Friday, November 30, 2007

UnChristian--What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity

The Barna group released in October 2007 a new book by David Kinnaman entitled: UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity . . . And Why it Matters.

The title is rather provocative. At first glance at "UnChristian," you might think that it is a book that talks about the "UnChristian" world (non-Christians), and that our world is going further away from God. But in fact, the book shows how young adults believe that the church is moving away from Christ and his values.

The 18-29 year old age group that was surveyed gave these negative impressions about the church:
- antihomosexual
- judgmental
- hypocritical
- too involved in politics
- out of touch with reality
- old-fashioned
- insensitive to others
- boring
- not accepting of other faiths

We need to digest these findings, and seek to learn from them. Jesus certainly did not seem to be viewed as anti any person, judmental, hypocritical, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, old-fashioned, insentivie to others, or boring. The fact is, we are at times probably guilty of these as charged. Obviously, we still must take stands against immorality, and Jesus himself said that he was the only way to the father. We need, however, to uphold these truths in a loving way that does not feed into stereotypes.

It struck me that most all of these negative perceptions can be changed if we will just serve people and the community. A church that is helping the community and changing lives is not irrelevant. Who really cares about being "old fashioned," if these things are being done? A church that loves and cares for those with AIDS will lessen charges of being judgmental. And the church that serves will well stand up against any other "faith."

Jesus said that he did not come to be served, but to serve. Maybe that is why people were so drawn to him. If we want to reach the world today, we must serve our community and those around us.

Which of these negative impressions do you think are most valid? Which do you think are the least valid?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Have your kids ever done this?

Tonight, Emily, our three year old, said to Gina, our six year old, "You've been mean to me all day."

Gina replied, "That hurt my feelings."

So Emily hit her.

I would not suggest this as a way to resolve conflict! :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our New Worship Projector Is Just In, and It is Incredible

Dennis, our associate minister, walked back to the office a few minutes and asked Judy and I, "Do you want to see it?" By see it, he meant see the new worship projector.

Judy and I walked in and saw the new projector, and we were blown away. We have suffered through a horribly poor projector for some time now. Our auditorium is flooded with ambient light, with the sun shining brightly through the glass that is behind the projector. It is difficult therefore to get a projector that is bright enough so that the image is not washed out. But this new projector does the trick.

For those of you who worship with us, you will be amazed on Sunday how good the images are. The colors are rich, the pictures are bright and crisp, and the slides for songs are very readable. Old and young alike are going to love this new projector.

In our image rich, postmodern society, having great, inspiring imagery is important. We have tried to really expand our outreach budgets in recent years, and rightly so. But this was an upgrade that was long overdue, and one that should help us connect better and worship more fully, being inspired. Trust me. You won't be disappointed on Sunday.

What kind of worship images inspire and touch you--creation? crosses and crowns? church community? abstract?

Twenty Baptisms this year, with several more in Bible studies

God has greatly blessed us as a church this year with many new converts. We have had 20 baptisms, with 13 of these coming from the community. These have included lower and middle class, white and African-American, people who have been law-abiding and those who have turned their lives around, people with health and those suffering from major illness. I am excited not only about reaching people in the community, but about reaching people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. God is at work!

Yesterday I told you about a young mother whom Becki had visited who was interested in studying. Last night, I went with Becki to meet her, and this visit went great. She invited us in, and was very open and friendly. We will begin studying with her next week, going through The Story of Redemption. I am thrilled! Seeing people come to know God and learn of his great love for them is one of the great joys of my life. Almost everyone who goes through this study, which tells the story of God's love for us, decides to follow Christ and is baptized.

We have several others who are in study right now as well, and others that we are seeking to set up. We will also invite those that we are helping in our Children's Outreach Ministry at Thanksgiving and Christmas to participate in a Bible study. There are 27 families that we are helping, with 101 children, so this represents a great opportunity.

