Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to preach at a church where a good friend serves as the pastor. He has been faithful to the people and they have been good to him. It is a small church that has the hopes of caring for the least in the community.

But like many small churches, they face a number of self-imposed barriers. They think every new person feels welcome but it is actually difficult to fit in. They probably think the building is easy to navigate but in reality it is a bit confusing. The believe the work of the church is best left to the professionals when God has it designed for every believer to be engaged in His mission. These are, sadly, all too common issues in churches across our country.

What was surprising to me was not the church or its problems or even its strengths. The surprise of the morning for me came in the form of a simple prayer offered by a church leader before the worship service. If you have served in ministry, you know that church staffs or worship teams often sit down to pray prior to a service. It is a good check for our egos and, oftentimes, the last minute plea to God for His presence to come thundering down upon the church.

On this particular morning, in a quiet side room, a young man I barely knew prayed this…

“God, help me to be burdened for your people instead of frustrated by them.”

Suddenly, a flood of memories washed through my heart and mind. I realized that I had been more frustrated than burdened a million times on a million days with a seemingly million people. Ugh – for a moment I felt so small and feeble and selfish. Time and time again we become frustrated by those who don’t help out, stand up, get on board, line up, go out, witness, sing, live missionally, live on mission, and on and on and on.

And then God surprised me even further. He was also gracious to to remind me of the burden His Spirit had birthed in me for the soul of people and their communities. I was reminded that there have been days when I was carried by His power and passion for my neighbors. And I remembered, being burdened is always better than being frustrated.

A great impact for God’s kingdom never comes by being frustrated by the world but burdened for men’s souls. But frustration comes more naturally to us. Born out of a selfish need to be justified in our actions and emotions, it displaces any burden for others. But with burden comes a connection to the very heart of Christ. When we live with burden, we stand beside Him as He stood over His city…

As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “If you knew this day what [would bring] peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.”  (Luke 19:41-42)

God, help me be burdened for people and never frustrated by them. May we all weep for our city as Christ did. And then, after we have wept, go out and die for it.

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JKnapp

Jennifer Knapp is a rare gift. A young woman with a wise soul. Plus the music writing and singing ability to put it on display. Her music is hard to define: rock/folk/poetry/just plain great.

During the 1990s and early part of this decade, she sold over one million albums. She won awards in the Christian music community and accolades throughout the music industry. The Los Angeles Times called her “a rising star.” People Magazine described her as “an uncommonly literate songwriter.” Billboard proclaimed that “Knapp proves herself to be the cream that rises to the top.” Pretty high praise from people who are accustomed to seeing talent come and go with barely a ripple in the pond of the music world.

But then, in 2004, she left. I don’t know exactly why she was no longer producing the music many came to love. But now she is back.

Knapp site

According to the letter on her site, she has traveled, seems to have decompressed from the sudden rise of popularity and sounds ready to begin producing music again.

Head over to her MySpace page and you can listen to her new release “Letting Go.”  I hope it is but the first of many more to come.

No doubt, language is difficult to understand. Words change. Meanings evolve. My fear is that speech so deteriorates over time that the very concepts we value are devalued without notice. Bravery is such a concept in our time.

boysI have two sons. We hope to instill in them a sense of honor, valor, and, yes, bravery. But there is truly very little which requires bravery in our culture. Unless you listen to pop culture.

Over the last year, the term brave has been tossed around like opinions at a Baptist church business meeting. A beauty pageant contestant was brave when she – let’s be honest – stumbled through her opinion on stage. Celebrities were brave when fighting the “injustices” of people spying on them 24/7 because they are… well, because they are celebrities. Politicians who disagree, agree, speak up, step out, blah, blah, blah show immense bravery according to every news source.

Really? Has bravery been diluted this far?

The short answer is yes. On Sunday, I was running errands and flipping through radio stations when I ran across Ryan Seacrest doing his thing. He was waxing eloquently over the Taylor Swift-Kanye West-VMA Awards ceremony. Which, on a sidenote, can they really call that a ceremony? Anyway. Of course, Seacrest defended Taylor Swift and asked us all to move on from the situation. Yeah, like I was waiting for his permission.

mtv%20moon%20manBut what struck me was how he defined bravery by how Taylor was able to come back out on stage later and perform after the Big Bad Wolf  Kanye West interrupted her speech. Bravery had been reduced to the ability to perform music when there was one crazy person in the room. Kanye acted like a jerk. Taylor got an Moonman. And everybody (including me) has made the whole thing a punchline.

