My Alma Mater

I was contacted out of the blue by the college I graduated from, Hope International University, and asked if they could write an article on me and Third Format. Apparently they now have a section on featured alumni. I was a little caught off guard but honored nonetheless. I forgot about it for awhile and then decided to check it tonight and see if anything had come of it. And sure enough, there was my picture next to an article. You can read it here. I felt pretty important when I also saw that they have one for Tyrone Wells, who we got to hang out with this weekend since he played at Central. It is so exciting to me to see how God is at work at Central and Third Format and to get to play a part in it. What an adventure!

The Beauty of Bowflex

Each of us have to wrestle with our own concepts of exercise. Like most people, I have tried to stay in some type of shape using the common ways. And I haven’t done a good job. So I’ve recently come to the conclusion that a gym membership is not a realistic idea for me to maintain even though I’ve had one for about a year now. (By the time you get into workout clothes, drive there, workout on the machines you want and wait patiently while others are using them, drive back home, change and shower…you’ve used up a whole evening – yes, you could do this in the morning time but I don’t like mornings). So I’ve done some soul searching and tried to figure out what I could actually maintain realistically with my schedule. In case you haven’t heard, ministry isn’t exactly a 9 to 5 job.

I started looking into home gyms and noticed that the Bowflex systems aren’t quite the eye-sore that other units are. And you don’t have to carry around and store a bunch of heavy weights. I began to realize that their 20 minute workout routines are actually doable with my schedule. The only problem is that they are ridiculously expensive!

And then it dawned on me, I could take advantage of how we all are when it comes to exercise and buy a used system from someone who came to the same realization about their Bowflex that I came to about my gym membership. So I got Michelle hunting on Craigslist.

We were able to find a couple that practically has stock in Bowflex. The one we found was bought about a year ago and hardly used at all. The guy told me that his wife had a previous model and then wanted to upgrade so they bought this one, then she “didn’t like the way it felt” so they were selling it to buy another one (brand new). So if you’re doing the math, that is like 3 brand new systems in about 3 years. These are the type of people I was looking for.

Kudos to Jared for signing up for the adventure with me to go get it. We found ourselves in one of the most awkward situations of my life as a result, but that is a story I will save for a sermon illustration. All in all, we were able to buy a Bowflex for a fraction of the price it was a year ago and now I’m on a journey to make it a part of my lifestyle. So feel free to ask me how I’m doing with it so that I get some extra accountability!

The Secret Message of Jesus

As many of you reading this will no doubt acknowledge, Brian McLaren is a name that always starts a conversation. Nonetheless, I have read his “A New Kind of Christian” trilogy and recently decided to read another one of his books called The Secret Message of Jesus. I am glad I did.

This book was provocative from the title on and left me with much to think about. I am still digesting it. In a nutshell, it is a great work on the “Kingdom of God.” This idea breathes new life into my view of Jesus and His church and I think is helpful for all of us to revisit and dwell on. I have long since thought that collectively the church preaches too much on “eternity” and rarely about life now. That is why the words, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven” are so powerful.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes to stew on.

“This is the scandal of the message of Jesus. The kingdom of God does fail. It is weak. It is crushed. When its message of love, peace, justice, and truth meets the principalities and powers of government and religion armed with spears and swords and crosses, they unleash their hate, force, manipulation, and propaganda.”

“What if the only way for the kingdom of God to come in its true form – as a kingdom “not of this world” – is through weakness and vulnerability, sacrifice and love? What if it can conquer only by first being conquered? What if being conquered is absolutely necessary to expose the brutal violence and dark oppression of these principalities and powers, these human ideologies and counterkingdoms – so they, having been exposed, can be seen for what they are and freely rejected, making room for the new and better kingdom? What if the kingdom of God must in these ways fail in order to succeed?”

