Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friday Review. . . Ordering Your Private World

I recently read Ordering your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. Then I read it again.

I did not want to like this book, and I really didn't want to agree with it -- but I found too many phrases in it that struck way too close to home.
And those like me, who relied heavily upon our natural giftedness, would reach some high point early in our lives and, more than likely, trail off into averageness for the last half of our days on earth.
I am not by nature an organized person. I do not pick up things automatically. I do not finish things before I start something else. I am not good with details. I can easily forget things I've promised to do. And I can get easily distracted. I am a daydreamer (having a very rich imagination); I can be very playful; and I can fall effortlessly into the trap of trying to please everybody. As you can imagine, there was a lot that needed renovating here.
I really wish this man I have never met would stop writing about me so publicly.

There is already a good synopsis of the book on the web. So, I won't re-describe the five sections of the book.

I read this with a group of women, and we all got such different things from it that I am reluctant to say what it says; because that would only be what I took from it. What I will say is that it has brought home to me AGAIN that doing things for my reasons produces disaster. Ignoring God's commandments (like resting on the Sabbath) produces no fruit worth eating, and most importantly the lesson of Frank Laubach. The only way to walk peacefully and productively is to walk with God -- always.

If you find yourself tilting at windmills, running faster and faster and falling further behind, losing site of why you are doing what you do; read this book -- and then read it again.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Question . . . . Gut Check

This week's Monday question is thanks to Rev Bill
  • Am I listening to the voice of God?
  • Am I taking risks?
  • Am I understanding how big God is?
  • Am I surrounding myself with the right people?
  • Am I giving it my best?
Rev Bill got these from another web page, and they are labeled as gut checks for ministers. He points out, rightly, that they make a good gut check for all of us who follow God.

I do think I'm listening, but I'm spending way too much time creating inventive ways out of taking real risks.
Do I understand how big God is? I cannot imagine, but that doesn't stop me from wanting a God just big enough to buy my arguments and do exactly what I want.
The right people -- no. This question is way too timely.
Am I giving it my best? Oh, please. I'm not even going there.

How about you?


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunday Devotional - Need

Audio version here ... or here

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.(NIV)

Burden Bearer

I’ve almost completed John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” for the fifth time. I love the way Bunyan mixes the stories of Christian, the pilgrim, with verses and promises from the Bible. Page after page, the book overflows with words of encouragement and caution, inspiration and instruction. At one time, it used to be required reading in some schools. Sadly, a lot of people don’t know that it even exists.

John Bunyan was imprisoned for his faith, just like the apostles Peter and Paul from the New Testament era. In his day, preachers were required to obtain a license in order to preach the Gospel. Bunyan refused to do this and so he was treated as an antagonist. He went to jail several times, but he persevered in his faith.

Pilgrim’s Progress was mostly written during his times in prison. Being unable to preach on the outside of his captivity, he wrote the book to reach the hearts and minds of people that he never met. His book influenced more lives than his itinerant preaching ever did. His prose and poetry are almost Shakespearean. What began as a project to help him get through the tedium of being in prison became a vehicle for his faith to inspire the same in others. The book has been translated into many languages and it still touches the hearts and souls of thousands of Christians throughout the world today.

In today’s scripture passage, Peter emphasizes that God secures all that we need for life and promises an enrichment of godly knowledge, both of which enriches our hearts and souls. It reminded me of Bunyan because he lived a simple life, devoted to God and enhanced by faith.

In our rush to succeed and to obtain all that we Westerners can, we sometimes forget that life is for living and giving, not for getting and collecting. Perhaps if we enjoyed the simpler things of life, we would discover a brand of happiness, health, and hope that would completely satisfy our hearts and souls.

There’s an old chorus that perfectly sums up these thoughts:“He is all I need, He is all I need; Jesus is all I need. He is all I need, He is all I need; Jesus is all that I need.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we complicate our lives by surrounding ourselves with many possessions that end up possessing us. Help us to let go of the things we have, and to let God have a hold on us. Grant us the discernment and wisdom to dedicate our ways to You alone. You are all that we need. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the weekday devotional "Heaven's Highway" and also the Sunday prayers blog "Aaron's Beard." He also draws daily political cartoons at "Pushing the Envelope."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Review. . . . Mother Teresa's Dark Night

This morning published a review from Time magazine of a new book about Mother Teresa. Actually, if I understand correctly, it is taken directly from her letters to her Confessors. According to this book, Mother Teresa experienced the purest form of Dark Night for over 50 years. Essentially the entire time she was working in Calcutta she experienced no presence of Christ. This period, obviously, began after the amazing visions that began her ministry.

