Auntie Anne’s & How You Got The Bible

Have you ever been to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in your local mall? The next time you are there follow the delightful aroma of fresh baked pretzels and hot butter to their storefront and get a hot, fresh pretzel. If you watch the baker at each store you will see they measure, roll, and twist the dough to form a beautiful, perfect pretzel every time. On each counter in every Auntie Anne’s store you will notice a measuring line. The baker uses that line to measure the length and width of each piece of dough cut. There is also a pretzel shape drawn on the counter top that the baker uses to ensure that their pretzel, once twisted, matches all the others ready to be baked. It doesn’t matter if you are in LA or New York, every Auntie Anne’s Pretzel looks and tastes the same due to these measuring lines.

While making pretzels and determining the doctrine of Scripture are two entirely different things, they do share this idea of using a measuring line to determine consistency, create uniformity, identify mistakes, and define authenticity. The measuring line to identify, determine, and define Holy Scripture is called the canon of Scripture.

The Formation of the Canon

The canon of Scripture is the collection of writings that has been recognized as having divine authority over matters of faith and doctrine for the Church. Canon comes from two words meaning “a rule” or “measuring rod” (the Hebrew word qaneh and the Greek word kanon). Today, the canon of Scripture includes 66 books – the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures and the 27 books of the New Testament.  The canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was largely in place by the time of Christ. These texts written between the fifteenth and fifth century B.C. are traditionally divided into three sections: Torah (the Law – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Jesus and the writers of the New Testament “quote Old testament passages almost 300 times, and every quote is from the thirty-nine books that have been handed down to us.” 1

The 27 books of the New Testament canon were not finalized until the 4th century but the process of canonization started almost immediately as the church began. By the end of the 2nd century, Christians, facing persecution and requirement to burn their holy scriptures, had already begun making lists of writings that they considered authoritative and beneficial for church doctrines and practices. Books that were considered authoritative were believed to have been divinely inspired, written by Apostles or their companions, handed down and received by the church. 2

Scholar F.F. Bruce makes clear that these books are not considered authoritative because they are recognized as part of this canon, they are considered in the canon because they were recognized as divinely inspired by God and supremely authoritative for the Church.

One thing must be emphatically stated. The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities. 3

The Doctrine of Scripture

While the church was able to experience growth in the face of external persecutions from Rome it was the internal fight against heresies that most threatened to tear the church apart. The Doctrine of Scripture was born out of this need to circle the wagons, not to protect the church from state sanctioned violence but, to circle the church around the truth of the Gospel and the true practices of God’s people. According to William J. Bennett, “the church’s settlement of what books were to be included in the New Testament canon proved to be one of the most powerful instruments for refuting heresy.” 4

Irenaeus, the first to coin the phrases Old Testament and New Testament, wrote a scathing description of the damage that heretics were doing and would continue to do to the church if left unchecked: “By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wickedness and in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions.” 5

Whether it was the Gnostics enticing disciples to seek out the “secret knowledge” of the spiritual world or Marcion’s teaching that the OT God was not, could not be the Father of the NT Jesus and throwing out the OT altogether, these heresies and others like them were put down, largely in part, due to the formalization and recognition of the Doctrine of Scripture.

Translation

Translation played important part in the canonization of scripture starting with the original languages that scriptures are written in. Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek are common languages of the people the scriptures are written by and to which they are directed. The Septuagint sought to bring the Hebrew scriptures to the Greek speaking world, thus giving access to the foundation of Christianity to Gentile delivers outside of the Hebrew people.  One of the best examples in antiquity of how Greek and Hebrew translations can aid in the reading and understanding of the texts in their original languages stands Origen’s Hexpola:

Origen compiled the entire Old Testament and laid out in six columns (a) the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament; (b) the Hebrew language redone phonetically in Greek, so that readers of Greek could better comprehend Hebrew sounds, even if they didn’t read the language; and (c) four different translations of the Old Testament in Greek, including the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). 6

The theologian and historian Jerome went a step further than the Septuagint and translated scriptures into Latin, the common language of his time. This idea of translations taking a foreign language and bringing it to the people in a way that it can be understood and read leads directly into the significance of interpretation.

