Thursday, September 29, 2011

Catch Up Questions to ask nearly everyone

One neat part of my job is meeting up with friends who worked previous summers at COCUSA.  It is encouraging to catch up with them and see how God is still working in their life.  I also have the chance to challenge and encourage them in their pursuit of Christ.

Here's a random list of questions that I've found useful to kick-start conversations:
  • What's new?
  • How is life?
  • How are you and (insert significant other) doing?
    • Is anything new with the relationship?  Where is it going?
  • What are you reading in your Bible?
  • What books are you reading?
  • What are you doing to make disciples?
  • What is God doing in your life?
In addition, I've found it helpful to send a message to the person you're meeting with a day or two in advance, asking them if they have any specific topics or questions they want to cover.

Lastly, I would just encourage you to be someone who asks genuine questions in an attempt to care for others. Twice this fall I received messages from friends telling me I had been a huge spiritual help and encouragement to them.  I think a big part of why they thought that was that I am consistently asking genuine and specific questions of people.

Blessings as you catch-up and encourage friends, both old and new.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Would Jesus Buy?

What would Jesus buy?  Would he have a purchased a 'WWJD?' bracelet back when they were popular?  What about a WWJB bracelet?  I tend to think not, but see if you can follow my logic in this unapologetically-longer-than-normal blog post.

"Come now, you rich! Weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming on you... Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:1,4)

If you're reading this and you're from America, you are rich.  You may have heard it before, but just so you don't think I'm bluffing, the United States of America tops all of the following lists:
I'll say it again, you are rich.

On the flip side, the clothes that I'm wearing while I type this are made in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Vietnam, and Guatemala.  The computer and accessories I'm using right now are made in China.  Not one of these five countries made the above lists.  What gives?

"Do not exploit a poor person because he is poor." (Proverbs 22:22). "Deliver those being taken away to death, and hold back those slipping to the slaughter. If you say, “But we did not know about this,” does not the one who evaluates hearts consider? Does not the one who guards your life know? Will he not repay each person according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Are we exploiting the poor in other countries? Are we holding back pay from those who, in a real sense, have worked for us?  In many cases it is hard to truly know, but the glimpses we get from news articles seem to say by and large, we are.  Some articles to get you thinking:
It can be a little scary to take the time to fully read those articles, especially if you stop and think about what they mean for your current buying habits.  The Lord who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’ (Zechariah 7:9-10)

What does this all mean for me?  It means I want to shop a little bit more like Jesus.  To do so, my wife and I came up with a series of questions to ask ourselves:

Before you shop, ask yourself:
  • Do I need it?  Can I do without it? Do I already have it?  If you answer these questions honestly, you won't have to answer the rest of this list as often as you think.
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Can I buy it used?
  • Can I upgrade or repair something I own rather than buying it?
If you make it through the above list and still need to go shopping, ask yourself:
  • Is it made in the USA or another developed country? 
  • Is it Fair Trade? 
  • Is it produced by a company that is at least claiming ethical labor and/or buying practices?  Many companies make some sort of statement on their website.
  • Is it produced by company that has known cases of unethical labor and/or buying practices?  A few Google searches normally turns up any poor standards or practices.
  • Is it quality?  Will it last a long time or will you be buying another piece of junk in less than two years?
This is a journey I'm on.  I still buy stuff I don't need that is most likely made by people who are being exploited.  But I'm working on it and I wanted to invite you to do the same.

Ask yourself: What would Jesus buy?

Additional Scripture: Proverbs 21:3, 15; 22:16, 22-23;  24:11-12, 31:8-9, Zechariah 7:9-10, Romans 13:7, I Timothy 6:17-19,  James 5:1-6

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm Writing a Book

No really, I am!

Here's my working title and description.
Partner Like Paul: A [riff/essay/manifesto]* on partnerships, the gospel, and raising money for ministry

How did the Apostle Paul raise money and partner with others? We’re going to look at that and then apply what we find to support-raising scenarios today.

The best part is you don't have to wait until I'm finished to find out.  You can read your Bible now!  (Which is obviously way better than anything I could come up with.)  Here's the working Scripture list I'll be using:
  • Exodus 25:1-2 and 35:4-5 
  • Numbers 18:21-24 
  • Deuteronomy 14:27 and 16:17 
  • I Samuel 9:7-8 
  • I Kings 17 
  • Nehemiah 2:1-8 
  • Matthew 6:1-4 and 10:11-13 
  • Luke 8:1-3, 10:1-12 and 16:10-12 
  • Acts 18:3-5 and 20:33-35 
  • Romans 15:22-29 
  • I Corinthians 16:1-11 
  • II Corinthians 1:16 and 2:17 
  • II Corinthians 8-9 
  • II Corinthians 11:7-11 and 12:13 
  • Galatians 6:6 
  • Philippians 1:3-5 and 4:10-20 
  • I Thessalonians 2:9 
  • II Thessalonians 3:7-9 
  • I Timothy 5:17-18 and 6:17-19 
  • Titus 3:13-14 
  • III John 5-8

*I can't find a word I like here.  Plus this whole thing falls under the BETA category so I might scrap it all before we're through.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How I Read It: The Divine Commodity

A few thoughts after finishing The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani.

