Monday, June 30, 2008

more of the kingdom in charlotte - fire church

they had the monthly senior citizen dance @ the Levine Center last night, so we couldn't meet there. Crystal and I have thought about dropping in on that thing - it would probably be fun. But since we haven't been able to meet the last Sunday of every month, we get to see what God is doing in Charlotte to spread His kingdom through other churches. I've written about some of them here & here.

Yesterday we were blessed to see what God is doing at Fire Church which is actually in Concord, NC. They meet at the Cabarrus YMCA & blow that place out every week.
I knew about the parent ministry when me and Crystal were down in Pensacola - these were actually the guys who began the school out of the Brownsville Revival - which everyone knew of around Pensacola... & a lot of peeps from the rest of the world. Well, they moved along with the school of ministry here to Concord, NC. A lot of the people moved up here along with a few of the pastors and they began another church here - Fire Church
At my last job there were a couple of girls who worked in the office that I got to be friends with and they were members of Fire Church. They told me about the connections with Brownsville, etc... and invited me to come out some time.

So, Crystal and I went yesterday morning & got to see some old friends as well as what God is doing up there in Concord through Fire. Pretty cool stuff. Definitely not your "average, boring" church service. The worship was pretty awesome, very God-centered, and lasted about an hour and a half. (Reminded me of the length of some of those late nights at Passion Conferences back in the day.) Not that hard when 1 song lasts around 30 minutes. Seriously, you know that song In Christ Alone, it's kind of long anyway... and pretty powerful... we just kept singing it. Kind of old now & you hardly ever hear anyone do it anymore, but it was really powerful yesterday.<"There in the ground His body lay Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day Up from the grave He rose again [and at this point there was always spontaneous shouts, which brought a smile to my face]
And as He stands in victory Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine Bought with the precious blood of Christ">

The whole gathering had a spontaneous edge to it. It was kind of nice. In the middle of that song a group of people came up to the front and anyone could go talk to them and have them pray for whatever was going on in their life. Several people came to the front to share what God had been teaching them, speaking to them, & doing in their lives. And then back to worshipping God some more through song... pretty cool.

The lead pastor, Scott Volk (who was extremely gracious and nice to Crystal and I) delivered a great talk from one of my all-time favorite passages. 2 Chronicles 20... you gotta read it right now. Seriously. You can even read it by clicking here. [whooo! don't you just LOVE that!?]
We met Scott and his wife and they were really awesome to us. We talked about the Pensacola/Brownsville days a little bit (sorry we never made it out to the revival guys!) & Scott offered help to our church in any way he could. Pretty cool that they've got the same heart and attitude as us = we're all in it for the kingdom... not our church's name, just JESUS' name. That's how Fire rolls.

They really take this Kingdom of God thing seriously at Fire & I love it. When they pray "Let Your kingdom come" from Jesus' model prayer, they really mean it. They want to see it here on earth just like it is in heaven. At the end of the service the Pastor told everyone that one of their members who is a missionary was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and the doctors didn't give them long to live. They all prayed passionately for healing. They believed God could and would do it as healing the sick lines up with His kingdom coming here on earth. They had confidence that God would heal this missionary. Their confidence inspired confidence within me in God. He's a healing God. It was cool to be a part of.

There was a really cool mix of people there too. No ethnic group seemed to have a big majority. I was diggin' that. oh yeah, and I should mention that everybody was crazy nice!

One more thing. They commissioned one of their school of ministry grads who is leaving for Harvard. She's got a heart for the Middle East and is going to study their culture there at Harvard. She got a FULL SCHOLARSHIP. you don't see that everyday at church!

So, thanks Fire Church for letting us worship with you guys. And if any of you live up in Concord or anywhere near exit 54 off I85, check out what's going on at Fire Church.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

what's in my iPod

most of the time live CDs produced by churches aren't all that great. It might be awesome at the worship gathering or the event it was recorded at, but when you pop in the CD it's just not the same. Well, I've found one that comes pretty close & it's been taking up a lot of airtime on my iPod the past 2 weeks...

North Point Live: Louder Than Creation
Pretty amazing CD & I recommend every one of you to buy it and add it to your worship collection.