Please be praying for these efforts! We want to show people that we care about them in every way--financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Will you do this for us? We believe in the power of prayer!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Just ask--many people are interested in God

One of the stories I didn't get a chance to tell yet involves my wife. We have had an older couple visiting with us for a couple of months who recently moved to this area. They had talked with a young, single mother who is one of their neighbors about coming and worshiping with us. So my wife, Becki, went to visit her with another woman from our church, a recent convert, Tracy.

Becki had only the name of the older couple as a point of connection with this young mother. But she is charming, and the mother was very friendly and receptive. It turns out that she has a nominal Catholic background, but isn't really sure what she believes. Tracy, the new convert, was able to talk about how she didn't really know what she believed either before studying with us. In fact, when she first came to worship with us, her child had pointed to me and asked, "Is that man God?" This young mother connected with this story.

Becki asked her if she would like to have a Bible study, and she said that she would. Amazing. Here is a visitor who talks with a neighbor who agrees to a Bible study from a first time visit. God is at work! People today are so starved spiritually, that they are much more interested in learning more about God. I hear from church planters that even things such as door knocking are becoming more effective again due to this hunger. Obviously, having some kind of relational connection is best. But this does not always have to be strong, as this story shows. Even just living in the same neighborhood may be enough of a commonality to make a connection with people and begin a study.

Please pray for Becki and I as we seek to follow up with this young mother, to study with her and to bless her life as much as we can. And don't forget to ask people that you know at work or in your neighborhood about God. They may be very interested, if we will only say something about our faith and engage them in conversation.

One great question to ask is, If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

A Spiritual Fitness Plan

Hope you guys had a great Thanksgiving. Ours went well--lots of good food, the kids played together well, and people enjoyed one another. Prior to getting together, my brother had told me how he had been working out 10 hours a day. I was impressed. He said that he watched almost no television, which allowed him this time to work out. And he is now in great shape.

This spurred me on to thinking about starting to work out again. I thought about it. Then the moment passed, and I felt a lot better. :) Seriously, I need to start this up again on a regular basis.

Most especially, though, we need Spiritual fitness. Here is a Spiritual fitness plan.

1. Exercise--Use your Spiritual gifts that God has given you. Paul says, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us" (Rom. 12:6). If you feel spiritually flabby, it might be because you are not using your Spiritual gifts. These gifts are given to us as a grace--a free gift and a blessing to us, to the body of Christ, and to the world. Paul says that if you have a gift, you need to use it. I spend time with people, trying to help them discover and use their gifts for God. It is amazing some of the positive changes and joy this brings into people's lives. All of a sudden, God is all around them.

2. Eat a balanced diet--The Christian faith consists of fellowship, discipleship, evangelism, service, and worship. Many Christians only take in a diet of worship. Even the most perfect food group, if eaten to exclusion, will leave us weak and sick. Do you feel disconnected at church? Who are you eating with? Do you feel your life lacks meaning? Who are you trying to serve? Do you struggle with materialism and selfishness? How are you trying to share your faith with? These are questions that I must ask myself when I feel Spiritually weak.

3. Get a workout partner--I stink at working out alone. I have good intentions, but then work and life happen and exercise does not. Most people who consistently exercise have a workout partner. The same is true spiritually. If we try living the Christian faith and practicing Christian disciplines alone, we usually do a poor job. Find a couple of Christian friends to get together with on a weekly basis. Share what you have read in Scripture that week, who you have tried to bless, and who you are trying to share your faith with. Are you doing these on a weekly basis? If not, it may be because you have no one who encourages you or to whom you are (lovingly) accountable.

Try this Spiritual workout plan for three months, and see if you don't see some "results" in your Spiritual shape right away.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Off For Thanksgiving

Hey guys. We are off for Thanksgiving, and I'm taking a break on email right now. So if you sent me a message in the last couple of days, I just wanted to let you know that I probably haven't received it. We'll head back to Liberty on Saturday.

At our Thanksgiving, we eat ham, not turkey. I know, kind of non-traditional, but we just like a great ham better. I'll be watching some games during the holiday, as usual. Go Cowboys! Go Longhorns!

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Liberty Church now helping 96 children during Holidays

Judy, who is part of the Children's Outreach ministry, has informed me that the number of children that we will be helping at Thanksgiving and Christmas with food and gifts has increased to 96 children. Many have been very appreciative. What a great opportunity to show God's love.