Here is a link to the review.,8599,1655415-1,00.html


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friday Review . . . Global Mission and Empty Nests

Ring member Quotidian Grace attended the Presbyterian Global Fellowship Conference last week and has posted a series of posts about the conference beginning on Friday August 17, 2007
Since most of us, presumably, did not have the opportunity to attend the conference, these short, well-written comments on the days' events are well worth the few minutes it takes to read through them.

Several of our member blogs have been writing about a more familiar adventure this week -- sending children off to college. Jane's Journey has a great story about college roommates -- oh, and Presbyterians.


Saturday, August 18, 2007


John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (NIV)

I was having an interesting discussion the other day about church with a long time member. This person volunteers three days a week for a special organization because he wants to do something that makes a difference in the world. He doesn’t feel that organized religion can supply his personal needs to be doing something meaningful. Somewhere along his spiritual journey, his attitude about church has become detached. I listened carefully to what he was saying and tried to understand his dilemma. He wants his church to make a difference in the world, but he can’t see that what we are presently doing accomplishes that goal.

I think that what he was expressing is something that many people feel about church today. It’s an institutional monster which constantly needs fed to maintain buildings, ministries, and missions. There’s nothing exciting about giving money to fix a wall or sending money to other religious institutions. There’s nothing dynamic about maintaining ecclesiastical cisterns and pipes, rooms and roofs that constantly need attention. If you think that church is just a religious business or commercial caring center, then you may indeed lose any sense of relevance that is has. If all that we are doing in church is oiling the machinery of ministry and keeping the momentum for mission support going, then there is no meaning or purpose. We are just collecting dollars in order to spend them. We’re just recycling money in a religious way.

But what is the purpose of the church? Is it to make an impact on the community, so that life on earth is better? If that’s the case, then we’re no different from all the other philanthropic clubs, organizations, and foundations in our community. We may as well merge with other compassionate associations that promote the well-being of the community. Church life would be no different and church membership would just be like joining a club.

Yet there is a difference. All those clubs, organizations, and foundations will eventually diminish and fade away. The church goes on into eternity. Where we have made a difference in the world is preparing people to meet their Maker, is in helping others to get into God’s Kingdom. Our churches, ministries and missions are vehicles for one eternal and everlasting purpose: to bring people to Christ and to help them find salvation for their souls. At the end of history, when all of humanity is judged, it will not be the amount of philanthropic organizations that we have financed, joined or helped that will save us; it will be our sincere belief in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God who forgives our sins and saves our souls, that will be of the utmost and eternal importance.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there are many good causes in our community that need our time, talents, and treasures of support. They specialize in making a difference in the world for those who are helpless, powerless, and in great need. Your churches are in the same business, yet they are called to have an impact, not just in today’s world, but throughout all of eternity. Give us a better understanding of why our churches exist, what we are supposed to do, and how we can expand, extend, and enhance Your ministry and mission in the world. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Review . . . Found at Kairos Blog

Ok, so today's post on Kairos blog, although fascinating, probably wouldn't get a mention here by itself. (Kairos is trying to choose a new cell phone). However, scrolling back a few entries produces a couple of very interesting posts. The first is dated May 31 (ok, so I'm slow) and is titled, Media Portrayal of Religious Voices. It includes a graph showing the 10 most prominent conservative and progressive religious leaders in terms of media coverage. When talking to people outside the church, it is good to be reminded what church related voices they hear the most.

The post before that is called True Love Waits. . . ? This discusses an article at Slate called Even Evangelical Teens Do It. In turn, this article discusses a book written by a Professor of Sociology at UT-Austin called Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers. This is a look at sexual beliefs, activity and when and why beliefs stop controlling actions that focuses specifically on American teenagers within the context of their religious beliefs.

Just a little something different from around the Blogring.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Monday Question . . . Bookshelf

Ok, a question from me for a change.

If you could get every member of your congregation to read one book -- what would it be?

I will start by offering Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart. Although, I must qualify this by saying that virtually my church's entire active membership read the Bible cover to cover earlier this year.

Anyone else?


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Review. . . The Leadership Summit

Ok, this is late. Sorry, but I had to stop by the office on my way home. Home from where? I'm so glad you asked. I have spent today, yesterday and will spend half the day tomorrow at a satellite location for the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. Now, anything Willow Creek is not going to be terribly Presbyterian; but so far we have had two Presbyterian speakers. Today we had John Ortburg from Menlo Park, and yesterday we had a New York minister who must have been Presbyterian. He spent several years in the U.S. House of Representatives and said he was never afraid of losing an election -- because God had elected him first. I don't think most of the Baptists got it. . . . then again, I'm not completely sure the speaker got it. . . .

