Saturday, May 26, 2007

Memorizing for More Than Memory's Sake

Want some help moving beyond the memorization to meditation and application? Try these questions as you are memorizing Scripture:

WHO? who is speaking/writing? who is he talking to? who does this verse apply to?

WHAT? what is happening? what are they doing? what does it mean?

WHEN? when is this taking place? when will this promise be applied?

WHERE? where is this taking place? in a home? in the marketplace? in a garden?

WHY? why should I obey? why should I avoid this activity?

Here's a sample: using John 11:35, "Jesus wept"

WHO? Who wept? Jesus. Who was he weeping for? Lazarus. Who else was around? Mary, Martha Lazarus's sisters and some other mourners.

WHAT? What is Jesus doing? Weeping. What happened to Lazarus? He was dead and buried for four days.

WHEN? When did this take place? four days after Laz had died

WHERE? Where were they? at Laz's house in Bethany, a place that Jesus frequented regularly, the closest thing that he had to a second home

WHY? Why did Jesus weep? Because in all of his humanness, he cared. He was so moved with his compassion that he breaks down in public. He wept with those who wept in keeping with his emotional ties to people. He didn't put on the ministry game face, he didn't quote platitudes, he didn't try to appear "strong for them in this painful passage". He emoted!

Wow! Now the quickie recitation of this shortest verse in the Bible is met with a little more weight. Memorizing is not just for kids. Memorizing is not just for the filling of the skull with useless drivel. It is for life impact and personal edification and worship fodder. It is indeed good for what ails you, so memorize! Just remember to do it with understanding.

Mike (currently memorizing John 15 with the ministry team)

PS -- Thanks to my friend, Karen Lytle for these thoughts (the who/what/when/where/why questions) as part of her lesson prepared for 3rd-6th graders.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Amazing Grace

What more can be said about grace? Dan P over at Pyromaniacs has an excellent post about grace -- not just saving grace, but sanctifying grace as well.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see!

Simple hymn, complex theme, enjoyed by millions! :) [sing a few bars of it as you read Dan's post.]

Grace to you,

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

As the old love song goes, "breaking up is hard to do". The bond between people and pastors in a local church is a precious, sweet communion and fellowship. It has been referred to as a marriage. I want to be careful about using that image as God does not deal in divorces, yet He sometimes moves ministers to other parts of his vineyard.

One of the blogs that I regularly read is that of a pastor in my area in another denomination. He has heard clearly the call of God to move into a church planting role in the south after only two years in "Western NY". You really must read his blog post about the intensity and passion of the ministry through these separation days. Top shelf stuff!

If God were to call me/lead me to another part of the vineyard (as He has at least four other times before), I pray that I would be able to lead with such leadership strength as Paul is demonstrating.

Go in grace,

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thanks for Holding

Thanks for holding. Your readership is important to us. We are all very busy here tryng to keep all of the balls in the air. The next available author will post as he is available. Please do not hang up or quit checking this blog. We appreciate your visit.
(musical interlude)
Thanks for holding. Your readership is important to us. We are all very busy here tryng to keep all of the balls in the air. The next available author will post as he is available. Please do not hang up or quit checking this blog. We appreciate your visit.
(musical interlude)
Thanks for holding. Your readership is important to us. We are all very busy here tryng to keep all of the balls in the air. The next available author .....

Hello there. This is Mike Paris, author of the Open Mike. As the prerecorded message mentioned above, I am extremly busy. But I appreciate those that have stopped here to check in on me and my thoughts about ministry.

Let me just say that in the past week and a half I have led an evangelism training seminar, attended a funeral of a young man (58) from our church, led three worship services and a hymn sing, taught two Sunday School lessons on evangelism, attended two board meetings, missed a board meeting, bought a new van, attended a Shop Talk pastors seminar on funerals/cremation, ate lunch with a WOL area missionary, led a ministry team training session on "teamwork", memorized the first five verses of John 15, painted the craft building and 8 cabins at Lamoka, had two very incredible warm-the-cockles-of -your-pastor's-heart conversations with two members of the church, took a two-hr nap on Sunday afternoon, prayed with a man who told me after I said amen, "You are a true friend", and mowed the grass.

Phweeeew! No wonder I feel rung out on Monday morning. But I am looking forward to another great week. I hope to be able to post a couple of the things that I am learning in the process too though. Including a good compassionate wounding given to me by my dear wife. But that is fodder for another post.

I want to leave you with a quote from a book that I am reading,

"There is a big difference between simple and easy. Simple is basic, uncomplicated and fundamental. Easy is effortless. Ministry will never be easy. It is messy and difficult because people are messy and
difficult.... Leadership in the local church is extremely challenging.
Leading a local church is neither easy nor simple, but the church strategy does not need to be complicated. The ministry design can and should be simple."

Simple Church, Rainer & Geiger, p. 16

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself,
unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me, you can do nothing.

Jesus, John 15:4-5

Minstering passionately,
Yet striving for simplicity,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Meaning of Life

Philosophers are those people who can effectively be efficient with life and can boil it down into a few brief statements. Life is too complex to do such legitimately, but here is the 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant's attempt:
All the interests of my reason, speculative as well as practical, combine in the three following questions:
  • 1. What can I know?
  • 2. What ought I to do?
  • 3. What may I hope?

Immanuel Kant

Biblical Christianity has the answers for these questions. It is a philosophy -- a practical study guide of the stuff of philo (life). If our faith in God doesn't offer the steps to find truth in these key questions of life, then it is of no value.

But it does! We are of all men most blessed! Why not consider sharing the answers to these questions with your friends as they search for menaing and purpose in their days ahead.

You can know that God exists and that He desires to have an intimate relationship with his creation; You can live in full surrender to His sovereign plan for your life, glorifying Him by enjoying Him forever; You can hope (confidently look forward to) a home in heaven when you die, free from the eternal punishment that your sins deserve. These are great truths of good news (gospel)!

Spread the Good News,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Great Worship Thought

This past weekend at Word of Life's Teens Involved (TI) regional competition, I was able to judge the jr. high preaching category. In one of those messages (truly missiles as they were only 10 minutes in length), one of the lads was speaking of the greatness of God. His topic was the reverence and respect that God is due. As he concluded his message he made this great statement,

"It just makes sense to reverence God."
Indeed, it does just make sense, good sense.

Well-said lad,

New Ideas As a Team Measuring Stick

We are reading a new book now with our ministry team (Simple Church). In this book, the authors suggest that in an organization of passion, new ideas will emerge.

Where there are passionate leaders and passionate volunteers, there is always an abundance of new ideas. Combine this passion with the many needs that are prevalent in the lives of church members and you have the equation for new programs and special events.
Simple Church, p. 48

If this is true, then we must do something about a staff meeting that concludes with little or no discussion of the next step/course of action (these have occurred a lot lately). No new ideas is a subpar measurement. We can make a couple of possible assessments:

  • The leaders are not passionate
  • The leaders are not creative
  • The leaders are not observant
  • The leaders are not leaders
Employing the observation, interpretation and clarification method (OIC), I must now move towards clarification. I must engage the other team members in a dialogue that will cause them to shed more light on this situation. I do not want to conclude that the team that we have aren't leaders or observant or creative or passionate. But if they are, what then? We must move them towards those goals. That is the responsibility of leadership! We must set the table to allow them to eat their fill and nourish their hearts on the healthy diet of biblical, simple leadership.

May the cry of our heart be passionate, creative, observant leadership of the sheep entrusted to us as shepherds. May God grow us first so that we in turn may lead others to the same end and that we may say, as Paul did, "follow me as I follow Christ".

For passionate leadership full of ideas,