The Kind Of Church I Want To Be a Part Of

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:7

This verse is a motivational verse for me in church planting.  I want a church that blesses the city in which it is planted. 

The Israelites were promised prosperity. God had great plans for them. (Jeremiah 29:11) We love to quote the verse, but we often leave out the context in which it was written.  God did have big plans for the people, but that promise was given only after they were told they were facing 70 years of captivity. During their time of exile, the Israelites weren’t to roll over and play dead. They weren’t to complain and revolt against the city.  They were to work hard, build houses, plant crops, and have children.  Even more than that, they were to bless the people who were holding them in exile. (Read Jeremiah 29:1-13 for a better context.) 

I get tired of watching believers protest everything that moves contrary to their prescribed set of values rather than invest in the community around them in hopes of making it better.  If we spent half as much time helping others as we did complaining about what we don’t like or agree with, I wonder if those outside the church would be more interested in what happens inside the church.  

I want a church that is recognized in its community as a catalyst of positive change and influence that cares as much or more about people who aren’t even yet a part of the church.  A church like that will prosper as the city where it is located prospers.

If We Show Them Love…

Here are a couple of verses I have read many times, but today they made more sense than ever before.  At least how I’m interpreting them.    

One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.  (Psalm 62:11-12)

I think what the Psalmist is saying is that God had shared His love with Him.  God had literally said, “I love you.”  He has to us also. Throughout the Bible we can see God telling His people and the world of His great love.  One famous verse, of course, tells us that “God so loved the world…. that He sent His son…”  (You probably know that verse!)  The Psalmist had heard others talk about God’s great love too!  It’s hard not to talk about such Amazing Grace! 

At the same time, the Psalmist had heard about God’s strength, yet God had never said to him, “I am strong!”.  God never bragged about His power.  I suppose He never had to.  When you can part the sea, raise the dead and put stars in the sky, you don’t have to convince people you have muscles. 

It also seems that Jesus lived His life that way as well. He was always telling of His love, but He never seemed to brag about His strength, but news of His love and strength spread quickly throughout the world at the time. 

I wonder if there is a lesson there for us as well, as leaders and as the church.  As we strive to be like Jesus, maybe we don’t need to brag about or even share with others how big, how powerful and wonderful we are.  Perhaps we just need to tell others how much we love them. News of that, and our majestic acts, will spread quickly without our help. 

Just a thought.  

(I realize the concept of a phrase or word being repeated in the Bible gives it double emphasis.  I love how a passage, though it has only one meaning, may have numerous applications.)  

How To Recover from Failure

In my personal ministry, sadly, I experience people more at their moments of failure than in their moments of success.  As an optimist, I plan for success.  I believe God desires success for His people. As a realist, I see failure all around me.  I believe God allows failure and uses it to draw us closer to Him and to teach us valuable insights into our characters and into the character of God Himself.   Failure has been a part of my life (a big part) and it is prevalent in the lives of the most of the successful people I know.  Therefore, we must learn how to recover from failure.   


Here are a few things to remember after and during your moments of failure.   


·         Take time to rest after your failure, but do not sit still for long.  Idleness often leads to temptations and worry. (I almost used another cliché’ involving idleness and the devil, but decided not to.)  Do something, even if it is volunteer work. 

·         Know that not everyone is talking about you, even if it may feel that everyone is. 

·         If people are talking about you, it will not last long until the new “failure of the month” comes along.

·         Take some time to re-evaluate what led to your failure.  Accept fault where appropriate and do not be too proud to say you made a mistake.

·         Learn from your mistakes and build safeguards in your life to keep from repeating the same ones.   

·         Keep your mind and body healthy.  Read, exercise, pray, and think.  It is important to stay fresh for your next opportunity. 

·         Begin to dream new dreams and set new goals.  (These goals can be the same goals you had before you failed if you are willing to take a risk on them again.) 

·         Make a decision in your heart to rise from your failure.  Prove to those who thought you could not (or at least you thought that is what they were saying) that you can succeed.  More than that prove it to you! 

·         Allow failure to make you stronger and better. 

What Language Are You Speaking?

Some people speak a language they share with the group of people who have a similar lifestyle, occupation or interest.  They use code words, anacronyms and phrases that only those within the group understand. Living in a military town, for example, I often hear a phrase like “he’s with the 82nd Airborne Division”, which to us civilians means????  Being married to an accountant wife means that having a tax conversation with her involves me knowing certain form numbers such as “W4 and W2”.   We tend to indoctrinate ourselves with the language and culture of the people we hang around, work with, and from whom we learn. 


Here is a short, random list of examples of people who speak a separate language. Feel free to add your own.








Sports fans





Here is the reason this issue matters to us. It is perfectly okay and perhaps even necessary to have the language within a defined group of people.  It expedites the process and builds commonality and loyalty, but if we are not careful, we will alienate people outside our “group” who do not understand our language.  If we want to help people understand who Christ is and what He means to us, then we have to realize that not everyone understands what it means to be “growing in the Lord”. 

