Monday, June 17, 2013
Some things die hard, like old versions of the Scriptures for preachers who have notes, underlines, and coffee stains marking a favorite Bible or two (okay, I have 17 at last count). For 28 years I have preached out of the NIV (New International Version) that was brand new 29 years ago. At the time, someone said that it was written at about a fifth grade reading level making it very understandable. I was hooked. I've always leaned toward the simple. But it was not just simple, it was a good translation by some scholarly people. It has served me well over the years, but on June 30, I will preach my last sermon from this preaching companion. I'm switching to the ESV (English Standard Version) that came out in 2001. You may wonder be wondering why. There are three simple reasons. 1. The people at NIV came out with an updated version in 2011 and stopped production and sales of their 1984 NIV. I'm not a fan of some of the stuff they've done with the 2011 edition (who am I - not a scholar for sure, but I believe they compromised a little with some translating! These are not "crucial" issues. The NIV is still a perfectly acceptable translation of the Word of God and if you like it...keep with it. For me however, I began searching for another version. I considered the New King James Version because I grew up with the original (yes 1611 version) as a kid and like it poetic symetry. But alas, thou woulds't be more confused if I preached from it. I also like the New Living Translation - very readable, but it's not as scholarly. Hey, it's still the Bible and if you like it, go for it. It just leans more toward readability than word translation, so I searched on. Finally, I came to the ESV. I like it because we have become a going deeper in the word church and it is the most literally translated Bible on the market. You'd have to go to the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts to get closer to the original. 2. The people who publish ESV are easier to deal with in quoting their sources and reproducing them. The publishers at Crossway seem to give permissions to use their material with less restrictions than the Zondervan folks. Since we are using the Scriptures more and more for on-line communication, the Eastview app, and a whole host of publishing things, we find this a better fit for us. 3. Change is good sometimes. Honestly, I like my old familiar Bible. We have journeyed many sermon together. I have studied it's pages and still have notes that are useful. But a Bible can become too familiar. Since I've picked up my new Bible, it's like discovering the Word of God all over again. It's fresh because the pages are all free from notes, etc... I begin another journey with a Bible that I hope will last me another 30 years. The implication for our congregation is that you'll hear sermons from the ESV not the NIV. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY A NEW BIBLE! You may just hear some of the wording sound a little different. Well, that's enough for a Monday morning. Whatever the version, we are so blessed to hold in our hands what "regular people" never held in their hands for the first 1600 years of the church. The only versions of the Bible were in churches and synagogues. Don't take you Bible for granted today. It is a great gift!
at 8:10 AM
Monday, June 10, 2013
Heading to Lincoln today for two days of video teaching that our small groups will use for our all church study this fall. When we began to think about how we could teach our church to be more evangelistic or what we call "dangerous witnesses" the word "open" kept coming up. Things like open lives, open arms, open to all, open doors, open mouth...and so was born the theme for our faith-sharing teaching - OPEN. We began to think about those "open" signs in old cafe's back in the day and thought something like that would be a great place to film this. We were blessed to find an old cafe' in Lincoln that is no longer open for business. However,for the next couple of days it's going to be open for God's business as our graphic arts team, video crew, and my dynamic duo of administrative assistant and wife make it look like a real restaurant. All J.K. and I have to is teach 6 really insightful Bible lessons. I really enjoy this part of my job-the camaraderie and mental challenges bring the good kind of kingdom work that can only be described as joy. What mental challenges? Well, you know I can get a little distracted..and that means the cameras, people in the background, the coffee in front of me, and even J.K. just listening can be a distraction. Not to mention I rarely say things the same way twice...so when we cut and our director says - "say that last line, starting with _____, but with more emphasis this time." I usually say, "Huh?" So we pray, and we open the Bible, and we laugh at our mistakes, and we marvel at how the Holy Spirit pulls it all together. Honestly, I can't wait to see the finished product...it won't be long...September 22nd is our starting date. But God is beginning his work for our congregation today.