“The Christian religion continues to sing and preach and teach about Jesus, but in too many places (not all!) it has largely forgotten, misunderstood, or become distracted from Jesus’ secret message. When we drifted from understanding and living out his essential secret message of the kingdom, we became like flavorless salt or a blown-out lightbulb – so boring that people just walked away. We may have talked about going to heaven after we die, but not about God’s will being done on earth before we die. We may have pressured people to be moral and good or correct and orthodox to avoid hell after death, but we didn’t inspire them with the possibility of becoming beautiful and fruitful to heal the earth in this life.”

“And here, perhaps, is the most astounding contrast of all: the peace of God’s kingdom comes not through the violent torture and merciless extermination of the king’s enemies, but rather through the suffering death of the king himself. The pax Christi is not the peace of conquest but rather the peace of true reconciliation. The king achieves peace not by shedding the blood of rebels but by – I hope the scandal and wonder of this is not lost because the words may be familiar – shedding his own blood.”

“Faith that counts, then, is not the absence of doubt; it’s the presence of action.”

Memorizing Scripture

I’m in my second month now of a year-long mentorship program called Successful Living. The point of it is to go through different areas of your life and see how God wants you to grow in each and ultimately where He wants you to be. One of the things that you do for each account is to memorize a Scripture passage.

Now let me be vulnerable and confess something to you. I haven’t truly committed myself to memorizing Scripture since I was a kid. I don’t know why I quit doing it once I grew up. So this program challenged me to try it again. And I’ve been blown away.

Already I’m noticing how amazing this is. My method of doing this is to write the verse on a 3×5 notecard and keep it in my car with me. Then, I recite it over and over as I drive. This has allowed me to retain what I’m trying to memorize and to keep me focused on God and His Word CONSTANTLY. And that is a tremendous thing. So far, I’ve memorized Hebrews 11:6 (which I slipped into my sermon last week) and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Let me strongly encourage everyone to try this and allow God to transform you in a new way as He has been doing with me this last month. Here’s to memorizing it all someday…

Winter Reading 08′

A handful of us get together and pick a history book to read during the winter time. This year, the book was Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose. Below I have included a handful of my favorite quotes organized in different themes throughout the book. Sorry for it being so long, but the book is 500 pages!

18th Century American Culture
— “People in the late eighteenth century were helpless in matters of health. They lived in constant dread of sudden death from disease, plague, epidemic, pneumonia, or accident. Their letters always begin and usually end with assurances of the good health of the letter writer and a query about the health of the recipient. Painful as the death of an honored and admired father was to a son, it was a commonplace experience.”

— “Thus ended Meriwether Lewis’s scholarly career. What had he learned? No enough Latin to use the language in his extensive later writings, nor any other foreign language. Not enough orthography ever to be comfortable or proficient with the spelling of English words—but, then, he lived in an age of freedom of spelling, a time when even so well read and learned a man as Jefferson had trouble maintaining consistency in his spelling.”
— “Jefferson, believing that the taming of the horse had resulted in the degeneracy of the human body, urged the young to walk for exercise. Lewis took his advice and became a great hiker, with feet as tough as his butt. As a boy and young man, he went barefoot, in the Virginia manner. Jefferson’s grandson claimed not to have worn shoes until he was ten. According to Jefferson, the young Lewis hunted barefoot in the snow.”

— “No man did more for human liberty than Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and of Virginia’s Statute for Religious Freedom., among other gifts to mankind. Few men profited more from human slavery than Jefferson.”
— “Profitable as it was to him, Jefferson hated slavery. He regarded it as a curse to Virginia and wished to see it abolished throughout the United States. Not, however, in his lifetime. He said that his generation was not ready for such a step. He would leave that reform to the next generation of Virginians, and was sure they would make Virginia the first southern state to abolish slavery. He thought the young men coming of age in postwar Virginia were superbly qualified to bring the American Revolution to this triumphant conclusion because, as he said, these young men had ‘sucked in the principles of liberty as if it were their mother’s milk.’
— “Of all the contradictions in Jefferson’s contradictory life, none exceeded this one. He hoped and expected that the Virginians from the generation of Lewis and Clark would abolish slavery—even while recognizing that anyone brought up as a master of slaves would have to be a prodigy to be undepraved by the experience. And it should be noted that, as far as can be told, he said not a word about his dream that young Virginians would lead the way to emancipation to precisely those young Virginians he knew best, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.”
— “Lewis could no more escape the lord-and-master attitude toward black slaves than Clark could—or, come to that, than Jefferson could (Jefferson also sold slaves and separated families). No wonder Jefferson could write, ‘I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.’”

