Thursday, December 20, 2007

Life is Coffee

A friend recently sent me this story. I liked it so much that I asked him if I could post it. It reminded me of how easy it is to get caught up in the pursuit of the "bigger and better", thinking that the more I have the happier I'll be. This Christmas st0p before you open your presents and thank God for the life you already have as well as everything you're getting.

"A group of alumni, all highly established in their respective careers, got together for a visit with their old unversity professor. The conversation soon turned to complaints about the endless stress of work and life in general. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went into the kitchen and soon returned with a large pot of coffee and an eclectic assortment of cups: porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal - some plain, some expensive, some quite exquisite.

Quietly he told them to help themselves to some fresh coffee. When each of his former students had a cup of coffee in hand, the old professor quietly cleared his throat and began to patiently address the small gathering. "You may have noticed that all of the nicer looking cups were taken up first, leaving behind the plainer and cheaper ones.

While it is only natural for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is actually the source of much of your stress-related problems." He continued, "Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In fact, the cup merely disguises or dresses up what we drink. What each of you really wanted was coffee, not a cup, but you instinctively went for the best cups. Then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is coffee. Jobs, money, and position in society are merely cups. They are just tools to shape and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not truly define nor change the quality of the life we live. Often, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee that God has provided us. God brews the coffee, but he does not supply the cups. Enjoy your coffee!"

The happiest people don't have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have. So please remember: Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest to God. And remember - the richest person is not the one who has the most, but the one who needs the least." This Christmas, I'm thankful for everything I already have, including my friends and family who add all the flavor to my "coffee."

Merry Christmas!!

Marks of a Healthy Church. . .continued

Besides being a place that glorifies God, is Bible-based and Christ-centered, is led by accountable servant leaders, helps people grow, exudes warmth, reaches out to others, and has a contagious style, Rick Duncan of Cugahoga Valley Church in suburban Cleveland gives one more mark of a healthy that he hopes will be part of their new church plant.

A healthy church reproduces itself

In nature, all healthy organisms reproduce themselves. That's true in a family and should be true in the church. Jesus command to, "go and make disciples of all nations, . . ." Matthew 28:19 is actually a command to plant churches. (Neil Cole, The Organic Church) Cuyahoga Valley Church was started twenty years ago as a church plant sponsored by a church in Dayton, Ohio with missions as a part of its DNA. It is that same DNA that CVC is seeking to pass on to Church of the Hills.

Ask yourself, “Does this church care about building the Kingdom of God beyond its own direct ministry? Does the church have a plan to reproduce itself? Are mission dollars being set aside to be used for evangelism that results in the establishment of new churches?”

What do you think? Are there any other marks of a healthy church? How healthy is your church? What can you do to make it healthier?

Journey Church won't be perfect but I hope in the end that we will have as our goal to be a church that glorifies God, is Bible-based and Christ-centered, is led by accountable servant leaders, helps people grow, exudes warmth, reaches out to others, and has a contagious style, and reproduces itself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Marks of a Healthy Church

Recently I read that Cuyahoga Valley Church in south suburban Cleveland, Ohio is getting ready to launch a new church in the spring of 2008 called Church of the Hills. Rick Duncan who serves as lead pastor and teacher at CVC says, “we anticipate questions about the kind of church we are seeking to start."

As a church planter people have already asked me what kind of church Journey Church is going to be. Is it going to be contemporary or traditional? Seeker driven or for the saints? Topical or expositional? Will it appeal to baby boomers or busters? Etc. . .

Rather than define the church in these terms Rick suggests you look for a church that is first God-honoring and healthy. To help he gives six signs of a healthy church that I hope will in the end be true of Journey Church. Read them and let me know what you think. Also to learn more about Cuyahoga Valley Church and their church plant check out Pastor Rick’s blog at joy@heart.

A healthy church glorifies God

Scripture says, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31b). To glorify God means to draw attention to His greatness. The local church is the focal point of God's plan for displaying His glory to the nations. This is the primary purpose of the church and of individual Christians.

Ask yourself, “Do I sense that the leaders of this church really are seeking to glorify God? Or are they somehow wanting to get attention for themselves? Is the worship of God in spirit and in truth a top priority for this church?”

