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 <><
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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 <><
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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 <><
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Sep 23, 2009

Moving on From Hurt

Dr. James Dennison tells the following story about forgiveness.

A young boy was ridiculed by some kids at school, and came home humiliated. His grandfather happened to be visiting; he could tell that the boy was upset, and asked why.

The boy told him the story, then said, "It feels like I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One is angry and wants revenge. The other wants to forgive them. Which one will win?"

His wise grandfather replied, "The one you feed."

We've all been hurt. We've all been wounded. So the question is which one will you feed?

There is only one way to move forward toward health. The only person you hurt by holding on to the anger is yourself.

Move on my friends. Get healthy.

Sep 22, 2009

God's Voice

God's voice...

I know that God speaks through His Word, other people, through situations, through prayer, and praise.

But what does His voice sound like?

How can you know amidst the myriad of different voices and opinions and scriptural truths what God is saying?

It's so interesting how when things are hard and difficult people will tell you what God is saying. "James, if you would just do this, things would be a whole lot better."

That's wonderful that God has told you that. But then another person tells me the just the opposite. And this person too is convinced that God is speaking.

You know, when things are hard, when the team isn't performing, it's the coaches and the quarterbacks that get the brunt of it.

So when things aren't going well with the church it's the pastor who gets the brunt of the criticism. I get that. That comes with the leadership territory.

But the only thing and the only person who can lead us out of the difficult situation we find ourselves in is God. So the main question is, "What is God asking of us?" "What does His voice sound like?"

And while there are some things that may not be clear, I know of some things that are crystal clear:
- God is in control
- God has a plan and purpose for us
- God wants us to be fully committed to His ministry and mission
- God wants us to be fully engaged in His plan and purpose for the world
- God wants us to grow up and mature in the faith
- God wants us to increase His influence and impact in the community

I think if we would fully engage God in the things that we know then everything else will take care of themselves.

So what are we waiting for? Let's do this thing. Let's see God at work in our lives once again.
James <><
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Sep 21, 2009

Review of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

Saw "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" with Kaleb today.

Kaleb thought the movie was funny and great. But this is also a kid who can watch Star Wars everyday and not be bored, and he's 4 years-old.

The movie is what you would expect out of a movie with a title like "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs". It's a predictable kid's movie.

This is what makes what Pixar does so remarkable. They are master story tellers.

Kids will enjoy this movie. Parents will endure the movie.

Save yourself some money and watch the regular version and skip the Imax and the 3D. There's not much in terms of the 3D special effects.

In fact, save yourself a bunch of money and wait for the video.
James <><
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Sep 20, 2009

World Hunger

Dave Gibbons says, "World vision annual budget 2.6 billion dollars is the same as 2 days of Walmart sales....we have a long ways to go, church."

We live in a world where we have all the food, all the transportation equipment, and all the money to rid world hunger.

The problem is not a matter of resources. The issue has always been a matter of want to.

There is no reason why another single person should die of hunger.

I long to see this day.
James <><
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Sep 17, 2009

The Church Being the Church

I gotta brag on what God is doing at Trinity.

This past Sunday, Mike approached me and asked me to pray for him because a part of his roof had collapsed. And to make matters worse, we've been getting a steady dose of rain for days now with no end in sight. I promised him that I would join him in prayer.

But what I didn't know was that God would mobilize people at church on this particular Sunday morning to be the church.

When Janet heard about Mike's plight, she talked with her husband, Miguel, Larry about the situation. And before you knew it, guys sprang into action - Dennis, Larry, Daniel, John, Ron, Stephen (man I hope I'm not forgetting anyone) - and they got together, got on the roof and got the job done!

That's the church being the church - doing something together something that none of us could have accomplished on our own.

That's how God works. God always uses people. And this past weekend, our guys became God's instrument for His work.

That's awesome!

Way to go God!

Way to go Trinity!

It's moments like this when it feels good to be a Christian.

And I pray that this is just the beginning. Because we will all have a time when we're going to need for God to act on our behalf. And it's good to know that God will be there for us too through His church.

Thanks be to God!!!
James <><
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Sep 13, 2009


I went to bed last night feeling like I was coming down with something.

