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9/28/12

MARGIN

OK, you may have yawned through the past 3 weeks, but MARGIN: Spending the Time of Your Life, has been one of the most personally challenging series I've ever been a part of.  As usual, when I speak on parenting, my family goes crazy...when I speak on money, my finances get out of whack.  Marriage...you can figure it out.

So, do a series on MARGIN and, surprise, guess what happens...you suddenly realize your calendar is crammed and your schedule is all out of whack.  Life is running you, rather than vice-versa.  You didn't do it all at once.  In fact, you didn't even realize you were doing it at all.  Six months ago you committed to that wedding, a month ago you scheduled the next elders meeting, those folks could only meet with you after hours, the banquet is for a ministry you support and love, Singles have a place in my heart.  All good stuff.  But, when they all fall into those boxes with numbers on them, and they fall into sequential boxes...BOOM!  You're in trouble.

We have a tendency to say, "Oh yeah, I really need to make time for that".  Sounds good.  Totally impossible.  Basically, what we're saying is, "I'm keeping everything in my schedule just the way it is, but somehow, I'm going to try to make some more time for what I'm convinced I need to be doing".  It doesn't work that way.  You can't make time.  That's a God job.  Way above your pay scale.  What we have to say is, "I need to adjust my priorities.  I need to make sure my priorities come first."  That means when something off the list gets included, something else has to move down the list.  In fact, in most cases, something has to be removed off the list entirely.  That's the tough reality.

When we choose to say yes to the best, it often requires saying no to the rest.  Painful reality.  I never said this was easy.

9/27/12

TECHNOLOGY...THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY

Read my blog yesterday?  Nope.  It didn't happen.  Reason?  Technical difficulties.  My device jungle now includes an iPad.  I was simply going to write my blog from it.  Nope again.  I couldn't figure it out. (this is not earth-shattering).  When I sought help from my 20-something technobots who know everything, they had problems as well.  (much to my delight)  So, let's talk about technology.  I know we've broached the subject before, but it seems in the Allen household I'm feeling a technological explosion...or implosion...I'm not quite certain.

Got the new iPad (don't have iPad envy), and my goal, because all my Bible-reading is done on some electronic device, is to begin using it whenever I speak.  I'm sure there will be some kick-back ("Shouldn't a preacher hold a Bible when he preaches?!  I mean really, that can't be biblical preaching if he doesn't even have a Bible!!!!!)  Problem is, the Bible is not a leather-bound book with onion-skin paper.  The Bible is the Words of God...whatever form they may take.  We need to get over our leather fetish.  Cows will appreciate that, trust me.

Susan has become a committed Tweaton (she's on Twitter) and found her Facebook account (that's another story).  The iPhone 5 is out (woo hoo!) and I'm qualified for an upgrade.  And I can do this and do that and....my head is spinning.  And we're rolling out the electronic version of the Listening Sheet this weekend for your Smart phone.  Then there's the Crosspoint App that's coming.  (Yes, there's an app for that).

So, my question is where does it all end?  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Is it just technology?  I see great opportunities with the expansion of technology.  For instance, I write this blog every morning (OK, almost every morning) and it heads out over Twitter and Facebook to many of you.  Oftentimes you retweet it or share it on your Facebook page or email it to others, etc.  That's good.  Technology can be good.

But, with the good, we have to be aware and on guard for the bad.

1.  Technology can be addictive.  Like alcohol, drugs, sex, food...anything, technology can be addictive.  When it starts to control you rather than vice-versa, it's a problem.  Worst part of that is, you'll probably be the last person to know it.
2.  Technology is not the answer for everything.  In fact, just the opposite.  Emails, although good, are not replacements for conversations.  It's very easy to text or email rather than calling or talking face-to-face.  Technology must never be allowed to replace the human element.
3.  Technology is always urgent.  It dings or buzzes or makes some disgusting sound to announce itself.  It screams, "Pay attention to me now!  Drop what you're doing and give me your undivided attention!" Nothing breaks my heart more than when Susan and I go on a date to some restaurant and see a couple with their smartphones out conversing with folks other than the one important one sitting right in front of them.  DUMB!  There should be times when technology is off-limits.
4.  Technology makes sin even more accessible.  I remember the Adult Book Store on the freeway near where I used to pastor.  (Wonder if they had any books in there?)  I always wanted to stop and just start writing down license plate numbers.  No idea what I'd have done with them...just sounded like fun.  Well, here's the problem, everything (almost) that you could find in that place is available right on your laptop or smartphone.  Technology has become a sin delivery system...if you want it to be.