You had to expect it to be pretty amazing though. I mean, it's not just any worship leaders they've got there! (Their 1st project wasn't half bad either. haha, no it's awesome.) These guys are unbelievable musicians and songwriters. Folk like Steve Fee & Kristian Stanfill (who have both graced the stage at the Passion '06 & '07 respectively). Fee has exploded out of nowhere in the last year to have his songs used in seemingly every church across the nation. + The other peeps "aren't bad" all having their own CDs too = Todd Fields (the guy Andy taught to be a worship leader), Chrystina Fincher (girl that can really rock), and Eddie Kirkland (of Passion podcasts back in the day & Charlotte One fame).

I've been rocking it at Starbucks a lot through my headphones while doing some work. It's really very, very well done. Pretty awesome stuff. A lot of Fee's stuff that are becoming staples in the church like All Because of Jesus, Happy Day, We Shine (that fun-loving, stadium rock like, sweat producing, anthem), and one of my all time favs - Burn For You. (Maybe more thoughts on that song later this week.)

+ there's some less familiar stuff you will love! Todd Fields has some brilliant stuff like Let Me Sing (the song the title of the project is derived from) & I'm really lovin' Breathe On Me & Salvation's Chorus. One of my favorite new songs is Kristian's Lord of All. I'm lovin' it...
"Your fire consumes them all because
There is NONE so high and holy
King of Kings the ONE and only
You are adored, You are the Lord of all"


Then of course the song that has been taking the Church by storm over the last few years is included on the CD - Mighty to Save.

Anyway, this is an awesome CD. Definitely the one I'm listening to most lately. I'm even prouder and more thankful to be in partnership with these guys. Go buy the CD... you won't regret it.

"Savior, He can move the mountains
Our God is MIGHTY TO SAVE
He is MIGHTY TO SAVE
Forever Author of salvation
He rose and CONQUERED THE GRAVE
Jesus CONQUERED THE GRAVE!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

random, interesting, and even funny stuff.

I talked about my all time favorite magazine here a while back. But, my 2nd favorite that I've had a subscription to for several years is Christianity Today. Here's just a couple things in there that I thought were interesting.

- Here's something John McCain said (you know, the guy who is running for president). "I condemn remarks that are, in any way viewed as anti-anything." = to which I said "WHAT?" When you read it in context like I did it makes even less sense. I think he's contradicting his own statement because when he condemns those "remarks" = that's pretty much an anti-something statement. Anyway, this is partly why politics give me a headache and I try to stay out of them. (btw - This is in no way an endorsement of either presidential candidate.)

- OK, Sheri Klouda was a Hebrew professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary but was terminated by the president because he believed "her teaching role exceeded the SBC's limitations on women in church leadership." Are you kidding me? That's a REAL stretch. And didn't you know she was a woman when you hired her for the position!?!?!? Klouda now teaches at Taylor University. Apparently they don't consider their school a church. (you can read the short snippet from the mag here or just google her name and read all about that crazy situation...)

- Ok, I read a really cool and interesting article titled "Rise of the Rebel Virgins". I think you can actually read it here. The gist is that there is a movement among intellectual university students to resist the hookup culture and save their virginity until marriage, not for biblical reasons, but because it makes sense. Lots of virginity clubs springing up like Harvard's True Love Revolution and Princeton's Anscombe Society. They ground their decision in philosophical ethics and the proven scientific negative affects of recreational sex. Pretty cool trend... I wonder what will happen in the future in relation to their view of Scripture.

- I thought this was kind of interesting = Cedarville University terminated a tenured Bible professor in '07 and the board of trustees recently upheld that decision. The professor had apparently openly criticized fellow faculty members for encouraging (in their opinion) postmodern or Emergent theology. Cedarville's president said the tenured professor wasn't fired for theological reasons, but for violating the University's standards, "involving how you treat each other, how you talk about each other, etc..." That's pretty interesting. A University that upholds LOVE and ACTION over theology. Cedarville no doubt disagrees with those professors so-called "Emergent theology" but disagreed more so with the tenured professors' lack of love (which I'm pretty sure Jesus said is most important and I don't remember Him saying much about "Emergent theology.")

anyway, just stuff I read yesterday I thought was interesting. I also started reading book (because of my insane reading ADD) that looks like it will be pretty pimp = Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era by the late, great Stanley Grenz. I'll keep you posted.
*I'm planning on posting the 2nd edition of "What's in my iPod" tomorrow. peace until then.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

quotes of the week #2

I'm stoked about this the 2nd ever installment of "Quotes of the Week" here at renown.

