Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Yancey's Latest

Philip Yancey's new book, Vanishing Grace, is on it's way to my mailbox. I've always enjoyed Yancey's writing, and I'm hoping this new book will give me some ideas and inspiration for my upcoming Advent-Christmas teaching series, Comfort and Joy.

From the publisher...
“Why does the church stir up such negative feelings?” Philip Yancey has been asking this all his life as a journalist. His perennial question is more relevant now than ever: in a twenty-year span starting in the mid-nineties, research shows that favorable opinions of Christianity have plummeted drastically—and opinions of Evangelicals have taken even deeper dives.

The end of the politics-oriented Evangelicalism that was so dominant in the second half of the 20th century is a strong example that we are living in a post-Christian culture. Yet while the opinions about Christianity are dropping, interest in spirituality is rising. Why the disconnect? Why are so many asking, “What’s so good about the “Good News?”

Yancey’s writing has focused on the search for honest faith that makes a difference for a world in pain. In his landmark book What’s So Amazing about Grace he issued a call for Christians to be as grace-filled in their behavior as they are in declaring their beliefs.

But people inside and outside the church are still thirsty for grace. What the church lacked in its heyday is now exactly what it needs to recover to thrive. Grace can bring together Christianity and our post-Christian culture, inviting outsiders as well as insiders to take a deep second look at why our faith matters and about what could reignite its appeal to future generations. How can Christians offer grace in a way that is compelling to a jaded society? And how can they make a difference in a world that cries out in need?

Yancey aims this book at Christian readers, showing  them how Christians have lost respect, influence, and reputation in a newly post-Christian culture. “Why do they hate us so much?” mystified Americans ask about the rest of the world.  A similar question applies to evangelicals in America.

Yancey explores what may have contributed to hostility toward Evangelicals, especially in their mixing of faith and politics instead of embracing more grace-filled ways of presenting the gospel.  He offers illuminating stories of how faith can be expressed in ways that disarm even the most cynical critics.  Then he explores what is Good News and what is worth preserving in a culture that thinks it has rejected Christian faith.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Music - Search Me, O God

Search me, O God, and know my heart–
Try me and know my anxious thoughts–
See if there be a hurtful way in me–
And lead me in the everlasting way.

You've enclosed me behind and before,
You have laid your hand upon me–
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
And too high to a attain it.

Search me, O God–
Try me, O God–
Know me, O God–
Lead me, O God.

"Search Me, O God" by Dave Burkum from Songs for the Real World, © Copyright 1991 by Dave Burkum. Click Here to Listen or Buy

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Supplication - A Living Demonstration

O God, we are so thankful for your mercy and love. We thank you for your Son, Jesus, and for the life and salvation he has made possible for us. Help us, as part of your Church, to be a living demonstration of your power to save and transform and renew. Make us a true community of grace.

Forgive us our sins. Help us to turn away from darkness and to love the light. Make us willing and able to forgive others as you have forgiven us. Help us to think, speak, and act in ways that restore lives, nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, who did not regard equality with You a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and became a servant. Help us, like him, to reach across barriers, to welcome the weak, to serve, and to look to the interests of others.

It’s in His name that we pray all these things. Amen.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday Smile - Failed Therapy

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Favorites - Whitetail Woods Regional Park

Whitetail Woods Regional Park is my favorite discovery of the week. My buddy, Ted Tellman, and I walked about 3.5 miles of trails through this amazing new woodland park.

Dakota County’s newest park, the 456-acre Whitetail Woods Regional Park is located in Empire Township in the center of Dakota County, just one mile north of the Vermillion River.

The park is bordered by the Vermillion Highlands Modified Wildlife Management Area to the east and the Vermillion River Wildlife and Aquatic Management areas to the south. The University of Minnesota’s UMore Park lies directly north of the park.

The Empire Lake Stone Shelter located adjacent to Empire Lake offers wonderful views of thousands of acres of rolling hills and countryside in the heart of Dakota County. The gathering area has a king-size outdoor fireplace, family picnic sites and an amphitheater.

A dense stand of pines surround three year-round primitive Whitetail Woods Camper Cabins which offer an overnight experience of peace and quiet among the rustling pines. The cabins are elevated above the ground with an accessible entry. Up to six people can stay in each cabin and the cost is only $60 per night. I'm gonna have to check those out soon!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Words of Transformation

My good friend, Stephanie Miller, had a very encouraging and thoughtful post on her blog last Sunday. In it, she shares insights and suggestions on the importance of giving and receiving encouraging words. Genuine encouragement, she reminds us, has the power to sustain and transform. Thanks, Stephanie.

Stephanie Miller - 2014.10.12
Emotional support or verbal encouragement, also known as affirmation, help filter our thoughts and restructure the dynamic of our brains so that we truly begin to think nothing is impossible.

Last year, I learned of a quote originally spoken by Abraham Lincoln.  A friend of mine shared it with me not realizing how true it had been for my life thus far.  It read:  "I'm a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn't have the heart to let him down  (Abraham Lincoln)."


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday Words - Autumn

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.

“Autumn,” by T. E. Hulme, from The Imaginist: Modern Poetry in Miniature (ed. William Pratt) © Copyright 2008.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Tome - Everybody's Normal Book Club

Session 2 of this Valley Book Club is just a week away. We'll be discussing part two John Ortberg's book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them.

    Session 2: October 20, 6:30pm - Part 2, Chapters 4-7    Session 3: November 3, 6:30pm - Part 3, Chapters 8-12

We will be meeting in the church office conference room. You are welcome to join us even if you are not able to attend all three sessions. Please let me know if you plan to participate.