Ok, the Conference. The schedule was:
  • Bill Hybles, Vision to Die For;
  • Carly Fiorina, Tough Choices;
  • Floyd H. Flake, The Heat of Responsibility;
  • Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work;
  • Michael E. Porter, Strategy and Leadership;
  • Colin Powell, Leading at the Highest Level;
  • John Ortberg, A Leader's Greatest Fear;
  • Richard Curtis, Living for the Greater Good;
  • Jimmy Carter, Building Humanity; and
  • Bill Hybels, Whatever You Do, Inspire Me!.
Jimmy Carter starts tomorrow. So, I haven't heard him yet. Several of the others were worth the price of admission by themselves. Granted, I was at a satellite location, not the live venue; and I was there on a bought way in advance in quantity for cheapest possible amount ticket.

John Ortberg basically preached a sermon on the Book of Esther that was so good I was trying to figure out if I could afford to live in a box under a bridge in Menlo Park when I discovered that his sermons are on his church's web page.

Marcus Buckingham teaches a way of focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. The message was good. The presentation was wonderful. Michael Porter is a Harvard business professor who is an expert on strategic planning. He made a number of excellent points about focusing mission projects where the church's resources and strengths lie, focusing on maximizing the value that you produce, setting clear goals and making sure that your strategy for reaching those goals is sustainable. The weakness in the presentation was that he focuses exclusively on the perspective of a Ph.D. in finance. Nonetheless, the presentation was very valuable. Richard Curtis is a filmmaker who has used his vocation to raise incredible amounts of money for charitable relief in Africa. Those were my favorite presenters so far.

Any discussion of the speakers doesn't convey the atmosphere. I don't generally care for contemporary worship, but there were a number of aspects to the music and worship interspersed among the speakers that were intensely memorable. Assuming that my church buys seats in bulk again next year, I plan to go again. If nothing else, it is interesting to consider church work as leadership in the same way that CEO's lead corporations and Generals lead armies.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Monday Question of the Week . . . Google

I love it when we get emails with suggestions for Monday's Question. Here is the lastest from the mail room.


I have blogged in an effort to find out how other churches use the web to their advantage for things like google searches.

My question for the group would come out of the same notion of using the freeness
of the internet (i.e. searches) to drive people to your website?

God Bless,

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sunday Devotional - Would Christianity Survive without the Bible?

Colossians 2:17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Someone recently posed the question: could Christianity survive without the Bible? That’s a tough question to answer. For three thousand years, God’s people have looked to the sacred scriptures to build a foundation of faith and tradition in order to give their lives meaning and purpose.

The stories of the Bible have become timeless examples of how ordinary people overcome their troubles in extraordinary ways. How solid would our faith be without the heroic exploits of Noah and his ark; of Joseph and his brothers; of Daniel in the lions’ den? These ancient tales of faith have inspired generations of God’s people in every country and culture throughout the earth.

But what if the Bible suddenly disappeared from our world? What would happen if we as Christians could no longer read the Gospels? What would our faith become? Could it survive?

If we look back to the faith of the first Christians, we come across an amazing fact: they didn’t have any scriptures to sustain their beliefs. The Gospels were written thirty years after the Church was established. The Old Testament wasn’t canonized in its present form until AD93. This must mean that the first Christians established their faith on maintaining their relationship with Christ. Their reality of faith depended upon their connection to His Spirit and not to words written on a scroll of papyrus.

I’m not advocating that we do away with the Bible. It is very important as a guide book for how we ought to live our lives, but in the end it will not be our knowledge of scripture that will get us into heaven. It will be our living, day-to-day relationship with Christ that will secure our salvation. He is the Eternal Word of God – the true Word that is alive, dynamic, and everlasting. Jesus is not someone who is confined to the pages of history, nor is He a mere character in a holy book. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, in whom our faith abides and through whom Christianity survives.

The scriptures are a shadow of the things that were to come, and as Paul would say, “the reality, however, is found in Christ.”Books will one day turn to dust, and even our computers will become redundant and decay, but the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, will never pass away.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for the scriptures and for the many things with which they teach us about You, about Your messages, and about Your mighty deeds. These sacred words bring us closer to You, but they are not the source of our salvation. Only Your Spirit can connect us to God; only Your power can restore us to His favor. Enable us this day to grow closer to You in prayer, in devotion, and in service. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Stushie writes week day devotionals at the Heaven's Highway blog.