28 March 2007

New Layout

Over the past few months I have increasingly felt weird about having a blog called "the gospel according to me" so I spent some time today changing the look and feel of my blog. What do you think?

I wanted to promote more discussion on this site, so I hope that the redesign will help promote that.


"Going Toward the Moon"

I just talked with the chair of Missions here at Trietsch and she made an interesting point about the progress we are making in reconfiguring the Missions Committee: "We are going toward the moon like the space shuttle does upon take off...a little correction to the right...a little correction to the left..., but we are making progress in our journey toward the moon."

I had not heard about the in-air corrections that the shuttle must make as it leaves earth's atmosphere, but I thought the image was quite appropriate for our journey to reinvent what Missions is about....a little correction here, a little correction there, but a general path toward the moon. We have our goal in focus and the bumps and blocks along the way will not keep us from getting to the moon. We cast the vision and we will see it thru to completion. We will make mid-air corrections and live with the difficulties of doing ministry enmeshed in the human condition.

We're going toward the moon...with God's help we are going toward the moon!


Wives: The Voice of God

Have you ever wondered why it is often difficult to hear from God in a real and tangible way? Perhaps it is because you are not listening to your wife. (If you are a woman, then please note that this post will likely boost your ego and solidify the case you've been arguing with your husband.)

Last night Deb and I had a great conversation surrounding our answers to one question posed by my Lay Ministry Committee: "What are the three biggest things you (Dean) need to work on in order to feel ready to handle your own church?"

Our answers were at opposite ends of the spectrum - or should I say opposite heights of the atmosphere. My answers were very "task-oriented" and focused more on skills and experiences I need to have before feeling comfortable as the solo pastor in a church.

1) Learn more about the high-level committees in the UM system (SPRC, Trustees, and Finance)
2) Get more preaching experience
3) Work on the social skill of small talk - both on the phone and in person

Debbie's answers were more at the "30,000 foot" level and focused more on leadership and vision casting.

1) More consistently think "big picture" and how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together in the church (from worship to preaching to education to missions, etc.)
2) Be fully convinced of the vision God has given me for the church (thus being able to clearly communicate that vision to others)
3) Practice financial acumen in all areas of my life by making wise spending choices (personally and in the church)

See the difference! What an amazing wife God has blessed me with! I have lots of work to do!! I think she correctly identified my weaknesses in leadership. I think I have potential to succeed in those areas and be a real leader, but it will take focused energy and constant work to make it happen.

For those of you who are pastors: How would you answer the question posed by my Lay Ministry Committee? How would your spouse answer? Give it a try and see what happens!

Jesus, you provided me with a wonderful partner for my life and I thank you for her. She challenges and stretches me each day, and I love her for that. Help me to return the favor with some high-level thinking. Amen.


22 March 2007

I just love what Perry Noble has to say each time I read his blog. I think I need to make plans to attend the Unleash Conference in '08 after reading all the great things about the '07 one and a trip to his church wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Finishing well is an important job for all leaders...especially church leaders. Read Perry's thoughts here.


Cleaning Ears and Facing Fears

Last night I spent a few strained minutes trying to clean out Caitlyn's right ear because it was draining thru her tube. As she kicked, cried, and squirmed I tried to use the safety Q-tips to clean out the gunk. After successfully cleaning out the canal, a thought occured to me...

How often do we kick, cry, and squirm as God cleans up the messes that we make? How many times do we make a big stink about God disciplining us (for no good reason)? Aren't we better off after the cleaning?

Then this morning I read another chapter in In a Pit and found Mark's take on facing fears quite refreshing. I remember a time when a project I was working on failed miserably and I was fearful of going to my senior pastor to talk with him about it. I was literally shaking. When I finally mustered up the courage (two days later) to talk to him, he was understanding about the whole thing and told me that I had just learned a very valuable lesson. Mark said it this way, "Your fear is worse than the actual thing you're afraid of. And if you learn from every mistake, then there is no such thing as failure anyway."

Thank you God, for the times when all I can do is face my fears and come out ahead on the other side. Thank you for cleaning me up when I gunk up my life. And thanks for putting up with my kicking and crying as you disciple me. Amen.


21 March 2007

The iRack

I just found this video and felt that I had to share it with my readers. Enjoy!


Hat tip: YSMarko

Paul, Benaiah, and Leadership

I was reading 1 Corinthians 6 this morning and I asked these questions:

Why do we have such a hard time being satisfied in God? What makes us want more of what we already have enough of? Why do we look past God's provisions for what we think we need?

Then I read chapter 2, "The Odd Thing About Odds" in In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson and came across these thoughts:

*Lion chasers know God is bigger and more powerful than any problem they face in this world....That is how God reveals his glory - and how He blesses you in ways you never could have imagined.

*God has no dimensional limitations, and if we could wrap our minds around that truth, it would transform our outlook on life.

*Maybe it's time to stop creating God in your image and let Him create you in His. The more we grow, the bigger God should get. And the bigger God gets, the smaller our lions will become.

*God wants you to get where God wants you to go more than you want to get where God wants you to go.

*Lion chasers aren't afraid of doing something that seems ridiculous to others - because they know
anything is possible with God.

