December 19, 2014
Favorite Christmas Quotes
"Yes! Yes I do! I like Christmas! I love Christmas!" ~Ebenezer Scrooge
The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable. ~Ralph W. Sockman
Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries. ~George W. Truett
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis
The only blind person at Christmas time is he who has not Christmas in his heart. ~Helen Keller
Take Christ out of Christmas, and December becomes the bleakest and most colorless month of the year. ~A. F. Wells
He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree. ~Charlotte Carpenter
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. ~Albert Einstein
For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all; No palace too great, no cottage too small. ~Phillips Brooks
Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone. ~Charles Schulz
It was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, “God Bless Us, Every One!" ~Charles Dickens
Commercialization has obscured the meaning of Christmas. The commercial has become more important than the carol. What man has to sell more important than what God has given. ~Anonymous
Jesus is not to us as Christmas is to the world, here today and gone tomorrow. ~Rick Mylander
Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man. ~Anonymous
The most important part about Christmas is the first six letters. ~Life Research Universal
When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things, not the great occasions, give off the greatest glow of happiness. ~Bob Hope
December 12, 2014
Jesus' Family Tree
I have a second cousin who is passionate about our family’s genealogy. She has spent years researching and recording our family history. Growing up as a child, I had often heard that we were of Scottish ancestry, and that our forefathers had settled in Alabama.
While this is mostly true, things get a little more interesting when the all the branches of the genealogy are explored. Later, I would discover that our family tree has Cherokee, Jewish, and Lithuanian ancestors as well. For our family, this brings new significance to the phrase, “melting pot.”
For any child of God, there is one genealogy that should be of interest to us all—the ancestry of Jesus Christ. Have you ever wondered who all those people are mentioned at the beginning of Matthew and Luke’s Gospels? And why did the Holy Spirit lead them to devote so much attention to Jesus’ ancestors?
I believe you will be wonderfully surprised to discover what lurks in the branches of Jesus’ family tree. God intended to say something very important to us about the human lineage of His Son. Come join us this Sunday at the Movement Church as we explore these realities.
December 5, 2014
The Shame Game
She had done something reckless many years ago. The sense of shame she felt was so powerful that she often cursed herself. Seldom did the average day pass without some memory rising up to mock her. The years of guilt had etched permanent lines in her face. Her eyes avoided contact with mine. She spoke through trembling lips, but I’ll never forget her story.
She desperately wanted to reverse time somehow, escape back to the past, and change the decision she had made during one critical moment. That she could not only increased her regrets. In her present condition, every moment of joy was short lived. Just beneath the surface of any positive emotion she experienced was an ever-present reminder of that one huge mistake in life. The old memory swam around like some kind of sea monster waiting for an opportune time to feed. Over the years it had only grown larger and more terrifying. So she lived her life wasting away without hope or even a pleasant dream for the future.
So who is this woman and what did she do? That’s really not important. God allowed me to speak into her life and introduce her to a path of healing—one where the self-inflicted torture did not exist. These were the words that she needed to hear in the moment, but I would say the same to the whole world if I had a platform from which to shout.
“Child of God, you are perfect in His eyes. Your crime was paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Grace is greater than all your sins: past, present, and future. Mercy still flows from God’s throne and will never diminish in the smallest degree. You are loved—loved so much that had you been the only person alive when our Lord came, He still would have died just for you.
“Believe and stop condemning yourself. When God looks at you, He sees Jesus. When Jesus looks at you, He sees the temple of the Holy Spirit. When you look at yourself, you can see these same truths through the eyes of faith. Be set free in the name of Jesus Christ. And by the power of His blood, rise up and walk. When you gather your balance, you’ll learn how to run. One day you’ll even dance to these new rhythms of grace.
“It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve fallen down, or how long you’ve been in the mud. Oh, that you would grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Get on your feet. Choose the abundant life. Lay claim to love. You’ll learn how to breathe again, and in so doing, shine for the glory of God.”
This is just a little taste of the message this Sunday, “What to do with Guilt and Shame.”
November 29, 2014
A Prayer For You
"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord," 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV).
May the grace of God wash over you today like a gentle stream. May you be awakened to the rich supply reserved just for you. There is more than enough to cover your sins and faults, even your hurts and failures. God's grace is amazing, astounding, abundant, and flat-out awesome.
May the peace of God flow over you like a summer breeze. May it surpass your understanding and calm the tempest within. The challenges before you today may seem overwhelming, but God's peace has no rivals. Worry, doubt and fear are no match for His supernatural power. Whisper those same words of Jesus that He spoke before the storm, "Peace, be still."