To read the 1st installment, full explanation of, and disclaimer for "quotes of the week" click here. Interact with these quotes in the comments section - which ones do you hate? which ones do you love? and why? [Remember, my thoughts are in these bracket things.] Here we go...

[#1 quote of the week] = It’s the Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to LOVE.Billy Graham [That's beautiful Billy! I'm proud to be born in the same city as you!]


My mom and dad died because they had AIDS and died, but Jesus died to save me.” – young orphan boy in Ethiopia [heard Matthew Emerzian quote this boy he talked to on his recent trip to Ethiopia. Was listening to him on the brilliant Fermi podcast while I was mowing the yard. I almost had to stop and cry. WOW, so blunt and heartbreaking. But this kid gets it!!! Praise God for that! this should probably be the #1 quote of the week!]

The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” — Albert Schweitzer [a pimp who loved Africa]

I’m a kite & Jesus is a hurricane so it’s stupid for me to boast about my ability to fly.” – Mark Driscoll [you gotta listen to this guy... he's the funniest preacher alive. He's like a cross between Chris Rock and John Piper!]

Where the local church is doing what it’s called to do… inevitably the surrounding culture will be affected.” – John Calvin [hmmmm. so if your surrounding culture is not being affected then we could assume...]

find someone who loves what they do & make them an offer.” – Bill Hybels

I work like an Arminian but sleep like a Calvinist.” – Driscoll [wouldn't we all love to do that!]
"You can't just sit around loving your neighbor abstractly; you have to get out and do something for him.” – Julia Maulden of Julia's coffee shop who helped start the Habitat for Humanity here in Charlotte, NC [sounds like she was a pretty cool lady]

“‘I am not satisfied.’ This is the mantra of the leader. As a leader you are never satisfied with the present, because in your head you can see a better future, and the friction between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what could be’ burns you, stirs you up, propels you forward. This is leadership… as a leader you must believe, deeply, instinctively, that things can get better.” – Marcus Buckingham [a straight up PIMP! as you can see from this quote alone of course. That quote resonates DEEP within my soul. It makes me stand up and shout YES! Our lead pastor gave us this quote in staff meeting. It's all I could think about all day long. Please read his book I told you about in yesterday's post! He is a genius. BRILLIANT I tell you! + he's got a really cool british accent.]

"When minor things (such as the ones I listed) become major things, then the mission itself becomes minor. When that happens, many Gospel-loving people look to better organizations to facilitate their cooperation in mission. We need to renew our commitment to the [major doctrines] as the substance of our unity." – jd Greear [my boy Ethan's pastor talking about stuff in his denomination. btw - if there's anybody reading who influences that kind of stuff... JD is RIGHT ON! I think many of these denominations/orgs will lose my whole generation very soon if they don't fix stuff fast. I'm surprised jd hasn't bailed yet. I would guess he's at least thought about it.]

"rich american white boys saying that people need the gospel more than they need drinking water is absurd unless we are willing to take our wealth and share it with our fellow humans" – kris hassanpour [one of my boys' comment on a blog I wrote last week about us needing to help people in poverty. You're right on bro! I think we all need to swallow hard and take that to heart. This should be published in a book somewhere for all to see... or at least on some unknown blog...]

when your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.” [can’t remember where I heard it but thought it was good advice]

Postmoderns will need to have 2 conversions. 1 to community and then a conversion to Christ.” – Nancy Ortberg [you can read her bio yourself. you've probably heard of her or her husband. She's definitely qualified to speak on the subject. If most churches continue to ignore authentic community I think they'll have a lot of trouble reaching postmoderns... but then again maybe that's not who most churches want to reach?]

"Christian artists don't seem to be focused anymore on making great art." - Derek Webb, singer/songwriter

Dark and difficult times lay ahead. Soon we must all choose between what is right and what is easy.” - Professor Dumbledoor in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire [ok, ok, I'll admit it... my wife has read all the Harry Potter books and she got me hooked on the movies. I've seen 4 of them now. They're unbelievably written books! I wish more people were gifted with Rowling's talent. I was watching the movie, simply being entertained and then heard that quote and I was like "whoa." pretty cool for a "children's story."]

