Many say the drive is the most exciting shot in golf. I say the accuracy and variability of the approach is far superior.
Though theology is more like the approach, our temptation is often to swing like a drive.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you -- that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12

I think this verse has a lot to say about discipleship. Our temptation is to think of discipleship as a one-way stream of information flowing down. The reality is that the flow-chart of discipleship looks more like a bowl of spaghetti, with arrows going all over the place between all of our relationships.

Friday, October 30, 2009


We had lunch today with a couple from our church. They are homeless. Later, as I walked by a convention of men in suits getting out I was feeling the need to compare myself to them. So I thought, I've sat in meetings with Michael Dell and the likes. Then I realized that what I learned from them was not nearly as valuable as what I've learned from this homeless couple.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Sabbath of Salvation

Works are to Salvation what the work week is to the Sabbath. I know, that sounds too much like the SAT or GRE, but….

I have wrestled often with the notion of the Sabbath and with the concept of “rest” in Scripture. Jesus says, “Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” (Matt. 11:28). But what does “rest” mean? Likewise, what does “rest” on the Sabbath mean? Is it just doing nothing? Does it involve sleep? Is it something else?

I have had a couple of breakthrough thoughts on the Sabbath. The first was realizing that works of mercy are not only permissible, but commanded to be done on the Sabbath. The second involved a realization that Sundays are a time when we can (and should) turn our own attention and the attention of our families and neighbors to the undivided worship of God. That means that on Sunday I put into practice those family devotionals and prayer times that I keep intending to do the rest of the week. On Sunday, those things really take priority. Then the rest of the week starts to follow suit.

But this week I have been having a third realization about the Sabbath. This week I have been thinking about what it means to find rest in Jesus, as he commands us to do. Now for some, this means working fewer hours and spending more time in prayer and Bible study. That may be appropriate. For others, this means taking a nap on Sunday and finding refreshment from a physically weary workweek. But it seems that the rest Jesus is speaking about is the salvation offered freely by God in the person and work of Jesus. You see, good works are a necessary part of life – to keep one’s job, to provide for one’s family, to love others. But good works are never in Scripture added into the equation of salvation. Salvation is spoken of in terms not of “works”, but of “rest”. This is why Jesus can say, “come to me… and I will give you rest” and go on to speak of his yoke being “easy and [his] burden light”. It is light for us because Jesus has done all the work.

Now a fourth thought just occurred to me while typing; that is that before Jesus came the Sabbath was observed at the end of the work week, on Saturday. But as Christians we observe the Sabbath at the beginning of the week, on Sunday. How appropriate that the believers of the Old Testament would also find their ultimate rest/salvation at the end of their life’s work – in Jesus’ work. While believers on this side of the cross find their accomplished rest/salvation before their life even begins.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Power of One

Has anyone read Bryce Courtney's "The Power of One"? We had a discussion last night on philosophy of education and no one else had read the book. I think it is not only a fun novel, but also a great treatise on education.

The irony of the book is in the title. So many people invest in Peekay's life to equip him to do great things. I'm not sure if the author intended the irony or not.

I read it seven years ago or so. I highly recommend it. Never saw the movie.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Man Called Peter

I came across this book while unpacking and took a quick read through. The book is about a pastor from Atlanta who goes on to be chaplain of the US Senate. It was quite popular in its day, to the point of being made into a movie. I found it on my grandparents bookshelf after my grandfather passed away. This man, Peter Marshall, had also been pastor of Westminster Church in Atlanta, where Mandy and I have been members since 1997.

So I’ve known about the book and heard some of the story, but I had never read it. I have to say, it wasn’t a “read it cover-to-cover” type of book, but there were some interesting points. Here are some quotes and comments…

“But more than these superficialities was the indisputable fact that, under the impact of this man’s praying and preaching, God became real to those who listened. While Peter led them in worship, God was no longer a remote, theological abstraction, but a loving Father, who was interested in each individual, who stooped to man’s smallest need. So men and women, who were hungry for the love of God, came back again and again.” (Emphasis mine)

I desire this to be the impact of my preaching, really of all preaching.

“Peter’s favorite thought was that ‘spiritual reality is a matter of perception, not of proof.’… There are some things that cannot be proved. Can you prove—by logic—that something is lovely? Could you prove that a sunset is beautiful?”

I know, that’s one we’ve all heard before, but still good.

And I think this one is quite interesting…

“Peter once confided to a friend, ‘You know, I think my most effective sermons have been the ones Catherine and I have worked on together; and the trips to preach away from home that have brought the greatest results are the times when I have felt no tension on leaving Catherine against her wishes. I don’t see why it can’t be that way all the time…’”

What’s interesting is that Catherine, who authored the book, picks up primarily on Marshall’s travel schedule. She doesn’t even mention the profound acknowledgement of the value of her input on his sermon preparation. I have already found that reviewing my sermons with Mandy ahead of time provides great insight for preaching to all of my audience.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Diversity in 3D

Diversity has been on my mind a lot as we get closer to church planting. We have long had a vision to plant in an area where “the urban poor and urban professional communities intersect”. This is typically an area where development or redevelopment is occurring in what has in recent history been a lower income area. Our hope is to plant a church that includes both urban poor and urban professional, because we believe both have much to learn from the other.

But diversity is of course a much broader topic than just socio-economic considerations. I typically think of three key dimensions of diversity. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is race (or ethnicity in a broader sense). The second is socio-economic, which often (but not always) coincides with race. And the third is age.

I think that in terms of a church plant, the priority of these three is the inverse of that given above. Don’t hear me wrong, racial diversity is important. But church plants often max out on age at the approximate age of the church planter. Attracting elder members to a church plant is a real challenge for a young pastor. But not having the wisdom of elder members can present major problems for a church planter, particularly as the church itself matures.

So how does a young church planter go about recruiting elder members? I have a few ideas, but I would like to get some more. One idea I have is to go to some of the suburban churches in the area and ask if any empty-nesters are moving back to the city for high-rise living (a significant trend in metro areas). And of course a high priority must be put on finding older members to be a part of the launch team, because what you start with is often what you will inherently grow to be.

Please share your ideas about priorities and instigating healthy age diversity. We have a year to generate ideas before we form a launch team.

(PS - the picture above is one page from a demographics study Joe Haack and I did for Harbor, the columns coincide roughly with my three areas - ethnicity, economy and age)