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Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to help organize several community church events and help with several others. It’s not always easy, but I want to be part of a church that takes the prayer of Jesus in John 17 seriously. That we would be one. Our church wants to be a resource to other churches by planning events and hosting conferences. We want to bring local Christians together and to reach out to those in our community who are lost and hurting. We have been able to break through some racial and denominational boundaries, but we still have a long ways to go. In our efforts, I have noticed two huge enemies of cooperation between churches.

Fear & Pride

For many churches, fear is a way of life. The pastor is afraid of helping another church because they might have a different style of music or be from a different denomination. Worse yet, the leadership can become paranoid about losing members to another church, so they work hard at keeping people involved only in their own activities.

For other churches, pride can prevent them from working with other churches. Some churches reach a point where they don’t think they need any help. They believe their efforts are better than anybody else and it’s just too much of a hassle to work with others. I have seen churches that constantly make fun of the efforts of others and refuse to be part of any community activities.

I pray that I will be a pastor that is not afraid to cooperate and work together with other churches. I pray that fear and pride would not control the decisions in our church. In the New Testament, we see churches referred to by their city. We read passages about the church of Ephesus, the church of Corinth, the church of Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, and many more. Now, local believers are fragmented a million different ways by denominations and egos. Let me challenge you to reach across denominational lines and join forces with other believers in your community. You will be amazed at the impact it will have in your community, and don’t be surprised if people see the truth of John 17:21 become a reality.

Weekend Update

February 15, 2010 — 2 Comments

Let me just start off by saying, it was a great weekend. I wanted to share a quick update about some of the things happening in my world.

  • I love this sign

    Snow, ice, and cold temperatures.  That’s pretty much summarizes the last two months. Although everyone enjoyed the snow at first, it’s starting to wear out it’s welcome.  At least the kids finally were able to play basketball this weekend. The games have been canceled for the last several weeks, so they were glad to get back on the court. We have had snow on the ground here since the week before Christmas, and school was out again today. The sun did make an appearance and the snow is finally starting to melt, but that poses a problem for all the leaks we have in the roof at church.

  • We had a great Valentine’s dinner at the church Saturday night. Fun times and great food.  And I can’t forget to mention that the guys won the quiz challenge :-)
  • I arrived at church Sunday morning to find my entire office covered in sticky notes.  Several of the youth woke up at 4am on Sunday morning and spent several hours sticking up over 10,000 post it notes. Everything was covered, even the bathroom. It was quite impressive. Now I’m just wondering what to do with all of them.  Check out the pics.
  • Sometimes, my job as a pastor is to get out of the way of the Holy Spirit, and this was one of those weeks. I stayed up late into the night finishing up my message and tweaking it, but ended up not even preaching it. It was a powerful service in many ways. Our Sunday night worship team switched with our Sunday morning team and did an awesome job. And then Sam shared a story about the heartbreak that one of his former business partners is going through. We showed a video of his story, and then using skype, we patched him in live to our service. He shared about his wife dying of cancer, and what true love really is about. We are launching a series called Love Is…, and the story of Rogers and his wife was heart wrenching. The band came back up and did a couple of powerful songs, so by the time I got up to preach, I knew there wasn’t much that needed to be said. I shared 1 Corinthians 13 and challenged everyone to live it out this week and to remember the love that God has shown us. We’ll pick up the series next week as we continue to look at what true love is. The Sunday evening service was just as powerful. It was great having the Sunday morning band experience the evening service and they did an awesome job as always. I shared just a little more, but again, there wasn’t much to add after we watched and heard such a moving example of love.

I’ve read several books by John Eldredge, and I have always been encouraged by his honest and engaging writing style. He has a way of helping you deal with your past so you can reach your full potential of a new life in Christ. In this book, he is joined by his wife Stasi as they talk about the challenges of marriage. Love & War: Finding the Marriage You’ve Dreamed Of is a great book that will encourage you, challenge you, and help you realize that “marriage is fabulously tough.” I want to share a few of my thoughts about the book.

Over the past few years, I have been discouraged seeing so many marriages end up in divorce. I saw people that I thought had it all together walk away from their families. As a young pastor, I sometimes feel a sense of helplessness as I perform wedding ceremonies. I want young couples to know that marriage is not always easy. That you must fight for your marriage so you can keep it alive and thriving. And I think most young couples don’t have a clue of what to expect.

This book really is an honest look at the battle that you face in marriage. Unlike most marriage books, this is not a book of quick fixes. It helps you to really dig deep into why you want to love and be loved by others. They share their own struggles and successes, and they give you hope that a marriage can go the distance.

I like that they share about marriage in the greater context of God’s plan.  Here’s a quote that I think really sets the tone for the book.

God created marriage as a living, breathing portrait laid out before the eyes of the world so that they might see the story of the ages. A love story, set in the midst of desperate times. It is a story of redemption, as story of healing: it is a story of love. God gives us marriage to illustrate his heart toward us. It is the deepest and most mythic reality in the world – that love is true, that God pursues us.

