Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What’s The Password

Let me say this upfront if you have been redirected back to this blog post: I’m Sorry. My intentions is not to offend you, hurt your feelings, or make you angry at me. Maybe you saw the link and clicked on it, or are a regular reader. Please understand, I am not trying to offend you. But there is a problem. It creeps its ugly head up around this time of year. It is the “Merry Christmas” uproar.
I know, I know, what am I saying?!? This is what I am saying: why are we making a big deal about this? While I cannot prove this, I would not be surprised if many American Christians believe the following fictitious account:
When a person dies, they are immediately transported to the gate of heaven. There, some historical religious person (like Paul, Peter, or maybe Gabriel or another angel) waits to either let people in or keep them out. 
As you walk to the door, you knock two times and a little hinged door opens up and the voice inside asks, “What’s the password to let you in to heaven?” You excitedly and emphatically answer, “Merry Christmas!” The door then swings wide open, and you enter in to heaven as  countless others stand sulking on the outside saying, “Why did I say Happy Holidays?!?”
It always amazes me as to all the people who get so bent out of shape when some department store decides to hang a banner that read Happy Holidays and not Merry Christmas. It is as if some people think that Jesus was speaking to Target, Wal-Mart, etc. and not the church when He said, “Go ye therefore into all nations…” These stores are not in the business of spreading the Gospel, they are in the business of making money. That is what they base their decision on. Christians, on the other hand, SHOULD be about the business of spreading the Gospel into all nations.
So, am I saying that you should not say “Merry Christmas”? NO. I always using the phrase because that is what I am celebrating. Here is my point: instead of getting mad at a store for taking “Christ out of Christmas,” lets get upset with ourselves for thinking it is someone else’s responsibility to do what God has commanded us to do.
So now, when I see the phrase “Happy Holidays,” it is a reminder to me about my responsibility to spread the Gospel. How about you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kindle eBook Review: Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence By Gordon MacDonald

Going DeepABOUT THE BOOK: The future of the Christian faith will not be determined by the number of people who fill the pews but by the spiritual depth of those people. Pastor Gordon MacDonald revisits the fictional New England congregation of his critically acclaimed book Who Stole My Church to deal with a new dilemma: What's his church's story? What is it doing that justifies its existence? The importance of these questions is anything but fiction.Through a series of e-mails and discussions with friends and parishioners, Pastor Gordon's search for their story leads him to realize that the future of the Christian faith, and thus the church, is at risk. As MacDonald says, "We seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings. We even seem to know how to draw them across the line into a declaration of personal faith in Jesus. But what we do not seem to know is how to cultivate spiritually deep people. Tomorrow's church could be headed for trouble." Deep people. People who possess spiritual awareness and maturity, people with solid, grounded, life-altering faith. MacDonald shows that the church needs people with a passion for God's presence and a desperate hunger to seek him above all things.
MY THOUGHTS: I was really interested and excited to get this book and dive right into it because I had already read his first book Who Stole My Church and really enjoyed it. Just like his first book, this is a fictitious story and you need to know that going in to it. And just like the first book, I found myself a couple of times saying, “That only works in ‘fiction land’ and probably would not happen like that or come together like that in real life.” Some of the issues, and the blend of temperaments of the people in his group, were just a little too perfect to be reality, in my opinion. But, that still did not take away from my enjoyment and encouragement from this book. 

There are many issues that this book brings to light, and many things that I personally have been dealing with lately here in my ministry. We seem to be in the midst of a “low commitment” Christianity, and therefore are not training up any committed followers for the next generation. When you study the life of Jesus, while many times He taught the masses, much of His time was directed toward the training of the twelve. Yet, how often do we spend a good portion of our time not only discipling, but specifically training small groups on how to take the spiritual lead? I know I have been challenged and encouraged to spend more time and effort with a smaller group of believers who show the characteristics of committed believers who could be used for leadership in the near future.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Though I know some will not care for the fictitious style of the book and immediately scoff at it, this really was a great book for me, and it has really moved me and motivated me to cultivate some “deep” Christians in our church. I would highly recommend this to any pastor or Christian in a position of leadership and influence. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <[...]> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kindle Book Review: Sunday School in HD: Sharpening the Focus on What Makes Your Church Healthy by Allan Taylor

Sunday School in HD
BACKGROUND: Ministry professional Allan Taylor writes to all church leaders about the crucial role that Sunday School must play in producing healthy Christians who in turn produce healthy churches. He emphasizes the value of the Sunday School model to the total church ministry for its superior ability to nurture relationships and more personally stir passion for the Great Commission across every age group.

