Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Study the Bible

I find it such a privilege to preach the word of God at Grace. This past sermon was an absolute uphill struggle the whole week. At 3 AM on Saturday morning I found myself still wrestling with my manuscript and got the point of pretty much ditching it and starting from scratch. God used the preparation to point out some shortcomings in my own life and my own walk -so part of the struggle was just letting God do business in my heart.

Anyway - it was a message about the importance of the disciplines in our efforts to follow Christ. The word "discipline" comes from the word "disciple" so the two concepts are pretty intertwined. I challenged the church to practice their faith by committing themselves to become "deep of soul" when no one is looking. To commit to a training regiment so that when it comes time to live, and make decisions, and stand up for Christ, and do the right things in a relationship - that they will be prepared and free to do the right thing.

Midway through the sermon I threw out an offer (totally short notice and without even having a room reserved) to come back on Tuesday night for a 1 1/2 hour training session on how to study the Bible. 96 people came back on Tuesday! I was blown away! I offered a bunch of resources that night and talked through two study methods that really work with any passage of Scripture. One is called the inductive Bible study method and is geared more for a deeper study of the word - the other is called, well I'm not sure there is a name for it - but it is more of a devotional study method. I plan to offer the session again sometime. Shoot me a comment here if you want me to email you a packet of the stuff that I handed out that night.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The 5 Year Getaway

So from the time Caleb (my oldest) was 5 I decided that I was going to do an every 5 year getaway with each of my kids. We'll do 2 days and 1 night away from home doing some different stuff that they love to do and just hanging out for a couple days without the normal distractions. I have found it to be helpful in unlocking the hearts of each of my kids and getting to have conversations about stuff that we don't usually to talk about in the course of everyday life. This past weekend I took Caleb who is now 10 and on his second go-round of this getaway, to watch the Browns and Steelers in a Sunday night football game. We stayed overnight with some dear friends from college who also have kids and a PS3 - so that was killer for Caleb. Then we went to Dave and Busters the next day for some video game madness. It was a great football game in the remnants of Hurricane Ike (60 mph wind gusts at the stadium - it was so cool), and just an awesome time together all around.

Anyway - one of the conversations we had was about life goals. I talked to him about the passage in Luke 2:52 that is the only passage of Scripture about Jesus' developmental years when he was on earth. It simply says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." It's such a complete picture of development in a short verse.
  • He grew in wisdom - mentally
  • He grew in stature - physically
  • He grew in favor with God - spiritually
  • He grew in favor with men - socially
So we used that verse as a jumping off point and we talked through some of our goals in each of those areas for the next year. Caleb really enjoyed the conversation and really wrestled through some stuff that he wanted to see happen in this next year in his life. Here were a few things he came up with.
  • Mentally - straight A's all 4 quarters of this year
  • Physically - at least 60 minutes of active play every day
  • Spiritually - read his Bible before bed every night with me and fully engage by asking questions
  • Socially - reach out to one particular kid in our neighborhood of another ethnicity who doesn't really have any friends here yet.

Here were a few things that I shared with him for me:

  • Mentally - take one Master's level class again beginning this Spring
  • Physically - lose 10 lbs before October 17
  • Spiritually - journal my application portions of my personal study of the Scriptures
  • Socially - invite 3 different neighbors to our house who haven't yet been in our home by Christmas.

All in all it was a great time for us together - and when I kissed him good night tonight and hung out in his room for a bit - there was a whole new level of closeness, trust, and spiritual fervor. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some Takeaways from Tony's Coaching Network

As some of you know, I traveled (by car) to Anderson, SC last week as I was invited by Tony Morgan from Newspring Church to be part of a coaching network for Executive Pastors and other guys in that tier of leadership in their churches. It was a great experience. It was the first of 6 trips down there for mentoring, accountability, and mutual learning from some really smart and very amazing guys. You can check out some pics of Newspring at my flickr site. Thought I'd post some leadership takeaways from the event - some general and some personal.
  1. The church across this country is in good hands judging by these guys I was with - they are smart, humble, hungry for God, and ready to lay everything on the line to do church right.
  2. I have to be more disciplined in blocking my time for effectiveness. I need to do a better job in achieving a good flow to my week between tasks and people.
  3. Aside from things that only I can do -every other task that comes to me I should be asking, "who can I empower to do this?"
  4. One's area of greatest strength is usually also their area of greatest vulnerability.
  5. Leading Up: what are some things that I can do to help my boss be more effective?
  6. Leading Laterally: I should always be putting myself in a position that will bring out the best in my peers.
  7. When it comes to creating and executing new ministries - everything is an experiment.
  8. Leadership often involves letting people make their own mistakes even if you can foresee problems ahead. Parents do this with their children all the time.
  9. Any inter-relational issues within a staff are only compounded when a church decides to go multi-site.
  10. A great question to ask staff members regularly is, "what are you doing this week that you shouldn't be doing?"
  11. As close as I am to him, there are some things that a Senior Pastor goes through that I simply can't relate to from my current chair. I will never know the burdens that he carries until I've sat in that chair.
  12. Books I need to read soon: Death by Meetings; What Got You Here Won't Get You There; Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It; Execution: The Art of Getting Things Done (this is a re-read)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Back From Vacation

Well today was my first day back in the office after an extended vacation - just over 2 weeks (this also explains my lackluster blogging during this same period). We had a great time. I have an absolutely quality family. Wow. We went to Plum Island in northern Massachusetts for the first part, then on to Boston for a few days, and then back home to work on several projects we have going on right now.

Some observations from our trip:
  1. My family is killer. I know I already said it - but my wife and my kids are the best on earth. We had a blast together.
  2. My pace is a little too frantic. This was the first beach vacation we've taken as a family. The change in pace was crazy that first day. Going from 100 mph to 0 mph is a shock to the system. I sat on the beach shaking the whole first day!
  3. The Atlantic Ocean is cold in northern Mass. even in August. Can you say "no feeling in your extremeties?"
  4. The sunrise and sunset on the island were both beautiful. I was able to take in both. A close second to Presque Isle in Erie.
  5. Ayden is a girlie girl. I don't know how it happened becuase Kim is not that way... and ... well... neither am I. She played Barbies with her cousin for hours on the beach and spent a lot of time stuffing sand in her bathing suit in "all the right places."
  6. I had access to some of the best seafood in the country and yeah... still really don't like it. But if you batter it and fry it and I can at least get it down...
  7. We had the best pre-trip prayer. I asked the kids to pray for our trip as we were pulling out of our neighborhood - the boys tore it up - great prayers about safety and fun and relationships - Ayden prayed, "God, help our house to not catch on fire while we're gone."
  8. There are so many things I love about big cities. Everytime I'm in one I fantasize about living there - probably aint gonna happen - I like where I'm at more.
  9. I love Grace. I always have a lot of time to think and reflect on ministry and church while I'm away. I wouldn't trade our church, our ministry, our future for any other.
  10. It's good to be home. Vacations are lovely- but it's nice to be in our own house - our own bed - our own life rhythms again.

I'm heading off to South Carolina for a coaching network with Tony Morgan tomorrow. I'm totally pumped about it. I'll have more to report after that I'm sure. But for now - it's good to be home - that is - until I leave for South Carolina in the morning...