A healthy church is Bible-based and Christ-centered

The early church emphasized Christ-centered biblical teaching. Teaching should explain what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the people. Solid, consistent teaching from God’s Word helps us grow to be like Jesus in several ways. It matures and stabilizes our faith in times of testing. It increases our ability to detect and confront error. It gives us wisdom. Solid teaching should also be coupled with compassionate application. A Bible-based church produces people who are not just hearers of the word, but also doers who live like Christ and who have a commitment to know God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Ask yourself, “Do I see the leaders of this church challenging people to learn the Word of God and to live out the Word of God in practical ways? Are they giving people practical opportunities to apply the Word – to love the Lord, serve each other, and be a blessing to the world?”

A healthy church is led by accountable servant leaders

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:43). In a healthy church, the staff and leaders should serve in a context of loving, supportive accountability to God and each other. Since the best predictor of future performance is past behavior, it’s important to find others who have already served on a team with the leaders and to ask them questions about the leaders’ approach to ministry.

Ask yourself, “Do the leaders of this church have good track records as servant leaders? Does the structure of the church insure that the leaders are accountable spiritually and financially? Do I sense that the leaders are passionate about serving others rather than being served?”

A healthy church helps people grow

God gives leaders to the church to prepare God’s people for works of service so they will “grow up in every way” (Ephesians 4:15). Healthy churches provide various tools and so people in differing stages of the Christian life can grow. New believers, maturing Christians, as well as passionate followers all find positive encouragement to keep growing in Christ.

Ask yourself, “Does the church have a passion for helping people grow to spiritual maturity? Do the people sense that their leaders are growing in their walk with Christ? Are personal spiritual growth plans encouraged?”

A healthy church exudes warmth

Not only was the early church caught up in worship, individual devotion to the Lord, and instruction from the Word, but “they were continually devoting themselves… to fellowship” (Acts 2:42). They cared for one another. Members of the church should reflect a true commitment to the life of the church through attendance, giving, prayer and service. The leaders must be concerned not only with growing numbers, but with growing members.

Ask yourself, “Do the leaders of this church encourage people to be in authentic community with one another? Do the leaders and people in this church really care about each other? Do they have a plan to help attenders get connected with others believers? Are the leaders themselves connected to others in their church body?”

A healthy church reaches out to others

First-century Christians took their concern a step further and shared what they knew about Jesus with others. When they ventured beyond their walls, lives were changed: “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). A healthy church helps people appropriately express their faith where they live or work.

Ask yourself, “Does this church have a genuine passion to fulfill the Great Commission? Do the leaders and people care about making more and better disciples? Will I be challenged to reach my circle of influence for Christ? Is compassionate service to others in need a part of the ministry of this church and is it exemplified?”

A healthy church has a contagious style

Like a magnet, a church with a contagious style draws people to its doors. Four features comprise this style: 1) It is biblical in content. Messages are based on the Word of God, not on the opinions or interest of the leaders. 2) It is authentic in nature. This is a church that believes what it says. 3) It is gracious in attitude. The church sees itself as a family, not as a corporation. 4) It is relevant in approach. This church shows how God’s Word applies to today’s needs, issues, and concerns.

Ask yourself, “Do the people of this church freely invite others into the church family and fellowship? Would I want to invite my friends, neighbors, and co-workers to visit my church and to join our fellowship?”

Whether you are a new or long time follower of Christ or just someone on the journey to finding out who Christ is I hope you will consider Journey Church. Journey Church won’t be a place for perfect people. It will hopefully be a place that glorifies God, is Bible-based and Christ-centered, is led by accountable servant leaders, helps people grow, exudes warmth, reaches out to others, and has a contagious style.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter Wonderland

Well I hope you survived the weekend. Like usual the weather wasn’t as bad as everyone was predicting. However Saturday was a little crazy. We went to Mount Vernon for my brother Darrel’s graduation from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. It started to snow during the ceremony and by the time it was over the roads were a mess. It took us two and a half hours to get home, but it was a beautiful snow.

My tendency however wasn’t to enjoy the snow but to worry and complain about it. On the other hand my brother’s son knew exactly what to do, he made snow balls and threw them. He wanted to throw them at me but I convinced him to throw them at my car instead.