Understand me, technology is neither good nor bad.  But, as one of my professors once said, "Every bad thing is a good thing perverted".  That's pretty profound.  Our sin nature enables us to turn anything...ANYTHING...into something evil.  Be careful.  "Be very careful then, how you live-not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."  

9/25/12

THE MYSTERIOUS DEEP

From time to time I hear someone say of our church or, more specifically, of my preaching, "It's just not DEEP enough for me".  Problem is, I've never figured out what that means.  Maybe that proves they're all correct.  If you're not deep enough to understand what people who want DEEPER mean, then you just might have proved their point.  Maybe I'm just exactly what they say...shallow.

However, I have my own opinion. (there's a shocker!!!)  Personally, I think I deal with some pretty deep stuff.  Who Jesus was.  How he expects us to live.  How the Bible speaks to our purpose, our money, our marriages, our kids, our time, our service, our priorities, our attitudes...to me that's pretty deep stuff.

So, the question remains...if that's not deep, what is?  My conclusions are the following:
     1.  Deep is confusing rather than clear.  In other words, if I can explain it in a way that can be
          understood by a normal human being, then it must not be deep.
     2.  Deep is theological rather than practical.  Deep talks about concepts rather than telling ME
          how to live out those concepts.  It's more about doctrine than about life.
     3.  Deep uses big words instead of simple ones.  I'm very capable of using big words like
          soteriology and sacerdotalism and eschatology and hippopotamus.  I even can explain what they
          mean.  I just don't think deep means wowing you with my brilliance or a few words I picked up
          in seminary.  I think deep is the ability to make things clear, understandable and practical.

Why do people say, "This just isn't deep enough for me"?  Well, I have a theory.  I think it's because we'd rather hear a diagram of the three main views of the millennium, or a treatise on the conflicts between Calvinism and Arminianism, or the biblical and historical basis for transubstantiation, consubstantiation and symbolism than hear how we're supposed to love a black man, get our finances in order, and prioritize our spouse over our kids.  That requires me to DO something, rather than just LEARN some new facts that might come in handy if Bible Trivial Pursuit ever makes a comeback.

Maybe practical and clear and challenging is the new DEEP?  Who knew?

9/24/12

MONDAYS

Lots of pastors take off on Mondays.  I adhere to the same philosophy as Rick Warren who once said, "I don't want to feel that bad on my day off".  I concur.  So, I try to schedule everything on Monday I really don't want to do any other day.  Usually a meeting, followed by a meeting, taking you up to lunch, a trip to the gym, random appointments, afternoon meetings, and like today, rounded off with an evening meeting with the elders and staff.  Uuuuummmmm.  Sounds like fun.  Sounds like MONDAY!

In reality, I really don't look forward to Mondays.  I'm usually pretty beat-up from the week-end and a Sunday that started way too early and ended way too late.  But, I know the things I do on Monday, although not always fun, are important.  They set the tone for the rest of the week.  They make TUESDAY possible.

What's your MONDAY?  That thing you dread?  That thing you kind of wish would just go away?  That you could sleep through or hit delete on your key board and you could move on to the next thing? How do you deal with it?  Do you just dread it?  Do you just get on with it and pray it will be over soon?  Or, do you embrace it and recognize it's necessity and value in your life?

For you, it may not be Monday.  Maybe your Monday is Thursday.  Maybe your Monday are those trips to the in-laws, sales meetings, homework assignments, dinner with the neighbors, ...you fill in the blank.

So, how do you deal with them?  Do you live with a sense of dread for the 3 days leading up to them?  Do you act like a 3-year-old and throw an inward tantrum that only you can see that says, "I don't want to and you can't make me!"?  Do you just mope through it thinking no one notices, when in reality, everyone does?

Or, do you embrace it and say, "This is the day (or event, or challenge, or pain-in-the-posterior) that the Lord has made...I will rejoice and be glad in it!"  That can be tough.  But, it's a day or season or hour of your life that you'll never get back.  Live it well, my friend.  Live it well!

