A Call to Action

Wow. I just saw this posted on my brother's blog and had to post it here as well. The numbers are shocking. It would behoove every believer to take this call to action seriously. I hope this video shakes you to your core, as it did me.

I've got baby # 3 on the way. We're doing our part!

Great Prayers of the Past – Susanna Wesley

A while back I was doing a segment that I called "Great Daily Prayers." These were prayers that I have used to direct me during specific times, and most of them came directly from Thomas a'Kempis. Well,

now I'm going to be doing away with that segment and a new one is going to replace it.

The new segment is called "Great Prayers of the Past." Here I will highlight some prayers of great followers of Jesus who have gone before us. It fascinates me to know how people who walked closer to Jesus than I do prayed. What was their conversation with God like?

Today's installment comes from Susanna Wesley. Susanna was the mother of 19 children, two of whom you may have heard of: John and Charles Wesley (John was perhaps the founder of the modern missionary movement and the modern small group. Charles was a leader in his brother's movement and wrote some of the best hymns of all time). Susanna was known for being an incredible woman of God and she raised some awesome men of God.

Now that I am a father of two (and soon to be three), I am beginning to look to people like this to understand what their walk with God was like. She obviously did something right to have raised the men that she did. Here is a small glimpse into her prayer life.

Susanna Wesley (1669 – 1742)
I thank you, O God, for the relief and satisfaction of mind that come with the firm assurance that you govern the world; for the patience and resignation to your providence that are afforded as I reflect that even the tumultuous and irregular actions of the sinful are, nevertheless, under your direction, who are wise, good, and omnipotent, and have promised to make all things work together for good to those who love you.

The Loathsome Generation

This morning as I was doing some studying in Scripture, I came across a passage which I have read many times before (I even have it highlighted and notes in the margins). But this time as I read it, the Holy Spirit began to move in my heart, and I began to weep. Try as I might, I couldn't hold back the tears.

Psalm 95:10 (NASB)

For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.

Wow. Those are strong words. What does it take for God to loathe an entire generation? I think my generation and the generations below me (maybe every generation) tends to think more highly of itself than it ought. In a popular worship song, the worship leader declares that "we will be the generation known as the friends of God."  Oh, really? Is that so? In John 15:14, Jesus said "You are my friends if you do what I command." Does that really describe our generation? In another worship song, the worship leader declares, "He's so proud of you; he's so pleased in you." When I first heard this song, I was overcome with emotion because I so desperately want God to be proud of me. I desperately want him to be pleased with my life. But to make such a broad statement may be a bit foolish.

Look, I'm not trying to be overly condemning, here. I'm not saying that God loathes this generation. But sometimes I do wonder how many generations has God loathed? How does God feel about my generation? I know God loves each of his followers as individuals. And I know that he loves his church. And in a broader sense, I know that God loves the entire world. But how does God feel about my generation? Are we a people who err in our hearts and do not know the ways of God? Sometimes I fear that we are.

What an indictment: "I loathed that generation." I'm not sure what God did in my heart this morning. All I know is I couldn't pull my eyes away from that statement. And every time I read it, my heart broke.

Meeting with God on the Mountaintop

Wednesday morning of this week, Rob Wetzel and I skipped out on the morning of sessions at Innovate Church, and opted instead to get up early, drive out to the Peaks of Otter, and hike to the top of Sharp Top. There was a period of time on Tuesday afternoon when it seemed like the trip might not work out. 

But God had a special appointment for us. We had not been hiking for more than five minutes when we stumbled upon the picture below.

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All of these pictures were taken from my Iphone (which has no zoom). So in case you can't tell what that is in the picture below, it's a black bear. A 400 pound black bear by our estimates. And he was sitting 5 feet of the side of our trail! When we first saw him he was about 25 yards away. I spotted him first, and then the following conversation ensued:

Smooth: Rob, is that a bear?

Rob: No, no. That's not a bear.

Smooth: Rob, I think that's a bear, but is it real or is it like a carving or something?

Rob: There's no way that's a real bear. (then clapping and yelling at the top of his lungs) HEY BEAR! HEEEEY BEAR! HEY BEAR! … (bear doesn't move) … See? That's not a real bear.

Smooth: Rob, I think that's a real bear.
(bear turns his head and looks directly at us)

Rob: Holy crap! That's a real bear!
(we slowly start backing down the hill)

Well, we stood there for about 10 minutes debating about how badly we wanted to make it to the top. When finally the bear slowly started making his way into the woods. As he moved, we moved… slowly. Every so often he would stop and turn and look directly at us. We would freeze as if we were in Jurassic Park rather than the Peaks of Otter! Eventually we felt we were safe to continue our journey, and about an hour later we arrived at the top.

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It's been more than a couple of years since I had been to the top, and I had forgotten how breath taking the view is. The white that you see in some of these pictures is not water but clouds! After looking around for a bit, Rob and I separated and each spent some time with God on the mountaintop. That time of solitude was so needed for me. God spoke very clearly to me up there. It was absolutely amazing to commune with God surround by the grandeur and splendor of his creation. 
Well, eventually it was time to make our way back down, but God wasn't done with our special appointment. We came down off the rocks, back down to the trail and suddenly found ourselves in the middle of three grazing deer.
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Truth be told, this was the highlight of the conference for me (well, that and going to Mill Mountain Coffee, the best coffee shop in the world). I have the greatest Father in the world. Thank you Father, for meeting with me there. Thank you for that special appointment. Thank you for speaking to me that day and everyday.