A limited number of copies of this book selection will be available at the Valley Christian Church office and resource center. You can also purchase the book at Amazon.

Everybody's Normal: Till You Get to Know Them
'by John Ortberg
Not you, that’s for sure! No one you’ve ever met, either. None of us are normal according to God’s definition, and the closer we get to each other, the plainer that becomes. Yet for all our quirks, sins, and jagged edges, we need each other. Community is more than just a word—it is one of our most fundamental requirements. So how do flawed, abnormal people such as ourselves master the forces that can drive us apart and come together in the life-changing relationships God designed us for?

In Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, teacher and bestselling author John Ortberg zooms in on the things that make community tick. You’ll get a thought-provoking look at God’s heart, at others, and at yourself. Even better, you’ll gain wisdom and tools for drawing closer to others in powerful, impactful ways. With humor, insight, and a gift for storytelling, Ortberg shows how community pays tremendous dividends in happiness, health, support, and growth. It’s where all of us weird, unwieldy people encounter God’s love in tangible ways and discover the transforming power of being loved, accepted, and valued just the way we are.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Monday Music - I Love You as a Friend

The day begins and it's time to rise;
It's a struggle just to open my eyes.
So many things I have to do;
I don't feel like I can make it.
But I remember I'm not alone;
There's a strength much greater than my own.
I look to you in that morning hour
And my spirit starts to prayin'.
That's when I hear you sayin-

Get a firm grip on my hand;
Tune your ears to hear my voice.
I can help you meet the challenge;
I can help you make each choice.
And when you face temptation
I will strengthen and defend.
We'll travel on together,
And when your day comes to an end
I'll still be right beside you.
I love you as a friend.

I'm out the door and on my way
Through the ups and downs and come-what-mays.
If somehow I lose sight of you,
Lord, remind me of your presence.
I need to set my heart and mind
Far above the noise of my earthly climb.
In valleys low, on mountains high,
Jesus, keep this child from fallin';
It's good to hear you callin'-


You are my hiding place;
You help me run the race.
Leading me with your hand,
Though I've got so far to go,
I know you love me where I am.

Lord, I know you sympathize;
You have seen this world through human eyes.
You felt the pressure; you've known the pain;
You were called a man of sorrows.
That's why I know you won't turn away
Even when I stumble or go astray.
You'll pick me up, help me start again.
As you lovingly renew me,
I hear you whisper to me-


I'll still be right beside you
Because I love you as a friend.

"I Love You as a Friend" by Dave Burkum, from Songs for the Real World. © Copyright 2002 by Dave Burkum.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Supplication - Place and Purpose

Almighty and everlasting God, you have revealed your grace and glory in this world through your son, Jesus Christ. We thank you for your mercy and ask that you complete your saving works of mercy in our world. Help your Church in all places to persevere with steadfast faith. Shape and use each of us as we find our place and purpose in your Church.

You know our weaknesses and you understand our limitations.  Our sins and failures are no secret or surprise to you. And yet, you are faithful to forgive, you are ready to renew, you are able to lift us up, and you call us to press forward in Christ. In the same way, help us to forgive, to encourage, and to bless others. You are gracious and merciful to us, and we ask you to make us gracious and merciful to others.

Help us, O God, to seek you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Show yourself to us through your word, your people, your promises, and all that is beautiful and true. Help us to desire and delight in your will and to walk in your ways to the glory of your Name.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Smile - Jerry Seinfeld on Advertising

Who would have guessed that Ecclesiastes could make for great stand up! Seinfeld takes a big risk and nails it! A prophetic elbow breaking ribs.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Favorites - Autumn Praise at Valley

I'm looking forward to enjoying some fireside praise and fellowship tonight. It's happening tonight at Valley Christian Church in Lakeville–Apple Valley. You should join us!

It's going to be a crisp Autumn evening, so dress warmly.
Click for Directions and Valley Info

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Thursday Thinking - Praise and Wellness

Most mornings my wife and I take a few minutes to share a cup of coffee, chat, read a psalm, and pray for the day. Some psalms are filled with gratitude, some are dark with complaints, others are disturbing with their petitions for the destruction of enemies. One thing most of the Psalms have in common is a resolve toward hope and a persistence toward praise, regardless of circumstances.

Sometimes my personal temperament makes it difficult for me to relate to the ongoing and repetitive expressions of praise. I do, however, embrace them and consider them a call toward a healthier disposition. For me, this is central to the power of the psalms. I'm glad for the times the psalms resonate with an aspect of my brokenness––fears, complaints, irritation, fatigue. I'm most glad that at all times the Psalms challenge me to a more vigorous place of faith and wholeness by provoking and pushing me toward praise. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis asks his readers to think about this connection of praise and inner health.

The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.

I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least.

The good critics found something to praise in many imperfect works; the bad ones continually narrowed the list of books we might be allowed to read.

The healthy and unaffected man, even if luxuriously brought up and widely experienced in good cookery, could praise a very modest meal: the dyspeptic and the snob found fault with all. Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise almost seems to be inner health made audible.

Nor does it cease to be so when, through lack of skill, the forms of its expression are very uncouth or even ridiculous. Heaven knows, many poems of praise addressed to an earthly beloved are as bad as our bad hymns, and an anthology of love poems for public and perpetual use would probably be as sore a trial to literary taste as Hymns Ancient and Modern.

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about.

My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what we indeed can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, ©1958 & 1986, pp. 94-95.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Wednesday Words - October

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

"October" by Robert Frost, from The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged, © Copyright 1975.