Quotable: "We are very fickle about community. When things are going well, we're eager to jump into the boat and join the fun. But when community requires sacrifice, perseverance and hard work, we can find ourselves on the shore acting like we don't know those crazy people in the boat... We make calculated decisions about which community will offer the most comfortable environment, and our commitment to that group lasts only as long as the comfort endures... This is the tension that exists in a consumer society."

Go without Van Gogh: Skye uses the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh throughout the book.  Each chapter contains a short story about Van Gogh's life and a description of his artwork that is meant to support the overall point of the chapter.  To be honest, he could have done without it.  Maybe it's because I'm not an art-guy, but the Van Gogh references were more of a distraction than a help. 

An Artwork by Itself: Van Gogh aside, the book is a masterful piece of work.  I was skeptical when the intro claimed: "The chapters that follow are impressionist in form. They are comprised of short, seemingly in congruent scenes... with distance and reflection they fuse in the mind's eye to create a discernible theme."  Now that I've finished, I have to admit that Skye totally pulled it off.  With the book finished I'm left thinking a lot clearer about the church, consumerism, and how they collide.

Don't Buy Stuff:  My take away? The same as last Monday's post.  Don't buy stuff.  And don't treat God, the church, and following Christ as a consumable commodity either.

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani
  4. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  5. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  6. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  7. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  8. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  9. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  10. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  11. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  12. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A short riff on disciple-making

Is the term 'disciple-making' becoming a buzzword?

We can give lip service to making disciples like Jesus did, but not actually be doing it.

We get excited talking about making disciples in a Jesus-like way.  We get excited when we hear stories of others doing it.  But there's a little bit of tension.  How do we make it happen?

It WOULD be correct to say that we don't need to have an overloaded life to do ministry like Jesus did.
It would be INcorrect to say that we don't need to make any major changes to how we do life and ministry.

I'm personally feeling the tension between Jesus-like disciple-making and our current western Christianity.

It can be refreshing to hear that we don't need to pack our schedules to make disciples like Jesus did... let's just be sure we aren't hearing we don't have to do anything different.

Call it a rant... but does that make any sense?

(Note: The bulk of this post came from an e-mail exchange I had with a friend.  He liked it enough that I decided to post it. Hope you hate it.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

BOOR September 2010: Don't Buy Stuff

My wife found this post first.  It's simple, yet if you follow the advice, revolutionary.

That’s it.  My title is my post.  Don’t buy stuff…that’s all I have to say.
 When asked what my favorite frugal tip is…Don’t Buy Stuff is the best thing I can come up with.
When you buy stuff, you have to pay for it with money.  And then you have to find a place to put it once you bring it home.  And it won’t stay where you put it because someone will get it out and not put it away.  And then it will get lost.  Or broken.  Or forgotten.
Buy food.  You need to eat.
Splurge on toilet paper.  It’s very useful.
Invest in soap…using soap is good.
But don’t buy stuff.
You’ll save a lot of money.
And…if you didn’t really need it in the first place, you won’t even miss it.  ;)

Link to the original.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is praying really that tricky?

It's sort of funny what you remember from random sermons a long time ago.  I could not tell you any outlines or major points from all of the sermon's I heard at my college's thrice-a-week chapels.  They just don't stick with you.  But oddly enough, one of the things that continues to stick in my mind from one sermon is the line "now we've gone from saying prayers to truly praying."

(Note: I can't even remember the immediate context, nor the overall topic of this professor's sermon.)

I was reminded of this again recently when visiting a friend's office.  We opened our time in prayer, but he didn't say the usual "Thanks for this time, help us seek you in it, etc." prayers.  My friend truly prayed.  He prayed for random things I knew nothing about, he prayed for me, he prayed for others.

And it was so refreshing.

I'm still working on it, but I'd like to be a person who doesn't just recite prayers.  I'd like to be a person who truly prays.

How about you?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Another Silly Football Contest

Here's your chance to win a book from me again.

Up for grabs?  Church Planting Movements.  Your very own copy... plus bragging rights.

How can you win it?  ESPN's Eliminator Challenge.  All you have to do is correctly predict one NFL game each week.  I would take the time to explain it more to you... but I'm guessing if you like football you'll follow this link and check it out.  And if you don't care for football you won't.  (If you do want an explanation of how the game works, go here.)

The last person standing wins.  Why not give it a try?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Church Gathering Thoughts 1.0

For the last two years my wife and I have been "in charge" of planning and leading the youth ministry at Pekin Bible Church.  I'll confess that with each year my plans get less and less impressive.  But at the same time we fall more and more in love with the youth that we're serving.  And I continue to be amazed by youth workers (both volunteer and paid) as leading a youth ministry involves much more than I originally thought.

So now we're heading into a third year and I'm purposefully not trying to impress anyone (students, parents, other ministry workers) with any amazing plan.  I've shifted my thinking to ask: "How can I make the meeting times I'm in charge of Bible-centered, Bible-emulating and youth-led?"

So here's the plan.  Call it simple if you want, but I already told you it wasn't going to impress.

The goal of this one-page guide is to include elements of fellowship, prayer, and Scripture; all in a way that anyone could replicate after only seeing it once or twice.  Why this focus on simplicity?  Acts shows us an example of explosive growth, led mostly by people who didn't have any training.  No one needed to go to school for four years to lead a ministry, (in fact, these guys did it without asking.)

Let me close by saying: I have no idea if this is going to work, but I think that the potential is well worth the risk.