I want churches that disagree on this [you can have your own fun guessing what "this" is] to have a biblical, theological conversation and to live with their differences and not spend 90% of their denominational time arguing about this issue when 30,000 children are dying every single day because of poverty and disease.” – Jim Wallis [never read much of this guy but I think I would like him!]

Heaven has secure borders, too.” – Mark Powell, a Disciples of Christ minister warning Indiana lawmakers that supporting a bill that would punish businesses for hiring illegal immigrants would endanger their salvation. [haha, no matter where you stand politically, you have to laugh at this very witty comment! I think it's hilarious]


"Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get involved in what God is doing—because it's already blessed." – Bono quoting someone [quoted in my blog post of Bono's unbelievable sermon that you can read here]



**So what do you all think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

reading

I am a readaholic. I love to read for the sake of improving myself, learning, and making my life more effective for the sake of God's renown. But I've never been very disciplined or strategic in my reading. Around last November/December I decided to work on both of these. So, I developed a simple plan to be disciplined (make myself read a minimum of 25 pages per day) and strategic (create a booklist to read through). I am still extremely ADD when it comes to reading - I'm reading about 25 books at a time, but I at least have strategic goals of what I need to be reading and I'm working through them.

I didn't think 25 pages a day would be all that much, but I made a list of all the books I've completed in the past 6 months (December - May) because of this. I ended up averaging more than 25 pages a day and I've been able to read 21 Books in 6 months! And I don't just read them, but I dive into them and type up my takeaways and things I learn and keep them on file to revisit and keep helping me grow, etc... Anyway, I don't say all that to brag... just kind of an "ebeneezer" for me to look back and see that my goals are paying off and to keep me reading hard + hopefully an encouragement to some of you. I hear people all the time say, "I just don't have time to read all these books I want to read." I was one of those people. But 25 pages a day - that's nothing! And below are the results from doing that... I'll list the 21 books I've been able to read over the past 6 months with links to them, links to the author's website (which many of them have VERY valuable yet free resources!), and my short take on the book. If you want more info on the book because you're thinking about reading it OR you've already read it and want to tell us what you thought of it then drop a comment at the end of the blog. (Plus, you can always keep up with what I'm "currently reading" and have "recently read" over to the right with all the pretty pics of the books.)

Here's the list of what's been shaping my brain over the last half a year (kind of in the order that I read them) =

Chazown: A Different Way to See Your Life - Craig Groeschel
= definitely in my top 3 all time reads (as you can see in my fav books to the right). So many people are going through life without a definite direction or plan... this book is very practical and helped me write down a definite God-ignited vision/plan for my life.

The Total Money Makeover - Dave Ramsey - oh WOW! If you haven't read this PLEASE read it today! It has rocked our world financially & I am very humbly happy to say that we're out of debt now (except for our home, but we're getting there with that) because of applying the principles in this book. A fun read too that I can read in only 2 nights.

Now, Discover Your Strengths - Marcus Buckingham - a MUST READ! Basically most of us have been taught to focus on our weaknesses and be a "well-rounded" person. But this book will help you understand why we need to know our main strengths and become GREAT at them! It comes with a code to give you access to take the strengths finder test online.

Strengths Finder 2.0 - Tom Rath = a followup and basically the middle 100 pages to the above book. Gives the overview of the 30something Strength themes and still allows you to discover your strengths through the website without paying the full price of Buckingham's book.
A New Kind of Christian - Brian McLaren - Don't understand all this "modern" & "postmodern" talk? Ever wonder if the kind of Christianity you're living is more American than biblical? Just want a good story to read that will walk you through all of this? I can't think of a better book than this one! I couldn't put it down. McLaren is brilliant! Changed my thinking in big ways about a lot of things.

Next Generation Leader - Andy Stanley - Are you in any type of leadership position? Do you want to be a leader/better leader? Especially for you peeps in my generation -> you need to get your hands on this! Andy breaks it down for us like only Andy can do and gives us the keys to being a leader worth following.

How to Read a Book - Mortimer Adler - haha... title sounds kind of funny doesn't it? It's not the most exciting book to read... in fact, it's pretty boring. BUT, if you're serious about learning through reading and/or you are a student with stacks of books to read each semester = this book will HELP YOU! It's a classic and is recommended by many graduate professors. I attribute much of the success of reading all these books and taking away all that I did from them to the principles of reading I learned in this book.

