypresbyterian.us

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