Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year’s Again!!!

Ok, I hereby make the following resolutions!

  1. I will blog more… I intend to write one blog entry per week minimum
  2. I will read one book per month minimum
  3. I will eat more cake
  4. I will sail my boat twice a month minimum
  5. I will play golf once a month minimum
  6. I will exercise until I get sore and then I'll quit
  7. I will lose my 1 millionth pound
  8. I will let Jesus love me more
  9. I will have my sermon completely ready to preach by Tuesday of each week
  10. I will personally invite 10 people per week to my church

I'm feeling pretty good about #3… and #5 and #8 will get a good run. The rest??? Ask in February…

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

South Bay Vineyard Vision

The fact is that most of us feel to some extent that there is a disconnect between the Christian church as we know it and the Jesus that the Bible portrays. While there are certainly some excellent churches there are still relatively few that are willing to get their hands dirty demonstrating the compassion of Jesus to hurting people. Far too many are using Christ's name to condemn or bring judgment rather than the mercy and forgiveness that His teachings proclaim. Or they speak of a powerful God yet they live a life that demonstrates no expectation of supernatural intervention.

I want South Bay Vineyard to be different. I want it to be a church that has in its DNA not only the desire but the expectation to see God demonstrate his power and glory through every member. That sees selfless service to those in their community as its greatest measure of success. That reaches out to every person and accepts them where they are. That dispenses grace and mercy in such abundance that the religious gatekeepers are offended. And God is going to use people like you and I to build that type of church! He so loves the people of the South Bay area that he has orchestrated people and events to bring them together for this time and purpose. There are people from all over the country that are being assembled here to bring this vision to reality. This is the cause we are committed to and it just may be part of the destiny God has put inside of you!


“Courage is not limited to the battlefield. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like enduring pain when the room is empty or standing alone when you’re misunderstood.”
– Charles Swindoll

Monday, April 13, 2009

God is Love vs. God loves

1 John 4:16 ( NIV )
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."

We understand that God loves us but we have a harder time grasping that He IS love... it is the definition of His character. He does not have to work at loving us... He doesn't have to decide to love us... it is His very nature to love not only us but all things... His entire creation. In order to do otherwise He would have to be something other than He is!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Relevance of Power

Our church has rallied around three core values and we reference and talk about them regularly. They are Service, Acceptance and Power... Serving People, Accepting them wherever they are on their journey and expecting and experiencing the Power of God. As I prepared to teach a couple of weeks ago I was struck but the significance of that last value... Power.

Serving people and accepting people are not the private domain of the church... there are many great organizations that do an excellent job of serving people and meeting needs. There are many groups who are extremely accepting and love people and receive them with little or no judgment or motive. These things are not inherently 'Christian'.

But Power... the Supernatural Power of God is different. There is nowhere else that it can be found. The church is the primary dispenser of the power of God. Jesus said that we would do the works He himself did and even greater works (Jn 14:12). What He was doing when He said that was commissioning us to be His body. Not just figuratively or allegorically... but I think literally. As Jesus was here to reflect His Father I think Jesus commissioned us to reflect Himself. And it's a hands-on assignment... go be powerful in Him!

As a church planter I have read many things on making the church relevant to its culture. I believe in that philosophy... I really do... but 'exegeting culture' and strategic planning can quickly become a substitute for simply doing the stuff Jesus did.

A church that is reflecting Jesus in words and works, doing and saying what Jesus did and said, is going to be relevant in any and every culture.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Deception of Passion

Is it just me or does there seem to be a real preoccupation with 'Passion' among Christians these days. How to maintain a 'Passion for God'. How to stir your 'Passion for God'. There are worship music series called 'Passion'. A quick look at my own song directory found 11 worship songs with 'passion' in the title and over 200 with 'passion' in the lyrics. I had a youth pastor a few weeks ago tell me that his number one objective was to stir these young people to 'Passion for God'. I watched a youth group recently as they were loudly exhorted to 'release your emotion to Jesus' and to 'show him your passion'.

I love having passion for Jesus and the things of God, but that word in our culture means little more than a stirring of emotions. And if our emotions are the thing that is driving our relationship with Christ... if our feeling are the thing on which we hinge our faith... we are doomed! My fear is that we are grooming a Christian culture that judges their spirituality by their 'goose bumps' and their emotional displays.

