Thursday, April 30, 2009

Confess your biases up front

I was at a youth leader meeting today. I always feel a little precarious at such meetings since I'm really not a youth pastor.

Anyhow, the meeting was encouraging in that we had a few different denominations present. But in a hope to maintain some sense of unity, the leader continued to emphasize how he was a Christian first, and southern Baptist second. He claimed to just "work for a Southern Baptist church."

But I know the guy well enough to know that he thinks of, and does ministry in Southern Baptist forms like "altar calls." The way he interprets scripture is also from a Baptist lens.

Now first let me say that we should all model his "Christian first, denomination second" mentality. Many don't and that is sad, and sometimes that includes me I confess with shame. Many place the same level of certainty or pride (even worse) on denominational distinctives-or even worse, distinctives within the denomination-as they do with the faith expressed in the Apostles Creed.

In addition, he places more emphasis on small groups and follow-up after the event than most do. I applaud him for that.

But I would argue that by downplaying your biases and emphases, you really fall prey to perpetuate them, ignore others, and become less ecumenical. If you don't readily admit that you do ministry and interpret scripture from your tradition's bias, you'll never be able to dialog and learn from other traditions. You'll never see shortcomings of yours. When others think differently, you'll think they are reading stuff into the bible, while you are "just reading the bible."

The two main sponsoring churches for this upcoming event (that's what the meeting was about) are PCA and Southern Baptist. I think by recognizing each others ministry emphases, biases, strengths and weaknesses, we can more effectively learn from and work with each other. But pretending that neither group has biases actually hinders effective ecumencial cooperation. Only by confessing your "spin" will you limit the negative impact of your "spin" and be able to learn from others.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gospel on the ground

Amy and I had an opportunity to share the gospel with a fellow passenger on our way home from Atlanta last Thursday. Since lightning struck the tower and caused a fire, we didn't go anywhere for 2 hours after boarding. The woman sitting next to us was very loquacious and brought up some topics that made it easy for a gospel transition.

Two things that stood out from our time sitting at the terminal:

1.) If you hear another couple engaging in gospel conversation behind you, don't turn around and interject, and proceed to give a canned gospel presentation of stuff you think may have been left out. One lady did that, and later our new friend joked that she felt we had "ganged up on her." She joked, but she wasn't entirely joking. Amy and I spent a lot of time-which we had plenty of-asking questions, listening, and responding at appropriate times. The best thing would have been for this lady to pray for us. We needed it.

2.) When in doubt, go for the Prodigal Son story. For a long time in our conversation, it felt like we just couldn't get across to our friend that the gospel was something entirely different than any other religion. It wasn't just the same religion or the same thing she believed with a different "label." So following Keller's example, I used that parable as a lens to view Christianity. It was so appropriate because Jesus told that parable when he confronted people who were confident in their own goodness. After the story, she began to see that the gospel was something entirely different. We worked so long just to get to the point where we could say, "There is a fundamental difference in what you and we are espousing."

It was her goodness just as much as her badness that got in the way. It's sad to me when people don't realize how much they desperately need a Savior. But it's also sad when that someone is me.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Coffeehouse this Friday and Saturday

For the past 3 years, Hope Pres has hosted an art show for the community. Last year we added live music and it made quite a difference in not only the quality of the event: it kept folks there a lot longer. So this Friday May 1st and Saturday May 2nd from 7-10 pm, we'll be making it 4 years in a row.

I've slightly tweaked the vision and purpose for the show over the years. The past two years our primary focus has been to:

1.) Bless the community by giving them a culturally enriching experience
2.) Bless the artists and musicians in the community by giving them a venue to sell and/or display their work

If you're in the area, grab someone and come on out to support this free event. It's worth the price of admission, and you can grab some free Starbuck's coffee as well.

Back in the Saddle

For those that know or didn't know, Amy and I just got back from the church planting assessment center. While it was intense, it was not nearly as tough as I had expected.