Interpretation

Once the Scriptures can be read, they must be synthesized into understanding and then applied to the lives of God’s people. Interpretation has played a huge role in, not just the canonization of which books to include in Holy Scriptures, but the “canonization” of church doctrines and practices. Mark Noll, in speaking about the history of interpretation says that “we may view the Christian past like a gigantic seminar where trusted friends, who have labored long to understand the Scriptures, hold forth in various corners of the room.” 7

Interpretations that have stood the test of time and impact the church today such as the Nicene Creed, discourses in Trinitarian theology, and the nature of Christ can be understood largely due to the work of those in early church history seeking to give God’s people the clearest understanding of God’s Word and Will. Many interpretations though failed to catch on, not because they were unpopular, but because they were weighed by the interpretive church community and found wanting. Heretics such as Marcion, Aries, and the Gnostics along with heresies such as the belief that Jesus had a human body and a lower soul but a divine mind (Apollinarism) were weeded out by the church and the church is, arguably, better for it. Noll sums up the great inheritance and gift we have received for these early interpreters saying:

If a contemporary believer wants to know the will of God as revealed in Scripture on any of these matters, or on thousands more, it is certainly prudent to study the Bible carefully for oneself. But it is just as prudent to look for help, to realize that the question I am bringing to Scripture has doubtless been asked before and will have been addressed by others who were at least as saintly as I am, at least as patient in pondering the written Word, and at least as knowledgeable about the human heart. 8

The Church universal owes a great deal to the early church and those who sacrificed time, talent, treasure, and their lives in order to identify, preserve, translate, and interpret Scripture. May we never think that we have reached the end of this process because generations, potentially millennia from now, will rely on how diligently and faithfully we undertake this responsibility.

Footnotes:
1. Rick Cornish. 5 Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time (p. 63). NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO. 2004. Cornish also goes on to use the extra biblical witness of the Dead Seas Scrolls to highlight that the canon of the OT was in place before Christ saying, “Likewise, many of the five hundred Dead Sea Scrolls are commentaries and they comment only on books in our canon.”
2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1-2.
3. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981), 22.
4. Bennett, William J. Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity’s First Thousand Years (p. 35). Thomas Nelson.
5. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.8.
6. Bennett, William J. Tried by Fire: The Story of Christianity’s First Thousand Years (p. 77). Thomas Nelson.
7. Noll, Mark A. (2012-07-01). Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (p. 6). Baker Publishing Group.
8. Ibid.

Run Into The Storm

Run Into

Icons is a series of posts dedicated to images, ideas, music, and art that stirs my soul, tells great stories, defines a part of who I am, or illuminates a core belief in my heart.

ICONS: Run Into The Storm

I have a buffalo tattooed prominently on my right forearm. My wife surprised me a few months back with a date night to the tattoo parlor and I walked away with a piece of art that I see everyday and is pretty conspicuous when I’m wearing short sleeves.

I chose the image of the buffalo, not because it is the mascot of my alma mater (a fact I only remembered about…oh, 30 seconds into the tattoo), but because of a significant part of my spiritual journey and a core belief that I desire to live out of in my life and ministry.

Over the last few years, I have been coming to terms with the fact I struggle with anxiety and depression. Everyday God pours his grace out and I learn how to, not just cope, but work through and get the better of the Resistance in my head and heart.

While listening to one of my favorite podcasts, I heard Pastor David Craig said that the battle with depression is like “being caught in a buffalo stampede.”

He continued by saying, like a buffalo stampede, you don’t know what started it, you can’t predict how long it will last, there is really nothing you can do to stop it… you’ve just got to ride it out.

I remember thinking, “YES! That’s exactly it! That’s what it feels like when a cloud of depression come on me. Someone gets it!”

If you’ve ever dealt with depression, my guess is that this definition of a buffalo stampede rings true to your experience as well.

(I actually contacted Pastor Craig and we had a substantial conversation over the phone. He was extremely kind and compassionate and listened to me share my story.)

So the tattoo on my arm represents a visual reminder of my struggle with depression. There have been and will continue to be seasons where depression will bear down on me like a thunderous herd of bison. There may be nothing that I did to cause it and there may be no way to bring it to an abrupt end… I’ve just got to ride it out. I’ve come to see that’s the nature of the beast.

There is a second, more positive reason for the buffalo tattoo as well.