Woke up this morning definitely feeling like I have a cold. My head feels like it's filled with fluids, my throat is scratchy, nose is runny, body is aching, and I can't seem to get warm.

Going to be leading worship and preaching in about an hour. God, I will need you more than ever this morning. I love that I will be needing you. I love that I can always count on you. Use me this morning to proclaim your truth and help people to know how much you love them.

Thank you for this day. Thank you for the opportunity to worship you.
James <><
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Sep 11, 2009

Trusting God

Trusting God in hindsight - No Brainer.

Trusting God in real time - so incredibly difficult, gut wrenching, anxiety ridden, but priceless for that's what faith is.

Do you find yourself in one of those impossible situations where there seems to be a myriad of good choices?

Do you find yourself in a place where you don't know which one of these good choices is the right choice?

You know that God has a plan and you know that it's for your best, but you just don't know which one that is?

Welcome to my life.

In fact, welcome to the life of faith. Because that's what the life of faith looks like in real life and real time.

But this doesn't mean that we can't know what God wants us to do.

There are certain things we can know for a certain:
- God will not go against God's truths revealed in scripture. If any of your choice violates God given truths, you know it cannot be God's will.
- God's purpose will always bring glory to God.

Once you've gotten this far, take time out to pray, listen, and read. God will guide you. And our obedience will be precious!

Sep 10, 2009

Made it Home

Finally made it home.

American Airlines overbooked the flight from Belo Horizonte to Miami so they upgraded me. Thank you God!

I was able to sleep for a few hours. It was good to get some sleep. It's still not the same thing as sleeping on a bed at home or in a hotel.

Had a four hour layover in Miami before taking the fin flight to Dallas.

I tried not to take a nap but I was so tired. The good thing is that I am still tired so I am going to bed.

I have a full day tomorrow - conference call for New Form of Government, a couple of meetings, and then finishing up the sermon.

Thank you all for your prayers while I was in Brazil and also for Kaleb.

James <><
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Sep 9, 2009

Brazil - Day 8

Will be going back home today.

It's been an incredibly long and frustrating evening.

Last night my son (4 years old) began complaining about a pain behind his ear. When my wife checked it there was a growth (a couple of inches long and about an inch wide).

When we called the doctor, they wanted her to take Kaleb to the Children's Hospital. Kaleb and Helen's been at the hospital all night running tests and exams.

They have determined that the infection is not internal as it was in January but only on the surface. So they are sending him home with antibiotics.

This is the first time when I have been out of the country when one of my children or family member has been sick. It's very frustrating because you are totally helpless. There's nothing you can do. You can't even be with them to comfort them. That was the hardest part of being in Brazil last night.

Even if I were with them back home, there's still not a darn thing I could do to help my child, but I can at least be with him to comfort him and pray with him. But from Brazil all I could do was to pray for him from a distance.

I am looking forward to being home to be with the family.

Pray that the travels go smoothly.

See you at home soon.

Sep 8, 2009

Brazil - Day 7

This is the last full day in Brazil. I am so ready to see my family. I miss them very much. I have been thinking of them and missing them more and more everyday.

At the same time there is a sadness in my heart because I will miss the people and friends I have made in Belo Horizonte. We experienced God, worshiped, and dreamed together about what God can do through our lives and those memories and hopes have forever knit our lives together.

The thing is - whether we are in Brazil or just going through the routine of our life in our homes, when we open our eyes and avail ourselves to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the opportunities for experiencing God together with people are all around us.

May you experience the miracle of God's presence and the thrill of being used by Him on this day.

Be an instrument of God today!

James <><
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Sep 7, 2009

Brazil Day 6

Happy Independence Day Brazil!

It may be Labor Day back home in the States, but in Brazil, it's Independence Day.

We had an incredible Sunday. Deb shared her testimony in the morning at Sunday school. Then about 40 paople squeezed into a 3 bedroom 1600 squre feet apartment for lunch and had a fantastic time with each other.

And then the best part came last - the Sunday worship service in the evening. Here in Brazil, they do the Sunday School in the morning and then they have the worship service in the evening.

The praise and passion of the people gathered was palpable. We worshipped and praised for almost 3 hours and not one seemed to care or notice. It was such an incredible time of worship.

