Organic Church "Growing Faith Where Life Happens."

As I read this book, I was saturated in bittersweet emotion. Author, Neil Cole addresses the blunders of the institutionalized church in America and proposes a new strategy for life and growth. Being a Staff Pastor in an "institutionalized church", there were moments that this book left me grinding my teeth in frustration. Yet, I love the heart of the author. Church is not meant to be centralized to a certain location because the "church" is not a building. "We the people" are the church; the living and breathing doors, walls, windows, floors, ceilings. We essentially bring "church" wherever life happens. Life happens everywhere if you are alive; so take Jesus to Starbucks and plant a church. Take Jesus to the Ragu factory and start a church; to the bars, clubs, city hall, locker room, etc. You get the point. Jesus never intended for people to have to go to "church" to encounter His saving grace. In fact, He went to them. Furthermore, Jesus commanded His disciples to "GO" rather than stay.
Another interesting point that Cole elaborated on was that the modern church places far too much stock in, and has too much dependency on, its leaders (Pastors). In other words, people should not depend more on a Pastor for their spiritual growth than Jesus himself. Somehow people have been conditioned to rely on their "hired hand" for everything. This kind of church is like a ticking time bomb of failure. I am thankful that the body of believers (church) that I am a part of is not Pastor Dependent.
Some questions that I would pose to the author are the following; If these organic churches are sprouting up everywhere what kind of doctrinal accountability, if any, is mandated. What kind of pastoral accountability is in place? There were times that the book seemed to stereotype all "Western Churches." Is there anything that the "Western Church" is doing well?
As far as a recommendation goes, (as if my recommendation means anything) It's a good read and offers practical insight.
Notes From a Tilt-A-Whirl

I remember standing in a local Christian bookstore previewing this book. Before I had even realized it, twenty pages were devoured by my eyes. I couldn't help but to buy it. For starters, the title of this book is very appropriate. There are times when the author takes you on literary rides that equate to the madness of the Tilt-a-Whirl. Nevertheless, in the end it makes sense. Warning: You may feel dizzy at times. It isn't a good idea to eat, or have a tired mind, while experiencing this ride of a book. You might find that you need some Dramamine for the motion sickness.
Waiting so long to post on it really makes me crave reading it again. I fear that I will not do the book justice. It has been my favorite read this year. Wilson is genuine and raw. He is bold and holds no punches as He dances around in theological and philosophical rings. His writing flows like poetry; his words become like paintings in my mind. Wilson weaves, though not seamlessly, through topics from creation to death.
After reading this book I have found a new appreciation for "God's spoken word"; His creation. I have taken more time to notice and think about the little things. Yes, even molecules, atoms, and ants. I have found more beauty in the unattractive and I've embraced my role in the grand "stage" that God has built for all of us; earth. Put this one on your reading list! It's more than worth the paper it's written on!
The Death of the Gentleman
One has to wonder what happened to the lost way of the gentleman. Has it been diluted by the extreme feminist movement? Do women no longer want to be treated with respect or high-esteem? Do they view it as belittling to have doors opened and chairs pulled out for them? Could it be that men have reduced women down to objects of their own pleasure ranking them with the likes of an XBOX, car, or trophy? Is it possible that nowadays ladies like this kind of treatment? How about a combination? All of the above. Not only have men forgotten how to treat women, women have forgotten how they should be treated. Are you ready? Hold on, because down the slopes we go.
(Disclaimer: I'm not writing to argue. If you don't care about my opinions you have an open invitation to stop reading. I won't be offended; I promise.)
Recently, my wife has drawn my attention to this lack of the Gentlemen breed. (They have become a rare breed indeed.) Of course, it wasn't hard to notice it myself as the door going into Cheddars almost gave my wife's nose an uninvited reconstructive surgery. Can you believe this guy? I had already opened the first door. The "not so gentleman" was in front of us at the second door. We both falsely assumed that he would hold the door open. We were wrong and my wife's face almost paid the price.
We see this all too often. When expectations are lowered people will stoop to meet them. When they are raised most people will try to rise to the occasion. Why someone would settle in a relationship is beyond me. I mean this is the rest of your life you are talking about here, unless, of course, marriage and commitment are just disposable commodities like toilet paper. (Which is a whole other topic for a different day.)
The resolution? Perhaps a total paradigm shift in our thinking is in order. If you are a man, realize that just because you may act like a barnyard animal does not give you the freedom to treat others like they are just another pig in the pen. Have dignity. Have respect. Do not reduce women to objects but realize that like you, they are created by a Divine Creator; beautifully woven together as the spoken word of God. (God spoke us into existence. If you don't believe me, try and prove God wrong. The best you'll get is monkeys, bananas and evolution.) If you are a lady, don't settle for the barn yard animals. I know gentlemen are hard to come by these days but they do exist. Wait for him to sweep you off of your feet with chivalry that would make even the Knights of old look wimpy. Until that happens don't fall for the pigs, chickens or asses (that means donkeys for those who haven't read the KJV.) Pun intended? You decide.
That can't be all though and it certainly is not. We were created to love and fear God. If we don't have this relationship in order trying to cram the other square pegs into round holes won't work either. If you use excessive force you'll only damage the pegs or the board. Either way, it isn't pretty. Besides, there is an easier way of life and relationship. Jesus. Yet, you can't just try him on like a garment in a fitting room than discard him if you feel like he makes your butt look big. Sorry, Jesus is not Burger King; you really can't have it your way. I realize that it is easier to serve a genie in a Bible than to crucify our selves daily but reducing God to an ATM machine is horribly mistaken. The point of this rant is this, we can’t honestly expect fruitful relationships if we don’t first know the love that comes from a relationship with God. His love is a sacrificial, unconditional love.