Today, may you know God and know Jesus Christ. You have been pursued and found. You are loved as a child, unconditionally and unreservedly. In this very moment, may these realities bring you joy.
November 21, 2014
"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thes. 5:18
Sometimes I read a passage like the one above and wonder, “Is that even possible? If I had written the verse, I might have changed the word “all” to “most.” Life can throw a lot of good our way, but bad and ugly show up too. Paul’s choice of the word, “circumstances,” is so generic that it encompasses all of life itself. This is the kind of verse that leaves a person with no wiggle room. Had Paul said, “Give thanks in all blessings,” this would be more achievable on a human level.
But what if we really could give thanks in all circumstances? That no matter what happened in our lives; we were able to tap into a spirit of gratitude every day of the week. It would be like giving all those negative and damaging emotions a permanent vacation, from which they never returned. Imagine how much fun it would be to celebrate Thanksgiving, not just one day out of the whole year, but all 365 as well. The power to do this would change our lives in unimaginable ways, and positively affect every relationship we have.
The truth is that God would never ask us to do something without providing the means to accomplish it. Paul says that the will of God for our lives is to arrive at a place where we can give thanks, always! The key to the verse is found in the phrase, “in Christ Jesus.” In other words, through Him all things are possible.
This Sunday at the Movement Church, we are featuring a real-life story about a man who found the key to unlock the spirit of thanksgiving in his own heart. I know this guy personally, and would have to say, it’s the real deal. His story will inspire and encourage you. Already, you’ve probably been beaten down or up this week. I don’t plan to teach you how enjoy the beating itself, no, just how to beat the all the emotional baggage that comes along with it.
October 24, 2014
It Happened In A Tribe
From the very beginning of launching our church, we did not view ourselves to be building another typical church down the street. Not that there's anything wrong with this model. Our vision was simply to start a network of house churches that met throughout the week for fellowship and training, and then gathered on the weekend to worship and hear God's Word.
We call our house churches, "Tribes." I love the fact that God created twelve tribes to form the nation of Israel. Later Jesus would choose the same number for His band of disciples. I believe this is the perfect number of people to gather in small communities, forge loving relationships and launch dreams. We have three tribes meeting now throughout the week—Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7 PM.
Something amazing happened at our newly-formed Thursday group that I'd love to share with you. One of our members sat in the parking lot of his apartment complex holding up a sign that read, "Thursday Night Bible Study." Passersby were curious and many stopped to ask what was happening.
In church planting it often takes what we call "multiple touches" for someone to make the decision to attend an event. I understand this principle all too well. Commitments to launch into something new are not easy for me either. But in this case, one individual decided to show up at the first "hello."
I've read about the same thing happening in the New Testament. There was that day when Paul first entered the city of Philippi in Acts 16. A lady by the name of Lydia was sitting by the river when Paul arrived to share the gospel. She listened, believed, and then allowed a church to start in her home. Lydia was the kind of person that Jesus called "a person of peace."
So back to the apartment where we met last night, we had a wonderful time listening to our new friend as she shared her story. We studied God's Word for a time and prayed over concerns that were brought to our attention. It's always wonderful to feel the presence of the Spirit of God in a room, and it was palpable.
As I drove back home last night, I thanked God for the journey. Every step is orchestrated by His amazing love. There are so many people in the city of San Antonio who are looking for a place to connect, to find friends in the faith, and to put down deep roots in the kingdom of God. All we need to do is gather the Lord's harvest and bring His fruit to the banquet table.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Church In The Park
This Sunday we will not be meeting at Old West Burgers. We are gathering at Eisenhower Park from 9:00-11:30 AM. The plan is simple: Pass out bottled water for the hikers and invite them back for hotdogs later on.
The goal is to connect with people who are living far away from God and invite them to become part of our community. In my mind, I can't think of a more exciting way to be the church and to do church. Have you ever noticed how often Jesus did ministry outdoors? In fact, His church was very mobile. He went where the people were.
This will be a very casual and relaxed meeting. Wear comfortable clothes. Bring your best smile. Pass out water. Grill some hotdogs. Eat like it's your last meal. But most importantly, entertain a stranger for the glory of God.
Eisenhower Park is located at 19399 NW Military Highway. It is north of 1604. You will see it on the left hand side of the road just before the entrance to Camp Bullis. We will be located at pavilion #2 next to the children's playground and the main trailhead. Bring a chair if you need to sit down some. The church will provide all the food, water and condiments.
Cherry and I look forward to seeing you!
There's always a story behind a video like this. On Tuesday night our church family gathered for a concert at Old West Burgers. It was a great night of music, burgers and awesome fellowship.
