Sunday, July 13, 2014

For the Least of These

Here in Maryland, we are gearing up for the November 2014 elections.  All of the statewide offices will be on the ballot.  Since Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1 in the state, many feel that voters decided the election during last month's primaries.  People also acknowledge that Maryland residents are pretty fed up.  Taxes are high.  Jobs are scarce.  Schools are struggling.  This may create an opening for Republicans to make the case that they could make things a little better for the people.

But do Republicans really have the answers?  Most people believe Republican principles and policies benefit only a few, mainly the wealthy and big businesses.  The prevailing wisdom is that the middle class and the poor suffer under Republican leadership.  This is troubling because Maryland has some of the largest income disparities between rich and poor in the nation.  Also, poverty and unemployment are at crisis levels in some of the urban areas like Baltimore. 

For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to PovertyThis seems like a great opportunity to educate ourselves on what the ultimate Authority has to say, which is why I was excited to see this book, For the Least of These: A Biblical Answer to Poverty.  This book is for well-meaning people of faith who feel called to serve or advocate for those who live in poverty.  The book is also helpful if you believe that how you vote is part of that calling.  The book combines "Biblical exegesis with proven economic principles" and is designed to "equip Christians with both a solid biblical understanding of how best to care for the poor and foster sustainable economic development."  Just a few pages in, the book makes clear that government subsidies alone are not inline with Biblical principals and generally do not work.  This is consistent with what we see play out in our communities where it is very difficult to break the cycle of poverty even if you have robust government programs for the poor.  The editors of the book, Dr. Anne Bradley and Dr. Art Lindsey, will discuss their research at the Heritage Foundation this week.  Check this website for details on attending or viewing a webcast! 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Two-Minute Drill

Summer Reading

My son recently graduated from elementary school.  It was a surprisingly emotional moment.  I was overcome by how much we have both grown since he began kindergarten.  His graduation gave me a moment to sit back and reflect on the fact that we made it through several milestones that at times seemed impossible to obtain.

This was also a hard year for us and I was ready for the chapter to be over.  I noticed that my influence over him was beginning to wane.  He used to listen a little better and talk back a little less defiantly.  The call from the teacher that usually comes in mid-May when he was thoroughly tired of school, actually came in October.  Friends were beginning to become his most important relationships.  Things that used to be easy - like my job, homework, and sports - also seemed very draining now.  My son and life were clearly changing.

While in many ways I feel a little relief because we are on the downswing of at least his primary education, I am also pretty scared.  I wonder, is he ready?  Does he know what's about to hit him?  Does he know how easy it is for him to make one decision that could ruin the rest of his life?  The temptations he will encounter as he gets older could reap huge consequences.  Then the panic sets in.  I need more time.  More time to warn him about all the dangers out there.  More time to teach him about the importance of character, empathy and humility.  More time to be the primary influence in his world.   

The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood
John Croyle speaks to this exact fear in The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood, a biblically-centered guide to helping prepare our sons for manhood.  I enjoyed the football analogy in the preface, which describes the timeline of a football game and how winning a game can all come down to the final two minutes.  As parents, the last few years we have with our children in late high-school are also crunch time. The two-minute drill is almost impossible to execute effectively if the team doesn't put in the time it takes to practice it before the game.  So, while I'm not yet in the two-minute drill, now is the time to practice going over the tools I think he needs to be successful.  If we practice enough hopefully when he is out in the world and has just a few minutes to make that decision that will make or break him, my son will be ready.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Interview with Spence Shelton, Author of #PeopleofGod

The People of GodI had the awesome opportunity to ask Spence Shelton, author and Spiritual Formation Pastor at The Summit Church, a few questions about his new book with Trevor Joy, The People of God: Empowering the Church to Make Disciples.  Below are his reflections on the importance of this book and the growing movement to plant churches around the country and world.

What is your primary responsibility as Spiritual Formation Pastor at The Summit Church?

We joke that my title is nice and vague so that I can do anything I want and call it "spiritual formation." Kind of like the utility infielder of the pastoral team.  In reality though, I give my time to developing and maintaining the discipleship of our adults here at the Summit Church.

What prompted you to work on The People of God with Trevor Joy?

The book was the product of a friendship that started a few years ago over a cup of coffee and commiseration about how in the world to faithfully make disciples in two very similar church contexts.  The more we talked the more we found we had in agreement.  But on top of that, Trevor is an incredible leader who I've learned a lot from.  God has gifted him with an incredible ability to raise up other leaders and through that build a faithful and effective discipleship ministry.  For me, writing with a friend who had such a great gift was like a win-win.  It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot from him in the process.

The Summit Church and other churches have very active church-planting ministries.  Why is that important at this time?

An emphasis on church planting stems out of a belief that the healthiest thing for a community is a thriving local church.  On top of that, history shows us new churches are more likely to reach and engage non-Christians than established ones.  So I'd say it's important for every generation.  When you think about it, many of the churches we all look to as experts today were young anonymous church planters just trying to figure things out as they went.  I believe the best thing we can do for advancing the gospel around the world is investing our resources and energy into this generation's church planting endeavors.

Is there a connection between this book and the movement to plant more churches?

Absolutely!!  If we are going to see a serious awakening in the west, and see unreached peoples engaged with the gospel around the world, we need to have that in mind when we build small groups.  We call our new leaders "small group planters" because we want them to begin to see the connection between this step they are taking and the step to take that around the world. Just in the past three years we've had hundreds of small group members leave our church to be a part of church planting teams around the world.  Unless we build it into the fabric of our discipleship, it will remain a little more than a sermon point.

What do you hope people with take away from The People of God?

What you believe always drives what you do.  So I've got two hopes:
  1. I hope this book helps people love the church God loves so much.
  2. I hope it empowers small group leaders and church leaders to make disciples in their local contexts.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


You have a family.  You have a story. Jesus did too. Can't wait to learn more about His family tree. #FamilyofJesus coming July 1!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Building Character

Lunch Reading: June 15-21, 2014

When my son was younger, I would daydream about him being a star athlete, skipping grades because of his obvious genius, or some other worldly fantasy.  After living a little and seeing a lot, I decided I would settle for him just being a good kid.  There was a time in the last school year where I made him carry around an index card with Galatians 5:22-23 on it with the hopes it would make him think twice about some of the things he did.  The experience made me completely reevaluate the most important qualities he would need to make it in this world.

Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and LoveCharacter is a premium today.  People can have everything and be very successful, but the lack of character will always catch up with them (we've seen many falls from grace that prove this to be true).  A person can also be of humble means, but stand out in a crowd because they are the salt and light

So in my quest to build character in my son, I'm going to pick up a copy of Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love by Bill Courtney to read this week.  In the book, Courtney "shares his convictions on the fundamental tenets of character, commitment, service leadership, civility, and others that, in his decades of success as an entrepreneur and educator, have proven to be the keys to a winning and meaningful life and career."  I'm hopeful that the stars will align at work and I am able to see Courtney talk about the book at the Heritage Foundation this Friday (details here if you're interested)!

In My Spare Time
Wall Street Journal - Last week I resolved to read or at least skim the paper at least once a day.  It didn't happen.  This week, I recommit!

Believing God: Day by Day - A year-long, daily devotional that is modeled after the book, Believing God.  Great daily reminders regarding the importance of "active faith" in our daily walk.