The story goes that when a storm comes across the great plains bison and cows react differently. A cow will turn and run away from the storm. What ends up happening is that the cow can not outrun the storm and as it catches up to the worn-out, exhausted cow, the storm overtakes them and their are now stuck in the middle of the storm – cold, wet, and used up.

The buffalo has a different reaction to the storm. Instead of running away from the storm they run into the storm.

Let me say that again: Buffalo run into the storm.

It seems crazy and counterintuitive until you consider how as the animal runs toward the approaching storm only to have the storm pass over them. In effect, the bison cut the storm in half by running into it and then through it.

In life and in leadership, when we see a storm on the horizon – relational conflict, difficult seasons, tough decisions to make – we have 2 choices:

We can run away from the storm but the storm will eventually overtake you – you will have to deal with the difficult person at some point, you will be forced to make a decision and the longer you put it off the few choices you will have, etc. When the storms of life overtake us we usually find ourselves like the poor, wet cow – tired, exhausted, and used up.

I don’t want to be a cow. I want to be a buffalo.

It has been my experience that when I move toward conflict, when I head into the storm, the outcome is more positive than when I’ve avoided it. In the church world, whenever we engage in conflict resolution we engage in discipleship. Don’t be afraid to run into the storm.

So, my friends from college might find it strange that I decided to tattoo the school’s mascot on my forearm for the world to see.

The truth is the buffalo is more about who I am, the journey I’m undertaking, and the kind of leader I want to be.  

Exit Question:
Do you have a tattoo with an interesting story behind the ink? Tell us your story in the comments. I can’t wait to hear from you.

See Something, Do Something

“That’s not my job.”

If there were an award for The Most Frustrating Sayings That Cause Me To Bang My Head Against The Wall this one would make it past the swimsuit competition and into the Top 5.

This phrase makes my skin crawl. It is one thing to here it from a kid who doesn’t want to clean up the mess caused by another kid but it is a whole different level when it is coming from an adult leader.

The problem is… I thought it earlier today. 

I was in the Men’s Room at our building and I reached for the soap dispenser and it was empty… just like it has been for the last 2 weeks.

“Why is there still no soap in this dispenser?!?” I thought. “Someone needs to replace the empty cartridge. Someone besides me. That’s not my job.”

One of the maxims I try to live my life by is See Something, Do Something. It means that if you see something that needs to be taken care of… Take care of it. No fuss. No blame. Just do it.

Trash on the ground? Pick it up.
Batteries dead? Replace them.
Gate left open? Close it.
No toilet paper? Get a new roll.

These aren’t tasks that you have to ask permission to take care of. They aren’t jobs that require you to blow a whistle and announce what you’re doing either. Sometimes things slip through the cracks and the person responsible overlooks it or is unaware of the problem.

Sure, if it becomes a chronic problem or a habitual nuisance it needs to be address with the one accountable. However, more often than not it is a one-off mistake or simple oversight.

When you See Something, Do Something you are living out some fundamental virtues needed in the world today such as INITIATIVE, TEAM WORK, and SELFLESS SERVICE. When you ignore something that has been left undone and get upset about it you simply are being LAZY and SELF-CENTERED.

Next time you come across something that needs to be taken care of, don’t ignore it. Don’t make a phone call or write a memo. Don’t get huffy and flustered.

Go to the storage room, pick up the new soap cartridge, and cheerfully, gladly, and with a song in your heart replace the empty one.

Now, excuse me while I head off to the storage room.

The Difference

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I want to write.

There I said it.

I want to write books and challenge people’s thinking and encourage their hearts to live lives of greatness and significance.

I want to write to challenge and change.

There is a difference in saying and doing. In wanting and producing.

The difference is in the DISCIPLINE.

The discipline to get up early and bang out some paragraphs.

The discipline to put down the phone and pick up a pen.

Tbe discipline to turn off the tv and turn on my imagination.

The discipline to quiet my mind long enough to cull through my thoughts.

The discipline to quit consuming that news story about the election or that that article about some far off tech or that article about stupid cat photos.

The discipline to create.

The discipline to do the work.

The discipline to put something out there. Regardless of wether it is good, mediocre, brilliant, mundane.

I can say I want to write.

I can say I want to create.

