Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I am Michael Scott.
Although I don't share all of his idiosyncrasies and flaws (Thank the good Lord) I do have one glaring similarity with him: I want everyone to like me.
I want everyone to be my friend.
And because of that my ability to lead is impaired.
Michael Scott has no friends or family so he looks to his employees to fill the void. I have family but no friends (at least in this country) and many times I look to the church to be my friend. Failing to make the distinction has cost me respect in their eyes and reduced my ability to effectively lead them.
Dear God give me mercy and help. Amen.
Friday, November 14, 2008
This story has been passed onto me second- or third- or possibly fifth-hand. Who knows how accurate the details are, or whether the words were spoken exactly in this way? But from my knowledge of the man in question, it is entirely believable. In fact, if it isn't true, it's the kind of story that would almost be necessary to invent.
An eminent and well-known English preacher was approached by a congregation member who complained about some aspect of church life. It may have been that he didn't feel welcomed, or that he was finding it hard to make friends and fit in; it could have been that he was finding the service dissatisfying or the preaching too long; it could have been that the music was not to his taste or that his family was not being catered for to his satisfaction. The details of the complaint have been lost in the telling and re-telling of the story.
The preacher listened to the complaint, paused, and then replied with five words that cut straight to the heart of not only the man's problem, but the problem with all grumbling and complaining in church. He simply said, “It's not about you, stupid!” and walked off.
It was a stunningly rude response—the kind that this preacher seemed uniquely capable of getting away with in his very English way. But doesn't it exactly express what is wrong with grumbling and complaining in church?
It really is the height of idiocy to think that church is about me and my needs and my family and my satisfaction. It completely overturns the teaching of the Bible—that church is about God and Christ and loving other people. In fact, if we wanted to summarize Paul's rebuke to the dysfunctional Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11-14, a pretty reasonable slogan would be “It's not about you, stupid!”.
So the next time you're feeling grumpy about church, and are complaining that this or that aspect leaves you cold, remind yourself of the five-word answer to grumbling. And if you're really game, when someone starts grumbling to you about how they don't like the music or how they're sick of the preacher's jokes, just give them a slightly incredulous look, shake your head, and say, “It's not about you, stupid!”.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I couldn't have said it better myself. I try to remain non-partisan every time political issues regarding the united states grab international headlines. For a good number of people I'm one of the only americans that they know over here, so there is an interest in my opinion about all things american.It can be hard to be neutral, but I do this for a couple reasons, firstly, I am not nearly as informed as I should be about american politics (but hey, I haven't lived there in nearly 6 years), and secondly I don't want to needlessly be divisive over secondary or tertiary issues (the gospel is offensive enough without me heaping politics on top of it).
This article does a great job of presenting the gospel in the context of the recent election. My favourite sentence is: People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates.(i'm at an internet cafe now, and the guy next to me is looking at soft porn, good grief its ten a.m.)
In my years of pastoral ministry I have worked very hard to not be political. I believe that my job as a pastor is to preach and teach the Bible well so that my people make their decisions, including their voting decisions, out of their faith convictions.
This election season which has dominated the cultural conversation for many months has been particularly insightful regarding the incessant gospel thirst that abides deep in the heart of the men and women who bear God’s image. Without endorsing or maligning either political party or their respective presidential candidates, I am hopeful that a few insights from the recent election season are of help, particularly to younger evangelicals.
First, people are longing for a savior who will atone for their sins. In this election, people thirst for a savior who will atone for their economic sins of buying things they did not need with money they did not have. The result is a mountain of credit debt they cannot pay and a desperate yearning that somehow a new president will save them from economic hell.
Second, people are longing for a king who will keep them safe from terror in his kingdom. In the Old Testament the concept of a peaceable kingdom is marked by the word shalom. In shalom there is not only the absence of sin, war, strife, and suffering but also the presence of love, peace, harmony, and health. And, this thirst for shalom is so parched that every election people cannot help but naively believe that if their candidate simply wins shalom is sure to come despite sin and the curse.