If anyone would like to make a financial contribution to this great work, you can go to our website at Scroll down to the bottom of the opening page to the "e-giving" icon. Or, here is the direct link:

Let us also pray that we have an opportunity to share the gospel with many of these families.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A-Rod and his millions

It is pretty easy to pick on public figures, and as a preacher, I try not to pick such low lying fruit very often. Most of these celebrities don't know God, so it should not be surprising when they act in ungodly or insane ways.

The A-rod story, however, has been hard to avoid. Alex Rodriquez signed a $250 million dollar contract with my Texas Rangers. He was traded a few years later to the New York Yankes because of disgruntlement. And worst of all, the Rangers subsided his contract. They paid the Yankees $7 million per year for a player that they no longer had. I cannot think of many things in the sports world more horrible than subsidizing the evil empire!

A-Rod had a clause in his contract that let him opt out after seven years. He chose to do this, which thankfully let the Rangers off the hook for the subsidy they owed the Yankees. I loved that part of it. But he opted out for--get this--more money. His agent, Scott Boras, who is rightfully villified, told the Yankees that they had to put up $350 MILLION DOLLARS!! just to get an opportunity to come to the negotiating table. Boras announced A-rod's opting out of his contract during the World Series, seeking to upstage the game. Definitely bad taste.

I am one that understands wanting to feel respected. And even if a guy is making milliions, if he is doing the same job but someone is making three times as much, well, all things being considered, you might start to wonder if you were really valued. I know it is hard to imagine feeling this way, since most of us will never come close to making anything near that of a professional baseball player. But for people in third world countries, they probably don't understand how anyone living in America could feel slighted. This is why salary with these guys is often more about feeling respected than it is money.

But A-rod was already the highest paid player in baseball--by far!--when he opted out. Despite having the respect that comes from being the highest paid player in the game, he still wanted more. And much, much more. All I can say at this point is, when you make the most of any one around by far, and you are demanding more, this is greed. Pure and simple.

It seems, however, that now A-rod is having a change of heart. He now wants to come back with the Yankees, who had written him off. Without the subsidy, and after his demands, they didn't want him. But now he is indicating that he is willing to take a pay cut. See the story.

It seems that A-Rod didn't like the fallout from his public negotiations. Maybe he does care whether or not people think he is a totally greedy dude. Or maybe the other teams took a look at him and said, we don't want this guy on our team, and he wasn't going to get his payday. I hope it was a change of heart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Gift of Knowledge Testimonial

I had planned to post yesterday--a lot of great ministry things to share--but I ran out of time. Alas, Judy (our secretary) and I both bemoan the shortness of days. We have so much that we want to get done and do for the Lord. We both have that "Achiever" strength. I'll try to remember these things to post later today or later in the week.

Today I'm highlighting another gift, the gift of Knowledge. Here is the definition and two "testimonials" of how people have used this gift.

Knowledge— This gift equips one to discover and understand the Scriptures and biblical concepts that help people acknowledge God and follow his ways. An example of leading through knowledge would be having insight into some biblical truth (2 Tim. 2:7) and then sharing this insight with someone or living it out in one’s own life.


Danny, married, father of two young children--"The gift of Knowledge is certainly one of the gifts I enjoy using most. Research is one of my passions, especially when it comes to something I'm truly interested in. Recently I have enjoyed some success in the application of knowledge garnered from the Bible in the pursuit of a healthier way of living.

I turned to a book entitled What The Bible Says About Healthy Living by Rex Russell, M.D. As the title suggested, it was packed with Scripture references that revealed what our Creator has to say about what foods we should put into our bodies. After researching these Scriptures I realized what I probably knew all along - that God knows what's best for our bodies. After all, he's the one who designed us. As Dr. Russell suggested in his book, I tried to apply three principles to help me when it comes time to decide what to eat. So what's the result of all my new found knowledge? Well, I've lost 15 pounds in about three weeks! I've also experienced a noticeable increase in energy."

