Tag Archives: discipleship

5 Friday Faves – a Baby, a Podcast, a Tribute, a Singing Priest, & Videos Gone Viral

Blog - Friday Faves

Another week has fairly flown, and today I’m posting a few of my favorite happenings/finds. For more serious, thought-provoking, inspiring weekly round-ups, especially related to Biblical worldview, check out Trevin’s Seven, Tim Challie’s A La Carte, or Ann Voskamp’s Only the Good Stuff.

My Friday Faves this week are smiles –  a break from a heavy news cycle.

  1. First Grandbaby – I would so put up a picture of her, but she is to be a social media-free baby for now. For those of you who are grandparents, this resonates. What a miracle babies are – to be one moment in the womb completely surrounded by protective waters, and the next a living, breathing person. So amazing! This little girl, conceived 9 months ago, and a person from that moment, and now born, has captured our hearts completely. Since I can’t show her, enjoy bits of her room. We are overjoyed.New Grandbaby 7New grandbaby 4New grandbaby 6 New Grandbaby2015 Aug Sadie 1st days at home 010

2) Kathy Lee Gifford’s Tribute to her Husband Frank GiffordOn August 9, Frank Gifford died at age 84. He was a much-respected, well-loved American football player and sports commentator. When Kathy Lee returned to her job, hosting The Today Show, a week after his death, she gave tribute to Frank in her opening comments. It was lovely – courageous in her openness about what mattered to Frank. Almost like Kathy Lee was on mission for him to get those words out. Such a professional and clearly so in love with that man. Beautiful.

3) Podcast – Eight Steps to More Effective Discipleship – Chuck Lawless & Thom Rainer – Solid teaching for any of us who desire to be faithful in following Jesus’ instructions to us, especially in a very different culture today. Just a few of the points from the podcast:

  • Discipleship is not just content delivery.
  • Committed church members used to be at church three times a week—now it’s three times a month.
  • If a mom and dad aren’t training their children, they are missing one of the most effective forms of discipleship.
  • Oddly, one of the lead metrics of discipleship growth in a church is giving.

4) An Irish Priest Sings Hallelujah to a Surprised Wedding Party – Father Ray Kelly, during his introductory remarks to a wedding party in Northern Ireland, sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. He adapted the lyrics for this special occasion. There is so much to love in this video – the creativity of this priest, the joyous surprise on this special day. If you haven’t already seen this, you will love it!

5) The Original Viral Video & Two Other Favorites – In 2004, Gary Brolsma,  19y/o man in New Jersey, posted his version of Numa Numa on Newgrounds.com a year before the advent of YouTube.com. Our kids were in their teens. This video brought instant grins for all of us and has for over 20 million viewers. Gary’s unfettered enthusiasm in lip-syncing is just adorable, as you know.

Two other videos in this Friday fave star two darling little girls. My husband has a very serious job and is a pretty serious guy most of the time anyway – these little girls make him giggle. You’ve seen these, but here they are gain. – Ella Mae and the little one who will stand up against monsters.

OK…back to work. Thanks for letting me share the joy with you today. If you have favorites to share, use the comments. Would love to learn from you or laugh with you.

Eight Steps to More Effective Discipleship – Rainer on Leadership #150 – Podcast

Kathy Lee Shares Touching Tribute to Husband Frank Gifford – Today

Singing Priest’s Hallelujah Wows Wedding Guests

Ella Mae Sings “An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley

I’m Gonna Kick His Ask

Numa Numa

Kids React to Numa Numa

 

Give Church Another Try – 7 Things to Consider in a Community Where You Can Thrive

Blog - ChurchBlog - Church People

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

When I was a child, we learned this little fingerplay about church. “Here’s the church; here’s the steeple; open the doors, and see all the people.” As an adult, church has become less about a place, or steeple, and more about people. So the fingerplay I teach children now about church says only “Here’s the church” – with the two hands, palms up, with intertwined fingers. That’s church. There are three things I see in that visual that are good to remember: 1) Palms up – we need God. Church is about God. 2) Fingers – we are all people (stay with me). 3) Intertwined – we get close, which means we know each other very well, too well sometimes (unless grace is always applied). With people, church can get messy. We are all those people.

There are people I love who have walked away from church, citing, “They’re all a bunch of hypocrites.” Seriously? Aren’t they right where they need to be? An old saying goes, “Church is a hospital for sinners.” Maybe it’s also a rehab program for hypocrites… Either way, if I’ve given up on church, then at some level, I’m giving up on God. He loves His church, and we, as followers of Christ, are a part of that church He loves. To leave it, because of the hypocrites, the legalists, the gossips, the other sinners…just. like. us…is not the answer.

We left a church ourselves. The details won’t help this narrative. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t wish the down side of that experience on my worst enemy. It wasn’t just our down side, or that of others who left…it was the pain and confusion of those whom we left as well.  We would have had that go very differently, if we had had the freedom to do so… That sort of leaving doesn’t heal easily, and the wounds break open as easily as a social media post reminding us that we are not in each other’s lives anymore.

