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Posts from August 2010

4 - Grow Smaller to Grow Larger

It's a paradox of sorts.  In order to grow as a church (not just in numbers, but deeper and more healthy as believers) we must grow smaller.  It's in the large group that we can experience great things and worship.  It's in the small group that we can connect.

This is challenging for many.  Some fear entering into a small group Bible study.  Others have been burned in the past.  Still others have "fallen through the cracks."  These are unfortunate, yet do not discount the value and need for connecting in the small group.

Listen in and discover some of the benefits and challenges of small group ministry.

01 4 - Grow Smaller to Grow Larger

Voted Today! Apparently, I'm One of the Few

Voted this morning in our primary and local elections. Found out that by noon only 28 people had voted at my precinct.  What??

Amazing how many people complain about politics, politicians, and policies who don't vote.

Here in Clay County, it's primary elections and non-partisan school board and judge elections.

To me, the school board races are always vital, especially in our area.  We have a great superintendent and school board currently, but the need to keep people on the board who have conservative, family values and believe the local church is not a threat to schools, but can be an asset is important.  We have our satellite campus meeting in a local elementary school, so voting for school board is always key. I encourage all of you, if you haven't done so, to take the time today before 7pm and go vote.

BTW - after I voted my ballot wouldn't go through the counting machine (I almost called Scott Miller) but it was because they accidentally gave me two ballots. I thought that only happened in Chicago.

Do you still need help in knowing who to vote for?  Click here for local Clay County voters guides.  Click here for information on state elections.

Remember, these are just guides.  Take the information into consideration plus all you know about each candidate, party platform and the issues at hand.

Bottom line - Vote!

We're Moving Up - from #120 to #102

Last year the pre-season rankings of college football teams had my alma mater - the University of North Texas Mean Green (the mascot is an eagle, in case you wonder why we're a color.  Could be because Mean Joe Greene played there, but probably not) was ranked number 120.  That sounds better than last, but that is exactly what it was.  After a few years of winning the Sun Belt and going to the New Orleans Bowl, the Mean Green has fallen on hard times.  So, what did we do?  We hired a high school coach, Todd Dodge.

Dodge was incredible at Southlake Carroll High School as coach, but so far has had a hard time bringing that success to UNT.  

Last off season many Mean Greeners (yes, there are a lot out there) were calling for Dodge to be fired, but he has been retained.  He's an offensive genius (meaning - we can score 90 points a game, but we may give away 92.)  However, this year is his last chance, many believe.

The rankings just came out and lo and behold, we're moving up.  We are now number 102.  Now, for those who only look at the top ten, this may not seem like a big deal, but mark my words - one of these days folks will be talking about UNT the way they talk about Boise State and Utah now.  It's going to happen.  I may not be alive to see it, but it will.

This year the Mean Green get a new state of the art stadium.  They play some tough teams out of conference this year (Clemson, Rice, Army and Kansas State - and K-State is coming to Denton to play.  This is a big deal.)  Then, it's a full slate of Sun Belt action.

You gotta have faith.  

Here's our schedule.  I know all my friends in Florida care about this:

DateOpponentLocationTime (CST)ResultsMedia
  Sat, Sep 04 Clemsonat Clemson, SC  2:30 P.M.
  Sat, Sep 11 RiceDenton, TX  6:00 P.M.
  Sat, Sep 18 Armyat West Point, NY  11:00 A.M.
CBS College Sports 
  Sat, Sep 25 Florida Atlantic *at Boca Raton, FL  6:00 P.M.
  Sat, Oct 02 Louisiana-Lafayette *Denton, TX  6:30 P.M.
Sun Belt Network 
  Sat, Oct 09 Arkansas State *Denton, TX  6:00 P.M.
  Sat, Oct 16 FIU *Denton, TX  6:30 P.M.
Sun Belt Network 
  Sat, Oct 30 WKU *at Bowling Green, KY  2:00 P.M.
  Sat, Nov 06 Troy *Denton, TX  6:00 P.M.
  Sat, Nov 13 Middle Tennessee *at Murfreesboro, TN  2:30 P.M.
  Sat, Nov 20 ULM *at Monroe, LA  TBA
  Sat, Nov 27 Kansas StateDenton, TX  3:00 P.M.
* Conference Games

The Well - August 18, 2010

Ephesians 6:1-9

The passage about children obeying parents, fathers being good and slaves and masters understanding who the true Master is.