Wilburta, Christian writer, married, mother of several grown children, elder’s wife--"As a writer one of my favorite activities is research, especially within the Bible. God’s fulfilled promises are extremely comforting to me. Being able to relate those to Christian friends who are in trouble or express doubts is a real blessing for them and for me.
Being able to sit down and teach someone who is basically biblically illiterate and watch them come to the realization that God planned the demonstration of his love for us from the very beginning is one of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced.
I belong to numerous online discussion groups that cover many areas of interest. I often have opportunity to contribute quotes from Scripture and it amazes me how many people know of the godhead, but who have no clue who God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit truly are and what that means to them as an individual. Sharing my knowledge through my day-to-day relationships and through my writing is one of my primary goals as a Christian."

Do you have this gift or know someone who has this gift? Do these testimonials correspond with what you know of people with this gift?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Gift of Faith Testimonial

I wanted to introduce you to a wonderful person named James from our church. James lived a life in his youth that was far away from God. He came down with a disease during this time that is terminal. He lives at home, with his mother, who takes care of him and loves him dearly.

About eight months ago, we got to know James and his family. His mother is not only taking care of him, but also raising four grandchildren by herself. One of the grandkids played on a basketball team with the son of one of our elders. This is also a family that we helped with our "Children's Outreach Ministry," which provides school supplies, meals, clothing, and gifts at holiday times. (see previous post) Through these contacts, we were able to have Bible studies with the whole family. All six of them--the grandmother, the mother, and the four grandchildren, went through The Story of Redemption and were baptized into Christ. Praise God! I continue to meet and study with the whole family each week, which is a blessing. They are now reaching out to others, both their neighbors and also the boyfriend of one of the grandchildren.

I asked James to write about his gift of Faith to share with others. Listen to his wonderful story.

James, 30s, single, African-American, Suffering from illness--"I believe that my faith has caused me to live this long. Thirty-seven years is a short time; however, I feel as if I’ve lived long enough to say that my faith has brought me thus this far. I will be quick to say that my life hasn’t been without sin, but thanks be to Jesus Christ and his ever forgiving heart, I found joy in my new life and Christian friends and a church.

Once upon a time I was very sick and in the hospital and the doctor said that I had less than six months to live. That was a year ago. Thank you Jesus Christ. I am really blessed to have such a wonderful mother like I have (who helps me through these times). I thank God for her and her perpetual lovingness."
Can you better understand this gift of Faith through James' eyes?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Liberty Church Helping 83 children at Thanksgiving and Christmas

Our Childrens' Outreach Team tells me that we will be providing Thanksgiving meals and Christmas presents for 83 children this Holiday. Twenty-three of these families will be from the community, and seven will be from our congregation. Praise God!

Our children's outreach begins in the fall, as we provide backpacks and school supplies for 100-200 children. Then we follow-up with certain of these families, providing them with love and financial help during the Holidays, at Easter, and at VBS. The goal is to help people who are in need, to show people God's love, and to hopefully cause people to wonder why we would love and serve them so many times. This can lead to a sharing of our faith and Bible study.

Please be praying for this ministry!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

US House approves a ban barring discrimination against hiring homosexuals

The US House recently approved a bill that makes it illegal for employers to not hire or fire someone based upon their "sexual orientation." A clause exempts religious organizations from this bill. See the following story in the NY Times.

Frankly, I'm not quite sure what to make of this bill. Certainly, it is a sign that times have changed. Gay rights activists have been seeking the passage of a law barring discrimination against the hiring of homosexuals since the 1970s. The fact that this bill now has a chance of passing both houses of Congress marks a significant turning point in our country on this issue. Clearly, homosexuality has become much more acceptable.

There are definite limits on what the law can and should do to enforce morality. If a majority of the people are not in support of a law, it is largely unenforcable. And I do not think that the way that the church changes the world is by forcing people to be moral. It simply cannot and will not change hearts, and likely will have little affect on behavior.

On the other hand, forcing someone to hire a person whom they believe is living an immoral lifestyle is quite a different thing. Certainly, it would seem that allowing people to include moral issues on some level in hiring would be reasonable.