That’s just so wrong. Jesus let nothing or no one keep him from his Father’s House. The Temple, in those days. My desire is to always follow His lead in life. We’ve learned a lot, some of it painfully, about church in recent years. There are writers on this subject far more wise and eloquent than I (just a few of whom wrote the pieces linked below). However, I would be so grateful if God allowed me to help someone be restored to His church. Also, for anyone who has never really been in a church community, maybe it would help to know what to consider.

Here’s my Quick List of 7 Things to Consider in Searching Out a Church Community. As you peruse a church website, or listen to a pastor/teaching elder’s podcast, or visit a worship service or community group, think about this:

1) Love for God – His Word is taught in ways you are meant to apply both inside and outside church. Worship is really about Him, not just a stage show. Humility, not arrogance, is apparent in handling God’s Word and His church. Prayer, not just for stuff, but to purely enjoy His presence is a sign of a God-centered church.

2) Love for people – The church operates out of a clear desire to creatively express God’s love to people in the church and community, neighbors to nations. It’s not just about that church’s presence or preeminence (superiority) in a town or city, but the goal is to be about Kingdom work – God’s Kingdom, not that church’s. Look to see if the church cooperates with other believers, other churches, other organizations to serve its city and the world. Partnerships tell you a lot about a church. Prayer opportunities, too.

3) Decision-making in the church – Who gives input for strategy or direction? Is the polity (or church governing) the pastor or elder rule? Or is there a clear flow between church leaders and the congregation? Is servant leadership development of all a part of the vision of the church? Can you get a sense of “the priesthood of the believers” (1 Peter 2:9) – where there is “safety in a multitude of counselors” (Proverbs 11:14)? Elder ruled vs. elder led churches both have Biblical support. A lot has to do with accountability and the leaders themselves.

4) Discipleship Throughout Ages and Stages – What happens on Sundays is vital, but it is just a part of church life as a whole. What opportunities does the church promote for growing in the Lord and serving Him both locally and globally? Pre-discipleship can start with young children, and discipleship continues through all life stages (we are grateful to know people in their 80s still serving actively in church). Young moms desperately need discipleship, too. Churches that make that happen must really please God.

5) Finances and Stewardship – What happens with the money that is given through the church? Who decides how it’s used? These answers may not be easily discovered. Is the budget presented by or published to the congregation? Or are the financial decisions made wholly by the elders? Is missions giving encouraged? Is sacrificial giving a pattern in the church? Not just for paying salaries or managing the operation of the church, but for critical needs beyond the church.

5) Church Membership – What are the steps to becoming a member of the church? Maybe you’re thinking you aren’t interested in church membership. Still this is something to consider. What are requirements of the members? Do they have to sign anything (a church covenant, a giving pledge, etc.)? [Signing your agreement/commitment can be a good thing, but realize things can change in the church such that what you signed can mean something different as part of that change. So just be aware…] What are the privileges of membership (teaching, children’s ministry, etc.)? What are the responsibilities of membership? These speak to the priorities of the church. They also speak to leadership/authority. Are members held with open hands, recognizing we belong to God first and then the Body?

6) Church Discipline – You may think that churches don’t all have a church discipline protocol. That may be true. I am thinking that church discipline is part of most churches, whether spoken/written or not. How does one even look for how the church does discipline? The sermons can give some sense of what is “tolerated” or not. That’s a sad thing to have to say, but we all know the expression “bully pulpit” which can happen in churches as well as in politics. Shunning is prescribed rarely in Scripture (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 5:11, Titus 3:9-11). Honestly, if a church uses shunning as a discipline, I would run. It would require the church to have such humility and such wisdom. Who is able, over months or years, to do it with a pure heart? Jesus taught on discipline in the church in Matthew 18:15-20. It’s so like Him to place that teaching between the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the unforgiving servant. Think about it.

7) Style and Substance – Be careful you don’t make a decision about a church based on some element of style rather than substance. Just say, you don’t care for the style of worship. Or the preaching goes a little long. Or…fill in the blank. No church is going to be “perfect” because the church is made up of people, like you and me. Just don’t miss the church God has for you over something that matters so little. What does matter is that you get yourself in a situation where you can grow in knowing God, where you can serve Him and those around you as part of the church, and where you can heal…from whatever got you out of church. Don’t let that experience define your life. Please.

Just, please, give church another try. Do you know the story (Acts 15:36-40) about the Apostle Paul and his ministry partner, Barnabas and how they had a huge disagreement about another young partner, John Mark? Sometimes, disagreements happen – so strong, in fact, that maybe they can’t do ministry together for a season. Does that mean either of them are “the bad guys”? Paul even came to a place, near the time of his death, that he asked for John Mark to come to him (2 Timothy 4:11).  The Scripture doesn’t tell us whether either Paul or Barnabas was right or wrong. Yet, we are left with a huge door of reconciliation open to us in their story.

May it always be so with us – to the glory of God and for the sake of His Kingdom.

