Thursday, October 28, 2010

Give Him Some Time

I find that when I preach, so many times I preach to myself. God has a way with that I think. But what amazes me as a preacher is that when I have ample time (or make ample time) to spend with the Lord and hear His voice and feel the presence of His leading, how much better my messages are and how much deeper they can go. Let me put it this way...I'm realizing that just like with your children, there's no replacement for quantity time with God. Quality time is overrated (or just a cop-out).

Now if you are reading this and you don't believe me, then try it. Read a passage and pray for God to speak to you. Read it again and ask yourself what God is trying to impress on your mind and your heart. Dwell and meditate on it. Joshua 1:8 puts it this way, "Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful."

In writing sermons and messages for different occasions it's always good to be full. The fuller I am and the more time I have to spend alone with the Lord, the better. Try it for yourself and see what happens in your personal walk!

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What We Can Learn

I received this from a friend via email this week. A good read and very thought-provoking. Let me know what you think.

Barnes and Noble, USA Today and the Church

“How did Barnes and Noble fall so far so fast?”

This was the question asked by James B. Stewart of the Wall Street Journal as the giant bookstore chain put itself up for sale this month.

Simple answer? The internet. More to the point, the internet of, kindle, the iPad, e-readers and digital books.

But here’s the real question insightfully raised by Stewart: with such market-share dominance in the book business, why didn’t Barnes and Noble, with dominant market position, do what it should have done? As Stewart observes, it could have “out-Amazoned Amazon, leveraging its brand and innovating when it began marketing and selling books online.” After all, Barnes and Noble was an innovation itself, putting many independent booksellers out of business with its deep discounts and in-store coffee bars.

Stewart’s conclusion: Barnes and Noble never really embraced the internet or e-books. In truth, it stayed tied to the old-fashioned world of physical books and stores. It was unwilling to destroy its old business model, so it simply focused on managing its decline, leaving Amazon to concentrate on the new world it was creating.

A similar story is happening with USA Today. As Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times notes, “The history of USA Today is full of firsts for the newspaper business: the first general-interest national paper of its kind, the first to use color widely in charts and photographs, and once first in the number of copies printed each day.”

Now? Its advertising revenue has collapsed and its circulation has plunged.

But unlike Barnes and Noble, USA Today is fighting back. It recently announced the most extensive reorganization in its 28-year history, shifting “its business model away from the print edition that has become ubiquitous in airports, hotels and newsstands across the country.”

Now the paper will focus on its digital operations, breaking news on its website, a stand-alone sports edition called USA Today Sports, and making content more available in digital form in order to snag a larger percentage of the tablet and mobile phone news market.

There are lessons here for all businesses.

There are also lessons here for all churches.

First lesson: You can go the way of B&N and simply manage your decline. Or you can go the way of USA Today and preserve your core while attempting to stimulate progress.

What is the core of the church that must never change? The message of the gospel; a defined new community in Christ; worship and the sacraments; the Great Commission, and the cultural commission inherent within it.

What must change? Methods, strategies and forms of communication.

I have often reflected on the demise of the railroad barons. They dominated their era until a new invention came along – the car. Instead of seeing the potential of the automobile, they fought it, working instead to preserve the railroad industry as they knew it.

Their mistake was that they thought they were in the railroad business.

They weren’t.

They were in the transportation business.

Failing to see this cost them everything.

USA Today is not in the newspaper business. It’s in the news business. They are realizing that this means they don’t have to live, and eventually die, with the newspaper.

Similarly, the church is not in the business of the hymns of Fanny Crosby, age-graded adult Sunday School, door-to-door leaflet campaigns or the King James Version of the Bible. We are in the business of worship, community/discipleship, evangelism and the Bible itself.

But there’s another, more subtle lesson to be learned. Both Barnes and Noble and USA Today were recent innovators. Very recent. Like 90’s recent.

And now? Struggling to stay current. That’s how fast things are changing.

The good news for USA Today? It is not resting on its laurels.

Unlike many churches.

I’m finding an increasing number of churches that did innovate – but then, once they “did” the innovation, firmly cemented themselves in that innovation.

So now, while they may not be mired to Fanny Crosby, they can’t seem to move beyond Darlene Zschech; while they abandoned Sunday School, they can’t think beyond small groups; while they no longer use the KJV, they don’t realize the NIV is beginning to be a bit worn in places; and while they wouldn’t dream of handing out tracts, they don’t realize that the older seeker services with a drama sketch doesn’t connect like it used to.

