Friday, December 17, 2010

Del Tackett on the joys of college ministry

Here's a great blog by Del on the joy of ministering to and with college students and the importance of koinonia in the church. Please read!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some interesting (sad?) Barna research

Barna Research Group has recently come out with a study that shows where the majority of Christians are headed. Here are their six "megathemes", with my comments following:

1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
How sad. But I can definitely see this. Look at what is being sung on K-Love and other Christian radio stations. As Kenny Thacker once said, referring to this young generation which tends to not read their Bibles..."If we don't sing it to them, they won't know it." There's a lot of truth we're not singing about any more!

2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
Basically this means lack of evangelism. I can see this. If you don't know your own faith (#1), how can you share it with others? Didn't Peter say... "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you"?

3. Growing numbers of people are less interested in spiritual principles and more desirous of learning pragmatic solutions for life.
Yeah, we've seen this one coming. So many people want a self-help sermon. And if they will sit and listen to a theologically rich, expository, Christocentric sermon, they still want three action steps at the end. Because it's still "all about me".

4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
This is partly good and partly bad. Barna goes on to say that the problem is that many times no one attaches Jesus to their good works. Can you say Berea College? I recommend everyone who is interested in social justice read When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert.

5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian Church.
Again, when you don't know the foundational doctrines and theology of the Bible, you won't defend them.

6. The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
Again, this one breaks my heart. When and why did we ever stop thinking that the world and all it's systems and us and every part of our lives needs to come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ? God help us!

If you would like to read more about the Barna Research project, click here. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Lawsons sing Keep on the Sunny Side

Near the Cross, Alison Krauss

The Lawson Family singing with Kenny Thacker

Tim, David, TJ, Jessie Lawson and Kenny Thacker

David and Mommy Discuss Santa Claus

David: "Mommy, is Santa Claus real?"
Me: "Well, yes. He was a real man that lived a long time ago."
D: "Did he die?"
Me: "Yes"
David ponders.
D: "Was he a Christian?"
Me: "Yes, I do think so."
D: "Then I will see him in heaven?"
Me: "Yes, I think you will!"
David, in the middle of Walmart: "WOO-HOO!!! I WILL SEE SANTA CLAUS IN HEAVEN!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good weekend

We're back in the swing of things after last weekend. We went to spend some time at Dudley Hall's Family Reunion... which has for many years included both family and friends. We relaxed and enjoyed great teaching from some of our favorites: Dudley Hall, Kenny Thacker, Alan Wright and T.D. Hall.

And of course, some great music. The Lawson kids even sang a little on Saturday afternoon. I wanted to wait to write this blog until I had video to upload... but alas... I am technically challenged and must depend on the mercies of others who know about such things.

The best thing was being able to hear from apostolic voices in the faith who are on the forefront of what God is doing and saying. The basic theme was how to distinguish between the American Gospel and the New Testament Gospel. The big picture, what God is doing in the church right now, is finally putting to rest the prosperity gospel and bringing clarity to passages such as Mark 10:24-30 (rich young ruler).

There was much talk about David Platt's new book Radical. It was highly recommended. However, I like what Kenny Thacker said. Basically, it should be read by someone with the maturity to understand our acceptance in Christ. If not, it will make you think you're not saved.

Here's a piece of good advice from Kenny:
"Everyone should read Radical. But, before everyone reads Radical, everyone should read The Prodigal God by Tim Keller." I couldn't agree more!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great blog by Albert Mohler - on why Christians should think. Imagine that!

Click on this link to readAlbert's Mohler's blog  about why Christians should think about their faith, that thinking is central to the gospel, why it's okay to be a Christian intellectual, and the importance of a Christian worldview.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interesting thought from Kevin Swanson

Kevin Swanson is the executive director of Christian Home Educators of Colorado, and has a popular radio program called "Generations With Vision." Here's a quote from him about the danger of separating the generations for education and ministry. I completely agree (although I might add that in his quote, as do most people who are trying to make a point, he uses generalizations that may or may not be true. For example, I don't think that every child that has to go to daycare is disconnected relationally from his parents - but I don't really think Swanson means that, either). This thought is one of the reasons why we encourage  the youth and college students to be part of the ministry of the body as much as possible. We grow from relationships that bridge generations.