If we’re not careful something happens when we grow up. We lose the wonder of things. I don’t’ want to lose the wonder of winter nor of His creation. Neither do I want to lose the wonder of Christmas and Christ’s birth. Mary didn’t want to lose the wonder of Christmas either and so even while the shepherds were still worshipping at the manger, we’re told that “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:18.

When is the last time you pondered anything? The word ponder means to consider, converse, and consult (Strong’s) Mary was thinking to herself, in her heart, what was going on that night as well the significance of everything that had happened up to this point and everything that might happen in the future.

Though she could have been tempted to worry or even complain about the long hard trip, the unpleasant lodging, and the uncertain future she didn’t. Instead she saw that night as a Winter Wonderland.

Maybe it's a stretch but next time it snows do yourself a favor, and ponder the wonder of the snowfall. Better yet make a snowball and throw it at. . .your car.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Myths of the Magi, Truth or Tradition

Few Biblical stories are as well known, yet so clouded by myth and tradition, as that of the magi, or wise men, mentioned by Matthew. Enjoy this classic video from the Claymation Christmas then see if you're as wise as you think by answering the following true or false statements about the wise men.

1. There were three Wise Men

False. It’s a legend that came out of middle ages in which it was assumed that since there were three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, there must have been three wise men. Truth is it was probably more of an entourage of wise men and their servants. Some scholars suggest there may have been as many as 14.

2. They were Kings.

False. This is another myth that came out of the middle ages. They were not kings but more likely an order of priests and philosophers which came originally from Persia or present day countries of Iran and Afghanistan.

3. They were from the East (ie Far East)

False. The “east” was that region just beyond the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This would be the area of ancient Persia- today, the countries of Iran and Afghanistan.

4. Their names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

False. This is purely traditional.

5. They were astrologers who followed an astronomical comet or nova to Bethlehem.

False. Arnold Fruchtenbaum comes to the conclusion that the star was no regular astral body; “That this is no ordinary star is evident by the actions that this satr too. For one thing, the star led them from the east to the west; secondly it led them from the north to the south; thirdly, the star stood over the very house where Jesus was; and fourthly, it was “his” star in a sense that is not true of any other star” (the footsteps of the Messiah, 422) One other thing is to note that it appeared and disappeared, and then appeared again, hardly characteristic of a star. Thus “his star” is probably a reference not to a literal star but something more like the Glory of God, which appeared. . .

•to Abraham in Genesis 14:12-18, sealing the covenant.
•Later it appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-5).
•It led the Israelites in the form of a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
•It appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:5-9, descended on the tabernacle (Ex. 29) and
•later filled the Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-13).

6. They visited the baby in the stable

False. These magi did not arrive until possibly almost two years after Christ's birth, certainly sometime after his presentation in the Temple Luke 2:22-39. Matthew says instead that they came not to a stable but to a house and saw not a newborn babe but a child Matthew 2:10 (Immediately after the visit of the magi, Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt, where they probably stayed till after Herod’s death in 4 B.C.)

Journey to Jesus

Last Saturday was a celebration of two birthdays, the celebration of Jesus' birth and the birth of Journey Church. It was an evening like nothing I, or any one else, could ever have imagined. I am so grateful to God and those who took the time to be with us.

The theme of the night was "Journey to Jesus". We looked at the wise men and discovered that they traveled the farthest to come to Jesus. We learned six principles from their journey to Jesus.

(1) Follow the light as far as it shines.

(2) It's ok to stop and ask for directions.

(3) Sometimes you have to journey alone.

(4) Rejoice on the journey.

(5) Worship once you get there and

(6) Journey on in obedience to the Word of God.

Life is more than a destination, it is journey. Jesus called us to "follow him." Journey Church is not just about helping you find Jesus but journeying on in obedience to Him.

Journey Church's inaugural worship service will be Sunday, January 6th @ 4:30 p.m. at the Dublin Recreation Center, 5600 Post Road, Dublin Ohio. Please, feel free to come early and enjoy a cup of coffee as well as a few moments of conversation before we sit down (or stand up) for worship.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today is the birthday of Journey Church, or at least it is the day of our preview service. It feels a lot like the day we had our first baby boy. I was excited and nervous. Little did I realize how our life would change. I suppose if I did I might have thought twice about it but it seemed like the “right” thing to do. After all God’s Word is clear that we are to be “fruitful and multiply.” Besides we were having so much fun as a married couple serving in our first ministry, that we wanted share it with someone and thought that having a family would give us a chance to do that.

