Feb 28, 2013

Not All Good Things are God Things

Not all good things are God things.

One ways many of us miss out on God things is by having overcommitted to too many good things. By doing so we end up either missing out on God things, or, just as bad, we are unable to give our best to God things.

Nothing wrong with volunteering with your kid's baseball team, nothing wrong with working with your girl's Girl Scouts troop, nothing wrong with singing in the choir, volunteering with the youth, ushering, serving in the kitchen, working with the homeless, teaching a Bible Study, joining a Bible Study and a whole host of other good things.

These are all good things, and someone has to do them.

In fact, some of these may very well be a God thing for some.

But the thing is, all these good things can't be God's thing for any one person because none of us are capable of doing all of these things excellently and wholeheartedly.

Here are some universal God things that apply to all.

  • All should set aside time to pray and listen to God.
  • All should set aside time to read God's word and meditate on his truth.
  • All should set aside time to be in community with God's people.
  • All should set aside time to worship God on the Lord's Day.
  • All should set aside time to serve in their area of ministry.
That's a lot of time!


But these are things that are the basics of growing up in the faith. 

Too many are involved in way too many other things while neglecting their main things.

Not all good things are God things.

We need the wisdom and the discernment to say "No" to many good things so we can say "Yes" God's thing.

Feb 27, 2013

When Decently and In Order is Crap

Presbyterians love doing things decently and in order.

Presbyterians love decently and in order so much that it could be argued that this is one of our essential tenets!

Here's the thing.

What has decently and in order gotten us? How has the whole decently and in order thing been working out for the presbyterians?

Let's see... 
  • The last time we've had a growth year as a denomination was 1960's. 
  • The last time we baptized more than we bury was decades ago. 
  • The denomination went from 6 million strong in the 60's to less than 2 million today while the population of the US has almost tripled.

How exactly is this decently and in order thing working out for presbyterians?

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that doing things decently and in order is the reason for the decline.

What I am saying is that when doing things decently and in order trumps everything else, we get where we are.

There are times when things are changing so rapidly, where life is happening so rapidly, where exemptions are necessary for the health and vitality of a church that we've got be willing to put the ministry of Christ above doing things decently and in order.

I am all for decency and order. But that can't be the ultimate priority for a church. The mission, the ministry come first. Decently and in order is the normal rule, but there are plenty of times when normal doesn't apply. 

They are called exceptions. And it's okay to have exceptions to the rule. That's life.

When decently and in order trumps ministry and mission, a church will be run decently and in order all the way to irrelevancy and eventual her death. 

When that happens, decently and in order is crap.

Feb 21, 2013

Leadership and Pace of Change

On February 19, 1942, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese warplanes the previous December, US president Franklin Roosevelt signed and executive order calling for the displacement of one hundred and twenty thousand Japanese Americans to internment camps.

Germany and Italy were at war against the United States at the same time but Germans and Italians were not set apart for internment camps.

Only the Japanese.

The point of this blog entry isn't to discuss the "wrongness" of this action. That goes without saying. This was wrong on so many levels.

What interests me about this as a leader is to look at how human beings behave and what impact that has on how we lead.

One of the leadership lessons from this history is that the greater the levels and greater the number of differences, the greater the difficulty in assimilation.

When leading change, when leaders bite off too much for an organization too fast - even though it may be absolutely the right things to do - the cost of making such sweeping changes is often times expressed in broken relationships.

When it comes to institutional and organizational behavior, leaders must use caution and wisdom in the scope of change proposed at a particular time.

Intentional and incremental steps toward the ultimate goal of transformation...Leaders, ones that lead for the long haul keep the pace of change at a sustainable level.

Feb 20, 2013

Sex Problem

Ever since the sexual revolution of the 1960's, our country's view on sex is more promiscuous than ever before. Most Americans assume that people have sex. It has nothing to do with whether one is married or not, most Americans now view sex as a normal part of the dating practice.

So, how's this overtly promiscuous attitude been working out for America?

Here are some alarming statistics I came across:
  • The United States leads the industrialized world in teenage pregnancy.
  • One in three girls becomes pregnant before the age of 20, 81% out of wedlock.
  • More than 40% of all births in our county takes place outside of marriage.
  • Pornography makes more money in America than Apple, Microsoft, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, and Netflix COMBINED
How are Christian young men and women doing? 

According to a study done by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 80% of unmarried "born again" Christians 18-29 say they have been sexually active.

We have a sex problem.

Clearly, what is needed is a call and a commitment to live Biblical norms. We will live differently than the people of our age because God said so.

How about that?

What would that be like if the church said, "We don't care what the rest of the world is doing. We will live according to God's ways?"