I wish our churches in the States could have just experienced something like that. It's impossible to describe. You just have to experience it for yourself.

Today we are off to a picnic with the church to celebrate Independence Day. It's been incredibly hectic since I've been here so I am looking forward to a ralaxing day.

I am missing my wife and kiddos like crazy today.

Have a great day everyone!

James <><
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Sep 6, 2009


What an amazing evening of worship. God ROCKS!!!

We worshipped for 2 1/2 hours and no one cared. It was amazing!

The praise Rocked!

The singing rocked!

The worship rocked!

The prayers rocked!

God was awesome in the worship and there were people hungry for God. It was so sweet.

Thank you God for such a wonderful worship service.

I pray that the worship in all your houses throughout the world was as wonderful today.

Thank you God!
James <><
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Who knew? Cashew is a fruit!

I always thought that Cashew was a nut.

I never really thought about where the nut came from, but I always enjoyed it's delicious nutty taste. In fact, I think it's one of my favorite nuts. But I'm not sure it's a nut anymore.

I discovered in Brazil that Cashew is a fruit, and the nut part is actually the stem that connects the fruit to the tree.

I tasted the fruit and it was okay. You don't actually eat the fruit. You just kind of chew on it and drink the juice and spit out the fiber. It has a unique taste. I have no way of describing it.

Either way, I still think cashews are delicious. In fact, had a handful while typing this entry.

Brazil Day 5 - Morning

Had a great day yesterday. Had a training session with the pastors and lay leaders during the day. Then for the evening watched Brazil play Argentina in world cup qualifiers. That's the way you're supposed to watch soccer - with a bunch of Brazilians watching their team beat their arch-rival. Now, that was fun!!!

The Brazilians have Sunday school in the morning and then break for the day and have worship in the evening.

Deb will be teaching the Sunday School class this morning and I will be preaching at the service this evening. Kye will sing a song.

Have a great day worshiping God this day.
James <><
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Sep 5, 2009

Brazil - Day 4

Just finished the morning session with the leaders from the Missional Presbyterian Church of Brazil. We are breaking for lunch and then have an afternoon session with them.

The weather has turned pretty warm and hot.

Time for lunch and then the afternoon sessions. Kye will be leading and then I will close out the afternoon.

Ever since we've been here, the Brazilians have been talking about the soccer match tonight between Brazil and Argentina. So tonight we are all gathering to watch the big game.

Looking forward to a full and wonderful afternoon and evening.

James <><
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Sep 4, 2009

Brazil Day 3 - Evening

Hard to believe that it's only been three days in Brazil. It seems longer - not because the experience here has been negative in any way - because our days have been so full.

The time with the pastors this morning was sweet. Deb Hollifield and Kye Chung led the morning sessions. They both shared about how they were leading in their contexts.

That was followed by another wonderfully filling lunch - fejuahdah? - Brazilian black beans and pork. Very delicious.

The afternoon was sessions with pastors from the community along with pastors from Robson's church. That training session was followed up with a training and discussion session with pastors from Robson's church for the late afternoon.

By the time it was dinner time, I was pretty wiped out. But we still had a small group function to attend. I was very tempted to bug out of the small group because I was feeling "people'd out". I was ready for some personal quite time. It's interesting that I used to be an all out extrovert who craved time with other people but the older I get I need some alone time as well.

But I am glad that I went to the small group. They were discussing about the omniscience of God. It's fun to watch folks get into the discussion. All of it was in Portuguese so I didn't understand what they were saying but it was still fun to watch their animated discussions.

One of the things the small groups in Brazil made me wonder is how motivated our American counterparts would be to be a part of small groups like the ones in Brazil where they are discussing such deep theological topics.

We got back to Pastor Robson's place at around 10 and hung out talking.

Another wonderful full day.

Looking forward to a good night's sleep and another wonderful full day tomorrow.

Good night friends. Will check in with you again in the morning.

Brazil Day 3 - Morning

Another great night in Belo Horizonte. I have been sleeping more deeply here in Belo Horizonte than I have in a long time. Thank you God for the evening of refreshing.

We start the morning with training with the pastors at the Missional Presbyterian Church. Pastor Kye and Pastor Deb will be teaching this morning. I will have an opportunity to teach in the afternoon with the pastors of the Missional Presbyterian Church along with some other pastors from the community.

