Monday, June 30, 2008

Sermon - God's Glory - 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1

I have posted my sermon from yesterday on the church's web site for those who might be interested. I will be preaching a series in the weeks to come that draw heavily on Ken Sande’s book “The Peacemaker”. Sande's book is the best resource I have ever seen on Christian conflict resolution. I had the opportunity to see Ken Sande speak at a Peacemaker Ministries Conference a few years ago, and was quite impressed by his desire to see God Glorified through this process.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

NACCC conference in Plymouth, MA

It has been a long week. We flew out to Boston last Friday, and returned Wednesday of this week. The conference was about what I expected. Plymouth, MA is a neat town, but the place that was the highlight of the trip was Cape Cod.

Friday we flew from Minneapolis to Milwaukee where we had a lay-over. I've never been the the Milwaukee airport previously. I really never need to go there again. It is the smallest metro airport I have ever seen, with little to eat and nothing to do. From Milwaukee we flew into Boston, arriving at 10:45PM. By the way, Midwest Airline's chocolate chip cookies mid-flight are the bomb! We got a van from National Car Rental, and headed to the hotel in Brockton, MA. We chose to stay there because the youth attending HOPE and NAPF at Stonehill College. Saturday morning we dropped our youth off at Stonehill and then headed over to Plymouth. Our conference was in the Plymouth Memorial Hall. Memorial Hall was a comfortable and spacious place for our meetings, though it would've been nice to be able to do break out session at this location instead of in a neighboring hotel.

We spent the week going to various sessions at Memorial Hall. The highlight of the sessions was the opportunity to listen to Dr. David Fischer on 4 occasions. Dr. Fisher previously served as the Senior Pastor for Colonial Church of Edina, MN and is now Senior Pastor of Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn, NY where Henry Ward Beecher was once pastor.

Some things I found interesting on the trip:

Tunnels - Boston is very similar to those hamster cages you find at pet stores with the tunnels you can run just about anywhere. I think the first 10 miles after leaving the airport were all underground, and some of that under water! A credit to Boston for finding a solution, and for keeping the tunnels clear and clean.

Road Signs - Massachusetts has really poor road signs. For example, the street you are on is never labeled, only the cross streets. This works fine if you know what street you are on, but as a visitor that often isn't the case. Or when one street turns into another street, often there is no indication so you are now clueless where you are if you have a map. It makes getting to where you want to go frustrating. You can find the general area, but the specific location can be tough to figure out. I now know why there were so many vehicles with GPS units. Not even the locals can figure this system out. Speed limits - I think the philosophy is that if they've placed one speed limit sign on the road, then they don't have to post it again. I think I drove the length of Cape Cod seeing only 2 speed limit signs. This is also true in town. So when you turn from one street to the next, good luck on knowing what the speed limit might be! The only comforting thing that goes with this is that in spite of posted speed limits, few actually drive that slow, especially on major highways.

Blinkers - I'm not sure why cars come equipped with these in New England. Nobody uses them. I don't know if it's a plan to save energy or something, but it sure makes driving more "interesting".

Food - I was a bit disappointed in the food on much of the trip. Many places we visited seem to favor quantity over quality. I did however have the best fried scallops of my life, and considering how many of those I have eaten in 9 years of seafood food service that is saying something. If you are ever in Plymouth, MA, check out the Lobster Hut. Everything is ala cart, and everything is tasty.

Provincetown, MA - if you drive the length of Cape Cod, at the very end, across the harbor from Plymouth, you arrive at Provincetown, MA. I'd never heard of this place, nor anything about it prior to getting there. So I had no pre-conceived ideas about it. It is a great/bizarre town. My wife calls it very European (I've never been to Europe so I'll take her word for it). The narrowest roads I've ever driven on. Imagine an alley, a narrow one at that. Then park cars all along one side of that alley. Then add in thousands of people walking and biking down the road because there is no room for sidewalks. Make the streets all one way. Then call them the major roads through town. Really. I was driving a Chevy Uplander Van (think a large mini-van). Had the vehicle been any wider, I don't know that I would've been able to maneuver through town. There is no way a "duelly" truck like a F-250 could pass on many of the streets. I'm uncertain how they deliver goods to the businesses in town because there is NO POSSIBLE WAY a tractor-trailer can get into town, and even trucks like the U-haul style delivery trucks would not fit down the streets. There is one two lane street that runs through town, and it is narrow for a two lane! This is all a result of space being limited at the end of the Cape, but it is a bit harrowing on your first driving experience, especially when it is raining, and you have no idea where you are going, and visibility is low at night. And I have no idea what they do to plow streets when it snows. (photo is of the main street running the length of town on the harbor side of town!)

