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Archive for December 2009

Hey Ethan, What are you Learning about Evangelism?

I asked my friend Ethan to tell me what he’s learning at Urbana about reaching out to others.

What Am I Learning at Urbana?

Here’s my friend Ethan who came down to Urbana with me. Pray for us as we wrap up the convention today. We’ll be partying it up tonight right up to our midnight communion service.

Incarnational Mission at Urbana 2009

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Urbana 2009 Theme: He came and dwelt among us! I’ll be posting some videos of folks here at Urbana with me from Omaha. Check the posts below on session speakers.

Dude! Take a hammer to your evil I-Pod!

Shane Claiborne was the other session speaker last night at Urbana. If you aren’t familiar with Shane…dude…you’ve gotta give him a listen. He’s got a message about God’s love, living simply and doing mission that is a breath of fresh air. His message:

If you can’t give your stuff away to live in greater simplicity, then you don’t own your stuff… your stuff owns you and limits your freedom to serve Jesus. “If you can’t part with your i-pod…maybe the roles are reversed and the i-pod is really the owner and you are in its possession!

Ouch. I just got my first I-pod this Christmas, Shane, are you sure about that?

Check out Shane’s ministry The Simple Way, and go find a hammer!

Quick, Clinical, Easy…. NOT

I’ve been to a number of Urbana Missions Conventions. Well… let’s put it this way…8 of them to be exact! I’ve listened to a lot of speakers and lots and lots of expositions. I would have to say that it’s been a while since I’ve heard someone like Oscar.

Oscar Muriu is pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya. And Oscar can bring it! He made a stirring case for incarnational mission in tonight’s plenary session which included a strong emphasis on dealing with money and possessions in the pursuit of the global mission of the church. Conference director Jim Tebbe led 16,000 students in a challenge to give $63 each so that a 1.0 million dollar gift can be given from the students at Urbana 2009. Back to Oscar…

“If I were God, I would not have taken so long to get around to the mission of saving the world.”

Oscar’s point was that all the time Jesus was living in humility among people and our dysfunctional ways, he was learning obedience and the ability to relate to our lostness. God’s way was slow. Gracious. Incarnational. Not Quick…Clinical…Easy.

In coming to earth to do the Father’s mission, says Oscar, Jesus walked through 4 doorways Christ followers today must be willing to adapt in our mission strategies:

Door One: From Pride to Humility – Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but gave up his status. We have to set aside our “Christian pride” in order to reach out in authencity.

Door Two: From Power to Powerlessness – Jesus did not assert all the power he had available to him – he entered earth in a family that knew poverty and at points homelessness! Our mission is not driven by power.

Door Three: From Privilege to Poverty – The disciples Jesus sent out in mission were to take nothing with them and even dare to live a life of interdependence with those they were sent to minister to (Mark 10). People don’t need us and all our stuff…they need Jesus and they need us to show him to them.

Door Four: From the Harmony and Beauty of Heaven to the Brokenness and Dysfunction of Earth. Jesus set aside unimaginable glory in the presence of the Father to live in the world our hands have scarred and abused. Christians need to be willing to stay engaged in a broken world and not use our faith as a form of escapism.

How Do You Find a Spiritual Hero?

“Joy and suffering are completely compatible. Joy and bitterness are not. When you do God’s will, his way, you will never lack his provision.”

It’s a blast worshipping God in the house with 17,000 other people! Even better is sitting next to Ethan, one of our new Christian Chinese scholars singing his lungs out to Jesus with the rest. I love watching this guy grow! I got to see Ethan baptized just a few weeks ago at Christ Community. Tonight I got to sit next to him as we listened to Patrick Fung. Patrick tells his story about leaving his dreams for practicing medicine in home country of China, to be a medical missionary in Pakistan. He and his wife (both physicians) decided to save several years of their earnings and gave it to their parents as a way of honoring them.

Ethan is a medical researcher here from China working on post-doctoral research at UNMC. I can tell by sitting next to him, that Patrick’s message of willingness to risk and bold faith in God’s provision is striking a chord in Ethan. Ethan is getting to see a real giant of faith in Patrick Fung – someone who shares his culture and medical background. Someone who took courageous steps to give his medicine to the mission of Jesus. Pray for Ethan. Pray for Li Qian. Pray for Phil and Kaytie and Lydia and Mackinzie. God is stirring the hearts of these talented, young lives. Pray that God will fill them with vision and passion for his kingdom. Pray that this week will be a pivot point in the direction of their lives.

Check out Patrick Fung’s bio on the Urbana web-site.

Urbana 2009!

Just landed at the end of a mile-long registration line and thought I’d swat out a quick blog-post. 7 of us from Christ Community Church will be experiencing InterVarsity’s Triennial missions convention called Urbana.

Check out this link to see what Urbana is all about. 18,000 delegates spending a week together in scripture, worship and the world mission of the church. I’ll try to post things as we go through the week. Watch for media tabs on the Urbana page and try to catch some of the sessions on-line. I’ll send you a link for that if I find it.

I’ve got to get to the main session here in a minute!

PS – I’m also having a great time connecting with my staff comrades of 19 years! Familiar faces everywhere!

