Wednesday, January 29, 2014

See Through (from the Archives)

Transparency is a tough thing in relationships. We all feel the pressure to be careful about the "you" you let others see. I think this is because we all crave love and acceptance. Before you write this off as a "mushy" post, indulge me for a minute...

Our world thrives on fakeness. Perfection is the standard and we all realize that we cannot achieve perfection so we put on masks. We don't want people to see who we really are. So we apply this standard of perfection to every situation of life. 

  • Don't feel good enough at your job? Embellish your accomplishments for your peers.
  • Don't drive a "nice enough" car or own a "nice enough" house? Take out a loan you cannot afford so that you can feel better about yourself.
  • Don't let people come over to your house because they might see how you really live.
  • Don't feel spiritual enough? Fake it.
Sometimes "faking" it seems like it's the only way to make it in life.

It won't come as a surprise; God sees through our fakeness. Yet somehow God loves and accepts us anyway.

1 John 3:1 says - "How great  is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

We do things in order to be loved and valued. If we'll just open our eyes we will see that we are already loved and valued. When we truly embrace this truth, suddenly all of that "other stuff" fades away. 

Imagine how different life could be if we were just real with one another, acknowledged our weaknesses and, instead of hiding behind nice little facades, we would wave the banner and shout from the top of our lungs "I am a child of God!" For that is what you are. Own it.

**This post originally appeared on this blog on August 29, 2012

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Book for Grandmas and their grandkids.

A recent release from Tyndale Kids, My Time with Grandma Bible Storybook introduces a new concept for Bible Storybooks. If you're a grandma with grand kids or know someone who is, this is designed for you. 

The author, Phil A. Smouse, takes the major Bible stories and condenses them down to a few paragraphs. The selection of Bible stories are great, the stories are easy to read (either by grandma or the grandchild), however I felt like Smouse oversimplified some of the stories so they would fit on one side of the 2-page spread. 

The illustrations are beautiful. The colors are bright and attractive, especially for small children. 

Though I recognize this book is written as a storybook for grandmothers, there is no room for movement. It is clear on each page that this book is only for grandmothers. Each story contains a "Note from Grandma." While this adds a layer of "cuteness" for grandmothers, it has the potential to limit the audience. It seems to me that with a little more creative wording, this book could have been used by a broader audience: child care providers, foster families, etc. 

Overall, I think this book would make a great gift for a grandmother and her grandchildren. I don't think you can ever go wrong when an adult is communicating the truth of God's word to a child.

**In compliance with the Federal Trade Commission, I must let you know that I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for a book review. I am not obligated to give the book a positive review. 

Wait...So it's NOT all about me?

We were challenged yesterday to not make church about me, my preferences, or my desires. This isn't easily done regardless of whether you are an attender, member, staff, or church leader. There's something in each of us that wants to make it about ME. I read a blog from Aaron Gloy entitled "5 Really Bad Reasons for Leaving Your Church." Every excuse listed, at its core, has the same thing: ME. So what is the answer? The Apostle Paul shed some light on this in Philippians 2:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature  God,  did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing  by taking the very nature  of a servant,  being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,  he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8)
We are told to make our attitudes the same as that of Jesus Christ. So what did he do?

  • He did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
  • He emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant.
  • He humbled himself.
  • He became obedient to the point of death.
 This is an example for us to follow. We are to serve. We are to be obedient. We are to put others first. We are to do whatever it takes to keep the unity in our church. These are easy things to write down, but challenging to put into daily practice.

For Further Thought:

1. Describe someone in the church that best fits the description of having the mind of Christ and servant attitude.

2. Go verse by verse through Philippians 2:5-11. Explain how the attitude of Christ in each verse becomes a pattern for us as church members.

3. How would you describe a servant as it applies to being a member of a church?

If you missed some of the points of the 10 dominant behavior patterns of members in self-serving churches (from a Survey conducted through Lifeway Research), I have relisted them below:

1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.

2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.

4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.

7. Attitudes of entitlement. This issue could be a catchall for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.

8. Greater concern about change than the gospel. Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.

9. Anger and hostility. Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.

10. Evangelistic apathy. Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.”

Excerpt From: Thom S. Rainer. “I Am a Church Member.” iBooks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

STUCK (from the Archives**)


Ever feel like you're heading the right direction, but you can't seem to get there? You feel like you are going where you should, but something doesn't add up or feel right? 

If you're a parent you've probably been on both sides of the issue. Your child is learning to drive; you offer advice only to be told "I've got this...take it easy!" Your toddler wants a big kid cup for the first time and, as you're trying to show them how to be careful, they spill the chocolate milk all over themselves and the floor.