A Plain Account of Christian Perfection - John Wesley - whoa. This is a great book by a great man. I had presuppositions coming into it and they were wrong. It's not what you think... in more ways than one. I still don't know what I think about it all, but it is an extremely challenging book that has ignited a passion in me to live as holy a life as I can for the renown of Jesus.

The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell - Every leader should have already read this. All kind of awards & #1 best seller accolades, etc... Gladwell takes his extensive research of pandemics and teaches us how to begin our own positive social pandemics through the power of the tipping point. I'll flesh the ideas out on here with you guys sometime.

UnChristian - Dave Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons - You MUST familiarize yourself with this book. You don't necessarily need to read the whole book, but the research is invaluable for every believer. It reveals "what a new generation really thinks about Christianity." The results are NOT good. We've got to do something about that! (More on this here at renown in the future.)

Creating Community - Bill Willits & Andy Stanley - THE book on the philosophy and logistics of REAL, authentic community groups as the life blood of the church. Don't read it if you want to add a program, but if community is the end game for you in your church then read about it from the experts.

Deadly Viper: Character Assassins - Mike Foster & Jud Wilhite - read all about my thoughts on this book here and here. It's awesome and fun. Kind of like a comic book you can read in a couple hours. Now, go read it before the assassins come to get you.

Generous Orthodoxy - Brian McLaren - I had to read some fluffy stuff after I finished this one. This is basically a manifesto or a confession from arguably THE leader of the emerging church and a wise old sage for all of us young guys who are trying to figure out spirituality and ministry in our current cultural context. This book is AMAZING! It's a fun read, but long. Kind of like a seminary book. It might slide into my top 10 one day...

Surprised by the Voice of God - Jack Deere - I read this as a followup to Jack's 1st book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. VERY ineresting no matter what side of the fence you're on. This guy is a former Dallas prof. = major dispensationalist, turned into one of the major proponents for the continued use of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the church today. And it's all straight Bible just like you'd expect from a Dallas guy.

They Like Jesus But Not the Church - Dan Kimball - VERY similar concept to Unchristian. I think Unchristian was better because of all the cold hard facts/reasearch... but this was a lot of fun and WAY more personal. Lots more 1 on 1 interviews and definitely calls us all to a missional lifestyle.

If Only He Knew - Gary Smalley - haha... this book is pretty old and if you judge a book by it's cover you won't read it. But, it's short, practical, and very helpful to me in helping me understand my wife and how to be a better husband to her. I guess you can ask her how it's working.

(1 other book I won't mention here.)

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John Maxwell - the classic leadership book. Still going through the takeaways. Not all that "life changing" but great principles that I think any leader must be aware of.

Don't Waste Your Life - John Piper - typical Piper. He proved once again why 2 of his books are in my top 10, probably top 5. I wish EVERYONE would read this book and be convinced not to waste their lives chasing the American Dream, etc... And of course one of the coolest things about Piper is that you can read/print the whole book online here. I tried reading it back when I 1st got the book right after college, but only got halfway through it. I finished on CD which I recommend to anyone who can't handle reading a lot of Piper... which is most people. I still love ya Johnny P!

Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller - besides Crowder's 2 books I think this is the most fun & funny book I've ever read. It was a re-read for me as I read it several years ago, but I was more interested in taking stuff away from it this time... and for a fun book there is a LOT to learn. I think Donald Miller is an amazing author. I just want to keep reading him. Here's some earlier posts about the book here and here.

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie - I think my dad has actually recommended this to me for a long time. Lately I've had like 10 more people recommend it to me so I fished it out of my dad's attic and read it. I am SO glad I did. It's awesome and I recommend it to all of you care anything about doing just what the title says. A lot of humility is enforced in the book too which was very interesting to me. Not sure about where Carnegie was at on his faith journey, but he definitely "got" the humility idea.


Later I will probably share my full takeaways for many of these books. If you have any thoughts on which ones you would like to read sooner rather than later OR want me to email you my takeaways for a particular book... just drop that in the comments.

Monday, June 23, 2008

KING of Glory

I'm writing this on Sunday morning (yesterday for you who are reading this on Monday) and it's been a really cool morning. I've just been chillin' outside on my porch swing for an hour or so.

Experiencing the nature that God made is a mesmerizing and awe-inspiring thing for me. Just being out here on this beautiful morning is a spiritual thing for me. It's amazing. Straight across from our house is an empty lot with just grass and trees. From where I sit on the porch swing this open space is basically all I see. All the trees are so green, it feels so awesome outside, and the birds are singing like crazy. I'm just heaping glory and praise onto God for all this.