But are not many non-Christians living some type of blatantly immoral life? We do not seem to mind hiring someone who gets drunk periodically or who lies habitually or who is greedy. Are we not in danger of singling out one sin? If not, then what makes this sin different?

I am still wrestling a bit with this issue, so I would welcome your thoughts.

The Gift of Encouragement Testimonial

One of our members, Kim, said that she enjoyed reading the testimoials about how people have used the gift of service, and she said that she could see herself doing these things. This is indeed how we learn about the Christian faith--by intersecting with, hearing about, being inspired by, and imitating the stories of others. For instance, we best learn about faith from learning the story of Abraham's faith.

Well, here is another group of testimonials on another gift, the gift of Encouragement. These are real, live people who are using their gifts for God. See if you can see yourself in the stories about this gift.

EncouragementThis gift equips one to "lift the spirits" of a person, positively affirm someone’s ability, or strongly urge someone to take some action for God. An example of someone leading through encouragement would be seeing potential in someone and calling on him or her to use this potential (Acts 11:23).

Roger D., Programming Project Manager, Shepherd, married, father of three--"I love to encourage people. It is something that I rarely tire of and feel so plugged in to God when I’m exercising this gift.
I have encouraged many young people who are serving God in various ways to keep up the good work by giving them a pat on the back and by helping them grow by kindly suggesting ways to improve. There was one young man a few years back who led a devotional talk at our house for the youth group. He was nervous about leading the devo, but he did a fabulous job. The lesson was well thought out and was very meaningful to the kids there that night. I encouraged the young man to keep putting forth that kind of preparation in to his lessons. I also encouraged him to be more of a leader in the youth group.
I have helped fellow employees overcome struggles they have had to deal with by listening to them and showing that I care about them. I have tried to encourage long-time Christians who have been struggling with their faith to not lose hope. We have so much to look forward to!"

Adrienne T., Communication Arts Educator, member, married, mother of one--"Taking inspiration from The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I have come to the understanding that you give what you need. I need encouragement, so I give encouragement. As God has added blessings to my life, my avenues of outreach through encouragement have also grown.
The demands of my career can be tremendous at times. I have found that when I extend my gift of encouraging to my students and colleagues as they face the same perils through kind words, respect, and actions that it makes their jobs easier. Each week, I send out a positive postcard to a student. Some weeks are simple, ‘You are an excellent role model for your peers,’ or ‘I can always count on you to make good choices when it comes to time management.’ The positive feeling comes back to me when they return to class on Monday thanking me for the postcard they received."

Dianne M., married, mother of two grown children, minister’s wife--"When our sons were growing up I tried to instill in them an awareness to find the talents and gifts that God had given them. I made suggestions that they try different things in school according to what they thought their strengths and abilities were. At those times when they felt inadequate or were lacking confidence in their abilities, instead of focusing on the negative, I would reinforce all the positive attributes that they possessed. Even now as adults, I find that I am still commending them on their successes, trying to uplift them during various trials, and supporting them.
Another way in which a Christian sister and I have been encouraging others, is through our ‘cookie ministry.’ We try several times a month to visit the sick, the elderly, a new visitor, or someone who just needs some encouragement. During our time together we try to let people know how much they are appreciated and thought of. Perhaps it is a kind word, sitting by their bed, a hug, a service offered or just being someone who will listen and to reaffirm to them how valuable they are to us."

Did you find these helpful in understanding what the gift of Encouragement is?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Gift of Service Testimonial

Here is a definition of another Spiritual gift, the gift of Service. There are also two testimonials on how people have used this gift. One is from one of my wife's dear friends, Janet, gift, and another is from one of our members, Katie.

Service— This gift equips one to do practical jobs that others may deem to be tedious or beneath them, but that actually are very much needed to be done. This gift is to be distinguished from helping by its focus on tasks, not people. An example of leading through service is cleaning the church building, sharpening pencils for the pews, or folding bulletins (Jn. 13:3-5).