01 Ephesians 6_1-9

Oh, yeah, since you may not take the time to listen, I'll post a portion of what I shared regarding intergenerational ministry:

Ephesians 6

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3“that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

The students aren’t in here tonight and I was told we should have covered this last week, but we didn’t.  Does that mean we just skim through it?  No.

First – why does Paul address the children directly?

Because the presence of children in the church body was a given.  It was expected.  The church is a family therefore children were not relegated to back rooms or child-care facilities.  So, when mom and dad are challenged to love each other, the children hear it.  When children are instructed to obey, the parents hear it.  While I’m not yet ready to disassemble our age-graded ministries, there is something missing in the modern church by our continual division.

Do you know the ultimate reason that age groups are constantly divided in church?

The “right” answer is learning style and age-appropriateness.

The more accurate answer is selfishness.

We don’t like the same music, the same clothing styles.  We don’t understand each other.  There’s a diminished comfort level.  We can’t get fed and constantly worry about our kids.  Sometimes the worry is that our kids are being too loud and it’s not so much that they bother us, but we fear they bother those around us – and they do.  All parents have experienced those “looks” from others when their kids cry, get loud or have an episode.

No answer here for this just point out a reality.

Perhaps there’s more to Ephesians than what lies on the surface.


Are Deacons Still Needed?

At our church we have just selected men to serve actively as deacons for the next three years.  In years past, we have had up to forty men serving.  Recently, we have around twenty.  Some question if there is still a need for deacons in the church.  Others have questions about what a deacon does.

Many churches struggle with finding enough men qualified to serve.

What qualifies a man to be a deacon in the church?  The core requirements are spelled out in 1 Timothy 3:8-13

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.  And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.  Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.  Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.  For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. 

The passage seems self-explanatory, but as you know, much debate has been going on for generations about the particulars regarding the requirements.  Much debate especially regarding the "not addicted to much wine" and "husband of one wife" portions.

While the Bible does not say that drinking alcoholic beverages a sin, there is the command to not do anything that would cause a new believer to stumble.  For this reason, our deacons have agreed that total abstinence from alcoholic beverages is best.  

As for the husband of one wife, there's debate over whether that meant one at a time, since polygamy was prevalent in the first century.  What about a divorced man?  In this case, our men have come to the agreement that the best understanding of this is a man who, if married, has never been divorced.

Now, these are up for debate, I understand, but as deacons at our church, the debate has been settled and we believe God has led us to these understandings.

Now, to get off the two "highly debated" portions of the requirements.

I find it interesting that these two issues become the key issues every year when church members are asked to prayerfully consider men to serve as deacon.  These are important issues, but what about the others?

  • Dignified - The dictionary says "showing aspects of dignity" which is "bearing, conduct or speech indicative of self-respect. . .elevation of character."  
  • Not Double-tongued - in other words, this man's word is solid.  He doesn't say one thing to one person and the opposite to another.  Double-tongued means deliberately deceptive.
  • Not addicted to much wine - I addressed this, but the deeper meaning is that a deacon is to have no addiction that changes his behavior or attitude.  He's to be Spirit-filled.
  • Not greedy for dishonest gain - pretty self-explanatory.
  • Hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience - They must be men of spiritual depth.  They should be men who understand and hold fast to the deep truths of the Bible.  In other words, they need to read the Bible, study it, know it and be able to instruct from it.
  • Be tested first - no man should be made deacon with the belief "He'll step up in his church attendance, support of the ministries and pastor, soul-winning, etc. when we make him a deacon."  That's backward thinking.  A deacon is one who is already doing these things and is called up this office because he is proven.  The deacon ministry is not for novices.
  • Blameless - not sinless, but forgiven and men of integrity.

