Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Less than a week before Christmas...that sentence fills some of us (especially those under the age of 12) with sleep-depriving anticipation and joy, others of us with terror (we have so many presents to buy!) and still others with despair. This is the time of year that's hardest for those suffering from depression, those who are lonely, or who for whatever reason just feel forgotten and passed-over by the world. Isaiah 49:14-16 is a wonderful promise for such people, and that will be my text this Sunday (Dec. 23) in a message called "Unforgettable." I'll also speak briefly at our two Christmas Eve services, along with the wonderful Christmas music we'll share at every service. So remember to invite someone (if you need motivation, read the post below entitled "An Eye-Popping Statistic"). And remember to pray for people who are having a tough time this year...look for opportunities to be their source of joy.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Choose Your Battles

Joe McKeever is Director of Missions of the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. I read his blog pretty regularly...He is one of a few ministers and authors who I do not know personally, but whose ministries feed me spiritually. Others include John Ortberg, Philip Yancey, Chuck Swindoll and Tony Evans; these are my "pastors."

Anyway, Joe's blog this week includes a note about the "Christmas Wars." I'll just furnish you the link here, since he says it far better than I could. Click on that link and take a moment to read the article. Even if you don't agree with Joe (it's okay if you don't) I think you'll enjoy his writing and be better off for having read it. I'd love to hear some feedback from you...especially on questions such as:

--Why is it seemingly so easy to get Christians angry over some trivial matter, but difficult to mobilize us for evangelism, ministry to the poor, mission work or prayer?

--Why are we so gullible that we will forward sensational emails without checking the truthfulness thereof? (Especially with urban legend websites like easily available)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

God of the Runt

This Advent season, we here at Westbury are exploring the question, "How Far Is It To Bethlehem?" The focus is on making Christ incarnate in our hearts...and in the world around us.

This Sunday, my message will be "God of the Runt," from Micah 5:2-5. We have a romanticized notion of Bethlehem today, influenced more by Christmas cards and Phillips Brooks' famous carol ("O Little Town of Bethlehem") than by reality. The actual village of Bethlehem was a very unlikely place for a Messiah to be most of the other circumstances of Jesus' birth. This fact brings up certain questions:

Why would God choose an insignificant spot on the map for such a historic event?

For that matter, why does every character in Scripture seem to have some unsavory or undesirable element in his/her past?

Is there anything we can do to disqualify ourselves from being useful to God?

How should this change the way I look at other people? Or myself?

Under Construction

This is an article that will appear in the upcoming issue of the Westbury Word, our church newsletter. But here it is--a month early--for any who want to read and/or comment:

I saw a sign on a strip of highway once that I would like to have copied on my gravestone. It said, "End of construction. Thank you for your patience."

—Ruth Bell Graham, poet, writer, and wife of evangelist Billy Graham (1920–2007), from her book, A Hearing Heart.

I have no idea whether or not Ruth has that etched on her tombstone, but I like the sentiment very much. Whether we acknowledge the fact at all, each one of us is under construction. The Holy Spirit of God is the architect and general contractor. But most of the work is supposed to be done by you and me. Some of us refuse to work at all, reasoning, “I’m good enough as is. Not perfect, but a whole lot better than most people I know.” But happy are those who commit their lives to joining God in this great renovation of the heart…and happy is everyone who knows them (happier still are those who get to live with them!).

Our church is getting ready to begin a great renovation of our worship space. This has been planned for years, supported by generous gifts, and masterminded by intelligent, committed church members (since I just got here, I don’t include myself in that group). No doubt about it, it’s an exciting time. But this building is just that: a building. Your life is eternal in Christ Jesus. I urge you to begin 2008 with a commitment to cooperate with God’s building project in your life. Here’s my practical suggestion: Take a morning, a day, or longer if necessary, to prayerfully meditate over the following three questions:

1. What character flaws would God most like me to overcome this year?

2. What aspects of Jesus’ character am I lacking the most?

3. What people does God want me to invest my life into in the coming year?

And then this final question: What am I going to do about it?

Monday, December 3, 2007

An eye-popping statistic

Here's an amazing statistic from Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway:

• 82 percent—the number of un-churched people who are receptive to attending church if invited and escorted by a friend.

• 21 percent—the number of church-going Christians who invited someone to church in 2006.

Frankly, I find this frustrating. We spend all this time and energy trying to figure out why most churches aren't growing, then we read a statistic like this: Only two out of ten churchgoers even invited one person to attend worship with them last year...and more than eight out of ten unchurched people might have given church a chance, heard the Gospel presented, if someone had only invited them! There are other great findings in the original article, which you can read here.

On the other hand, it's encouraging to know that perhaps the most effective thing we can do to help people come to Christ is also one of the easiest: Just invite them to church!