Category Archives: My Spiritual Life

A selective diary of my own spiritual life.

Reflections on Sin

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Some Context

This past week, a number of stories came out in my local newspaper reporting on and analyzing the arrest of a local pastor. He has been accused of placing and monitoring video equipment in the female bathrooms at the church. If you haven’t read the articles, don’t worry about not knowing the details. I’m not going to address the specifics of that story, but it has burdened my heart so much that I feel a need to reflect here in my semi-public space what these moral failures reveal about God, humanity, and the state of the church. Continue reading

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“Our God” (a song)

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For a couple weeks now, I have been dissatisfied with the modern worship songs we’ve been singing in our church. The music is great, the beats are fun, the lyrics are powerful, but honestly, they aren’t very deep.

In particular, the majority of modern rock-style worship music puts God in the second person. Everything is about how great “You” are or about our relationship as humans to “You.” The problem with that kind of music is that it only works for people who have a relationship with God close enough to call him “You.” There are many people for whom God is only “God” or “He” and there are many times in our lives when we need to remember that God is “God” and not just another “You.”
Continue reading

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Organizational Insights from Numbers 2

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This morning, I was reading the first few chapters of Numbers. I have to be honest with you, and I am somewhat ashamed to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. Aside from a few interesting (and confusing) stories, the book of Numbers is filled with, you guessed it, numbers!

The first few chapters are all about counting the people of Israel. This tribe has 60,000 people. That tribe has 40,000 people. With twelve tribes to go through, the lists of numbers and names of people can get tedious. Continue reading

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Prayer for the next level

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Lord in Heaven, I’m sensing your call to take my steps into a new level of relationship with you. It’s more than a desire in my heart. It’s more than a thought or a notion. It’s a repetitive prompting that you have more for me and a constant reminder that I need it.

I’ve washed over it quite often. I’ve filled my life with entertainment, tasks, busywork, meetings, and even family responsibilities because of course those things need to be done, but then when I’m alone in the quiet again, and I allow my soul to quiet down, I sense the lack.

My lack is not a lack of knowledge. Although I know there is much still I have to learn, this next level is one you have already taught me about.

My lack is not a lack of desire. I’ve been longing to go to this next level with you for a long time without actually getting there.

Now, I’m convinced that my lack is not a lack of your willingness to take me to the next level. I’m certain that you have something for me.

My lack is mostly a lack of faith—will I step up onto this new level or not?

What’s holding me back? Fear mostly. What if I step up, and you aren’t there? What if I step up and people I love don’t understand? What if I step up, but I fall on my face because I’m not actually ready?

Lord, I want greater depth with you. Lead me deeply into the waters of who you are. Open my heart to see with the eyes of faith where you are moving, and prepare me for the step to come.

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Great Weekend… Or Not?

My Spiritual Life Prayer Requests

This is just a quick post to say that I had a really fun weekend on one hand and a really bad weekend on the other.

  • At T.G.I. Friday’s (where I just started to work part-time as a waiter), I had a section of two tables only, but in the brief couple hours of lunch, I managed to make over $30 in tips from only $140 in sales. That means I was making people happy and they were tipping me more than 20%. Man that was a good feeling!
  • As soon as work was done, I talked to a core member of our church who has decided to go with his wife and kids to another new church in town. He was supposed to be our drummer for the week, so I spent all afternoon trying to reschedule another drummer and plan a time for practice. None of it came together until about 7pm, and I didn’t get back from practice till after 10:30pm!
  • Though I got 4 hours of sleep and a late start this morning for church, I prayed and asked God to help me have a positive attitude despite the potential stresses of the morning (our first Sunday in the swanky Holiday Inn downtown.) He answered the prayer by giving me an absolutely incredible worship service for me. I was really sensing His presence at work in me and in the people who came. I felt great about it. (Even though we had some big issues with the sound system and the computer).
  • When service was done, I met a man who volunteered to join our setup team for next week!
  • But soon after that, I encountered some people who had been completely frustrated by the hassles of today’s setup and tear-down process with a healthy dose of fear regarding the financial future of the church.

All in all, I had a great weekend personally, but I’m surrounded by frustrated people, and I feel responsible for their frustration.

