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Archive for July, 2010

What Do You Want From Life?

July 28th, 2010 No comments

“What do you want from life?”

Everyone answers that question differently. What I mean is this. Everyone wants to be happy. There are things we want to accomplish. We want financial security. We want to be in relationships with other people. But we’re all unique, so we all want these different things in different proportions.

Proverbs 14:4 goes like this:

“If there are no oxen the crib is clean, /
But a rich harvest comes through the strength of the ox.”

We Americans have to pause a moment to decode it, because so few of us are involved in farming. The point, however, is clear: the things we want most generally can’t be had by themselves. They come when we do other things that move us toward our real goals.

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Pastoral Tensions

July 27th, 2010 No comments

My reading plan brought me two verses this morning that highlight a tension pastors must maintain. The first is Paul’s well-known call to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” —Romans 10:14-15

That’s the pastor’s job. It’s what people come for on Sunday. It’s in our job-title: Minister of Word and Sacrament. That’s what I need to focus on.

Except…. Every day I also read a chapter of Proverbs, and today this jumped out at me:

Know well the condition of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds
Proverbs 27:23

It’s not enough for a pastor simply to proclaim Jesus. You have to proclaim him in a way that people can experience as Good News. And to do that, you have to know the condition of your flocks.

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Home From My Retreat

July 24th, 2010 No comments

What do you call it when you come back from a retreat? — an attack?

Serra Retreat Center

Well, technically, I wasn’t on a retreat. I was at the 2010 Academy of Missional Preaching (Southwest). But it was held at the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, and there were retreat-ish aspects to it. If you needed to work on a sermon, you could go sit in a garden like the one above and think about what you were trying to say. It was a pretty harsh existence, but we must all be prepared to sacrifice for the Kingdom. 🙂

Of course, it was not only about preaching, it was about missional preaching. (Missional is the idea that the church exists as an instrument used in God’s mission to the world. See John 20:21, Acts 1:8, etc.) In addition to preaching, we also got to hear various speakers including John Dally (Choosing the Kingdom) and Darrell Guder (Missional Church).

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Jim Collins on Excellence in Church Employees

July 21st, 2010 No comments

I happened on an excellent session from Catalyst 2008 with Andy Stanley interviewing Jim Collins about keeping employees who are a poor fit in a position. Andy says that churches are all about mercy — so sometimes, out of compassion for the employee, we keep people in positions for which they aren’t a good match. Watch Collins’ reply here.

There’s a great point in there, too: “The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve probably made a hiring mistake.” (Watch Stanley’s face when Collins says that.) That’s an excellent clue and we ignore it at peril to our mission.

Another excellent point: instead of giving people titles and rules, give them responsibilities. People should be able to say, “I am the one person in this organization who is ultimately responsible for [whatever it is].”

(I found this video on Catalyst’s Youtube channel which has a ton of other content that ranges from Dallas Willard and John Ortberg all the way to Trip and Tyler.)

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Desert Hills’ Centegenarian

July 16th, 2010 No comments

Today is the first day of our eldest member’s second 100 years: Jack turned 100 yesterday. (See the article at the Hi-Desert Star.)

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Apparently We Don’t Believe Anything

July 15th, 2010 2 comments

Another problem with the new PC(USA) web site: apparently we don’t believe anything anymore. Or, if we do, those beliefs are carefully hidden.

Now, I’m on record as liking the new look of our denomination’s website. And I’ve already commented, negatively, about a particularly smarmy “reasons I’m a Presbyterian” badge posted there.

But I was hoping the PC(USA) web site would at least be better organized. I entertained the hope that it would be easier to find things there now, and it’s not.

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Do the Dead Grieve?

July 14th, 2010 No comments

Reading C. S. Lewis, I was struck by this thought:

If, as I can’t help suspecting, the dead also feel the pains of separation (and this may be one of their purgatorial sufferings), then for both lovers, and for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love.

(From A Grief Observed, pp. 49-50. Emphasis added.)

I’d known that Lewis was comfortable with the whole idea of purgatory, but I was fascinated by his idea that purgatory might entail grief. On the one hand, we want our loved ones to be happy — to be, as we say at such times, “in a better place.” But there is a slight, selfish appeal to the idea that they grieve for us, just as we grieve for them. How much sharper it would make our grief if we thought our loved one had simply shrugged us off.

We Presbyterians, however, aren’t keen on the concept of purgatory. Our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship, in the Service of Witness to the Resurrection we have at funerals, says, by contrast:

We thank you [God],
that for him/her death is past
and pain is ended,
and that he/she has now entered
the joy that you have prepared.

It’s an intriguing notion, nevertheless. I don’t have time right now to do a serious study, but I’ll have to keep this in the back of my mind, in case I run across Scriptural arguments for or against the idea.

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Unhappy Parenting

July 12th, 2010 No comments

Al Mohler has a response up now to an article I’d been meaning to reply to. The article, in New York Magazine, poses this conundrum:

From the perspective of the species, it’s perfectly unmysterious why people have children. From the perspective of the individual, however, it’s more of a mystery than one might think. Most people assume that having children will make them happier. Yet a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.

And I would pluck this quote from Mohler’s response:

Christians must see children as gifts from God, not as projects. We should see marriage and parenthood as a stewardship and privilege, not as a mere lifestyle choice.

I pretty much agree with Mohler here, so I’ll just point you there. Memory fades and dims, but my experience is that parenting has probably made me less happy as a percentage of my waking hours, but it has provided moments of happiness far greater than what I used to experience before we had kids.

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Checking Our Heads

July 2nd, 2010 No comments

Yesterday, I enthused about the PC(USA) website’s makeover, and one of my Facebook friends went to see it. He’s a Southern Baptist, and he wasn’t impressed with this quote on the home page:

Check Our Heads!

The pull quote you see here isn’t quite a quote; if you watch the video you’ll see they “punched it up” a bit. What he actually said was,

“It’s a reasoned faith. I don’t believe we should check our heads at the door when we go to church. That’s one of the reasons I’m a Presbyterian, I guess.”

I sighed when I read that, but the way the page looks, you can hope it’s dynamic content and different visitors will see different quotes. But so far, it appears to be stuck on this one. That’s regrettable.

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New PC(USA) Site

July 1st, 2010 No comments

Hey, cool. The PC(USA) has updated its website. It looks like a huge improvement over what we’ve had the last umpteen years. Congratulations to whoever put this together.

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