I found myself sitting at the really, really young adult table. For those of you my age, that's anyone who still has kids in diapers. You could be 50 with kids in diapers and I'd still put you in the same camp.
Little Reed and Baby Penny are about the same age. As the adults were engaged in "adult conversation," the two little ones were doing the same, just in an unknown tongue. This has nothing to do with our theology, btw.
When Reed began feeding Penny, I grabbed my iPhone and started recording. So that's what you see here. It just goes to show how much fun you can have being the church and living life together. I posted this crazy video because it reminds us to keep it simple and enjoy this amazing life.
Marriage & Family
I have a zeal for the truth and wisdom that can be found in the Bible. I've spent many years studying it, in order to discover what it says about the-everyday-things of life. One of these areas in particular centers on marriage and family life.
God conducted the first wedding ceremony. That happened way back in Genesis chapter 2. Not only that, but He created the man and the woman and actually arranged their marriage. If you ever want to find the expert on any subject, go to the source--the one with the big idea who started it all. That's why I strongly believe that the Bible is the best handbook you will ever discover on the subject of human relationships in general, and marriage in particular.
The Bible speaks on all the topics that have a way creating dysfunction within the family. Some of these include: intimacy, finances, in-laws, child rearing, spirituality and even how to argue. I hope and pray that all of your relationships are rockin' along smoothly. There's never any shame, however, in admitting that you need help or just spending some time getting a checkup.
I hope to see you this Sunday. I'll do my best to teach you the things Cherry and I have discovered over the last 29 years of marriage.
French Toast Bake
Check out this recipe we enjoyed before church last Sunday
French Toast Ingredients:
- Butter, For Greasing
- 1 loaf Crusty Sourdough Or French Bread
- 8 whole Eggs
- 2 cups Whole Milk
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 1/2 cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- Freshly Grated Nutmeg (optional)
- 1 stick Cold Butter, Cut Into Pieces
- Warm Syrup, For Serving
- Butter, For Serving
- 1 cup Fresh Blueberries, For Serving
Check out the full recipe and how to bake it for yourself at the Pioneer Woman website.
Are You Ready For This?
So what is it like to plant a brand new church? That's a good question.
It's about finding people who are far away from God and explaining the Good News of Jesus Christ. It's about meeting new people and telling the story of what God has called you to do. Being intentional about connecting with people, loving on them, and building relationships are huge priorities. But these are not the greatest.
So what would be the highest priority in church planting? While I am far from an expert on the subject, I have learned this: It's about faith. Bottom line, you must believe that God has everything worked out and planned according to His will. If faith were a muscle, mine has been worked out more over this last year than during any other time in my life. Each morning when the alarm goes off, it's like rolling out of bed and going to "Faith Boot Camp." Many church planters can show you pictures of what the obstacle course looks like in this camp or tell you stories about falling into a few hidden traps.
"Is it worth it?" you might ask. That's a fair question. I would compare it to what I saw when my wife gave birth to our two sons. There was a lot of pain at the beginning. It was messy too. I distinctly remember hearing some shouting. But when all of that was over, there was a baby to hold. Our family grew and we have been blessed to create a lot of incredible memories over the years.
If personal security could be measured and plotted on a graph, most people would claim to need a high level in order to have any peace. So we plan and prepare. We set goals and timelines for the future. We place our security in the security we are able to create for ourselves. It's no small wonder that people find it difficult to trust God. They are busy trying to manufacture for themselves what God has already promised.
What I love about this new season of faith are the things I have discovered about God. He is the kind of God who knows about all your needs even before you know they exist. God is a Father who can be trusted. He is a provider and a sustainer. Bottom line, life is more joyful when your confidence is in the One who sits upon heaven's throne.
This is an exciting way to live. Simply trust God to make happen what He told you would happen and don't look back, and even more importantly, too far ahead. Take confidence in knowing that He is working behind the scenes whether you can see what He's doing or not.
I'm considering changing the name of the signs we put up at the entrance of our church. Something like "Welcome to Boot Camp" may be in our not-too-distant future.
Ying Kai and T4T
This man started a movement in China that led to 180,000 new churches being planted and over 2 million baptisms. Yesterday I asked if I could share his picture in our newsletter. He said apologetically, “Please do not. I want to go back to China one day.”
Ying Kai is a humble man. If you met him on the street or in a casual setting, you would never know that he started a movement that is currently sweeping across the globe. I had a chance to meet with him in a private setting here in San Antonio. What I expected to hear from him was not what he chose to talk about.