You want to show your supervisor how good you are, ignoring the counsel of others, and fail as a result. 

As a Christian, when faced with challenges, we try to "fix-it" on our own. We even talk with friends and seek their advice. We take matters into our own hands. Then when everything is crumbling around us, when we can't seem to make any advances forward we throw up our hands in frustration and cry out to God and ask "Why?" 

It's the age-old question: "Why do we always approach the One who can handle everything as a last resort?"  

I know I do this all the time. I'm a "fixer." I have a strong feeling you do this too. It never works. Not like it's supposed to. Never.

It's not until we let our master take the stick and lead us through that we will find the answers we are looking for. James 4 has something for you and I today:

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. (James 4:7-10)

What would it look like for you and I to "submit," "come near," and "humble" ourselves? I think we would find ourselves running into walls over and over again wondering why things aren't working out the way we thought. 

What "sticks" do you need to give to your Master?

(video via laughing squid)

*Originally posted on this blog here on Jan. 30, 2013
**I'm facing a bit of, what writers call, writers block. I'll be posting new Wednesday content soon. Thanks for your patience and understanding. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Celebrating The Win

**This was originally published in the Campbellsville Christian Church newsletter on January 14, 2014:

Anytime an organization, especially churches, are in a time of transition there is the potential for both the good and the bad. We can focus on the things that need to be done and the dissenters or we can focus on God’s plan for the church. The good news is that we get to choose what we focus on.

Each Monday morning at 9:00 AM we have an all-staff meeting: Billy, Logan, Kari Jo, Karen, and Jennifer and I sit down to talk about the details of the upcoming week, address needs, but we always start off with something we have identified as critical to staying focused on our mission: to equip people to become “rooted in God’s love.” We start by celebrating “wins.”

Defining the win gives us tangible targets for ministry. Without pursuing ministry on behalf of Christ, the church is nothing more than a stagnant and listless institution that possesses no real value. Seeing wins happen breathes meaningful life and zeal into the congregation that fuels passion and can energize it into an unstoppable movement.

At staff meetings, I ask the question, “What happened last week that made you feel like you've made progress in your mission to lead people to become "rooted in God's love?" Basically we are looking for people (individuals and groups) and are showing evidences of becoming “rooted.” As we talk, I write these down. We know there are many things that need to be adjusted or addressed and those things can weigh us down and distract us from seeing God’s hand at work in the lives of those who call Campbellsville Christian Church home.

So we celebrate together. I want to let you in on a few highlights of our staff celebrations.
·      Anita Smith faithfully drives a group of from Jackson Towers to Wal-Mart each month to get groceries.
·      The High School small group created “kits” to hand out to homeless people as their families travel together.
·      A couple of months ago a group of children led (rather than performed) a worship song with the adult band reinforcing what we teach them in children’s environments; that they are an active part of the church now
·      Spiritual development taking place in the Middle School Boys Small Group.
·       Gail Godsey and her leadership in the Hearts 2 Help event for the homeless shelter
·      Lynn and Nancy Farmer and Jennifer Clark giving their time and talents in making a new church directory a reality.
·      17 Root 252 kids (Wednesday night Children’s environment) memorized the monthly verse: “Choose my teaching instead of silver. Choose knowledge rather than fine gold.” Prov. 8:10
·      Over 220 people at the Christmas Eve service
·      Around 100 people gathered on Dec. 15th to make 70+ blankets for the Crisis Pregnancy Center and the local Hospice agency.
·      The prayer lives of people are deepening.
·      The Micah 6:8 service projects coming out of Small groups:
o   Operation Baby Rescue raised over $14,000 to rescue babies from malnutrition and unsafe environments
o   Groups raised over $1000 for the backpack program
o   Group supported shelters in Taylor, Marion, and Green county.
·      If you can’t tell yet, much good is happening in the lives of the people of Campbellsville Christian Church.

Celebrating not only encourages people to continue to do what is right, but it reflects the biblical principal of joy. When God rested on the seventh day after creation, we do not believe he needed to take a breather; instead he took time to enjoy his creation; to celebrate. Take a look at how many Jewish celebrations and holidays are found in the Bible and you will discover that celebrating the work of God is a core part of worship. So when it comes wins, we should celebrate with our brothers and sisters whether it is through verbal praise, recognition, or throwing an actual party!

Do you know of a win? Let us know. Often, my blog posts on Monday’s are devoted to highlighting “wins” from the life of the church. If you’d like to know more about what it means to be “rooted in God’s love,” check out and click the “more info” button.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

REVIEW: Not just another video study.

