Dec 31, 2011

Happy New Year! Don't Worry. Be Happy!

Don't Worry...Be Happy...

Remember that song?

While the song kind of gets annoying after the 13 millionth time, it actually speaks of a profound truth.

Happiness is a choice. Don't worry. Be happy.

You have to choose to not to worry and you have to choose to be happy.

Today is New Year's Eve. Many people will be greeting each other with the New Year's Greeting, "Happy New Year!"

Our society has convinced many that happiness is an inalienable right of all human beings.

But because we are not happy all the time, we are not very happy people.

Truth is, happiness is not a right. Happiness is ultimately a choice.

Happiness is not what happens to us. Happiness is what we choose to do.

So when we are greeting each other with "Happy New Year!", what we are actually saying is not that many happy things happen to you this year but an exhortation to choose happiness in the coming year. That, regardless of what happens, we all do everything we can to pursue happiness and to choose to do those things that lead to happiness.

The song's got it right.

Don't worry.

Be happy!

In the coming year, choose not to worry.

Instead, choose to be happy!

Happy New Year!

Dec 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...Review

I recently read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

While the book deals with some very rough issues - abuse, rape, serial murder, etc. - the story is fast paced. After the initial confusion over the names of people and places in Sweden, the book is a page turner. I finished the book in a couple of sittings.

So when the US version of the movie came out this weekend, I was pretty excited to see it.

One of my biggest curiosities was how the movie would portray the characters I had envisioned while reading the book.

I must say the main character, Lisbeth Salander, played by Rooney Mara looked very much like what I envisioned while reading the book. Rooney Mara's portrayal of Lisbeth Salander was well deserving of the kick butt heroine of the novel.

However, Daniel Craig's portrayal of Mikael Blomkvist was confusing. The thing is I Like Daniel Craig. I think Daniel Craig's portrayal of James Bond is one of my favorites. In the book Mikael Blomkvist is an economic journalist. How exciting is that? And that was my issue with Daniel Craig. He's just too tough, too kick butt, too heroic for what I pictured in my mind when reading the book.

The biggest disappointment for me though was the portrayal of Martin Vanger. Before I give the story away, let me just say he was the least believable of all the characters.

Having said all that, the movie was a pretty decent screenplay of the book. Of course, there is no way to capture all the intricacies of a novel in a 2 1/2 hour movie, but they were fair to the book.

I enjoyed the movie. Wouldn't necessarily want to see it again, but it was worth both my time and money. However, the book is a far better ride than the movie.

One other thing I need to mention about the movie is that I thought they overplayed some of the sex scenes. The story would have been fine without being as graphic and visual as they were with the sex scenes. It's Rated R rating is much deserved.

I am not sure I would watch the next version of the movie even if they were to make it.

I'm going to stick with the book. After the busyness of Christmas and New Year's, I look forward to settling down with my kindle for a day or two to read The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Dec 28, 2011

What Do You Do After You "Get Saved"?

The way some of us we live out our faith, we make it seem as if the only reason Jesus saves us is so God can save us.

We make salvation the ultimate purpose for the church and its ministry. We make salvation the ultimate goal for ourselves. 

As soon as someone "gets saved" some of us think, mission accomplished. Now, to the next one.

As much as we emphasize salvation, we only give lip service to what happens after a person "gets saved."

I think this entirely misses the point.

God's plan for salvation from the beginning of time was never about just saving us. 

God's plan for salvation has always been about relationship. 

When God thought about eternity, he couldn't imagine spending eternity without his children. And in order to ensure that he would have his children with him for ever, he sent his Son so that whosoever should believe in him will live with him forever.

It's always been about relationship.

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 1:6 - "For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ."

This simple verse tells us two profound truths about God's plan for salvation:
1. God does not start anything that he does not bring to completion.
2. God does not save us in order to save us. Salvation has a purpose. We have been created to do good works. 

First, God began a good work in you and me. Part of that work includes God pursuing us with his love in order that we might respond to God's invitation to an everlasting life. And that work is not completed when we respond with an invitation to receive Christ as Lord and Savior. In fact, God's work continues as we begin living the life we were always meant to live. The ministry and the mission of God will continue until Christ comes again to reign and judge.