What phrases can you think of that Christians (or other groups) use that would be hard to understand outside the “group”? 

Jesus on the Economy

While reading Mark 5:1-20 this morning I struggled to find deeper meaning to the story. Jesus healed a demon-possessed man.  I get that, but why did He have to destroy the pigs to do so.  By doing so, the herdsman lost their ability to earn an income.  They lost part, perhaps a large part if not all, of their wealth.  Because I sometimes struggle with practical realism, that does not make complete sense to me. 


Then I read the story closer.  When Jesus sent the demons into the pigs, the herdsman scattered.  Their devastation drove them into the city to tell what had happened.  This brought all the people to Jesus to witness the miracle of the healed man.  Jesus brought glory to Himself and honor to God and helped some people believe that day by His willingness to sacrifice a herd (a large herd) of pigs. 

Therefore, here is my understanding of truth today: Jesus is willing to sacrifice the economy in order to save some souls.  He cares more about people, than even personal finances. (I know that is potentially shocking to many Americans.) 


Is any of that truth applicable to my life (and yours) today? 

A New Christmas Image

I love to study the images of Christmas. This year a new image came to me; one I had not considered before, which really is the combination of two images I have studied many times.


Image One:


Luke 2:7 says, “and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 


There was no room for them in the Bethlehem hotel.  This fact often reminds me that sometimes my life is too “crowded” for Christ.  I have great intentions for my relationship with Him, but often I choose my “pleasures” over time with Him.  Sad to admit, but if I am honest, and you were to look at my schedule many days, it could be said of me that I have “no room” for Christ. 


Image Two:


Luke 2:8-9 says, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” 


The shepherds remind me that God first appeared with the news of His Son to those who society considered outcasts.  I have read that the courts refused shepherds testimonies in a court of law because they considered them untrustworthy. Shepherds appeared at the bottom of the social status, but they made themselves available to the Christ child.  It reminds me that although I have needed more grace than most pastors His grace is fully available even to me! 


Image Three:


I have never combined the above two images.  Think about this for a moment.  The fact that the inn had no room may have been necessary in order for the shepherds to receive the announcement.  Imagine if there had been room in the inn.  The shepherds would not have been able to visit the Christ child.  They would have had to find a place to take a bath, change clothes, and probably change their occupation if they had a hope of seeing Him. As shepherds, they would have been welcome in a barn, but not in the Bethlehem “Hyatt”.   


It is a great reminder to me this Christmas that God comes to those who do not deserve His presence or His love.  Immanuel presents Himself in places the “good people” never go!  He loves people the world has rejected and He makes Himself available without regard to our background, our reputation, the gossip about us, or even our smelliness. 


This year I am more thankful than ever that there was “no room for them in the inn.”

Poems by Ann Weems for Christmas

I have read these two poems numerous times in devotionals and online.  I have never seen a copyright on them, but they are attributed to Ann Weems.  The story I have heard is that she is a minister’s wife who lost her son to murder though I could not confirm that online.  Her poems speak, however, to the heart many feel this time of year as they attempt to celebrate Christmas with a heavy heart.  Perhaps she expresses your heart too. 

Yesterday’s Pain

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,
there is a deafening alleluia
rising from the souls of those who weep,
and of those who weep with those who weep.
If you watch, you will see
the hand of God
putting the stars back in their skies
one by one
Yesterday’s Pain
Some of us walk in Advent
tethered to our unresolved yesterdays
the pain still stabbing
the hurt still throbbing.
It’s not that we don’t know better;
it’s just that we can’t stand up anymore by ourselves.
On the way of Bethlehem, will you give us a hand?

Not celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?
Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

What I Found To Read This Week

Here are some items that caught my attention this week and caused me to think. 


Center for Creative Leadership has a great post called 5 Keys To Self Development.  It’s simple, easy-to-read and accurate. 


One of my mentors, Dennis Newkirk, wrote a sobering post on called The Currency of Christmas.  It is a reminder we all need to hear repeated often. 


My friend Matthew Paul Turner posted a find from YouTube that makes you wonder what some people do without brains. This one is about Santa Claus. Don’t let your kids see it! 


What if church was run like an airline?  With year-end giving on our mind, maybe this is an answer to consider.  Check it out on MMI’s post here.


Perry Noble scored another one with me this week.  I don’t like thinking of him puking, but I like the application he makes in the sacrifice involved in “getting to the next level”. 


Clarksville, where I live, is getting a mega-sized new industry.  Not only will this create thousands of jobs and make over a billion-dollar investment, but this industry has the potential to place Clarksville on the leading edge of the new “green economy”. Read about it here. 


I am excited about watching father and son coach together at the University of Tennessee next year.  I would love to work for one of my boys some day.  What an honor! 


What did you find interesting this week?