Yes, I know that this seems an odd position for me to take... those who know me know that I am a big proponent of 'experiencing Jesus' and 'sensing the Holy Spirit'. Like I said, I love the passion... the emotions... the 'goose bumps'... but I also know what its like to live without them and to still know that God loves you... he's with you... and he's for you.

My relationship with Marie ebbs and flows. We have been together now for over 27 years and the passion and romance is as hot as ever. But there have been seasons in those 27 years where it wasn't so hot... and the emotions were not always in line with the commitments we had made to each other on our wedding day. If feelings... if passion was the measuring stick then we probably wouldn't still be together... commitment is what carries you through the times when feelings fail... and eventually the tide returns and the passion comes back... the emotions come back in line with the commitment.

If our walk with God... our relationship with Christ is anchored only on our passion then we will feel abandoned by God as soon as the emotions go quiet. But that is exactly where faith is found... faith is the substance of something you are looking for and know is real but can't currently see or fully experience (Heb 11:1). Faith holds on when things are hard and God is hard to find. And where does this type faith come from? Faith comes by a 'word from God' (Rom 10:17)... we will never move beyond an emotionally based faith in God, which I'm not sure is really 'faith' at all, if we don't move toward a knowledge of Him as revealed in His word. That type faith is confident and secure in the knowledge of the one we serve even when the circumstances block our heart from seeing Him.

Seek passion for Jesus... desire to sense His presence and to feel His embrace. But know him through His word and let that anchor you in the times you can't feel His touch.

But songs about discipline and bible study are not nearly as much fun to sing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Simplicity of a Word

I was at a 'Prayer and Ministry Workshop' a couple of weeks ago. There were probably a hundred people there and the speaker was modeling the Vineyard style of ministry by giving words of knowledge and inviting people to come forward for prayer. By the end almost everybody had moved to the front of the room to receive ministry. The Pastor of the church pulled me aside and pointed out a young man sitting by himself on the back row and asked me if I would go pray for him.

I went back and began to talk with the young man, Al. He was pretty closed and let me know rather quickly that he really didn't know if he believed in God and had serious doubts about what was going on up on the stage. "A lot of those 'words' could apply to half the people in here.” he said.

I was really working hard trying to find something that would touch him... a word or observation that would reach him. I tested a couple of 'sensings' I had and asked him a few questions... he just simply said "that doesn't apply to me". Marie and Chris came over and prayed and offered a couple of words that also failed to get any response. Just as I was about to give up I glanced at Al and for whatever reason his expression reminded me of somebody that I had ministered to 15 years ago... he didn't look like the guy, just the expression. I thought, "Now why would I suddenly think of that guy?" The only thing I could really remember about the guy was that he was an awesome trumpet player and bass player... so I turned back to Al and said, "Let's change the subject, you're a musician aren't you... you play bass and trumpet." Al's eyes got wide... "How do you know that?"
"I think God just told me that.” I answered.

Everything changed... Al's posture opened up... he began to talk... and the Pastor called me later and said Al had committed his life to Christ. Al explained, "It was the first time I knew for sure God knew who I was."

Here we all were trying to find the deep penetrating thing to reveal Al's heart and instead it was the simplicity of "bass and trumpet". A lesson learned... I think I try to make this too difficult.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Gospel is the Antidote to Everything

** I don't often post other people's material... but this is so good I wanted you to see it. from Jared Wilson, Nashville (thanks Barry) **

Once there were two brothers. You know their story, more than likely. One was wasteful, exploitative, wanton, licentious. One was rigid, moralistic, uptight, legalistic. Two brothers with two personalities and two sets of attendant sins. But their father loved them both and all that he had belonged to both of them equally.

This is how staggeringly awesome the gospel of Jesus is.

Two sisters. One is a busybody, the other kinda poky. One rarely Sabbaths; the other makes every day a Sabbath. The prescription for both is focus on Jesus.

Two Americans. One is a practicing homosexual and proud of it. The other is a practicing Baptist and proud of it. One trusts his feelings, the other trusts his actions. Both are in desperate need of Jesus for pretty much the same reason.

This is how wonderful the gospel of Jesus is. It's the skeleton key for all of humanity.