And I was reading through the Psalms and I came across this passage that keeps talking about "the King of glory." Now, for some reason this has been one of those phrases for me that kind of merges together and I don't "get" the full meaning of it. Kind of like as a kid, lots of people thought a "chest of drawers" was really "Chester drawers". Or like people used to always say "I would JUST AS SOON..." and it had no meaning to me. It just kind of all ran together like 1 word. I think this is the way "King of glory" has always been for me, so I didn't ever really get it.

Plus Psalm 24 is one of those passages that has tons of worship songs written from it and you can hardly read it without singing the song. You know what I'm talking about right? Like Tomlin or Mac Powell pops in your head as you're reading it and you just can't read it like a normal passage anymore... you're just singing the song.

This morning I think I "got" this very simple passage that most people "get" after reading one time.
"Who is He, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty - He is the King of glory." - Psalm 24:10

Glory is like the greatest, biggest thing. It's huge. It's fame, renown, unending praise. And God is the KING of THAT! Ok, so some people can be the King of Rock or the King of England... but the King of glory?!? This is amazing! God is the King of renown. Nobody gets more fame or prestige than God. He is the biggest, coolest thing in the universe. He gets glory for everything. He's the King of it. I'm sitting here surrounded by all this glory in nature & He is the KING of it all.

*Maybe the craziest part of it all is that I'm sitting out here on a porch swing having a conversation with the King of glory! Most kings are inaccessible and I'm probably not going to be having a conversation with them. But the greatest, most famous & glorious King of them all, I get to chill with and have a friendship with. flippin' amazing.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

erased

If you're anywhere near Charlotte you've gotta hang out with us at Ridge Sunday night... 6pm. Chris, our lead pastor, is doing a talk called "erased" that you've gotta hear. (Read his own thoughts about it here.) You've probably got people in your life who need to hear it too so bring them along.
Check out this video for a little preview...

video

Word on the street is that the band will be rocking out a little Linkin Park as well. It's gonna be a fun night. We're ready for God to change some lives tomorrow... I can't think of anything more fun.

Friday, June 20, 2008

bono's sermon

This is POWERFUL! I wish I could have been there when this speech was delivered.

I tried to figure out how to make this post shorter, but I couldn't. Please take 5 minutes to read this whole speech.

This is a pretty amazing sermon from Bono - delivered to the President, Congress, and other important peeps at the National Prayer Breakfast in DC. It will knock your socks off and hopefully have you shouting "right on" in agreement (or "amen" if you're baptist).

"Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah, Other heads of State, Members of Congress, distinguished guests …

If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star.
Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural… something unseemly… about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert… but this is really weird, isn't it?

It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned—I'm Irish.
I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.
I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.
I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…
I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.
Perhaps because I was a believer.
I was cynical… not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

'Jubilee'—why 'Jubilee'?
What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?
I'd always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…
'If your brother becomes poor,' the Scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'
It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much… yet. He hasn't spoken in public before…

When he does, his first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)
What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we're still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club… it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.
It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one's that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.
Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back!
But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!
Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!
Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.
It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.
When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organizing, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.
I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.
I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places"

It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here's some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.
In fact, you have double aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.
Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There's is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.
And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.
Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.
And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.
But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.
6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drugstore. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.
You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."
And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks."
"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."
So on we go with our journey of equality.
On we go in the pursuit of justice.
We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.
That's why I say there's the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?
As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.
God will not accept that.
Mine won't, at least. Will yours?

[pause]

I close this morning on … very… thin… ice.
This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God… vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.
And this is a town—Washington—that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call the least of these.
This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.
'Do to others as you would have them do to you.' (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that. (2.177)
Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.
That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…
And this wise man said: stop.
He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.
Get involved in what God is doing—because it's already blessed.
Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.
And that is what He's calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.
Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:
I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?
One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.
One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.
One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.
One percent is national security, enlightened economic self interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.
These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.
But I can tell you this:
To give one percent more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames. I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all."


I love Bono because he doesn't necessarily know all the "stuff", all the theology, the orthodoxy, but he LIVES like I think Jesus would live when it comes to this stuff. He acts like he knows more than any of us. Here is a guy who I'm proud to say is more interested in orthopraxy than orthodoxy. I wanna live my life like that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

kg & passion

I have always loved Kevin Garnett. Ever since he came to the NBA from his high school in Chicago I have loved watching him play.

