Saturday, June 28, 2008

Beach vacation

I just finished a great week of vacation at Daytona Beach with my wife and oldest daughter and her family (plus brief, overnight visits from two of our other kids). We stayed at the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort, which turned out to be an awesome place for our 3 grandkids (ages 6, 3, and 1). There's enough to keep you occupied at this hotel that you could almost get away with not going out on the beach.

But of course, we did spend many hours on the beach.

My favorite thing to do at the beach is get up under a beach umbrella, sit in a chair, and read a book. And doze off to sleep every now and then. When I get hot I go ride a few waves to cool off. This time, since our 3 grandkids were with us, I would often play with them in the waves or walk them down to the ice cream truck to get them an ice cream bar. It cost me $3 every time Tyler, Eben, or Tate talked me into buying them an ice cream bar. But I wouldn't care how much it cost, this was a highlight of the week for me! Granddads have to buy ice cream bars for their grandkids.

One of the books I read this week was Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog, by John Grogan. Grogan is a journalist who wrote this book about his yellow Labrador Retriever, Marley. It's a fun and easy read but breaks your heart at times and makes you want a dog...which is OUT OF THE QUESTION!!

(By the way, a movie based on this book will be coming out this Christmas. Also, Grogan maintains an interesting website that consists of his blog and readers' stories about their dogs. Dog lovers should visit that.)

I also spent some time reading commentaries on Ecclesiastes, which I'm going to be preaching through in July and August. You may think that's not something a minister should do on vacation, but truthfully I don't ordinarily get time to leisurely read commentaries, and I actually enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plant a sequoia

My friend Scott gave me a great phrase today. He said that in the church, what we are doing is planting sequoia trees. That is, we are building spiritually mature, Biblically informed, sanctified men, women, and children. But like sequoia trees, they don't start out that way. So you have to plant little saplings, be patient, and have a long-range vision. Meanwhile, do the little things that eventually result in a sequoia: teaching & preaching, care, love, mentoring, and so forth. As the prophet Zechariah put it, don't despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10).

The same can be said about parenting. Your goal is a strong, fruitful, healthy adult. But you have to plant a "sapling" and adjust your expectations while he or she grows. You can't get impatient and angry and resentful just because they're not sequoias yet. One day they will be. But for now, you have to do the slow, tedious work of discipline, love, and nourishment.

So, whether you're parenting a child or discipling somebody or leading a church, it helps to remember that you're planting a sequoia. Keep the end in view, but love people for who they are and where they are. It is God "who makes things grow" (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Back again

I've really been lazy about blogging lately. My excuse is that life has gotten a lot crazier since becoming the senior pastor of my church. But I'm back, and I'll try a little harder.

Of course, this assumes someone out there is actually reading this stuff.

Besides being lazy about blogging, I've been angry and upset about things happening in the world these days. Out of sight gas prices (I heard today gasoline may soon reach $6 a gallon)... stocks plunging... a presidential election I'm not excited about... friends getting cancer... dumb decisions in Washington... and many more such things have been getting me quite depressed.

But I'm preaching through the book of Acts, and I've noticed that the early Christians had it much worse that we do. I mean, we don't experience near the kind of religious persecution they did. We don't experience near the degree of marginalization and discrimination those 1st century believers did. They had it tough in so many ways. I haven't been stoned lately, have you?

Yet, for the most part (there were exceptions, like Ananias and Sapphira), the early Christians maintained their integrity. They kept their focus on God. They had a boldness about them that reveals an underlying spirit of optimism. They loved and served each other, and reached out to the lost. They didn't get all depressed and whiny. They seem to have stayed positive.

Why? I think it's because they were well established in their belief in the Kingdom.

Behavior is always rooted in ideas, and there's no better idea than the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God means his rule, reign, and dominion. Some people suggest that Kingdom is the unifying theme of the entire Bible, and I'm inclined to agree. When it comes to the book of Acts, I notice that Kingdom frames the whole book. In Acts 1:3, it says that Jesus spoke to his followers about the Kingdom of God. In Acts 28:31, it says that Paul preached the Kingdom of God. The book of Acts opens and closes on the note of Kingdom.

So maybe the early Christians were not blown away by the events of the day because they were persuaded Jesus was still on the throne. Plus, they remembered such Kingdom teaching in the Hebrew Scriptures as the following...
  • “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).
  • “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him” (Daniel 7:27).
  • “He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (Psalm 72:8, 11).
  • “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).
It's my thesis that the early Christians had a Kingdom confidence that we need today. I certainly need it.