Ephesians 5:22 “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” (“Submit” meaning support. Check the Greek context.)
Ephesians 5:25-27 “25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”

How can either of these biblical mandates happen if the parties involved do not know the love of Christ? They can’t. They won’t.

To conclude this madness I will offer my very own commitment to permanently ending the ways of the pig like man in me. It will be a struggle for sure; living selflessly always is. But a true gentleman is one that understands selfless love. Does Jesus deserve it? Absolutely! Does my wife deserve it? No question, and I will be the man (ahem) the gentleman to prove it!
Season Musings
I'll begin by painting my masterpiece on the canvas of silence that this blog has become. I've witnessed the life of two seasons since my last post. Spring gave birth to Summer and Summer has waned to Fall. I don't mind the apple cider and pumpkin pie; it's the turkey I'm holding out for. Seasons change with warning. I enjoyed the way the fall air reminded me this morning to wear a coat. I didn't listen.
We are no strangers to change; it happens. When I was in the Spring season of my life I had a favorite pair of Superman underwear. In my mind, dawning the brightly colored undergarments meant that I had truly become the man of steel. My imagination has seen it's winter since then and it's unfortunate. As with all things, even my underwear needed changing; I didn't like it. I didn't know enough to care about hygiene. The fallacy of my "underroos" became obvious when I refused to change them; I got spanked and it hurt! The power of Superman is no match for the power of Mom!
I do sense change in my own heart and I'm not threatened by it. Change is sometimes necessary to bring life again. If we never experienced the cease of Winter how could we know Spring? My heart and mind remain open to Gods conducting. He orchestrates the seasons and so He orchestrates my life.
Marinating Life
Steak is my favorite protein. I like it cooked medium rare smothered in sauteed onions and mushrooms; simply delicious. Put it all next to some mashed potatoes and green beans and you've got a great meal. A great steak starts with great seasoning and marinade. It's interesting how it works but the meat absorbs the flavors of each seasoning you put on it. What you put in comes out and the longer you allow the meat to marinade the more flavor you'll get.

Welcome to the Cosby Cooking Channel! Today we will be cooking New York Strip Steaks. On one of the steaks you place some salt, pepper, steak rub, and a little minced garlic. You place the steak in the bag and pour some marinade sauce of your choosing into the bag. Sound good yet?

It's time to prepare the other steak. We won't use any good seasonings or sauces to marinade this steak in. Instead we will use whatever we can find in the garbage can. Let's dig in and see what we can find; leftover spaghetti, half drunk Starbucks Frap, a dirty disinfectant cloth, a tenth of a bottle of Sprite, some pieces of paper and last weeks chili! Alright so we've got all our garbage to place in the bag with the steak. You'll need to let them sit for a few hours for the flavors to absorb into the meat. Fortunately, I've already done this before the show today so you won't have to wait to see the results.

Ok, our grill is fired up and ready to go. Let's pull our "good" steak out of the marinade bag and place it on the grill (sizzle, smoke). MMmmmm...yea that smells great! We'll just let that cook for a few minutes before we flip it. Ok, steak one is done! Doesn't that look fantastic? Alright, steak two going on the grill (sizzle, smoke) ughh...cough This steak doesn't even smell good. There is no way that it will taste good...Well folks there you have it. If you put garbage in you'll get garbage out! And now this steak is going into the trash. Thanks for tuning into the Cosby Cooking Channel I'll see ya next year "same Cosby time, same Cosby Channel."

