Archives For Decision-Making


I am writing this from the Denver airport as my time to fly is upon me. I will give a few highlights from Day 3.

Wednesday Morning Mike Cope “Community in Lars and the Real GirlHebrews

  • It’s a movie about church, it begins in church and ends in church.
  • Hebrews
    • Imagining a world where we are not our own.
    • Somebody who watches for you.
    • The real test for community is the worst things you have done who is up there watching you.

Wednesday Morning Keynote Scot McKnight @ScotMcKnight “Did Jesus Found the Church?”

Major Idea: The church is naughty and the kingdom is nice

–       People today love the kingdom but are embarrassed by the church

–       The kingdom has come to mean “good things Christians do in the public sector usually involved in the political process.”

  • It has nothing to do with the church…people say
  • Social Justice? Where did we get this idea of social justice? There is one idea of justice in Scripture. Justice is connected to righteousness and justification.
  • Peace…compassion…walking from Cape Town to Alexandria raising money for water.

–       Kingdom has been flattened into an ethic: peace, justice.

–       “When we flatten kingdom to an ethic we deny the gospel.”

–       We have a young group of Christians whose kingdom theory has to do with changed political processes and are neglecting the church.

  • But…doing good in a society is a good thing.
  • Being compassionate is a good thing.
  • Working for peace in our world is a good thing.
  • But we do this because we are disciples of Jesus.

–       Good work versus Kingdom work

  • Did Ghandi do kingdom work?

–       The most profound act of kingdom work is when we celebrate Eucharist on Sunday morning.

–       “You cannot be committed to kingdom unless you are committed to the church and your commitment to the church is the sum total of your commitment to the kingdom.”

–       It is far too easy giving money to Rwanda and not to local people in the church.

–       Matthew 16:13-20

  • Their options to the question were not good enough.
  • Jesus was more than a prophet.  Prophetic Christianity is not enough.
  • The answer is that Jesus is messiah.
  • 1 Samuel 8—“They want a king because they want to be like other nations.”
    • Saul collapse
    • David…
    • Eventually they realize that Jesus is the king.
  • Peter labels Jesus with the right title. When the Messiah was said all the ideas came to completion: Temple, Torah, Land, Citizens, Command, Covenant.

–       When Jesus is the Messiah kingdom will always mean more than social justice.

–       Peter had no idea what Messiah really meant.

  • Messiah –> Kingdom –> Cross –> Resurrection –> Kingdom
  • Kingdom and social justice does not mix well.

–       Jesus came to establish a whole new social order. The ekklesia….the church.

–       There is an inextricable connection between kingdom and church.

–       Church is the only place kingdom work can occur because in the church is the only place where Jesus is king.

–       Kingdom never refers to social action in Scripture.

  • We have become intoxicated with social power and justice.

–       The kingdom is more than an ethic because Jesus is more than a prophet.

–       Kingdom work is about telling people about King Jesus.  Summoning people in the church as the place where God’s redemptive work is now alive.

Wednesday Afternoon Jon Acuff @JonAcuff “Our Relationship With the Gap”

Our job is hard because…

1)   We never feel it is over…

2)   There’s no manual for most of the things you do

3)   The success rate is really low for youth ministers

4)   You run into a period of life most people run from

  1. 1 out of every 4 girl will be raped by the time they graduate

5)   We don’t get to see the end of the song.

Three things of the challenges

1)   SUCCESS

–       It’s so easy to compare.

–       Never compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle.

–       Always play to the size of your heart not to the size of your audience.

–       If you tie what you do to the success/failure of it you will disappoint.

–       Measure your obedience not your results

–       God will not be handcuffed by my failures or unleashed by my successes.

2)   FEAR

–       It only bothers you when you do things that matter.

–       Voices?

  • You are not a youth minister…
  • You are woman.

–       The best way to fight those is to share those. Fears fears community.

–       The higher you climb in leadership the harder it is for you to be honest.

–       “Enough” is a slippery slope

–       If you ask “fear” when you will have enough experience it will be later.

–       Fear always says, “This is forever.”

–       What to do with voices

  • Write down the voice…
  • Answer it with truth
  • Share them

3)   HATERS

–       We are not good with criticism and compliments

  • Critic’s Math – 1 Insult + 1000 Compliments = 1 Insult
  • We have the ability to lose heart with insults.
  • Are you giving power to the very people you don’t need to give it to.