I love Kevin Garnett because he is a true basketball junkie and he is full of passion. I love watching people full of passion. I have always thought KG is the most passionate man in the NBA and I've always wanted him to win a championship. I've always thought he kind of deserves it.
I remember cheering for him back in '04 when he got so close but his Wolves went down to Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers in the Western Finals. I didn't give a rip about Minnesota, but KG's passion sucked me in from day 1 and I wanted him to win. It would be storybook.

Last summer when I heard The Big Ticket went to the Celtics and he would be on a seemingly unbeatable team - a big smile came to my face. I remember thinking, "finally, this is his chance." I couldn't imagine anyone beating this team. I've never been a Celtics fan either. But KG is one of my fav players ever to watch so I hoped all along that they would win it all this year.

No doubt his passion changed that team. He's a little crazy, but oh so passionate. I love it. I loved watching him for like an hour after game 6 was over the other night. Just watching all that passion overflow into celebration. Finally it had an outlet. To us peeps who don't totally get the passion boiling over inside of him, it looks a little crazy, weird, unintelligible, maybe extreme. But for him, his passion finally culminated in victory.

So, congrats to KG - your passion finally paid off.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

humility (part 2)

Read part 1 of my takeaways from Mahaney's Humility: True Greatness here.

You might not know CJ Mahaney - but you might have heard of his disciple - Joshua Harris. He became "famous" in some parts of the Christian bubble after writing I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I remember thinking as a teenager "what a weirdo!" I've still never read that book, but in college somebody gave me his later book Not Even a Hint and it is the best book I've ever read on sexual purity (probably post my takeaways from that book here on renown sometime in the future). He had crazy good stuff to say about and gave mad props in that book to his pastor, mentor, and discipler - you guessed it, CJ Mahaney. Pretty cool story that CJ was the lead pastor of a big booming church and after CJ mentored him & when Josh was ready he simply turned it over to him! pretty cool...

Here's some more thoughts on humility from a very humble & godly man. A man a lot of guys my age look up to.

(Picking up with chapter 7)
– “Apart from God, I cannot exist. Apart from me, God does exist. God does not need me in order for Him to be; I do need God in order for me to be. *Life is lived between two hospitals…but, God is not fragile.” – R.C. Sproul
– **“There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men…A due consideration of God, and then of ourselves. Of God in His greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject and sinful condition.” – John Owen
- ***Laugh Often!!! “Laughter is a divine gift to the human who is humble. A proud man cannot laugh because he must watch his dignity; he cannot give himself over to the rocking and rolling of his belly. But a poor and happy man laughs heartily because he gives no serious attention to his ego.” – Terry Lindvall on C.S. Lewis

– am I frequently critical of others? Do I look at those around me only to find one blemish after another? “This proud tendency is a deeply rooted habit for many of us who have sown seeds of self-exaltation over the years.”
- * “actively look for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people.”
- we have no excuse to not find evidences of grace in our bros.
- *“I believe in the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should have never chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love.” - Charles Spurgeon
[you all love the shirt right!?]


[i love this] = humility—a heart more concerned with God’s glory than our own, and more intent on serving others than ourselves. This indeed is the posture of humility to which God looks.”

– we speak 25,000 words per day. “how much of it reflects pride, rather than a gospel-motivated humility?”
– “in my experience, where there’s an absence of edifying words there’s also normally the presence of pride and of self-righteousness, because those who are proud are too preoccupied with themselves and think too highly of themselves to care about building others up or to be sensitive to their true needs.”

Inviting and Pursuing Correction
“Sin in its deceptive power so often blinds us, leaving us unaware of flaws that others notice clearly.”
– do others find it easy to correct me? = excellent question!
- “there’s truth to be gleaned at times even from an enemy’s critique.”
- “humility postures itself to receive God’s grace from any avenue possible.”

- *** Awesome advice = "don't celebrate anything more than you celebrate humble character in your children." Mahaney, and his son "break out into real celebration around their house only when there is a demonstration of humility, servanthood, or godly character." They have a bigger celebration for this than for academic or athletic awards. That's pretty sweet!