We received evaluation from 6 folks who know us well (each of us had 6 people fill out extensive evaluations on us, our ministry, our marriage, etc...) and went over these evaluations with the assessors. In addition, there were a number of assessors who had been on their 2nd or 3rd church plant, and were able to speak love and truth into our lives. Next, there were peer evaluations filled out by fellow candidates and their wives (6 couples in all). Finally we had to take personality profiles (Amy and I were on opposite ends of the spectrum, which is good) and extensive self evaluations. The latter were compared with evaluations filled out by those who know us, and we could see where we rated ourselves lower and higher than them (for the most part I was significantly lower). Hard to take at times, but incredibly helpful to see how one is perceived. Definitely worth the price of admission.

In addition, we were assessed on evangelism, leadership, preaching, teamwork, etc... The days were long, but nights were pretty relaxed as we hit up a Mexican restraunt every night for snacks and beverages.

On Thursday morning we received the recommendation of "Provisionally Qualified" to plant a church. So now we are in the process of seeking some sort of apprenticeship which will help prepare us to plant a church in the future. So that is a "what's new" in the life of me, Amy, and crazy Connar.

I apologize for the Black and White picture of the group. For some reason, my printer/scanner was having flashbacks to the 50's.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Discipleship resources

Here's a good list of books monergism (click on "visit this link") recommends as a resource in helping you grow in your faith, wherever you are in that journey. But it also can serve as a resource in discipling someone else toward a greater maturity in their faith. Both are the responsibilities of all believers in some way, shape, or form.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Czar of Telestrator retires

John Madden has officially retired from his broadcasting career to spend more time with his family. Funny how at 73 this realization finally came to him. Anyhow, Madden will best be known by me as the one broadcaster who will not travel by plane (only by a "tricked out" bus), as the Czar of the Telestrator, and as the Captain of the Obvious (he once circled Brett Favre's mouth piece, and highlighted how he would take it out to talk, and then put it back before the play).

For me and many others, he was very hard to listen to because of his incredibly obvious comments (I know some who used to completely turn down TV volume and turn on the radio broadcast) and his "man-crush" on Brett Favre.

Nevertheless sports talk radio hosts and ESPN have spoken very highly of him, even expressing sadness in his retirement and how the next guy, Chris Collinsworth, will have big shoes to fill. The only thing I can really chalk all this respect up to is his character; no one could really hate the guy. I guess it shows that in our culture today, character is nearly as important as skill in one's craft.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

An Existential Passover and Easter

Here's a reflection of some Passover/Holy Week opportunities that one woman found very beneficial to her soul. The strange thing is that she doesn't really believe in the reality they portray. To define existentialism is like defining breakfast, but you can click here to read an entirely existentialist view of the Passover and Easter (I sometimes use existential meaning "experiential" because that is part of the pie, just not the WHOLE pie as in existentialism).

For this woman, it doesn't matter that the events of the Exodus as celebrated in the Passover Seder or Jesus' actual bodily resurrection didn't actually occur. That doesn't mean anything. What matters is that through these symbols, you feel some sort of connection to God, the spiritual world, or yourself. There is no ultimate reality, just your own personal experience.

I encourage you to read some of the comments. Sad, but typical to many.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Church, Creativity, and Soccer?

I wrote an article for the Bradenton Herald last week. In it, I draw a comparison between the Church and the creative world with America and Soccer. I like the analogy, but the title itself might put you to sleep. Nevertheless I don't think it will be a waste of 2 your minutes (which are always non-refundable). Click here to read it.

The article is supposed to whet appetites for our Coffeehouse/Art Show at Hope on Friday May 1st and Sat May 2nd from 7-10 pm. We really have some quality musicians and artists, and over 3/4 of them come from outside the Church as far as I can tell.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Making history?

I tend to be fairly pragmatic, but this seems a bit over the top. I'm all for efficiency and use of technology to help assist in discipleship and evangelism because my Protestant forefathers used every bit of technology to do the same thing. But I wonder if this is really the way to go about it. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Before you read this, please understand that I'm not a Rick Warren hater or "angry blogger guy;" he's done way more stuff for Jesus than I have. Yet this method of church growth just makes me wonder a bit. Click here to encounter a different methodology that certainly elicits some reflection.