 

On the other hand, on Saturday, I stood and talked with Gary, one of the coaches for my son’s football team. Gary has been a firefighter for Nashville for 15 years. He drives a firetruck, wears a flame retardant suit, pulls hoses, and runs into burning buildings.  The conversation reminded me of the story Ed Stetzer told of his grandfather in our book Compelled by Love. He did not know him well but knew he was a hero. The story he told all came down to a simple truth: Heroes are the people who run toward the thing from which all others seek an escape. Bravery is the willingness to stand up to danger and for justice when others step down.

But it is not an idea we should take lightly. Bravery can be shown by beauty pageant contestants, actors, and politicians. Whenever someone stands on his or her principles when others are floating with the rip-currents of polls and politics, we should recognize the bravery necessary. But isn’t it more than just standing on principles where there is immense freedom to do so?

I want my sons to understand a greater meaning to bravery. It is the soldier standing watch with a rifle and little else. It is the police officer who chooses to work in the tougher neighborhood because it is where he grew up and wants to make a difference. Bravery is in the soul of the missionary who travels to a closed country knowing they may very well lose their life. Bravery is standing tall when others cower against injustice.

Partly due to a free society and partly due to a slobbering lover affair with celebrity, bravery’s concept is on a slow decline. But it should not dissuade us from understanding the true caliber of it. Bravery still lives today. We see it in those who serve on foreign fields telling the Gospel where it is hard, rebuilding nations where they have crumbled, and defending the weak where they have no hope.

Bravery will never die until we surrender it to the darkness of ego. So, today, if you find yourself sitting down, stand back up.

I have only recently given into the New World Order to Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. But to keep myself sane, this image remains on my desktop at work.

Social Media Diagram

Enjoy!

Still waiting for the tablet revolution is one of the headlines at CNET this morning.tablet

According to the first sentence, many in the tech world are predicting that 2010 will be the year of the tablet. Predictions have swirled for years that the touch screen laptop tablet gadgety computer would be the next jump in how we interact with technology. Touch screens have been around for years. But no company had yet to make the technology integrated into normal computing tasks. Plus, it was not cost-efficient for the longest time.

And then came the iPhone and iPod Touch. They have served as the game changers. Many were hoping Apple would announce an Apple Tablet this year but it looks like it will have to wait.

But here is a question, how do you want to interact with your computer? We have them on our desks at work. They sit in prominent spots in our homes. We carry them in the forms of iPods, cell phones, and smart phones in our pockets. Our kids play computers with funny names: Wii, PSP, PS3, Nintendo DSi.

Maybe it’s just a question for me: Do I really want any more personal interaction with my computer than the keyboard and a mouse? Currently, it seems the only people really wanting a touch-screen tablet are those with a lot of disposable income or the people who just always want the next evolution in technology.

I believe it is inevitible that laptops will eventually come as touch-screen tablets. But I wonder what the effect is on us.

We already live in a looking20messaging_600span down culture. It is a place where real conversations – vocal interaction between two people physically in one another’s presence – is easily interrupted by cell phone calls, text messages, and a million other beeping devices. I’ve been guilty of it and so have you. We hear the beep and we suddenly become Pavlov’s dog.  What happens when the primary interaction with your PC or Mac becomes tactile? How will that change the way you engage with real people in your office, community, and home?

I don’t know that I’m against touch-screen tablets, PCs, Macs, or whatever else is dreamt up. But I’m ready to get my head back up and talk more often to people living around me. So today, I’m going to get up from my desk and walk a few floors away if I need to talk with someone about a work project. I’ll visit with people in my neighborhood rather than text them a message that has no vowels. I’ll call my friends rather than trade direct messages on Twitter. Today, I’m going to look up.

Occasionally on Tuesdays, I will highlight a musician who deserves to be heard. On some weeks, it will be a well-known personality and on others, someone who I think ought to be. Hopefully, I can simply point to someone that you will enjoy and be challenged by in their music.

Rather than host a bunch of music on this blog, I am going to point you to the artist’s site, facebook, myspace, blog, twitter, whatever. To be honest, I hope to simply serve as a gateway for you to some great artists.

First up – Jonathan and Lisa MooreJL

Back in 2004, I spoke at a summer camp where they were leading worship. From the very first meeting, I immediately knew that they were a unique couple. Growing up in church, leading in youth ministry, and being a speaker at camps – I have heard my share of mediocrity in church camp bands. Jonathan and Lisa are the breath of fresh air I was searching for. The big difference they bring is that they know how to lead adults in worship. Never do they allow teenagers, college students, or adults to limp along in worship or fall into the “Jesus is my boyfriend” litany of bad worship songs.

It was a great dynamic. I was there to challenge the students to drive their churches toward revival and their culture toward a great awakening. Meanwhile, Jonathan and Lisa were challenging me every step of the way to worship well before I opened my mouth to speak. In short, they are incredible people.