Leadership / Exploration
— “Lewis had the frontiersman’s faith in his rifle. As long as a man had his rifle, ammunition, and powder, he would take on anything the wilderness could throw at him.”
— “It was remarkable for Lewis to propose a co-command. He did not even have to add a lieutenant to the party, and most certainly did not have to share the command. Divided command almost never works and is the bane of all military men, to whom the sanctity of the chain of command is basic and the idea of two disagreeing commanders in a critical situation is anathema. But Lewis did it anyway. It must have felt right to him. It had to have been based on what he knew about Clark, and what he felt for him.
— “Lewis and Clark had not been together in seven years, but even before they met their partnership was flourishing, their trust in each other’s judgment complete. There were no perils in divided command for this pair.”
— “For the next seven years, only Dearborn, Jefferson, a clerk or two in the War Department, and Meriwether Lewis and William Clark knew that, as far as the army was concerned, Captain Lewis was in command of the Corps of Discovery, with Lieutenant Clark as his second-in-command. For the men of the expedition, it was Captains Clark and Lewis, co-commanders. That was all that counted.”

Finally, there was one quote that summed up my greatest reflection from this book: the cost of success. If you aren’t familiar with history, Lewis ended up committing suicide a few years after the expedition. How could someone who had accomplished so much give up on his life? This is something that I will always remember and keep in the back of my mind.

“Lewis was leading a very heady life. At thirty-three, he was the most celebrated man in Philadelphia, a city world-renowned for its celebrated men. He was the protégé of the president. Balls and testimonials were held in his honor, the biggest in the nation’s capital. He had been generously rewarded by Congress, praised by the leading scientists of the day, appointed governor of the biggest territory of the United States, and was the center of attention wherever he went. His prospects could hardly have been better. It was, perhaps, too much success too early in life. There were, perhaps, too many balls with too many toasts.”

Preaching Can Be Dangerous

Last weekend I was preaching on giving and I used the analogy of apples to represent the 10-10-80 concept. If you’ve never heard this before and don’t go to Central, the analogy represents that 10% of our income should go to God, 10% should go to savings, and then we try and live off of the 80% or less. To illustrate this, I had 10 apples on a stand.

Since the topic was generosity, I decided to add a little twist in the analogy. I said that I was feeling generous and that I wanted to share some of my apples with the audience. Now you must understand, these were Granny Smith green apples that we had special ordered from another state. They were amazing. So this was quite a gift.

A guy raised his hand about 9 rows back. I then proceeded to under-hand lob one of the apples to him from the stage. But I slightly misjudged the distance. Instead of my intended recipient my apple was headed toward the face of the guy in front of him. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, except as I watched the apple fly through the air (which turned into slow-motion like nothing I’ve ever seen before) I realized that this guy wasn’t moving. His hands weren’t getting ready to catch anything and instead he stoicly sat still with his arms folded. And so I watched…and I felt something inside of me panick. What would happen if I knocked a guy out in church?

Luckily for me, his wife leaned over at the last second and caught the apple right in front of his face. If you think I’m exagerrating how close it was, her hands actually hit him in the face. Disaster avoided.

I mentioned this story the next night when I was repeating the illustration in Gilbert. Afterward, someone came up to me and had something insightful to say. She told me that the guy that I was referring to was a first time guest, and he was sleeping when it happened! (I couldn’t see his eyes from the stage, but this makes sense with his body language). When his wife’s hands hit him in the face he thought that she was slapping him to wake him up. He then awoke to see myself and everyone around him staring right at him. Apparently he thought that I had publicly called him out and that we were making an example of him. How sad, or funny depending on how you look at it.

I might have to use this story in my sermon on “rest” in a few weeks.