Beyond the driving conditions, Provincetown has the highest concentration of GLBT that I know of. I would not be surprized if more than 50% of the town was GLBT. Some towns have a Gay Pride parade, this town is Gay Pride. You may think I am exaggerating, I'm not. They advertise it - Where Gay Pride is Everywhere. When we told local people we had gone there (in Plymouth), the looks we got were "interesting". Gay pride flags and stickers everywhere. My wife and I holding hands were the abnormality. Lifestyle stores and very different advetising abounded.

Cape Cod - This is an amazing beautiful stretch of earth. The beaches are out of this world, especially Coast Guard Beach on the Atlantic side. I could spend a long time near these beaches. As Henry David Thoreau once said "A man may stand there and put all America behind him." I could spend days just sitting watching the surf come in, tracking birds, listening to the sounds and smelling the salt on the air. The beaches of Cape Cod were the highlight of my trip.

Tuesday afternoon I got word from a tennant of ours that a hot water heater had died in one of our houses. So I got to spend part of Tuesday afternoon on the phone tracking down plumbers in Minnesota who could fix this problem. I think something break or a bad storm hits every time I leave town. Last time we left town a tornado hit up the road 3 miles from this property in Hugo, MN and caused over $15,000 in damages to our property.

Following my resolving the water heater problem, we made our way to the Plimoth Plantation. The Plimoth Plantation is a neat experience, and I wish the water heater problem hadn't taken away from our time there. We got to interact with some outstanding period actors who nail their Pilgrim characters. We also got to learn about the Wampanoag Tribe, who were the original inhabitants of that region.

On Wednesday, we got up at 3:30AM and had to pick our youth up by 4:45AM in Brockton. Brockton was about 45 minutes from our hotel, and unfortunatly not in the direction of the airport. From Stonehill College, it was another 40 minutes to the airport, where we caught a 7:00AM flight to Kansas City. We then had a 3 hour lay over in Kansas City. We then flew to Milwaukee. We were supposed to board directly onto our connecting flight to Minneapolis, but that flight was running late, so we got to wait there too. We eventually made it into Minneapolis around 3:00PM. Probably the longest travel day of my life. I'm still feeling the effects of it 48 hours later.

All in all a good trip. A great get away with my beautiful wife. A chance to explore new places and experience new cultures. A chance to relax. Our genrous church sent us both, and I am deeply appreciative for the opportunity they gave us!

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who are you focused on leading?

Scott Hodge posted this great set of thoughts on leadership on his blog a while back. Chew on this one for a while.


One of the most empowering moments in The Orchard's journey of transition & change occurred a few years ago when someone said to us:

"Until you get your focus OFF of the people who are disgruntled, unhappy, unsupportive, and resistant to the direction God has called you to go, and ONTO those who are excited, supportive and on board, you will NEVER gain momentum and see a new culture created in your church."

That statement set us free.

It really did. In fact, I can remember our team making several tough, but GOOD decisions that day that literally sped up our momentum by leaps and bounds.

Some of those decisions had to do with things we were going to STOP doing. Decisions that:

  • We were NO LONGER going to try and get people to stay at our church who weren't happy.
  • We were going to stop spending time and energy trying to get the naysayers "on board" when it was very evident that most of them were not going to support the new direction.
  • We were going to stop allowing some of the "small things" to continue just to keep a few people happy (You know those programs and committees that are OPPOSITE of where you're headed, but you're keeping in place just to keep 12 people happy? Yeah, those...)

We also made some decisions about what we going to START doing or focus on being more intentional about. Decisions that:

  • We would stay focused on God's mission for The Orchard NO MATTER WHAT. Even if it were just the three of us in the end!
  • The focus of our leading and teaching would be turned towards the people we were reaching and those who were excited about where we were headed.
  • We would only engage in ministries, programs, and events that aligned with our mission - regardless as to whether or not every other church in town was doing it or not. The mission would dictate everything - not what was "popular" with other churches or even what programs or events might have seemed "successful" in the past.

