Friday, September 25, 2009

Multiplication Tables

So I had this really interesting interaction with a middle schooler this week. She was having trouble figuring out how many times 12 would divide into 60, so I walked her through the multiplication table:

"What is 12 times 2?", "what is 12 times 3?"... "What is 12 times 5?"

Answer: "60!"

"So what is 60 divided by 12?"

Answer: "I can't remember."

How often do we forget how to multiply - even when the answer is right in front of our face.

It seems like since Ronni & I taught on the parable of the sower a few Wednesdays ago, it keeps coming up in my life (see my previous post for an example of that). And one of the parts that is so troublesome to me is what happens with the good soil: "But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." (Luke 4:20 ESV, emphasis mine)

If part of me having a right relationship with God is the multiplication of my life, how do I do that?

Well, I could have a lot of kids...

Check that one off, but is that really what He is talking about?

Maybe it has something more to do with the encouragement that Paul gave Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 - "and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

I am finding more and more this is the calling for our lives: to build into people who are going to be able to build into others.

Check out this version of a video we used in service last Wednesday.

The young man in the end of this video is a sophomore. He comes to our Wednesday program. And there are some interesting things about this young man. See, he is one that is being built into by older students in whom I've invested. And now I am starting to see this young man start to build into others. And so this week as I saw him taking stands for his faith, it dawned on me: It is working!

And this is just one example of many. I had a moment a while back where I saw my son Ethan being influenced by a group of young men and realized my son is being influenced by those I am influencing and it brought tears to my eyes. This is what building God's Kingdom is about.

So let us look for those opportunities to multiply our lives by investing into the lives of those around us!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

...And he saw it was Good.

I love a good creative environment.

This last week my family visited Red Velvet Art, an independent art & handmade goods shop on Commercial Street in Springfield. And we were inspired by the environment (and mustaches-on-a-stick) that we found. In their own words: "We are living our dream and keeping a shop full of independent art and super cute handmade goods."

Isn't it great that people can choose to do what they love? Don't we all wish we could live our lives doing what we are passionate about? But too often we feel that is an impossibility. There are too many responsibilities. Too many expectations. Too many economic downturns or naysayers or bills for us to run after those dreams. It wouldn't be sensible. So we live our lives torn: doing what we "have" to do yet longing to throw off the chains.

And then we see somebody doing that...

and living life abundantly...

and our heart jumps to join them.

See I can't help but think that it is possible to live our lives doing what we are passionate about with reckless abandon. I can't help but think these dichotomous feelings I have are a result of being(as Jesus put it) "choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life...

[our] fruit does not mature." (Luke 8:14 ESV)

C.S. Lewis, the famous author and apologist, often discussed that we, as creations of a creative God, have a desire written within us to be little creators (the principle of sub-creators). And it is in those desires and passions we have - whether it's music or literature or baking cakes or building muscle cars - that we somehow are trying to reflect the image of an amazing Creator God.

So I am challenged. How can we start to live that way? How can we begin to give our passions and desires to God so that they are reflecting and honoring to Him? Then how can we throw off the cares of this world and begin living a life abundantly that produces fruit that multiplies? How do we live our passions to the glory of God in a way that inspires others to join us? Let us pursue this good work!

...And on the Seventh Day...

"And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." (Genesis 2:2-3 ESV)

Mondays are my day off from church and yesterday I reinstated a principle for my day off that I had let slip - I fasted from media.

Months and months ago, I had recognized my issues with media, technology and information - I'm addicted to it! I have a hard time not being consumed with movies & music & blogs & research & cellphones. So I decided to rest from all forms of electronic entertainment on my day off. is easy for things to creep back in. I have to take this call. I need to check this site. I need to google this answer. I need to add this movie to my Netflix queue. And eventually, it became updating Facebook and watching movies and hours of blog reading.

So last week I decided to renew my commitment of abstaining from technology on Mondays for the purpose of entertainment...and it was kind of hard! But I did have better conversations with my wife. I enjoyed mowing my grass more since I wasn't trying to get done just to get to the next thing. I played games and read books with my kids. It was truly more refreshing.

So, tell me how & if you spend your "seventh day" resting. I want to know your journey in this difficult area of our lives. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (Shalom) -Pastor Mark

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is His Message?

So I had an epiphany Sunday night.

But let me back up. There were a series of events that led to this beautiful moment that you must first understand. So here we go.

I've been listening to this band For Today a lot this week. Here is probably their most widely palatable song.

(Beyond this, proceed with caution because they are...well...aggressive!)

I've been listening to them to prepare for a study my D-Group is going to be doing over For Today's newest album Portraits. Each song on this album is about/from-the-perspective-of a character out of the Bible. Along with the lyrics, the band has also published some thoughts on each song for further contemplation.

As I spent this week listening and preparing, one of the first things that struck me was the sense of passion I received from the combination of music and the words. I've listened to a lot of heavy music in my life, so it was more than just a musical style issue. It seemed that they had such a serious, powerful, reverent approach to Christ. One that led them to a life of humble conviction and unrelenting sharing of His power & glory.

So our group chose to start with the first song and work our way through the album in order. The first song is titled Immanuel (The Challenger). And it is only three words long: "Repent or perish!" This is a reference to some things Jesus said in Luke 13. As our group talked about it and as I contemplated it, I wondered, "If Jesus only had three words to share with us, would it be these three?"

We decided that most people, when asked what Jesus' three-word-message would be, would come up with something like, "I love you." But I couldn't get these words - "Repent or perish" - out of my head.

