Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Fever

Spring is here! I absolutely love this time of year. The sun shines, the thermometer rises, flowers bloom and from now until the end of summer you will hear the crack of the bat as baseball and softball leagues limber up for another year of competition. But as much as I love all these things, my favorite part of spring is celebrating Resurrection Sunday.

God's planning is so precise that He chose the time of year when things that were dead in the winter come to life as the moment to raise His Son from the grave. As I look around I see withered grass turn green; dead limbs sprout leaves; colorful flowers bloom from what was in the fall a cold and dead seed. Evidences of a Risen Savior are everywhere.

If you feel dead, I invite you, turn to the Living Son of God. He will raise you up from the sleep of winter into the wakefulness of Spring!

God bless and have a Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness

Over the next several weekends American society will turn from it's daily rituals and pause. We will sit on the edge of our seats with bated breath. Some will have their dreams crushed while others will celebrate with joy. All will watch the TV for the next moment. Will a giant fall? Will the underdog prevail? Will my bracket survive this?

That's right, it's March Madness and as the NCAA basketball championship gets underway, I have made my picks and I am excited, once again about watching some basketball. My favorite thing to do is cheer for the underdog. I love watching a smaller, relatively unknown team topple a perennial powerhouse. I'll be the one rooting for Siena, Cornell, Richmond and New Mexico State, as opposed to Kansas, Kentucky or Syracuse.

I think there something within us all that relates to the underdog. We all know what it's like to go unnoticed. We have felt the pain of under-appreciation. We know how it feels to be counted out before we even start a task. So when a David gets to take on a Goliath, we cheer for David. We pull for the little guy, because in a lot of ways, we are the little guy.

Over the next few weeks, enjoy the basketball. Root for your team. But do not neglect the observance of the day when God made all the underdogs matter. The day the unnoticed got recognized, the under-appreciated received a nod of acceptance and the counted out were invited in. Easter is the day before the championship game. Easter is the day the ultimate victory was won. When Christ arose, it gave every underdog a chance to be victorious in the only thing that really matters: life!

So when I sit down to watch the championship game this year, I will probably be cheering for the team least likely to win. But I will rest assured that no matter the outcome of the game, my victory is secure, and this underdog celebrates that win every day!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell

I was first introduced to the writings of John Maxwell as a Bible College student studying for ministry. Since that time I have read nearly a dozen of his books and always look forward to reading his next work. Everyone Communicates did not disappoint. In fact, I would rank it in his top three books as far as its applicability and ease to understand.

Maxwell spends the first half of the book describing the principles of how to connect with others. As is his style, he mixes simple concepts with real life illustrations in order to demonstrate the principle in action. As he says, "it's simple to understand, but difficult to apply." The second half of the book is where he rolls up his sleeves and shows us how to connect through five simple practices. As you read, you can't help but notice how he follows his own advice, even with his writing style.

I found this book to be extremely helpful. My profession requires me to connect with people as individuals, small groups and larger audiences. Every chapter ends with practical advice on how to connect on each of those levels. Some of the advice is simplistic and common sense, but often we complicate the simple and overlook the common and it was good to be reminded of those principles. A definite must read for anyone who is in leadership, or even for those looking to better connect with the people in their lives.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Brutal Cross I Carry

Alright I admit it, there is a part of me that is "artsy fartsy." That being said, I occasionally write poetry (please don't judge my manliness). Over the past several weeks this one has been on my mind. I wrote it about three years ago.

The night is over
And morning has dawned
The rooster crowed
And friends have gone
And my brutal cross I carry

Judges have sneered
Kings have mocked
Guards have beaten
Eternity is rocked
And my brutal cross I carry

The whip whistled
Flesh was torn
The knees buckled
Thorns are worn
And my brutal cross I carry

The crowds jeer
Satan awaits
Demons prepare
To storm Heaven's gates
And my brutal cross I carry

Pain sears
Ears roar
Patience is tested
Grace soars
And my brutal cross I carry

Nails pierce
Hands bleed
Lips thirst
Sinners need
The brutal cross I carried

Soldiers wonder
Crowds are awed
A thief forgiven
Because he saw
The brutal cross I carried

Strength fades
Angels hearken
Will I call
As the skies darken over
The brutal cross I carried?

Death awaits
Veils are split
The earth shakes
As I submit to
The brutal cross I carried

Three days pass
In the tomb
The sun rises
As I overcome
The brutal cross I carried

My call goes out
Far and wide
In order to live
One must die
and bear
The brutal cross I carried

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Map by David Murrow

Perhaps the most unique book on men's spirituality I have ever read, The Map by David Murrow is both a page turning story and a call to discipleship. Murrow begins the book with a mystery/suspense story that takes him from Wales to New York to Greece in search of a map hidden in the writings of Matthew. This 'map' turns out to be a pattern for living that men are called to follow in order to live closer to God and do great things for His kingdom. The second half of the book is Murrow's explanation of his parable in light of Biblical examples and teachings. He reveals what he calls the "three journeys" of submission, strength and sacrifice that all men are called to follow. The book ends with a revisiting to the original story in order to clarify some points and call the reader to a deeper level of discipleship.

Overall a very good book with good teaching. The pattern of the three journeys is both obvious and undeniable in many areas of life. Whether or not Matthew intentionally wrote this pattern into his gospel is debatable, but that should not detract from the positive lessons this book has to offer. By reading this book, two things have happened to me: (1) I recognized what journey I am on and (2) I recognize what journeys the different men of the congregation I serve are currently walking. That by itself makes the book worth the read. The practical suggestions given by Murrow will challenge the traditional model of men's discipleship, which needs to be challenged if we are going to save the men of this generation and raise up men for the next.

A definite must-read for anyone involved in discipling men in the church or simply looking to deepen their walk with Christ.