*** At the end of the book Mahaney has a sweet list of suggestions for how to weaken pride and cultivate humility - practical stuff like stuff to do at the beginning and end of each day, etc... This list is worth the price of the book (which is pretty cheap). You can read the whole thing in like 2 or 3 hours so but it today here. Or if you really want the extensive notes on the book, seriously tell me in the comments with your email addy and I'll send them to you.

Hope you enjoyed this.

Monday, June 16, 2008

humility

I read this book a little over 2 years ago and it was like a kick in the teeth. I read it on a plane ride from L.A. back to Charlotte and I was radically changed on that plane. I was given the book in L.A. and then got to meet its author - C.J. Mahaney. He was extremely humble - go figure. He signed my book and then looked at me with a big smile and said, "I hope it serves you." It was pretty cool. CJ is a straight up PIMP... I love that guy. He's got this aura like he's your dad and full of wisdom... or something like that (+ he looks a little like that Picard guy from Star Trek back in the day right?) - And yeah, he's my theological homeboy!

This book is truly awesome! It's one of those books I try to review every month or 2. It's that great. It was quite an experience and life-changing thing for me to read it. It's a must-read for everyone. Now that I think about it... I can't remember why it's not in my top 10 list to the right. (if you haven't read it you need to and should go buy it here.)

This is a very trimmed down list of my takeaways. I've got 12 pages in all. Just send me your email address and I'll send you my full 12 pages of takeaways if you like what you see...
Below are just some random quotes and takeaways from Humility: True Greatness:

- “genuine humility requires a radical redefinition of success.”
– “There’s something you can do to attract more of God’s gracious, undeserved, supernatural strength and assistance!” = be humble!
- “The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world.” – Jonathan Edwards
- “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” – John Calvin [if you followed that it was pretty pimp]
*DEFINITION* = “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.”
- would others say I'm humble?

I do have A LOT to be humble about! [just think about that one]
– it’s crazy how incompetence and pride go hand in hand! It’s illogical, but “pride seems to have a strange and sure way of ignoring logic altogether.”
* “At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”! – John Stott
- “Pride is itself the essence of all sin.” – John Stott
- Interesting = “from God’s perspective, pride seems to be the most serious sin…nothing God hates more than this.” [but this is logical because God cares most about HIS supreme glory and pride attempts to screw that up.]
- Why does God hate pride so much? = “Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him.”
- * ouch = “the proud person seeks to glorify himself and not God, thereby attempting in effect to deprive God of something only He is worthy to receive.”
– “You and I hate nothing to the degree that God hates pride.”
- “God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacrilegious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can.” – John Calvin
– pride = “the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace and sweet communion with Christ; it’s the most difficult sin to root out, and the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts.” – Jonathan Edwards
- “Pride undermines unity! Show me a church where there’s division, where there’s quarrelling, and I’ll show you a church where there’s pride.”
– “Pride ruins pastors and churches more than any other thing.” – Mike Renihan

– “pride is a groundless thing, a brainless thing, the maddest thing that can exist.” – Charles Spurgeon
– I must “turn upside down my entrenched, worldly ideas on the definition of greatness.”
- our culture defines greatness as = “individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification.” -> BIG contrast with biblical definition = “serving others for the glory of God.” [Jesus came to serve]

- “I must consider how I can daily, diligently, and deliberately weaken my greatest enemy [pride] and strengthen my greatest friend" [humility]
– “Fill your affections with the cross of Christ, that there may be no room for sin.” – John Owen
* “There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross. Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust….Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
- All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.” – John Stott
***“How can anyone be arrogant when he stands beside the cross?” – Carl Henry

– “Purpose by grace that my first thought of the day will be an expression of my dependence on God, my need for God, and my confidence in God.”
**“The humble are genuinely care free.”**
- “Where there’s worry, where there’s anxiousness, pride is at the root of it. When I am experiencing anxiety, the root issue is that I’m trying to be self-sufficient. I’m acting independent of God.”
- My PRIDE is what keeps me from totally trusting and depending on God.
– “every time I claim to be the ‘author’ in my life and ministry of that which is actually God’s gift, I’m committing cosmic plagiarism.”
- “whatever successes I experience, learn to immediately transfer the glory to Him.”


Those takeaways are from the 1st half of the book. I've got tons more I wish I could share but I was just trying to pick out a few things. I'll post the 2nd half tomorrow.