"Love requires movement toward the one we love. It is personal involvement. The Bible speaks often of Jesus as "moved with compassion" and then He always proceeds to involvement in the problems of others. It is one thing to "love" mankind through cold institutions, and other thing to personally visit a widows and lovingly disciple a little child.

"After two hundred years of building our institutions on the worldview of Rousseau, such things as relationships and love seem to be distant concepts anymore. If love is movement, our modern institutions have worked hard to create a fixed distance between persons in family, church and community. Our educational systems lay down those limits, and this inevitably impacts marriage, the family, and the Church. The distance ensured by removing a child from relationship at two years of age into daycare, by segregating familes, and by compartmentalizing groups of people in school and church by age, marriage status, their "special need," etc., assures some form of pseudo-relationship, but it doesn't do much to create opportunity for love to operate. The engineered distance set by our institutions keeps things safe and manageable, but it certainly doesn't allow for the movement of love."

David's quote of the week

Sitting on the couch together,  David asked,
"Mom, are you an independent woman?" [what?]
Ha. 15 years ago I would have said yes.
"No," I said. "I need God and I need your Daddy."
"Yes," David agreed. "Because you can't even make lemonade. Maybe you should get Daddy to teach you."

Monday, November 22, 2010

My eccentric son

TJ spent most of the day on Saturday and Sunday making Jessie's birthday present. It was a man made out of a box and bottles used as arms and legs. Completely, entirely made out of what he could find in the recycling bin. Written upon the man was the message; "Happy Birthday Jessie and Happy New Year" [????].

His statement was "I hoped it would inspire a sudden urge to recycle."


Monday, November 15, 2010

"Take a College Student Home For Lunch Day" October 14, 2010

This Sunday at church we declared a new holiday: "Take a College Student Home For Lunch Day."
All in all, it was a huge success. We were worried that there would be students who did not get asked... but not one was left behind.

The challenge now is to get more families involved, as well as to get to the point that we do not have to schedule these days because they are happening naturally.

Some people have questioned our style of college ministry because we do very few large-scale events, and we do not have a "college group" that meets regularly. We're unconventional, but that's okay. When we started pastoring in 2007, we received a prophetic word that we were assigned to reach Berea College, and that because of that, our church and ministry would look unlike anything ever seen before anywhere in the country. We couldn't and shouldn't model it after anything else we'd ever seen. So we feel pretty good that we're on the right track. We continue to do two things, and do them in this order:

1. Listen to the Lord.
2. Listen to college students.

When we talk to the students, they continually ask for:
1. One-on-one mentoring and discipleship.
2. Time with families in homes.
3. Time to get off campus and be with more mature Christians.
4. Time for young men to learn from older men.
5. Time for young women to learn from older women.
6. Good home-cooked food and the opportunity to have a chair set for them at the family table!

They don't always want to gather in large groups of peers - they see that every day at college.
They don't want more lecturing and impersonal teaching - they are willing to be taught but that teaching should come in the context of relationship (that sounds a lot like how Jesus did it!). We strive not to separate college students into their own group for ministry - we want them involved in the life of the church. We want them mixed up in all life groups, incorporated into Sunday morning ministry, and serving in every ministry area. For college-aged young people, it's time to graduate from youth group style ministry into the hands-on ministry of the whole church.

The challenge is to involve the whole congregation in discipling students. That's why we're encouraging families and mentors to take one or two students home after church on Sundays to spend time with them. We believe the Holy Spirit is going to build the church this way. He's going to do the matching up, and He does it much better than we can. I believe there was some Holy Spirit match-making going on this Sunday!