Overall, this is a book that I had trouble reading straight through. Not because I didn’t like it, but because it made me want to put it down to spend time with my wife. I am thankful for my marriage (we’ll hit 15 years in a few months) and I am thankful that our love is still growing stronger. I will recommend this to both new couples and couples who have been married for a long time as a reality check to help them navigate the troubled times that will surely be in their future.

I shared with my wife last week that I also want to start something new when I am counseling young couples preparing for marriage. If I am going to do the ceremony, I want them to promise me that they will come to me for help before they throw in towel and give up. I want to put this book in their hand and spend time with them. I don’t want them to feel guilty for having difficult times in their marriage. And I want them to know that marriage is worth fighting for.

Here’s some more info from the publisher:

What the Eldredge bestsellers Wild at Heart did for men, and Captivating did for women, LOVE & WAR will do for married couples everywhere. John and Stasi Eldredge have contributed the quintessential works on Christian spirituality through the experience of men and the experience of women and now they turn their focus to the incredible dynamic between those two forces.

With refreshing openness that will grab readers from the first page, the Eldredges candidly discuss their own marriage and the insights they’ve gained from the challenges they faced. Each talks independently to the reader about what they’ve learned, giving their guidance personal immediacy and a balance between the male and female perspectives that has been absent from all previous books on this topic. They begin LOVE & WAR with an obvious but necessary acknowledgement: Marriage is fabulously hard. They advise that the sooner we get the shame and confusion off our backs, the sooner we’ll find our way through.

LOVE & WAR shows couples how to fight for their love and happiness, calling men and women to step into the great adventure God has waiting for them together. Walking alongside John and Stasi Eldredge, every couple can discover how their individual journeys are growing into a story of meaning much greater than anything they could do or be on their own.

Full Disclosure: This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah. Click here for my full disclosure policy. You can purchase the book from the publisher or from my Amazon affiliate link.

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Crazy Love Review

Although it’s taken me almost an entire year to blog through the book, I want to finish sharing about each chapter of Crazy Love by Francis Chan. This has been one of the most popular series of posts on my blog, and I know that this book has made a profound difference on many people, myself included.

Do you consider yourself a person obsessed with Christ? The title of chapter eight is “profile of the obsessed” and it deals with the way we live our life for Christ. The dictionary defines obsessed as to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic. Our culture makes us think that obsessed people are crazy. Words such as fanatic, extremist, weirdo, and worse are thrown at anyone who lives their life preoccupied with Christ.  However, Chan shares that “the idea of holding back certainly didn’t come from Scripture. The Bible teaches us to be consumed with Christ and to faithfully live out His words.”

This is one of the best chapters in the book. One passage that really had an impact on me personally was about the contrast between risk and safety. Chan says, “we’ve elevated safety to the neglect of whatever God’s best is, whatever would bring God the most glory, or whatever would accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the world. Would you be willing to pray this prayer? God, bring me closer to You … whatever it takes …” When we live in crazy love with Christ, we are not living in safety. We are called to take risks and follow Him no matter what the cost. That is the picture the Bible paints of the disciples, and it is what we are called to do as well.

Let me leave you with several quotes about what an obsessed person looks like. Read over these slowly and apply them to your life.

  • People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.
  • People who are obsessed with Jesus aren’t consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else. Obsessed people care more about God’s kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress.
  • People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another. Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him.
  • Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth.
  • A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle. Obsessed people know that you can never be “humble enough,” and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known.
  • People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving his people.
  • People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers. Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world.
  • A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is her in front of them.
  • A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.
  • People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures. Obsessed people don’t put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace.
  • People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him. They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.
  • A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort. Obsessed people know that true joy doesn’t depend on circumstances or the environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God.
  • A person who is obessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “Thank You!” to God. An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to apy God back or work hard enough to be worthy. He revels in his role as child and friend of God.

Let me ask you again, are you obsessed with Christ? If you can’t answer that positively, then I urge you to fall crazy in love with Christ. This book is a great way to get started on the journey.

With all the snow and ice we have gotten over the past few weeks, we were expecting a lower than normal turnout this past Sunday. God had other plans, and we had two great services this past Sunday. We did experiment a little by recording our evening service on video, so I uploaded the sermon so it can be viewed online.  If you did miss church Sunday, then here is your second chance to view the sermon. We wrapped up our series on 20/20 Vision by discussing our response to the Gospel.

As always, we will post the audio of the sermon on the church website and on the iTunes podcast. Let me know what you think. Is this something you would like Cornerstone to do each week?

The Gospel Response from Cornerstone on Vimeo.