What most of us are looking for in life is that one idea that will lead to success. We wonder how to get our message across or impact the largest number of people. Going viral is the dream of many, even for those whose work is ministry.
So here was a man who had done it—success on a scale that would impress the most hardcore atheist. And what did Ying spend most of his time talking about? Prayer. That’s right! Just talking with God about simple everyday decisions.
“What should I do today, God?” Ying asked. “How does the Holy Spirit want me to pray for people?” “When you know God,” said Ying “He gives you a peace about what to do each moment.”
The people who have already heard about Ying Kai and the miracle of what is transpiring around the world are not surprised by these statements. In fact, you can read more about this in the book written by Steve Smith and Ying Kai, entitled, “T4T.” It’s the story of how God moved simultaneously, and in very similar ways, on two separate continents.
But prayer! Are you kidding me? No secret sauce? Shouldn’t there be some kind of revolutionary process or innovative idea that produces these kinds of results. “No, all Holy Spirit,” says Ying. “Holy Spirit will show you what to do and where to go next.” “We didn’t know what to do until we heard from Him!”
I confess, sometimes I cast all my hopes on a strategy or an idea. Meeting humble Ying and his wife Grace helped me to understand that this methodology is an embarrassing idol among Christian leaders today. Don’t get me wrong, Ying has a very clear strategy of how he trained people to become super-spreaders of the Gospel. But strategy was not the key issue with him. It was all about his personal relationship with God.
So I left humbled. I spent a lot of time on the drive home just talking with God and asking Him questions about what He wanted from me. I guess it’s easy to become self-centered in our relationship with God. Well, that was yesterday, and tomorrow is a new day.
Reflections On Church Planting
So what makes starting a church so different from leading an established church? I’ve been spending time reflecting on our experiences at doing both. Basically, there are three major differences.
First, there are no traditions to uphold. One of the things that you will never hear someone say in a new church is, “We’ve never done it that way before.” I would be the first to agree that not every tradition is bad. Most became such because they added value and meaning during a particular season in the life of a church. However, not all traditions are Biblical or even relevant for today.
I remember someone leaving a particular church I pastored because the choir stopped wearing robes. I thought, “Really?” That made some other people mad too. “Oh my gosh.” Then someone said to me, “We were fine until you came along and figured out a better way to do church.” Ouch! People can get snarky about their favorite traditions. They did so during the ministry of Jesus too.
I suppose at some point our church will have traditions. So one of the values of our church is “iconoclasm.” That just basically means we have the right to smash anything that becomes an end unto itself. Hopefully, this will keep things fresh and fun over the long haul.
Secondly, there are no traditions. “Wasn’t that also the first thing you stated?” Well, yes. And what I mean by this is that everything has to be built from the ground up. In the early stages, there are no established ministries for age groups, or worship leaders or even a place where you can hang a sign and say, “Y’all Come Now.”
All those people who served years before a new pastor arrives at an established church did some pretty cool stuff. Church planters can’t rely upon these things. They’ve got to figure out how to dream it up all over again for a new generation. This makes “church planter types” and “established church types” totally different categories of people. The reality is that some people who lead or attend traditional churches would be better off in a church plant and vice versa. In other words, new churches are for explorers. Traditional churches are for settlers. I believe there happens to be enough room in God’s kingdom for both.
And finally, relationship building is easier in a church plant. I was out visiting yesterday and spoke to a woman who said, “I go to a really big church. I love the preaching, but there is no one who would know if I decided not to show up today.” That can’t happen in a group of 50 people or so. When you are not there, someone always says, “Where is so and so?”
A new church is the kind of place where someone knows your name and everyone notices when you arrive. You can walk into a relaxed environment and not feel the pressure to put on a religious mask or act like some super saint. And you will probably get invited to do stuff after the service is over too. A lot of us head over to Whataburger when we leave Old West Burgers. I think that’s pretty funny. In the future someone might suggest that we call ourselves “The Burger Church.” Well, we have no traditions so that might actually come up for a vote one day.
Meet baby Reed!
He shows up with his mommy and daddy to house church on Wednesday nights. One of his favorite things to do is walk around the room with a cellphone (turned off by the way) or a remote control pinned to his ear. He also speaks in an unknown tongue. I’m not spiritual enough to interpret the sounds just yet. But at the rate that he's growing, it won’t be long before we all have the gift of understanding.
Reed slowly made his way over to me as I was telling the story of Jesus calling the four fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. The curious look you see on his face is the one I saw as he leaned against my knee. I quickly reached for the cell phone buried in my pocket and snapped this picture. The moment was just too good to let it slip away.