Secondly, we were created and redeemed for a purpose. And that purpose is to begin living the life we were always meant to live. We were created to carry on the work of God, the ministry of Christ. We were created and redeemed to do God's will. 

Look, good works cannot save us. Only the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can do that.

However, once we are saved, good works is what saved people do. That's the perfecting part. That's the good work that will continue until the day of Christ.

So church, let's show our world some awesome good works!!!

Dec 27, 2011

The Least "Christmasy" Christmas Ever

This is the least "Christmasy" Christmas ever.

I am not even sure what I mean by that.

All I know is that the typical almost giddy happiness of the season was absent this time around. The typical feelings and busyness and Christmasy-ness was absent.

I don't know why.

I am not even sure if that's necessarily a bad thing.

I had lots of meals together with family and friends.

We did all the typical things - exchanging gifts, sponsoring families, Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, etc. - that we typically do at Christmas.

I am still trying to wrap my head around this more mellow, almost melancholy Christmas of this year.

One thing I know is that no matter what I may be feeling, Christ is come and we need what Christ ushers in more than ever.

I want to see the power of God through his church. I want to give and live in the love of Christ. I want to share the peace and joy of Christ with others. I want more of Christ than I have ever before.

Dec 22, 2011

Afraid? Of What?

Afraid? Of what? 

To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass fro pain to perfect peace, 
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? - of that? Afraid? Of What?

Afraid? Of what? 

Afraid to see the Savior's face
To hear his welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid - of that? Afraid? Of what?

A flash, a crash, a pierced heart; 
Darkness, light O heaven's art!
A wound of his a counterpart!
Afraid - of that? Afraid? Of what?

To do by death what life could not - 
Baptize with blood a stony plot, 
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid - of that?

This poem was written by E.H. Hamiliton, after hearing of the death of his missionary collegue Jack Vinson. Vinson was martyred in 1931 and showed no fear of death to his Chinese captors telling them, "Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God."

Dec 17, 2011

What Great Churches and Great Restaurants Have In Common

A good church is like a good restaurant...the food, the service, the experience makes people want to come back for more.

Most bloggers and emergent types bristle against anything that smells and looks like an attractional church.

But lets face it...the simple truth if the Christian life and our Christian gatherings are not attractive to folks who don't know Christ, Christianity is dead. That's evangelism. That's how you share Christ with others.

If we're going to be about the mission of Jesus Christ, there's got to be something about our lives, our gatherings, our way of living and expressing the love of Christ that is astonishingly attractive to those who don't know Christ.

Our way of being and living out Christ ought to cause people to want to come back for more.

Just the way a great restaurant - through its food, its service, and the experience - causes people to want to come back for more, great churches - through its ministry, its worship, its way of life - have a way of causing people to want more.

So how's your church doing? 

Dec 15, 2011

A Taste of Eternity...Lessons Learned from Momma Maggie

Momma Maggie Speaking at the Leadership Summit (Picture borrowed from Willow Creek Site)
Reviewing my notes from the Leadership Summit from this past summer, I was reminded of the necessity of the reflective life.

Momma Maggie, a Coptic Christian nun who serves the poor of Cairo, Egypt, was the highlight of an incredibly motivating conference.

Here's a portion of what she said.

The hardest task of a leader is to get to know the Almighty and to keep your heart pure. One way to do that is through the practice of silence. There you discover a taste of eternity.

Silence your body to listen to your words.
Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart.
Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.

What moved the thousands of leaders gathered at the Summit was the reality in this diminutive woman, there was a person who had a connection with God in ways that none of us there had experienced. And we all wanted what she had with God.

The practice of tasting eternity...

Dec 13, 2011

The Lord is My Shepherd.....And That's All I Need to Know

A Sunday School teacher decided to have her young class memorize one of the most beloved passages in all of Scripture - Psalm 23. She gave the youngsters a month to learn the chapter.
  • Little Ricky was excited about the task - but no matter what he did, he just couldn't remember the Psalm.
  •  After much practice, he could barely get past the first line.
  • On the day that the kids were scheduled to recite Psalm 23 in front of the congregation, Ricky was so nervous.
  • When it was his turn, he stepped up to the microphone and said proudly, "The Lord is my Shepherd, and that's all I need to know."
You know what Ricky, you are absolutely right! 

That's excellent theology!!! 

No matter what life may throw at us, as long as you know that the Lord is your Shepherd, you're going to be alright.