at 8:30 AM
Monday, June 3, 2013
I thinking about breathing a lot today, because in a few hours, I'm doing a funeral for Becky Stubbs - a great young lady who struggled her entire life with Cystic Fibrosis and never truly breathed deeply, but breathed deep of God's love through Jesus and the Spirit (breath) who lived in her. There was a breath of fresh air yesterday in our congregation as I announced that the elders have committed to give away the amount of money in our general fund giving that is over our projected budget need. As of Sunday, that total was around $350K and I can't wait to see what it is at the end our fiscal year (end of August). We are being generous because God has been generous with us and we are trusting He will be generous in meeting our future needs. I'm catching my breath ahead of a really busy summer in which we will start a new study (Unchained - study through Paul's prison epistles) in July, host the Global Leadership Summit (video site) in August, and vision Sunday August 18th. Even now we are writing and planning our video taping of the all church study for this Fall. whatever you're doing today...take a deep breath and thank God for it... Here is an excerpt from Becky's funeral sermon: Psalm 150:6 - "Let everything that has breath praise The Lord. Praise The Lord!" Becky may not have been able to breathe deeply, but she added her praise to God with every other breathing thing in this world. And today, in spite of our sadness at losing her in an earthly sense, we too can be those who breathe and praise The Lord. And we can be sure that because this breath, this wind of the Holy Spirit filled Becky's soul while she was with us, that His presence in eternity is allowing her to breathe more deeply of the love of God than you and I can even imagine. So we keep breathing and we wait for our last breath - that will actually be our first eternally in Christ!
Monday, May 20, 2013
It was around 2:00 p.m. when I sat down to lunch with my family yesterday afternoon...and though I had washed my hands, I noticed that there was still a smudge of oil on my hand from yesterday's services at Eastview (at first, I thought it was the greasy taco I was eating - yea...taco bell drive through - ugh). I was reminded of the powerful healing prayer time we held at the end of each service yesterday morning. With containers of olive oil, kleenex, and kneeling benches, the elders stood at the front of the auditorium and ministered as shepherds to the flock. And the sheep came...hundreds of them. And we prayed for healing... ...for a baby who is showing some developmental deficiencies...for an older woman who is losing her eyesight...for way too many depressed people...for marriages...for a little girl to walk...for healing from a recurring sin...for the habit of cutting to go away...for feelings of unworthiness...for a Down's syndrome child...for children with autism... I could go on. In a word, it was powerfully healing. You may ask, "was everyone healed?" I would say "Yes". Maybe they won't all receive the exact request in the exact way, but each did submit by faith to the only one who can save them. This is called faith and faith in God is healing in and of itself. When I turn to Him for my answers, for my pain, for my future - I know He loves me and will guide me and ultimately heal me! So I would say everyone who came forward yesterday was healed. And when I saw the oil on my hands, I was reminded of the pain I had prayed over. Perhaps I should put oil on my hand every Sunday to remind me that I'm preaching to people who are hurting. In fact, this is why I preach. We all need healing and have received it through Jesus...who has blood on His hands.
at 10:43 AM
Monday, May 13, 2013
Not many are surprised to hear that I need visuals to think. In a crazy way, my ADD mind works best on a white board with scribbles everywhere. It helps me to eliminate and move and add things visually as thoughts pop in and out of my mind. So, when we go on retreat like I did last week, it's known that I'll need large wall post-it notes and markers. I have even been known to construct a big post-it from an entire pad of small ones! From the first meeting on, my hotel room is usually wall-papered with notes about anything and everything that we brainstorm together and ideas that make the cut. Fortunately in Dallas, our leadership team had some nice weather to put these notes on the windows of a back patio at the hotel. We spent hours thinking/praying/writing/dreaming for God. It was interesting to notice those around us (passing through the area) take note that our meeting resembled one of their boring business meetings, etc. we had Bibles, laughter, and passion! At the end of five days of planning we have 18 post-it notes filled with everything (everything I can think of) about Eastview Christian Church, both now and into the year 2030. The final one was one we titled "Holy Spirit Impressions". We prayed earlier that God would allow us to say, "It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit" like the disciples did in Acts. Same Spirit, why not!? Any way, now we are listening to the Spirit as to what to do with these notes. In case you're wondering, I didn't lug these home, I simply took pics on my iPad for further reference.