So, why do I like them?

  • No fancy band name. No rolling entourage. Just Jonathan, Lisa, and some friends on the instruments.
  • Their music is solid theologically. I’ll avoid a soapbox moment here because J & L are simply stellar at speaking truth in song. They labor over the lyrics in their music in order to ensure everything is biblical. I appreaciate musicians who are dedicated to Christ first and then their craft.
  • They are passionate about the right things, namely God and His mission for us.
  • And they are incredibly talented. Click to hear some music on their website page or MySpace page. Just look at all of they have done over the last few years at their About Us page.
  • Jonathan has a powerful voice that can blow the doors down while Lisa’s lilting tones feel angelic in nature.
  • Adversity never holds them back. Jonathan was a prodigal who came home. Lisa is legally blind. But Christ’s love for them shines through in all they do. Read their stories here and here.
  • They love the church.
  • A desire to help those who listen to become more attuned to God, His Word and worshiping well. All of the business end of music is a separate necessity.

I keep their newest CD “Roots” on my desk to pop in about once a week. It is dear to my heart because I know Christ is dear to their hearts. You can find it on their website of just hit iTunes for it.

I call Jonathan and Lisa my friends. Please hit all of their links to check out who they are. You will be glad to worship with them.

Last night, I learned an incredible lesson from my son. It unfolded like this…

DSC_0051Earlier this year, my son Chris began showing interest in a new sport – football. It was not exactly what Angie and I expected but we encouraged it. After signing up to play for the Station Camp Bisons, training camp for the 11 & 12 year old team began three weeks before school.

To my surprise, this community league team would practice four times a week until the season opening game. Four times a week!? I don’t go for a walk four times a week. But there he was, running 1.5 miles at the beginning of practice. Dozens of jumping jacks. Bunches of leg lifts. Lots of push-ups. And those sprinting drills. Ugh. It made me tired just watching from the sidelines during the two hour (and more) practices.

And then it happened… the season opening game.

Station Camp Bisons vs. Pleasant View Eagles

And Chris’ team won by the “mercy rule” in the third quarter when the score climbed to 35-0.

Since that first game, league rules state that teams may practice only two times per week. But trust me, the coach is getting all he can out of these boys in those practices. At times, Chris is regularly sore and bruised. He got a stinger in his back a week ago during a particularly violent collision. Last night, he saw stars during one tackling drill.

As we went home, I was giving him the twice-weekly, post-practice pep talk. Being his first year, I think he’s doing great (but I’m biased – a lot). Perhaps it was too early, but I broached the subject of “would you do it again? Do you think you’ll sign up for another season of football?” His answer was incredible.

As we talked, it all came down to practices and games. And here’s what he said,

Nobody signs up for practice. You sign up for the games.

BOOM! My 11-year old just schooled his father about life.

I still feel confronted. Do I live for practice or the game? I think I live for the game. But it sure feels like I’m at practice a lot.

DSC_6909Having my wife Angie in Haiti this week has given me an even greater desire to make sure our lives are in the game and not just tied up with practice. Every time I talk with a church planter, I want to make sure I’m in the game. Sitting with men who are scrambling to lead well at home, work and in the community makes me desire to be in the game. The everyday conversations with people who need help, can give help, and those consumed with the gospel – they energize every fiber of my being. Practice is important. It gets you ready for what’s next, for what’s expected. But there’s nothing like being in the game.

I didn’t sign up for a life full of practices. I signed up for the game.

My goal is a passion-filled life given for God’s glory and the gospel that results in making disciples of all nations.

So what’s your passion? What are you ready to do that will get you out of practice and into the game?

Leave a comment and let’s hear about your passion.

Thanks to everyone who is praying for Angie while she is in Haiti.

Please bounce on over to the Global Impact Mission blog to catch a glimpse about their trip so far.

The team only has two more days of ministry before they fly home on Saturday.

In the meantime, here is a short summary history of Haiti and why New Missions is there.

Fewer than 700 miles off the coast of Florida is the poorest country in the western hemisphere—Haiti. In 1804, the West African slaves revolted against the French, dedicated their country to Satan and became the first Black Republic. Today, more than 8.5 million people call Haiti home. Over 2 million children do not attend school. Haiti is too close to ignore, and it is our calling to develop a generation of Christian leaders in Haiti. Haiti is a third world country with very little natural resources and a population where 47% of the adults are illiterate. Voodoo is the primary religion practiced in Haiti. We are reaching the people of Haiti with the power of the Gospel by establishing churches and providing Christian education, medical care, necessary food and community development. Our work in Haiti is focused on reaching the poorest of the poor.

Hello!?