Friday, April 10, 2009

No more communism

Well my attempt at being a Communist, and moderating comments has come to an end. Several people had posted some fairly sharp things on my feeding sea gulls post. You can read them here. I've come to the conclusion that if you think feeding sea gulls at the beach is a good idea, and you think I'm an actually an "idiot," I can live with that. So eat some freedom fries and the two of you who posted under the communist regime, God bless you.

Adenhart, Sadness, and questions

Sadly a 22 year-old Angels pitcher named Nick Adenhart was killed along with a few others in an accident a few days ago. Standard DUI hit and run, where the guy was driving with a suspended license from a previous DUI incident. Does suspending licenses really stop such accidents from occurring? I don't have any solutions, like caning or anything, but man it's a shame.

One fill-in host for the Collin Cowherd (sports talk) show tried to stay positive about this sad incident. He said the only thing a "positive" person could take from this was simply to find your passion and do it everyday. Somehow this can provide fulfillment and overcome the uncertainty of life?

I guess what really bothered me the most, is not that he didn't say, "Well I guess I should become a Christian because I never know the day or the hour I could be taken, and I will bow my knee to Jesus one day, either it will be as a heaven-bound believer or a hell-bound unbeliever."

I guess what I really hoped for was a slightly less self-concerned, less self-absorbed question of what life is really about. I realize that people are incredibly existential (no ultimate reality, just your own existence) but I was hoping for at least a deeper existential question like "Are my passions really worth it? Have I missed something completely? Do my passions really fulfill me? Is fulfillment found in giving rather taking?"

I mean the dude from Into The Wild was not a Christian but he wrestles with quite deeper existential questions that do find answer in the gospel.

The fact that such shallow and self-centered conclusions are being reached amidst a confrontation with our own mortality ought to concern everyone. At some point, Christians really need to answer questions that are being asked ( if it's security, eternal fears, fear of future, significance, feeling judged, etc...).

But there is also a place to ask questions that haven't been raised as well. A confrontation with our own or other's mortality may (I know this dude is not a representative for everyone, but I doubt he's in the minority) not simply raise the same questions I think it used to raise. It may take Christians raising them to their friends.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

I and several pastor buddies have been reading through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, by a Puritan named Jeremiah Burrows. I've been quite impressed with this book which seems to have providentially come to me at a very uncertain time in my life.

I really have no certainty of what God has for me down the road, how He'll use the Henderson's to build His Kingdom, or even how we'll be provided for. Life has been incredibly precarious for me, as it has been for a number of people in this economy.
And I find myself reading through The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and preaching through Habakkuk. The book has been quite challenging and has moved me toward being more proactive in my journey of contentment.

Of course there is always the question of "how." How is it possible to be content amidst trial or simply a precarious situation?

Here's an encouraging excerpt:
"......Oh we cannot bear them, we cannot bear such an affliction.....yet how can you tell what you will do with the strength of Jesus Christ? You say you cannot bear it? So you think that Christ could not bear it? But if Christ could bear it, why may you not come to bear it? You will say, Can I have the strength of Christ? Yes it is made over to you by faith."

A helpful reminder that we do indeed have the strength of Christ in us in our journey of contentment. While not as eloquent as Burrows, but certainly much shorter,
here is my final sermon in the Habakkuk series focusing on contentment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Avuncular Repentance

This is a post, to be honest, that is partially, maybe 50-50, motivated by my love affair with the word "avuncular." One rarely gets a chance to use it, so when this one does, he jumps out on it like a 4th quarter fumble. In case you're not in the know, avuncular means "like an uncle." That's about it.

Yesterday Amy and I spent much of the day with my nephews, who are 7 and 9. I love those jokers; they're a blast. Anyhow, the younger one opened my brother-in-law's car door, the wind caught it, and it slammed into another car in the parking lot. After some quick teaching from my brother-in-law about wind and car doors, I figured we would be good to go.

Then an hour or so later, the older one opened our car door, and the howling wind did the same thing: door slammed into truck. No damage was done, but my frustration was verbalized a bit too much. So I had to apologize to their dad. When in the car, I felt convicted that I needed to apologize to my older nephew.