Love Does is a new Small Group DVD study from Thomas Nelson based on the book by the same name. It is subtitled, “Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World.” When I first saw this I thought  "Just what we need! Another group study that over promises and under delivers!” If you’ve never heard of Bob Goff, you are in for a treat! Bob Goff has an infectious personality with a level of honesty and authenticity that makes you want to call him up and invite him to your house because you want whatever it is that he has.

Love Does challenges participants to rethink all they thought they knew about love; God’s love and their own love for others. Bob is a master storyteller who can tell true stories that challenge, encourage, and inspire listeners to embrace this life. What makes the study even better is that you cannot leave a session without laughing again and again! This is critical to understanding God’s love for us. God is not some crusty curmudgeon who can barely stand to look at His creation. Bob reminds us that God enjoys us, longs for us to succeed in loving others, desires His absolute best for us.

Love Does will make you uncomfortable during this five-session journey, but the process is most certainly worth it. The participant guide is full of hands-on, practical group activities and personal challenges that will help ensure that, if you are willing to do a few things that you wouldn’t normally do (nothing too crazy), you will experience God’s love in a refreshing way and you won’t be able to hold it in.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® <> 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 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FROM THE ARCHIVES*: Lessons Learned in the Strangest Places

Lessons Learned in the Strangest Places

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV) reads, 

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

If you read Monday's Mention this week (click here if you didn't) you know that I had the opportunity to spend three days with some of the inmates at the prison in Marion County. This passage makes me think about something one of the inmates said on the last day. He said:

"People say I should be proud of who I am in Christ,
but I'm proud of who Christ is in me!

Did you catch that? It's a slight distinction, but it's a powerful one. We often think about all the things that we do as Christian. We are proud of our accomplishments, our changed attitudes and behaviors, and our good deeds. As you re-read this passage from Ephesians you can see very powerfully where the change comes from. Where is the power? "God...made us alive with Christ." "God raised us up with Christ." "this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God..." We, too often, place the emphasis of our faith, and the change it's brought about, on ourselves. Look again, where is the "you" in this passage? "dead in your transgressions," "followed the ways of the world," "gratifying the cravings of our flesh." Our life-change without the power of God in Christ leaves us dead. Without hope. 

However, add the power of God in Christ and EVERYTHING changes. We're alive. We're new creations. We're changed by God to do good works. 

An unexpected lesson for sure. 

*This post was originally published January 16th, 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

We are the body...#notacountryclub

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by  one Spirit so as to form one body...  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-13a; 26-27

Joel Patton preached the first of a 6-week series entitled "I Am A Church Member," based on a book by the same name from Thom Rainer. If you are interested in reading this book, see me, your local bookstore, or get more info here

Today I wanted to remind you of the first pledge that was introduced yesterday and leave you with some questions for your personal reflection:

The First Pledge:
“I am a church member. I like the metaphor of membership. It’s not membership as in a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it” (1 Cor. 12:27). Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, whether I am an “eye,” an “ear,” or a “hand.” As a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).”**

Questions for you and your family:

1. How is the "love chapter" in 1 Corinthians 13 related to church membership (remember, it directly follows Paul's teaching on membership in chapter 12)? 

2. Joel said, "The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron." The question should never be if you should be serving your church, but to ask yourself and God is prayer is: "How can I best serve my church?" If you are not currently actively serving in the church, are you willing to ask God that question?

3. Joel said (paraphrased), "If you are gifted to do something and are not doing that thing, you are handicapping the church." Where are you gifted and how can you best use those gifts in service to Christ within the church? 

Thom Rainer says that church membership runs counter-culture to country club membership. In a country club you pay dues and expect certain services and privileges. He says, "Do you want to know how to remain a biblical member of a church? Give abundantly and serve without hesitation."**

If you need help assessing where you can best serve, please contact me and I will be happy to discuss opportunities with you.

**Excerpt From: Thom S. Rainer. “I Am a Church Member.” iBooks.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: AHA!: Awakening. Honesty. Action.

Ever encounter one of those people and you can’t help but think “Whatever it is they have, I want it!”? There’s something infectious about their personality, they way they live there life with purpose and intentionality. There’s just something different, but you can’t put your finger on it. They’ve had an AHA. 

"AHA" beautifully lays out what every person wants to experience, whether they know it or not. We’ve all been somewhere we never intended to be. We've done something we wish we’d never done. 

We need to experience Awakening, Honesty, and Action.
Kyle Idleman unpacks the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 in a fresh and humorous but direct way that cuts to the heart of the matter and offers practical insights and application along the way. I cannot wait until this books is available (March 2014) so that I can recommend this book to the Prodigals and Older brothers in my circles.

Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book to review for free from NetGalley. You can preorder it here.