Monday, July 31, 2017

Monday Music - Festival Crowds Can Be Fun


Crowd waiting for a Green Day concert in Hyde Park does a pretty great performance of Bohemian Rhapsody.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Supplication - To Reach Across Barriers

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 your people to be a living demonstration of your power to save. Transform and renew us. Make us a true community of grace.

We acknowledge our sins and thank you for forgiveness. 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 nurture relationships, create peace, and bring honor to you.

Thank you, Lord God, for Jesus, who did not cling to equality with you, 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.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thurs Thinking - Growing Deep: Making Disciples

I have always wanted to help our church become a discipleship community. A place where we are trying to grow deeper, not just bigger. After years in ministry, the biggest question I have is whether or not there really are that many people who truly want to be disciples of Jesus. It seems to me that most churches are focused on proclamation of a gospel message, attracting people to church, leading people to become Christians, trying to build community, and encouraging service. My experience is that while those for things may grow or strengthen a church, they don't necessarily produce committed and growing disciples.

I am hoping that in the months and years ahead, the church I pastor will make some strides in helping our people understand what it means to be a disciple and how to measure progress as a disciple. Jesus said you can know a tree by its fruit. How can people in my church know they are growing disciples?

What follows is a quotation from an article I came across earlier this week. It has me thinking, but it also gets me back to my question of how does a program or strategy actually become a tool for discipleship? How do we move our church people to turn the "want to" switch to the on position? Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

From Grow Your Church Deeper by Ken Stewart
Your church probably provides numerous opportunities for people to grow spiritually. Worship services,  Bible  studies,  small  groups,  prayer  events,  classes,  socials,  ministry  teams—all  are offered in the hope that participants will be built up in their faith and strengthen their relationship with the church.

It  is  the  perpetual  temptation  of  churches  to “program”  these  activities  and  then  rely  on  the program, forgetting that spiritual growth is a spiritual, and individual, process. Even more, it’s the reason the church exists.

Heavy reliance on programs also can lead to what the software geeks call “scope creep,” where the project expands beyond the original goals. A church must continually revisit and recommit to its goal of making disciples. Otherwise the church can become about adding programs rather than building disciples.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday Words - Summer Song

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
where would they carry me?

"Summer Song" by William Carlos Williams from The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Vol. 1: 1909-1939.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Surprise the World

I've been reading this little book and discussing each chapter with a friend from church. It's a gem and gives practical advice on positive ways Christians can engage with the people around them. I've decided to use it as a springboard and companion book for my next teaching series – "Your Surprising Life" – that will begin in September. Beyond the inspiration to live out and share our faith, the goal of this book and my teaching series will be to give our church community some measurable and practical strategies for doing so.
Surprise the World
by Michael Frost

Christianity is a surprising religion. It has changed the world in remarkable ways throughout history simply through Christians living out their faith. More recently, we’ve become afraid of a habituated Christianity, thinking that routines will rob our faith of its vitality. The net effect is that we’ve replaced the habits that surprise the world with habits that mimic the world―and both we and the world suffer for it.

Integrating the five habits in the BELLS model―Bless others, Eat together, Listen to the Spirit, Learn Christ, and understand yourself as Sent by God into others’ lives―will help you spread the gospel organically, graciously, and surprisingly.

Michael Frost, a world-renowned expert on evangelism and discipleship, makes evangelism a lifestyle that is fulfilling, exciting, effective, and easy to live out!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Monday Music - Steve Earle: Tiny Desk Concert
Steve Earle has lived through the sort of horrors that have launched a million country songs: addiction, affliction, heartbreak, even prison. He wears them in his voice, but what's most appealing about him is the wide-eyed, unmistakable fearlessness with which he goes about his life these days. The singer, author, actor and activist showcases many of his talents at the NPR Music offices.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Wisdom to Take Hold

Almighty God, you have sent your only Son into the world to save us from sin and death. We thank you for his sinless life, his selfless sacrifice, and his example of godly life.

Give us the wisdom to take hold of all Jesus has so freely given. Thank you for his redeeming work in our lives and in our world. Help us to follow daily in his steps.

We look to you for forgiveness and ask you to help us turn away from wrong.  Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds.  You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious and forgiving toward others.

You have shown mercy to us, O God. Give us the attitude of Christ Jesus that we might be a testimony of your grace and instruments of your mercy to everyone around us. 