My only regret is that I only saw about 6 families take home students. One family ended up with 20 people at their house. What hospitality! But, again, the goal is not to have a big lunch with a lot of students. If we wanted to do that, we would have pushed the chairs in the sanctuary aside and had a big meal after church. The students don't want that. They miss home-cooking, Moms and Dads, younger brothers and sisters, couches and living rooms, and kitchen tables that don't look like cafeterias. That opens up the door for talking that gets beyond small talk, into issues of life and faith.

6 families who want to open up their homes is a great start, but I'm believing for more. River of Life family - will you get involved in a student's life in this way? You could have an eternal impact!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Does the Gospel just change us, or does it change our culture?

"The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology... a worldview that will mount the historically rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and post modernity, leading the way into the post-postmodern world with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe we face the question: if not now, when? And if we are grasped by this vision, we may also hear the question: if not us, then who? And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?" - N.T. Wright, as quoted in The Gospel in Life by Timothy Keller

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Aimee Semple McPherson quote

"It is only when Jesus is glorified in our own eyes that we are able to make Him glorious to others." - Aimee Semple McPherson.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Phil. 3:8

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Del Tackett's excellent blog about vocational ministry

Follow the link below to read Del's blog about vocational ministry. I love this!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wisdom from John Piper

I've been reading Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper - a book I've been wanting to read for a long time. One of the great modern classics. It's basically about missions, but it's way much more than that, and it should be read by every Christian whether they're interested in missions or not. And pretty much if you're a Christian, and you're not interested in missions, you should wonder why.
The third edition of this book includes a new introduction written by Piper which addresses new changes in the world and also his challenge to prosperity preachers. The best part for me was when he addresses the difference between "come-see religion" and "go-tell religion." The OT was full of people who amassed wealth, yes. Abraham, Solomon, etc. But it was because the surrounding nations were to come and see the glory of God (i.e. Queen of Sheba). Now, the stage has changed. I love this:

"The pattern in the Old Testament is a come-see religion. There is a geographic center of the people of God. There is a physical temple, an earthly king, a political regime, an ethnic identity, an army to fight God's earthly battles, and a band of priests to make animal sacrifices for sins.
With the coming of Christ all of this changed. There is no geographic center for Christianity; Jesus has replaced the temple, the priests, and the sacrifices; there is no Christian political regime because Christ's kingdom is not of this world; and we do not fight earthly battles with chariots and horses or bombs and bullets, but spiritual ones with the word and the Spirit...
All of this supports the great change in mission. The New Testament does not present a come-see religion, but a go-tell religion (Matthew 28:18-20).... the implications of this are huge for the way we live and the way we think about money and lifestyle... this leads to a wartime lifestyle. That means we don't amass wealth to show how rich our God can make us. We work hard and seek a wartime austerity for the cause of spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. We maximize giving to the war effort, not comforts at home. We raise our children with a view to helping them embrace the suffering that it will cost to finish the mission.
So if a prosperity preacher asks me about all the promises of wealth for faithful people in the Old Testament, my response is: Read your New Testament carefully and see if you see the same emphasis." - John Piper

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Money Answer Book by Dave Ramsey

“God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into the nest.” – J.G. Holland.
This is just one of the inspirational quotes in this little book by Dave Ramsey, one of the nation’s most famous voices in the area of personal finance. It’s an introduction to Dave’s basic teachings on how to get out of debt and live within your budget. It’s also full of answers to some of the frequently asked questions on the call-in radio program, “The Dave Ramsey Show.”
I would recommend this book to those who have not yet heard of Dave Ramsey and need a light introduction and inspiration to get started. For those who are serious about the nuts and bolts of doing money Dave’s way, you may want to check out Dave’s other books, The Total Money Makeover or Financial Peace Revisited.
My family is on Dave’s plan and we are now debt-free except our house and our money has been freed up to give into the Kingdom of God. It really works!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Great Quotations about Intelligent Design

"I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God." - Abraham Lincoln

"No man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions." - Charles P. Steinmetz

"If a book be false in its facts, disprove them; if false in its reasoning, refute it. But for God's sake, let us freely hear both sides if we choose." - Thomas Jefferson