Christmas Tinsel

Merry Christmas and I hope you are having a fun and relaxing day. With over 12″ of snow and more on the way here in Omaha, it is great to be “forced” to relax and take it easy. I don’t know if that says more about the busyness of Christmas or that it is hard to relax and lounge around without having a good excuse. I guess that is for another blog.
earlier this month I read an editorial by Rod Dreher that got me thinking about Christmas and how we experience the day. In the column, Rod had done a review of “Tinsel.”
Tinsel was written by Hank Stuever and examines what Christmas means to contemporary Americans through the eyes of three families in Frisco, Texas. Stuever says he wrote the book to explore the question: “Who are we now that we live in this world where so many people for so long had unlimited access to just about anything they wanted.”
Each family observed in Tinsel was obsessed in making their Christmas unique and meaningful. In a nut shell, Tinsel tells how they failed in their Christmas mission.
Rod Dreher summarizes the book with this personal observation.
“It’s good to feast joyfully at Christmas. But if you never fast, if you don’t know the meaning of enough, feasting can’t help being disordered and gross. When our wealth makes every day a holiday, how do you find the humility, stillness and gratitude required to live Christmas in the proper spirit? Odd, but one of the most modest yet meaningful Christmases I ever spent was in secular Holland, far from the US Christmas-industrial complex.”
I pray that you will feast joyfully at Christmas with humility, joy, stillness and gratitude for God sending His Son to be born, so we might have true life in Him.

Christmas Eve devotional

Hey CCC family-

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…. OK, not really frightful, but a bit blustery.

As I write this at noon on Christmas Eve, we are still planning to have our Christmas eve services at 4 and 6 PM. The 8 PM services are cancelled. It looks like the roads will be driveable for most people through the early evening. We will look forward to keeping Jesus front and center as we worship him this Christmas Eve! He is the reason we celebrate. So we will gather to honor him.

We do value your safety. And we know that people in our congregation have different ‘weather threshholds’ dependent on any number of factors: what type of car you have, life stage, and whether you grew up in Arizona or Minnesota. For some it may not be wise to venture out.

If you are unable to come, let me encourage you to gather around your Bible and have a worship service of your own. No, I am not asking the tone-deaf to sing solos, but I would recommend that you grab a Bible and a cup of hot chocolate and celebrate the birth of Jesus with loved ones.

I have written a devotional guide for those who cannot make services tonight. Feel free to use it to stimulate discussion about Jesus. And if I don’t see you in person, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Our savior is born!

An Alternative Christmas Eve Devotion

Step 1 Make Hot Chocolate and gather your family around the fireplace, kitchen table, or another favorite spot in the house.

Step 2 Discuss this question – What is the best sunrise you have ever seen? Describe the emotion that takes place when a person sees a great sunrise.

Step 3 Have someone read Isaiah 9:2-7 (Page 489 in your CCC Bible….ha! 🙂 This is a prophecy of Isaiah from 600 BC regarding the coming of the Messiah.

Step 4 Discuss the passage. Have one person read these questions and everybody answer. (May need to be modified for age-appropriateness.)

What is the metaphor used in verse 2? How does this relate to your experience with sunrises?

In verses 3-5 there are many ways the joy-factor of the new dawn is discussed. Name each of them and why they might be good news.

In verses 6-7, the reason for rejoicing is explained. “A Child is Born.” What are the characteristics of this child? Each person mention just one as you go around the room.

Step 5 As a family, discuss one characteristic (v. 6-7) about this child that that makes you rejoice (v3-5) as you look back on 2009.

Step 6 Have someone read Luke 2:1-20 for the entire family.

Step 7 Lead the family in prayer – thanking God for the amazing gift of Jesus and that the light of Christ will be strong in your home in 2010.

David —–> Jesus

David was a type, or foreshadowing of Jesus. The King of Israel as a two dimensional shadow of the three dimensional King of Kings. Like the guy in “Fu man chu’s China Buffet” offering Princess Chicken on a toothpick as a sample of the entree to come, so David is offered as a sampling of the King to come. Check out the parallels:

David came from humble origins. He was just a shepherd boy born in a nowhereville town called Bethlehem.
Jesus came from humble origins. He was just a carpenter boy born in a nowhereville town called Bethlehem.

David was a shepherd, tending his sheep and keeping them safe from predators.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, laying down His life for His sheep.

David mystified his family by his anointing, effectiveness and power.
Jesus mystified his family by his remarkable teaching, claims, and resurrection.

David stared death in the face, in the form of a giant Philistine,
Jesus stared death in the face, in the form of a roman execution,
wearing nothing but shepherds clothes,
wearing nothing but a loin cloth,
carrying only a stick and stones.
carrying only two sticks in the form of a cross.

David spoke and led with authority, amazing people as a warrior, writer and musician.
Jesus spoke and led with authority, amazing people as a teacher, healer, and miracle worker.

David spent 10 years in the wilderness.
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness.
He was running from Saul,
He was tempted by Satan,
protected by God,
protected by God
and writing God’s word.
and quoting God’s word.

David ruled a mighty political kingdom, expanding Israel’s territory during his 40 year reign.
Jesus rules a mighty spiritual kingdom expanding God’s territory during his eternal reign.

David had his 30 followers, mighty men of strength who fought for him.
Jesus had his 12 disciples, common men used by God to change the world.

David was the anointed one, chosen to be the King of Israel.
Jesus was the anointed one, chosen to be the King of…everything.

David was called the King of the Jews a title that he owned with pride
Jesus was called the King of the Jews, a title that hung over His head on the cross.

David was the savior of Israel, keeping the country free from foreign threats.
Jesus is the savior of the world, giving all men freedom from sin.

The prophet Nathan told David his name would be great, and many knees would bow to him.
At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

David was promised that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever!
Jesus is the descendant who rules on his throne forever!

David cried out to the Father from the caves, asking “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus cried out to the Father from the cross, asking “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

David predicted “You will not let your holy one see decay.”
Jesus fulfilled that prediction by dying, and not decaying.

David, while being only human was used mightily by God to change Israel.
Jesus, while divine, became a human and was used mightily by God to change…everything.