I can say whatever I want.

So quit just wanting. Quite just saying.

You want to be a runner… RUN.

You want to be a singer… SING.

You want to be whatever… so do whatever that is.

The DIFFERENCE is in the DISCIPLINE to actually DO.

I want to be a writer… so I’m going to WRITE. That’s what writers DO.

I Need Wednesday Nights

You will not find the warrior, the poe

Last Fall I made a decision to have our Wednesday night Men’s Class meet in my office. As offices go, I’ve got a really great space. It is big. I’ve got a couch, glass panels that serve as dry erase boards. and a couple of FLÜRNGS (funny Swedish sound I call my IKEA chairs). The space can easily hold about 10-12 guys comfortably.

I was tired of having a conversation with a handful of guys stretched out across from one another in auditorium. Proximity leads to familiarity. You can’t get to know one another, trust one another, and do life with one another if you aren’t physically present with one another. Now, there is a different atmosphere and conversation happening during our times together.

This semester we are diving deep into this passage of God’s Word:

1 Corinthians 16:13–14 ESV
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

To act like men, God calls us to live out these 4 actions:

Be Watchful
Be Faithful
Be Strong
Be Loving

I need other men to help me do these things – personally, in my family, and professionally. I don’t know about you but I’m not content to just sit across the room from other guys and just stare at one another.

I’m looking for men that I can…
Fight Beside…
Read With…
Argue With…
Pray With…

Wednesday night classes can be a pain in the butt, I know. We are all busy, we’ve had a long day, and we probably have more work to do once we get home. However, Wednesday nights can be formative.

Wednesday nights can be an opportunity to grow in your relationships – with God, our friends, and other men who need Jesus as much as you do. Wednesday nights help us fulfill our responsibilities to one another. I don’t know what you’ve got on your plate or what might be holding you back from being with your Brothers in Christ tonight.

Don’t give in.

Get to church. Be present and engaged. Pray. Leave equipped to ACT LIKE A MAN… in the name of Jesus Christ.

See you tonight, brother.

Parents, It is YOUR iPhone

Ok parents,

It’s Christmas afternoon. The living room is still a disaster. It looks like Hallmark threw up with tinsel, ribbons, boxes, and wrapping paper strewn all over the place. You’ve been sitting on the couch basking in that “I’M THE BEST PARENT EVER” glow, patting yourself on the back for getting your kid the thing every kid wants… A new iPhone!

They’ve deserved it. They made good decisions this semester. They were good to their little brother, brought home decent grades, and you’ve really gone back and forth with pulling the trigger on finally getting them their own iPhone. Good on you.

Except one thing… it isn’t their iPhone.

You’re Mom. You’re Dad. It is YOUR iPhone that YOU are allowing them to use. Your responsibility to them didn’t end when they flashed you that smile, hugged you tight, and put in those white earbuds and ran upstairs to set it up.

An iPhone (or any smartphone/iDevice) is a powerful tool and a huge responsibility – for both your child and for you.

Do you know how it works?

Do you know what content they have access too?

Which apps they are loading on to it, right now? 

Will you keep tabs on what they are viewing, listening to, and sharing with their friends?

If it is primarily for music (an iTouch), how much access do you want them to have online?

Have you given them some expectations, limits, or guidelines?

You are the parent. You are ridiculously in charge! Don’t make excuses like, “I don’t do technology.” & “I don’t want to cramp their privacy.”

If you don’t show them how to use it properly – with wisdom, discretion, and responsibility – I promise you, someone else will show them how to use it any which way but loose.

So, check out the articles that I’ve linked below and get familiar with the amazing, powerful, potentially great, potentially dangerous device you just handed your pre-teen.

Sit them down and work with them on setting it up, laying expectations out, and, if YOU decide, enable restrictions and forbid certain content from being installed or viewed.

It could get a little uncomfortable for you. Warning: You will sound like your own parents at some point during this discussion. It. Will. Be. OK. I promise.

You’re the parent. It isn’t their iPhone. It is YOURS.

You call the shots. You are ridiculously in charge.

Apple’s Built in Parental Controls

Parental Controls in 2min Video

Keep Your Child Safe on the iPod Touch

Beginner’s Guide to iTunes

The Complete Guide to Transferring your Content to a new iPod touch

To My 13-Year-Old, An iPhone Contract From Your Mom, With Love

Example of a Social Media Contract

Grateful Thinking

Good afternoon!