9/21/12

CHURCH FOR THE UNCHURCHED

At Crosspoint, one of the things that makes us run is that we want to be a Church Unchurced People want to Attend.  Sounds great.  We work hard at that.  We track that.  According to what we've found..Working Hard..A-...Results of Tracking...F+.  Not good.  Seriously, we're trying hard.  We're just not being very successful.  So, what's the key?  What do we need to do differently to reach unchurched people?  Well, I ran across an article this week, and thought I'd share part of it with you:


"Crawl underneath the hood of any growing church that is actually growing from the unchurched, and you will find that the number one reason newcomers attend is that they were invited by a friend.
Churches grow from the unchurched because their members and attendees talk about it to their unchurched friends. It comes up in their conversations like the mention of a good movie, a favorite restaurant, or a treasured vacation spot.
There is a culture of invitation.
As Michael Green noted about the explosive growth of the early church, which was entirely conversion growth, Christians were talking about the church, Jesus, and the gospel like it was gossip over the backyard fence.
We also track how they came to the church. Was it through direct mail? Did they see a sign? Did they drive by and see the campus?
The number one answer has never changed: “I was invited by a friend.”

One of the four challenges of CONNECT 4 is to invite 4 friends.  If we are to be a church that actually makes a dent in the unchurched population, it's basically not up to me to preach really great or Nathan o make sure the music kicks or the Welcome Team to roll out the red carpet.  None of that matters if YOU don't invite your unchurched friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, students, etc.  YOU MUST BECOME AN INVITER!  

It may not come natural.  It may be uncomfortable.  It may not be in your personality.  So what?  Lives are on the line and it's up to you.  Nuff said!

INVITE SOMEBODY!  ANYBODY.  AS MANY ANYBODIES AS POSSIBLE.  PLEASE...

9/20/12

HAT MAKES A PASTOR WANT TO SHOUT!

OK, yesterday I wrote about SOME of the things that make pastors want to cuss.  So, today I need to look at the flip-side, the other side of the coin.  What gets a pastor all stoked and makes him want to shout:

1.  Undeniably authentic life transformation by the power of God's Holy Spirit
2.  When people genuinely love people that are totally different than themselves
3.  Generosity
4.  Legalists who get set free to live by grace
5.  People who live by faith (always risky business) and not by sight
6.  Things that get healed buy the power of God (bodies, marriages, relationships, lives, etc.)
7.  People that are honest and real (in the good an the bad...politically correct or not)
8.  People that "get it" (that moment when the light bulb goes on)
9.  People that laugh loud and often, especially at themselves
10.  People that are so busy working on getting the log out of their own eye that they don't have time to worry about any specks in anyone else's

9/19/12

WHAT MAKES A PASTOR WANT TO CUSS?


Have you ever wondered that?  Maybe not.  Or, maybe you thought that since we only work one day a week, we really didn't have any reason to complain.  Well, we do.  There are certain things that REALLY get under our skin.  Thought I'd list a few just for your entertainment:

1.  People who take up an hour seeking your counsel, then do the opposite of what you told them.
2.  Gossip
3.  People who want to remake your church in the image of the one that was so bad they left it to come to yours
4.  People who make their kids go to school, play Little League and take dance lessons, even though they don't want to, but would never think of forcing them to go to church
5.  People who say, "God told me to do _______", which just happens to be the thing they wanted to do all along.
6.  People who treat pastors more like insurance salesmen than professionals.  They would take whatever appointment time their doctor, lawyer or dentist gave them and show up gladly, but expect you to meet them at 7:00pm, because you're just a pastor and not a professional and even though you only work one day a week, you should be available 24/7.
7.  Did I mention gossips.  Especially the ones who always get in wrong, in addition to being a gossip.  Inaccurate gossip...that's the worst...and the norm.  They should, at least, have a disclaimer, "What I'm about to say cannot be verified and is probably not true, however, never one to let factual accuracies stand in my way.....".
8.  People who always want more hymns.  If you sing one, rather than enjoying it, they make it their cause to write and suggest we should do this every week.
9.  People who get their feelings hurt...always...and think it's someone else' fault.  I got my feelings hurt, too.  It was when my best-friend talked my prom date into dumping me to go with him.  That hurt my feelings.  That's the last time I can remember.  Guess I grew up.
10.  People like me.  They're the worst.  But, God loves me, so I guess I should love them too.  And I do.  Knuckleheads.

9/18/12

RUN FROM THE TRUTH AS FAST AS YOU CAN

In case you've been living under a rock...let me let you in on a little news you may have missed...there's a Presidential election upcoming.  As a result, we're in full campaign mode.  Yesterday, someone released some secretly recorded tapes of one of the candidates speaking at a fundraiser.  He made some unbelievable statements.  Statements that he seems to be backing off of...distancing himself from...maybe even running away from.