Lord, teach me the lesson you have for me in this quickly so that I can bring some healing and restoration to others and repair some relationships. Give me the ability beyond myself to organize the systems of the church well. And Lord, please meet our financial needs.

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Productivity: August 13, 2007

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Today’s Accomplishments

  • I mowed the lawn.
  • I read a chapter from
    Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time
  • I sent an email to Greg, Kyle, and Josh about our Four Guys and God meeting. (We are going to work through the 10 commandments in our discipleship).
  • I’ve taken a closer look at the ning.com social network creation site to see if that would work better than maintaining our own church website.
  • I processed a few emails.
  • I wrote three blog entries.
  • I printed mailing labels for 350 postcards and affixed them to the cards (Jen helped).
  • I invited some neighbors over for dinner.
  • I read the kids their bedtime story and got them in bed while Jen was at Bible Study
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Productivity: Week 1 Results (and self analysis)

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I spent last week doing a productivity experiment that was really just a project of tracking of what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually did accomplish. Though the experiment didn’t turn out the way I had wanted it to, I learned some things about myself, and in this post, I share what I’m hoping to do about it to become more productive in the future.

Here’s my productivity list for last Wednesday (July 24):

  • Read about internet marketing — 60 mins.
  • Blogged my Monday productivity — 15 mins.
  • Devotion and Prayer — 10 mins.
  • fix look of blog and add comments — 10 mins.
  • Completed survey for research project on church planters — 40 mins.
  • Lunch and playing with Charlie — 1.25 hrs.
  • Processing voicemail and cleaning out email Inbox (finally) — 3 hrs.
  • Phone calls throughout the afternoon — 30 mins.
  • Evening phone calls — 60 mins.

(I didn’t even get a list done for Thursday.)

Analysis of the week

At the end of last week and throughout the week, I determined that productivity for me isn’t something I can just willpower my way into. I’m generally a very active person mentally, and my tendency to be distracted means that I’m regularly failing to finish projects all the way. I didn’t even get all my daily blog entries written last week (and it’s already Wednesday of this week!)

All in all, I think it was a good experiment, and I hope that some of the more obvious things I’ve learned will help me be more productive.

Things I Learned

As a result, here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Productivity for me will not happen without a list of daily goals. More specifically, as I looked at the list of things I actually did each day, I realized that though many of them were beneficial to my overall ministry, not many of them were essential or high priority items.

  2. Productivity for me will not happen in a “distractable” environment. My tendencies toward ADD make it very easy for me to follow mental rabbit trails. For example, reading my email through Gmail leads to me seeing news clips that interest me. Thinking that I can read the story in only a few seconds, I click on the link, but that story will have other links to more information, and before I know it, I’m deeply embedded in open Firefox tabs with a sense that I have to read them all before I can get back to answering that email.

  3. The mundane, mindless, routine tasks of ministry are the most dangerous for time-wasting because during those tasks, my brain is allowed to work overtime on discovering rabbit trails. For example, while my weekly sermon is being encoded and uploaded to the Internet Archive, I can do other things with the computer and that usually means frittering.

  4. The biggest thing I learned is that the most important tasks on my todo list create a kind of paralyzing guilt that hampers my productivity.

Let me explain that last point. I need to write a sermon every week for church on Sunday. I know that the process of writing a really good sermon takes me about 20 hours, but that I can create a pretty good sermon in only 8 hours. As a result, something very strange happens in my mind as the week moves on.

If I don’t get an early start on my message, I face a daily increasing level of stress as the week moves on. Because I feel so much pressure to get my message done, I feel guilty doing any other ministry. I don’t want to meet with people, I don’t want to make phone calls, and I don’t want to have any meetings because to do any of those things feels like I’m stealing from sermon prep time. If I do some ministry that isn’t sermon prep, I actually feel guilty and unproductive. However, if I put in a 4 hour block of time on my sermon, I feel the logistical pressure of needing to make phone calls, meet with people, and call meetings. So working on my sermon feels like stealing from other ministry.

My problem is that I have no internal sense of process. For me, everything is right now and nothing that should be done should wait to be done. As a result, I simply can never determine emotionally which ministry I should do right now. Make phone calls or work on sermon. Whichever I choose, I end up feeling guilty that I didn’t do the other one. I’ve been this way for long enough that I’ve grown to expect it and anticipate the guilty feeling even before I’ve made the choice and quite often the end result is that I do neither. I escape into family time, reading time, web browsing, email or mindless routine items.