So Sunday night, as we were having communion service and I found myself up front helping serve the congregation, I was really struck. As we took time to remember that Jesus suffered wounds and beatings and ultimately the death on the cross...

As Pastor Doug led us to take the bread to represent His body and the cup to represent His blood...

As I reflected on what Christ went through for me, it became apparent I would trust words from this man. I would accept a challenge to turn the other way, to change my life. I would humbly and reverently and passionately do whatever He asked. So will you join me as I strive to repent this week and follow the words of the Master!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

There are some things I don't fully understand.

Like how God's Spirit works to change lives.

I know that we pray and we work and we plan and we create an environment where God's Truth & His Scriptures are revealed and communicated. But then there is this supernatural thing that happens when God takes those truths and intersects them with our hearts to change our lives.

Like last night.

The 180 service last night was one of those where God's Spirit did a powerful work in all our lives. And it was incredible to watch Him move our hearts. One person who walked in during the response time told me after service that they wondered what had happened because there were so many teenagers on their knees, on their faces, at the altars, crying out to God.

And the simple answer is God spoke and we listened.

I got to hear and hear of many things God did in lives last night, but I want to hear more. So if you were at service last night and God spoke to you, please post here and let us know what happened. We want to celebrate what God did and lift His name up. I'm listening...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What A Community

So I was reminded today of why I like living in Buffalo, MO so much.

It's the community.

Not the collection of houses and parks and well-maintained (or sometimes not so well maintained) roads and groupings of businesses and entrepreneurial opportunities. But, rather, the collection of people who know and care for one another.

I watched today as people who had experienced a loss last week loved and served another family who lost a loved one this week. They were living out the Scripture from 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." And this reminded me that I love living in this town with these people. Living in a place where people know each other and care.

So, tell me, why do (or why don't) you like living where you are at? Do you sense and value the community? Looking forward to your thoughts. God bless.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A New Month, A New Series, A New Life!

I love seeing God change people's lives.

I got to be witness to that a couple times just yesterday! The first instance was yesterday afternoon. As my family and I were getting ready for dinner, a friend and neighbor who has recently started coming to church dropped by with some questions about her faith and growth with God. During the course of our conversation we were able to help her confirm that she had accepted Christ as her Savior and encourage her in further steps in growing closer to Him. Very exciting!

The second instance was after service as a teen came to me in tears after the message. Along with another leader, we were able to confirm for this young person that her relationship with God was real and start her on a path to making God her true foundation.

You see, we just started this new series on "IDENTITY" last night. Ronni brought a message about foundations based on Luke 6:47-49. As he challenged us to consider whether we are standing on God or whether we are standing on things of the world (ie. popularity, achievement, possessions, image, etc), this young person was moved by God's conviction to reevaluate what her life is based on.

Since last night, I have already heard of many others who were particularly challenged by this message. I'm excited to see God continue to work in our lives as we move through this series of lessons, but I am wanting to hear your thoughts, struggles, questions, stories about your foundations as we get started. Post your responses.

God bless.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Did I Ever Tell You, You're My Hero...?

So I don't watch much TV.

That's not that I don't love media. My family and I actually watch a great deal of movies and videos. We've even recently joined the wonderful world of online streaming with our DSL & laptop upgrades! (Go "Watch It Now!" on netflix!)

But we made a decision awhile back not to have TV feed into our house. We were using a small set of "rabbit-ear" antennae to watch the news but since the digital conversion we have chosen not to even get a converter box. This allows us so much greater control of what and how much media we allow in our house, but...

Being a student of culture, every once in a while I am forced to do some "cultural research" by watching some touted piece of "life-changing" media. One of those pieces of media that keeps coming up over-and-over again in seemingly every magazine, book, review, or blog (Christian or not) is the ABC series LOST.

So I spent some time this weekend catching up on the first few episodes of this series. And one of the things that struck me most was how I reacted to the main character. Essentially the focal character of the episodes I watched was Jack Shephard, a surgeon who quickly becomes the leader/hero type for this group of people stranded on a tropical island after a tragic plane crash.

I found myself intrigued by Jack's collectedness and ability to organize and command in the face of terrible situations. I marveled at his calmness and decisiveness under great stress, fear and quickly-changing circumstances. And I found myself wondering, "Would I be able to do what he was doing?" Of course I don't have the medical training that this character does, but would I be able to pull it together and help others? Would I be able to be the hero?

It seems to me that is most often my reaction in viewing traumatic, crisis situations. I always desire to be the hero. I think many of us do. But as I thought about my life and how I act and react, so often I am not who I want to be.

I panic. I get frustrated and angry. I pass up opportunities. I hesitate. I feel sorry for myself. I'm selfish.

Granted, I don't want to be that way, but too often I am. I find some comfort in those moments of reflection of the words from Romans 3: "None is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10 ESV). But it is only a little comfort.

I asked my wife why we always are attracted to those fictionalized heroes, having that secret desire that we somehow could be them given the right circumstances. She said (very wisely, because my wife is VERY wise!), "It's because we all need and are looking for a Savior."

I think too often though - even in going to Church, ministering to people, doing Bible studies, etc. - I am trying to be that savior for people.

but really they need to know Jesus. They need to know how I am imperfect but Christ saved me. They need to know that I am an unrighteous sinner just like them who was changed by a wonderful, forgiving Savior.

So will you join me trying to change from HERO to HERALD for the true Savior. Let's make Christ famous in our world by letting people see how ONLY He is good enough! God bless.