I said “don’t read this.”

Instead, watch The Nines Conference today. The Nines is a virtual conference beginning at 9:00 a.m. CST today with over 70 church leaders speaking for — you guessed it — 9 minutes each. And it’s free! So head over to the Nines Conference site to register.

If you want to know what has over 6,000 people ready to watch the conference today, check out the article at The Christian Post.

I will be watching it at Ed Stetzer’s blog.  He will carry it live and we can dialogue about it in real-time.

See you there!

Speakers include:

Mark Driscoll (Mars Hil Church)
Perry Noble (NewSpring Church)
John Ortberg (Menlo Park Presbyterian)
Steven Furtick (Elevation Church)
Leonard Sweet (Author/Speaker)
Ed Stetzer (Lifeway Research)
Mark Batterson (National Community Church)
Dave Ferguson (Community Christian Church)
Alan Hirsch (Forge Mission Training Network)
Brian McLaren (Author/Speaker)
Brian Bloye (Westridge Church)

 

Wait a minute. I’m blogging about blogging. Definitely feels as if I’m falling down the proverbial Neo pills“rabbit hole” with Alice to Wonderland.

Or the postmodern version of choosing the blue pill or the red pill with Neo in The Matrix. A surreal experience.

 Whatever. Last week, ChurchRelevance posted its list of the Top 100 Church Blogs. The description of the ranking goes…

There are hundreds of great church blogs and ministry blogs to read, but do you ever wonder which church blogs everyone else is reading?

I do, which is why I have compiled a list of the world’s top church blogs.

Some focus exclusively on ministry, while others are more like theology blogs. Regardless of how you label them, these are the world’s most popular church blogs written by many of today’s most influential church leaders, theologians, and Christ followers.

 Here are a few observations about the list.

 1. None of the blogs are actually from a church

Instead the list is dominated by individual pastors and ministry experts. Though many of the pastors and planters use their blogs as a primary communication tool, you would be hard-pressed to actually connect to a church through one of them. Instead, they serve as way to connect with the personal life of a church leader.

 I’m not sure what this means but I think it is important to note. Churches have websites and people have blogs. Remember, the name “blog” is a contraction of the newly invented and quickly discarded word “weblog.” Most church websites simply dispense information. They are the technological version of the newsletter once received by a human being in a car delivering paper to a metal box on a post next to your driveway. The old timers call it mail.

 2. Transparency observed

The blogs offered by leaders give insights into their lives that the church has not seen in many generations. And it is a welcome change. While in seminary, I once attended a lunch for local ministers in which a beloved pastor in my denomination addressed us about the ministry. His entire message could be summed up thusly: Act professional. It was all about pomp and circumstance, clothing and appearance, proper enunciation and skill. Blogs have opened up the gates for us to share the joys and pains of life as a larger community of faith.

 Like many others, I recently followed the journey of Tony Morgan as he made a transition from one ministry to another. His postings were not brutal, just honest. And they were hopeful. Thanks Tony – your journey is helping me with mine.

Blogs are a temptation to be braggadocios or an opportunity to share honestly. I’m glad to see the latter is prevailing.

 3. Ministries are marketing to you

I’ve heard a few naysayers object to banner ads, posting speaking schedules and the like on personal blogs. But I see no harm in it. You just need to be aware that some make a living this way and they blog about it. Buying the resources, attending the conferences, and inviting guest speakers to church are simply a part of church history at the moment. And so it is a part of blogging. As we show proper discernment, chances are you can find needed wisdom and resources for your church.

If you want to be offended by something, pick something like this.

 4. Plenty of free resources and insights

Perhaps this and point #2 are the reasons we visit blogs as often as we do. We read up on the lives of other leaders and read up on the resources that will help our own leadership. The amount of information available in general is simply mind-boggling. The Christian realm is no different. And it is a bit paradigm-breaking. Many leaders and churches today either have the means to give away what they know or they are simply making the decision to give it away no matter the cost to their own ministries.

 Swerve is a great example. The leadership of Life Church give insights, overview new technology and push readers to their Open site to gain access to even more free stuff. They have decided that giving away their materials and insights are good for their church and the kingdom. And then there is the ever-blogging Ed Stetzer. With his LifeWay Research Blog, Stetzer and team delivers quality research and insights on a weekly basis. His blog has become one of the premier destinations for understanding the crossroads of faith and culture.

 As long as humans do anything en masse, someone will be there to rank it. Blogs are just the latest thing. Hopefully they will also be helpful.

What are your favorite blogs to learn from, gain encouragement, or just get a good chuckle?

 Oh and do me a favor—Tweet, forward, and Facebook status my URL immediately! grin.

Tweets!