I just spent about 15 minutes browsing the ‘Net to see if there were any blogs that addressed procrastination, but I’m back now!

Strategy for Going Forward

To answer my four learning points above, I’m suggesting this to myself and to you as a possible strategy:

  1. Set aside 4 hours each Monday for sermon prep without Internet access with a primary goal of getting draft sermon outlines done 2 weeks before the Sunday they are needed (I want to move this to 4 weeks before it’s needed).
  2. Use Sunday afternoon to do sermon podcast stuff until I can recruit someone else to do that for me.
  3. While the podcast is encoding/uploading on Sundays, I’ll make calls based on communication cards thus keeping me off the computer.
  4. Each day, I’ll make a list of things to accomplish and identify which ones can happen on the computer and how long those will take.
  5. BONUS: I don’t think I can make this happen because of the distractability thing, but I’d like to publish my daily todo list to the Internet so that I’ll be more accountable for how I spend my time.
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Productivity: July 23, 2007

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

Here is my activity/productivity list for the day:

  • Devotional study of Psalm 116 (BI: Those who know God’s salvation respond with love.) — 30 minutes
  • Prayer bike ride through a new neighborhood — 60 minutes
  • Blog about my productivity experiment — 40 minutes
  • Work on processing audio for Sunday’s sermon — 25 minutes
  • Make lunch for kids and watch AFV with them — 60 minutes
  • Finishing sermon audio process and upload — 30 minutes
  • Reloaded home Email Server — 20 minutes
  • Converted a Simpsons video for my Palm Pilot — 10 minutes
  • Blogged my sermon — 10 minutes
  • Made dinner for the kids and watched a movie with them — 2.5 hours
  • Hanging out with Jen, working on miscellaneous household things for the rest of the evening.

Analysis

According to my productivity experiment, here’s how my day broke down.

Personal

  • Prayer: 60 minutes
  • Bible: 30 minutes
  • Other Books: 0 minutes
  • Total: 1.5 hours

Family

  • Time with kids: 3.5 hours
  • Time with Jen: 2 hours
  • Total 5.5 hours

Mission

  • Direct contact: 1 person (15 minutes)
  • Spiritual conversation: 0
  • Strategic planning : 0
  • Total 15 minutes

Routine

  • Managing home: 20 minutes (fixed email server)
  • Managing church: 65 minutes (blogged Sunday’s sermon)
  • Total 1.5 hours

Wow! As I look at this list, I’m thinking “That’s how I’m starting my week long productivity experiment?” It doesn’t look very productive to me. I’m going to have to do better.

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How Productive Can I Be?

Front Page Leadership My Spiritual Life

I’m entering into a week of experimentation. I’m experimenting with myself to see how productive I can be.

Just yesterday, I preached a message on how we can actually find fulfillment in our pains and struggles, and I was thinking that something uncomfortable for me is the bearing down into a routine of productivity. Along those lines, I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about how much I’m really capable of and whether or not I’m really capable of more than I usually accomplish in a week.

Therefore, I’m embarking on a contest with myself to see just how productive I can be for only one week. (I like short sprints better than long races, so I’m telling myself that it will just be for this one week.)

My plan is simple. I intend to write one blog post every day detailing what I did that day according to a few key productivity markers. I’ve chosen these “markers” to be the measurables by which I can attempt to see daily improvement. However, these are in rough form right now, so I’m sure they will change over the course of this week or any other week I do this experiment.

Productivity Markers:

Personal

  • How much time have I spent in prayer?
  • How much time have I spent reading the Bible?
  • How much time have I spent reading other books?

Family

  • How much time have I spent with my kids?
  • How much time have I spent with my wife?

Mission

  • How many people have I had direct, personal contact with?
  • How many people have I had a spiritual conversation with?
  • How much time have I invested in strategic planning for the church?

Routine

  • How much time have I invested in managing home details — and what did I accomplish?
  • How much time have I invested in managing church details — and what do I have to show for it?

Suggestions? What are some of your suggestions for how I should be measuring my productivity?

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150?

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What an incredible day!