As Cherry and I were driving home afterwards, we got into a discussion about the ministry of Jesus. Our conversation steered toward that familiar scene in the Bible where several parents carried their little children into the presence of the Messiah. They just wanted Jesus to bless their little ones. Ironically, the twelve disciples were outraged when this happened. They even went so far as to “rebuke” the parents.
I’ve tried to imagine what the disciples were thinking that day. Perhaps they didn’t see the divine value of little child. It could be that they wanted to preserve Jesus all for themselves. Maybe they thought His teaching was too important to be interrupted. Whatever the reason, Jesus deflected the rebuke away from the young families and turned it back toward the disciples. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Matt. 19:14.
One of the things that I love about our home groups, or "tribes" as we like to call them, is that people from a variety of backgrounds and ages come together to for a few simple reasons: We want to love God, love people and reach the world. This is what Jesus did with amazing success. No moment was so high or holy that it couldn’t be crashed by someone with a spiritual need, a physical problem or even a desire to be blessed.
I'm not convinced that Jesus would have been a fan of sound proof children’s areas--constructed for the sole purpose of keeping kids and adults separated during worship. I’m still evaluating how I feel about this in my own heart. I do know this, however; little Reed made me smile as I was teaching last night. Everyone in the room got a kick out of what he was up to. It was just one of those moments where you had to be there.
The joy of the Lord filled the room. It was a sweet aroma.
A little phrase in The Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 has been messing with my mind lately. Jesus said "...teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you..." As I began searching the Scripture for the commands of Christ, I discovered that there was a hole in the middle of my ministry. I came to terms with the reality that disciple makers are charged with the responsibility of teaching obedience to the commands of Christ.
Next, there were several questions that I began to explore:
1. What are the commands of Christ?
2. How does one teach another to obey?
3. Most importantly, how did Jesus do this Himself?
"Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you," may be the most neglected part of the Great Commission, or perhaps the least understood. Today, there is a growing movement to correct this oversight and get back on course with the mandate of Jesus. One of the things that we strive to do in our church is reach people who are far away from God, and disciple them according to what Jesus wanted them to understand and practice.
What I'm learning about this adventure is that many Christians have never been discipled in the faith. They believed and were baptized a long time ago, but were never mentored. This is unfortunate and a crippling waste of kingdom resources. If the people who make up the church are not equipped to be the church, then how can the church ever function Biblically? This is probably the greatest reason that church attendance is down in America today. There are so few trainers and teachers who look at the Great Commission with a practical eye for how to live it out in our culture.
If you find yourself needing some help in the area of Christlikeness, our church is a safe place to plug in and grow. We don't condemn people for what they lack, or size them up against the so called "super-believing saints." We exist to help you know a loving God, follow His Son and pass it along to others. It's pretty simple, but it's a great way to live your life.
We recently passed the six month mark since officially launching the Movement Church of San Antonio. This has been a new journey for Cherry and I. For the last 25 years, we’ve led established churches that have been in existence for years. That being the case, I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the differences between church planting and pastoring a traditional church.
The key differences can be summed up by using an example from the construction industry. Let’s suppose you want to build an apartment complex. Great! You will definitely need an architect who can produce a set of blueprints for you. Once those plans are developed, it's imperative to find a few builders who can follow the architect’s design. Finally, after the construction is completed, the residents are ready to move in.
In church life, the architect would be the visionary leader with a dream to build a new church. The builders are the first wave of believers who share the architect’s vision. The residents are those who join the church once the ministries are established and everything is completed.
When you look inside most traditional churches, the church planter (architect), and many of the original founders (builders) have already moved on. Some are in other churches, others in Gloryland. What you have are many church members (residents) who are blessed by all the vision casting and work that was completed long before they arrived.
Here is what I find to be one of the primary differences in church planting. The types of people who thrive in this environment are founders and builders. They get a spiritual charge out of seeing something emerge from nothing. They are not the sorts of people who need every ministry to be established and humming like a well-oiled machine. They want to build the machine and leave their sweat on it. For them, it’s about the journey as much as it is the destination.
The church planting environment is not for everyone. Any pastor who wants to go down this path needs to put a lot of prayer into the decision and be prepared to exercise a great measure of faith. The average church member (residents) may not understand why all the ministries are not fully functional and ready to meet their needs.
But for those who get excited about laying a Biblical foundation on the bedrock of a God-honoring vision, who see in advance what they are building for the future, and who want to leave a legacy of faith for future generations to come, church planting is a dream come true. And here's the reality. Every statistic I’ve seen on the state of Christianity in America indicates that we need more church planters and the builder types who share their vision. The need for you to pray about this has never been greater than it is today.