It wasn't easy, and yes, we lost a lot of people. eventually created a momentum that led towards reaching the people that God had called us to reach. By 400% since 2003.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Heading to Boston for the NACCC meeting

By the time you are reading this, I will likely be in an airplane taking off down the runway at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. We are flying to Boston (via Milwaukee) today. The reason for this trip is that my church is part of the NACCC (National Association of Christian Congregational Churches) and our denominational annual meeting is being held in Plymouth, MA this year. If you aren't familiar with the NACCC, we find our roots in the Pilgrims, thus our return to Plymouth this year.

The speakers for the conference are people I've never heard of, so I don't know what to expect. I am looking forward to a tour of the Plimoth Plantation. Unfortunately we won't be able to see the parade for the NBA World Champions for 2008, the Boston Celtics since that went down Thursday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

John Piper is celebrating some birthdays

Dr. John Piper has written an article celebrating the birthday of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and his young church Bethlehem Baptist. And yes, I can call his church young because mine was founded 3 years before his was!

Dr. Piper writes:

On June 22, Bethlehem Baptist Church turns 137, and the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society turns 50. This is a cause for thanksgiving and an occasion for Bethlehem as a church to renew with joy our vision for faithful ministry under the authority of God’s inerrant word.

One reason we should be thankful that God has preserved and grown the Evangelical Theological Society (to over 4,000 members) is that its defining doctrinal commitment is the inerrancy of Scripture: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.”

And later in that same article he writes:

A fourth reason for thanksgiving is that for 137 years Bethlehem Baptist Church has been built on the foundation of Jesus Christ revealed infallibly through the inerrant Scriptures. Today the Elder Affirmation of Faith has four paragraphs on the Scriptures. The first two are:

1.1 We believe that the Bible, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the infallible Word of God, verbally inspired by God, and without error in the original manuscripts.

1.2 We believe that God’s intentions, revealed in the Bible, are the supreme and final authority in testing all claims about what is true and what is right. In matters not addressed by the Bible, what is true and right is assessed by criteria consistent with the teachings of Scripture.

Give thanks with me, as Bethlehem turns 137 years old on June 22, that God has preserved among us the conviction of Jesus: “Scripture cannot be broken” ( John 10:35 ).

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Meme: What has God been Teaching Me?

Dave Cruver tagged me from his blog for a simple Meme.

In an effort to keep it simple, short, and easy to follow, I’d like to challenge you to quote one verse (not one chapter). And then say what the Lord has been teaching you in one sentence (not one paragraph). Then tag 5 peeps (you know the drill).
My passage is:

1 Corinthians 10:31 - So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

As a pastor, husband, son, brother, and friend the ONE THING that is most important and most impacts all those relationships is my Glorifying God.

To keep the meme going I pass the infection on to:

Los Whittaker
Jim Hamilton
Dan Lacey
Bret Capranica
Brenton Balvin (who is filling in preaching for me this weekend!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm in the news!

And it is for a good reason!

Last week Thursday I was interviewed by the local newspaper - The Waseca County News. Today that article is available online, and I assume it is in the print version as well (note to self: Buy newspaper). I was interview by Drew Amo, and enjoyed his company. Mr. Amo did a nice job summarizing our conversation, and the only thing I would add to his article is that there was a lengthy period between my coming to faith in college (early 1994) and my enrolling in Seminary (January 2003). The article makes it sound like they happened back to back. Not a big deal, he's working with copy space constraints that I as a blogger give little consideration to!

Drew caught me shortly after returning to church from a muddy morning of playing soccer with the kids at Vacation Bible School. I was still literally covered in mud and probably some sweat, and as a good journalist he plowed through the interview anyhow to get the story. Very nice guy, and I hope to meet him again and get to know him better in the years to come!

To view the article CLICK HERE!

(BTW, the photo is NOT from our church, it's me preaching at a church in Edina, MN last year.)