Medicine doesn't work this way. You don't treat spina bifida with drugs for leukemia. (At least, I don't think you do.) You don't give a decongestant to a kid with athlete's foot. For every condition, there is a specific treatment. Different symptoms, different fixes.

But the gospel isn't like that. It fixes everything.

We all exhibit a multitude of symptoms for our conditions, running the gamut from self-indulgent immorality to self-satisfying morality. Opposite ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between. Whatever your symptoms, the gospel is the answer.

There is no problem, pain, or perniciousness outside the universe-spanning scope of the gospel.
The gospel carries with it resurrection power.

So Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor, smart or dumb, well or sick, bad or good . . . the gospel is the power to save for all who believe.

The gospel is the antidote to everything.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Abstenence in Marriage

I know... this is a strange post... but these are strange times. I recently spoke with a christian who passionately explained to me that sex, even within the confines of marriage, is exclusively for procreation and should never be pursued for pleasure. I have heard this position before but I thought I would write out my thoughts on the subject this time...

The only conclusion to this viewpoint would be that abstinence is a valid form of birth control within marriage. This does not seem to line up with scripture.

1 Cor 7:1-5 is pretty frank regarding this matter...
"Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. "

Some of you didn't know that stuff was in the Bible, did you?
Paul says that one purpose for marriage is to protect men and women from fornication. He explicitely states that abstinence is not to be long-term, and apparently only by agreement for a time of prayer. In marriage, couples are entirely free to satisfy each other. There is nothing unspiritual about sex between marriage partners... for any reason they desire.

The Old Testament guys had something to say on the matter, also...
Proverbs 5:15-19
"Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love."

"satisfy you always"... "captivated by her love"... Reads like a Valentine card (or a romance novel)... Pretty racy stuff... there's no question that there is an element of pleasure intended in the intimate monogamous relationship between a husband and wife.

So, abstaining from sex within a marriage relationship is not only a bad idea, it is disobedient to God's Word. The Bible commands Christian couples not to withhold from one another sexually.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Facebook Frenzy

My name is Duke and I am a Facebook addict...

I am pretty computer savvy but this social networking thing passed me by completely. I am sure its a generational thing... I mean... my perception was that everybody doing Facebook or MySpace was somewhere between 12 and 20 years old and discussing their latest shopping spree or video game conquest. I could not imagine myself enjoying anything about it nor could I conceive of any useful purpose for joining.

A week or so ago I wanted to show off some pictures of my son, Heath, and his girlfriend. I was at work in Mississippi, 2000 miles from home, and when I said that I didn't have a picture with me one of my coworkers, who maybe has met Heath twice, says... "He has some pix on his facebook page." "WHAT!! You watch his Facebook page??????" "Yeah, we're facebook friends."

So thus began the journey... I went out in search of pictures of Heath. That's when I discovered that I couldn't look at his pictures until I joined... so I signed up. Next I discovered that I couldn't view his pictures unless he was 'my friend'... this is my son we're talking about... and here I am humbling myself and begging his permission to grant me friend status so that I can view his pictures. This is a stressful situation... all the questions... How is my relationship with my son? Really? Have I been a sufficiently 'hip and cool' father to be allowed into the inner sanctum of his online life? Apparently the keys are not that tightly guarded if my coworkers were in...! But I was anxious anyway...

He left me hanging... sleepless nights... days passed by... and then, there in my inbox... Heath confirmed you as a friend... YES!! (fist pump) I was now on the inside of the social networking revolution!

Next day my inbox is full of friend requests... I wasn't sure who some of them were but I gave them access... it was the christian thing to do. I soon learned that there is an insidious narcissistic root that takes hold pretty quickly and manifests itself in an unspoken competition to have more friends than your friends have. I found this out when Josh said, "You've already got 100 friends and you've only been doing this a week." My heart swelled with pride...

In reality this connectivity has been very useful. I am communicating with people that I have lost touch with but more importantly I am in more constant contact with many of the people in our church and local relationship groups. I don't know for sure whether it's a positive or negative thing ultimately, but the facts are that our communication has been much better online than we were experiencing even through texting, emailing or phone calls. And beside this... its been kind of fun... except for the wall updates about shopping sprees and video game conquests... from my coworkers!