I hope you are having a fantastic Labor Day. I took the opportunity to sleep in and catch up on some rest this morning which has made for a fantastic day. I hope that you have been able to rest and connect with family, friends, and yourself in a way that has rejuvenated you and prepared you for the week ahead.

I want to take a few moments to encourage you on this Monday with our first installment of Mojo Monday.

TODAY.

Monday’s are a mixed bag in ministry. Depending on how your message went on Sunday or how your class went or what that little old lady said to you yesterday, Monday’s can be a day to look forward to or a day to review your resume and peruse the job boards.

Mondays don’t have to be this way. In fact, no day in ministry has to be this way.

I’m human just like you. I deal with frustrations, anxieties, depression, and emotional funks. When we get caught in these negative feelings and emotions the first thing we tend to lose is our perspective on reality. It is easy to believe the worst about any given situation and about yourself. I believe The Enemy’s best tactic to destroy you is to make you ineffective. When you get caught up in the Sads, the Mopes, and the Blahs they render you ineffective and keep you from experiencing all that God has in store for you and your life, family, ministry, and legacy.

Mojo Monday is about giving you hope and encouragement for TODAY.

Earlier this summer, I started to incorporate the Examen Prayer of St. Ignatius into my daily prayer and study. The Examen is a prayer technique that helps you reflect on your day and invites you to attend to the events, moments, and ways that God was present with you and guiding you. What I have found is that when I reflect with thankfulness and gratitude on the love and grace that has been lavished upon me by God in my life and ministry, my attitude changes.

My disappointments of the past lose their power.
My frustrations about the present fade away.
My anxiety about the future dissipates.

Essentially, there are 5 movements to the Examen and over the next few Mondays I am going to focus on each of these steps.

If you are struggling right now to find hope, joy, grace, and purpose in your life and ministry this first movement of the Examen could radically alter the way you see God, yourself, and your ministry forever.

The first step of the Examen is to Be Grateful.

Gratefulness is a powerful thing. Studies have shown that the pathways of our brains can be completely rewired when we think negatively or positively. In fact, neurologists believe that these pathways can become “hardwired in” depending on which thought patterns we feed. Think negatively all the time and your brain literally can become toxic. However, think positively and the opposite can happen: your brain and thoughts become more healthy.

When I’m talking about Positive Thinking I’m not talking about a new-agey-think-positive-vibes-eat-kale-hug-unicorns-and-all-will-be-right-with-the-world attitude.

I’m talking Word of God Truth here.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Philippians 4:8 reminds us to constantly and constantly think on the things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. The NLT encourages us to “fix our thoughts” on these things.

So here’s how to use the first step in the Examen prayer to take captive your negative thoughts and focus your mind on the thoughts God would have you focus on.

1) Start With The Master Prayer
Each morning and each night I begin my prayer and study time with The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus didn’t give his disciples a formula on how to preach the perfect sermon or give them 5 Steps to Walking on Water but he did teach them how to pray. Praying The Lord’s Prayer helps me center and focus my prayer time and puts my heart and my mind in the right pace.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

2) Reflect On Your Day
If this is first thing in the morning, you can reflect on the day before. If this is at night, allow the events of the day to pass through your mind. Review the day with openness and a heart of gratitude. Think about times when God was present. Did you respond in these moments? Did you ignore His presence at any point?

3) Be Grateful for God’s Blessings in Your Life
Express true and genuine gratefulness for everything God has done in your life today. I topically break up what I’m grateful for into 2 categories:

WHO am I grateful for?
These are the people and the relationships that I am thankful for. No matter what is going on around you or how you are feeling at any given moment, I am sure that you can think of at least one person or relationship that you are grateful for.

WHAT am I grateful for?
These are the things, situations, and spiritual truths that I am grateful for. Sometimes, a particular stressful event or time has going on in my day or week. When focusing on the things I am grateful for I often say, “I am grateful that that conversation ended?” or “Thank you that this situation is over…even just for today.” Saying, “God, thank you that today is done and help me tomorrow.” is a way of expressing thankfulness and giving control back over to God.

