December 2008


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Is your church ready to jump in to the New Year?  A recent study by Group Publishing aims to help Christian leaders get the information they need to impact their ministries in 2009.

Some of the study’s finding include:

Check out the website for more information here.

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I’m home (in Iowa) for the holidays.  It’s been a joyful time being with family, opening presents, singing Christmas carols, and eating lots of food!  Perhaps like many of you, my family went to a Christmas Eve service together.  The service included many songs and many Scripture readings which I enjoyed hearing and taking in.  And then there was the message.  It was okay, but typical of most Christmas sermons.  Let me explain.

Most Christmas sermons, like the one I heard, tell of how God has come down to us (the incarnation) so he can show us the way and comfort us in our dark times.  That’s true, but the incarnation is not the end.  In fact, the only reason why God came down is so that he would be lifted up on a tree at Calvary.  The incarnation means nothing without the crucifixion.  But this is the disturbing part of Christmas, isn’t it?  The little baby born in Bethlehem is the one who grew up and died on a bloody cross at Calvary.  And if we tell only the beginning of the story we have no story at all — at least no gospel story. 

C.J. Mahaney puts it this way:

The purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner.

And so, in order for us to see Christmas for what Christmas really is, we must first see how disturbing the Christmas message really is.

Mahaney tells of an article written some years ago in WORLD Magazine by William H. Smith with the title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).

Smith ends his column with these words which I invite you to ponder:

Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.

And so my prayer for you and me is that we would be filled with peace and joy this Christmas–because we have been disturbed by the God who was born in a manger so he could die on a cross for our sins.

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 We’ll be leaving tomorrow to celebrate Christmas in Iowa with our families.  Blogging will be light, so while I’m gone check out a few of my favorite blogs listed on the side bar and have fun enjoying the holidays with your family and friends.  Merry Christmas!

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I’m a starter.  That’s why I love the New Year.  I’m a goal-setter.  A man of vision and change, ready to do something new and radical for God’s glory.  So, like you, I’ve got some goals in mind for the new year.

However, my goals are not so much about doing as much as they are about becoming.  It’s taken me awhile to figure this out (and I’m still in process) but I’ve learned that life is not about the quick sprint but the long journey.  That’s why I’m looking at this New Year differently. 

Instead of starting so many new things, I want to keep doing the old things more consistently.  I want to sit at Jesus’ feet each morning.  I want to memorize some key passages of Scripture.  I want to go on regular date nights with my wife.  I want to jog 2-3 times a week.  I could go on, but that’s not the point.

The point is that I want this year to not be so much about new goals, but intentionally growing in the “old” ones.  When I look back on the people who have made a difference in my life, people who I respect as leaders, they have one thing in common.  No, not vision.  And no, not talent–but rather, intentionality in the few things that really matter.  And that, over time, by God’s grace, has shaped them into who they are today. 

So the New Year, as I see it, is not necessarily about setting new goals and starting new things.  It’s about  growing in godliness by doing the same things over and over again consistently with intentionality and accountability.  Accountability.  Why do I mention that? 

In addition to setting new goals, quite often I set goals individually with no accountability.  I try to grow on my own.  The problem is that God has made me to live in community.  And he desires for me to grow in that context.  He wants to use me to help others grow and use others to help me grow. 

So if I expect to change this year, if I expect to grow, I will need to be accountable to a few other guys.  The great thing is when I hear friends of mine growing in godliness, it encourages me to press on.  And when I fail, I’m encouraged to get up and keep going in the strength of the gospel.  In this way, we begin to grow together in community.  And my new year’s goals are replaced with our new year’s growth, as fellow travelers on the journey of life together.

(HT: Z)

Today as I looked at the Sports Page, I saw that the Louisville men’s basketball team will face Minnesota on Saturday. The funny thing is that I used to live in Minnesota and now Tubby Smith, former Kentucky coach, coaches the Golden Gophers of MN. Suprisingly, they are 9-0 heading into this game with (7-1) Louisville, so it should be a good game.

But here’s the quote from Tubby that made me think. He said, “I tell our guys all the time, ‘Your never as good as you think you are … and your never as bad as you think you are.”

Quite true. Tubby is no theologian, but his words reminded me of another quote by a quy named Jerry (Bridges) who said, “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

May Tubby and Jerry’s words humble us today and remind us of the gospel.

I’m currently searching for a “new look” for my blog.  This is my temporary change, but if anyone out there has a good idea for a new look (preferrably free) that illustrates “Life Together” let me know.  For now, I like the picture above for a couple reasons.  (1) It’s winter… and this picture takes me into the spring!  (2) I always like the image of a big tree with rolling green grass and blue skies … it speaks “life” to me and kinda captures the journey of life we walk together.

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