We pray in the name of Jesus, our merciful Savior. Amen.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Thursday Thinking - What Get in the Way

What is the point of life? What is the point of it all? What is the highest good for being human?

In this short video excerpt, Greg Boyd explains that the Christian answer to those questions is for us humans to enjoy loving God and for God to enjoy and love us. This is the Christian vision of the blessed life. But of course there are some basic things that stand in the way of this ultimate goal.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Vacation

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
with his video camera to his eye, making
a moving picture of the moving river
upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly
toward the end of his vacation. He showed
his vacation to his camera, which pictured it,
preserving it forever: the river, the trees,
the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
behind which he stood with his camera
preserving his vacation even as he was having it
so that after he had had it he would still
have it. It would be there. With a flick
of a switch, there it would be. But he
would not be in it. He would never be in it.

“The Vacation” by Wendell Berry from Entries, Copyright ©2012 by Wendell Berry.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Tome - The Jesus Way

I'm currently enjoying this book by Eugene Peterson. Some good ideas that dovetail with my current teaching series at Valley Christian Church.
by Eugene Peterson

Publisher's description...
The Jesus Way ― part of Eugene Peterson’s meaty "conversations" on spiritual theology

A way of sacrifice. A way of failure. A way on the margins. A way of holiness. In The Jesus Way Eugene Peterson shows how the ways of those who came before Christ ― Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Isaiah ― revealed and prepared the "way of the Lord" that became incarnate and complete in Jesus. Further, Peterson calls into question common “ways” followed by the contemporary American church, showing in stark relief how what we have chosen to focus on ― consumerism, celebrity, charisma, and so forth ― obliterates what is unique in the Jesus way.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Music - The Cactus Blossoms on Tour

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The Cactus Blossoms had a short window to join us at the Gladden House on the third day of the Nelsonville Music Festival, having two other performances on site that day. Jack Torrey and Page Burkum were joined by Chris Heipola on drums and Andy Carroll on bass. The session was focused on performances only, and those in attendance were treated to a delightful set of well-honed originals and a cover.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Renew Us

O Lord, we praise you and ask that by your Holy Spirit you would shape our hearts and minds to think and do what is right. Provide for our needs and preserve our lives. Make us able to delight in your will and walk in your ways.

Thank you for forgiveness and help us turn away from sin. Renew us by your Spirit. Show us how to act, think, and live as Christ.  As you have forgiven us, make us merciful and ready to forgive others.

Give us the courage and the grace we need to restore relationships, heal brokenness, sacrifice our rights, and humbly consider the needs of others.

Save and protect us, O God, from the things that threaten to consume and destroy us. Help us to look faithfully to you in all circumstances. Thank you for Jesus, our Lord, who for our sake and our salvation came down from heaven. Help us to love you with heart, soul, mind and strength.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Thursday Thinking - How Big Should a Church Be?

The Church and Dunbar’s Number
By Howard Snyder - July 1, 2017 ·

How large should your church be?

Silly question, you say. Depending on your theology or worldview, you might add:

- Large as possible! Bigger is better!
- That’s up to God!
- I’m shooting for 1,000 (or 2,000, or 3,000, or whatever).
- I like small and intimate!

Here’s a better answer: A congregation should be large enough to fulfill all the essential functions of Christ’s body—and small enough to really function as body of Christ.

So we might take a quick look at “Dunbar’s Number,” which happens to be 150.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Farm

My father’s farm is an apple blossomer.
He keeps his hills in dandelion carpet
and weaves a lane of lilacs between the rose
and the jack-in-the-pulpits.
His sleek cows ripple in the pastures.
The dog and purple iris
keep watch at the garden’s end.

His farm is rolling thunder,
a lightning bolt on the horizon.
His crops suck rain from the sky
and swallow the smoldering sun.
His fields are oceans of heat,
where waves of gold
beat the burning shore.

A red fox
pauses under the birch trees,
a shadow is in the river’s bend.
When the hawk circles the land,
my father’s grainfields whirl beneath it.
Owls gather together to sing in his woods,
and the deer run his golden meadow.

My father’s farm is an icicle,
a hillside of white powder.
He parts the snowy sea,
and smooths away the valleys.
He cultivates his rows of starlight
and drags the crescent moon
through dark unfurrowed fields.