Are you living your life in response to the Gospel? As Christians we have strong feelings about the gospel. We might not be able to express fully its meaning, but we understand that it is “the power of God for salvation” and that it changes everything. We will learn that the gospel is not just a message to those outside the faith who need Jesus. It also contains the resources we need to make a difference in the world by being different from the world.

This is the sermon from the evening service on February 7th, 2010

We are in the middle of a harsh winter in the mountains of southwest Virginia. Starting the week before Christmas, we have had snow almost every week. This picture is the road that goes by our house. It has stayed covered with snow and ice for most of the past month. The schools have missed days and weeks at a time, and it doesn’t look any better in the foreseeable future.

We are digging out now from about 9 inches of snow with more sleet and freezing rain to come. While I’m happy that I have a 4-wheel drive F-150 pickup, it has still been tough getting around. But the snow definitely can wreak havoc on schedules and church activities. We have already missed two Sundays due to the snow and this week may not be much better.

So here is my question. What does your church do when it snows? I know some churches are adamant that they will be open no matter what. Some close at even a hint of snow in the forecast, but what should be the deciding factor? Anne Jackson had a great post posing a similar question and it really made me think. For me, it is always a tough decision. I have tried to delegate it to others, but it is usually a collective decision. Our decision is usually based entirely on safety. Even if we tell people to be careful and stay home if the roads aren’t safe in their neighborhood, many still feel obligated to come. Especially those who are serving. We don’t want to put them and their families at risk. I would feel terrible if someone was injured because of a decision we make.

Why do we feel pressure to have church every week? I enjoy meeting together and I truly miss having church services, but for many churches, the answer is simply money. If your church is operating week-to-week on a budget, then missing a week can really affect paying the bills. Luckily, Cornerstone has built up a reserve for times like these so we can continue on without ministry being affected. We trust and pray that God’s people will give generously when they get back to church. Here are a few other things to consider:

  • If you have services, then you are responsible to clear walkways, sidewalks, steps, and the parking lot to ensure the safety of those who come. I talked to a pastor this week who had someone fall and break their hip due to ice in the parking lot. The first question the insurance company asked was if they had someone professionally clear the parking lot and sidewalks.
  • If the local police have asked people to not travel due to bad road conditions, then please honor their request
  • If you do have services, why not simplify and meet with children and adults all together. Combine services and don’t try to do everything like it’s always been done.
  • Why not utilize technology and share a video message or audio message with your church online
  • Why not provide resources or encourage people to have church in their homes or communities. Share resources or ideas for children to study as well.

This past week, we tried something a little different. Here is the email we sent out. We pointed people to other churches who had online experiences, and we encouraged them to worship as families. At our house, I got out my guitar and we had church together as a family, and it was an awesome time. What other ideas do you have for when services are cancelled? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Dear Church Family

1. If you have missed any of the past weeks from our current teaching series, we would like to encourage you to go back and listen to them online here.

2. Take the time to have a family worship service at home. Involve the entire family with singing and devotions and a time of Bible study.

3. Tune in to one of the many online church services from around the country. Some of the ones that we recommend are (9:30 and 11am), Seacoast Church (9:30 and 11:15am), Newspring Church (11:15am and 6pm), and Northpoint Online (6pm). Lifechurch also has an excellent children’s website for activities and lessons to do at home.

4. If you are a regular giver at Cornerstone, we ask that you continue to worship by giving your normal tithes and offerings online. This may be a good week to check out the online giving options at our Cornerstone website. Our expenses don’t go away on snow days. If you are not comfortable with online giving, of course you are welcome to simply catch up next weekend. Our weekly operations budget has been down over the last month or so with the weather, the holidays, and possibly extra giving to AEP :-). We appreciate your generosity in advance as we continue to combine our resources in order to pursue the vision God has given us for reaching the twin counties.

We hope and pray that you and your family stay warm over the next few days and stay safe if you absolutely must head-out. We can’t wait to see you next Sunday!

Enjoy your time in the snow!!

A great use of a church website is for sharing prayer requests. PrayerEngine is a new web service that looks promising. It allows you to embed a prayer wall directly into your existing website. Anyone can submit a prayer request, which is then posted to your website as soon as it is approved. You can share those prayer requests through email, twitter, facebook, and RSS. People visiting your website can click on a counter that shows how many time each request is prayed for. This is such a great use of social media for the church. If you are interested, check out the demo on youtube. I think you will see more services like this in the future that embed directly into your existing website.

The service costs a one-time fee of $99. Since there is no monthly fee, it’s a great bargain. As an added bonus, you can head over to MediaSalt and pickup an additional 15% discount for today only!

Fun in the Snow

February 2, 2010 — Leave a comment

This is what happens when we cancel church services! The youth ended up at our house and had some fun on Sunday. Add in hot chocolate, fresh homemade cookies, and snow cream, and you can tell we had a great time. Thanks to Ben for taping and editing the video.  I didn’t make the video, but when you’re my size, you gain some serious speed and get some serious air over the bumps. I’m still feeling it.

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