As I said before a posture of Gratefulness can help us turn around a bad attitude, rewire our brains, focus our thoughts on Christ, and put us on a pathway to spiritual and emotional health. 

Before you close your eyes tonight, spend 5-10 minutes truly expressing what it is that your are grateful for today. If you do that, the disappointments of yesterday and the anxiety about tomorrow will begin to lose control of your heart and your mind so that you can experience joy even in the midst of a difficult season or situation.

Until next time, keep Kicking at the Darkness and remember: The Goal is Soul.

Peace!

Exit Questions to Ask yourself:
What do I have to be grateful for today?

How much do I take for granted?

Is there anything specifically that has made me ungrateful, dissatisfied, frustrated?

In general, am I becoming a more grateful and contented person?

Strategy Sunday

PAUSE.PURPOSE.PLANS.PEOPLE

Welcome to Kicking at the Darkness!

This blog is for those of you who are in the leadership trenches of serving in a local church. You could be a full-time pastor, a part-time children’s director, or volunteer youth minister. It doesn’t matter what your title is or how many hours you work each week. If you love God and have desire or calling to serve Jesus and His people, than I hope you will find community and encouragement here.

Today is Sunday.

You probably taught a class, led worship, preached a message, or served within you ministry area today. I’m in the middle of a sermon series focusing on the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. My message for us today centered around Jesus’ invitation for us to ask God to give us “our daily bread.” I also taught our Adult Bible class this morning as well. Oh, and I opened up the building before everything got started. I usually lock the building down but, a handful of people were around after service so they locked up for me today (very, very grateful to them) so that I could grab lunch with a family.

We had a great service today… even though it was a holiday weekend and we were missing a few regular faces.

So here is where my message on focusing just on today gets in the way of serving in the local church…

Today is Sunday… and another Sunday is coming.

The relentless onslaught of the coming weekend is always before us. It undercuts our ability to evaluate and improve week to week and it also robs us of finding joy in the moment.

Tomorrow, I want to blog a bit about how we can focus on TODAY each and every day but right now I want to talk about a strategy that you can use each Sunday night to connect with what you did today and plan your coming week.

I call this my Sunday Night Strategy Session. Each Sunday night, i go through this process to help me tie up any loose ends from the week before and prepare for the week ahead.

1) Pause
This is absolutely critical for your soul and your leadership. Before you begin mapping out and planning the week to come, take a few moments to pause and reflect on the week that was.

Ask yourself the following questions about last week:
What went well?
What didn’t go well or go as planned?
How can I improve next week?
What help do I need to get to the next level?

2) Purpose
Reminding yourself the reasons that you do what you do does 2 things. First, connecting my purpose is like a big vitamin B12 shot right to my heart. When I am reminded of why I am in full-time ministry and my calling to go and make disciples I get pretty amped up. Secondly, when my purpose is always in front of me, I can make decisions based on long-term vision and trajectory instead of making decisions in the heat of the moment. Purpose helps me say “Yes” to what I need to and “No” to everything else.

3) Plans
Here is where the To-Do lists, calendars, Moleskines, post-its, and everything else come into play. I use a combination of old school paper and new fangled tech. However, what’s on paper gets put in the tech and what’s digital gets put on paper. I don’t have a paper calendar with somethings and my tech calendar with another set of dates and information. One calendar, many locations.

4) People
Finally I ask, “Who do I need to connect with this week?” As a pastor, the lifeblood of ministry is people. Connecting with people is a priority for me and my ministry and by having a set time each week to think through this area I can be more strategic and intentional with the time I do have to connect with others.

So here’s is tonight’s challenge: Get Strategic. Pause and reflect. Remember your Purpose. Layout your Plans. Make room for People. I’ll talk to you tommorow to see how you did.

Exit Question: How do you plan for the week ahead?

Time Has Come Today

Last night I listened to a short message from Dr. Tom Long, author of The Witness of Preaching and Bandy Professor of Preaching, Emeritus at Emory University, entitled, “It’s About Time.” The message is based on John 11:1-44:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.(This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

 

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

 

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

 

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

 

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

 

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

 

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus ) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

 

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.“Where have you laid him?” he asked.

 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

 

Jesus wept.

 

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.“Take away the stone,” he said.