What are these scurrilous words that the news is reporting have the candidate's campaign in crisis mode?  That at least 47% of the American people consider themselves VICTIMS.  They pay no taxes.  They feel they are entitled to free healthcare, free food, free housing, free education...the list goes on.  And, if 47% of the American population are VICTIMS, who need...who expect the government to take care of them, then our electoral process has become somewhat of a joke, because those 47% will automatically vote for whoever gave them, and will most likely continue to give them the free stuff.  In other words, the American voters are at least smart enough to know not to bite the hand that feeds them.  When any one candidate starts off with a automatic 47% advantage, that's a little difficult to overcome.  That's approaching the magic 50% number which would mean the election would be over before it begins.  In fact, we could just save billions of dollars and cancel the election and annoint one candidate king or czar or imperial potentate or dictator.

One more detail about this most controversial statement....IT'S TRUE.  The greatest nation in the world (don't get me wrong, I didn't say perfect.  We've got plenty of warts and scars and embarrassments from our past and present.  But, tell me where you'd rather live than the the USA?  If you have an answer, please move there immediately) has become a nation of VICTIMS.

A.  Something's wrong with our life.
B.  It's not our fault.
C.  Someone else needs to take responsibility for me and fix it.

The other day I handed one of my employees a mess.  I told him, "It's not your fault, but it is your problem.  You didn't do it, but it's your job to fix it."  That's life.  Get over it.  Get on with it.  Get moving.  And smile while you do it.

Everyone has been victimized in some way during their lives.  You didn't get to be the pitcher in Little League because the coach let his son have that spot.  You obviously should have made an A in History, but the teacher just didn't like you.  Bob, who's a total tool, got the promotion you deserved, because he's such a brown-nose.  You weren't born in the right family, didn't go to the right school, didn't live in the big house, didn't drive the cool car...I could go on and on.

But it all boils down to the willingness of people to take personal responsibility for their lives.  

I got a windshield replaced the other day.  The owner was a lady who had fled from Iraan years ago.  She was a talker.  Some of the things she said were, "My dream was to live in America, because here you can be anything you want to be.  You can work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day if you want.  You can be whatever you want."  And also, "The only people who seem not to appreciate America are Americans".  WOW!

Today, choose to take responsibility for your life.  Choose to be a VICTOR, not a VICTIM!

9/17/12

THE GREAT DOUBLE STANDARD

Recently, Muslims around the world have rioted, burned American flags, attacked Embassies and killed diplomats and American soldiers.  They have done so under the guise of blasphemous activities of some totally unknown film producer who, has to this point only produced a Grade D (that's kind) trailer  of a supposed film that speaks unkindly of Islam in general and Mohammed in particular.  Somehow, this religion, this peace-loving and forward-thinking religion, is so sensitive and fragile, that if anyone dares even question anything about its validity or scrutinizes its leader, it will fall like a house of cards, and therefore any such attempts must be stopped at any cost.

My thoughts are, if your tenets are that fragile, that they can't stand up to any attack or scrutiny, it only proves that the rock on which you've built your life is only a bunch of sand, at best, and possibly, a paper tiger.

As Christians, we've seen The Last Temptation of Christ, a movie depicting Jesus as a homosexual.  We've seen Dan Brown's DaVinci Code, that brought questions as to the validity of the Bible, as well as the tenets of Christianity.  We've seen the apostle John depicted as Jesus' love interest, as well as a women who bore him children.  The list goes on and on.  Yet, through all of these attacks, two things never happened:

1.  Christians never attacked, rioted or killed anyone that I am aware of.  Oh, to be sure, we decried these things, preached against these things, boycotted some things...but never killed, burned or looted.  Probably, never even thought about it.

2.  Our government officials never publicly denounced these movies/books as "stupid, inappropriate or wrong".  They never mounted a public smear campaign on the authors/producers.

Two quick conclusions:  Islam is a religion of hate and intolerance based on the musings of a thug named Mohammed who claimed to be something he never was.  It is based on brutality, the subjection of women and children and the hatred of all things non-Muslim.  It cannot be reasoned with, trusted or placated.  To do so is at best ludicrous.  At worst, dangerous.  Their goal is world-domination, by any means possible.  To apologize, placate, and pander to these people is to play into their hands.  Sadly, they live by the sword and, with absolutely no value of human life, only understand the sword.

In America today, it is unacceptable to discriminate on the basis of age, gender, sexual preference or religion...unless your religion happens to be Christian (or what the media considers an off-shoot of Christianity).  That can be fodder for every drama, sitcom and SNL sketch that comes down the pike weekly.  Also, our very own government has shown they are quite willing to discriminate against any Christian organization necessary (EX-requiring the Catholic Church to provide contraception for all its employees).  Now, to publicly apologize for this film and call it terrible, while saying nothing about the numerous and much more malicious attacks on Christianity is preposterous.