Those were the extent of my notes. I did not attend an afternoon class because I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with Scot McKnight and Rusty Pettus for an hour and talk theology. Scot was gracious enough to extend some time just to talk and share some coffee. He even bought my coffee which he did not have to do. Before I close this blog I want to share something I did on my way back from Denver. I visited the Century 16 Theater in Aurora where 12 people were killed by James Holmes. Tragedy. Just like praying at Columbine I wanted to reflect and pray at the theater. To the left is a picture I took while driving to the theater.

Tomorrow I hope to reflect on the week with some implications.

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Some things just get a person in trouble. Many of us have been guilty of writing that scathing e-mail where we use ALL CAPS to get our point across and later regretted we even sent that e-mail. Or maybe you wrote that blog post with every intention of settling the score once-and-for-all only to have 44 comments of people bickering about how wrong you were. Or maybe… just maybe… you were preaching from a book in Scripture and a sermon fell on a particularly controversial passage (say Matt. 19:3-12.. or any thing related to M.D.R. for you coC friends) and you presented a different view and received scathing comments. Either way there has to be some advice one should receive before sending “that” e-mail, preaching “that” sermon or writing “that” article. I have come up with a few suggestions:

  • What is your purpose? Some controversy should just be avoided altogether and your opinion on the matter, albeit important for your faith formation, will probably solve nothing and might even stir the pot a little more. Consider your motives and read 1 Corinthians 16:14 and then write the post.
  • If you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen. There is a reason why some people avoid the controversy as they do not want to deal with the fallout. This is especially important if your leadership has to deal with some of the darts people throw at you. A leadership may not want to deal with the extra stress so if you don’t have the tools and people to back-up what you say then don’t say it.
  • Let someone older and wiser read what you have to say before you publish it (Prov. 15:22). There are some things I have preached on that were controversial that could have been polished more with the eyes of an older and wiser Christian. I may have said the right thing but I probably said it in the wrong manner.
  • Sticks and stones may break my bones AND words will still hurt me. Be very careful when you label someone. Words like “liberal” and “legalist” and “sacrilegious” and others are probably not helpful, especially when you have not talked with the source. Bashing people online (“trolling”) is a passive-aggressive form of bullying and is weak, cheap and cowardly.

Did I miss anything?

Life does exist after 30

January 18, 2011 — 7 Comments

I have delayed writing this post much like I delay going to the dentist, doctor or even a car repair shop.  It is the self-discovery that I dread and the inevitable bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or a repair shop that I loathe.  Nevertheless I drudge on through because it is only through self-discovery where we truly find the living God who dwells in our past, present and future.  Last Friday I turned 30 and it was a wonderful experience that capped off a week of a softball party and a surprise birthday party.  I feel both loved and supported by so many individuals and I truly am a man most blessed by God.  I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my life in the first 30 years that will help you live your teens and twenties to its fullest potential.  I will try to avoid trite sayings that preachers use but I find that those sayings are regretabbly unavoidable…

  1. It’s not all about you. If there is one word that could characterize my first 30 years it would be the word, “narcissism.”  I know we all are a little selfish at times but it seems that I struggled with this more than most people.  In my teenage years  if there was a worldly pleasure easily accessible to me than I took advantage (without disclosing much just let me say, for the record, that I have not always been a moral person).  If I had to walk over someone to benefit my cause then I did it.  If someone neglected me, punished me or ridiculed me then they were ignored, ostracized or even punished for lambasting my integrity.  As I recall some dark periods of my past I can’t help but to think much of my pain was avoidable if I just realize that it was not about me.
  2. Life is a roller-coaster. Different seasons call for different experiences and the ever-changing ebb and flow of life brings about conflicting narratives that tug on a person’s soul.  Early in our marriage (December 29, 2003) Heather had a miscarriage and we were devastated at our loss.  Amelia (our second-born) was born with a whole in her lung, Kaleb had RSV as a child and recently my youngest broke his leg.  Mix that with financial troubles (some self-inflicted…see point #1) and economic hardships and life can be very hectic.  God created us to weather serious storms in our lives and it seems that while a current struggle may be significant we should always look at the trial with a lens of perspective.  Some people flip-out over the small things but lately I have learned to not worry as much and it has made me a better husband, father, son, friend and minister.
  3. Not much is happenstance. I look back at my life and believe in the providence of God.  I place my finger on significant events in my life and ask the million-dollar question, “Why did __________ happen like that?”  A friend of mine overdosed years after I moved and I ask, “Why was that not me?”  After dropping off a high-school girlfriend my car spun out of control in the rain in the direction of a 20 foot drop-off.  “Why did my car stop right before the edge?”  A girl in college just recently got out of a relationship and I did too and I asked her out.  “Why did Heather  say yes?”  Not much is happenstance…not much is chance…we are merely paint on the canvas of the divine painter.
  4. “God is not made by human hands…” Paul said that in Acts 17:24 to the men of Athens and I believe it strongly to this day.  I have shifted in theology since I first arrived at Freed-Hardeman in 1999.  I used to think I had everything figured out and that I could put God in this neatly packaged box and if someone needed me to explain who God is/was then I would open this box and show them who God was.  That worked until I realized that God was doing some amazing things that confronted (opposed) my preconceived notion of how God operated.  Scripture used to be information for me to dissect, translate and pattern for people to understand.  Now I still believe in good exegesis I think we can almost treat Scripture as an idol instead of its intended purpose as transformation (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1-2).  God is not solely bound to leafs of paper but is living, active and powerful.  Scripture, at best, is an attempt by God to describe an infinite concept using finite terms.  That is why no perfect description of heaven exists…it cannot be contained by human vernacular but God paints the best picture he believes we can understand.
  5. Life is never over. Abraham got his call to ministry when he was 75 years old!  We never should get to the point where we think God is through with me I shall now die.  As a minister I see at Main Street God using people who are infants and who are 90 years old!!!  God uses us for his purposes in every season of our life no matter what age we are.  Sarah laughed because she thought she was too old, Jeremiah was afraid because he thought he was too young and God essentially told both of them that nothing is impossible with God.