So I did, and he accepted it, and all was well. I think apologizing to little ones is very important. If we don't model repentance before them-and we certainly screw up a lot-then I really believe we'll see an even more silent generation spring up. After all, they're not going to learn it from their friends. Even more, they'll not see the power of the gospel producing repentance in our lives.

Avuncular repentance is good practice for fatherly repentance, which will soon be coming to a theater near me. It actually already has, though Connar doesn't understand it quite yet.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thankful for the Ladies

I've been encouraged lately by some women in our church who've taken seriously the call to disciple other women. Some have done it through formal bible studies, Christian Ed, while others have used informal get-togethers or simply grabbing coffee. I'm also thankful for those who seek out new discipleship opportunities: either to lead or puting themselves in the path to be led. Here's a thoughtful "take" (sorry, I listen to a lot of Jim Rome) on women's discipleship from a blog connected with the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Just in case you were wondering, this is a ladyfish.

Ben from Lost and Killing Kids in the Bible

I've been trying to read through the bible in a year now, but I confess I'm a little behind. I've alternated old and new testament books and am just finishing up Numbers right now. Sometimes the Old Testament can be hard to read because it seems so immoral. I mean, killing kids is something that usually sets off our moral radars.

When the Lord avenged Himself and the Israelites by eliminating males (even the little lads) in Midian, it did seem a bit unfair on the kids. I mean these were kids, right?

I watched Lost last night, and somehow the main characters went back in time and found one the present characters named Ben when he was just a boy. One of the "good guys" shot the boy in the stomach and then there was a concomitant race to save young Ben's life. I won't give away the ending of the episode in case you actually watch the show and DVR'd it or something. But let's just say that many were in favor of saving this child's life. Even though he would grow up and kill loads of people mercilessly. Even though he would grow up and look like this: the dude looks way creepy and those in favor of saving his life definitely forgot that.

Those in favor of saving the child said, "I know who he turns out to be, but this is just a little kid now." Very few could see the bigger picture, even the child's Dad, who was later killed by his son Ben.

Now this episode doesn't end all discussion, nor does it exhaustively explain God's heart behind these tough commands. Nevertheless it helps me to see that God always has a bigger picture in mind. God knew what they would and of course did do when these cute little kids grew up and led people in all kinds of evil.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is Cutler being a crybaby, man, or both?

My dreams of the Buccaneers landing a quarterback with some real skills just took a dip toward potential reality. Now of course the owners who already own soccer's premier franchise Manchester United, will not pay for a top tier quarterback, but there is no harm in dreaming.

Jay Cutler, current quarterback for the Denver Broncos has now declared that his relationship with the new head coach (who is a year old than me-that is just plain crazy by the way, but then so is the Bucs coach) is irreparable. Cutler has been angered since the team tried to trade him a month ago, so the new coach could be reunited with his previous year's QB. Apparently both sides have handled the situation poorly, according to some thoughtful NFL analysts. The NFL is a business and Cutler needs to realize he is ultimately just a commodity to help sell tickets and jerseys.

But the main problem Cutler has with his new coach boils down to trust. He cannot work with someone who has allegedly lied to him. He cannot work with someone he cannot respect. He doesn't need to like him, but he has to be able to respect and trust him.

Now to some Cutler seems like a winy little brat, and I can see that. But for a man, so much seems to come back to trust and respect. Not that we don't want to love people we work with and for, but the desire to be loved or to love someone in authority seems to be of secondary importance. Respect for the guy is primary. To be disrespected or to not be able to respect seems like it hits guys harder even than not being loved or able to love.

That's been my experience.
And my experience seems to match up with what Paul says in Ephesians 5 concerning marriage. I think that's why Paul instructed women to "respect" their husbands. Not that men don't respect their wives (I Peter 3 tells us to), but the matter is one of primacy. So while I think Culter has acted somewhat like a crybaby-a crybaby I want to be the starting QB for the Bucs-I can understand his unwillingness to play for a coach he cannot respect. He's also a man.