The bottom line is obvious to those with gospel eyes. People are longing for Jesus, and tragically left voting for mere presidential candidates. For those whose candidate wins today there will be some months of groundless euphoric faith in that candidate and the atoning salvation that their kingdom will bring. But, in time, their supporters will see that no matter who wins the presidency, they are mere mortals prone to sin, folly, and self-interest just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. To help extend naïve false hope as long as possible, a great enemy will be named and demonized as the one who is hindering all of the progress to atone for our sins and usher in our kingdom. If the Democrats win it will be the rich, and if the Republicans win it will be the terrorists. This diversionary trick is as old as Eve who blamed her sin on Satan rather than repenting. The lie is that it’s always someone else’s fault and we’re always the victim of sinners and never the sinner.
Speaking of repentance, sadly, no matter who wins there will be no call to personal repentance of our own personal sins which contributes to cultural suffering and decline such as our pride, gluttony, covetousness, greed, indebtedness, self-righteousness, perversion, and laziness. And, in four years we’ll do it all again and pretend that this time things will be different. Four years after that, we’ll do it yet again. And, we’ll continue driving around this cul de sac until Jesus returns, sets up his throne, and puts an end to folly once and for all.
In the meantime, I would encourage all preachers to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and repentance of personal sin. He alone can truly atone for our sins. He alone can deliver us from a real hell. He alone is our sinless and great King. And, he alone has a Shalom kingdom to offer.
Lastly, for those preachers who have gotten sidetracked for the cause of a false king and a false kingdom by making too much of the election and too little of Jesus, today is a good day to practice repentance in preparation to preach it on Sunday. Just give it some time. The thirst will remain that only Jesus can quench. So, we’ve still got work to do….until we see King Jesus and voting is done once and for all.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
I've been thinking about blogging a lot lately, but as you can tell I haven't gotten around to actually writing anything in a long time.
I've got two weddings coming up in the next two weeks. I love weddings. There also are two baptisms this week in Waterford from a church plant that my church is helping out with. I'd love to be able to drive down for that, but since we have a wedding rehearsal at the same time it's not going to happen. i love baptisms. I can't decide which I love more. All I know is that baptisms take a lot less paperwork.
The General Registrars Office in Roscommon is being so lame to me. They're really dragging their feet over putting me on the List of Wedding Solemnizers, which is kind of stressful.
There are some interesting notes i jotted down in my journal that will hopefully one day turn into blogs, one of them has to do with posi-core, one of them has to do with the apostles creed and another one has to do with how to make the perfect cup of tea.
But I don't really have time to write about any of those things now.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
every single song is Arnold Schwartzeneggar themed. pretty funny idea i think. This is from their myspace:
Whenever a new band comes out I often hear it said, "that's exactly what you'd expect from a heavy band." I beg to differ. Austrian Death Machine is exactly what you should hear from a heavy band.
- a continuously fast paced tempo you can always circle pit to
- the obvious build up to a breakdown you'll know how to mosh to
- classic sing alongs we to pile up and sing along with
- a guitar solo in every song
And yes... I would never leave out the obvious key component. Cliche vocals that sound really angry! None of this scary screaming with makeup or goofy lows that we can all make under our breath.
Lastly, let move onto lyrical content. I've heard plenty of metal bands steal lyrics from angry fourth graders that hate going to church or don't want to clean their rooms. Now it's time to steal lyrics from the great minds of Hollywood screen writers that at least made it to sixth grade. Don't miss listening to the hit track "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers."
Bottom line, Austrian Death Machine is fast, pissed, brutal and every song has a guitar solo. You won't find fantasy lyrics or overly poetic personal jargon. There are only forcefully chanted, testosterone drive phrases that our sweet governor Arnold would approve of.
Austrian Death Machine is a tribute to the great Arnold movies. It is a band fronted by Ahhnold with music I wrote and recorded in my free time. But, most importantly, I had so much fun!