So here I am, 30 years old and ready to do whatever God wants me to do wherever he sends me.  I am not wise, but I am wiser than I once was.  I am not experienced but I am a little more experienced than I once was.  Regardless…I am content.

I came across this verse today in my reading and thought that it was not happenstance.  A lot happened to Joseph that could have caused him to be bitter and angry but because of God’s providence Joseph did some amazing things.

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” (Gen 41:46a).


I wanted to put the book down but I couldn’t.  I wanted to find a reason to dislike the book but I couldn’t.  What happened instead of engrossing myself in yet another self-help book disguised in Christian verbiage I discovered a refreshing (authentic) picture of what a Christian life could/should look like.  Mark Batterson’s Soulprint is a book about the possibilities of serving God in a way that is not superficial but vibrant and real.  I found myself underlining an important phrase on just about every page of the book.  Here are my favorites:

  • “All of us start out a one-of-a-kind originals, but too many of us end up as carbon copies of someone else” (p. 13).
  • “Every past experience is preparation for some future opportunity.  God doesn’t just redeem our souls.  He also redeems our experiences” (p. 22).
  • “Most of us wait to do something wrong until no one is watching, and we wait to do something right until someone is watching” (p. 72).
  • Quoting a popular saying…”If you is who you ain’t, then you ain’t who you is” (p. 102).
  • “Sinful self-deception may be the only unlimited capacity we possess.  So I’m no longer surprised by sin.  What does surprise me is the person with the rare courage to confess” (p. 121).

Batterson’s main template for the plot of the book comes from the story of David.  With the finesse of a maestro he weaves through the story of David sharing lessons and probing the biblical text to show how David serves as the standard of righteousness for humans to follow.  Batterson invokes the attention of the reader by inviting us to participate in the biblical text as we move from story to story, thought to thought.

The book does have some idiosyncrasies that are not cumbersome to the reader but, in my opinion, did take away from the book itself.  First of all, like most preachers (me included), Batterson has the tendency to infuse trite sayings into his writing.  “Fulfill your destiny” and other cheesy sayings at times could have been avoided as it had the tendency to reduce discipleship to a cute saying.  Batterson also tended to allegorize much of the Davidic material which may or may not have been the thrust of the text.  For example, when talking about David dancing and stripping his robes (2 Samuel 6:20-22), Batterson made the comment that we too must strip our robes (symbolically…of course :)) to unleash who we really are.  That sounds great but may not have been the original thrust of the text.

Overall, the couple of weaknesses I have does not outweigh the incredible impact this book has had in my spiritual life.  It is not only a quick-read but it is a must-read.  You will not be disappointed.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Destinations?

August 25, 2010 — 1 Comment

Quote that I came across in today’s reading…

“Every path has a destination.  Direction, not intention, determines destination.  Divine direction begins with submission.  Information is not enough.  Insight is not enough.  We need God.”  Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path, p. 95.

Decision Making

August 18, 2010 — 1 Comment

Thought this quote was next to awesome!

“There are many life destinations we’ve never visited but desire with all our hearts to see and experience.  And our only option is to pick a path and hope it will get us there.” 

Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path, p. 36.

Song of Songs #4

August 2, 2010 — Leave a comment

Sorry for the break and we now return to the Song for yet another powerful lesson.  This one is especially for you single people out there.    

Beloved

1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

Lover

2 Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens.

Beloved

3 Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest my lover among the young men.  I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.  4 He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. 5 Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love.  6 His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. 7 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you the gazelles and by the does of the field:  Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

There is much to “digest” (notice the pun ;)) in these verses that speak both to human sexuality and to moral purity.  First of all, Song 2:1 actually appears in two hymns, #1 in “The Lily of the Valley,”  (or, “I have found a friend in Jesus”) and also in the hymn “Jesus, Rose of Sharon.”  I am not sure as to why the authors of each song attributed Jesus to the lily of the valley or the rose of Sharon but my gut tells me it is an allegorical interpretation of the song as speaking not about a marriage but about Jesus and the church.  This is just not the case and is more fanciful than fact.[1] 

In verse 4 the imagery there is, more than likely, the bed where the love-making occurs.  It may allude to a specific place but since the beloved’s love was better than wine (1:2) it seems to point to the same sort of metaphor.  The scene is one that is romantic as she is “faint with love” (2:5).  The ESV translates this phrase, “for I am sick with love.”  Tremper Longman III says:

“Presumably, the woman continues speaking and exclaims that the intensity of her love makes her physically weak.  She is exhausted…Love has made her faint…She is overwhelmed emotionally and physically by her love for the man.  It is a strong statement of the power of love and may also contain a cautionary note to the effect that love is wonderful but not something to play around with.”[2] 

 Have you ever felt so strong about a person that it made you physically sick?  Have you ever been so in love with a person that all you could think about, all you could dream about was that person and the thought of that person made emotionally drained you?  May we all be this sick in love with someone. 

But…

“Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7).  That’s a warning!  We need not be sick in love and that love be quenched in an unacceptable manner.  Love has its appropriate time in the scheme of God’s appropriate plan. 

“Love is such a powerful emotion and carries such enormous power that it must not be misused…The full appreciation of the joys of physical love can happen only when love comes at the appropriate time with the partner that love chooses.  For the Christian, here are the beginnings of a powerful message of physical love as God’s gift according to his will and timing.  It is not a decision reached by the daughters of Jerusalem (any more than by the sons) but one that must be received when and in the manner God has decided.”[3]    

In other words…acting out sexually is something that any sexually capable person can do.  Many people are out getting a sexual fix for their sexual appetite .  This impulse is a strong emotion that is hard to overcome.  Many people give in to sexual temptation because their boyfriend or girlfriend whispers in their ears how much they love them and that they would not do this with anyone else so it must be ok.  Yet, they are saying that because they want to gratify their sexual desires and so it sounds good but it is not.  It is carnal and is weak.  But…to quench love when it arouses in the proper scheme is not something everyone does but is something God’s people can experience.  This is worth waiting for.  I venture into dangerous territory here for there are plenty of people who lost their virginity, are still Christians, are single and wonder what to do now.  I recognize that you have made a mistake but fully embrace the idea of you having a brand new start.  I heard of one Christian woman tell her Christian boyfriend who upon confessing to her that he was not a virgin and that he felt like she needed to know before they could move on in the relationship she looked at him and said, “You can still be a virgin for me!”  It takes a godly woman to say that and be able to accept someone like that. 

Good lessons in these verses…What are your thoughts?      


[1].  Hippolytus, Origen, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa and Bernard of Clairvoux all claimed an allegorical interpretation for this Song.  For a reasonable introduction to this and other interpretations of the Song read Hess, Song of Songs, 22-29.   

[2].  Tremper Longman III, Song of Songs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001): 114.   

[3].  Hess, Song of Songs, 83.

Silencing the Haters

July 26, 2010 — 4 Comments

Last night the youth group and I had an excellent period of worship at our monthly teen devotional.  I directed our thoughts from Philippians 1:27-30 and it seemed to be a good grounding point for the challenging next few weeks for the teenagers.  The Philippian church was not without her faults as apparently there were some preachers who were selfish in their desire to proclaim the gospel (1:15-17).  This must have been frustrating for Paul to see men proclaim a gospel yet only do so for selfish interests and personal gain.  Then Paul addressed something in Philippians 1:27-30 that caught my attention:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (NIV). 

“Whatever happens” is a bit of an understatement when you see the difficulties Paul himself faced (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:16-32).  He told them to act like citizens who are worthy of the death of Christ which is the gospel of Christ.  But he told them to not be alarmed by those who oppose you (ESV “opponents”).  We all have our “haters” don’t we?  Haters come in all shapes and sizes.  Haters are those who poke fun at the fact that you are a Christian and do things differently than they do.  Haters like to belittle your church participation and often are cynical at what you are trying to do.  Haters look at the church and are quick to point out her flaws, her inconsistencies and her hypocrisies.  Haters do not recognize the good that comes out of the church only the bad aspects.  Haters try to stifle, stymie, stall and cause the church to stalemate.  Haters, like the Devil, are equal opportunity destroyers lurking about seeking ways to bring the church down.  Haters are outside the church but often you will find some haters who are inside the church.     

What do we do about them?  Paul says to not be afraid of them and to keep on acting in a manner worthy of the gospel.  In the words of Nehemiah we need to say:

 “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3). 

Paul said that these haters will eventually go away because doing the right thing as a Christian is a sign of their destruction.  So may I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing—yea—do what you are doing with even more zeal and let God and the gospel take care of the haters.

What’s Next?

May 4, 2010 — 2 Comments

I am 29 years old…

I am married…

I have 4 kids…

I am graduating Saturday with my Master’s of Divinity…

I have been a Youth Minister for almost 6 years…

What’s next?  If you have been a Christian for longer than a morning service then you probably are aware of the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing what is next in your walk with God.  It is a very weird time in my life right now because for the first time in 24 years I do not have plans for education.  I do not have a class to sign-up for or a syllabus to read.  I am not purchasing books for a class and I am not making preparations for the next stage in academia.  Heather and I also (barring any physiological catastrophes) plan on not having any more children (we may adopt).  I am not as young as I once was and so I wonder what is next?  What does God have in store for me as His child and can I be open to His will in a way that allows me to change? 

We need to be open to what God is doing and the next chapter of our lives happens so fast.  So what is next?  What happens now?  What do I do?  Where do I go?  What will happen?  I don’t have the answers to these questions but I am not afraid because God will be with me no matter what happens.  Use me god and grant me the courage to go through the doors that you open. 

Psalm 67:1-7 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah 2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. 3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. Selah 5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. 7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.


The fallacy of expertise is the idea that there has to be an expert to explain everything because there has to be an answer.  I call it the “Open Forum Fallacy.”  When I attended Freed-Hardeman University the highlight of the year for bible majors was the FHU Lectureship.  The highlight of the FHU lectureship was the Open Forum which was an opportunity for Dr. Ralph Gilmore to field difficult questions about Scripture and theology.  to this day, I do not see how he does it as it is phenomenal the amount of knowledge that this man retains. 

Having said that, it seems that congregations and people in general flock to people of expertise to have an answer for everything.  People who have cancer will seek 2nd and 3rd opinions from experts.  When our economy went in the tank CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC became enamored with economic experts who knew exactly why our economy spiralled down (yet did not tell us beforehand…that’s another blog).  In churches I notice that people ask the preacher, youth minister or resident scholar the toughest questions on doctrine, philosophy and theology and we are “suppose” to have the answers. 

I reject that completely.  For once I would like to hear these four words said at an open forum or from the lips of an expert I DO NOT KNOW!!!  Perhaps Dr. Gilmore has said it (I heard him say to me before, “Well I am not sure about that Ed!”) or maybe you have heard an expert say that before.  To me I appreciate a person who looks me in the eye and says to me that they are not sure about an answer than come up with some sort of answer that is really not an answer at all. 

Do I have to have an answer?  Is it not just as good to relish in the search of an issue than get a pre-fabricated speck answer?  There is a difference to me in cooking a meal and buying a pre-cooked meal.  The home-cooked meal has love, energy and (hopefully) home-made ingredients in it.   The pre-cooked tastes good but it is just not the same.  

So when you think you have the answer to everything because you are an “expert” perhaps it would be wise for you to take a piece of humble pie and say, “I do not know!”  I get irritated with extremists (atheists and Christians alike) who say they have the answers because they are the ones who have done all the research.  Hogwash!  Just say, “I do not know!”  fides quaerens intellectum (Google it).  This is where we should be. 

Disclaimer: There are things we can and do know.  I am not speaking of these.  I also use Dr. Gilmore as an example of one who is humble and who does admit to grey areas but does so with scholarship and fairness to the text.