Janet S., married, judge, mother of one--"I would rather work behind the scenes than in front. While I would not want to be in charge of Vacation Bible School, I enjoy assisting the kids in class and cutting out crafts. I like the library work nights at church where a group of us sit, visit , and work on updating the church library.

I had a friend last year who was in a coma. I went to the hospital and read to her several times a week. I was sure that she knew when someone was there and could hear us. I just wanted to do whatever I could for her. Reading to her was the only thing I could come up with. A year later, she has passed away but her husband still mentions what I did. It was a small act of service but obviously appreciated by the family.

I think that family, friends, and co-workers appreciate it when you help out by doing things for them. It may not be spectacular and I may not get an award for it, but I know my son appreciates clean clothes in his drawer each week. If my clerk is busy, she appreciates it when I take a file up front to the clerk's office for her. Hopefully, God's light can shine when we do these simple things."


Katie D., Stay at Home Mom, Mother of two small children--With two small children at home, it can be difficult to put as much time in serving God as I would like. However, there are always tasks that can be done to glorify God. There are many ways to serve. Lately, I have enjoyed cooking meals once per month for some non-members that are having severe health problems. I also enjoy serving on the food committee and preparing food for church members in need.

Participating in projects for the Children's [Outreach] Ministry is also fulfilling. Organizing food boxes for Thanksgiving, distributing school supplies, and wrapping presents and delivering them have helped me fulfill my desire to serve God.

Do you have the gift of Service? How have you used this gift?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spiritual Gifts Testimonials - The Gift of Wisdom

I am pretty excited right now about a project I have been working on. For the past two years or so, we have been promoting a Strengths and Spiritual gifts culture here at Liberty. We are encouraging people to discover these Strengths and Spiritual gifts, so that they can take ownership of them and serve God and his mission more fully. Our goal is also to help people to see that all of their lives are to be given up towards God.

For the past couple of months I have been going back and doing a more thorough biblical study and write-up of each Spiritual gift. And the last couple of weeks I began asking certain people who have a particular to share how they have used this gift so that others can see how to use this gift as well. This "testimonial" type of learning is powerful and effective, particularly in today's postmodern culture. There is nothing like this out there in the published world, so I am excited about creating a new, helpful tool for individuals and churches.
Below is a definition of one of the Spiritual gifts, the gift of Wisdom, and one member's testimony as to how she has used this gift.

Wisdom— This gift equips one to know how to apply knowledge or learning to a particular situation. An example of leading through wisdom is correctly choosing the right course of action (1 Kings 3:16-29).
Brandy M., College Student--"There are many people in my life, Christians and non-Christians, that come to me for advice when facing a difficult decision or time in their lives. I had a friend who needed advice about an abusive relationship she was in. I helped her look for a job, and get things straightened out so she could get back on her feet for her and her daughter.
I've always been there to listen, and I try to give the best Christian advice to them that I can. I try to live my life in a way that people my age with whom I interact can see that I'm a Christian. That can be very hard in this day and age to be a 20-something and have negative pressures and influences around you that comes with this age group. Having someone to relate to can make a huge difference.

It wasn't long ago when I graduated from high school, and thought I knew everything. I was trying to find out who I was, and I made a lot of bad calls. I think now I'm in a good spot in my life, and I've repaired a lot of damage with the help of God. Even though some of those things weren't good, I am glad I went through them, if it means that I can help someone else through them and maybe even show them Christ."
How do you like the testimonial format?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Becki's tests came up negative

Becki had a CT scan and blood work done in relation to her blackout, and the results have come back negative. The good news is nothing serious was found. Of course, we still don't know the cause of this--hopefully it is something that will not be repeated.

Thank you to everyone for your prayers, calls, and emails. Your support means a lot to us!


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Please pray for my wife, Becki

Hello friends and family. Last night, Becki went to the kitchen to take some medicine, and then she woke up on the floor. She blacked out and fell down and hit her head. She had some strange symptoms after this, and we stayed up most of the night.

Unfortunately all of the doctors at our clinic, including our doctor, are booked today. We will be going in to an urgent care clinic today to get this checked out. We pray that this is nothing serious, and we ask for your prayers as well.

Thank you for your love and support.