at 10:36 AM
Monday, May 6, 2013
I'm reading through Joshua these days for personal(ie. not for writing a sermon, or writing a lesson, or searching for some good leadership stuff)time in the Word. It's giving me a lot to chew on and the story of Joshua and the Israelites taking the city of Ai in the Promised Land is filled with all kinds of lessons. You'll remember that the first assault on Ai failed in Joshua 7 because Achan disobeyed God and all of Israel paid for it. They got beat in their second battle in the land! But after they figured out why God didn't help them win, they got rid of the sin and went back for a second try! You can't win a battle for God without explicitly obeying God! That's one lesson. But wait, there's more. By God's command, they attack Ai again and as God promised they completely destroy Ai - this is not surprising, but HOW they won surprises and encourages me! They did it with strategy using real live men to accomplish the feat! This is incredibly relevant for those of us who want to obey God and be used of Him for the victories in His kingdom. Let's be clear, God won the battle, but the detail on how they won was extensive. Joshua chose the best fighters (30,000 of them) then he sent them at night to sneak behind Ai. Then the next morning, the rest of the troops took up battle in front of the city. The men of Ai came out to fight and as a decoy (planned in advance) the men of Israel fled. This caused all the fighting men in Ai to chase Israel and leave the city unprotected. Then the 30,000 men behind the city charged in and set the whole place on fire! When the Ai army looked and saw the smoke of their city -they freaked. When the Israelite army saw the smoke, they stopped running and started fighting. Result: Ai is wiped out! God's people win. Question: Why did the Israelites come up with such an extensive plan when God could have just taken out Ai with no army at all? Why the big strategy of ambush, when God could have just caused them to win in a straight up fight? Why would God let Joshua give specific detailed orders for the battle? Here's my conclusion. God is always the reason for the victory, but in His kingdom He uses specific people and their efforts and plans (as long as they are lined up with his will)to win his battles! This means that what we do matters somehow. God can win without us...He just doesn't! This is an astounding reality and blessing. So, I'm with our leadership team planning, praying, dreaming, praying some more,and visiting other churches this week in Dallas. Will God's church at Eastview prevail without our leadership? Absolutely YES! But will God use the stuff He guides us to do to make it happen. Yes. So God will win and some of the strategies we dream will be the details he uses to accomplish it. Don't ask me how...it just is!
at 5:33 PM
Monday, April 29, 2013
It is good to be back in Normal and almost normal sleep schedule. I'm fully immersed back into the ministry that God has called me to here, but below I offer some reflections from the India trip - some work the Spirit is doing in my heart as a result: 1. I am praying for Ajai and Indu Lall everyday. Their ministry and vision and impact for Christ is nothing short of amazing and I want to lift them up before the FATHER! 2. How long did it take for the apostle Paul take to recuperate from his missionary journeys that included ships, walking, beatings, jail sentences, riots, writing the Bible, and preaching until midnight! I'll bet getting back into the right sleep schedule was not his main concern. I also think that worship at his home church (Antioch) must have been pure bliss as worshiping with my family at Eastview was for me yesterday. 3. How can I have the evangelistic intensity of someone who might be killed for preaching when no one is really threatening my life? 4. The Bible really is the living Word of God...every nation, every tongue, every life is impacted by preaching of this word. 5. Communion with believers tears down every language, cultural, social, and racial barrier. There is nothing more moving to me in foreign countries than to partake of the body and blood of Jesus. No words necessary - totally equal under God's grace! Our unity is sealed in this worship moment. 6. Preaching in a korte is probably one of the most comfortable things to preach in even if my sons both said I wore a dress to church yesterday. 7. Strategy is not a bad word in church. The ministry of CICM accomplishes much for the kingdom because they really understand prayer and being led by the Spirit....AND they have a strategy for reaching millions with the gospel. Just because God is doing all the work doesn't mean that we can't make a plan. Somehow he uses our ideas for His purpose..don't overthink it, just do it.