Joseph Parallels Jesus
37:2 A shepherd of his father’s sheep John 10:11,27-29
37:3 His father loved him dearly Matthew 3:17
37:4 Hated by his brothers John 7:4,5
37:13,14 Sent by his father to his brothers Hebrews 2:11
37:20 Others plotted to harm him John 11:53
37:23 Robes taken from them John 19:23,24
37:26 Taken to Egypt Matthew 2:14,15
37:28 Sold for the price of a slave Matthew 26:15
39:7 Tempted Matthew 4:1
39:16-18 Falsely accused Matthew 26:59-60
39:20 Bound in chains Matthew 27:2
40:2,3 Placed with two other prisoners, one was saved and the other lost Luke 23:32
41:41 Exalted after sufferings Philippians 2:9-11
42:24, 45:2,14,15, 46:29 both wept John 11:35
45:1-15 Forgave those who wronged them Luke 23:34
45:7 Saved their nation Matthew 1:21
50:20 What men did to hurt them, God used for good 1 Corinthians 2:7,8
Next wednesday night one of the brainy guys in the fellowship is going to do a talk on Sola Scriptura, then after that I'm going to start a 3 week series on God.
week 1. Father.
week 2. Son.
week 3. Holy Spirit.
Then after that we're going to start the book of Exodus. Can anyone recommend a good commentary?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Cole Slaw is good for the first couple bites, but there comes a point when it just turns disgusting.
The ESV Journaling Bible is the best spent twenty-five euro of my life. I don't have a single complaint about it. This Easter marked one year of preaching from it. An absolutely amazing Bible. You should buy it.
Someone is buying my new friend Clay a tattoo gun. And I've volunteered to let him practice on me. so I'm going to have some pretty interesting looking legs from this point on.
Monday, July 7, 2008
Suppose my god is sex or my physical health or the Democratic Party. If I experience any of these under genuine threat, then I feel myself shaken to the depths. Guilt becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values…suppose I value my ability to teach and communicate clearly…if clear communication has become an absolute value for me, a center of value that makes all my other values valuable…then if I [fail in teaching well] I am stricken with neurotic guilt. Bitterness becomes neurotically intensified when someone or something stands between me and something that is my ultimate value.
-Thomas C. Oden, Two Worlds: Notes on the Death of Modernity in America and Russia (IVP,1992), Chapter 6.
What struck me so hard was that in his list of hypothetical idols, the fourth one he listed was the idol that dethroned God in my heart yesterday; namely “my ability to teach and communicate clearly”. From the time I woke up yesterday, my primary thoughts and my goals all had to do with preaching well and communicating clearly at church that morning. I was thinking over my winsome illustrations and relentless logical progression through the text and was so consumed with it that I allowed myself to become rude and snappy to my family. In my mind I needed to be able to drive to the church by a certain time in order to give me the buffer zone that I needed between arriving at church and setting everything up and the time when people started arriving for the service. I felt that if I wasn’t able to get that done then I wouldn’t be able to perform well and speak eloquently to my congregation.
Bitterness becomes neurotically intensified when someone or something stands between me and something that is my ultimate value.
I became neurotically bitter because someone or something was standing between me and my ultimate goal; preaching a good sermon.
And then, surprise, surprise, when it came time for me to get up and teach the scriptures, it totally sucked! In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense (especially in light of 1st Peter 3:7) but for some reason I didn’t see it coming. I hate bad preaching, but not nearly as much as I hate preaching badly. It’s the worst feeling in the world to know that you aren’t doing justice to the text.
…if clear communication has become an absolute value for me, a center of value that makes all my other values valuable…then if I [fail in teaching well] I am stricken with neurotic guilt.
Afterwards, my confidence and my self worth were all but shattered. It’s one thing to fail in private, but another to fail in front of your own congregation. For the rest of the day I just replayed the botched message in my head, wishing I could have done it better, wishing I could have been clearer.
Yesterday was not a nice day for me. Today I had a long talk with my wife about it, and apologized and repented for what I did wrong, then I came upstairs to relax and catch up on my reading, only to get hit by this paragraph that shows me that it’s even deeper than being a little rude and then preaching poorly and feeling crummy about it, but it’s an idolatry problem, where a good thing was turned into an ultimate thing.
Preaching has the definite capacity of becoming an idol for me, and yesterday it did, much to my own and other’s detriment.