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Bill Reichart on the Ministry Best Practices blog posted the following article today. I completely agree with Bill, Five Dysfunctions of a Team is one of the best books I have ever read. Basically anything by Patrick Lencioni is worth reading (Death By Meeting should be required reading in all grad schools, and Silos is pure gold too!), and if you get a chance to see the man speak do what it takes to get there, he's that good.


Years ago I read Patrick Lencioni's small, yet powerful, book - Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The book does a great job as summarizing the dysfunctions that a team often faces. At Big Creek Church, we attempt to do everything within a team context, therefore this book has a direct application to everything we are attempting to do.

If it's been a long time since you've read it - here is a nice summary. If you have never read the book, I would encourage you to go ahead and pick up a copy.

1. The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group. Team members who are not genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses make it impossible to build a foundation of trust.

2. This failure to build trust is damaging because it sets the tone for the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas. Instead, they resort to veiled discussions and guarded comments.

3. A lack of healthy conflict is a problem because it ensures the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they my feign agreement during meetings.

4. Because of this lack of real commitment and buy-in, team members develop an avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.

5. Failure to hold one another accountable creates an environment where the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God - Desiring God 2008 National Conference

Invitation from John Piper

Dear friends,

This is one of the most unusual conferences we have ever conceived. My expectations are very high that its effect will be mind-sharpening, heart-humbling, mouth-seasoning, backbone-strengthening, and Christ-acclaiming.

The theme is The Power of Words and the Wonder of God.

This conference is the overflow of my amazement at the significance of words. Think of it:

  • The Son of God is called the Word (John 1:1);
  • the universe was created with a word (Heb. 11:3);
  • all things are held in existence by the word (Heb. 1:3);
  • God reveals himself to us through the word (1 Sam. 3:21);
  • Jesus healed and cast out demons with a word (Matt. 8:16);
  • faith is sustained by words (Heb 3:13);
  • we fellowship with God by the words of prayer;
  • we worship him through the words of song and confession and preaching;
  • our relationships are all sustained and nurtured by words;
  • we speak our love to each other by words; kings rise and fall by their words;
  • politics, news, entertainment, business, education, international relations , families, friendships—all are possible because of words.

Language is God’s idea. It belongs very close to who and what he is. It has huge potential for good, and catastrophic potential for evil. The tongue, James says, is seemingly untamable. “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9-10).

All issues today—political, religious, educational, theological, etc—relate to the way we use words. We think them in our heads and we speak them with our mouths. What would the world be like—the home, the church, the school, the public square—if words were used the way Jesus used them? That is not an easy question. We might be surprised.

I have asked Sinclair Ferguson, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, South Carolina, to set the stage with an exposition of James 3:1-12. This text is astonishing in the power it attributes to the tongue. “No human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:8).

Paul Tripp, who teaches at Westminster Seminary and counsels at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, has written wisely on the crucial place of the heart in how we help or hurt each other with our words (War of Words). “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). I expect to love people better with my mouth because of this message.

Daniel Taylor, who teaches English Literature at Bethel University, is a lover of stories and has written about their power (Tell Me a Story: The Life-Shaping Power of Our Stories). This power is more pervasive than you may think and touches the heart of the gospel.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has agreed to tackle the knotty issue of tough and tender words, words in controversy, words in confrontation, words like Jesus and Paul used when they called people vipers and said, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor. 16:22).

Bob Kauflin, a worship pastor with Sovereign Grace Ministries, who just wrote the book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, will help us explore what happens to words when we put them with music and sing them. Why is the world so filled with singing? Just turn the knob on your radio. Hundreds of stations. And most of them are singing. What is this power?

The task I have set for myself is the question: “Is There Christian Eloquence? Clear Words and the Wonder of the Cross.” Paul said, “Christ did not send me . . . with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17). Yet who can deny the eloquence of Paul and others in the Bible? What is this? Should we pursue it?

We will worship Christ together. We will think hard. We will pray. We will meet people who are serious about their minds and their mouths. And I pray we will go home ready to obey the words, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

I would love to see you there.

John Piper

Register HERE!

The Conference runs from September 26-28, 2008


Registration received by August 15, 2008
$135 per person

Registration received by September 12, 2008
$160 per person

After September 12, 2008, please register at the door ($175 per person). If you plan to attend individual sessions only, you must register at the door ($25 per session). If the conference sells out, neither of these registration options will be available.