Although my questions came from Paul's dialogue about sexual immorality and Mark's thoughts spring from Benaiah's tussle with a lion, my mind makes a connection between the two. Both concern our connection with God and how well we are keeping that connection healthy. Paul wants the Corinthians to know that those who are united with the Lord are one with him in spirit (6.17) and no longer need to look elsewhere for fulfillment, affirmation, or encouragement. Mark draws the conclusion that when we believe in God, we should believe that our God is big enough to defy any odds and defeat any lions.

So where are you seeking fulfillment and acceptance? What lions have you told God are too big for him to handle? Why?

I know that as a pastor I want the people in my church to like me and to think that my teaching is good, but then I read Paul's words and wonder why I don't trust God to be everything that I need. As a husband and father I want to be an asset in my household, not a liability, and I wonder how I could get a better grip on the priorities of my life.

Three "lions" in my life: preaching relevant, thought-provoking sermons; connecting with non-Christian 20-somethings; and balancing time for family and work.

As I spend time leading and as I study leadership, I am continually amazed at the amount of personal reflection I need to do along the way. I have to remind myself that I am nowhere near an expert on the subject (nor do I pretend to be), but I do want to pass along the things I am learning. But to do that I must process what I read thru my contextual lenses in order to successfully and coherently pass along the great wealth of information available. Leadership is never the same from one day to the next and that means I will always have something to read, learn, and digest. Praise be to God!


PS - If you don't own a copy of In a Pit, get one HERE!


Ok, so this post didn't exactly happen as promised, but it is here nonetheless.

Deb and I had a great weekend visiting friends and family in Austin and San Antonio, but like always, the trip was too short.

On Friday we left early in the morning and stopped in Austin to visit Caitlyn's godparents, Rachel and Morgan. We enjoyed catching up with them, seeing Caitlyn play with their daughter, Haley, and eating a great lunch. We headed from there to Deb' folks house (where we always stay) for the rest of the weekend.

On Saturday morning we drove to the other side of SA to visit Holly, Tres, and Bella. Deb and Holly have been friends since kindergarten and it is always fun to reconnect with them. When we got back to my in-law's, Debbie's brother Mark was there. We watched the Aggies beat Louisville to advance to the Sweet 16 - Whoop!

Sunday took us to mass at my in-law's church, then to Target (for my first cup of coffee all weekend), and then to Alamo Cafe for lunch. I spent the rest of the day working a "challenger" sudoku and the NYT crossword puzzle (I finished the sudoku, but not the crossword).

We headed out about 9:30 on Monday morning and arrived safely back in Dallas in the early afternoon. All in all it was a great trip. I sure wish Caitlyn would have coughed a little less and slept a little more in the car, but such is life.

BTW, we purchased a portable DVD player for the Highlander to take on trips such as this. I must say that it was definitely a good purchase (not to Caitlyn just yet, but for Deb and I...Caitlyn will grow to like it, she just does not have the attention span for it yet).

Well, that's our weekend. Now I think I would like to post something on leadership.


20 March 2007

Updates Coming Soon

I know, I know...I haven't been as faitful to blogging as I should be, but with my out of town trip this weekend I have lots of good stuff to talk about. Look for a post this afternoon.


14 March 2007

Things You Should Read

Thanks to Bloglines I can now keep up with a dozen or so blogs that I follow with relative ease (one in particular is a blogging fiend and requires multiple checks in a single day). And because I can keep posts for later reading, I have a nice collection of posts that have been especially meaningful for me. Enjoy!

Perry Noble discussing the potential just waiting to be unleashed inside the church and the challenge to face problems head on.

Mark Batterson discussing how to avoid the revolving door of meetings and the great asset that churches can be to one another.

Tim Stevens' take on time management.


08 March 2007

Similarities Unite

I am really enjoying what God is revealing to me in my study times. Here's another I would like for you to reflect upon.

"It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you..." (Deuteronomy 9.5, TNIV)

As the Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land, Moses takes the time to recount what God has done for them since they left Egypt (the book of Deuteronomy). Along the way he encourages them to remember that it is God's faithfulness - not theirs - and God's righteousness - not theirs - and God's integrity - not theirs - which is providing them with the land. God tells Moses to remind them because they are prone to forget, just as most humans are.

I believe Christians have many things in common with the Israelites:
(1) We often get caught up in the blessings and forget the blesser
(2) We often get caught up in the struggles and forget the one who releases us from struggles
(3) We fear the unknown
(4) We are slow to take action
(5) We forget to rely on God's power and lean on our own instead

These commonalities get lost in the shift from OT reading to NT reading, but they are there and must be recognized as a blessing, not a stumbling block. When Christians and Jews realize that often we have more in common than we have historically paid attention to, there is great freedom that can enter the picture.

I need to empower people in my congregation to engage in acts of healing and aid with members of the Jewish community - not for evangelistic reasons, but because we serve the same God. A God who wants his children to work together to provide solutions to global issues.

Creator God, you care for all humanity - let's start acting like it in our community, neighborhood, and world. Help me to work outside conventional boundaries to make a difference in the world. Amen.


05 March 2007

New Awareness

I spent some time today researching what is going on in Darfur, with prisoners, and in the global fight against AIDS. I had no idea what injustices were happening across the globe and what little hope some people are forced to live with.

Jesus, I repent of my ignorance. I can no longer live as a responsible Christian without doing something to help care for those whom you love and died for. Engage me with efforts that are beneficial to those who are in the deepest need.