BOTTOM LINE: Understand, today in America it's not cool to discriminate against anyone...EXCEPT CHRISTIANS.  Get used to it.

9/14/12

DINOSAUR

I am a dinosaur.  I remember when I got my first iPhone.  I wasn't sure why I got an iPhone.  Seemed like a waste of perfectly good money.  All I needed was something that made calls and took them.  Like those giant original cell phones with the huge antenna sticking out, only smaller.  But, I work with 20-somethings, so we got iPhones.  They do lots of things.  Things I didn't want to do.  Things I had no intention of doing.  Things I swore I would never, ever do....like sending a text message.  And I was committed not to...until Hurricane Rita came and we left and there was no way to talk to people back in Pearland except by text.  I was slow...but I was hooked.

Then there was Facebook.  I fought that forever...now I'm on.  Next was Twitter.  I didn't even understand what Twitter was.  When I did find out, I thought it was stupid.  Remember, I'm a dinosaur. When I claimed I didn't know how to set up a Twitter account, one of my baby pastors took my phone and set me up in 3 minutes.  (Show-offs!)  But, it didn't matter, because I didn't know how to use it.  They said, "Just play with it, you'll figure it out.  That's like giving a baby a jar of creamed spinach with the lid on and telling him, "Just play with it, you'll figure it out.)  1.  He hates spinach and is in no way motivated to figure it out and 2.  He's a baby and those lids are baby-proof.  I was a dinosaur.  Dinosaurs look at Twitter like babies look at spinach.  "I don't want it, and I couldn't get into it if I wanted to...which I absolutely do not!

But, I did anyway.  Mainly because I was a dinosaur and didn't want to admit I was, out of fear of extinction, and secondly, because I'm hard-headed and wasn't about to admit I couldn't do something.  Pride goeth before a Twitter.  I'm pretty sure that's in the Bible somewhere.  Now, I tweet.

Oh, one mistake I made was convincing my wife she could tweet too.  I challenged her just like those baby pastors did me.  She refused at first, then all hell broke loose!  Now, she's a Twitter addict.  I'm looking for a good 12-Step Twitter Addiction Program for her.  If you hear of one, please let me know. I've created a monster.

My point?  Social media is neither a good thing or a bad thing.  It's what we call amoral.  Not moral or immoral.  But, it's an opportunity to communicate with people you might never communicate with.  The way I see it, if the Apostle Paul was around today he would be on Twitter constantly...@theapostlepaul.

There's a lot of bad stuff communicated through Social Media.  I believe it's up to Christians to be the salt and light of Social Media and bring something good to it.  If you're not on Facebook, get on.  If you're not on Twitter, find someone under the age of 25 and have them set you up.  Oh yeah, and follow me @tomallenonline.

The Kingdom of God must be ever expanding....even into the Twittersphere!  #thankscrosspointsticker

9/13/12

THE BUG

Yesterday I got a bug.  You know, one of those things that lasts for 24 hours, but makes you feel like death is imminent.  Head, stomach, body aches.  Wanna curl up in a ball and have someone tell you when tomorrow has arrived...and all is, hopefully, all better.

I'm not one of those germaphobes who looks for a germ under every rock and refuses to shake hands, but I do know enough to know that I got this from somebody I came in contact with who had it themselves.  They, in some way, passed it on to me, and it went to work in me.  Shortly, I had all the symptoms they exhibited.  Not sure who was kind enough to pass it along to me, but I'd love to know so I could properly "thank them".

We Christ-followers carry a germ as well.  It's called the gospel, the Good News, the euangelion.  Once it penetrates us, we should start seeing the the symptoms begin.  Furthermore, we should be contagious.  When people come in contact with us they should be catching what we have.

1.  They should notice the symptoms.  Rather than asking "Are you feeling OK?  You don't look so good", they should be saying, "Something's different about you.  What's going on?  You seem happier.  You act different.  What's up?"  

2.  They should be wanting to catch it.  You should be able to give an answer and spread the disease.

3.  They should show the symptoms.  As you share your "bug" and people get infected, they should start showing the symptoms of the disease.

4.  They should be infecting others.  It they got it, they should be sharing it.  That's how bugs work.  They are infectious.  They should spread.

If you've been infected by the gospel, the worst thing you can do is go into quarantine.  Get out there and spread your germs around.  It's the gospel  It's GOOD NEWS!  Be infectious.  Be contagious.  Get germy!