Jesus, you were once broken apart. You know how it feels to be so shattered by the good-byes of life. Help me to believe that I will one day experience wholeness again, that I will not have this terrible feeling of being torn into many pieces. Keep reminding me often that the Father raised you to new life, to a powerful wholeness that you had not known before. Encourage me to believe that, in time, I will no longer have this deep pain and hurt in my heart. I want to believe. Help my unbelief! Amen. – Joyce Rupp, Prayer for Wholeness in Praying Our Goodbyes

Healthy Church vs. Toxic Church – Bart’s Barometer (Bart Breen)

9 Marks of an Abusive Church – The Wartburg Watch

9 Traits of Mean Churches – Thom Rainer

9 Traits of Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

9 Ways to Deal with Church Bullies – Thom Rainer

14 Symptoms of Toxic Church Leaders – Thom Rainer

10 Traits of Pastors Who Have Healthy Long-Term Tenure

9 Reasons It’s Hard to Attend a Church Once You’ve Been Involved in Leading One – Carey Nieuwhof [Applies to all of us really, not just church leaders]

Old Friends…Books of Mine

2014 May Blog 018

We’re packing to move house.  Now, I know wisdom is to purge as much as possible.  These books, that I can hold in my hand, and recognize both intellectually and emotionally, are like old friends.  Just looking at them on the shelf reminds me of the lessons God has taught me through them.  It’s like the joke about the jokes that old men tell over and over around the wood stove in a country store.  After years of telling the same jokes, (the joke goes), they just numbered them and call out the number of whatever joke they want to re-tell that day, and everyone chuckles, satisfied with the pleasure of remembering.  That’s how these books are to me…just seeing them on the bookcase by my bed each evening reminds me of the great truths their authors have taught me over the years.  Books are more and more electronically enjoyed these days, but I love to hold them in my hands, turn the pages, smell the paper…the older the better.  Years of wisdom. Real life. Truth.

Biographies & Autobiographies – the story of a life is so fascinating.  What were the influences? The relationships? The hopes and fears? The conflicts and challenges?  What did they learn that they could teach us – decades or centuries later? McCasland’s Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God tells the story of the short, full life of the man who gave us My Utmost for His Highest. Most who know Chambers’ books know that he only wrote one, and his wife Biddy, a highly competent stenographer, compiled the 29 other books by Oswald Chambers. He spoke; she wrote. And we all have the rich fruit of both their labors.  A favorite autobiography of mine is C. S. Lewis’ Surprised by Joy – The Shape of My Early Life. To hear Lewis’ voice in this volume brings to life all over again his wit (Screwtape Letters) and wisdom as he marks how God drew him to Himself. You’ll see other biographical books in the picture, but I’ll close this section with Noel Piper’s Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God. In her book, she gives the reader biographical sketches of 5 “ordinary” women who lived in different periods of the last 250 years. Ordinary women completely devoted to an extraordinary God. Their legacy includes us who are inspired to live like them…for Him.

Devotional Books – I mentioned Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, which has been a companion to the Bible for countless Christians. A favorite of mine as well.  Here, though, I want to mention four other devotionals.  Two are authored/compiled by women. Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie) Cowman wrote Streams in the Desert (you can find a daily excerpt from this at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/charles_cowman.html). Mary Wilder Tileston gathered the writings of many great spiritual fathers and mothers of our past and presented them to the reader in Joy & Strength (her daily devotionals are also found at http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/devotions/classics/mary_wilder_tileston.html). One of the Puritan fathers, William Gurnall, wrote the classic The Christian in Complete Armour which focuses on spiritual warfare. All these books have several pages marked with bits of paper for me to return to as needed.

Relationship Books – Anything you ever discover written by Tom Elliff will be rich in humor, wisdom, and love.  We’ve used his books on marriage/marriage preparation many times over, often having to replace them because they don’t always make it back home. Letters to Lovers and Unbreakable are two must-reads. Then there are books that have such a provocative subtitle that your horizon expands before you even make it to the first page.  Such a book is Gary Thomas’ Sacred Marriage – What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? So many great books in this section I’d love to captivate you with but will close with Gene Edwards’ A Tale of Three Kings. This book is “a study in brokenness” (as the subtitle reveals), illustrated dramatically by the intertwined lives of Saul, David, and Absalom.

One book in my collection of favorites you may have as well, but maybe not in Arabic.  It is The Bible. This book is the enduring Word of God. His Story. Over the last twenty years, during our time living in the Arab world, hearing the Word read or quoted in Arabic was a delight to my soul.  My reading it aloud in Arabic sounds like that of a new reader, a child both new to reading and to the language.  It’s all together a different experience to hear the Bible read by someone in his heart language who reads the same words, that opened life to me in English, but in Arabic. When I think of Heaven, it makes my heart glad to think that we might understand God’s Word in all languages. I won’t mind if there are no books there…but for me, here, they are a glimpse of Heaven…these stories of the saints, this great “Cloud of Witnesses”, spurring us on…to know God and to make Him known; to love Him and our neighbors as ourselves.

For now, for our moving day, these books go into a box marked “Open Early”.

What books are your old friends? I’d love to meet them.