Vision Breeds Anger

Recently, my brother and best friend, Josh Via (those who are near and dear simply call him "Fro"), commented on my live blog posting of Perry Noble at the Innovate Church conference. His comment was worth noting and my response is even more worth noting (Just kidding… not really). Anyway, the comment in questions from Noble is highlighted below. Fro's comment and my response are below that.

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"Here's how you know you have a vision from God: It will make people mad."
8:26

 28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

 31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  

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Fro's Comment

I'm not sure that anger is the best barometer for measuring vision. Obviously, I wasn't there to hear Perry's talk, but from the context of Scripture, the younger son didn't exactly have a vision from God to begin with, so the anger of the older son doesn't correlate.

My Resonse (This is the part you really want to read!)

I would agree that "vision" never even comes into play in this text. If you kno
w Perry, you know his preaching style: dude is all over the map. So his comment on vision wasn't directly related to the text. It was more of a bonus comment that he made along the way while following a rabbit trail.

I would also agree that anger may not be the "best barometer" for measuring vision. But would definitely say that there is a correlation between God giving you a vision and other people responding in anger. We see it all throughout scripture.

  • Moses wants to lead God's people out of Egypt: even the people of God get angry at Moses (multiple times).
  • Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are ready to take the promised land: the people were angry and ready to stone them…
  • Joseph had a dream from God that made all of his family angry. His brothers were angry enough to kill him.
  • King David's faith made Saul angry.
  • The prophets always had visions from God, and they were always pissing off the powers that be.
  • Daniel preached that it was God's will for the king to surrender to the enemy in order to be saved. The king threw him in prison.
  • Jesus had a vision for drawing together for himself a people redeemed by his blood. His revolution was so counter culture, that religious leaders and political leaders alike were angry at him.
  • The disciples had a vision to reach the lost, and were constantly being killed for it.
  • Paul had a vision that God's church was to include the Gentiles, and pretty much everyone who wasn't a Gentile was angry about it.
  • The early church had a vision for a pure and holy church abstaining from all pagan practices while waiting for the return of the King. The Roman government was angry.
  • Over the next century, there were many "prophets" who had a vision to bring Roman Catholic church back to it's pristine beginnings, and they were hunted and killed for it.
  • Others during the same period had a vision to print the Bible in the language of the people, and they too were hunted and killed for it.
  • The imperial reformers had a vision for church that preached salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, and the Roman Catholic church (and government) was angry.
  • The anabaptist reformers wanted to take seriously every word of scripture and questioned infant baptism. The imperial reformers were angry and killed them for it.
  •  Many years later a fresh wind of missionary fervor swept through the world and people like John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and many others wanted to reach the world for Jesus Christ, but the stagnant Calvanist powers-that-be were angry.
  • Throughout the years since the Reformation, there have been numerous revivals and "awakenings" across the world. All of them have made many people (even Christians) angry.
  • In the 70's there was a movement among "hippies." They were being unexplainably and irresistibly drawn to this man called Jesus. It made the straight-laced church people angry, and the hippies were marginalized and the movement fell into doctrinal error and disarray. 
  • Today there is a movement of people and churches desperate for an authentic community of faith where they can serve and worship the One True God in their own cultural expression. And never in my life have I seen so many Christians angry about things that don't matter.
  • One more (for all you Baptists): Danny Aiken has a vision to call Southern Baptists back to focus on the Great Commission rather than so many peripheral issues… and already the controversy has begun.

It may not be an exegetical point (though it might be), but I think it is safe to say that a vision from God breeds anger from those who are unable to see God's vision for his people.

Innovate Church Day 2 – Session 4: Perry Noble

Speaker: Perry Noble
Pastor of Newspring Church – Anderson, SC

As you can tell, I skipped out on session 3 today. I wasn't just playing hookie, I actually had some work I had to get done. I'm looking forward to tonight's session with Perry Noble. I like Perry because he is a man who is not afraid to tell it like it is. Too many times, we refrain from saying things because we think they are "innappropriate." In reality the only thing that is innappropriate is not speaking the truth in love. Or sometimes we do speak it,  but we water it down and speak in terms that are so vauge that no one even knows what we're talking about.

I already liked Perry, but I liked him even more when I saw that he posted a blog entitled "Attention Pastors: Keep you penis in your pants!!!" last October. It's been a couple of years since I've had the opportunity to hear him in person. I'm looking forward to tonight. I hope you enjoy tonight's live blog as well.

Innovate Church Day 2 -

Innovate Church Day 2 – Session 2

Speaker: Ed Stezer

starting this one about 10 minutes late. Sorry about that…

Innovatechurch Day 2 – Session 1

Speaker: Francis Chan 

Author of Crazy Love and Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA


Breaking the Blogging Silence… Live Blogging from Innovate Church

Well, the time has finally come for me to break the blogging silence. I've been on a three week "fast" from blogging, which simply means that life got busy and blogging was low in my priority list. 

For the next few days, I'll be at Innovate Church Conference in Lynchburg, VA. And Aaron Bauer has inspired me to join the live blogging crowd. So for those of you that care, I'll be giving you juicy tid bits, for Innovate Church. It's like getting all the good stuff without having to sit through the whole thing, and you get it for free! What a great deal.

So without further adieu… Day 1: