Thursday, December 30, 2010

A new kind of countdown

If you're like most people there's a good chance you will count down the seconds until 2011 just before midnight tomorrow.

Isn't it ironic that we don't pay attention to the passing of 2010 until there's less than 30 seconds left?  Wouldn't it have been better to have a countdown clock running all year?

I only ask this because recently my wife and I started counting the days until our kids turn 18.  (No, we're not eagerly anticipating them leaving!)  We wanted to be a little more aware of how little time we actually have with our kids.  We chose 18 as the target age for turning our boys into men.  As of today Jackson (my oldest son) only has 4999 days left.

I have been amazed at how this countdown makes me so conscious of parenting.  Nearly every day I think about how little time I have and I am inspired to use that time as best as I possibly can.

So for this New Year's Eve, what countdown do you need to start?  What do you need to pay more attention to?

Days this year?  Days until you graduate?  Days until you die?  (Okay, you can't actually figure out that last one, but I do know that I have 17030 days until I hit the average life expectancy of an American male.)

Anybody can count down seconds until the new year, but why not be more conscious of the passing of time?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Do you believe God wants many people saved now?

"Do you believe God wants many people saved now?"

This is the question that keeps rattling around in my brain.  I first heard it on this 20 minute interview.

If you've got a little time over this Christmas break, I encourage you to listen to this interview.  I'm still not sure what changes are coming to to the way I share Jesus and make disciples, but based on the above question I know that something needs to give.  As the interview reveals:
  • I don't think we can answer 'no.' 
  • But can we honestly answer 'yes' and keep living, witnessing, and disciple-making like we currently are? 

(Thanks to Steve Addison of Movements that Change the World for conducting this interview and giving me something to think about.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Recap Part 3

Here are the three books that I read in 2010 that had the most impact on me.  Before I start, let me make sure that it does NOT go without being said: The Bible impacted me way more than any of these.  I read it (nearly) daily this past year and I continue to find it inspiring and challenging.  I consider the Bible to be the most important book that I own.

Without further ado:

How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins   I loved Good to Great by Collins, but I read it after the 2008 financial meltdown (in which two of the good to great companies, Circuit City and Fannie Mae fell dramatically.)  As the title suggests, Collins takes a look at those companies (and others) and tries to give a systematic explanation of how the great become not-so-great (or even obsolete).  He does a great job.  There are specific things you can look for within an organization to see if it is headed towards or already in a state of decline.  That is incredibly useful.  (It is also terrifying to me, because a lot of decline stems from poor leadership.  Bottom line: I need to seek to be a great leader.)

Hurt by Chap Clark I read this book because my wife and I volunteer with the student ministries at our church organization.  It was tremendous.  Just reading it gave me a bigger heart for teenagers.  Clark makes the case that as a society we have abandoned our teens to live and learn on their own.  The bulk of the book is a brutal description of the toll that that abandonment has taken on the lives of real kids.  You should read this book.

Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp  Maybe it's no surprise that a book on parenting is the book with the most impact from 2010.  If you are a parent I would go so far as to say you need to read this book.  It is the best description of Biblical parenting principles I have found.  I think a lot of my specific takeaways from this book will come out in a "parenting plan" that my wife and I are putting together.  (One aspect of that plan: reviewing this book each year.)

So here's the challenge:
If you're like me and you read 10+ books a year, hopefully my book recaps give you a little more knowledge and help you focus your reading.  (Maybe they'll save you from reading a lame book and help you decide to read a great one.)

If you're not like me in that you read less than 2 books a year on your own free will... what have you got to lose?  Pick one of these three and go for it.  (Just let me know, so I can cheer for you.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Using Technology (Version 1.Busy)

I'm not that busy.  I'm really not.  Especially compared to some folks that I know.  But during times of my life that I'm busiER I tend to waste time getting used by technology.  (For me those times are mainly the months of May through August when COCUSA's summer camp is in session.)  So below is a repost of my plan to use technology instead of getting used.  I'm planning to test-drive this plan during the next two weeks while the Camp of Champions Winter Camp program is underway.  My goal is to spend more time with kids and staff and less time in the proverbial (and often literal) office.

Now that being said, I don't feel like we can jump ship on e-mail, facebook, and texting (even during busy times) because so much personal and relational communication happens over these mediums today.  But to make sure I'm not the one getting used, I'm drawing the following lines in the proverbial sands of Silicon Valley.

Email

  • Line 1: Personally respond to as many people as possible, keeping in mind that not all e-mail you receive comes from people.
  • Line 2: Punch out responses to e-mails once a day.  Pick a time and stick with it. (I've just started testing Gmail's Priority Inbox.  And so far I like it.  So I'm actually only going to respond to those messages labeled "Important" once a day.  And save everything else for once a week.)
  • Line 3: Keep it simple.  Review two.sentence.es and its accompanying websites.
  • Line 4: If you find yourself giving the same responses to multiple people, consider using an e-mail template (ie Gmail's "Canned Responses").
  • Line 5: Be nice! Say please and thank you. Ask for prayer requests. Ask questions related to your previous knowledge of the person and their circumstances.
  • Line 6: Use an RSS reader program to keep your Inbox clear of newsletters, blog updates, etc. (My personal favorite is Google Reader.  But seeing how this can be a big distraction and lead me to read a million other internet articles, I'm going to only check my reader at home during these next 2 weeks.)
Facebook
  • Line 1: Make 1 list of Friends to Invest In.  Set a limit of how many friends this will be.  (I've done this and currently I daily check in on 100 Facebook friends through my home page feed.  Although during a busy time I don't need to be daily checking Facebook.  So I'm going to try subscribing to SMS updates for an even smaller number of Friends.  We'll see how it goes.)
  • Line 2: Provide occasional status updates about life and ministry via text message.
  • Line 3: Don't spend any additional time on Facebook, as it has the tendency to suck you in.
  • Line 4: Use Google reader and/or SMS for notifications so you don't feel the need to check back in to Facebook multiple times each day.
  • Line 5: Be very judicious about who you accept as friends, especially when it comes to females.  If your wife would raise her eyebrows at who you accepted, don't do it.

Cell Phone
  • Line 1: Have 'no texting' times.  For me this means put the phone out of site from 5-8pm.
  • Line 2: Prioritize the people in front of you over the random person calling.

Do you have any busier times in your life?  What's your plan to use the technology, without getting used?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Book Recap Part 2

Another run down of books that I read this past year, listed in order from those that impacted me the most to those that impacted me the least. (Part I is here.)

Wild at Heart by John Eldredge*  I had read this book previously, but now that I'm responsible to raise three boys I thought it was time for a re-read.  It doesn't give you a ton of specific takeaways.  But it provides an excellent challenge to raise boys to be men, while at the same time not ruining their masculine 'boyishness'.  (If that's even a word.)

Movements that Change the World by Steve Addison* I have to be honest that this book didn't blow me away, but Steve's continued blogging on the subject has provided some extra impact.  The book is a great reminder of how God can do amazing things through people sold out to him.  The blog is challenging me right now because it shares stories of those amazing things happening right now. 

Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll+  I read this book along with four other Christian fathers.  It was a great discussion starter for us as we dialogued what it looks like to be a dad who leads his kids to Jesus.  It's a really short read, so I would highly encourage it to any guy with any desire to marry and have kids. 

Desiring God by John Piper*  To be honest, I'm surprised that I didn't list this book higher.  At least, for all of the great things I had heard about it I expected it to end up at the top of the list.  It didn't, and I think that's because there were times where it makes following Jesus a little too complicated.  (That may just be me, as I can be a bit of a simpleton.)  My biggest takeaway (ironically from one of the appendices) was when Piper discussed and defended the complete sovereignty of God.  It was an excellent, concise work on the subject.

Sexual Detox by Tim Challies+  I and three college guys (COCUSA staff) read this book over the course of the summer, meeting weekly to discuss each chapter.  I highly recommend it to any guy seeking to live with purity in our over-sexed culture.  It made it easy for us to discuss some normally "off-the-table" topics, as well as personally challenging me in my battle against sexual temptation.

Come back soon to hear the final three books that impacted me more than any others.

*I own these books and would love to lend/give them to you. Just holler at me.
+These books are free online. Just follow the links.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why Christmas Still Amazes Me

This is a text version of the mini-sermon I delivered yesterday at the Pekin Bible Church service.  It's a little bit longer of a blog post, but I'd love to hear what you think of it.


I don’t know about you, but I just love Christmas.  I really like the whole holiday season in general.  Some of my favorites are: making hot chocolate, coming inside to a nice warm house or building, the little dustings of snow that make everything pretty, It’s a Wonderful Life, eggnog, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  I could go on and on...


By far though, one of the best parts of this time of year is that my kids get to wear zip up, full body footy pajamas.  Can you picture what I’m talking about?   If you haven’t had kids for a while, the closest thing in the adult world is a Snuggie, those blankets with the arms, but even they pale in comparison.  In these footy pajamas the only things not wrapped in cuddly warmth are their heads and their hands.  It is just adorable.  Kids don’t get much cuter than when they’re in footy pajamas. 


Adrian, my middle son, about to turn 3, has been fun to watch this year because even though he was old enough to do all of the winter and Christmas traditions last year, he was young enough to not remember it.  So this year, everything is brand new to him.  The Christmas lights, the trees, the first snowfall (you know, where you want to go sledding with 1/16th of an inch of snow on the ground).  I just love the wonder in his eyes.  And the best example of this is the first time this winter when he got to put on footy pajamas.  You could just see in his face this wonder and amazement.  As if he was saying: “What are these amazing pajamas?  Wait, my feet go in them?  And they zip all the way up to my neck?”  He watched awe-struck as I zipped them up, paused for a moment in sheer delight, and then trotted off his usual happy-go-lucky self.


He was amazed by something as simple as Pajamas.  How quickly that gets lost on us adults.  And I’m not taking about any of us fitting into zip up footy pajamas.  The older I get the more I tend to brush to the side things which use to amaze me.  What about you?  What about Christmas?  Do remember the Christmas story?  It’s absolutely amazing!  Do we even listen to it anymore?  Or is it just “Jesus is born, shepherds, angels, wisemen... can we speed this up? I have decorations shopping, football and a million other things to get to.”


The basics of the Christmas story are ridiculous and awesome all at the same time.  Jesus Christ was born.  You will not find one serious historian who will challenge the fact that Jesus lived on this earth 2000 years ago.  None.  That’s awesome. Jesus was born to a virgin.  That’s amazing.  Jesus was born where animals were staying.  That’s borderline ridiculous, yet really cool at the same time.  Jesus was...  


Well, I don’t want to spoil the whole thing just yet.  First I wanted to share with you what I find to be the most amazing thing about the Christmas story.  It can be found in Philippians 2:5-11.

Verse 5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.  Paul is basically saying ‘Be like Christ’
Verse 6: Who, though he was in the form of God,  To quote from an online study Bible: “The Greek term translated form indicates a correspondence with reality. Thus the meaning of this phrase is that Christ was truly God.”  Still with me?
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.  So here we just jumped into the deep end of the theological swimming pool... God is one, yet exists eternally in 3 persons.  We call them The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  In that unexplainable union, those three persons have a perfect relationship.  One aspect of this relationship is that the Son submits to the Father, he “does not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

Verse 7: But made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. That’s it.  There’s the Christmas story in one verse.  And the most amazing part of it too!  God submitted himself, humbled himself and became a man.  The scholars call this amazing phenomenon the Hypostatic Union.  I only throw that term out in case you need to make dinner conversation at a Christmas party this month: “So, how do you feel about the Hypostatic union?”  That might not go very far as a conversation starter, but personally I think the concept is awesome.  Here it is: God the Son (100% completely God) humbled himself and became a man (100% humanity just like you and I).   And was born as a baby!  That’s it.  The wonder of it.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, and to tell the truth, neither does the Christmas story.  
Verse 8: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  The reason Jesus came to earth wasn't so we could have Christmas, he came to die.  And that death (of the perfect God/man) paid the penalty that I owe to God for my sin (and you for yours).

Verse 9-11: Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father.
We’re all going to bow to Jesus, we just have to choose when and where.  You can choose today (on earth) to humble yourself and follow him (if you do so, you’ll have that blessing of continuing to follow him in heaven after you die).  If you don’t choose on earth, then you’ll be one of those under the earth, but it won’t be as fun.  The Bible teaches clearly that those who refuse Jesus go to hell, completely separate from God and others forever.  But even people in hell will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord.


I could say, which will you choose?  But I’m going to say: Which are you choosING?  Today, are you choosing to humble yourself and follow Christ as your Lord, or are you choosing to follow something or someone else?  If you've never chosen to bow your knee to Christ before and follow him... what better day than today?  Ask me about it.


Lastly, I want to ask you to reclaim the wonder in the Christmas story.  Don’t be amazed by the concept of Christmas, because it carries a lot of baggage here in America. But specifically be in wonder at the Biblical Christmas story.  


And you know the best way to do that?  Read it!  (I'll get you a Bible if you want one!)  Listed below are 10 readings, so with only 13 days till Christmas, you can even take a day or two off.

If you’ve lost the wonder in Christmas... isn't it time to get it back?


Christmas Reading:
1. Luke 1:26-38
2. Luke 1:39-56
3. Matthew 1:18-25
4. Philippians 2:5-11
5. Galatians 4:3-7
6. Luke 2:1-21
7. Luke 2:22-40
8. Matthew 2:1-12
9. Matthew 2:13-23
10. John 1:1-18

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Book Recap, Part I

I've already posted about the audio books I listened to this past year.

Here's the rundown of the good ol' paper books I've read.  (No e-reader yet.)  There are in order from the books that impacted me the least to those that impacted me the most.  Keep in mind that I'm not you, so naturally we might feel differently about different books and different topics.

REVEAL Study by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson*  This was the study put out by Willow Creek regarding church organizations and personal spiritual growth.  I think it is valuable that they did this study, but most of the results seemed obvious to me.  One example of the obvious: "Spiritual growth is not related to church involvement, but a personal relationship with Jesus." (p54).  It's almost laughable that this fact had to be revealed in a study... but I am glad that it was 'discovered'.

Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger The sub title of this book ("Returning to God's process for making disiciples") was why I wanted to read it.  Unfortunately, a more accurate sub title would have been "Finding easy processes for making disciples."  One the plus side, there were some cool stories and practical ideas for church organizations.  But there was no study and explanation of Biblical disciple-making, so that was a bummer.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Money by Scott and Bethany Palmer  Personally I didn't gain a lot from this book.  Brittany and I apparently have a very boring financial relationship compared to some.  And I'll be striving to keep it that way based on the stories in this book.  I would recommend it to any newlyweds (or newly engaged couples) as well as married couples who are having regular disagreements about money.

On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo* I attempted to read this just before our third son was born.  I'm a little bit of a sleep-a-holic, so getting our new baby to sleep well (and quickly) was essential.  I would highly recommend it to any expecting parents.  (That being said, luckily my wife also read the book and was way more on top of the nursing routine than I was... and understandably so.)

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky  Again the sub title of a book caught my eye: "The Power of Organizing without Organizations."  This is basically a look at social media and how it can be crazy powerful (both for good and bad.)  It was a pretty fun read.  My biggest take away was the story of a book from 1492: De Laude Scriptorum.  But you'll have to come to my TRAINing Disciples seminar to hear it.

Part II will be coming soon with more books.  Stay tuned!
    *I own these books and would love to lend/give them to you.  Just holler at me.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Future Steps

    I realize I may never read these numbers... and I'm fine with that.  But I did want a plan in place should this thing 'take off'.


    • @ 100 followers post a survey to see what my readers are looking for.
    • @ 200 followers start a Facebook Page  (If Facebook is still popular by the time I would reach 200 followers, because it may take awhile.)
    • @ 500 followers get a professional proof reader, update design and URL
    • @ 1000 followers I think I can do some serious monetization while keeping my main content free, although I'm not sure what.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    A Bizarro Inspirational Quote

    This is sort of a backwards inspirational quote.  But I think you'll like it.  It's from a professor of biology at Harvard University. His name is Dr. George Wald. He won the Nobel Prize in 1967 in physiology or medicine.  (So he knew a thing or two).

    “When it comes to the origin of life we have only two possibilities as to how life arose. One is spontaneous generation arising to evolution. The other is a supernatural creative act of God. There is no third possibility. . . . Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved 100 years ago by Louis Pasteur, Spellanzani, Reddy, and others. That leads us scientifically to only one possible conclusion—that life arose as a supernatural creative act of God. I will not accept that philosophically because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation arising to evolution.”
    You can verify that I didn't make this up here: http://www.conservapedia.com/George_Wald