"Great thoughts come from the heart." - Marquis de Vauvenargues

"Curiosity is the thirst of the soul." - Samuel Johnson

"The visible order of the universe proclaims a supreme intelligence." - Jean Jacques-Rousseau

"Science brings men nearer to God." - Louis Pasteur

"Truth between candid minds can never do harm." - Thomas Jefferson

"The visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so plainly in all the works of creation that a rational creature, who will but seriously reflect on them, cannot miss the discovery of a Deity." - John Locke

"A house implies a builder, and a garment a weaver, and a door a carpenter, so does the existence of the Universe imply a Creator." - Marquis de Vauvenargues

"It is impossible for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being." - George Washington

"From a knowledge of His work, we shall know Him." - Robert Boyle

"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." - Galileo Galilei

"Of what I call God, and fools call Nature." - Robert Browning

"So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have exited thro' all the time, they have believed, in the the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an external pre-existence of a creator, rather than in that of a self-existent Universe." - Thomas Jefferson

"Nature is the art of God." - Dante Alighieri

"The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator." - Louis Pasteur

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Vertical Self: How Biblical faith can help us discover who we are in an age of self-obsession by Mark Sayers

Mark Sayers is a new voice in Christianity who is confronting what is wrong with our culture with the truth of Jesus Christ. In his new book, The Vertical Self, Sayers illustrates the difference between the “horizontal self” (personal identity defined by culture) and the “vertical self” (personal identity as defined by God).

Sayers’ intentions are good and his underlying premise is correct: the culture of today, especially among young people, is too media-influenced. Too many young people are only trying to emulate celebrities or trying to be “cool”. However, I still feel that Sayers’ solution is missing the mark. His remedy is still to focus on ourselves, but to work on dealing with our desires and sins, using various techniques in order to make right what is wrong with you. I feel that is introducing these concepts (some even from other religions) as roads to holiness that Sayers has skirted around the idea that Jesus alone makes us righteous, not our own efforts.

I appreciate Sayers’ good start with this book, however, I would not recommend it to someone who did not understand the idea of God’s grace and how we find our true identity: by focusing on the Father and not on ourselves, by understanding we are sons and daughters and not servants trying to work to be holy.

Thomas Nelson Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick preached the good news!

From the Confession of St. Patrick:
"And there I wish to wait for His promise who surely never disappoints; as He promises in the Gospel: 'They will come from east and the west and they shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob' - thus we believe that the faithful will come from the entire world.
For that reason we ought to fish well and with diligent care, as the Lord commands and teaches, saying: 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'
This is why it was most necessary to spread our nets widely so that a great throng and multitude might be captured for God, and that there be clergy everywhere to baptize and teach a people who need and want so badly, as the Lord admonishes in the Gospel, saying: 'Go now and teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have taught you; and see, I am with you all days, even until the end of the world.' And again He says: 'Go out therefore to the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.' And again: 'This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the entire world for a testimony to all races of people, and then shall the end come.' And so, too, the Lord announces through the prophet, and says, 'And it shall come to pass, in the last days, says the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and our young man shall see visions, and you old ones shall dream dreams. And upon my manservants and maidservants I will pour our my Spirit, and thy, too, shall prophesy.'
Finally, in Hosea He says: 'I will call those who were not My people, My people; and those who have not received My mercy, they shall receive My mercy. And where before in the place where it was said, 'You are not my people,' there they shall be called children of the living God.'
This, then, is how the people of Ireland, who had never had any knowledge of God, but until now had cults and worshiped idols and abominations, have lately been turned into a people of the Lord and are called the children of God."

Monday, March 1, 2010

A balanced response to Mark Driscoll...

Following is a great blog by Carolyn Custis James, author of "The Lost Women of the Bible." In it, she shares a link to a blog by Dr. Richard Beck, with his response to Mark Driscoll's efforts to masculinize the church. Very interesting. What do you think?
Carolyn's Reflections: Chickified or Macho Man?

Monday, February 22, 2010

You just gotta get out now and then...