Then there's the whole section on what a deacon's wife should be like.  Apparently, her relationship with Christ and role in the church matters as well.

  • Dignified - just like her husband.
  • Not slanderers - The verb for "to slander" comes from the noun "devil."  Interesting.  Satan is the chief slanderer and when we slander we follow his lead.
  • Sober-minded - This references being well-balanced and temperate, not emotionally out of control.  This is not to be a woman that everyone walks on egg shells around for fear of an emotional scene.
  • Faithful in all things - Trustworthy, a woman of integrity.

We are studying Ephesians this month on Wednesday nights and the responsibilities of husbands to wives and fathers to children are spelled out clearly.  A deacon is to be one who lives this out fully.  He is to manage his household well. 

When you take the time to review these qualifications, it's pretty evident that when men are called out by God and their churches to serve as deacons it is truly a "high calling."

Just to understand something here.  It's a high calling to serve. Not a calling to get personal recognition or attention.  

I fear that many in the church do not understand how serious the setting apart of men for this role is.  Often people just say "Who are some guys I see around church that haven't been divorced?" and they write their names down.  

When it comes to ordaining men to the office of deacon, I heard one pastor say that many church's ordination processes are the equivalent to awarding someone an honorary doctorate.  Nice document but no work necessary to earn it.  That's sad.

I met with our deacons last month and we addressed this issue and all are in agreement that the ordination of men to serve as deacon is valuable and important and time must spent to ensure that our men understand the seriousness of this calling.

Over the next two weeks we will be meeting with two men the church has selected to serve as deacon.  Pray for these men as the ordination council interviews and meets with them.  Our desire is not to eliminate them, or any men, from service, but to call them up.

To answer the question posed as the title for this posting - Yes, deacons are needed.  Men, who meet the guidelines as spelled out in Scripture to serve the Lord and His church so that He alone is glorified.  

Yes, it is a high calling.

There and Back Again - Lessons from a Hobbit

Sunday afternoon, after getting home from church and eating a big lunch, I found my place on the sofa.  There's nothing on television on Sunday afternoons this time of year, so I put in my copy of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King.  This is a great film and this version is the extended version.  I started watching it the day before, but it's four hours long and I fell asleep, so I put it back on and tried to finish.

I have owned this copy of the film for a couple of years but never got around to watching it.  So, Sunday looked like a good day to finish.

I had preached Sunday morning the first message in a series of sermons titled "Small is the New Big."  The emphasis is on noticing those things that are seemingly insignificant, yet greatly used by God.

There are biblical accounts of this principle throughout the Scriptures:  David, the slaying of Goliath, Zacchaeus, etc.

I didn't expect to be taught something by watching a movie.  I just wanted to finish the film, relax on the sofa and rest on this day.

As I watched the film, even though I had seen the theatrical version earlier and knew how it ended, I was taken by the fact that of all the huge, bigger than life characters in the film (Gandalf the Wizard, Aragorn, Legolas, etc.) that the key elements to the victory in battle were tied up in the smallest characters.

The four Hobbits in the film - Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, were vital in every portion of the victory.  Of course, we knew Frodo would be.  He's the one given the task of destroying the ring.  He's the central character, but the other three proved valuable as well.

Throughout the story, there are jokes and statements made by other characters about the Hobbits, their diminutive size, their seemingly inability to make a difference, but when you get to the end of the film, you realize that all those other characters must eat their words.

The scene that did it for me was the one linked below (just click the image.)  What a great reminder that regardless of your size or seemingly insignificant role in the grand Story of God - you matter!  You are valuable!