I renew my faith today in God alone as my source of joy and fulfillment, reward and satisfaction.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
outreach team from ccbc germany leaves today, it was great having them. gave away hundreds of cups of tea and talked to a lot of people about jesus. last night a 7 foot tall demon possessed man tried to kill me, but it worked out all right. i came home and listened to fernando ortega for a bit to calm down before i went to bed.
i'll post some pics later on, (unfortunately no one got any shots of the man who wanted to kill me). rachel is going away to dublin for a ladies retreat, so me and eoin are having a lad's weekend starting now!
typing this took a lot longer than it should have.
p.s. i hate facebook chat, does anyone know how to disable it?
Monday, April 21, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
What Is Evangelicalism? (1.28.08, Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto)
I really enjoy Carson's messages. His books are very important and thorough, but I get much more out of his talks. I listened to this one a couple days ago as I was running around on some errands in town and I thought it was worth passing on.
By: Abraham Piper Category: Commentary
In this article I want to convince as many pastors as possible to sit down and start a blog today. If I can’t convince them, then I want to convince churchgoers to hound their pastor until he does.
OK, all that’s overstatement, perhaps. You can still be a good pastor and not blog.
However, here’s why I think it would be good for you and your congregation if you did.
Pastors should blog…
1. …to write.
If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.
Then when you share new ideas and new insights, readers can come along with you wherever your good writing and good thinking bring you.
There is no better way to simply and quickly share your writing than by maintaining a blog. And if you’re serious about your blog, it will help you not only in your thinking, but in your discipline as well, as people begin to regularly expect quality insight from you.
2. …to teach.
Most pastors I’ve run into love to talk. Many of them laugh at themselves about how long-winded they’re sometimes tempted to be.
Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.
And more than just a catch-all for sermon spill-over, a blog is a perfect place for those 30-second nuggets of truth that come in your devotions or while you’re reading the newspaper. You may never write a full-fledged article about these brief insights or preach a whole sermon, but via your blog, your people can still learn from them just like you did.
3. …to recommend.
With every counseling session or after-service conversation, a pastor is recommending something. Sometimes it’s a book or a charity. Maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast for that couple he can tell really needs to get away. And sometimes it’s simply Jesus.
With a blog, you can recommend something to hundreds of people instead of just a few. Some recommendations may be specific to certain people, but that seems like it would be rare. It’s more likely to be the case that if one man asks you whether you know of any good help for a pornography addiction, then dozens of other men out there also need to know, but aren’t asking.
Recommendation, however, is more than pointing people to helpful things. It’s a tone of voice, an overall aura that good blogs cultivate.
Blogs are not generally good places to be didactic. Rather, they’re ideal for suggesting and commending. I’ve learned, after I write, to go back and cut those lines that sound like commands or even overbearing suggestions, no matter how right they may be. Because if it’s true for my audience, it’s true for me, so why not word it in such a way that I’m the weak one, rather than them?
People want to know that their pastor knows he is an ordinary, imperfect human being. They want to know that you’re recommending things that have helped you in your own weakness. If you say, “When I struggled with weight-loss, I did such-and-such,” it will come across very differently than if you say, “Do such-and-such if you’re over-weight…”
If you use your blog to encourage people through suggesting and commending everything from local restaurants to Jesus Christ, it will complement the biblical authority that you rightly assume when you stand behind the pulpit.
4. …to interact.
There are a lot of ways for a pastor to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. A blog is by no means necessary in this regard. However, it does add a helpful new way to stay abreast of people’s opinions and questions.
Who knows what sermon series might arise after a pastor hears some surprising feedback about one of his 30-second-nuggets-of-truth?
5. …to develop an eye for what is meaningful.
For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.
If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.
6. …to be known.
This is where I see the greatest advantage for blogging pastors.
Your people hear you teach a lot; it’s probably the main way that most of them know you. You preach on Sundays, teach on Wednesdays, give messages at weddings, funerals, youth events, retreats, etc.
This is good—it’s your job. But it’s not all you are. Not that you need to be told this, but you are far more than your ideas. Ideas are a crucial part of your identity, but still just a part.
You’re a husband and a father. You’re some people’s friend and other people’s enemy. Maybe you love the Nittany Lions. Maybe you hate fruity salad. Maybe you struggle to pray. Maybe listening to the kids’ choir last weekend was—to your surprise—the most moving worship experience you’ve ever had.