Last Sunday was our Grand Opening service as a church and I am excited to report that we had between 140-150 people there. We never got an accurate count, but this is how we came up with those numbers:

  • 24 Elementary School Kids
  • 6 Babies in the Nursery
  • 9 Children’s Ministry Workers
  • 100 Bulletins handed out (when we ran out)

I’ve tried to be conservative and stick with 140, but my wife is pressing me to say 150! and I’m usually the one who does the exaggerating!

If you want to hear the message I preached or watch the video, it will be posted here soon or you can get to it by visiting our church audio page.

God is bigger than we imagine.

My coach told me a couple of months ago, “Remember, Jeff, no one loves this church more than you and Jesus.”

I was getting kinda frustrated because of the number of people I had been trying to recruit and the slim number of people who were responding. He told me that to remind me that no one would care about the church like I do, but that Jesus cared about it more than even I did. That really helped to encourage me.

And Jesus does care about this church.

On March 18, we had our final preview service and I had the joy of preaching to a crowd of about 15 adults. The very next week, I had the privilege of preaching a message to a crowd of over 100. It was utterly mind-blowing to me!

If you were there on Sunday…

I just wanted to say that if you were there on Sunday, I am so grateful for you. You could have spent your Sunday morning in many different ways, but you chose to come out and be a part of our Grand Opening Event, and more than that, you chose to take a risk and see what God might be doing in this brand new ministry.

God has something really great in store for us, and I believe he wants us to experience it together, but that isn’t all. I think the biggest thing he has in store for us is for us to find our identity in the process of helping other people to discover how much God loves them.

We are just beginning a journey together. It will be a bumpy ride at times, but it will certainly be an adventure.

If you have been praying for us…

You also deserve a special thanks. There have been so many of you praying for us and supporting us financially, that I really am humbled. I’m afraid I will miss someone here, but I just think you all deserve thanks. You know why:

Thank You

Jennifer Asinugo, Mike Atwell, Nellie Aujero, Alexandrina Balanean, Charlie & Lea Battleday, David & Carole Beckwith, Jim & Deb Cartwright, Brian & Melissa Chupich, Sonlife Community Church, James & Katheryn Cross, Herb & Paula Frost, Gloria Greene, Jodi Hanson, Gerald Hawthorne, Dorothy Herschelroath, Rynn Hill, Mark Jacobsen, Mike & Jill Kaminski, Rhonda Kerr, Gary Krebs, David & Stacy Laneve, Chuck & Amy Larish, Larry & Claudia Lasiter, Dan & Mary Martin, Mark & Linda Mikels, Keith & Marian Mikels, Sadie Mikels, Jason & Brooke Miller, Dr. & Mrs. Tom Miller, Marion Mockler, Tom & Chris Nalian, Rob & Chris Nelson, Mark & Amy Peterson, Stephen & Jill Puett, Ken & Cheryl Reynolds, Gary Rohrmayer, Dorothy Samorajski, Greg & Laura Shackleford, Jim & Wendy Sheely, Austin Smith, Jeff & Debbie Spencer, Lorraine Spencer, Joel & Becky Sutton, Josh & Valerie Thomas, Grant & Betty Tregay, Tommy & Bonnie Troup, Zack Turner, Mike & Tammie VanDeripe, Cindy & Rick Veith, Gloria Walker, Richard Wollard, Meadowland Community Church, Tim and Lisa Beavis, Bethany Baptist Church, Community Reformed Church, Tony Suitor, Kathy Abretske, Northwest Baptist Church, Irene Portokalis, Merrill Avenue Baptist Church, Hannis & Kim Thompson, First Assembly of God in Lafayette.

If I’ve forgotten someone, just send me a reminder email or post a comment, and I’ll put you on the list too.

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Report on our Final Preview Service

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Southside Church Directional Sign
Sunday was our final preview service! On the one hand, that really excites me because it means that months of preparation are finally coming to a culmination. On the other hand, it makes me nervous because now I can’t hid behind the “We’re still in preparation-mode” excuse. Also, I now have to get back into the mode of preparing weekly messages and worship services. I think it is going to be really hard work for a while. But I’m looking forward to it. It should be exciting.

Anyway, we had some really neat things happen Sunday and we learned some more good lessons.

Marketing

Because our Grand Opening is this coming Sunday (the 25th), we didn’t market last week as much as we had last month. I did send out a cool postcard to all those on our mailing list.