We marinade our lives; what seasonings and sauces we us is up to us. Know that whatever you absorb will eventually come out. If you listen to, watch, read, think, and eat garbage you will being to smell like garbage. You will begin talk trash, think trashy thoughts, believe garbage truth, smell like garbage, look like garbage and live like garbage.

The challenge today; marinade yourself in Jesus! Bask in His Holy Presence. Absorb His filling word and believe His wholesome truth.
Are you ready for Dating?
A "Sure Shot" way to get any teenagers attention is to talk about sex, dating, or the end times. Combine the three topics and you'll have an interesting discussion to say the least. My goal is to provide a simple set of questions that anyone can ask themselves before entering into a dating relationship. I'll confess that I am not a relational guru by any means but I've learned a few things the hard way. Feel free to comment and add to list if you'd like.

Am I Ready? Questions to ask yourself.

-Have I prayed about it? (Philippians 4:6)
-Why do I want to be in a relationship? (Jeremiah 17:9)
-What do my parents/pastors have to say about it? (Proverbs 15:22)
-How is my relationship with God? (Mark 12:29-30)
-How is their relationship with God? (2 Corinthians 6:14)
-Do I know the person well enough?

Most would define dating as a "getting to know" type of relationship. In my opinion no one should date a person that they don't know. It saves a lot of heartache and trouble to date people, with whom, you already have a friendship with. I hope this helps!
Answering the Call to Die.
My heart has been ringing off of the hook. God has been attempting to reach me, to call me out of this mediocrity and into His abundance. I didn't want to answer but God always leaves a message...

A few months ago, I got the message. I needed change and I knew it. I needed something to get me out of the state of spiritual limbo that I was experiencing. I knew what God was asking me to do. I just wasn't ready to listen.

I went to a local Christian Bookstore to search for a new devotional. I heard from a friend that a new one had been released. I searched the "personal growth" aisles until I found it, "A Call to Die." I was excited. Maybe this would be what I needed.

I went home and quickly read through the Prologue. That was no problem. It was the introduction that issued the greatest challenge to me. Before I could progress in the book the author challenged me to sign a 40 day commitment. It was a commitment to fast the thing that was most distracting to me spiritually. Disappointed, I closed the book and placed it on my shelf.

My heart never stopped ringing. I could feel God tugging away at me; begging me to give Him everything I have to give. I fought, kicked, got angry, and finally broke down into tears. I decided in that moment to start a new journey and I answered the "Call to Die."

I am on Day 3 now and I can't express to you the joy that has filled my heart. I have a new motivation to love and serve. I have an increasing passion for Jesus. He is breathing His life into me as I slowly die to myself and carry this cross.

Mark 8:34 34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Winter Storm Warning!
I was sitting at my desk when it happened. A loud pop and it was lights out. A transformer had blown somewhere near our house and we were left in the dark. We were in the middle of what has turned out to be a devastating winter storm. It's been five days since we've had power at our house. It's cold, dark and quiet...too quiet. My wife and I venture back to our abode from time to time; still no power.
I'm not happy about the situation. A lot of the comforts of life have been ripped from under me. Yet, I am thankful for shelter, warmth, food in my stomach and loving people that have pulled together through this trying time. You see, our church has opened itself as a shelter for people seeking refuge. Along with a team of volunteers, I have been working around the clock trying to help however I can. Time doesn't move so slowly when you're keeping busy.
I've had the chance to meet and serve some very kind people; people from all walks of life. It's humbling to be one a hand reaching out in love to help another. I only hope that through all of this people have encountered love from a higher source; God's love. Though I am tired, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. If my power were on you would find me here at the shelter; cooking, cleaning, playing, serving, talking, and praying.
If you read this...please keep our city in prayer. There are people still out in the cold with no food and some without water.
A Fresh Look.
I've been pretty busy today revamping my blog. I hope you like it. If you don't like it please tolerate it for the sake of my feelings.

Last night our church hosted it's first "Leadership Summit" of 2009. We started having these summits in the Spring of 2008. I'll be the first to say that since then everything from hospitality to the worship ministry has stepped up to a new level of excellence. These meetings have served well in vision casting. Our Lead Pastor, Administrator and myself have the opportunity to encourage, critique and challenge the core of our church to do better in things we are lacking in. We also have the opportunity to communicate any sort of changes in our current plans. The "Leadership Summits" have been incredibly effective in bringing our church together in purpose, understanding, and vision. I can't wait to see what God does in 2009. One thing is for certain; I don't want a front row seat, you'll find me on the front line.

Now playing: Jars Of Clay - The Eleventh Hour
via FoxyTunes