These are the things that make you the man that leads your church. They’re the windows into your personality that perhaps stay shuttered when you’re teaching the Bible. Sometimes your people need to look in—not all the way in, and not into every room—but your people need some access to you as a person. A blog is one way to help them.
You can’t be everybody’s friend, and keeping a blog is not a way of pretending that you can. It’s simply a way for your people to know you as a human being, even if you can’t know them back. This is valuable, not because you’re so extraordinary, but because leadership is more than the words you say. If you practice the kind of holiness that your people expect of you, then your life itself opened before them is good leadership—even when you fail.
For most of you, anything you post online will only be a small piece in the grand scheme of your pastoral leadership. But if you can maintain a blog that is both compelling and personal, it can be an important small piece.
It will give you access to your people’s minds and hearts in a unique way by giving them a chance to know you as a well-rounded person. You will no longer be only a preacher and a teacher, but also a guy who had a hard time putting together a swing-set for his kids last weekend. People will open up for you as you open up like this for them. Letting people catch an honest glimpse of your life will add authenticity to your teaching and depth to your ministry,
* * *
To help you take the next step:
Video: Blogs in Plain English
Get started at Wordpress
Get started at Blogger
Friday, April 11, 2008
In fairness, I already have a blog to my name, but this one is going to be different. The other blog that I have is one that I only set up because the tech guy at my sending church kept on bugging me to make one. After the fourth email that he sent me, I finally, in frustration, set up an account and copied and pasted a couple of our generic update emails onto it. It made him pretty happy, and occasionally I post the odd ministry picture or monthy update to it.
What's going to be different about this one is that I am not using this to represent my church (not my sending church nor the church I am planting now) or any ministry. I'm actually not even going to use my full name. This blog is not going to be publicised to people that are in positions of authority over me (my church back in the states) or to the people that I stand in a position of authority over (my church here in ____, ______). I definitely am not planning on writing inappropriate things here, but I do want to be able to reference an author or a band or a website without having to give a long winded disclaimer stating that I don't support or endorse everything that he/she/it/they have ever published.
I found that more and more I was having to do that as I spoke with people, so I have pretty much given up referencing my sources of illustrations or information lately, which is a real shame. The hope is that this blog over the months and years (if i don't lose interest [which is a very real possibility!]) will be a great resource to my friends pointing them to lectures and articles, sermons and videos that have enriched my own life and ministry.It's not just going to be sermon prep, cultural contextualization, hermeneutical tips and that sort of thing... I'm also planning on telling stories about what I'm up to and films I've liked and maybe even recipes! Who knows!
So here's my first little post:
I just got back from jogging.
Well, not literally "just got back" because I got back, came upstairs, then decided that I would set up this blog, so I spent a long time registering the thing (coming up with a clever title and address took longer than you would think [turns out all the really clever people already got blogs about 3 years ago and registered all the good anonymous names]), then carefully wording my introduction that you just read.
So, "I recently got back from jogging" would have been a more honest way of saying it.
I've been jogging for about a month and a half now, on average I'd say about twice a week. I jog at this lake thats about ten or fifteen minutes from my house. It's a really nice place, its actually a swan sanctuary I think. The lake is exactly one mile in perimeter, so it's handy for measuring how long you jog. I've been doing three laps and I think soon I'm going to up it to four soon.
Generally I run in the mornings, and it's such a fantastic way to start the day. The comraderie around the lake is great. Old ladies are walking their dogs and men are sitting on the benches watching the birds but there is always a few people out early doing laps around the water's edge. Most people smile at you as you pass them, but there is a special nod of acknowledgment reserved especially for the moment when two joggers pass one another heading opposite directions.
It's a nod that speaks volumes, in one deliberate motion so much is communicated;
"keep at it"
"good job getting out of bed early this morning"
"don't give up"
"I'll see you in a few minutes when we pass again"
I don't think I'm reading too much into it at all. Go jogging early one morning and you'll see it a few times, I promise you!
But it's not just the nods of affirmation from my newfound peers that make jogging so rewarding, its the way you wolf down food when you get home, it's the feel of the shower afterwards, but mostly how your whole body feels warm for like 3 or 4 hours afterwards, which is amazing, especially if you live in a cold country and have poor blood circulation like me.
so, jogging is awesome.
to summarize: i blog. i jog.