Thursday, January 6, 2011

Houston Skyline!

I am getting ready with last minute details for a pastoral immersion into the Houston church scene. This is an annual event that we do with the Beeson Pastor students in the Doctor of Ministry program at Asbury Theological Seminary. It is always a deep learning experience that is filled with adventure.

This year we will have 18 participants from all across the world and around the nation. We have folks from Tanzania, Romania, Singapore, a Damascus missionary, a Costa Rica based missionary, along with highly effective pastors from around the United States. It will be a wonderful team.

We will be visiting effective growing congregations, exploring new church plants, engaging with outstanding ethnic ministries, and discovering the world of church vision consultants. We will worship in a ministry that is focused on recovery from chemical dependency on Saturday evening. Sunday will find us in worship in the largest church in the nation, then to an inner city worship service that is focused on the homeless, then off to an emerging church ministry that creates outstanding outreach for young adults. In between we will discover large church leadership and structure. We close with a look at the missional lifestyle of a wonderful pastoral spouse team who are making a major impact on the most difficult section of Houston.

I invite your prayers and look forward to sharing more about the expereince in days to come.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Under the influence

No, not that kind of 'under the influence' that often accompanies a new year and is followed by a hangover. I am thinking about the best kind way of being under the influence. It is the process of opening your life to the thoughts, teachings, and expereince of people who have insights that will help you to grow. I am interested in growing!

I am not interested in standing still, maintaining, or just passing time. If we are not moving forward we are loosing ground. If we are standing still we are getting stagnate. If we are just holding on we might think about releasing our grip so we can climb higher.

Right now, I am growing under the influence of Henri Nouwen. You see some of his writings listed in my current reading list. He has opened my eyes to some new ways of seeing the world of ministry with some fresh images of God's Word. It is good and I would highly recommend his insights.

I have been working on a short series of sermons that I will offer in the next month. They are "movements of the heart" or ways the spiritual life shifts from dark to light. How growth happens in different categories of our journey together.

I share the topics with you just to keep me honest...accountability is an important ingredient of spiritual growth!

Here goes:
Four Movements of the Heart
1. From Law to Grace
2. From Resentment to Gratitude
3. From Isolation to Community
4. From Fear to Love

Just listing them causes me to reflect on where I am on the continuum of faith. How about you?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Personal Rule of Life 2011

If you have been following this will discover right away that several of the items in my Rule of Life are continuations from previous versions. That is because there are foundational elements that create a baseline for all other personal and spiritual activities.

You will also note that some of the 2010 elements have gone away. Not because they were completely fulfilled or are no longer of value, but because things need to be refocused from time to time. You will also notice that I continue to use the structure of Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster as the basic (but expanded) framework for my Rule.

With humility and obedience as the key components for any spiritual growth...I offer my 2011 Rule of Life. With God's help, I will...

Inward Disciplines

1. Morning prayer and meditation seeking God’s will for my personal and professional life.
2. Daily prayer for family, staff, lay leadership, and general intercession.
3. Daily study of the Scriptures that are outside teaching and preaching responsibilities.
4. Be obedient to the hours.

Outward Disciplines

1. Seek increased ways to simplify life style in accordance with the Gospel.
2. Set aside specific time of solitude outside designated time for personal prayer.
3. Continue serving through Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis.
4. Work to develop a strong positive missional relationship with the Methodist Church in Costa Rica

Continuing Education Goals

1. Participate in at least one major conference related to congregational life, preaching or leadership.
2. Participate in the August Leadership Summit.
3. Create a continuing education event for pastors and lay leaders related to prayer and spiritual formation.
4. Read at least one new book each week related to leadership, spiritual formation, church development, stewardship, or vision.

Service Goals

1. Board of Ordained Ministry
2. Availability for relational conversations
3. Asbury community through teaching, dissertation mentor, stewardship, and student development / support

Personal Goals

1. Ride at least 1000 bicycle miles on Old Blue in 2011
2. Ride two century days in 2011
3. Stay in touch with my physical health through indoor / outdoor riding, time at the fitness center, and healthy eating habits

New Year Day 2011

I trust you had a safe holiday celebration for New Year's Eve. Our was quiet, warm, and filled with snoozing.

It is New Year's Day 2011! A day for football, catching up, and being a bit dazed by the fact that another year has come and gone.

It is also a day of reflection. A day of remembrance. And a day of commitment. Our Methodist founder, John Wesley, was a man of many traditions. He had patterns of life that became famous. He was filled with 'methods' for moving forward in his faith journey.

One of his famous methods is contained in his celebrated Covenant Prayer. He wrote it in 1738 and used it at various times throughout the year. However, as the Methodist movement gained ground, the Covenant Prayer began to be seen as a way of renewing personal faith commitments at the start of a New Year.

It was used in worship and in personal devotions as a plan for continued growth and dedication to God. The prayer goes like this:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.

So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Those words have shaped my life over and over again. It is a prayer that has been used by thousands of believers to reestablish a fresh relationship with God and to renew a covenant of servant leadership.

I wonder if you would be willing to pray it with me today and on into the New Year? Read it over, think through the different sections, reflect on the depth of commitment it calls for, and then pray it with the confidence of a Child of God. Let the prayer be yours as you offer yourself to God once again.

2011 promises to be a wonderful year! Peace to you all!