What is true for Ricky is true for all of us.

The Lord is my Shepherd...and that's all I need to know!

Dec 10, 2011

Adventures of Parenting

A couple of mornings ago, I came back from dropping off the girls to school to find little man eating breakfast at the kitchen table.

He's six years old so that's pretty good for a little guy - fixing his own breakfast.

And as I came closer to the kitchen table I noticed empty Gogurt packets all over the table. Not just a couple of Gogurt packets...five empty Gogurt packets and he was working on his sixth!

Do you know how much sugar that is????? That's more than the daily allowance for the entire day in one sitting!!!

So we had a little conversation about how eating Gogurts for a snack is quite appropriate but he shouldn't be eating that many at one time.

Good job dad! Mission accomplished.

Fast forward one morning.

I was dropping off the girls at their school when I received a phone call from my wife. She found the little guy sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast all by himself. As she got closer to the kitchen table, she found empty Gogurt packets all over the table.

When Helen asked the little man how many Gogurts he had eaten that morning, he readily confessed that he had eaten four, but not one more.

Four Gogurts for breakfast!!!

Helen knew Kaleb and I had a conversation about this the morning before so she asked him why he had eaten so many Gogurts for breakfast.

Kaleb readily replied, "Daddy told me that I should not eat five Gogurts so I had four!!!!!"

Well, he's technically right. We did talk about how five Gogurts were not a smart choice for breakfast, and I thought I made it clear that Gogurts were good snacks but they should not be the main course.

It's clear that I was not clear enough.

Oh the joys of parenting a little man!

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Dec 7, 2011

Meaningful and Meaningless...Yes.

Meaningless...all is meaningless! so writes the writer of Ecclesiastes.

Working hard is meaningless.

Building up your investments is meaningless.

In the end the poor, the rich, everyone dies.

Such is the picture of life the writer of Ecclesiastes paints for us.

But how different the world looks to the writer of Proverbs.

For the author of Proverbs, the world runs like clockwork. Hard work leads to big rewards. Laziness leads to destruction.

Do the right things and good things will happen.

Everything has meaning.

How can these two books be in the Bible? They say such different things?

And the amazing thing about this is that the author of both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is Solomon. It's no accident that these two books find themselves right next to each other, back to back in the scriptures.

Because they are both true.

There are times when life makes no sense.

There are times when life seems to be going no where.

There are times when we are at wit's end.

And it is true that most of the time, we find ourselves in a world that makes sense. Work hard and things go well. Be lazy and we will reap the consequences of laziness.

This is life.

And I'm glad life is portrayed in an honest real way in scripture.

Dec 6, 2011

Running On Empty No More

Things have been pretty chaotic and stressful lately.

  • We are in the negotiation processes with a candidate for the associate pastor position at LCOP
  • We are finding solutions to possible financial realities facing LCOP
  • I am trying to come to terms with what those financial realities mean for my leadership
  • It's Advent season
  • My health issues are getting worse, not getting better
  • We are preparing to launch a new worship ministry, a young adult ministry, visitor/welcoming ministry
  • We are preparing for the next trimester of the FOCUS small group ministry
There's a lot going on.

As I have been trying to lead through all this, I realize that I have not been leading myself very well lately. I have allowed my business to overtake my spiritual/emotional well being. I have been running more and more on fumes. My spiritual and emotional tanks are empty. And if I don't take some healthy measures to replenish my tanks, I will burn out.

Some signs that I have not been managing my emotional/spiritual tank:
  • I was up most of the night, tossing and turning and worrying. Even after praying and literally handing things over to God, I find myself stressed and unable to sleep
  • I feel stressed during the day
  • The joy and passion of leadership are waning and giving into depression and stress
  • I am more irritable 
None of these things are healthy or Godly.

It's not enough to pray and hand things over to God. I need to do those things through which God feeds me and encourages me. For without those things, I will burn out.

So what are the things/activities/people that God uses to fill me? How will I go about refueling?

Here are the things that fuel my emotional/spiritual tank.

  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Blogging
  • Family Time
  • Exercise
  • Motorcycle
I haven't been doing much of these things for several weeks now.

That's going to change starting today.

How about you? How are you doing? Do you like who you are becoming these days?

What are your daily spiritual and emotional replenishment strategies?