9/12/12

MOMENTUM

This morning, I read an article about MOMENTUM.  It stated Sir Isaac Newton's theory regarding momentum.  In case you've somehow forgotten them (like anyone would!), here's a refresher:


First law: Every object continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change that state by external forces acted upon it.

Second law: The acceleration (a) of a body is parallel and directly proportional to the net force (F) acting on the body, is in the direction of the net force, and is inversely proportional to the mass (m) of the body.

Awesome, right!  I know, unless you're a physics geek (do any physics geeks read this blog?), you're probably asking right now, "What in the heck does that have to do with me?"  Well, let me restate it another way that might make a little more sense for you and your life, "If you do the same things, you can expect the same results".  Or, let's try one more, "If an area of your life is going nowhere, it requires a push".  

Someone once put it this way, "If it ain't broke, break it!"  Change is not fun.  Change is hard.  It's uncomfortable.  It's challenging.  But, far too many of us sit around bemoaning our lives, or at least some aspect of them, while being unwilling to make any changes in them.  The reality is, if we keep doing what we've been doing, we'll keep getting the same sorry results we've been whining about.

As I sit here this morning writing this blog, I've been whining to my wife (her words, not mine) about how sore I am.  I tried to explain to her it's not whining, but she's not buying it.  I told her it's a good whine (not wine...whine), from a tough workout at the gym yesterday.  See, I didn't like where I saw my body headed, and that required a change in the normal routine.  Enter curls, bench press, dips, treadmills, etc....and morning ouchies (technical term used by us bodybuilders).  It requires momentum. It requires motion.  It requires change.

What area of your life is in an unacceptable state of rest?  The question is, are you going to sit around and whine about it...or are you going to create movement...momentum?

Hey, if you're motionless long enough, someone will put you in a hole in the ground and start throwing dirt on you.  Before that happens, MOVE!



9/11/12

THE ENEMY BEHIND THE ENEMY

Today is September 11.  9/11.  That date...those numbers, will never be the same again, will they?  Just mention the term 9-11 to anyone in America and their demeanor changes.  Two little numbers that changed our lives forever.  The day we realized we had an enemy.  Oh, we kind of knew it before...but it wasn't anything that caused us fear.  It was something that was a world away from us.  But, that day it became personal.  That day it became real.  That day it landed on our shore.  That day people, not in military garb, who volunteered, who trained, who were in the middle of a desert...not people who wanted to fight, but people just like you and me were brought into the fray.  Just regular Americans going about their lives, heading to work, just like they'd done the day before and would do the day after...people just like you and me were killed.  On our soil.  In our home.  And suddenly, everything changed and nothing would ever be the same again.  WE had an enemy.  Not the United States..but, you and me.  Fred and Sally and Dave and Debbie.  Me, my next-door neighbor, you.  WE had an enemy we didn't have the day before.  Everything changed.  Nothing would ever be the same.

So, who is our enemy?  Is it Al-Qaeda?  Radical Islam?  Militant Jihadists?  Who are the bad guys?  The enemy?  The Boogie-Man?  As much as we'd like to think we have a brand new enemy that had been messing with us up until September 11, but somehow declared all-out war on us that day, the reality is our enemy is the same enemy that's been around since time began.  When you start talking about Satan, the devil, etc., some people go "Yeah!", while others go "Whoa!".  Whatever you're response may be, I hope you understand that there is an enemy behind our enemy.  Whatever form they  may take...guys flying planes into buildings, child-abusers, corrupt politicians, the seductress who's out to get your husband, the list goes on and on and on...the reality is, they aren't the enemy.  We have an enemy that's bigger and badder and more cunning than all these folks, and who uses them to do his dirty work.

Ben-Laden may be dead, but our enemy is alive and well and "roaming like a lion to see who he may devour".  Don't become so consumed by the "enemy", that you fail to see the real enemy behind the enemy.  We have to remember that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual forces.  With the same enemy that Jesus defeated.  Recognize the real enemy is the enemy behind the enemy.


9/10/12

SINGLEHOOD

Being single can be great.  You're free to do what you want, make major course directions in life with little drama, go wherever God sends you on a moment's notice, and be free of some of the responsibilities married people have.

Some people are single by choice.  Others are single by the choice of others.  Still others are single by no one's choice, especially their own.

Some are single after 25 great years of marriage.  Some are single after 6 crappy marriages.  Some can't wait to get married, some can't wait to get married again, and some have sworn never to get married or married again.

Some love their singleness.  Others agree with Three Dog Night that, "One is the loneliest number you can ever do".