 

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

 

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

 

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

 

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

You can watch Dr. Long below:

 

What I love about this little sermon is that Dr. Long masterfully weaves the story of Mary and Martha’s emotional reaction to Jesus’ intentional delay in saving Lazarus from death with personal and historical stories of how God shows up at just the right time, every time.

Long kept returning to two powerful thoughts over and over throughout his message.

First, Long brilliantly points out that our view of who is running out of time is skewed. It isn’t Life, Justice, or Hope that is out of time. Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus proclaims that it is “Death… Injustice…Despair” that is running out of time. Isn’t this the promise of the Kingdom of God? God’s rule is breaking into the here and the now. While Death, Injustice, and Despair may be among the ruling class, their kingdoms are breaking apart from within. Their death certificates have already been printed and their time is truly running out!

The second phrase that Dr. Long uses to great effect is that while our culture may participate in and get bent out of shape because of what he calls “atheistic anxiety,” Jesus Christ is the Lord of Time itself. As I am learning in my own life, the fundamental theological truth of anxiety is that our fearfulness is misplaced and out of sorts with what we proclaim that we believe. Anxiety is rooted in the fear of man and what man can do to us. When we give into anxiety and fear concerning a human government, a tyrannical boss, a gossipy-busy body at church we are, in essence, proclaiming that these things are more powerful than Almighty God. We deny His power, His control, His love, and His care for us.

John 11 says to us all… Jesus, the Lord of Time, the Beginning and End, has enough power to raise someone from the dead. Surly, He strong enough to overcome any enemy that you are currently facing.

Dr. Long’s entire message is a great reminder that the Kingdom of God, established by Christ Jesus, is breaking in the here and now and we will experience it in full when Christ returns and there will be no more time.

12 Things To Pray Over Your Kids

Today is a BIG DAY as our kids and teens start a brand new school year.  At the beginning of our worship service yesterday, I shared a handful of things that I am specifically praying over our kids this year and I invited our church to join me in praying everyday for our kids, families, teachers, and coaches. My hope is that this list will help you begin a prayer habit in your life and serve as a great starting place for you to pray with and for your kids this year.

God uses the number 12 over 180 times in scripture to signify holiness, completeness, and authority. Thinking of this, I wrote up a list in my journal of 12 areas of love and concern that I am entrusting God with when it comes to our kids and the 2015-2016 school year.

1) Strength – How you begin helps determine how you finish. My prayer is that our kids will begin this new year strong and that God will give them strength to endure through next May.

2) Boldness – In Acts 4, Peter and John were released from prison with the strict warning  from the Jewish and Roman authorities not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus at all. In a culture that encourages Christians to keep faith private, the early church’s prayer for boldness is a great reminder and challenge for us all. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29)

3) Protection -  “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:11–12)

4) Peace – The school year can awaken all kinds of anxieties. Let us pray that anxiety will not rule in the hearts of our kids and teens.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

5) Rest – As the school year goes on, let’s pray that in the midst of busy schedules, tests, events, and games that our kids will find time to pause, find margin, and experience real, lasting, life-giving rest. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:9–11)

6) Growth – Our kids will grow in every way imaginable – mentally, physically, relationally, emotionally, spiritually. My prayer is that they will experience the same growth that Jesus experienced as he grew up. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)

7) Success – Success isn’t measured by a A on a test or GPA score. Success, for the Christian, is doing the will of God in all things. Romans 12:2 tells us that as we renew our minds so that we will have the mind of Christ, we come to understand, pursue, and be transformed. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

8) Relationships - Friends will determine the direction and quality of our lives. Share Proverbs 13:20 and challenge your kids to “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

9, 10, & 11) Parents, Teachers, and Coaches/Directors – To His disciples, Jesus was the perfect embodiment of a loving parent, a committed teacher, and a challenging coach. The men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving our kids desperately need our prayers. Let’s commit to praying for the adults in our kids lives consistently and intentionally. “I thank my God every time I remember you.In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3–6)

12) Worth - One of the greatest thing that I am praying over our kids is that they will see that their worth doesn’t come a grade on a test, an achievement on the field, or the number of awards the receive. We are loved by our Holy, Heavenly Father and find our worth in Him and Him alone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

The Goal Is Soul