Cutting-edge churches have moved on to internet campuses, a multi-site approach, music by Jesus Culture and widespread use of film.

And if they’re smart, those same cutting-edge churches will hold those very things with an open hand, along with an open eye.

The goal is not to be “hip”, as a recent cover story in Christianity Today outlined. The goal is to be effectively standing, and contending, on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Paul wasn’t trying to be hip; he was trying to connect.

All to say, never before has there been such a need for leaders to be like the men of Issachar, who “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (I Chronicles 12:32, NLT).

Or perhaps we should say, keep understanding the times.

James Emery White


“Clearance Sale: Barnes and Noble Didn’t Evolve Enough,” James B. Stewart, The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2010. Online at:

“USA Today to Remake Itself to Stress Digital Operations,” Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, Saturday, August 28, 2010, p. B1.

“Hipster Faith,” Brett McCracken, Christianity Today, at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Live It or Quiet Please!

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." -Matthew 5:13

It seems to be some part of every church and fellowship today: Christians who wear the name but don't live the life. I need to start by clarifying that there's a difference between a stumbler and a Christian atheist (one who believes in God but lives as if He doesn't exist). There is a difference between a believer who is seeking to live a godly life, but struggling, and the person who claims to be a believer, but blatantly disregards what the Bible says and chooses to live a lifestyle out of God's plan. My request of those in the latter category is to please do us all a favor and be quiet. Don't claim it if you are not going to live it. Your malpractice is killing the witness of Christ and the testimony of His church. It sounds surprising to hear a preacher ask someone to keep quiet their belief in Christ. But the key text of the Sermon on the Mount is Matthew 6:8, when Jesus said, "Don't be like them...." Essentially, Jesus was saying, "Don't be like this world. Be different. Don't be like them."

So what are we to be like? We are to be salt. Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless." In Jesus' day, salt was a bigger deal than it is now. The Romans believed that except for the sun, nothing was more valuable than salt. It actually was used as a form of currency, and Roman soldiers would sometimes be paid in salt. Hence the expression, "He is not worth his salt."

We are all going to have moments of hypocrisy. If I said I have never been a hypocrite, then I would be hypocritical for saying that. Believers have not always practiced what they preached. That is called humanity. Every Christian will fall short. The difference is that some are struggling in their sin while others are quite comfortable.

If you are a Christian and are habitually engaged in a lifestyle that is contrary to what the gospel teaches and what the Bible says, then please don't talk about Jesus. The world needs realness and authenticity today. To stay habitually in your sin with no repentance and change shows the eerie state of your heart. It might be time for an open heart procedure with the Great Physician.

D.C. Talk put it this way: "The single leading cause of atheism in the world today is Christians...who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the doors of the church and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what the unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Help the cause of Christ. Live it or shut up.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Calm In Your Chaos

So this past weekend, two of my daughters turned another year older. We had birthday parties on Saturday and Sunday, and I think that we are officially partied out now. It was a fun weekend though. For Madalyn's party we went out to Daze in a Maze, the corn maze and pumpkin patch about 35 miles away. It was fun and I think that the girls really enjoyed it. We had a weenie roast, did the maze, did the "dino dig" for cow bones, climbed and played on hay bales and old farm equipment. It was a good time had by all.

The only part of that Maze experience that I didn't like was the travel there and back. It wasn't that the girls were bad or anything like that. It was just really loud and bubbly in my vehicle. If you can picture me driving with 7 third grade girls then you can catch my drift. They were just non-stop talking and loud. I felt like my head was about to explode a couple of times. So much noise, chaos, and pandemonium!

Chaos. It raises the blood pressure. It stresses you out. You can get a headache. It can even make you sick. I've noticed that there are people who struggle with chaos. They come to church tired and worn out. They come in and their kids are crazy wild and are just beating their parents down. I see parents that just want it all to stop, even for a moment, so they can gather the strength to move on in their parenting.

I don't like feeling that way, even if it was just for an hour. But I noticed how stressed and tense it made me. Just the noise, constant talking, music (turn it up) and general noisiness. I can totally see how it can wear a person down. And I think, how many people do this and live this chaotic lifestyle everyday? No wonder they're stressed, tense, and short with everyone. They've got to be miserable. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29 Jesus' offer here is peace. Calm in your chaos. His "yoke" is not heavy and burdensome. Living His way will bring "rest for your soul".

If you need rest...a break from the noise and chaos of life...know that you'll never have that peace that your heart desires till you come to the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. Then you will find rest.