Then we will be meeting with a small group again this evening.

Looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us today.

I want to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and what He wants to show me today.

Sep 3, 2009

Brazil Day 2 Evening

What a great day!

Spent the morning with pastors dreaming, discussing, sharing about the future of a church committed to the mission and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Several simple truths:
- change will not happen without change
- whatever your church is currently doing, your system I perfectly suited to produce the results you have been getting

In order for God to do new things with the church, in order to reach the people that no one else is reaching, as Groeschel says, we've got to be doing things that no one else is doing.

We talked about what the church might look like if we took seriously the priesthood of all believers. How might we think about the church differently? How might pastors and staff think about their ministries differently?

In the afternoon, after a ginormous Brazilian lunch, we went to the presbyterian school to look at the church's outreach through the school.

The school is going through a huge financial crisis. Because of the economic melt down, about 30 of the families have been able to pay the tuition for their children and now the school has depleted all their reserves. Unless God acts in an extraordinary way, the school must close. Join with me in praying for this school and this ministry. If you are able to help financially, let me know and I can put you in contact with the school.

We closed out the evening with a small group Bible study on a rooftop patio. We couldn't have asked for a better night. Had burgers and hotdogs Brazilian style.

Quite a day.

Thank you God for a great day.

Looking forward to see what God has in store for us in tomorrow.
James <><
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Small group experience in Brazil

I am sitting on an outside deck with a small group in Belo Horizonte. It's pretty wild. We are talking about the sovereignty of God and free will and the relationship of prayer to both God's sovereignty and our free will. The whole conversation is taking place in Portuguese and bits are being translated to us in English and we are doing our best to participate in the conversation.

But in the end there is great conversation and fellowship. Stuff like this can only take place by the grace and the power of God.

This is pretty darn sweet.

Thank you Lord!

James <><
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Brazil - Day 2 Morning

Good morning.

Had a wonderful evening. Slept like a baby. I sleep so much better with the windows open. I wish we could do that more back in Texas.

We will be meeting up with the pastors for consultation and meetings, we will be visiting the school, and then looking at the sites for the baseball/softball mission next summer.

Looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us today.

Have a great day and talk to you later!

James <><
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Sep 2, 2009

Brazil - Day One

We had a full day today - and I mean full in a very literal sense. I haven't been hungry since I arrived in this country. They have been feeding us like crazy. The food has been excellent and the fellowship and conversations have even been better.

We arrived from the US at 9:00am after a red eye. It took about an hour to go through customs and passport control.

There is a huge scare with the swine flu. We are taking our precautions by washing our hands and staying away from people who seem to be sick.

We spent the morning and afternoon catching up, showering, and taking naps. The evening was full with more food and fellowship.

There was a big soccer match on tv so we gathered at a local pub with a bunch of folks from church to watch the soccer game.

I don't think there you can get more authentically Brazilian than hanging out with a bunch of Brazilian folk watching a soccer game in one of their pubs.

It's been a full day and we have another full day on tap for tomorrow.

Looking forward to a good night's rest.

Thank you God for a great day!

Made it to Brazil

It's 11:35am. Haven't slept much in the last 24 hours. I was up most of the entire evening.

I love having a shaved head, but when the air is cold on the airplane like it was last night, a shaved head is not so good. I had a blanket on my head the entire night and I still feel like I have a head cold.

The goal now is to stay up all day before going to bed tonight because if I take a nap my nights and days are going to be all messed up.

Having a sweet fellowship with Pastor Robson. Looking forward to what God has in store for us.

More to come.

James <><
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Sep 1, 2009

On my way to Brazil

Waiting at the airport lounge in Miami as they keep delaying the departure of mu flight to Belo Horizonte.

There are lots of families with small children in the waiting area. I am praying that they will sleep through the night or it could be a very long 10 hour flight to Brazil.

It's fun to see people on these red eyes - everyone looks so happy - NOT!

It's all good.

Looking forward to being with Pastor Robson and his family and his church. Looking forward to seeing what God will show me through the brothers and sisters in Brazil.

Will keep you posted.

Next time, I will be blogging from Belo Horizonte, Brazil!

James <><
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