Feb 16, 2013

California Genocide of Native Americans During the Gold Rush

Image Borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer
This entry is from the Book of Common Prayer for Jan 24.

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the American River, setting off the California Gold Rush. Prior to the discovery of this precious metal, 150,000 Native Americans lived in California. White settles in search of gold brought with them genocide through both disease and violence. In 1851, the California state government endorsed the extermination of Native people. Offering five dollars per head in some places, they invested a total of a million dollars in the systemic murder of men, women, and children. By 1870, only and estimated 31,000 California Natives had survived.

Lord have mercy....

I grew up in California.

I never knew this about my history. They never taught this in any history books that I read.

Lord, forgive our land. Forgive our history for the way we treated a people just because they were different, because we did not understand, because we were more concerned for profit than we were for what's right and decent.

Lord, I can't help but wonder what future generations of people will say of us in how we treat others.

Forgive us...

Lord have mercy...

Feb 14, 2013

A Need for Innovation...Leadership Lessons from Motorola

If you had one of these Motorola Startacs back in the 90's, you were the man! This was the phone to have.

Prior to this, phones were carried in bags and looked and weighed as much as a brick.

Motorola absolutely dominated the cell phone market.

What happened? How did Motorola go from dominating the cell phone market to barely staying afloat today?

It wasn't that Motorola was not operated efficiently. During those years as Motorola lost market share, they were a well run machine.

You can run your business efficiently all the way to bankruptcy.

Just ask Kodak, Oldsmobile, Pontiac.

What made these once giants in their market become irrelevant and bankrupt?

Each of these companies failed to innovate. It wasn't that people stopped using cellphones, taking pictures, or driving cars. In fact, there are more cellphone users and  pictures taken today than at any other time in history. People are still buying and driving their cars.

When companies and institutions fail to innovate to connect even more with their customers they are bound to fail.

At one time, talking on a brick sized phone was really cool.

If you carried one of these around today, you'd be a laughingstock.

Churches will always be about Jesus Christ. We will always be about proclaiming and being the good news of Jesus Christ in our communities.

People in our world need Jesus than ever before.

What's needed is for churches to innovate and get creative about how we proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to our world.

What we have been doing, what used to work for generations, no longer works.

I don't have the answers for what works, but I do know what doesn't.

We will need to keep searching and seeking for ways to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ by being good news in our communities.

What is needed today are new ways, innovative ways, to be the church that is good news, a church who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ through its deeds as much as through its words.

Feb 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday - Don't Just Give Stuff Up, Add Virtue

Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the start of the 40 day Lenten season. This is the time Christians remember and share in the suffering and the passion of Jesus Christ. 

While it may seem somewhat morbid to think about suffering for 40 days, in reality the opposite is the case. 

It is as we remember the cost of Christ's redemption that we are able to appreciate the joy of the gift of salvation. 

Most Christians practice some form of fasting during Lent. This is a needed and beneficial discipline of the Christian discipleship. 

This year, as you consider fasting from Lent, I would like for you to also consider these two things. 

First, consider giving up a vice for Lent. Many give up a favorite food for Lent. This year, consider giving up anger, hatred, gossip, negative attitude, jealousy, etc for Lent. By Easter, you just have be a different person, and the people around you will not be able to help but see Christ in you. 

Second, consider adding a virtue. Instead of thinking about only the things we have given up for Lent, consider adding one of the virtues of the fruit of the spirit: 
- love 
- joy 
- peace 
- patience 
- kindness 
- goodness 
- faithfulness 
- gentleness 
- self-control 

Pick one. 

And then during these 40 days of Lent, make it your spiritual habit to practice the virtue of fruit of the spirit you have chosen for Lent. 

I'd love to hear stories of how God is blessing your life during your Lenten journey. 

May God bless you and those around you during this Lenten season! 

I Just Might Have Found My New Starbucks Home

I kinda obsess about my coffee.

After all, I do live in the Pacific Northwest...the home of Starbucks...Seattle's Best Coffee...the home of the coffee culture.

I really do appreciate a good cup of coffee.

While I know that there are other places that serve a good cup of coffee, the reason why I love Starbucks is because even when I travel I can get a consistently good cup of coffee as long as I can find a Starbucks. And when I do, it's as if wherever I am is home.

Every morning, I drop off the kids at school and then I head over to Starbucks with my Bible and journal. I love my Starbucks, Bible, journal time. It's one of my favorite parts of everyday.

But that goodness has been interrupted lately because they closed my favorite Starbucks. I've been trying out different ones but haven't quite felt at home...until today.

I think I've found my new Starbucks home.

It's got just enough background noise, with just enough activity. And, the barristas not only brew and serve coffee, but they seem to be interested in getting to know their customers. That's what I appreciated about my Starbucks. They knew all their regulars by name and drink. That's pretty cool.