What I didn’t know is how much I would learn by being a parent, and just how much God would use it to change me. I knew I was going to get to teach my son a lot of things and was looking forward to that, but little did I know that having a son was the very thing God was going to use to teach me a thing or two. Now four children later I am so thankful for every one of them, as well as our daughter-in-laws, for what they have taught and are continuing to teach me.

Now as I think about giving birth today to a church, I think there is nothing more exciting that I can give my life to. After all God’s Word is clear that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:18. Some think this is a direct reference to not just saving souls but planting churches, (ie Neil Cole, Organic Churches)

So, like a married couple, giving birth to a child there is nothing more natural for a follower of Christ than to give birth to a church. After all following Christ is so much fun, why not look for a way to share it with others. That’s what we are trying to do by giving birth to Journey Church today. First, to be obedient to God’s word and second, to share the joy of knowing Christ with others.

But I am still nervous. I’m nervous because we’ve never done this before. And just like parenting you have no idea what you are getting yourself in for. Yet you know it’s what God has called you to, and so you do it, trusting that in the end he will give you the wisdom, the strength and the encouragement you need to do it.

So we are having a baby and I thank God not only for getting to be the pastor of Journey Church but for all that he is going to teach me alone the way.

P.S. No that's not an actual picture of any of our "boys" but it could have been!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Celebrate Christmas Debt Free

Now you can celebrate Christmas and be debt free too, just follow these simple money principles. Move over Dave Ramsey! It will make a great Christmas present too. Maybe you can charge it?!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't Waste Your Life

Does it ever seem like you just wasted your day? Or maybe your life? Well, yesterday was one of those days for me. I didn't feel like I wasted my life but I did feel like I wasted my day. I only had two things I wanted to accomplish and I didn’t get either one of them done. Instead all I got done was getting a haircut, a little bit of shopping and going out to eat. What I realize today is that I didn’t waste my time. I got done what God wanted me to do. Apparently my agenda is not always God’s agenda.

First on God’s agenda was to spend time in his word and pray. I did, but it felt like a waste of time because I didn’t get done what I wanted to get done. Ed Stezer in his book Planting Missional Churches says that “church planters are not particularly prayerful people.” (p. 97) That’s interesting because you would think that if anyone was prayerful it would be church planters. After all what else do they have to do?! Yet as a church planter I was convicted again last week in our study of Acts that God is calling me to give my attention first to prayer and the ministry of the word. Acts 6:4

Second on God’s agenda is people. I learned that when on my way to the barber I made a “bargain” with God. I said if the barber brings it up, I’ll share Christ with him. Well wouldn’t you know it, the very first words out of his mouth were, “is this your day off?” I think the fact that I had jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie on was his first clue. Anyway I said, "I’m sort of between jobs" and proceeded to tell him my story of how I quit one job and and am in the middle of planting a church. It gave me great opportunity to share Christ and what he means to me.

Next I did a little shopping. I went on down High Street to Einstein Bagels. Einstein Bagels is the place where Carol and I met a lady named Joy. She is the manager. She and her husband just moved to Columbus and as she said, don’t have a lot of friends, so she has invited us to come over to their house for dinner some time. They live near us so we hope to take her up on her offer as soon as possible. In the meantime we’ve been dropping in just to keep in touch Besides they have absolutely the best flavored coffee I’ve ever tasted. It’s called Winter Blend! You'll have to try it. If you do tell her we told you about it.

I ended the day by going to my sister’s house. She and her husband had Carol and I along with my mom, and my two brothers and their wives up for our dinner. It was just a chance to enjoy being family as well as celebrate Christmas. In the end it wasn’t a wasted day! I didn’t get done what I wanted to do but I did get done what God had for me to do, which is good enough. Now I better go because I’ve still got those two things to do that I didn't get done yesterday, unless God’s has something better for me to do! We'll find out.