Taylor presents the sharply focused idea that all Sunday School programs are either imploding (through directionless ineffectiveness) or exploding (thanks to visionary leadership and practicing some fundamental disciplines). As such, he guides the reader toward growth principles that must be operative for any church to begin or continue a transformational Sunday School boom.

MY TAKE: Our church has really been struggling with our Sunday School department recently. So much so, I had begun the process of stepping back and evaluating its effectiveness and whether or not we needed to continue with it. As I was praying and evaluating, I came across a Twitter recommendation for this book and decided to give it a read – and I am glad I did! There is so much good and helpful information packed within this book. While I realize that much of it may not be “new,” it is all very helpful and practical. He covers the issue or Sunday School importance, purpose, and leadership, among other things.

MY RECOMMENDATION: This is a very good and helpful book for anyone to read who is involved in Sunday School ministry, or who plans to be one day. I feel so strongly about this book, I will probably be purchasing one for all of our Sunday School workers - I learned not to call them volunteers in the book, read it for yourself to find out why Winking smile.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kindle Book Review: Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by Arthur W. Pink

ABOUT THE BOOK: The words Christ spoke from the cross can inform Christians of the purpose, the meaning, the sufferings, and the sufficiency of his death. After an introduction that discusses the nature of Christ's death as natural, unnatural, preternatural, and supernatural, Dr. Arthur W. Pink clearly illustrates the lessons that can be drawn from Christ's words-lessons on forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering, victory, and contentment. This comprehensive and accessible volume is useful for both sermon preparation and personal study.

MY TAKE: I recently felt led to preach through the seven different cries from the Cross and used this as a basis of my study, and I was not disappointed. Pink is very thorough in his coverage of the differetn statements made by Jesus while on the cross, and he also does a good job in pointing the read to the practical applications of what Jesus says. Pink also does an excellent job in going back to the Old Testament to point the read to the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus.

MY RECOMMENDATION: This would be an excellent book for any Christian, and especially any preacher or pastor. I would recommend the Kindle version as well. Sometimes I have found that older books are a little “choppy” when transferred to the Kindle, but that is not the case with this one.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal…or Why I Was Way Too Into This Last World Series

word series 2011
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

While I must admit that I do not know much about this poem listed above, I have always heard the phrase, “Hope springs eternal.” Usually, it is around the time of Spring Training when fans of baseball look forward to the upcoming season. Rangers - Logo old For 25+ years, there never was too much hope for the team I rooted for – the Texas Rangers. But this season was a little different. They had just made their first ever World Series the year before, and even though they lost their best starting pitcher and a couple of other players, there was still some hope. Then the improbable happened – they made it back. Not only did they make it, but they actually were doing so well that many thought of them as the favorite to win their first ever World Series title.

I will admit up front that I have never really been into watching a full, nine inning baseball game on t.v. (always enjoyed watching it in person, though), but I really got swept up in the excitement of the World Series. I am sure that many who follow me on Twitter and Facebook observed this phenomenon, as I DEFINITELY over tweeted during the last two games. To come so close twice in game six and not win was probably one of the greatest and most excruciating roller coaster rides I have been on as a sports fan.

Sports will do that to you. Well, actually, anything you become heavily invested in will do that to you. Hope makes us freese game 6more involved, more passionate, more vocal, and more invested. And we do so not knowing how it will all end. I always thought that the Rangers would win game six all the way up till David Freese hit his homerun in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Yet, we often do not get that involved, passionate, vocal, or invested in the things of God. I know this may be a bit of a cheesy statement to make, but maybe it is just my way of justifying my temporary obsession with the World SeriesSarcastic smile. Does this mean that we should not be passionate about anything else other than the Lord. I know some that feel that way, but I don’t feel that is the truth to take away. To me, it is a reminder of how hope motivates us to step outside of our “normal” self and say and do things that we would no longer do. And when it comes to hope, we have the greatest hope available:
Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Because of the eternal hope that fills our hearts and mind, we can and should openly rejoice and share our hope to those without any…like Houston Astros fans Winking smile.

Is there anything that you found yourself becoming heavily involved and passionate about?
What are ways that we can become this passionate about our faith?