Looking forward to spending my mornings with a good cup of coffee, my bible, and my journal with God. 

Feb 12, 2013

A Prayer for Busy People

God of rest,  I'm so busy. The demands of life are piled high, and my schedule is a tyrant. Help me to catch my breath and enter your Sabbath rest now. Free me of all my ways I try to justify myself by my accomplishments; help me to rest every day in your grace.
(Prayer from "Seeking God's Face:Praying with the Bible Through the Year p.183)

Feb 7, 2013

Still Not Supporting the Mariners...Just Making an Observation

Image Borrowed from The News Tribune
I did say I wasn't going to support the Mariners anymore.

I'm still not supporting the Mariners because they refuse to support our city and their fans by putting together a competitive team. The Mariners have the audacity to oppose Seattle getting an NBA team, put together last place teams, and raise ticket prices!

Not supporting these Mariners.

I'm just making an observation.

Folks in our neck of the woods are making a pretty big deal out of Felix Hernandez's seven year $175 million dollar new contract with the Mariners.

I'm glad they signed Felix to this deal.

It was the smart thing to do, and it was the right thing to do.

Felix is, by far, the best player on the team. He's been a Mariner all his career. He's been loyal to the Mariners. It's only right that the Mariners show him the same loyalty.

Besides, had the Mariners waited to play out the rest of Felix's two years remaining on his current contract to see what the market might pay him, the Mariners would have 1) created a contract circus, 2) mistreated one of their most loyal and without a doubt their only "star" player, 3) would have had to pay him much more in order to keep him.

This was the smart and right thing to do.

However, all this move does is to guarantee that the Mariners remain a last place team in the American West. The team hasn't improved one iota with this signing. We just guaranteed that we would not get worse. Could you imagine the Mariner's record without Felix? YIKES!!!

This is one of many things the Mariners need to do to improve. This may even been the first thing the Mariners needed to do this off season.

The fact is, the starting rotation still needs at least two more players, the bullpen needs middle inning relievers, and a proven closer.

Don't even get me started on the offense!!! The Mariners still have the worst offense in the division. The Mariners still have no lead off bat, no threat in the the meat of the line up, no threat in the middle of the line up.

So good job for not getting worse.

Now, do the rest of the work and fill out the team and start working on improving the team. You can bet the A's, Angels, and the Rangers are.  

Feb 5, 2013

Time For Institutional Overhaul

Denominations and the institutional church are in desperate need of a major overhaul.

For anyone who thinks otherwise, consider the following question: What other organization or institution has spent as much money, time, and effort in the last five decades as the institutional church and denominations and has so little to show for it?

Just consider the PC(USA), one denomination out of many. While the population of the United States has more than doubled since 1950 and we've gone from a denomination that went from over 6 million to now less than 2 million.

And, get this, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars every year to produce this result.

This doesn't include the moneys, efforts, and time of local congregations. This is just what the denomination spent.

Any organization producing the results denominations have been producing for the amount of investment it has spent deserve to be bankrupt.

Denominations and the institutional church needs a major overhaul in order to be more effective.

I think most people get that.

The problem is that in most circumstances the very people who are in positions to make significant changes are the very people who will be most impacted by new ways of being church. In other words, the very people who need to discern and implement the changes may very well implement themselves right out of a paycheck.

Upton Sinclair says, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

This absolutely applies to denominations and the institutional church.

I am praying that God raises up a PC(USA) who will take seriously the call "to undertake this mission even at the risk of losing its life, trusting in God alone as the author and the giver of life, sharing the gospel, and doing those deeds in the world that point beyond themselves to the new reality in Christ" (the Previous Book of Order G-3.0400).

The stakes couldn't be any higher.

It's not just institutional viability.

It's all about the mission and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

It's about people taking their place in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Feb 4, 2013

No Matter What Happens, Fly The Plane

Monty Coles.

He was flying his single engine aircraft for a leisurely flight when an unexpected stowaway revealed itself. As he was looking over his instrument panels to prepare for landing, he saw the head of a black snake poking out of the instrument panels.

When he tried swiping at it, the snake darted to the other side of the airplane.

You can read about the story here.

Monty Coles was finally able to grab hold of the snake as he radioed in for emergency landing.

After he safely landed the plane he was asked how he was able to land the plane safely and he replied that an instruction from his flight instructor saved his life.

"No matter what happens...remember to fly the plane."

This is great advice.

There's a lot of changes in the landscape for all of us. But no matter what else is happening we've got to still fly the plane.

What about you? Your church? Your organization? What is your main thing that you and your organization must be about no matter what else is happening around you?