Aims of the Pastors Conferences

Rooted in the Scriptures as God’s infallible Word, and dedicated to revival and reformation in the pastoral ministry, The Desiring God Conference for Pastors is a gathering of church leaders for serious thought, honest discussion, and earnest prayer concerning crucial Biblical teachings in historical and contemporary perspective. The aims of the conference each year are:

  • Theology: To stir up consideration of the Biblical truths that Puritans liked to call the "doctrines of grace."
  • Encouragement: To revive the spirit of the downcast and strengthen each other's hands in the work of the gospel.
  • Preaching: To promote earnest, powerful preaching that inspires in God's people a love for the truth and a life of obedience.
  • Missions: To advance the cause of frontier missions through the incentives of sovereign grace.
  • Worship: To promote God-centered, Bible-based, heartfelt worship in the churches.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Sermon - Personal Spiritual Revival: Grace - Romans 3:21-26

I posted at my sermon from yesterday. It was a tough message to preach, as dealing with sin is a difficult topic. I think that churches and church members need to have an opportunity to get right with Jesus every so often. So since we're not Catholic (no confession), my church gets me telling them about sin and letting the Holy Spirit convicting where it is needed. It starts with the darkness of sin, and finishes with Grace. Grace is such a beautiful thing.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Franciscan Benediction

"May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done." - A Franciscan Benediction

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Newest multi-site church (well...almost!)

Crossroads Church of Cottage Grove, MN (and soon to be moving to Woodbury, MN! - photos of the new building) is becoming a multi-site church this September. Bridgepointe Covenant Church of Eagan, MN has agreed to turn over operations to Crossroads and to become a satellite campus of Crossroads Church. To complicate life, Crossroads is set to open a new facility in Woodbury, MN in December of 2008 as well! So a lot going on for Pastor Phil Print and crew. Starting as soon as August there will be teaching at Bridgepoint Church provided by Crossroads Church. The bulk of the teaching responsibilities will fall on my friend James Brown (yes, the REAL James Brown), with Phil Print and Brad Kindall also teach from time to time. The official launch of Crossroads Church - Eagan will be the weekend of September 28th. The plan is to launch with 2 worship services, and the idea is to have AT LEAST 300 people for the launch. So if you or your friends in the South Metro of Minneapolis/St. Paul are looking for a rock solid Evangelical church where Christ is glorified and worship ROCKS then give Crossroads a try!

To keep up with the progress of the Eagan campus of Crossroads click here and check back regularly. To keep up with Crossroads as a whole you can view Pastor Phil's Cyberupdate as well.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Perry Noble on praying for your pastor

Perry Noble, senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC., continues to bring forward the need for people to pray for their pastors. I've written on this before back in early April, but it is important enough to keep putting out there to remind people. Your pastors need your prayer, myself included.

Perry says:

I know, I know…seems a little self serving doesn’t it? Well…I make no apologies for that–we need your prayers. And yes, I know that every staff member needs prayer…but I will go ahead and say it…no one in the church–NO ONE–feels the spiritual, emotional and physical highs and lows like the senior pastor. Trust me!

With that in mind…let me share five things that I think all pastors need in regards to being prayed for…

#1 - Our Connection With God

Nothing is more important in a senior pastors life than his personal walk with God–nothing. This is where vision takes place–there is where God sets our hearts on fire like in Jeremiah 20:9. This is where PERSONAL conviction, correction and encouragement takes place…and the thing EVERYONE OF US NEED more than anything is to REMAIN IN HIM so that our ministry will be fruitful. (John 15:5)

#2 - Our Family

Going to be honest here…the pastors family goes through things that most pastors will not talk about in front of their church. There is usually constant pressure on the children. People expect his wife to be perfect. AND…what the family goes through spiritually is INTENSE. My wife usually has nightmares five or six nights a week. Charisse has often woke us up at night screaming. I could go on and on…but trust me on this one…if you want to BLESS your pastor–COVER his family in prayer!

Click HERE to read #3-5 on Perry's blog.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sermon Posted - 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - Read Your Bible

I have posted my sermon "Read Your Bible" based on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 over on our church's web site - It continues of the sermon series I have been preaching called "Personal Spiritual Revival".

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