Okay, I've never seen Avatar, but I love the following article. I'm not against movies in general, but I do think that life is a great adventure worth living. The following is written by Alex McManus:

"By now most of you have seen James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, AVATAR.
The night I saw it I knew this movie would strike a chord with large audiences worldwide. I tweeted that anyone who saw the movie was going to want to live on Pandora, the home planet of the 10-foot tall, blue skinned Na´vi.

The Na´vi people are tall, thin, tribal, handsome and fiercely brave. Pandora, their planet, is as beautiful as it is dangerous. The Na´vi live in a ubiquitous communion with each other and their world. The conflict arises when an evil corporation (surprise!) from Earth wants to exploit large deposits of a treasured mineral located directly under the Na´vi’s ancient home.

Interestingly enough, CNN reports that audiences are experiencing depression after viewing the movie, with some even entertaining suicidal thoughts. Others are experiencing an increased disgust with humanity.

I mentioned to a new friend of mine how I felt that many viewers would want to live on Pandora. He said that he asked his wife to paint herself blue. To me, these are totally understandable responses. The Na´vi live in community. The Na´vi are exotic, wise, fierce, and sexy. Their planet, Pandora, is filled with cool flora and fauna. Life there is an adventure.

Ok, so the fantastical Pandora is cool. What’s not to like?
But thoughts of suicide? Anger with the humans?

Many of us feel a slight sadness when we finish a great novel, or when a favorite television series ends. But depression?

Still, perhaps there is something here that we should pay attention to. Sometimes we minimize the distance between the world we live in, the world “as it is”, and the world we dream of, the world as “it could be”. The Na´vi live in the kind of dense community we long for but cannot seem to find. They are exotic, fierce, wise, and sexy. We are not blue, not fierce, often confused, and mostly look awful in thong underwear. Their lush planet and colorful lives are filled with adventure. Our lives seem gray in comparison.

Here’s where it all began to break down for me. The CNN article tells us, “Compared to life on earth Pandora is beautiful and glowing utopia”.


This is a line written by someone who never gets outside. Heck, you don’t even have to go outside. Get the Discovery Channel for God’s sake.

Perhaps part of the problem is that while we wished we could live on amazing fictional planets, we’ve never taken the steps to really live here on this planet.

We are estranged from each other and our world, but not because humans suck and the “world is dying” (as one of the depressed said of Earth). Our problem is that we lack a mission worth giving our lives to, something worth defending, something worth dying for. Without this we often feel an emptiness to our lives and routines. Another part of the problem is that we spend too much time being heroes in fantasy worlds and games. We live action packed lives vicariously through television and movies. Since I adore movies and TV let me qualify this. “Too much time” is a relative. Some of us live before our screens to the exclusion of a real world that is filled with amazing adventures, vicious predators, and lots of opportunities to die doing something really daring.

Just a couple of days before I heard about the “Avatar blues” I was listening to a new friend of mine, Steve, tell of his experience on a hunt in Africa. He and a mutual friend of ours, Terry, had fired on a Rhino and the behemoth charged them. Steve tells me that you could feel the ground tremble as this angered beast ran at them. Terry, he said, took two steps forward at the Rhino, ground trembling beneath their feet, cocked his gun, and fired.

That’s not fiction. That’s adventure. Earth is as beautiful, as dangerous, as lush a utopia as Pandora. There is a difference. Utopia means “no place”. That’s Pandora - no place. It’s not real. Earth, however, is real. You just gotta get out now and then.

I wonder what would happen if some of us actually got to live on Pandora? Would we spend our Pandoran days playing fantasy games in which we were Earthlings like Steve and Terry who actually went out once in a while and had adventures?

For Christ following people, Avatar is a reminder that in Christ we have a mission, and on that mission we will have adventures a plenty. We live in a real world of real splendor populated by real residents who are under attack. The cause is real. The risk is real. Because the cause and the risk are real, the conditions for dense communion with others exist. It’s up to us to step into it. So put the remote down. Here’s the call: Heroes Wanted in the fight for humanity and for the quest to save the planet. Safe Return Doubtful.

what do you think?"