Here, you can see the postcard we mailed out.

Opening Soon Card Front

Opening Soon Card Back

 

Also, because of how long the signs took to put together last time, I had our signs professionally printed, and I set them up the day before. Here’s what one of them looked like.

Southside Church Directional Sign

 

Also, you might be interested to see the banner I set up on the corner of the school’s property.

Southside Church Sunday Banner

 

I got all the signs put up on Saturday including an additional banner on some columns in front of the school.

Also, on Saturday, Josh came over and helped me load up the truck so that we didn’t have to do any loading on Sunday morning. It made everything go so much more smoothly in the morning.

Morning Preparation

Because last month’s morning got off to a slow start, I asked everyone to be at our house at 8:30am this time. Everyone was there by 8:45 and we were able to pray together before loading up the truck.

Yes, I did say truck! This was our first day to use the truck, and it was also our first time using the equipment that came from Willowbrook Community Church. Their sound equipment is much more elaborate than what we had been using.

Somehow we did get a little delayed at our house. I think the prayer time took a little longer than I had thought it might, but that’s not a bad thing. Anyway, we got to the school at about 9:15, and then unloaded everything.

Attendance

Our total numbers weren’t much more than they have been for any of our other services, but something about it felt really good. It especially felt good because between last month’s service and this one, three members of our worship team stepped down. However, we made up the loss in numbers with quite a few new faces.

The coolest story of the morning was one family that was on their way to visit another church when they saw our signs and recalled our TV spots. So they decided to stop on in and check us out.

Here our numbers:

  • Children – 12
  • Adults – 20
  • Total Attendance – 32

Sermon

My morning message was entitled God Is Love and the best part of the message is when I took the “love passage” from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and asked people to consider substituting “God” for every instance of the word “love.” Here’s the verse from the NIV:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. — 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

I then asked people to consider which of those promises was God’s promise to them for that morning. Try it yourself.

However, I failed to get my MP3 recorder set up properly, so I didn’t get a recording of the service. I’m kinda bummed by that, but what are you going to do?

Lessons Learned

During our debrief lunch following the service, we discussed some lessons learned for the next time. Here they are:

  • We need to get some extra equipment
    • 1/8″ stereo mini plug cable
    • 3 Speakon cables (2×25′ and 1×50′)
    • smaller box for AV cables that can fit in the cabinet
    • a mobile cart for our computer and projector so we don’t have to use the microwave stand from the cafeteria.
    • Latex Gloves for the Nursery
    • a hand truck / dolly for getting stuff off the truck better.
    • Trough or cooler with ice for water bottles
    • Bread bags for people to take the donated bread home
    • More water bottles
  • We need to darken the room (the screen was getting washed out by the light coming in the back windows)
  • We need to make up some cards for nursery workers to easily communicate to parents what happened with their kids (what snacks they got, if they took a nap, if their diaper was changed).

Well, that’s about it. Next week is our Grand Opening. I’ll write another post on our plans for that.

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Switch To Sunday Morning

Lafayette Prayer Requests

Two weeks ago, we switched our weekly gatherings to Sunday morning instead of Sunday night. There was one major motivating reason for doing so. As we move toward our public launch, we need to feel a strong sense of building momentum, and we just weren’t able to do that with the low attendance we had on Sunday nights.

I’m not sure why it was such a struggle to get people to come to our house for a meeting on Sunday night, but Sunday morning seems to work out a lot better. We now gather for breakfast followed by a time of worship songs and interactive teaching, and for the past two weeks we have had pretty good attendance.

Another benefit has been that we are able to have a second meeting each week to focus on planning. For some reason, having two weekly evening meetings also seemed like a hardship, but now, having the morning gathering on Sunday, we can have another meeting to focus more on the planning end of things.

I’ve been feeling pretty good about it all.

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What I believe about God’s Revelation

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I know that some people are especially interested in the bigger details of faith, so I decided to post here my full “Doctrinal Statement.” This is the first post in this series, and it reflects the “short form” of my Doctrinal Statement. If you wish to download my entire Doctrinal Statement in either short form or its more detailed version, I will have those links posted soon. The rest of the posts in this series will be filed under the “What I Believe” category. Continue reading

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