Bottom line:  Singles come in all shapes, sizes, packages and purposes.  One thing for sure though, their numbers are growing.  More and more people are delaying marriage.  The divorce rate continues to climb.  And many people have discounted marriage as an archaic institution whose viability is no longer useful or necessary.

All this to say, that as their numbers continue to grow and single adults become an ever-growing portion of our population, much of the church has failed to respond.  In many churches, they are welcomed, but there is a "we're not really sure what to do with you" mentality.  The church has not so much failed to respond, as it has been clueless as to what it's response ought to be or if it even needs to respond at all.

At Crosspoint, I think we would admit we fall into that category somewhat.  We're not really sure what the wisest and best strategy is regarding single adults.  But, we have determined that God loves them, Jesus died for them and we must reach them for Christ.  We may do everything wrong in our attempt to reach single adults for Christ.  But, our desire is that, even if we fail, we will fail forward.  We will learn and adjust and get better and show God's love and reach some for Jesus.

Who knows.  It might be fun!

9/7/12

AIRPORTS

Airports are interesting places.  I'm sitting in one for the next hour, so, I'm considering airports.  So far, we attempted to turn in our rental car without filling up the tank.  They graciously offered to do that for us...for a mere $9.45 per gallon!  We declined and found a local gas station (the gas pump was playing Jethro Tull...very cool!).

Then I was patted down by the nicest TSA agent ever.  It's a lot harder to dislike TSA agents in the South.  They smile and talk with a drawl and say, "Excuse me" and are just so nice while they're groping you (I almost enjoyed it...but I didn't.  I want that to be clear).

I'm a people guy, so I love to just watch people and wonder where they come from and where they're going.  It's what I do.  It's how I'm wired.  Honestly, I sometimes form ideas in my mind as to what their stories are.  Yea, it's a sickness, but there's a lot worse I could be afflicted with.

Do you ever wonder where people have come from or where they are headed?  How about spiritually? Do you ever wonder where the people around you have come from spiritually?  How they were raised?  What they were taught?  What their experience with the church has been?  What they believe?  What they question?

Do you ever wonder where they are headed?  Do you ever ask?  Are you afraid to ask?  I'm not even suggesting that you witness to them.  I'm just asking, do you ever ask, "Where are you with the God stuff?"  "What do you think about the church?"  "Why do you think that?  What were your experiences that formed your thinking?"

It's one thing to sit in an airport and guess where strangers walking by are coming from and headed to.  It's totally different to have people in your life, all around you, and never take the time to at least get the 411 on where they are and where they're headed spiritually for eternity.  That's a long trip.  And it's one way.

9/6/12

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

     OK, so the next time you complain when I go a few minutes long, I'll just remind you of my day today.  I spent the day in Anderson, SC at the NewSpring Leadership Conference.  What that translates into is an 8-hour Preach-a-thon.  The head can only contain what the buttocks can endure.
     I listened to more preaching than most of you do in two months....in ONE DAY!  It was great...mostly.  Hey, there's good preaching and bad preaching.  Some is better than others.  But, I managed to learn something from every speaker.
     More importantly than that, I learned so much from the church where it was held.  NewSpring is one of the fastest growing churches in America.  What's interesting about that is that it's main campus is in Anderson, SC.  Anderson is not a booming metropolis.  It's somewhat the middle of nowhere.  Down a little two-lane road you find this sprawling church that seems so out of place, reaching thousands weekly for Christ.  What's the secret?
     Well, one thing was the ARMY of volunteers that overran that campus from the moment you entered the parking lot to the bathrooms. (Yeah, you heard me right, the bathrooms!)  These people were not only out in 100's, they took days off work to be there.  Before I made it to the front door I had already been personally welcomed at least 30 times.  Twenty more in the lobby.  At least 10 times during every break.  They handed out coffee and snacks, gave directions, found seats, emptied trash cans, served lunch...they served and served and served.  When we left, we were told by at least 20 people "Thanks for coming!".
     All I know is this, if I lived anywhere near Anderson, SC and visited NewSpring Church, I would probably go back the following week.  They say people who visit a church decide within the first 7 minutes whether they will return.  I don't doubt it.
     How about you?  Are you part of bringing them back, making guests feel wanted and valued?  Are you one of those volunteers that make the BIG DIFFERENCE?  Or are you just taking up space?

9/5/12

EAT FISH, SPIT BONES

Are you a seafood lover?  Sorry, that sounds a little too much like a Red Lobster commercial (which, I'm not sure qualifies as seafood...no offense).  If you eat fish, which, by the way, is my favorite thing to do...eating wise, that is, then you're always going to come up with a bone every now and then.  So, what do you do when that happens?  Do you just swallow the bones?  Do you give up on eating seafood?  Hopefully, you take things in stride and simply spit out the bones and eat the fish.

This is not just a principle for eating fish.  It is also a principle for life.  I'm headed to a conference today, hoping to learn something that will equip me to be a better pastor.  Some people, go to conferences or listen to pastors or read a book and think they just have to swallow everything hook, line and sinker. (pardon the obvious fishing reference)  They feel compelled to believe everything they hear.    They just swallow everything.

Others, the first time they hear something they disagree with, shut down completely.  If I don't agree with you on this point, then I can't agree with you on anything else.  We're done.  I'm shutting down.  You can keep talking, but I'm not listening.  I get a lot of that from some of you.  You come to Crosspoint for 5 years and the first time I say anything you don't agree with, my email inbox goes on overload.  It can be big or, as usual, small.  It doesn't matter.  We have to agree on everything or we can't agree on anything.  And if we can't agree on everything (in other words, if I can't come around to embrace your point of view), then you're outa here.

Then, there's the third viewpoint.  I just call it the "eat the fish and spit out the bones" method.  Wherever I go, whatever I read, whoever I listen to, I try to learn something.  That's the fish.  I eat that. Sometimes I find myself saying, "I'm not sure I buy that".  Those are the bones.  Rather than shutting down, I simply spit them out.  Otherwise, I'll miss all the fish.

Try that principle.  Even the boniest people happen on to a little meat every now and then.  Don't be so preoccupied with a few bones that you miss it!


9/4/12

HABITS

Habits get a bad rap.  When we think of habits, we tend to think of things like biting your fingernails, leaving your clothes on the floor, leaving the toilet seat up (guys!!!), etc.  All bad things.  That's my point, all habits aren't necessarily bad.

For instance, if you're in the habit of taking your vitamins every morning, you probably take them.  If you're in the habit of heading to the mailbox in the afternoon when you come home, that helps keep the mailbox from overflowing before the end of the week.

BOTTOM LINE:  You are a complex combination of the habits, good and bad, of your life.  They make up who you are and how you live.  They, oftentimes without even thinking, regulate your life.  For instance, I'm writing this blog right now because it's become one of the habits of my life.  I no longer have to think about it.  I just do it.  It's a habit...a good one.

They say, (whoever they is) that you can establish a habit in as little as 1 month.  Do something every day for a month, and the behavior becomes engrained in you.  You no longer have to think about it, you just do it.

What if you were to read your Bible and pray every day for a month?  Think it might become a habit?  A good one?

What if you were to be at church 4 Sundays in a row?  Another good habit?  Or, maybe get plugged into a LifeGroup for a month?  Or, say you made the habit of inviting people to church with you...really went out of your way to invite those people you've been thinking about and praying about, but never quite get around to inviting for one reason or another.

Well, if you're wondering what CONNECT 4 is all about, now you know.  Not to get you to commit to one more thing, but to help you establish great habits that you will, hopefully, carry with you for the rest of your life!

So...DO IT!  COMMIT!  CONNECT 4.  Who knows, it might still be changing your life 10 years from now.  Crazy!

9/3/12

LABOR DAY

I won't go into all the history of LABOR DAY.  Let's all face it, LABOR DAY has become something very special...a 4-day weekend.  Bingo!  It's call LABOR DAY.  And you can do anything you want to with it....except LABOR.  A little odd, but no one seems to care.  I'm excited about the day off.  But, as a pastor, I simply realize what it actually means...I have to do in 3 days what I usually do in 4.  Yeah, that's a rather pessimistic way of looking at it...but, I'm a realist.  I tend to think of it as realism.

OK, so am I the only person in the world with a To-Do List for my LABOR DAY?  I gotta get some stuff done.  Need a map.  Need a plan.  Go here, do this, do that.  Saturday I relaxed.  I really relaxed.  It rained.  I watched football.  Susan decided she wanted to cook.  Out came Pioneer Woman.  BUTTER!  EAT!  WATCH MORE FOOTBALL!

I have a phobia.  It's resting, relaxing and doing nothing.  I feel guilty when I do nothing.  It's a mental disease.  Gotta get over it.  Especially, when God's Word talks so much about rest, being still, sabbath. I tend to skip over that part.  Rather than being the Human Being God designed me to be, I feel more comfortable being a Human Doing.

Anyone out there relate?  STOP IT!  It will kill you...and me.  REST.  REST FROM YOUR LABOR.  CHILL OUT.  REST.