"The Farm" byJoyce Sutphen from Straight Out of View (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Joyce Sutphen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Tome - The Good Book

I'm reviewing this book right now and may be using it for Sunday Morning or Wednesday Night adult Bible study at Valley Christian Church starting in October. We would be doing one chapter a week. If you've read this book, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Do you feel it's well-written? Does it do a good job presenting Biblical themes? Would it be a good introduction for those who have never read the Bible? Does it have compelling ideas that will be meaningful to people who are familiar with scripture and have been Christians for some time? Let me know what you think.
by Deron Spoo

Publisher's Description...
The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible's biggest ideas. A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.

Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.
The Good Book is great for individuals, and it can also be used by small groups in an eight-week church-wide program or a forty-week journey that focuses on one Bible chapter each week. The Good Book will help people understand and live by the transformative truths of the Bible.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Sunday Supplication – Protect and Guide Us

O Lord, we ask you to give us clean hearts. We ask you to protect and guide us as we strive to be a growing and devoted part of your Church in the world. May your goodness and grace shape us and direct us. Help us to honor you and to follow faithfully in the way of Christ Jesus.

You know our weaknesses, O God, and you understand our limitations.  Our sins and failures are no secret or surprise to you. And yet, Dear Father, 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 and to bless others. Make us gracious and merciful to others.

Thank you, O God, for Jesus, your Son who came to live among us, full of grace and truth. Help us to see him for all he is. Help us to grow in our relationships with him. Help us to follow him wherever he leads.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Thursday Thinking – Smaller Worship Centers

Six Reasons Why Church Worship Centers Will Get Smaller 
by Thom S. Rainer • June 29, 2015

I am a product of the Baby Boomer big worship center era. For many of us old guys, the formula for building a worship center was straightforward. We would project the church’s growth many years out and build a worship center to accommodate that growth in a single service.

Those days are ending.

The more common approach today is to build a worship center that will accommodate growth with multiple services, multiple venues, and multiple campuses. As a consequence, there will be no need for a large, single-service facility.

How did this change take place? Let’s look at six key reasons...


Rainer's six key reasons summarized...
1. The pervasiveness of multiple worship services.
2. The growth of multiple venues.
3. The unexpected growth of multiple campuses.
4. The desire for perceived intimacy.
5. A greater emphasis on building stewardship.
6. The Millennial generation is sensitive to the issues of stewardship and fellowship intimacy.

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Wednesday Words - The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems: Volume 1,
© Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Tuesday Tome - Grace for the Afflicted

This is the book selection for our Valley Summer Book Club on Monday nights.
Our next meeting is Monday night, July 10. We'll be discussing chapters 5 and 6.
Order your book and join us.
Get complete info about dates and reading schedule HERE.

Grace for the Afflicted: A Clinical and Biblical Perspective on Mental Illness
by Matthew S. Stanford

Publisher's description...
Each day men and women diagnosed with mental disorders are told they need to pray more and turn from their sin. Mental illness is equated with demonic possession, weak faith and generational sin.

Why is it that the church has struggled in ministering to those with mental illnesses? As both a church leader and professor of psychology and neuroscience, Michael S. Stanford has seen far too many mentally ill brothers and sisters damaged by well meaning believers who respond to them out of fear or misinformation rather than grace.  

Grace for the Afflicted is written to educate Christians about mental illness from both biblical and scientific perspectives. Stanford presents insights into our physical and spiritual nature and discusses the appropriate role of psychology and psychiatry in the life of the believer. Describing common mental disorders, Stanford asks of each: "What does science say and what does the Bible say about this illness?"

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sunday Supplication - Bless and Multiply

O God, we believe you are the source of all truth and wisdom. We believe that you know our needs before we ask, and you know the needs we have but are unable to know. We look to you for compassion and provision and direction.

We confess our sins and weaknesses, Lord. We repent of the ways we have disobeyed and turned from you. We thank you for forgiveness and ask that you help us to turn away from wrong.  Transform us and give us the faith to press toward life, healing, restoration, holiness, and good deeds. 

You are so gracious to us, and we ask you to make us able and quick to be gracious toward others. Give us hearts, O God, to look beyond our own needs and to see the needs of others.

Dear Jesus, bless and multiply our meager resources so that we can bless and help others. When we feel too empty or weak to share, fill our hearts and hands with good things to give.

Through Christ, we pray. Amen.